Right Division Leads to Right Conclusions

Dr. Mike Johnston

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Rightly dividing is more than a familiar verse. It’s an underlying hermeneutic recognizing division as a basic Bible principle God introduced in Genesis when He divided:

  • “the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:4)
  • “the waters from the waters” (Gen. 1:6-7)
  • “the day from the night” (Gen. 1:14)
  • “the light from the darkness” (Gen. 1:18)
  • “good from evil” (Gen. 2:9)
  • and much more.

God also espoused division by dispensing His Word to a variety of men “here a little, and there a little” (Isa. 28:10, 13) covering a sweeping time triad of past, present, and future narrative. This discrete dispensing of truth is the essence of what’s known as dispensationalism, and God’s word provides us with many examples of how this was accomplished:

  • God instructed Adam not to eat from a particular tree
  • God commanded Noah to build an ark
  • God directed Abraham to circumcise his progeny
  • God told Moses to lead His elect people Israel and gave Him 613 Laws to do it with; and
  • Jesus revealed the mystery Body of Christ to Paul, who revealed it in 13 epistles – Romans through Philemon. [IMPORTANT: This is Scripture written specifically to us as the Body of Christ].

Studying the responses to God’s will for great men of the Bible is a blessed lifetime endeavor. In that light, it becomes profitable for us, [1] without having to be personally to us. Right division will keep us from cross-pollinating commands God issued to other people in other dispensations from that which He gave to us through Paul (Romans – Philemon).

Rightly Dividing Between Two Overarching Programs:
Prophecy and Mystery

God’s primary division for studying His Word is hidden in plain sight in the opening verse of Scripture: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Although Bible scholars like Darby, Scofield, Torrey and many others have recognized a number of dispensations (see Appendix [i]) two dominant programs God has used since the world began:

1. The Prophecy program for Israel predicting a coming earthly kingdom:

“As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began” (Luke 1:70; see Acts 3:21)).

2. The Mystery program for the Body of Christ promising a heavenly inheritance:

“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began” (Romans 16:25).

Both of these programs – or dispensations – have separate participants, purposes and ordinances (Jer. 33:25); existing “since the world began” (Acts 3:21; Rom. 16:25), which more detail will be given later.

Now here’s the essence of right division: God’s plan is to rule earth for one thousand years. In the Providential panorama, all non-Pauline Scripture exists to explain or enhance the prophetic program for Israel leading to the coming King and earthly kingdom.

God’s Earthly Program

Prophecy – Earth – Israel                                                                                   King – Kingdom

The Body of Christ is a temporary mystery God set in place at Israel’s rejection of the Messiah which produced Israel’s blindness, to remain here “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Rom. 11:25). At that point, the Body that appeared as a mystery (Rom. 16:25) will likewise disappear in a mystery (1 Cor. 15:51).

In short, the plan is underway and the Kingdom is still on!

Rightly Dividing Between a Time Triad:
Time past, but now, ages to come

The two programs – heaven (mystery-Body) and earth (prophecy- Israel) – extend across three periods: Past, Present, Future. Our Apostle Paul (Rom. 11:13) reveals them in context as follows:

“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus … Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (excerpted from Ephesians 2:7-13). 

1. Time Past (Eph. 2:11-12)

Part of the Prophecy Program for the nation Israel (which includes her history) – (Genesis – Acts) 

2. “But now” (Eph. 2:13)

Part of the Mystery Program of  the Body of Christ exclusive of the nation Israel – (Romans – Philemon) 

3. “Ages to come” (Eph. 2:7)

Part of the Prophecy Program to be fulfilled through the nation Israel – (Hebrews – Revelation)

Chart of Time Triad

“Time past”

(Eph. 2:11-12)

Genesis-John

Profitable for us

“But now”

(Eph. 2:13)

Romans-Philemon

Personally to us

“Ages to come”

(Eph. 2:7)

Hebrews-Revelation

Profitable for us

PROPHECY
for Israel, a Nation

Old Covenant

[Kingdom presented and rejected]

Which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his

holy prophets

since the world began

(Acts 3:21; see Luke 1:70)

MYSTERY
of the Church, a Body

New Covenant

<- [Began at the death of Christ] ->

… according to the revelation of the mystery, which was

kept secret

since the world began

(Rom. 16:25; see Eph. 3:1-9)

PROPHECY
for Israel, a Nation

Old Covenant (continues)

[to be ratified at the Revelation]

For these be the days of vengeance, that all things

which are written

may be fulfilled

(Luke 21:22)

in Adam

earthly kingdom

Christ prophesied as Messiah

Moses/Prophets

Dispensation of the Law

Gospel of circumcision

(Gal. 2:7)

Gospel of the kingdom

(Matt. 4:23; 9:35)

 

Revelation (Zech. 14:3-4)

in Christ

heavenly inheritance

Christ is Head of Body

Apostle Paul

Dispensation of Grace

Gospel of uncircumcision

(Gal. 2:7)

Gospel of the grace of God

(Acts 20:24; see 1 Cor. 15:1-4)

 

Rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18)

in Adam

earthly kingdom

Christ becomes the Messiah

Moses/Prophets

Dispensation of the Law

Gospel of circumcision

(Gal. 2:7)

