There are many views in Christianity on the afterlife and eschatology. The two most common views I am familiar with are firstly, the idea that when a person dies, some part of that person, likely non-material, ascends to be with Jesus in heaven with their deceased friends and family. If they didn’t “believe in”, or “accept” Jesus, they will be doomed to a place called hell with the devil. Secondly, another view is that there is going to be a secret rapture of the church in the immediate future. After this secret rapture of the church, a figure called the “antichrist” is going to rise and Old Testament prophecy will resume. There will be the time of Jacob’s trouble where the nation of Israel will allegedly face off against the antichrist, while the Christian church watches from an ethereal place in heaven. These ideas are not the exact theologies of any particular group, but they are what I see as the perception of many Christians.
When I speak of dispensationalism theology, I am sure there are many who were like me and do not know much about the theology, such as where it came from and what it teaches. It has been so embedded into Christianity over the last one hundred years, that it has become Christianity in the churches I have been involved with, in two different countries, Canada and the USA. The following is from theopedia.com concerning the theology of dispensationalism:
Dispensationalism is a theological system that teaches biblical history is best understood in light of a number of successive administrations of God’s dealings with mankind, which it calls “dispensations.” It maintains fundamental distinctions between God’s plans for national Israel and for the New Testament Church, and emphasizes prophecy of the end-times and a pre-tribulation rapture of the church prior to Christ’s Second Coming. Its beginnings are usually associated with the Plymouth Brethren movement in the UK and the teachings of John Nelson Darby.
- a fundamental distinction between Israel and the church, i.e. there are two peoples of God with two different destinies, earthly Israel and the spiritual church,
- a fundamental distinction between the Law and Grace, i.e. they are mutually exclusive ideas,
- the view that the New Testament church is a parenthesis in God’s plan which was not foreseen by the Old Testament, and
- a distinction between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, i.e. the rapture of the church at Christ’s coming “in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17) precedes the “official” second coming (to the earth) by 7 years of tribulation.
The feedback I get from speaking against dispensational theology comes from people who understand it very well, not from people like me, who believed it, but didn’t know what it was called, or that it was even a system of theology. These people get very angry, but never systematically explain why they are so adamant about this belief system, or why they would call me a heretic for exposing it. The name calling and three letter abbreviations and emojis on social media indicate a spirit of antichrist to me, not someone that is spreading any type of good news. Why is there such an attachment to this theology? Some of the verses that people use to support this belief system are the following:
Ephesians 3:1–6 (KJV 1900): For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
In the King James version of the Bible, it gives us the term “dispensation of grace”, so do we need any more evidence than this to accept everything dispensational theology teaches? The answer is an emphatic “yes”. There are so many Bible translations at our finger tips today that we can look to for other meanings of these verses. Here are these verses in the New International version of the Bible, a very popular Bible version.
Ephesians 3:1–3 (NIV): 3 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
The word for “dispensation” and “administration” are translated from Strong’s G3873, οἰκονομία (oikonomia). This has nothing to do with different “dispensations” of history where God dealt with different groups in different ways. The following definition is from the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:
οἰκονομία G3873 (oikonomia), management, office; οἰκονόμος G3874 (oikonomos), steward; οἰκονομέω G3872 (oikonomeō), manage, administer, plan.
CL oikonomia, attested from Xen. and Plato on, denoted primarily the management of a household, but was soon extended to the administration of the state (the title of one of Xen.’s books), and finally was used for every kind of activity which results from the holding of an office.
Some Christians hate the New International Version of the Bible. The Greek word is the same “οἰκονομία”; however, in the King James version of the Bible and in the New International Version of the Bible.
Paul is telling us that he was given the insight as to how the people of the nations could be included in the family of God. He calls them “fellow heirs”, not a separate entity called the “church”. Paul was also given the ability to bring this good news to these same people. The people of the nations are called gentiles. Paul understood scripture and knew this good news is all through the Old Testament. He explains how it is possible in many of his letters, yet it is generally misunderstood. Ephesians chapter three has nothing to do with modern dispensational theology.
Romans 9:23–26 (LEB): 23 And he did so in order that he could make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory, 24 us whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25 As he also says in Hosea, “I will call those who were not my people, ‘My people,’ and those who were not loved, ‘Loved.’ 26 And it will be in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ ”
All of scripture points to the house of Israel being cut off for the sin of idolatry and fornication, seeding the nations, then returning to the Father like the prodigal son. Moses told us about this in the Torah.
