Against Dispensationalism — Thesis 26

Yes, there are plenty more thesis’ to go concerning Dispensationalism. I’ve already posted numbers 1-25 but I wanted us to look at number 26 in particular.

Remember, that in this discussion, I am not saying that Dispensationalists are not Christians. What I am saying is that their view of Scripture is misguided and wrong. It is a movement that only started in the 1800s and breaks with orthodox Christianity.

I was reminded this week that Dispensationalism was also a movement started by a woman who had a visions about the rapture and those around her proclaimed her to be a prophetess. (See here for the implications, and a related post concerning hearing the voice of God today).

What is wrong with this? Well, it goes against the basic understanding that the Canon of Scripture is closed. There is no more new revelation of what God has given us (Jude 3). Those who buy into Dispensationalism are buying into a system of doctrine that is based on a woman’s vision in the 1830s. If they do this, then they cannot  criticize those who have visions and so-called special revelations like David Koresh did before his death back in the early 1990s. I know that may be a bit on the extreme side in order to make the point. But the question remains: if we are accepting modern-day visions and prophecies, where do we draw the line between acceptable visions and prophecies and that which beyond reason, as was the case with Koresh, or Mary Baker Eddy, or Joseph Smith, or any number of nut jobs that have come along in the last 2000 years?

To base your theology on modern visions is dangerous indeed. It opens up the church to heresy and cults galore because people claim to have visions, dreams, and hear voices from God all the time. But one of the marks of the Reformation is that revelation has ceased. With the closing of the Canon, and the giving of the 66 books of the Bible, we have all that we need in order to believe God and be saved. As has been said before, if someone says they have special revelation from God, then we are to test it with Scripture. If it agrees with Scripture, then do we really need it? If it does not, then we throw it out. So either way, there is no more special revelation given today.

Now on to Thesis 26.

26. Despite the dispensationalists’ interpretive methodology arguing that we must interpret the Old Testament on its own merit without reference to the New Testament, so that we must “interpret ‘the New Testament in the light of the Old’” (Elliot Johnson), the unified, organic nature of Scripture and its typological, unfolding character require that we consult the New Testament as the divinely-ordained interpreter of the Old Testament, noting that all the prophecies are “yea and amen in Christ” (2 Cor 1:20); that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10); and, in fact, that  many Old Testament passages were written “for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11) and were a “mystery which has been kept secret for long ages past” (Col. 1:26; Rev 10:7). (Emphasis added)

This one really bothers me because it has lead many of them to interpret the Old Testament without the light of the New Testament. This is one of my main beefs with dispensationalism because it elevates OT revelation as superior to NT revelation. Yet, how can you possibly understand the OT without the lens of Christ, the ultimate revelation of God (Hebrews 1:1-4)? Even Jesus took the two disciples down the road to Emmaus and explained the OT in light of Himself. So to go back to the OT and try to interpret it without the light of Christ is foolishness because OT was given in order to point to Him in the first place (Luke 16:29) all points to Him in the first place.

Using this mode of interpretation can really lead to some false understandings. For instance, I know of one incident where an Old Testament professor at DTS came to the conclusion that the Serpent in Genesis 3 was not the devil at all, just a real snake. If we are limited to the text itself, without the light given in the New Testament, I can see how he did so. We are always to base our interpretations on the revelation of what has been given. I believe that the book of Revelation has something to say about that serpent.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2 He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; 3 and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

The point is that the New Testament and Christ are the final revelation of God. To go back to the Old Testament and say that we cannot read the NT into it is foolish. Jesus and the apostles interpreted the OT in light of the NT all that time, even when it was unfolding. It is exactly what Christ did in in Luke 4, when He read from Isaiah 61:1-2 and told the people, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” He was reading the OT in light of the NT, showing that He was and is the fulfillment of that prophecy given by Isaiah,

Also look how many times Peter quoted from the OT in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. He did it three times. The Old Testament was being interpreted in light of the new revelation, namely Christ, that had been given.

This is also how we know that the Old Testament is still for us today. Some have completely disregarded the Old Testament for the new. But this is an overreaction. The OT is written for believer today just as much as it was written for believers in their day. As Paul writes: But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. In other words, the OT is there for our instruction so we can understand the Law, which drives us to Christ, where we find the Gospel.

The best way to understand and interpret the Bible is through the lens of law and gospel (John 1:17). Where we find the imperatives given, this drives us to the indicatives of who we are. We are in Christ and redeemed by Him because He kept the imperatives, which we cannot do. Both law and gospel are found in both the OT and the NT. It is only in the NT that we come to the deeper understanding of this reality because there we find Christ, who keeps the commands for us. But to say that we must interpret the OT in light of just what those prophets of that day knew, we must realize that even those prophets were not given the full understanding of what they were writing because it was given for us (1 Peter 1:10-12).

A good way to understand all of this is that the new is in the old concealed, and the old is in the new revealed. This way we see that both testaments are pointing toward the same goal and purpose. They are not two separate messages, one intended for the church during Israel’s day, and one for the church since the days of Pentecost, but the same message of redemptive history that show God’s grace and mercy throughout time for His people. There is only One church, and that church began the moment that there was faith in God thousands of years ago (Able being the first martyr.) There is only one church, one people of God, and one Gospel: Jesus Christ.

Those who separate out the OT as a message just to the Jews, and interpret it without the knowledge or lens of Christ, do a disservice to the Church. In fact, what you find in most cases of this is that the messages of the OT become nothing more than moral lessons for the church. You hear this most with messages like: Seven Steps to Avoid Becoming a Liar, in which we hear that if we follow the moral principles of Proverbs, then we will avoid being a liar. It sounds good on the surface, but the first step of this sermon was to avoid being around liars. Given that the Bible says all men are liars, how is one to do that (Psalm 116:11). No, the real principle is that there was only One who was truthful in all that He did, and we are to come to Him, not lie to ourselves in thinking we can live up to the moral demands of the OT. If we could do those things, we would not have needed Christ in the first place.