The Dispensational view of the Ages
Dec 05, 2018
Having laid out the panorama of history, let us look at the broad structure of the ages within that big picture.
During the Dark Ages, when Scripture was hidden from most people, only a few of the educated priests were able to entertain views and theories regarding the structure of time in history. The Protestant Reformation opened up the Scriptures, and most of the Reformers interpreted the book of Revelation historically, rather than futuristically.
In other words, they saw the book of Revelation as a prophecy of Church History, rather than as a prophecy of future events. As they overturned the Roman Church, they believed that they were fulfilling the prophecies of the downfall of Babylon in Revelation 17, 18. Essentially, to put it in biblical terms, they were engaged in spiritual warfare to deliver a “fatal blow” to the beast from the sea (Revelation 13:3).
What was not so clear to them was that this religious beast was to be healed of its deadly wound and it was to be joined by another beast arising from the earth.
Most of the Reformers lived prior to the French Revolution (1789-1794). The Reformers fought Rome and wounded it, but the fatal head wound was actually delivered by Napoleon in 1798 when he took Pope Pius VI captive. The pope died in prison, and it appeared that the Papacy had died.
Napoleon later wanted to be crowned emperor and needed someone worthy to crown him at the ceremony in 1804. So he reinstated a pope (Pius VII) for that purpose. There is some dispute as to whether the pope actually did this, or if Napoleon changed his mind and put the crown on his own head. Nonetheless, the result of this event was that the papacy’s head wound was healed, and the Roman Church was revived after its near-death experience.
For our own purposes, the deadly wound in 1798 coincided with Nathan Rothschild’s move from Hamburg to London, where he soon became the dominant banker. His brothers had been sent to other European countries to establish their influence: France, Sweden, Austria, and one who remained in Germany. In the next decades, they became the most powerful bankers in the world. The banking beast from the earth operated primarily through this banking dynasty.
The Reformers, who lived in previous centuries, did not live to see the rise of the beast from the earth. There was hardly any way that they could have foreseen how that Scripture would be fulfilled. Yet they understood that the book of Revelation, written in symbols and spiritual language, fulfilled the events of Church history up to their time.
Then in the 1850’s a new theory arose, which was known at the time as Dispensationalism. It was largely defined by Darby and later became the dominant view through Scofield’s Study Bible in the early 1900’s. Dispensationalism taught the futurist interpretation of Revelation, where most of the book was to be fulfilled in a seven-year period that was yet future. An “Antichrist” was to arise in the time of “The Great Tribulation.” Christ was to come more than once, the view taught, first coming “for” His saints, and later “with” His saints.
Once the Bible had been cut loose from its historical roots, the people saw no need to study history. As for the historical ages, the Dispensationalists divided time in their own way.
- Innocence - Adam
- Conscience - After man sinned, up to Noah’s flood
- Government - After the flood, Noah to Abraham
- Promise - Abraham to Moses and the giving of the Law
- Law - Moses to the cross
- Grace - The cross to the Millennial Kingdom
- Millennial Kingdom - A 1000 year reign of Christ on earth centered in the earthly Jerusalem, a rebuilt physical temple, and renewal of animal sacrifices
Dividing time into various ages is a man-made way of organizing and defining the progression of history. The above has some useful elements, but in my view it also has some serious flaws. By assigning one age as “Law” and another as “Grace,” Christians have been given the impression that there was no grace in the Age of Law, nor was there Law in the Age of Grace. Hence, Christians have put away the law during the Age of Grace.
Flawed Views of the Millennial Kingdom
Their idea of the Millennial Kingdom was intertwined with Christian Zionism and an expectation of a Jewish return to the old land and a rebuilt temple. Dispensationalists struggled to explain law and grace in salvation, but they eventually settled on the idea that Jews are saved by the law and Christians by grace.
By separating Jews from Gentiles, they rebuilt the dividing wall that Jesus had torn down (Ephesians 2:14). There had been a wall in the outer court of the Jerusalem temple dividing Jewish men from women and gentiles. Only Jewish men were allowed to approach God closely. All others had to see God from a distance. This wall provided a powerful psychological and spiritual force in Jewish culture, which Christianity struggled to eliminate in the first century.
