I confess to having little patience with casual remarks that some throw out at the dispensational system. They range from the absurd heresy label to vague statements like a recent comment made by a blogger (The Orange Mailman) who affirmed that:
“…there was a real need for dispensationalists to address the contradictions in their position.”
“….So many dispensationalists have moved significantly toward historic premillennialism. Now instead of attacking those dispensationalists (classic and revised) which they acknowledge have severe contradictions in their position, they attack historic premillennialists with whom they have so much more in common now.”
OM was reacting to Mike Vlach’s post on Historic Premillennialism (Covenant Premillennialism) vs Dispensational Premillennialism. He felt that Mike misrepresented George Ladd and HP. One of the issues was whether Ladd held that the church was the new Spiritual Israel. Here’s what OM says on his blog:
“The second issue is the idea that Historical Premillennialists believe in a form of replacement theology. Vlach cites Ladd, but he does so in such a way that you think that Ladd believes that the church is the new Israel, which is not the case. Ladd never wrote that the church is the new Israel as he always used the term “the true Israel”. Notice how Vlach frames Ladd’s quote: Ladd asserted that the church is now the new “spiritual Israel.” You see how the word “new” is not in the quotes, only “spiritual Israel” is in the quotes. He does cite Millard Erickson, whom I am unfamiliar with who is quoted properly. But old school premillennialists like Nathaniel West, BW Newton, and SP Tregelles would all agree that the church is not the new Israel. They all held that Israel was Israel and the church was the church. They believed there were some parallels between the church and Israel, and there was definitely a historicist flair in many of their works, but they uniformly taught a future for the physical nation of Israel, and Ladd can easily be included here.”
And yet in “The Last Things – What about Israel?” Ladd writes:
“Here, in two separate places, prophecies which in their Old Testament context refer to literal Israel are in the New Testament applied to the (Gentile) church. In other words, Paul sees the spiritual fulfillment of Hosea 1:10 and 2:23 in the church. It follows inescapably that the salvation of the Gentile church is the fulfillment of prophecies made to Israel. Such facts as this are what compel some Bible students, including the present writer, to speak of the church as the New Israel, the true Israel, the spiritual Israel.”
I’m fairly sure OM knows Ladd’s position on the 144,000:
“The second throng pictured the same people, the 144,000, seen from a different point of view. They are the church which from the human perspective is a great in numerable throng from every nation and tongue. Now they are seen as martyrs of the Great Tribulation; they are seen standing before God's throne clothed in white robes, singing a hymn of praise "salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb." They are furthered identified: "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14). Their martyrdom is the path to eternal blessedness and glory.” (The Last Things - The Antichrist and the Great Tribulation)
On Mike’s blog OM comments that:
“I don't believe Ladd's terminology leads to replacement theology at all. In fact, I have The Gospel of the Kingdom right in front of me. As I read through the chapter titled The Kingdom, Israel and the Church, it becomes obvious that Ladd believed in a future restoration of the nation of Israel. Two quotes are "Israel is yet to be saved" and "There will be a restoration of Israel". That directly contradicts the claim made in the above post.”
That sentiment doesn’t square with Ladd’s quote above. When Ladd talks about “restoration” he means salvation. That salvation absorbs the Jews into the church and may EXCLUDE OT prophetic land and Temple restoration. He sees the church as the New, true, spiritual Israel. That would be Replacement Theology!
“What does this have to do with the present Israeli question? Three things: First, God has preserved his people. Israel remains a "holy" people (Rom. 11:16), set apart and destined to carry out the divine purpose. Second, all Israel is yet to be saved. One modern scholar has suggested that in the millennium history may witness for the first time a truly Christian nation. Third, the salvation of Israel must be through the new covenant made in the blood of Christ already established with the church, not through a rebuilt Jewish temple with a revival of the Mosaic sacrificial system. Hebrews flatly affirms that the whole Mosaic system is obsolete and about to pass away. Therefore the popular Dispensational position that Israel is the "clock of prophecy" is misguided. Possibly the modern return of Israel to Palestine is a part of God's purpose for Israel, but the New Testament sheds no light on this problem. However, the preservation of Israel as a people through the centuries is a sign that God has not cast off his people Israel.”
And this rather confusing statement:
“It is quite impossible in light of the context and the course of Paul's thought in this passage to understand "all Israel" to refer to the Church. There is, to be sure, a very real sense in which the Church is Israel, the sons of Abraham, the true circumcision (Gal. 3: 7; Rom. 2: 28; 4: i, 12,16). However, this does not mean that God has for ever cast off Israel after the flesh. Paul emphatically denies this. There is first of all a spiritual remnant—natural branches which were not broken off because they received Christ (Rom. 11: 1-6). But secondly, there is to be a greater turning to the Lord on the part of Israel after the flesh, of such proportions that Paul can say that "all Israel," i.e., Israel as a whole, will be saved.” (THE KINGDOM, ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH)
That Israel will be saved by faith in Christ is true. But note Ladd’s reluctance to refer to the clear and specific OT prophetic promises. He gives precedence to his interpretation of the NT which is based on his presuppositions (144,000 etc).
I don’t know what ALL HP proponents think. Some early ones, like Horatius Bonar, did believe the physical promises to Israel were still valid and awaiting fulfillment. However, my observation is that MOST non-dispies DO allow the NT to reinterpret and spiritualize the OT to the point of abrogating clear physical promises made by God to national Israel. Most concede that Israel has a future salvation but it is often doublespeak because that future most often excludes the land promises etc.
For clarification on this I recommend reading Barry Horner’s “Future Israel”.
Dr Arnold Fruchtenbaum covers HP (Covenant Premillennialism) in his book “Israelology” (pp 234-317). He cites statements by Ladd, Erickson and several others who DO spiritualize Israel’s future. I recommend reading it!
Mike Vlach was correct. He didn’t misrepresent Ladd at all and OM stands to be corrected.
In conclusion, it’s apparently permitted for some individuals to attack dispensationalism and pretribulationism with generalizations, yet they often take offense when their own beliefs are called to question. I wish that people who typically make off-the-cuff statements about disp. would actually list some of these elusive “severe contradictions”. I’d love to hear about them!
Answers to the 95 Theses Contra Dispensationalism
Core Characteristics of Dispensationalism
A Book Review of Blomberg and Chung's, A Case for Historic Premillennialism by Erik Swanson
Christ at the Center: Conclusion (Pt.7b)
2 days ago