Gospel of the kingdom

(Matt. 24:14)

 

Revelation (Rev. 19:11)

 

 

 

 

Blind, asleep, lost

(Rom. 11:7,8,25)

 

For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery … that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in

(Romans 11:25)

 

Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth (Revelation 3:10)

 

 

 

 

Aware, awake, saved

(Dan. Rom. 11:25-26)

 

Foretold

Daniel’s 70 Weeks – Dan. 9:24-27 Jacob’s trouble/Day of

trouble/Day of the Lord

Coming of the Messiah

Davidic Covenant/New Covenant

Resurrection (John 5:28-29)

Ages to come
 

Fulfilled
Matt. 24; Rev. 6-19 Tribulation/Great Tribulation/Hour of temptation

Revelation of Christ

Millennial Kingdom

Resurrection (Rev. 19-20)

Rightly Dividing Between the Two Testaments

Understanding right division as given us through prophecy for Israel and mystery for the Body, is the proper foundation for rightly dividing between the Old and New Testaments. But this division has caused other division as Bible teachers have reduced Second Timothy Two fifteen to a catch phrase without really employing it in their studies. The result of this has rendered to us conclusions suspect from the outset since they were obtained from study using an improper dichotomy between the Testaments as I’m about to explain.

Conventional wisdom convinced us that the Old Testament is for Israel – which is true, but that it ended with Malachi, which is NOT true. The New Testament didn’t begin until the death of Christ the Testator (Matt. 27; see Hebrews 9:16-17).   Now traditionalists will contend this is inconsequential nonsense – and for them it probably is. However, for those of us committed to right division, we understand that ignoring this facilitates error by basing our study on an improper division between testaments that can only lead to wrong interpretations and improper conclusions. One example ignored routinely is the division between the Testaments.

Since the NT didn’t begin until sometime after the crucifixion, Jesus’ teachings are a furtherance of the Old Covenant narrative (we will discuss later) extending through the Gospel of John. This includes the Sermon on the Mount, Mysteries of the Kingdom, and the Olivet Discourse. [2]

Rightly dividing the word of truth begins by understanding the right division between the Old and New Testaments then employing the right principles to identify the correct program, covering the proper time period, employing the appropriate gospel message which further demonstrates why the Body of Christ will not go through Israel’s tribulation. (see Appendix [ii]).

We now come to a critical yet controversial subject regarding …

Rightly Dividing Between Two Primary Gospels:
Gospel of Circumcision and the Gospel of Uncircumcision

2 Primary Gospels
“Time past” (Eph. 2:11-12)

Israel-Earth

Prophecy

Genesis – John

Kingdom gospel to the circumcision
(Matt. 4:23; Gal 2:7)

“But now” (Eph. 2:13)

Body of Christ, Heaven

Mystery

Romans – Philemon

Grace gospel to the uncircumcision
(Acts. 20:24; Gal. 2:7)

“Ages to come” (Eph. 2:7)

Israel-Earth

Prophecy

Hebrews – Revelation

Kingdom gospel to the circumcision
(Matt. 24:14; Gal. 2:7)

 

If you’re ever itching for a fistfight, explain to a carnal Christian that God changed the gospel message from what it was in time past to what it is in the but now dispensation. Let me explain.

The word gospel means “a good message” (Strong), not necessarily the plan of salvation as it has often represented to be. The fact is, there are several of them listed in the Bible [3] that God dispensed to and through people in specific time periods. In his superb book “Why So Many Churches”, Dr. Noah Hutchings, one of my favorite Bible teachers, writes, “It is important for Christians to understand … Paul and Peter did not preach the same message. They preached the same Christ, but not the same gospel.” [You will understand this shortly when I unfold this].

Two primary Gospel messages exist within the harmonious framework of the three specific time periods:

1. The Gospel of the Kingdom during the Prophecy Program – (time past, ages to come)

The gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35) – is good news to the Jews which Christ preached “in time past” connecting Israel to the Abrahamic Covenant [4]and the circumcision (Gen. 17; Gal. 2:7) and Davidic Covenant (earthly Kingdom from David’s seed (2 Sam. 7:8-16). [5] Bear in mind the church must be removed at the rapture allowing for Jewish tribulation evangelists in the “ages to come” to once again preach this gospel of the kingdom message heralding the Lord’s return to inaugurate His Davidic Kingdom in Jerusalem (Matt. 24:14). [6]

2. The Gospel of the grace of God during the Mystery Program – (but now)

The gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) – is good news for Jews and Gentiles who come to Christ by faith and are saved, justified, sanctified, glorified, and spiritually baptized into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) where we are seated in heavenly places (Eph. 2:6) and sealed forever (Eph. 1:13-14) apart from anything other than faith in Christ’s shed blood which permanently removes our sin from us.

By Paul’s own words this was a “but now” gospel unique for the uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7), never before preached or taught: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). Dr. William MacDonald observes that this “is the thrilling message of God’s undeserved favor to guilty, ungodly sinners who deserve nothing but everlasting hell. It tells how the Son of God’s love came from heaven’s highest glory to suffer, bleed, and die on Calvary in order that those who believe on Him might receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.” (Believer’s Bible Commentary, 1995) This is the only gospel of salvation (Eph. 1:13; see 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Gal. 1:6) for this dispensation. [7]

Rightly Dividing Between Three Study Principles

This principle is somewhat reactionary and predicates itself on the ones preceding it. Having come face to face with the truth a decision must be made regarding how you – as an honest student of the Bible will approach Scripture from this point forward.

