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Unpublished Article August, 2010

Nuances Of Dispenationalism That Undermine The Gospel

The identity of Jesus of Nazareth in fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecies and promises lies at the very heart of the true Christian gospel.

“And straightway he [Saul of Tarsus] preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. . . But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:20-22).

Two vital elements are revealed here concerning Saul’s primitive understanding of the gospel. The first is the concept of identity: Jesus of Nazareth (the historical person who was crucified by the Scribes and Pharisees as a messianic imposter) is indeed “the Son of God.”

The second element is the claim to specific and absolute fulfillment: This Jesus of Nazareth (whom Saul formerly rebelled against) is indeed “very Christ.”

Now our grasp of the meaning of terms is very important to our understanding of the gospel here. First is the expression “Son of God.” Second is the word “Christ.”

The expression “Son of God” is not to be taken in the procreative parental sense that we normally use in our understanding of family relationships. Jesus is God; He is not an off-shoot of God in the same procreative sense as we are, being the physical off-spring of our biological parents. The expression “Son of God” is itself also, rather, a messianic term. It refers to the special relationship that the ancient kings of Israel had to God, as Himself the sovereign king of Israel. God Himself was king, but there came a time when the people wanted an earthly king, and so God gave them one. That line of God-appointed kings of ancient Israel was viewed in the light of a special relationship then known as “Son,” or kingly representative, of God.

The word “Christ” means the “Anointed One” or the Messiah. When the Messiah came he was to be the anointed king of Israel. He was to rule over Israel as the representative of God. In the case of Jesus of Nazareth we are dealing also with a divine figure. Jesus is God manifested in the flesh. There is only one king of Israel, God, and that one God is manifested in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.

Again, we are not talking about two different Gods here, as in father and son, as we understand that relationship on a human level. We are talking, rather, about two distinct persons, but about only one God. This discourse, of course, brings us straight to the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

The Trinitarian idea fuses itself directly into, and with, the concept of messianism. Nowhere does the New Testament tell us that we must believe in the Trinity in order to be saved. The New Testament does tell us plainly, however, that we must believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and as the Christ, in order have salvation and eternal life (Acts 16:30-31; Romans 10:9-10). And when we really do believe the claims concerning the identity of Jesus, then we have also implicitly and practically accepted the orthodox Christian formula of the Trinity, as well.

The point bring made is that it is easier to present the gospel message in terms of simple messianism, than it is to present to the non-Christian world the church’s theologicaly-formulated doctrine of the Trinity. The gospel of our salvation is not intended to be theologically complicated, friends! It is rather to be made so easy to understand that even a child can grasp it. Messianic identity and messianic fulfillment in Jesus is just that easy. It is a blanket affirmation that brooks no mitigation in terms of the believer’s imagination regarding Old Testament redemptive promises. Faith in Jesus--in the fullness and finality of His present messianic identity--must be unimpeded by any gaps or postponements of any kind whatever.

Now here, too, is where we get into ideological trouble with our modern popular theory of dispensational premillennialism. Scofield/Darbyism has taught us that the Old Testament messianic fulfillment in Jesus is not yet complete. Jesus is not yet the messiah king, because He does not now “reign” in the fullness of his kingdom.

According to premillennial teaching, Jesus is coming back to “set up” His messianic kingdom and reign physically on earth for one-thousand years. That unscriptural theory militates, however, against a clear understanding of the identity of Jesus. It supposes that there are, in effect, two Jesuses. There is the one Jesus who is our personal Saviour in this present age. Then there is the other Jesus who is coming back to become the Jews’ messiah/king and exercise his reign. The latter is the real Messiah. The former is not yet, in the fullest sense, the Christ of Israel‘s hope.

Efforts to prove premillennialism’s dualistic version of the gospel from the New Testament end in frustration and failure, and in the liberal attitude of agnosticism then being developed. Nowhere does the New Testament teach that Jesus offered the Jews a kingdom, that, during this present age, has been put on hold. Everywhere, rather, is the declaration of fulfillment made. Jesus is now the Messiah! Nowhere does the Old Testament promise the appearance of the Messiah without His reign and kingdom. A Christ without a reign and kingdom is not the Christ of Old Testament prophecy, and, therefore, not the true Christ of the New Testament, either.

Scofield/Darbyism ignores what the New Testament teaches concerning Jesus and the messianic claims that are attached to Him therein. Instead, it presents us with an obstructionist version of eschatology that, by deceit, completely overthrows the integrity and authority of the Word of God, and in so doing undermines the gospel.

Only two question are central to an accurate understanding of biblical eschatology. First is the question of the time of the rapture. Second is the question of the nature of the millennium. The New Testament gives very clear answers to both of these questions. The problem, however, is that the answers it provides do not fit the teaching of Scofield/Darbyism. To many moderns, sadly, seem willing to become ideological liberals in order to safeguard Darby’s cherished system of interpretational error. God still requires men to repent of involvement in false ways! Jew Saul had done just that, and so must we!

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