As explained in Back to the Future, classical Dispensationalism appears to be in its essential points, foreign to Scripture. The New Testament writers knew nothing of it. Why do I say this? One of the major tenants of Dispensationalism is that the Church is wholly unknown and unmentioned in the Old Testament. Yet, a careful study of the New Testament utterly refutes this tenant. In reality, the writers of the New Testament consistently interpret Old Testament passages toward Israel as fulfilled by the Church. For instance, Paul applies the prophecies of the Old Testament to the Church in his epistle to Romans-which the Classical Dispensationalists say cannot be done. As you read this, notice Paul’s use of Old Testament Scripture to identify New Testament Christians, the Church.
And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, ‘My people,’ and her who was not beloved, ‘beloved.’ ” “And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘you are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for the Lord will execute His word on the earth [land], thoroughly and quickly.” And just as Isaiah foretold, “Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, we would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.” (Romans 9:23-29)
The New Testament and Dispensationalism
In this passage above, we see that two Old Testament prophets were referenced by Paul for information on the work of God in the New Testament Church. As a result, “the church, consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, has become the people of God.” Paul uses other passages to drive home this point, that the Church is spiritual Israel, as well.
…and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them….(Romans 4:11)
To understand this point, let’s ask a few questions. Who believes but has not been circumcised? That is Paul’s very point in referencing the Old Testament; it was Abraham then but it is the Church now. It is the Church that has the honor of calling Abraham its father. And consider this passage:
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, “A father of many nations have I made you”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4:16-17)
Abraham is the father of many nations. To Jews, the word nation means “gentile.” And it is the Gentiles who have become spiritual Abrahamites by faith. God has rejected the Jews who have rejected Christ; they are not His people. Who are His people then? It is the Church. And Paul continues:
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)
Let's Look Inside
Notice, contrary to Dispensationalism, that the Scripture did indeed foresee and foretell the coming of the New Testament Church. And from this passage we see that it is by faith that a person becomes a child of Abraham, not simply by being born a Jew. The Gentiles, the nations, have believed and have therefore become spiritual Jews. Paul says again:
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29)
If you are a Christian, you are of the seed of Abraham, a spiritual Jew; nothing could be plainer.
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)
True membership in Israel is a product of an inward faith, and without that faith a Jew is not a part of the Israel of God. With that faith a person is a part of the Israel of God, notwithstanding the fact that he or she is a gentile.
…for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…. (Philippians 3:3)
Here Paul is rather bold and very plain; he calls Christian people the true circumcision. That is, they are true sons of Abraham because their hearts have been circumcised even if their flesh has not.
And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (Galatians 6:16)
And now Paul spells it out. The Gentile church at Galatia, and anywhere else for that matter, is the Israel of God.
Clearly, Paul “applies prophecies to the church which in their Old Testament setting belong to literal Israel; he calls the church the ‘sons,’ the ‘seeds’ of Abraham. He calls believers the ‘true circumcision.’ It is difficult therefore to avoid the conclusion that Paul sees the church as spiritual Israel.” And yet, the Church is a great mystery to Dispensationalism; it was not foretold in the Old Testament. According to them, it is simply a parenthesis. At the rapture it will go away and God will then get back to his real plan, the true people of God, racial Israel.
The problem with the eschatology of Dispensationalism is that it is formed by fitting the New Testament into Old Testament forms, making the New Testament fit into the earthly kingdom concept that fleshly Jews envisioned as their destiny. This was the very idea Christ rejected in His ministry to them. Of course the proper way of understanding the Old Testament is by seeing it in the light of New Testament fulfillment. In other words, Dispensationalism does theology backwards and thereby gets confused results.
Philip Carrington speaking of Dispensationalism under the name Adventism says, “The study of a modern Adventist sect is of great importance, for it illustrates the psychology and doctrinal ideas of the ‘montanist’ type of heresy, to which St. John did not belong. …literal interpretation of symbols, … puritan legalism, exact predictable dates, … a catastrophic ‘end of the world,’ … are ideas which all hang together and mark the type of mind which is profoundly material at the very moment it prides itself on being spiritual.” Now it is unfair to classify Dispensationalism as a sect like the Seventh Day Adventists, who Carrington was more specifically speaking of, yet Dispensationalism holds many of these doctrines and is not fully in the historic tradition of the Christian Church at these points.
Because of its recent origin, historically, in the two-thousand year period of Christianity, most Christians never heard of this theory, however, in recent years it has become the dominant explanation of things to come, especially in the U.S. This is not to the benefit of the Church.