My experience tells me students – knowingly or unknowingly – study Scripture through one of two lenses: the objective lens (exegesis), or the outcome lens (eisegesis). Every time you pick up your Bible, you view it through one of these two perspectives.

Principle 1. Exegesis over Eisegesis

Exegesis is the fact based analytical explanation of a text

In a Scriptural context, exegesis means “evidence driven Bible study.” It is the proper interpretation of a passage of Scripture as it appears with cumulative Biblical support. It rejects emotion in favor of evidence. Exegesis, therefore, is incorruptible, objective, reliable, and principled. It greets facts with humility and views Scripture corporately and in context without cheapening or changing it because it lays no claims to a preconceived conclusion. In short, it follows the text wherever it leads and reports its findings with honesty and humility.

Eisegesis is the feelings based argumentative explanation of the same text

Eisegesis is driven by emotion so it greets opposing facts with suspect and hostility. Eisegesis is corrupt, subjective, unreliable, and unprincipled. Since it approaches Scripture as a means to an end, and therefore feels no compunction about distorting data to ensure a desired conclusion. In short, it flouts the text wherever it’s necessary, and misrepresents its findings with regularity.

The number of students viewing eschatology through this latter lens is scandalous. I know from experience with them that they willingly compromise integrity to arrive at preconceived conclusions otherwise impossible if employing exegesis as the basis for their analyses.

Optional Means of Studying Scripture
Option #1: Exegesis Option #2: Eisegesis
Objective based

Analytic

Relies on evidence

Follows text

Discloses facts

Honors truth

Context is critical

Follows the truth

Israel and the Church distinct [8]

Ends with a conclusion

Outcome based

Argumentative

Relies on emotion

Flouts text

Disparages facts

Hides truth

Critical of context

Fudges the truth

Israel and the Church not distinct

Begins with a conclusion

 

Viewing the Bible from the objective lens – exegesis – is the right choice and will provide us with the right perspective to make the following choice between …

Principle 2. Context over Pretext

Exegesis will determine the precise meaning of any Bible Book, verse, or passage. Its preliminary inquiry is ascertaining the specific circumstances encapsulating it. That’s the context.

In every passage you have to ask yourself who, what, when, where, and why. This is the setting. The 16th Century Bible translator Myles Coverdale put it like this (sic): “It shall greatly helpe ye to understand Scripture, if thou mark not only what is spoken or wrythen, but of whom and to whom, with what words, at what time, where, to what intent, with what circumstances, considering what goeth before and what followeth.” (The Structural Principles of the Bible, 1969, p. xiii).

Essentially, Mr. Coverdale was advocating the need for interpreting the Bible – not from one’s experience, shrewdness, or theological perspective – but solely from its divinely orchestrated setting in which each of the sixty-six Books exists and from which an impartial interpretation can spring forth when studied contextually. This setting consists of the following factors: The person who wrote or dictated it; the purpose for writing it (concern, conflict, correction, compassion, etc.); the people receiving it (Israel or the Body of Christ); the period covered – past, present, or future which we’ll discuss shortly. Armed with this information, we need to draw a distinction between … 

Principle 3. Truth over Tradition

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Tradition comes to us with strong emotional attachments. Caution is needed here because tradition becomes idolatry when it stands in the way of the clear teaching of Scripture. What most Bible students fail to understand – and which leads them into confusion and heresy – is that Jesus’ mission was under the Old Covenant as “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Romans 15:8). Believe me, conversations about this begun in innocency can explode into major confrontations rather quickly when the golden calf of tradition is threatened.

In Christ’s day, those controlled by tradition often victimized Him. Clearly, He was the subject of the prophets (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7; Matt. 2:23; 5:17; 26:56; etc.) throughout the Old Testament, pictured as the loveliness of God incarnated in the Son, Israel’s Messiah. However even though Jesus’ mission was under the Old Covenant as “minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Romans 15:8), He was viewed as an illegitimate inconvenience to the religious community who would have recognized Him had it not been for their Fascist Torah traditions. [9] Since highbrow Pharisees considered religious duties equal to Scripture, they held congregants hostage by enforcing them through various means including extortion (John 9:22; 12:42). Therefore, when their fuming at Christ’s refusal to respect their rituals surfaced, He warned them that their cold tradition would result in their inability to recognize and obey clear teaching from God’s Word (Matthew 15:3) which of course included what Scripture said about Him.

Unfortunately, these traditionalists also sought opportunity to nullify Paul’s ministry as well (Acts 15; 21:21; 25:7-8; etc). Although his doctrine remained a mystery hidden from the prophets since world began (Eph. 3:9; see Rom. 16:25; Col. 1:26) in due season it too was rejected by the same cabal that hated Jesus and rejected Him (Acts 13:43, 50; 14:4-5; 17:5; etc).

