The Heresy of Dispensationalism
Dispensationalism: A Return to Biblical Theology or
a Pseudo Christian Cult
“What is indisputably, absolutely, and uncompromisingly essential to the Christian religion is its doctrine of salvation… If Dispensationalism has actually departed from the only way of salvation which the Christian religion teaches, then we must say it has departed from Christianity. No matter how many other important truths it proclaims, it cannot be called Christian if it empties Christianity of its essential message. We define a cult as a religion which claims to be Christian while emptying Christianity of that which is essential to it. If Dispensationalism does this, then Dispensationalism is a cult and not a branch of the Christian church. It is as serious as that. It is impossible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation.” (By John H. Gerstner – Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism)
What is Dispensationalism?
Dispensationalism is a form of premillennialism originating among the Plymouth Brethren in the early 1830’s. The father of dispensationalism, John Nelson Darby, educated as a lawyer and ordained Anglican priest, was one of the chief founders of the Plymouth Brethren movement, which arose in reaction against the perceived empty formalism of the Church of England. To the Brethren the true “invisible” church was to come out of the apostate “visible” Church, rejecting such forms as priesthood and sacraments. Dispensational theology centers upon the concept of God’s dealings with mankind being divided into (usually) seven distinct economies or “dispensations”, in which man is tested as to his obedience to the will of God as revealed under each dispensation.
Dispensationalists see God as pursuing two distinct purposes throughout history, one related to an earthly goal and an earthly people (the Jews), the other to heavenly goals and a heavenly people (the church).Dispensationalists believe that in the Old Testament God promised the Jewish people an earthly kingdom ruled by Messiah ben David, and that when Christ came He offered this prophesied kingdom to the Jews. When the Jews of the time rejected Christ and the earthly kingdom, the promise was postponed, and the “mystery form” of the kingdom – the church – was established.
The church, according to dispensational doctrine, was unforeseen in the Old Testament and constitutes a “parenthesis” in God’s plan for Israel. In the future, the distinction between Jew and Gentile will be reestablished and will continue throughout all eternity. The “parenthesis”, or church age, will end at the rapture when Christ comes invisibly to take all believers (excepting OT saints) to heaven to celebrate the “marriage feast of the Lamb” with Christ for a period of seven years.God’s program for the Jews then resumes with the tribulation, Antichrist, bowls of wrath, 144,000 Jews preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom, and Armageddon.
Then, the Second (third, if you count the pre-trib rapture) Coming, the instantaneous conversion of the entire nation of Israel, the resurrection of the Tribulation and Old Testament saints, and the “sheep and goats” judgment. The “goats” will be cast into hell, the “sheep” and the believing Jews will enter the millennium in natural human bodies, marrying, reproducing, and dying. The “mystery church” and the resurrected Tribulation and Old Testament saints will live in the heavenly Jerusalem suspended above the earthly city. This millennium will be a time of great peace and prosperity, with Christ ruling on David’s throne. After 1,000 yrs. Satan will be released from the chain with which he had been bound at the beginning of the millennium and many of the children born to the “sheep” and the Israelites will follow him in revolt against Christ.
The King will again destroy His enemies, followed by another resurrection of the righteous, another resurrection of the unrighteous, a final judgment, and at last the New Heavens and the New Earth.
Although premillennial thought has been recorded in the early church, dispensational theology and its pursuant eschatology are new, as even the father of the system admitted -“I think we ought to have something more of direct testimony as to the lord’s coming, and its bearing also on the state of the church: ordinarily, it would not be well to have it so clear, as it frightens people. We must pursue it steadily; it works like leaven, and its fruit is by no means seen yet; I do not mean leaven as ill, but the thoughts are new, and people’s minds work on them, and all the old habits are against their feelings – all the gain of situation, and every worldly motive; we must not be surprised at its effect being slow on the mass, the ordinary instruments of acting upon others having been trained in most opposite habits.” – LETTERS OF J.N.D., vol.1 pg.25-26
The new doctrine was widely accepted in America, due to popular prophetic meetings such as the Niagara Bible Conferences. C.I. Scofield promulgated dispensational thought in his Scofield Reference Bible. Dispensational Bible institutes by the hundreds have sprung up across the continent – notably Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary.Media evangelists such as Jerry Fallwell, Dave Hunt, Howard Conder, Charles Capps, Pat Robertson, Jack Van Impe, and Hal Lindsey popularize dispensational eschatology today. Most likely you have heard these doctrines taught over Christian radio programs, and yes, from your own church’s pulpit, though probably no one defined the theological system as dispensationalism nor the origination as Darby circa 1832.Dispensationalists view the teaching as a return to Biblical theology, after nearly 1,800 years of darkness.
But, since the day Darby began to preach the doctrine, Godly men have opposed. Many books have been published exposing the flaws in the intricate system. Most hack away at the branches, arguing peripheral issues. We intend to lay the axe to the root of the tree.”My brother, I am a constant reader of my Bible, and I soon found that what I was taught to believe (by Darby’s doctrine) did not always agree with what my Bible said. I came to see that I must either part company with John Darby, or my precious Bible, and I chose to cling to my Bible and part from Mr. Darby.” – George Müeller, a contemporary and one time supporter of Darby quoted by Robert Cameron in his book SCRIPTURAL TRUTH ABOUT THE LORD’S RETURN, pp.146-7