The Dispensational Distinction Between Israel and the Church

by John Gerstner

(for the full critique of Dispensationalism: click here )

Perhaps the central doctrine of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church. Dispensationalism sees Israel as an earthly people with earthly promises, and the church as a heavenly people with heavenly promises. Membership in Israel is by natural birth.15 One enters the church by supernatural birth. Dispensationalists view Israel and the church as having distinct eternal destinies. Israel will receive an eternal earthly Kingdom, and the church an eternal heavenly Kingdom.

Darby, the father of dispensationalism, stated the distinction in the clearest of terms: "The Jewish nation is never to enter the church."16

Ryrie considers this the most important dispensational distinction, and approves the statement that... "the basic promise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction throughout eternity."17

In contrast, Christian theology has always maintained the essential continuity of Israel and the church. The elect of all the ages are seen as one people, with one Savior, one destiny. This continuity can be shown by examining a few Old Testament prophesies with their fulfillment. Dispensationalists admit that if the church can be shown to be fulfilling promises made to Israel their system is doomed. If the church is fulfilling Israel's promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned.18

Promise to Israel -

"Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There it shall be said to them, 'You are sons of the living God.' -Hosea 1:10

Fulfillment the church -

"What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?" As He says also in Hosea: "I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved." "And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not My people,' There they shall be called sons of the living God." -Romans :22-26

Promise to Israel -

"Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they shall say, 'You are my God!'" -Hosea 2:23

Fulfillment in the church -

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." - 1 Peter 2:9-10

Promise to Israel -

"On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old;" -Amos 9:11

Fulfillment in the church -

Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: 'After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.' "Known to God from eternity are all His works. -Acts 15:14-18 In the same manner there are many Old Testament passages referring to Israel that are in the New Testament applied directly to the church.

Spoken to Israel -

"And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls." -Joel 2:28-32

Applied to the church -

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place..."But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on my maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.' -Acts 2:1,16-21

Spoken to Israel -

'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." -Exodus 19:6

Applied to the church -

"But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;" -1 Peter 2:9

Spoken to Israel -

"My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people." -Ezekiel 37:27

Applied to the church -

"And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people." -2 Cor 6:16

Spoken to Israel -

"Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy." -Lev 19:2

Applied to the church -

"but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." -1 Peter 1:15-16

Spoken to Israel -

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--" -Jer 31:31

Applied to the church -

"Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you." -Luke 22:20


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