Albeit, while rejection from the unsaved is to be expected, what is most troublesome is the violent opposition Paul received from brothers who refused out of hand the mystery Jesus revealed to him (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-9). In fact it became so problematic, Peter – apostle to the Jews (Gal. 2:8) – penned a note of warning to all the brethren who were fighting against Paul’s mystery doctrines (Rom-Phile), that they were actually destroying themselves [10] in the process:

“And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16).

I’ll go into more detail as this treatise unfolds.

With this as our backdrop, we will move into deeper discussions of many of the subjects introduced in this chapter beginning with highlighting the premier distinction of Israel in God overarching program for the coming kingdom on earth.
(see Chart of Exegesis in Appendix [iii])

[1] This is most certainly what Paul had in mind when he wrote: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

[2] Pause to remember the number of times Matthew 24 is offered in proof of a post trib rapture when the fact is, the passage is Jewish and has no bearing on the Body of Christ whatsoever. We will discuss this much more in depth later in our treatise.

[3] Salvation in God’s economy has always involved faith and grace that He dispensed separately to particular individuals at any given time. For instance, Adam and Eve never heard the Name Jesus Christ, but God pictured His sacrifice by shedding the blood of innocent animals to cover their sin (Gen. 3:21). They apparently demonstrated their faith the moment they put on this new clothing.

[4] O ye seed of Abraham his servant, ye children of Jacob his chosen. He is the LORD our God: his judgments are in all the earth. He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations. Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant: Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance: (Psalms 105:6-11)

[5] God made 5 unilateral Covenants with Israel and none with the Body of Christ. Bear in mind our status: “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise …” (Ephesians 2:12).

[6] This includes the gospel of circumcision (Gal. 2:7), which is good news for the Jews preached “in time past” linking them to the Abrahamic Covenant, the foundational contract for Israel’s relationship with God. It formed the groundwork for the promises that would be revealed in the other covenants. The Lord Jesus Christ, James, Peter (Cephas) and John were all ministers of the circumcision (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 2:7-9). [Old Covenant, Dispensation of the Law]

[7] This includes the gospel of uncircumcision (Gal. 2:7), which is is good news for Gentiles as Paul explains, “Ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:11-13). [No Covenant, Dispensation of Grace]

[8] Most doctrinal disagreements stem from men conflating God’s prophetic program for Israel and her earthly kingdom, with His mystery program for the Body of Christ and our heavenly inheritance.

[9] The major repositories of the Oral Torah are the Mishnah, compiled between 200–220 CE by Rabbi Yehudah haNasi, and the Gemara, a series of running commentaries and debates concerning the Mishnah, which together are the Talmud, the preeminent text of Rabbinic Judaism. In fact, two “versions” of the Talmud exist: one produced in Jerusalem c. 300–350 CE (the Jerusalem Talmud), and second, more extensive Talmud compiled in Babylonia and published c. 450–500 CE (the Babylonian Talmud). Belief that the Oral Torah was transmitted orally from God to Moses on Mount Sinai during the Exodus from Egypt is a fundamental tenet of faith of Orthodox Judaism, and was recognized as one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith by Maimonides. However, not all branches of Rabbinic Judaism accept the divine provenance of the Oral Torah, such that Conservative and (to a greater extent) Reform Jews give deference to the Talmudic sages while empowering themselves to formulate and adopt their own rulings and interpretations. – Source: Wikipedia

[10] This is evident in the Body of Christ today. Bible teachers totally ignoring the difference between prophecy for Israel and the mystery of the Church, often try to disparage us with names such as “hyper” dispensationalists, and “Bullingerites” to name a few. Scoffing at the Word of God is never wise.

[i] 7 Dispensations

 

Dr. C.I. Scofield

From his classic work Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth, Dr. CI Scofield writes: The Scriptures divide time (by which is meant the entire period from the creation of Adam to the “new heaven and a new earth” of Rev. 21: 1) into seven unequal periods, usually called dispensations (Eph. 3:2), although these periods are also called ages (Eph. 2:7) and days, as in “day of the Lord.”

These periods are marked off in Scripture by some change in God’s method of dealing with mankind, or a portion of mankind, in respect of the two questions: of sin, and of man’s responsibility. Each of the dispensations may be regarded as a new test of the natural man, and each ends in judgment, marking his utter failure in every dispensation. Five of these dispensations, or periods of time, have been fulfilled; we are living in the sixth, probably toward its close, and have before us the seventh, and last: the millennium.

From the Old Scofield Study Bible: [i] dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect of obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God. Seven such dispensations are distinguished in Scripture. (see Gen_1:28)

The First Dispensation: Innocence (Gen 1:28). Man was created in innocence, placed in a perfect environment, subjected to an absolutely simple test, and warned of the consequence of disobedience. The woman fell through pride; the man deliberately. (1Ti_2:14) God restored His sinning creatures, but the dispensation of innocence ended in the judgment of the Expulsion (see Gen_3:24)

The Second Dispensation: Conscience (Gen 3:23). By disobedience man came to a personal and experimental knowledge of good and evil — of good as obedience, of evil as disobedience to the known will of God. Through that knowledge conscience awoke. Expelled from Eden and placed under the second, or ADAMIC COVENANT, man was responsible to do all known good, to abstain from all known evil, and to approach God through sacrifice. The result of this second testing of man is stated in (Gen_6:5) and the dispensation ended in the judgment of the Flood. Apparently “the east of the garden” (Gen_3:24) where were the cherubims and the flame, remained the place of worship through this second dispensation.

