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Dispensations, Covenants, Israel and the Church I

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Question #1:

Thank you for your mail. You take good care in my concerns and I thank you for that. I have heard people from the church of Christ say that deut. 24 is of no relevance since it is Old Testament. This might be because I'm young in all this but is that a true statement? I know In Hebrews it says " a new covenant has made the old obsolete" these people told me that Jesus changed from deut. to mathew on his view of marriage or divorce. How is a Christian supposed to view laws like deut. 24 and other things in the Old Testament if they are in fact irrelevant now? It seems weird that the God of the Old Testament changed in the New Testament when it's the same God?? Maybe you can help me understand that. Thanks

Response #1:

You are very welcome. As to the Old versus the New Testament, as Paul says, "the law is good . . . if one uses it properly" (1Tim.1:8 NIV). In my view, the Old Testament, the Gospels, and the NT epistles are all absolutely consistent. In every word Jesus speaks, in every verse the apostles penned, and in all one finds in the Law and the Prophets, we have the absolute truth of the Word of God. However, it is the case that certain things having to do with the "ground rules" of the way God's truth is disseminated – and as a result how we are to behave – are different based upon the times in question. All believers today have the Holy Spirit indwelling them (e.g., Rom.8:9) – and that was never the case in the past (e.g., Jn.14:16-17). And we no longer are required to "keep the law", its feasts, its dietary regulations, its sacrifices and rituals – in fact doing so would be a violation of God's will for Christians today (since that would be the equivalent of saying that the Messiah whom these practices foreshadows had not yet come when in fact He has indeed already come and died for the sins of the world – this is the main theme of the book of Hebrews). So what was necessary for believers of the past is out of line today and vice versa, and the Millennium will be a different story yet again. This all has to do with Jesus Christ and the truth about Him, how it is to be "dispensed", which is the main work believers are to be involved in after salvation, learning, believing, applying and disseminating the truth. The OT looks forward to the Messiah; the sermon on the mount (the beatitudes) is given to a people in the presence of the King; now, Christ is in heaven, and believers, "sons of the kingdom", are under severe attack by the forces of evil as we await the King's return. The differences in these "spiritual economies" are often summed up in what are commonly called (in the evangelical world) "dispensations" (from the word group oikono- in the NT, often translated "steward/stewardship"). The role that the Church (or Assembly) militant plays in loving, guarding and spreading the truth about Christ differs from "dispensation to dispensation", and thus accounts for the differences in application each era demands. For example:

Then Jesus asked them, "When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?" "Nothing," they answered. He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one."
Luke 22:35-36 NIV

But traditional dispensationalism overdoes this concept. Here are the five legitimate major divisions wherein scripture notices differences of behavior in the believer's walk based upon differences in spiritual objectives related to the guarding, learning, loving, applying and disseminating of the truth:

1. Gentile Patriarchy: from Adam to Abraham.

2. Jewish Patriarchy: from Abraham to Moses.

3. The Mosaic Law: from Moses to Christ.

4. The Church: from Christ's first advent to His Second Advent.

5. The Millennium: from Christ's return to the end of history.

The main differences can be summed up as follows:

1. Gentile Patriarchy: Family based witness; no formal code (revelation by patriarch and Spirit)

2. Jewish Patriarchy: Nation based witness; no formal code (revelation by patriarch and Spirit)

3. The Mosaic Law: Nation based witness; formal code (revelation via scripture and Spirit)

4. The Church: Individual based witness; no formal code (revelation via scripture and Spirit)

5. The Millennium: Spirit-based universal witness; formal code (revelation via scripture and Spirit)

The combination of varying factors yields major differences at least in the application of how God is administering His Church (as in the differences between the Church today and under the Mosaic Law before the first advent of Christ), but, as I say, the truth is still the truth without any substantive disagreement between eras. If we are not sacrificing rams, we do take communion, for example, and the symbolism and underlying meaning is precisely the same: the death of our dear Lord Jesus in dying for our sins. It's all about Jesus Christ, and that is the key point that must be kept in mind when discussing this issue. Focusing on the differences in approach will cause losing sight of the forest for the trees, that is, the fundamental purpose of the plan of God: the salvation of willing humanity through the blood of Jesus Christ.

There are also subdivisions in the eras/dispensations treated above, three of the most important being (along with a brief consideration of some important resulting differences):

1) The time of Christ's ministry: The beatitudes, for example, are given to a people sitting in the presence of the King; for these people, following Him instead of working at a job and having a family, selling all they had to do so, taking no provisions for the road, turning the other cheek and not worrying about self defense, e.g., were absolutely appropriate behaviors (as they will be in the Millennium); but the King is not here at present, and believers have to adjust their approach accordingly.

2) The period of the apostles: It took a while before the Holy Spirit was given to all believers in the world, before it came to be realized that the gentiles were also now going to flood into the family of God (as the dispensation of the truth became an individual rather than a national proposition), before there was a completed canon of scripture and a cadre of men prepared to teach it. As a result, God made use of many overtly miraculous gifts that are today no longer functional.

3) The Tribulation: Also a transitional period in that Israel will begin to reassert herself as the dominant and ruling element of the Church. This will involve special prophets (Moses and Elijah brought back to life), a special cadre (the 144,000), and the reinstitution of the temple and its rites (as a memorial to Christ's work rather than a foreshadowing of it). Meanwhile, however, the gentile part of the Church will continue as before, albeit under heavy fire from the twin pressures of the Great Apostasy and the Great Persecution.

