Am I a Dispensationalist?
I came across a great primer on progressive dispensationalism from Matt Waymeyer. It’s the most helpful summary of a Calvinistic progressive dispensationalism I have read. Waymeyer argues that God’s promise to Abraham to give his physical offspring the land of Canaan forever, has not been fulfilled:
there are two primary reasons I am expecting an eschatological restoration of the nation of Israel in fulfillment of the Old Testament covenants of promise. First, having considered the promises of restoration in their original Old Testament contexts, I am convinced that these promises have not yet been fulfilled. They were not fulfilled in the returns to the land from exile under Zerubbabel (536 B.C.), Ezra (557 B.C.), or Nehemiah (445 B.C.), and they cannot be rightly understood as finding their fulfillment in the present salvation of the church and/or the eternal state. To put it simply, the Lord has not yet done what He has promised to do in these Old Testament passages, and for this reason I await the day when He will.
Second, I believe that the New Testament also teaches an eschatological restoration of the nation of Israel in fulfillment of God’s covenant promises. A key passage in this regard is Romans 11. In this chapter, the apostle Paul addresses the question of whether or not God has permanently rejected His chosen people, the nation of Israel. Not only has she broken the Mosaic Covenant and therefore been dispersed among the nations, but now she has also rejected the promised Messiah. Is there any hope for her as a nation in the plan of God? Paul’s answer in Romans 11is an emphatic yes.
To his first point – his reasoning sounds rather similar to modern Jews who reject Christ as the Messiah. If you read the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah, Jesus hasn’t fulfilled them. He hasn’t ushered in world peace. He hasn’t restored Jews to their land. He hasn’t done any of the following:
- Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
- Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
- Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4)
- Spread universal knowledge of the God of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: “God will be King over all the world ― on that day, God will be One and His Name will be One” (Zechariah 14:9)
Listen to modern Jews argue about the Messiah in the Old Testament at Koshertube.com
The answer to this is well summarized by Kim Riddlebarger:
…the problem with that is, when you’re using a Christ-centered hermeneutic, you don’t start with Genesis 12 and look at the promise God made to Abraham and then insist that that reading of the promise overrides everything that comes subsequent to that. So for example the land promise in Genesis 12 – and it’s repeated throughout 15, 18, 22, on and on and on – when that land promise is repeated, dispenationalists say “See, that must mean Israel means Israel and that God is going to save Israel again to fulfill the land promise at the end of the age.” Whereas I would look at that and say, “How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the land promise? How do Jesus and the Apostles look at the Abrahamic Covenant?” And that is at the heart of this entire debate.
As to Waymeyer’s second point – Nathan Pitchford did a good job drawing out a key issue:
my question is this: have Gentiles been brought in to become heirs of all those same promises or have they not? If they have—that is, if they have been grafted into the same tree that sprang from the roots of the patriarchs (Rom. 11), if they have become Abraham’s seed by faith and heirs of the promise given to Abraham (Rom. 4 and Gal. 3), if the New Covenant has been confirmed to them, so that they are now the heirs of the Land promised to Abraham (Heb. 8, 1 Cor. 11; Rom. 4:13, Mat. 5:5), then that admission makes his system so far removed from historic dispensationalism that it can no longer legitimately be called such.
…Are Gentiles who believe members of the New Covenant, and heirs of all the promises made to the fathers? When God fulfills his promise of restoration completely and finally, will it be a restoration in which all the Gentiles who call upon the name of the Lord will be included, and made a part of his people? Is there or can there be an ongoing distinction between Gentiles who are a “kingdom of priests” (1 Pet. 2:9), who are “Abraham’s seed and heirs according the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29), who have participated in the cup of the promised New Covenant (Luke 22:20); and ethnic Jews who by faith and perseverance are also Abraham’s true seed and members of the Covenant, or who by a future conversion will become such? There can be no division between such either now or in the future, any more than there can be a division in Christ, in whom alone is eternal salvation, the fulfillment of every promise (2 Cor. 1:20), the inheritance of every spiritual blessing (Eph. 1:3), both now and forever.