The Third Dispensation: Human Government (Gen 8:21). Under Conscience, as in Innocency, man utterly failed, and the judgment of the Flood marks the end of the second dispensation and the beginning of the third. The declaration of the Noahic Covenant subjects humanity to a new test. Its distinctive feature is the institution, for the first time, of human government — the government of man by man. The highest function of government is the judicial taking of life. All other governmental powers are implied in that. It follows that the third dispensation is distinctively that of human government. Man is responsible to govern the world for God. That responsibility rested upon the whole race, Jew and Gentile, until the failure of Israel under the Palestinian Covenant (Deuteronomy 28 – (Deu_30:1-10)) brought the judgment of the Captivities, when “the times of the Gentiles” (See); (Luk_21:24); (Rev_16:14) began, and the government of the world passed exclusively into Gentile hands; (Dan_2:36-45); (Luk_21:24); (Act_15:14-17). That both Israel and the Gentiles have governed for self, not God, is sadly apparent. The judgment of the confusion of tongues ended the racial testing; that of the captivities the Jewish; while the Gentile testing will end in the smiting of the Image (Da 2.) and the judgment of the nations (Mat_25:31-46).

The Fourth Dispensation: Promise (Gen 12:1). For Abraham, and his descendants it is evident that the Abrahamic Covenant (See Scofield) – (Gen_15:18) made a great change. They became distinctively the heirs of promise. That covenant is wholly gracious and unconditional. The descendants of Abraham had but to abide in their own land to inherit every blessing. In Egypt they lost their blessings, but not their covenant. The Dispensation of Promise ended when Israel rashly accepted the law (Exo_19:8). Grace had prepared a deliverer (Moses), provided a sacrifice for the guilty, and by divine power brought them out of bondage (Exo_19:4) but at Sinai they exchanged grace for law. The Dispensation of Promise extends from (Gen_12:1) to (Exo_19:8); and was exclusively Israelitish. The dispensation must be distinguished from the covenant. The former is a mode of testing; the latter is everlasting because unconditional. The law did not abrogate the Abrahamic Covenant (Gal_3:15-18) but was an intermediate disciplinary dealing “till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made”; (Gal_3:19-29); (Gal_4:1-7). Only the dispensation, as a testing of Israel, ended at the giving of the law.

The Fifth Dispensation: Law (Exo 19:8). This dispensation extends from Sinai to Calvary — from Exodus to the Cross. The history of Israel in the wilderness and in the land is one long record of the violation of the law. The testing of the nation by law ended in the judgment of the Captivities, but the dispensation itself ended at the Cross.

(1) Man’s state at the beginning (Exo_19:1-4).

(2) His responsibility (Exo_19:5); (Exo_19:6); (Rom_10:5).

(3) His failure (2Ki_17:7-17); (2Ki_17:19); (Act_2:22); (Act_2:23).

(4) The judgment (2Ki_17:1-6); (2Ki_17:20); (2Ki_25:1-11); (Luk_21:20-24).

The Sixth Dispensation: Grace (Joh 1:17).

Grace. Summary:

(1) Grace is “the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man. . . Not by works of righteousness which we have done” (Tit_3:4); (Tit_3:5).

It is, therefore, constantly set in contrast to law, under which God demands righteousness from man, as, under grace, he gives righteousness to man (Rom_3:21); (Rom_3:22); (Rom_8:4); (Phm_3:9). Law is connected with Moses and works; grace with Christ and faith; (Joh_1:17); (Rom_10:4-10). Law blesses the good; grace saves the bad; (Exo_19:5); (Eph_2:1-9). Law demands that blessings be earned; grace is a free gift; (Deu_28:1-6); (Eph_2:8); (Rom_4:4); (Rom_4:5).

(2) As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom_3:24-26); (Rom_3:4); (Rom_3:24); (Rom_3:25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation, (Joh_1:12); (Joh_1:13); (Joh_3:36); (Mat_21:37); (Mat_22:24); (Joh_15:22); (Joh_15:25); (Heb_1:2); (1Jo_5:10-12). The immediate result of this testing was the rejection of Christ by the Jews, and His crucifixion by Jew and Gentile (Act_4:27). The predicted end of the testing of man under grace is the apostasy of the professing church:

(see “Apostasy”

(See Scofield) – (2Ti_3:1); (2Ti_3:1-8); and the resultant apocalyptic judgments.

(3) Grace has a twofold manifestation: in salvation (Rom_3:24) and in the walk and service of the saved (Rom_6:15).

The Seventh Dispensation: the fullness of times (Kingdom) (Eph 1:10)

The Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. This, the seventh and last of the ordered ages which condition human life on the earth, is identical with the kingdom covenanted to David. (2Sa_7:8-17); (Zec_12:8).

Summary;

(Luk_1:31-33); (1Co_15:24); and gathers into itself under Christ all past “times”:

(1) The time of oppression and misrule ends by Christ taking His kingdom. (Isa_11:3-4).