In all of these eras or dispensations, it must be understood, God's plan is the same, God's provision is the same, and God's truth is the same at all times. But it is also the case that the way in which He is carrying out that plan, providing that provision, and dispensing that truth does change from era to era. If we were in ancient Israel, we would seek out a priest for teaching us the truth; if during Jesus' ministry, we would sit at His feet; if just after Pentecost, an apostle; today we need a pastor-teacher.

For these reasons just how to apply particular Old Testament passages is not as simple as saying on the one hand they don't apply at all or on the other that they apply just like they did in the past. We are not under the Law, but the Law is still true. So the truth behind everything the Law says is still the truth and very beneficial, but the legal regulations it made use of to teach that truth may not apply, at least not in the way they did for Israel. For example, we can see in the dietary code a wonderful means by which God made it clear to all the other nations on earth that Israel was His special, sanctified people. But if today we try to emulate that and think we are more "holy" because we don't eat bacon (for example), we are not only misunderstanding the purpose of the Law but also badly misapplying it as well (i.e., not using it "properly": 1Tim.1:8). So in general the principles behind whatever the Law teaches are always true but carrying out the letter of the regulations today is often not even possible (e.g., there is no temple and no animal sacrifice today).

To return to your question about marriage, it's a good one, and one that puts its finger right on the pulse of the problem with many such interpretations of scripture. The Pharisees, after all, in being overly literal (to their own benefit) were missing the point about marriage found in the Law: the Law about marriage was there to protect the rights of women against arbitrary treatment at the hands of their husbands, but the Pharisees had entirely reversed its true meaning and intent; our Lord makes that clear by appealing to Genesis chapter two to demonstrate that marriage is from God and that arbitrary dissolution of it for evil personal intent was just putting a legal fig leaf over adultery. If we approach the issue of marriage from that point of view, being loving and honorable in all we do, the legal niceties will fall into the background and the true issues will stand out; if, on the other hand, we are seeking letter-of-the-law justification for some action we have taken or want to take, we are approaching things entirely the wrong way (just like the Pharisees did).

Most of these things have to be treated on a case by case basis, so do feel free to write me back about any of the above. There is a lot about this at Ichthys, albeit not centralized. Here are a list of links that cover these issues from a variety of viewpoints:

The Five Dispensations of Human History (in SR 5)

Dispensations (in CT 2A)

Dispensations, the Church, the Rapture, and the Destruction of the Universe

The Old and New Covenants (in SR 5)

What is a Biblical Covenant?

The Scofield Reference Bible

The Seven Churches, the Judgment Seat of Christ, and other issues in Eschatology

Ironside and Dispensations

No belt, no bag, no shoes

The New Covenant and Colossians

The Last Supper and the New Covenant (in BB 4A)

Calvinism, Covenants and Catholicism.

Not Peace, but a Sword

The Gospel and the Kingdom of God

The Uniqueness of Israel

The Church

The Mystery

The Bride

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Could you please clarify Hebrews 3:2:

He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house.

What does Paul mean by 'as Moses also was in all His house'?

Response #2:

The "house" is the "area of responsibility". Scripture sometimes talks of "dispensations", that is, the era or means of dispensing truth to the household of God, and the root behind this and related words is often the same: oik = house (cf. in English, economics, ecumenical, ecumene; this idea is often misunderstood even in evangelical groups; please see the link: "Dispensationalism"). Moses was faithful in "doing his job" as a steward of God's grace and truth; Christ is superior to Moses (as Paul's argument shows) because, as God, the entire "house" was built by Him and belongs to Him. This (and His victory at the cross), is the basis for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the defining feature of our present Church Age which makes the manner, means and appearance of the way God is doing things now so notably different from what went on under the Mosaic Law.

Question #3:

G'Day Brother

Hope your keeping well. In this passage (Matthew 10:21-22) is Jesus speaking about the end times or is he telling his disciples that they must endure to the end of their lives to be saved. Or does it have a double reference; to both their lives and end times.

In Jesus Christ Who Is The Resurrection And The Life

Response #3:

It's a good question. As I often have occasion to say, we may not personally go through the Tribulation, but no Christian who is serving Jesus well can expect to avoid personal tribulation. Our Lord's primary reference in this passage is to the Tribulation (i.e., if we find ourselves in it, we must preserve our faith at all costs inasmuch as one third of the Church will fall away and abandon their faith in that tempestuous time; see the link: "The Great Apostasy"). But there is a clear application to all believers at all times: only by remaining believers "to the end" do we guard the eternal life we have been given.

Yours in our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #4:

It's just that OSAS believers love to say this does not apply to the church, it applies to the Jews who will be left behind after the rapture. They go on to say; "enduring to the end", is a works salvation. Can you believe this? It's absolutely absurd.

Response #4:

Yes, "dispensations" is an over-used answer to scriptural "problems" among many evangelicals (see the link). There are differences between periods, but mostly this involves the way in which God's truth is distributed (or "dispensed") rather than any fundamental differences in the truth (the truth has always been and will always be the truth). For example, there is not and has never been "works salvation", so Matthew 10:21-22 cannot be talking about "works salvation" since it doesn't exist in the first place. Our Lord is not recommending any such thing, either to us or to His listeners or to those alive just prior to His return. Salvation has always been the same: by grace through faith.

For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
Romans 4:3 NIV

The fact is, most OSAS ("once saved – always saved") believers also believe in hyper-dispensationalism and, therefore, in a pre-Tribulation "rapture". These are two of the three most debilitating false doctrines currently plaguing the church-visible (the notion that belonging to some church or organization provides security of salvation being the third). Please see "Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith" (Pet. #27) for the details.