Dispensationalism rebuilt that wall and set it firmly in place once again, thus negating much of Paul’s teaching. Jews were to be saved by being “good Jews,” that is, by their orthodoxy in following the law. Gentiles were saved by grace through faith in Christ. As a result, in the Millennial Kingdom, the Jews would inherit the earth, while the Gentiles would inherit heaven.
The “dual gospel” idea was used to explain some of the differences (seen as apparent contradictions) in the New Testament gospels. For instance, Jesus validation of the law in Matthew 5:17-19, along with His instruction to the rich man about keeping the commandments (Mark 10:19) are seen as instructions to Jews rather than to Gentiles. Hence, Gentiles are not required to keep the commandments. This view has justified lawlessness (anomia) in the Church.
By allowing Jews to be saved by the law, the view has also opened the door for Christians to convert to Judaism without giving up one’s salvation. Such conversion only changes the manner in which the Christian is saved, moving from the path of grace to the path of law.
More recently, this flaw in Dispensationalism has morphed into Dual Covenant Theology, where Jews and Gentiles each have their own separate covenant with God. It has now developed to the point where Jews can be saved apart from faith in Jesus Christ. The implication is that the Jews are saved by Moses (Old Covenant), while the Gentiles are saved by Jesus (New Covenant).
It never fails that when a biblical viewpoint is flawed, it sets men on a downward spiral toward blindness and disaster.
Today there are more Christians converting to Judaism than Jews converting to Christ and Christianity. In this way, they hope to become “chosen,” not realizing that there are no chosen people apart from being part of the remnant of grace (Romans 11:7). The remnant of grace was a small group of just 7,000 Israelites in the time of Elijah (Romans 11:4). Many Christians think that they can enhance their position with God by converting to Judaism. But in the end, they merely fall into the same trap that Paul warned the church against in his letters.
A Better View
The book of Hebrews was designed to show the difference between the two covenants and the changes to “better” and “greater” things. We have a better covenant, a greater high priest, a better sacrifice, a heavenly city and temple. We are urged to leave the old system, pictured in the fact that Jesus was crucified outside the camp (city). Hebrews 13:13, 14 concludes,
13 So let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.
The Dispensationalist idea that the Millennial Kingdom centers around the earthly Jerusalem and a rebuilt physical temple is foreign to New Testament eschatology. To say that the book of Hebrews applies only to Gentiles is ludicrous, because the book itself is not addressed to Gentiles but to Hebrews. Hebrews 13:13, 14 urges Hebrews to emigrate from the old Jerusalem to the New Jerusalem.
The Dispensationalist idea, which was invented in the 1850’s, has done much harm to the Church, for it helped to put the Church on the path toward captivity to Mystery Babylon, beginning in 1914. It defined the Laodicean era, which is the Church of the Captivity (1914-1993), as I explained in my second book on The Revelation.
We need to tear down the dividing wall once again, so that all men may again be unified as “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), no longer seeing God’s people divided into “chosen” and “not chosen.” We need to reaffirm the New Covenant and its Mediator as the only door to salvation. From the standpoint of time, we need to see Grace as having no beginning point and no end point.
The Millennial Kingdom is not a Jewish Kingdom, nor is it a time when the Old Testament style of worship is reestablished. Grace was not a temporary aberration in the history of the Kingdom. When the Jews rejected Jesus as the Messiah, this did not jump-start a temporary Age of Grace that was to be replaced by law-based salvation at the second coming of Christ.
We need a better way of viewing time, as well as a better way of understanding our salvation.
In my view, the answer is found in the feast days, which are prophetic on two levels. First, the feasts tell us how an individual may progress in his relationship with God through justification (Passover), sanctification (Pentecost), and glorification (Tabernacles). Second, the feasts set forth a structure of time, for there is a Passover Age from Moses to Christ, followed by a Pentecostal Age from Acts 2 until the first resurrection and transformation in the time of the second coming of Christ. The Millennial Kingdom, as they call it, is actually the Age of Tabernacles.
In my view, this way of looking at time is both biblical and accurate.