(2) The time of testimony and divine forbearance ends in judgment. (Mat_25:31-46); (Act_17:30-31); (Rev_20:7-15).

(3) The time of toil ends in rest and reward. (2Th_1:6-7).

(4) The time of suffering ends in glory. (Rom_8:17-18).

(5) The time of Israel’s blindness and chastisement ends in restoration and conversion. (Rom_11:25-27);

(Eze_39:25-29).

(6) The times of the Gentiles end in the smiting of the image and the setting up of the kingdom of the heavens.

(Dan_2:34); (Dan_2:35); (Rev_19:15-21).

(7) The time of creation’s thralldom ends in deliverance at the manifestation of the sons of God. (Gen_3:17); (Isa_11:6-

8); (Rom_8:19-21).

 

Excursus on the Tribulation [ii]

Prophecy is for Israel and the Tribulation exists purely as prophecy. Moses was the first to reveal it (Deut. 4:30). Through the years – by means of Progressive Revelation – the prophets unfolded it to Israel. However, in doing so, God never revealed His mystery Body to any of them; reserving it for Paul alone.

We would do well to study carefully the words of Zephaniah as he uses many terms for the tribulation for Israel:  “The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, A day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’S wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.” (Zephaniah 1:14-18). (See: Deut. 4:30; Isa. 24; Jer. 30-31; Joel; Zephaniah; Matt. 24; Rev. 6-19)

Coinciding with Zephaniah’s prophecy, the book of Revelation delineates the tribulation as a time of “wrath” by using the word at least 10 times. It is called “the wrath of God five times (Revelation 14:10, 19; 15:1,7; 16:1) and “the wrath of the Lamb” once (Rev. 6:16 see v 17). Opening the first seal unleashes the tribulation [ii] which continues 7 years (Dan. 9:27; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14) and concludes with “the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:15) when Christ returns to fight the armies gathered against Israel at Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21).

The following info is from the Old Scofield Study Bible. 

Seventy Weeks 

Daniel 9:24 Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. These are “weeks” or more accurately, sevens of years; seventy weeks of seven years each. Within these “weeks” the national chastisement must be ended and the nation re­established in everlasting righteousness (Dan9:24). The seventy weeks are divided into seven = 49 years; sixty-two = 434 years; one = 7 years (Dan – 9:25-27). In the seven weeks = 49 years, Jerusalem was to be rebuilt in “troublous times.” This was fulfilled, as Ezra and Nehemiah record. Sixty-two weeks = 434 years, thereafter Messiah was to come (Dan – 9:25). This was fulfilled in the birth and manifestation of Christ. (Dan_9:26); (Dan9:26) is obviously an indeterminate period. The date of the crucifixion is not fixed. It is only said to be “after” the threescore and two weeks. It is the first event in (Dan 19:26). The second event is the destruction of the city, fulfilled A.D. 70. Then, “unto the end,” a period not fixed, but which has already lasted nearly 2000 years. To Daniel was revealed only that wars and desolations should continue (Compare (Mat-24:6-14).

The New Testament reveals, that which was hidden from the Old Testament prophets; (Mat – 13:11-17); (Eph3: I – 10) that during this period should be accomplished the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven (Mat – 13:1-50) and the out-calling of the Church; (Mat – 16:18); (Rom – 11:25). When the Church-age will end, and the seventieth week be- gin, is nowhere revealed. Its duration can be but seven years. To make it more violates the principle of interpretation already confirmed by fulfillment. (Dan9:27) deals with the last week. The “he” of (Dan – 9:27) is the “prince that shall come” of (Dan_9:26); 9:26); whose people (Rome) destroyed the temple, A.D. 70. He is the same with the “little horn” of chapter 7. He will covenant with the Jews to restore their temple sacrifices for one week (seven years), but in the middle of that time he will break the covenant and fulfill; (Dan – 12:11); (2Th – 2:3); (2Th_2:4). Between the sixty-ninth week, after which Messiah was cut off, and the seventieth week, within which the “little horn” of Daniel 7. will run his awful course, intervenes this entire Church-age. (Dan – 9:27) deals with the last three and a half years of the seven, which are identical with the “great tribulation.” (Mat24:15-28) “time of trouble” (Dan_12:1) hour of temptation- (Rev_3: 10).