Yours in Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hello Bob,

I hope you are well and doing ok. Summer has gone. The last of the geese have flown off so I guess that's it for now. I am heading to South Africa to spend some time with my family. We are planning a bumper Christmas with everyone there and lots of kids and chaos.

I am trying feverishly to finish my course load before I go and have Lewis Sperry Chafer's articles on Grace to wade through so I would appreciate your take on this. IF the ages are divided into dispensations as he suggests, viz Mosaic Law, Grace and Kingdom would you say that the principles of Christ's manifesto in the sermon on the mount are for the coming age of the Kingdom only?

In other words, we are now living under grace not law but will the Kingdom age when Christ returns be governed by law again, albeit a more "fleshed out" version of the decalogue?

Kind regards,

Response #5:

Good to hear from you! As to your question, while I greatly respect the late Dr. Chafer, I do not completely hold with "dispensationalism" as it is defined and commonly understood by most evangelicals today (or espoused in his writings or those of Scofield, et al.). The word/concept is biblical, but 1) it often means something quite different from what "dispensational theology" declares, and 2) it is entirely improper to use that theology as a lens to interpret (and essentially dismiss) any and all scripture one finds uncomfortable. For example, I would not wish to dismiss the sermon on the Mount (even though, of course, being in the presence of the King results in different circumstances than serving Him in His absence does, obviously; cf. Lk.22:35-38)! The key to that discourse is the "in spirit" part in Matthew 5:3: Jesus is talking about believers (see the link:  The Beatitudes).

In a nutshell, the true dividing point in the plan of God is the cross, with everything before anticipating it via shadows, and everything following it reveling in the reality of the Son of God and His truth revealed. A "dispensation", rightly understood, has to do primarily with the method in which God's truth is revealed (e.g., family heads pre-Israel, adding prophets in Israel, and, after the giving of the Law, the Bible and the priesthood, but specifically the shadows contained in the Torah and elsewhere; apostleship and special revelation for a brief period following the gift of the Spirit, and today, the Bible and the teaching gifts of the Spirit, illuminated by the Spirit). In the Millennium, we find some aspects of the Law back in place, but as memorials to the sacrifice of Christ rather than reinstitutions of the Law proper.

You will find my take on all this at the following links:


The Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ

The Law, Love, Faith-Rest and Messianism

Paul and the Law

I wish you a safe and happy trip!

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Hi Bob,

As promised, I’m pushing forward and have been doing a deeper Bible study. I was reading in my "Baker’s Bible Handbook" on Matthew and they were describing Matthew 25:31-46. I am reading through your Coming Tribulation series and had read what you wrote on the sheep/goat judgment at the END of the millennium and they (sheep/goats) are those who lived through that time. This person in the "Handbook" wrote on that judgment:

"When King Jesus returns, he will separate the righteous (sheep) from the wicked (goats). He will reward the righteous with his presence forever and banish the wicked to everlasting punishment. In this illustration, a person’s destiny is directly connected to whether they did or did not do "for one of the least of these brothers of mine" (25:40, 45). The term "brother(s)" in Matthew’s Gospel either refers to biological relatives or to spiritual relatives (i.e., to other followers of Jesus). The word "least" is a form of "little one" that Matthew consistently uses to describe Christians. Because Christ is mysteriously but powerfully connected to his people, especially his needy people, blessing or condemnation is tied to how people identify with Christ by relating to his followers."

To me he is making it sound like this judgment is at his Second Coming ("When King Jesus returns"). What bothers me about this passage of his is that he says, "...a person’s destiny is directly connected to whether they did or did not do "for one of the least of these brothers of mine"". Have I misread something or is this person wrong? I thought that our destination relied solely on faith in Jesus, not for what we did for "the least of these". Will there be different standards in the Millennial kingdom? God never changes, so I wouldn’t think so.

Any thoughts?

In Him,

Response #6:

Good to hear from you. I want to commend your careful eye and your good spiritual common sense (which is, of course, nothing more than the Spirit interacting with truth stored in the heart for those willing to be guided by Him). I think this also proves my point about the problems with extra-biblical material from various sources. Yes, you are absolutely correct. It is not uncommon to find both of these false perspectives in all manner of secondary literature and "ministries".

1) Amillennialism is the "default position" for those of the Reformed persuasion. Since they don't believe in a millennial reign of Christ, then of course the last judgment will have to occur immediately after Christ returns. As I have often had occasion to remark, Calvin and co. had other issues to deal with of a somewhat more pressing nature than straightening out the muddle the R.C.s had made of eschatology over the centuries – like staying alive in the midst of R.C. persecutions. Had he lived long enough, perhaps Calvin (and co.) would have given their serious attention to this area of doctrine too. But since he (they) did not, traditionalists from that camp have enshrined his writings/positions as "the last word" on all things doctrinal. That is typical, of course, but not helpful – when the position is clearly wrong and even more clearly contradicted by scripture.