Deuteronomy 32:18–21 (LEB): 18 The rock who bore you, you neglected, and you forgot God, the one giving you birth. 19 Then Yahweh saw, and he spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20 So he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what will be their end, for they are a generation of perversity, children in whom there is no faithfulness. 21 They annoyed me with what is not a god; they provoked me with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those not a people, with a foolish nation I will provoke them.
Dispensational theology gives our current, so-called dispensation, the ability to ignore the laws of God. After all, we are in the “age of grace” now. Following the commandments of God is supposedly over for the believer after the cross. However, the prophets never prophesied about a time in the future where a new people of God would rise up and not have to be obedient to God. They did; however, predict this sequence of events in many places. Here are two places where the prophets told us about our lawlessness.
Isaiah 5:20–21 (LEB): 20 Ah! Those who call evil good and good evil, those who put darkness for light and light for darkness, those who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Ah! Those who are wise in their own eyes and have understanding in their view!
Jeremiah 23:16–17 (LEB): 16 Thus says Yahweh of hosts: “You must not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They are deluding you with visions of their mind, They do not speak from the mouth of Yahweh. 17 They are continually saying to those who disregard the word of Yahweh, ‘Peace it will be to you,’ and to each one who walks in the stubbornness of his heart they say, ‘Calamity will not come upon you.’
Putting these type of verses in a different “dispensation” is a clever way for the enemy to trick the current age of believers into thinking these verses are talking about someone else. The explanation is given earlier in the letter to the Ephesians. The dividing wall, dogma, and the things written against the house of Israel and nations, in which they assimilated, was removed by Yeshua. Inclusion into the family of God was extended to everyone through the scattering of Israel into the nations and the mission of Yeshua. The older brother, Judah, was not happy about this, just as in the parable of the prodigal son. The younger brother, Ephraim, was able to come back as a son, and not just a servant. This is why the new covenant is with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. There are no gentiles in the family of God. If someone thinks they are still a gentile, then they have not been adopted by God. Gentiles are outsiders, from the nations.
Ephesians 2:11–16 (LEB): 11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, the so-called uncircumcision by the so-called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands, 12 that you were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, not having hope, and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones who once were far away, have become near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of the partition, the enmity, in his flesh, 15 invalidating the law of commandments in ordinances, in order that he might create the two in himself into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, killing the enmity in himself.
“That you were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, not having hope, and without God in the world” means that we are no longer strangers to the covenants of promise and we are grafted into the commonwealth of Israel. The church absolutely did not replace Israel, but those who come through Yeshua can be included in the commonwealth of Israel sharing in their promises and covenants. Do not rebuild the wall. Scripture opens up, and we can clearly see where we belong in prophecy, once we have this understanding. Modern day dispensational theology eschatology evaporates with this understanding. This will be important to know as times draw to the end. Just as the verses of the prophets still apply today, the verses in Revelation, supposedly in a dispensation after the church, are applicable to us. I am hoping people can see that the Creator would not set things up so that only one group of people in all of history can ignore His instructions. We are told that from the cross to the “rapture of the church”, God’s commandments do not apply, but they apply to everyone else before and afterward. Isn’t it convenient that the “rapture of the church” is always just in front of us, and we can continue ignoring God’s instructions according to this belief system? Yet we are told to “get ready” for the return of Yeshua at any moment. What better way to be ready for the return of Yeshua than to be found being obedient to his instructions?
Revelation 12:17–18 (LEB): 17 And the dragon was angry at the woman, and went away to fight against the rest of her children, those who keep the commandments of God and who hold to the testimony about Jesus.
Revelation 14:12–13 (LEB): 12 Here is the patient endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus. 13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’ ” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “in order that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow after them.”
This last verse talks about resting from our labors when we are dead. The Bible tells us those that die in Yeshua will sleep in Sheol. This is the grave. It is very unlikely that a non-material part of us goes to heaven to see our predeceased relative’s ghosts. This comes from Egyptian mythology and Greek philosophy, not the Bible. The Bible predicts a resurrection of the dead when Yeshua returns. The only rapture will be that of the people who are alive when Yeshua returns and will be transformed as the dead are raised and transformed into their new bodies. The timing of this event is also clear throughout scripture as being at the second coming of the Messiah.
Luke 12:42–46 (LEB): 42 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful wise manager whom the master will put in charge over his servants to give them their food allowance at the right time? 43 Blessed is that slave whom his master will find so doing when he comes back. 44 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45 But if that slave should say to himself, ‘My master is taking a long time to return,’ and he begins to beat the male slaves and the female slaves and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46 the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect and at an hour that he does not know, and will cut him in two and assign his place with the unbelievers.
Be found doing what pleases the Master when Yeshua comes. Repent and believe the gospel!
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