The Time of the End 

Daniel 11:35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed Here the prophetic foreview, having traced the history of the two parts of Alexander’s empire which had to do with Palestine and the Jews, namely, Syria and Egypt, to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and having described his career, overleaps the centuries to “the time of the end,” when he of whom Antiochus Epiphanes was a type, the “little horn” of (Dan – 7:8) the “Beast out of the sea” of (Rev – 13:4- 10) shall appear (cf) (See Scofield) – (Dan7:8). Prophecy does not concern itself with history as such, but only with history as it affects Israel and the Holy Land. Antiochus Epiphanes was insignificant as compared with historical personages whom the Bible does not mention, but he scourged the covenant people and defiled God’s altar, thus coming into prophetic light. From verse 36 (Dan – 11:36), the “little horn” of (Dan7:8); (Dan7:24-26) fills the scene. His prosperity lasts until “the indignation” (the “time of trouble” of, (Dan – 12: 1); (Mat24:2 1) is accomplished (Dan – 11:36). This is parallel with; (Rev – 17:10-14); (Rev19:19-21). (Dan_11:37-45) supply details not mentioned in the New Testament The expression “God of his fathers” (Dan I 1:37) has been held to indicate that the “king” is an apostate Jew, but this does not accord with (Dan_9:26) which was fulfilled by the Gentile armies of Rome. The “little horn” is an apostate, but from Christianity, not Judaism (compare Ho – 2:18); (1Jo_2:19). (DanI 1:38-45) describe his career. Substituting “the god of forces” (that is, Forces of nature) for the true God (Dan I 1:38); (Dan1 1:39), he soon presents himself as that god (cf) (2Th 2:3); (2Th2:4). While his career lasts he is an irresistible conqueror (Dan I 1:40-44). He established his palace in Jerusalem, probably at the time of his su­preme act of blasphemous impiety; (Dan T 9:27); (Dan – 12:11); (Mat 24:15); (2Tb2:4). From this time begins the great tribulation; (Dan_12:1); (Mat24:21) which runs its course during the last half of Daniel’s seventieth week, namely, three and one half years; (Dan7:25); (Dan_12:7); (Dan_12:11); (Rev_13:5).

That Day
Isaiah 10:20 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel
, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. “That day”: often the equivalent of “the day of the Lord” (Isa_2:10-22); (Rev1 9:11-2 1). The prophecy here passes from the general to the particular, from historic and fulfilled judgments upon Assyria to the final destruction of all Gentile world-power at the return of the Lord in glory. (See “Armageddon,”; (Rev 16:14); (Rev – 19:21) “Times of the Gentiles,”; (Luk21:24); (Rev16:19); “The great tribulation,”; (Psa2:5); (Rev_7:14) 

Great Tribulation 

Revelation 7:14 And 1 said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. The great tribulation is the period of unexampled trouble predicted in the passages cited under that head from (Psa_2:5) to (Rev_7:14) and de­scribed in Revelation 11-18. Involving in a measure the whole earth (Rev 3: 10) it is yet distinctly “the time of Ja- cob’s trouble” (Jer – 30:7) and its vortex Jerusalem and the Holy Land. It involves the people of God who will have returned to Palestine in unbelief. Its duration is three and a half years, or the last half of the seventieth week of Da­niel. (See Scofield) – (Dan – 9:24). (Rev_11:2); (Rev1 1:3) [Editor’s note: Please never forget that the Lord Jesus promised to keep us from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth Rev. 3:10].

The elements of the tribulation are: 

  • The cruel reign of the “beast out of the sea” (Rev – 13: 1) who at the beginning of the three and a half years, will break his covenant with the Jews (by virtue of which they will have re-established the temple worship, (Dan 9:27) and show himself in the temple, demanding that he be worshipped as God. (Mat – 24:15); (2Th-2:4).
  • The active interposition of Satan “having great wrath” (Rev12:12) who gives his power to the Beast. (Rev – 13:4); (Rev_13:5).
  • The unprecedented activity of demons (Rev – 9:2); (Rev_9:11), and
  • the terrible “bowl” judgments of Revelation 16.

The great tribulation will be, however, a period of salvation. An election out of Israel is seen as sealed for God (Rev_7:4-8) and, with an innumerable multitude of Gentiles (Rev7:9) are said to have come “out of the great tribu­lation” (Rev_7:14). They are not of the priesthood, the church, to which they seem to stand somewhat in the relation of the Levites to the priests under the Mosaic Covenant. The great tribulation is immediately followed by the return of Christ in glory, and the events associated therewith. (Mat 24:29); (Mat-24:30).

  • The time of the end in Danielbegins with the violation by “the prince that shall come” (that is, “little horn,” “man of sin,” “Beast”) of his covenant with the Jews for the restoration of the temple and sacrifice (Dan9:27) and his presentation of himself as God; (Dan – 9:27); (Dan_11:36-38); (Mat24:15); (2Tb2:4); (Rev13:4-6) and ends with his destruction by the appearing of the Lord in glory. (2Th_2:8); (Rev 19:19); (Rev-19:20).
  • The duration of the “time of the end”, is three and one half years, coinciding with the last half of the seven­tieth week of Daniel. (Dan – 7:25); (Dan_12:7); (Rev_13:5). This “time of the end” is the “time of Jacob’s trouble.” (Jer – 30:7) “a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation” (Dan 2: 1) “great tribulation such as was not from the beginning of the world… nor ever shall be” (Mat24:2 1). The New Testament, especially the Book of the Revelation, adds many details. [ii] The churchis never mentioned- nor can it be clearly identified- in any part of the 7 year tribulation.

AntiPreTrib Problems Associated with the Tribulation

The Tribulation is a ubiquitous term that has become a well-known doctrine. Prophecy is for Israel and the Tribulation exists purely as prophecy. It was well known by the prophets (Deut. 4:30) so it was never a part of the mystery. That being said, there isn’t a prophecy or verse for that matter anywhere in Scripture: (1) clearly consigning the mystery Body of Christ to the time of Jacob’s trouble,  or (2) revealing her as being on earth for a single hour during this time [unless two terms used for Israel, “elect” and “saints” are pulled from their context to prove something that simply is not provable in any other fashion].