2) Legalism is also very prevalent in the church-visible, and has been an unfortunate feature of much denominational Christianity since the beginning. Just as people who want a loving God are prone to deny that anyone is lost or that our behavior is in any way an issue in this life, so also people who want a righteous God are prone to make salvation dependent upon works and scrupulous behavior, and to add much that is wrong to the behavioral standards they would wish God to enforce. But of course our God is a God of complete love and complete justice – overlooking either tends to result in doctrinal error. The truth is just as you see it. On the one hand, salvation is easy (for us – since Jesus did all the work in paying the entire price for each and every sin); on the other hand most will be condemned. The hyper-love position often fails to consider the latter, while the hyper-law position often ignores the former. The result is that each side tends to over-emphasize (to the point of wrongly interpreting) passages which on their face seem to support their false positions. John 3:16, for example, might be taken out of context to suggest that everyone is going to be saved, or that at least believers don't have to give any serious consideration to how they behave since they are "saved" and do have eternal life; that logic overlooks the fact that we still have free will after salvation, and that our "most valuable faith" (2Pet.1:1) is a treasured asset that must be jealously guarded until we reach "heaven home". The passage you cite here, is being taken out of context to suggest that only through a perfect (or near perfect) pattern of behavior will anyone get to heaven, and that unbelievers too are condemned on the basis of what they have done or not done; that logic overlooks the fact that human life from the divine point of view is all about free will and choice, and whether or not each individual chooses to express that free will in faith towards God (in the Person of Christ) or refuses to do so: all who do put themselves in God's loving hands cannot fail to have at least some "good work" to show for their time as Christians (even if it is only a single prayer of thanksgiving, or a cup of water given in Jesus' Name, or a moment when they really did trust Him) – and that "good work" is a testimony to the fact that they are indeed believers; on the other hand, those who refuse and/or reject Jesus Christ cannot do anything "good" in any way, because without the Spirit nothing a sinful, mortal human being does could ever be "good" in God's eyes – therefore the lack of anything truly "good" to put before God on that day will be a proof of the person in question's status as an unbeliever.

Finally, there are differences in God's "economy" from age to age (sometimes this is expressed in terms of "dispensations", although that term usually is associated with a system of theology which overreaches on the concept to the point of teaching falsehoods; see the link). But the differences have to do with the way in which God administers and dispenses His truth (e.g., priests in Israel, pastor/teachers in the Church; shadows of the Law in Israel, the completed canon of scripture in the Church) – not the central issue of how we are to respond to the truth which has always been the same (e.g., Gen.15:6). Salvation has always been and will always be "by grace through faith" (Eph.2:8-9), and the Object of faith has ever been the same, Jesus Christ (whether foreshadowed before the cross or revealed clearly after the cross). You are absolutely correct; on this the most essential point in the history of universe, God never changes:

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Hebrews 13:8 KJV

In our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:

Hi Bob,

Once again I thank you for clarification and some history on Amillennialism/Calvinsim. I can’t believe there are so many different theories! Satan has done a good job trying to confuse things. This "handbook" that I’m using worries me now as to other things that may not be right. It’s nice to know the Holy Spirit is helping me study and discern these things and that I now have a place where I can also check things for myself instead of surfing the web looking at everyone else’s spin. I thank God for your ministry here on the Internet! I know it’s been a blessing to me and to others as well. And for your kindness and patience you have with my questions.

Yours in Christ,

Response #7:

You are most welcome – and thanks so much for your good words.

Yes, no reference work is perfect, and even the good ones require discernment in the using thereof. But as we grow spiritually and begin to lay down a solid foundation of truth firmly understood and believed, our spiritual "vision" about such things becomes ever clearer, and our spiritual stability ever more secure. That, after all, is one of the main objectives of spiritual growth:

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, (13) until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance (Greek: ἐπίγνωσις, epignosis) to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; (14) that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, (15) but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects with Christ, who is the head of the Church, as our model. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Ephesians 4:11-16

Do feel free to write any time.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8:

Regarding Hebrews 12:2 you wrote:

I take "'the author and perfecter of faith'" to mean "the One without whom we would have nothing and no one to believe in" (author = "originator") and "the One who made our faith possible and effectual through His death in expiating our sins" (perfecter = "completer"). As to "the joy", we are the joy, His Bride, His prize with which He motivated Himself throughout the first advent and especially during His ordeal and death for us.

I understand how our Lord can be the 'perfecter of faith', as He makes our faith 'complete' - the faith that salvation would come has been 'completed' and shown to be justified, as salvation came through His sacrifice. Although, I am not clear about how Christ is 'the author' or 'originator'. You wrote that 'without whom we would have nothing and no one to believe in' - but the Old Testament believers had the mystery to believe in and the, at the time, unfulfilled prophecies, so even though they did not see Him, they did have something to believe in. So even without the Son, there was still the prophecy about Him, and even excluding this, there was the Father to believe in. Please clarify.

Response #8:

The Son is the One to whom the prophecies all relate. All of the OT sacrifices tell of Him. He was not visible, but He was always the Cornerstone upon which all saving faith was based. As with Moses who was "esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward" (Heb.11:26), so all other Old Testament saints looked forward to the day of their redemption from the hand of the Redeemer (cf. Job who did not even have the Mosaic Law written down to refer to: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth": Job 19:25 NKJV). The fact that the precise details were obscured does not change the fact that Jesus has always been the same, "yesterday, today and forever" (Heb.13:8). Unless He had originated creation and the necessity that brought for His death on our behalf, there would have been no origin of our faith, or anything at all, for that matter.

Question #9:

You rendered Matthew 11:12 in the following way:

Since the days of John the baptist until this present time, the Kingdom of God has been under violent attack, and violent men are laying hands upon it.

Could you explain what specifically does it mean that "violent men are laying hands upon it"? Are unbelievers meant here, who are in accordance with devil's desire, trying to prevent the plan of God from being fulfilled? If so, why is the phrase "laying hands upon it" used here, since it seems to suggest as if they were getting hold of it (i.e., entering it)?

Response #9:

As Jesus told the Pharisees:

"The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst."
Luke 17:20b-21 NIV

We are the kingdom, the sons of the kingdom who here on earth at present represent the King. Until Jesus returns, we will be assaulted by the evil one and his followers, seen and unseen. At times the assault may be relatively mild (ostracism, ridicule, prejudice), but in the near future it will be tangible and severe (the martyrdom of one third of the true Church during the Great Persecution; see the link). In both extremes, however, the enemy does "lay hands" on us. Praise God for that time soon to come when Christ will rule and the devil will be excluded from the Kingdom come to earth in the Person of the Messiah, dear Jesus our Lord!