There are several problems AntiPreTrib advocates have with the Tribulation.

  1. Their first problem is what to call it.

The term tribulation, which includes the great tribulation (Matt. 24:21, 29), is part of “the day of the Lord” (Isa. 2; 13; 34; Jer. 30-31; 46; etc). It is also called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) [Jacob is Israel], “Daniel’s Seventieth Week” (Dan. 9:24-27), and the “time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1), and “the hour of temptation” (Rev. 3:10).

  1. Their second problem is the length of it.

The first mention of seven in the Bible tells us how it stands connected in God’s mind. “. . . on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2). Seven from that point on signifies something started and finished. Since Daniel’s prophecy of seventy weeks is our Rosetta Stone for interpreting the tribulation trilogy, we have one seven year period still future, dispensational Bible scholars view in connection with the beginning and ending of tribulation and great tribulation period; Scripture bearing witness. In the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:21; 29), and the Book of Revelation, two separate three and one-half year periods form one whole seven year tribulation: 42 months (Rev. 11:3); 1260 days (Rev. 11:3, 12:6); and time, times, and half a time (Rev. 12:14).

However, in a concerted contrarian effort to thwart scholarly teaching, you’ll find antiPreTrib proponents to be of the most creative antagonists on the planet; especially those espousing the most recent – and perhaps most confusing – PreWrath rapture ruse. Their claim to fame is in arbitrarily placing the church into the time of Jacob’s trouble for most of seven year period with nothing more than bizarre calculations and misguided outcomes they arbitrarily apply to the Body of Christ without ever proving she is here during any part of the Tribulation aka Jacob’s trouble.

  1. Their third problem is not accepting its origin and purpose.

The Tribulation is for Israel through prophecy; Moses being the first prophet to reveal it (Deut. 4:30). The purpose of the tribulation is to punish sin and purify Israel and her supporters for the Millennial Kingdom (Jer. 30-31; Obad. 1:15; Zech. 13:9; Matt. 25:31-46; study the great catastrophes in Rev. 6-19). “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city . . . to seal up the vision and prophecy …” (Dan 9:24). Although Daniel prophesied that the seventy weeks would seal up the vision and prophesy, there appears to be a secondary reference here to a cessation of prophecy which occurred at the 69th week and will last for an unspecified time. Knowing what we now know, that happened when God moved from prophecy to mystery at the rejection of Jesus’ Kingdom offer. Interestingly, the corollary to this rejection brought about a dual blindness each leading in separate  directions for distinct purposes.

  1. Their fourth problem is consigning the Body of Christto it.

The tribulation is a watershed for Israel given through prophecy before she ever knew about the coming kingdom (Deut. 4:30). It was later expanded upon by the prophets (Jeremiah, Isaiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc) through Progressive Revelation. When the Lord summed up Israel’s end time’s scenario in Luke 21:22, He referred to this epoch as “the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.” The days of vengeance is the tribulation – aka the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer. 30:7), and the “time of trouble” (Dan. 12:1), also referred to as Daniel’s Seventieth Week for Israel and Jerusalem. All things fulfilled refers to Israel’s prophets. The notion that the Body of Christ will share in the prescribed horrors of the Jewish tribulation is an invented doctrine without clear Scriptural support.

There are only three ways to place the church in the tribulation: 

(1) by wresting Scripture from its context where it clearly can be found implicating Israel and the Gentiles, not the Bride of Christ (Rev. 19:9; 21:2,9; 22:17);

(2) by superimposing the church over the top of Israel, which is Satanic Replacement Theology condemned by the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 2:9; 3:9); or

(3) by a dogged determination to maintain the anti-rapture mantra even when presented with clear evidence refuting it. The tribulation is for Israel (Deut. 4:30; Jer. 30-31; Dan. 12:1, etc) and placing the Body of Christ here during that time is a manmade doctrine devoid of integrity and Biblical authority.

In summary, the tribulation – known by other names – covers Daniel’s Seventieth Week and as such is seven years in length.  Its purpose is to punish sin and prepare Israel for the Revelation of the Messiah and the Davidic Kingdom on earth which the prophets applied exclusively to Israel. Any suggestion that the Body of Christ will be here for a moment of the time of Jacob’s trouble is without Scriptural authority and should be rejected out of hand with no more ink devoted to it.

Chart of Exegesis [iii]

Chart of Exegesis – 2 Tim. 2:15
Time past – ages to come

(Eph. 2:11-12; Eph. 2:7; Heb. 1:1)

But now

(Eph. 2:13; 5:8; Col. 1:26)

Israel Church (Body of Christ)
OT

Gen-John

NT

Acts-Revelation

Nation of Jews Body of Believing Jews and Gentiles
Christ is Messiah of the Nation Christ is Head of the Body
Prophets Paul
Prophecy Mystery
Circumcision

Ministry to: Christ, Peter, James, John, etc
(Rom. 15:8; Gal. 2:7-9)

Uncircumcision

(Rom. 11:13; Gal. 2:7-9)

Spoken since the world began

(Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21)

Kept secret since the world began

(Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1-9; Col. 1:26)

Gen-John; Hebrews-Revelation Romans-Philemon
Kingdom in Earth Inheritance in Heaven

 

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