Question #10:

The Sabbath really is one of these issues that take time to be understood. I deeply appreciate that you have been bearing with me on this and your detailed responses have been invaluable. There are two more things I would like to ask:

a) The ten commandments: Jesus defended the "breaking of the Sabbath" in order to do God's work (Matt.12:1-4; cf. Jn.5:18; Jn.9:16), and we know that He was sinless (e.g., Heb.4:15).

Some believe that our Lord did not break the Sabbath as given by God and taught in accordance with the Law, but rather he broke the human, pharisaical specifications of it. What is your take on this?

b) Exodus 20:8-10 (NASB):

8 "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.

Some also propose that the Sabbath is a rest from "our work" (end of verse 9). So our Lord broke the Sabbath - as it was misunderstood by the Pharisees - but didn't break the Sabbath as it should have been understood. So according to this interpretation Sabbath should not have been taken as making rest compulsory even in the case of ministry related works, but only relating to the works not related to it. What do you think about this interpretation?

Response #10:

a) I understand this interpretation, but it seems to me to be a bit of a "dodge". After all, scripture says that He "broke the Sabbath" (not "the Sabbath as wrongly construed by Pharisaical legalism"). On the other hand, the interpretation only works if by it we understand that the Lord is commanding us to carry out the true principle behind the commandment rather than to focus wrongly and legalistically on the literal words to the exclusion of the truth. I certainly agree with that. For the Church, that would mean understanding that today we have a moment by moment spiritual "rest" in the Lord (as Hebrews teaches specifically and the whole New Testament teaches in principle; see the link), so that literal Sabbath observance would now fall into the false legalism category and violate the principle by hewing to the letter. Q.E.D. What this interpretation cannot be used for is to explain away Jesus' actions on the one hand, and say that we should still "keep the Sabbath" by a special day observance on the other.

b) Our Lord's example of releasing a donkey or rescuing an animal in danger certainly constitutes work and not ministry. And ministry is work (cf. Jn.4:34). According to a literal interpretation, only the ministry required by the Law to be performed as part of the Sabbath observance was acceptable; not other ministries (of which there were plenty). The purpose of the Sabbath was to rest in the Lord; to worship Him and learn His truth. This is our moment by moment task now. Relegating it to one day a week – and completely misapplying what it means in any case – is a huge mistake. Jesus told us that "it is lawful to do good" on the Sabbath – and doing good comprises many things (Matt.12:12). The Sabbath was instituted by God for the benefit of human beings, to have time to build their relationship with Him. Since the cross, the kingdom of God is under assault and the time is short (Matt.11:12). We no longer have the "luxury" of thinking about Him on only one day out of the week. Our Christian service is now full time and takes place on the most intensive spiritual battlefield in history, and if we fail to use every opportunity to prepare for what is coming next, we will find it difficult to have any spiritual peace or rest through a lack of the necessary resources in our hearts. Moreover, we have been given the most astounding and powerful resource in the history of the world: the universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To overlook that key point and to fail to exploit this great gift would be a terrible mistake, not only costing us eternal rewards we might otherwise be earning in walking with and serving Jesus at all times, but also in failing to prepare for the great time of testing ahead, the Tribulation.

Question #11:

Hebrews 9:16 (NASB):

For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.

Why is it the case that "where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it"?

Response #11:

A "covenant" or diatheke in Greek (berith in Hebrew) is also or better a "testament", as in "last will and testament", and under normal "human" situations is the document whereby the testator assigns the estate to the heir. This is the origin of the analogy in the Hebrew use regarding the testaments of God too as may be seen by the covenant with Abraham wherein blood sacrifices indicating death provide the force which validates the covenant (see the link: "What is a Biblical Covenant?"). As I explain at the link, all biblical covenants really resolve into one essential idea: God blessing sinful mankind by grace on the basis of our acceptance of the covenant/"agreement" through faith: God offers us life and pays the price through the blood of His Son; our part is to accept in faith. In other words, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ has always been the theological bedrock in all biblical covenants, anticipating it before the cross, and embracing the reality of it after the cross. For these reasons, Paul can feel free to make this analogy and insist on the main point that death is an essential for any covenant to be in force, and, biblically speaking, that means the spiritual death of Christ on our behalf. In the New Covenant, moreover, we now have the reality since Christ has now paid the price of the agreement with His spiritual death – and the first-fruits of our enjoyment of all the eternal wonders we will enjoy by accepting God's offer through faith is the great gift of the Holy Spirit to all who believe.

Question #12:

Dear Mr. Luginbill

I read a recent defense of yours for C. I. Scofield. I humbly ask you to read this article which like countless others exposes the man for who he really was. The damage he has done to the evangelical church is hard to imagine. Peter and Jude warned us about these false teachers. Will we listen?

Analyzing Scofield: http://www.gospeltruth.net/scofield.htm

Response #12:

Good to make your acquaintance. I read most of the "biographical" part. I was not able to get through too much of the doctrinal attack (see below). I found this material "interesting", to say the least. If we accept everything written here at your link as being an honest and essentially truthful appraisal of Scofield's life, it would seem he had some real personal blemishes. I suppose we may conclude that he had a sin nature, and that he did not lead a perfect life by any means. That, of course, is true of everyone, including the author(s) of this piece (as is evident from their mean-spirited glee in pouncing upon every discrepancy they have been able to ferret out). I don't defend sin or dishonorable conduct. My appreciation of Scofield has to do with his work. As an academic by day and Bible teacher by night, I am well acquainted with the phenomenon of people who have done "good work" in secular fields while being incredibly flawed persons. Most of the best Bible tools we possess, lexicons, grammars, critical editions, et al., were done by men who were far from perfect – many of them not even saved. I don't know what discipline Scofield received from the Lord for the wrong things he did – but I know that the Father scourges as a son everyone whom He receives, and I am quite positive that Scofield no more "got away" with anything than you or I would. None of us should judge before the time, so that it is not for me to say to what degree Scofield compromised his eternal reward by the questionable conduct of his youth (again, we are assuming that these accounts you forward are accurate). I know that Peter denied the Lord three times (no record of Scofield doing that); I know that Paul persecuted, imprisoned, and saw to the plundering and executions of innocent Christians (no record of Scofield doing that); I know that David committed murder to cover adultery that resulted in pregnancy (no record of Scofield doing that) – yet I expect that all three of these men will be among the most highly decorated at the judgment seat of Christ. We cannot know what was in Scofield's heart in later years when he become fired up for the Word of God; we can only judge from his later conduct (and I note that there is no real evidence of anything sinister after he became grounded in the Word, merely innuendo) and from his later work. This brings us back to the study Bible itself.

If you would read the account at Ichthys carefully (and also other postings where issues such as "dispensationlism" and "the rapture" are treated; please see the links), you would see that I differ from Scofield at least to some degree on almost every one of his important teachings. There was quite a lot Scofield didn't completely understand or understood imperfectly or was completely wrong about. But Scofield did move things forward, towards the truth. In stark contrast, the author(s) of this piece are far behind Scofield in their understanding of biblical truth. They want to go back to Calvinistic covenant theology; they deny a literal millennium. I have defended Calvin before too, and for the same reason as Scofield, namely, as a godly albeit imperfect person who did much to move things forward, even if there was much he had yet to figure out. The problems I have are not with Scofield so much as his followers, and also with hyper-Calvinists who not only want to go backward to early Reformation positions which were not well worked out but who are also misinformed about what those positions actually were in many cases.

The second half of this piece is impossible for me to "get through" because it is merely a rant devoted to taking apart everything in the Scofield Reference Bible with the purpose of establishing instead a false, amillennial, covenant-based theology which, while the best thing available in the early 16th century, is so far away from where believers who love the truth of scripture today should be that it is deplorable. And that makes me wonder about the first part of this piece. That is to say, since it is now clear what the purpose of the whole piece is, namely, to launch a "shocking" ad hominem attack with the purpose of character assassination so as to give a hearing for the second part, does that not call the veracity of the first part into question? In any case, it doesn't strike me as a particularly Christian approach. While it is fair for individual Christians to judge a ministry not only by its content but also by the content of the character of the minister (and a salutary thing to do as well), attacking a ministry based largely on the former will always be a bit suspect. I think the author(s) would be better advised to split up these two things, namely separate the "biography" from what follows, and, if they have "gripes" about the reference Bible, examine these on their own terms. Indeed, is it really even necessary to bring the Scofield reference Bible into this at all? If a person has the misguided idea that covenant theology is biblical, or that there is no literal millennium, or that Zionism is a problem (and here I am really suspicious of the anti-Semitic flavor of this piece), then let said person put forward their incorrect views without reference to a straw man. If Scofield were a saint and the Bible did not teach the Millennium, then we should not believe it anyway. If Scofield were far worse than this piece suggests (having done even worse things than David, Peter and Paul), we should believe in the Millennium anyway because the Bible clearly teaches it. It's all about the truth of the Word of God, independently verified from the Word itself through the Spirit – not about fallible and maculate human beings (to which class we all belong).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior through whose blood and the grace won thereby that we are saved.

Bob Luginbill

Question #13:

Dear Robert

I sense that you are a very closed minded individual so I will not pursue this conversation. Let me just say that comparing Scofield with Peter, Paul & David is at best, absurd! Scofield abandoned his wife and child, married again while his first wife lived (adultery) and never repented. He was a fraud and swindler. Again , no repentance. This is documented. He had no theological training. He lied about that. We are told to avoid such men and what they teach. The new testament writers constantly warned "do not be deceived". Jim Jones was a sinner too and he led a bunch of deceived people to their death. We have every right to judge a man by their fruit and are commanded to do so. As for the millennium, I used to be in your camp but had to change my position because there was too much scripture that wouldn't support the position. The Bible cannot contradict itself!

Response #13:

If refusing to throw away a person's life work because of unsubstantiated third-party slander qualifies as "closed minded", then color me that. You state "Scofield never repented", but how do you know what was in his heart or what conversations he had with the Lord? All I know is that the reference Bible constitutes an enormous amount of detailed and dedicated work (of the sort that only some one who has written a reference book can have any true idea), and that there is much of value in it (surely you are not finding fault with every note, every cross-reference?). Also, God blessed it, and many believers have been blessed by it; meanwhile, Scofield, as obvious from the reporting you link, was never particularly enriched by it. What makes a person do something like that, if not love for the Lord? I do not defend him as a perfect person, nor do I defend the reference Bible as perfect. I never met the man and he is long dead. Whatever his faults, they are between him and the Lord; whatever his reward or lack thereof through compromise, real or imagined, that is between him and the Lord. I do not use the reference Bible much at all, and never have. It has been replaced, in my view, by better and more doctrinally accurate tools. But it was important in its time. It provided a way forward, an opening of the door into considering eschatology and what the Bible had to say about it as true (instead of ignoring it entirely as the Calvinists and many others did and do), and it did so by offering an explanation for the differences between Old Testament and New Testament regimes. That explanation was, it is true, very imperfect. Scofield's "key" was misshapen and rusty – it could only wedge the door open just enough to squeak through. But that is better than complaining about the key, throwing it away, and refusing to have anything to do with the door. As I say, what bothers me most about this link is not even the Schadenfreude taken at the expense of a brother caught out for the sins of his youth; rather it is the ulterior motive with which the piece is written. Amillennialism is so clearly non-biblical, that, apparently, its adherents have to resort to this shoddy debater's tactic: rather than trying to oppose biblical eschatology on its own merits, find instead a famous proponent, blacken his name as much as possible, and hope thereby to bring down the truth by tarring it with the imperfections of a personality commonly associated with it. Scofield, as I say, is long gone, and his study Bible has been superseded. The truth of scripture, however, is what it is, no matter who supports the truth . . . and no matter who opposes the truth.  As to the Millennium, e.g.:

Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
Revelation 20:6 NIV

In Jesus Christ the Lord who is the truth itself, the very Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #14:

Dear Dean Luginbill

Hello from New Zealand. I would like to correct you about the Rapture in Scripture. The word "Rapturo" occurs in the Latin Vulgate. I am quoting Dr Charles Lee Feinberg, former President Talbot Theological Seminary. I was part of the Team that brought him to New Zealand for a series of Lectures. He spoke to the Brethren Assembly in Ellerslie, Auckland. I was present with about 200 people. I recorded him and remember "Vividly" his quotation. His exact words were also not "if the Rapture will happen" but "When". The "Age of Israel does not overlap the Church Age. Israel is the "Wife of Jehovah", the Church is the Bride of Christ, two distinct entities". Daniel says "Israel stands UP in the Resurrection", we in the Church are "Caught Up". We were chosen before the foundation of the World; Israel "Since the foundation of the World''. The Berean Bible society has some brilliant articles "contrasting Israel and the Church. Arnold Frutchenbaum of Ariel Ministries has a brilliant Thesis on "Israelogy" refuting your Ideas. My background teachings are by J Vernon McGee, Leman Straus, John McArthur, Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord. Alva J McClains book "The Greatness of the Kingdom" is a classic. Have you got it? Thomas Ice has excellent material on the belief of the early Church Fathers. All my Messianic Jewish people believe in the Rapture. Dr Renald Showers, Philadelphia College of the Bible has brilliant material on the separateness of Israel and the Church. New Zealand

Response #14:

Dr. Dean Luginbill was my father. My given name is Robert ("Bob").

As to your observations, you make it a bit difficult to understand precisely what you are finding issue with, but I will have a go here. By your own admission, the word "rapture" does not occur in the New Testament. The fact that a Latin translation done half a millennium after the canon of scripture was closed uses the Latin verb rapio is neither here nor there (n.b., there is no such word as "rapturo"; the Latin text at 1Thes.4:17 is rapiemur, the future of rapio).

It strikes me that what you are actually objecting to is the timing of the resurrection of the Church. Every evangelical Christian believes the truth of our being caught up in resurrection at Christ's return; it's just that those of us who have studied it out realize that scripture is talking about the second advent as the time when that happens (i.e., His parousia; see the link). Indeed, the Bible is very clear on the issue. There is no evidence whatsoever for a resurrection preceding Christ's return, and it is to that return, the second advent, that the writers of the New Testament scriptures always eagerly look (not to some imagined temporary journey back to earth to collect believers before the Tribulation begins). This incorrect theory of an intermediate "return" and pre-Tribulation resurrection of the Church is often called "the rapture", and it is that false doctrine against which I have written – not the the fact that the Church is resurrected at Christ's return. It most certainly is, whatever name a person wants to given that "blessed hope" as the scripture calls it (Tit. 2:13) – but the Bible itself doesn't have anything like the word "rapture" in the original Greek text (or in any English version of which I am aware).

(29) Immediately following the tribulation of those days, the sun will grow dark and the moon will not give out its light, and the stars will fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (30) And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven. And then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and will see the Son of Man coming in command of the clouds of heaven (i.e., the heavenly hosts) with power and much glory. (31) And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet, and He will gather together His elect from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other (i.e., this is not to "help" us but to marshal us – we are already flying to meet those just resurrected). (32) Learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branches become supple and its leaves sprout, you recognize that the summer is close. (33) In the very same way when you behold all these things (i.e., the events of Matt.24:1-31), recognize that [My return] is right at the door.
Matthew 24:29-33 (Mk.13:24-27)

There is great advantage to being Jewish, as Paul says in Romans, "much in every way" (Rom.3:2). But Paul is also very strong on the truth that in Christ there is "no Jew or gentile" (e.g., Rom.10:12) – we are all one in Jesus Christ. And we are all part of His Bride, that is, all who believe. All who are His at His coming will be resurrected (1Cor.15:23), and this is His "assembly" or Church (ekklesia).

I think the problem for that part of evangelicalism which doesn't understand the above is a traditional one rather than a biblical one. How did "the Church" ever come to mean "gentiles as opposed to Jews" in people's thinking anyway? Throughout the Bible "Church" refers to the entire community of believers, Jew or gentile, and in the early going of this era it was all Jewish to begin with, then mostly Jewish, and continued to be dominated by Jewish leadership throughout the apostolic age. The fact that gentiles later came to the fore long after the canon of scripture was closed (and caused many problems in so doing as the Roman church clearly attests), does not change God's opinion of "what is the Church?" The Church are all those who belong to Jesus as believers in Him, from Adam and Eve to the last person saved before Christ's return. Trying to split us up is a grave theological error. In the following verse, please tell me the composition of the "Church" referred to? Is it mostly gentiles . . . or Jews?

Then the church (ekklesia) throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.
Acts 9:31

I certainly understand that different groups have different cultural perspectives and different needs. We all, however, need the truth, and on the truth there can be no compromise.

If interested, I would be happy to provide links to all of the above points; as you have phrased your comment as a corrective rather than a request for information, however, I will wait on your reply for that.

Yours in the One Great Shepherd of the Sheep in whom all who believe have an equal share,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:

HI Robert, greetings to you. The first part of my answer to you. I will follow up with more data. I attach article by Arnold Fruchtenbaum for your consideration

Response #15:

I have plenty of respect for Dr. Fruchtenbaum.

But with all due respect, this is a derivative argument. The Bible says otherwise. I gave you a scripture which clearly shows that the word "church" in scripture refers to Jewish believers first and foremost, then to gentiles by in-grafting as more and more of these join our Lord's assembly.

Why don't you have a look at the word "church" in any concordance of any Bible version? You will see what I mean immediately. Here is another passage commonly overlooked by hyper-dispensationalists:

"This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us."
Acts 7:37-38 NIV

The word "assembly" is ekklesia – the NT word for "Church"; since Stephen is speaking post Pentecost, he (and more to the point the Spirit) is certainly not unaware of the potential "problem" with calling the believers in Israel "the Church" – if indeed it was a problem. It is not. The "Church" is Christ's "assembly"; so has it always been. In our era, the gentiles have been flooding in, but there has always been a "remnant" of Jews in the Church as well (Rom.11:5). Israel is the foundation, and we are all built upon that blessed base, the Cornerstone of which is our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22 NKJV

Gentiles once were "strangers" but are now "fellow citizens" of the true "Assembly" (ekklesia). I think if people with these odd convictions would spend a little time letting scripture direct their path in the Spirit rather than using a derivative theological lens to produce teachings which are independent of (and as the above verse, for example, shows) contradictory to scripture, the Church as a whole would be much better off.

One question for you in this regard, since you see a strong division between "Israel" and "the Church": when Christ does return, will Jewish believers not be resurrected too, or will they and all the great Old Testament believers who were Jewish have to wait to some later date for their resurrection?

In Jesus Christ, the dear Lord and Savior of the entire Church, Jews and gentiles one in Him.

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Robert,

Greetings in the Lords name. Some more background from me. I was a personal friend of Prof E M Blaiklock, Prof of Classics Auckland University. He wrote under the name of Gramaticus. He was an expert on the Greek and Roman world. He wrote many comments for Commentaries. I remember vividly sitting in his office library many years ago discussing about the Charismatic Movement and 1Cor 13 and 14. He said "I may be wrong but I don't think so". He was not impressed with the movement as was I. He was a Scholar extraordinary. I know his two sons well. I will send you some material for your consideration.

"In Christ"

Response #16:

Good to hear from you again. I would certainly agree with your professor friend on that one. And I am not in any doubt about the fact that 1st Corinthians 13 teaches that tongues and other such "sign gifts" have been in abeyance since at least the closing of the canon of scripture.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #17:

Bob, the links which you sent me are very long and it's hard for me by reading to zero in on Ephesians 3:3. In your opinion, what is this sacred secret/mystery, that Paul was alluding to?

Any input will be appreciated!

Response #17:

On Ephesians 3:3, here is my expanded and annotated translation of the entire context. In essence, the "mystery" is that largely unknown to anyone before the first Pentecost of the Church, the gentiles were going to be called out in great numbers to fill up the Body of Christ, His Church (see the link: "The Mystery of the Church"):

(1) For this reason (i.e., the building up of the Church into a holy temple: cf. 2:14-22), I, Paul, am Christ's prisoner on behalf of the gentiles. (2) And I assume that you have heard about this dispensation of God's grace given to me on your behalf (i.e., his mandate as an apostle to "carry Christ's name to the gentiles": Acts 9:15). (3) For it was through [God's] revelation that this mystery [of His calling out of the gentiles] was made known to me as I wrote you briefly before. (4) When you read these things you will be able to understand my spiritual insight into this mystery of Christ, (5) which was not made known to mankind in previous generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (6) [And the mystery is this]: that the gentiles are [now] fellow heirs, members of the same body, and equal partakers of the promise [of salvation to Israel] in Christ Jesus through the gospel, [the proclamation of His victory]. (7) It is of this gospel that I have been made a minister by the gift of God's grace given to me through His dynamic power. (8) To me, the least of all His holy ones, this gracious charge has been entrusted: to proclaim to the gentiles the unfathomable wealth that is Christ, (9) and to shed light on this mystery[, the calling out of the gentiles] which is now being brought to pass (lit., "the dispensation" of it), though it was once hidden from the ages in God who created everything. (10) God [did this] so that [His] enigmatically intricate wisdom might be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms through the agency of the Church, (11) according to His plan for the ages (i.e., history) which He has implemented in [the person of] Christ Jesus our Lord.
Ephesians 3:1-11

This is a blessed message of inclusion rather than exclusion: now that Christ has come and won the victory of all victories, the floodgates have been opened so that everyone who is "of faith" can come into His assembly, His Church (ekklesia). We gentile Christians are not different – not better or worse than "Israel" – but "fellow heirs, members of the same body, and equal partakers of the promise [of salvation to Israel] in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (v.6). It is a blessed truth, and sadly one much misunderstood in our day (for reasons that are to me largely inexplicable given the clarity of scripture on this point as in the passage above, for example).

Hope all is well,

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.


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