The "new light" which J. N. Darby is said to have received, came, in fact from his inability to reconcile the God who gave the law to Israél with the God who brought grace to sinners through Jesus Christ. In Darby's mind law and grace were a contradiction and could never be reconciled. Darby viewed the law given by the God of the Old Testament as something that was so inferior to the grace which came by Jesus Christ. So much so that he despised the law of God and, like his followers after him, ridiculed those who believed it had its place in Christian theology. As much as Darby may have imagined he had received new light, his ideas were purported over a thousand years earlier by Marcion. The parallel between Darby's and Marcion's beliefs are startlingly similar. In fact Marcion
In order to reconcile in his own mind the God of the Old Testament with the Christian God, Darby concluded, like Marcion, that the true God of the universe, the God of love, was not revealed to mankind until He appeared in Jesus Christ, and that before Christ, God had revealed Himself to mankind in different ways. Based on this theory Darby decided that if God had revealed Himself in one way to Israel and in another through Christ then He must also have revealed Himself in different ways to Abraham, to Noah, to Adam, etc. Darby's theory of dispensationalism, therefore, is based upon his mistaken perception of God, of the God who declared "I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed" (Malachi 3:6).
The striking similarity between Darby's view and Marcion's, regarding the personality of God, is a worrying one when we consider that Marcion is considered a heretic. Take, for instance, Marcion's belief that the Old Testament God was "characteristically a God of Law, who involved himself in contradictory courses of action." This was exactly what Darby believed and is the premise on which his dispensational theory is founded.
Like Marcion, Darby believed that God the Creator, who walked in the cool of the day with His creature Adam, revealed Himself differently through each epoch of history. Because Darby could not reconcile the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New Testament, he assumed God had revealed Himself in different ways, always hiding His true identity in order to test man's obedience. This for Darby was the God of the Old Testament.
Because Darby felt so strongly that what he believed was in fact the truth and that he had it on Divine authority, not only did he reject all his own Christian friends who disagreed with him, but also the whole historical testimony of orthodoxy Christianity. Darby regarded the historic orthodox Christian interpretation of Scripture to be wrong, renouncing the visible church, both Anglican and Dissenting, as apostate. Charles Spurgeon "observed in Darbyism, a growing tendency to isolationism, obscurantism and a party spirit." (Stephen Sizer. Dispensationalism Defined Historically. 1997).
Darby was, in fact, founding a new religious movement, which in time would infiltrated and influence many Christian groups, primarily in America. Today this movement is identified as Pre-millennium Dispensationalism and is, in fact, one of the largest Christian sects in American. It exercises considerable power over many American churches and even national politics.
Again, because Darby believed that he was right and that everyone else was wrong, he put it down to the fact that other people had never read the Bible properly. Darby opposed the Christian belief regarding an Old and New Covenants, claiming that
For Darby, God was not a Covenant God but a Dispensational God, one who treated men differently in each of his supposed dispensations. Darby had great difficulty in understand God's dealings with Biblical Israél and looked elsewhere for answers. In fact, he adopted the views of Francesco Ribera, a sixteenth century Jesuit writer, whose works were later "popularised in the nineteenth century by another Spanish Jesuit, Manuel Lacunza. Lacunza used the pseudonym Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, allegedly a converted Jew, for his book, 'The Coming of the Messiah in Glory and Majesty' which Edward Irving translated into English." Darby found in Ribera and Irving a philosophy of Israél which appeared to answer his own dilemma; Darby assumed that these views must be right, especially as they seemed to give an answer to his own dilemma, even though such views contradicted those of historical orthodoxy Christianity. Sadly, Darby failed to see that God's promises to the Jews were fulfilled in Christ and His Church.
This view of Israél espoused by Darby has been one of the most divisive teachings of the last hundred and fifty years. Like his other views it has caused deep division where ever it has been propagated. In recent years those who disagree with Darby's view regarding God's dealings with Israél have been branded as preaching displacement theology. This altogether obnoxious description of historical orthodox Christian theology is the result of rejecting the clear teaching of Scripture and placing one's own private interpretation upon prophecy [II Peter 1:20].
The Christian theologian James Barr regarded Darby's pre-millennial dispensationalism as,
Darby viewed the Church for whom Jesus gave himself that He might redeem it from "all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14), as an after thought in God's dealings with mankind. Darby insisted that it was the Jews who were God's main interest, not the Church, and that His promises to them would one day be fulfilled in some future Jewish kingdom. He states that the Church of Jesus Christ, the Bride for whom He sacrificed all, that which is the very fulfilment of God's promises to the Israél of God, is
Darby actually believed, therefore, that the Church of Jesus Christ is "merely an interruption" in God's purposes for the Jews. Stephen Sizer observes that,
Sizer also noted that
This, of course, is totally contrary to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, who declared that God had appointed him to,
"Church was seen as a mere parenthesis to God's continuing covenantal relationship with Israel, which would be His primary instrument of rule on earth during the millennium. This fundamental error appears a result of Darby's narrow sectarian ecclesiology, indeed one that he superimposed on Scripture by virtue of his dispensational framework."
One contemporary of Darby, Professor Francis W. Newman, attempts to explain what sort of man Darby was,
And Henry Craik, an associate of Darby, describes the results of Darby's rash and unprofitable intrusions into things not revealed.
A more recent author says,
Wherever Darby went in an effort to enforce his belief-system on others, his powerful, yet unpleasant manner was felt by all and division amongst brethren was usually the only result he obtained. Seeing his influence declining over the British assemblies, Darby looked elsewhere to spread his unorthodox and controversial beliefs, and set sail for America.
We have already covered how dispensationalism began and the premise upon which it was founded. We will now look more closely at some of dispensationalism's major doctrines.
As we have also seen, dispensationalism denies the historical orthodox Christian interpretation of Scripture; i.e. that held by all true Christian believers since the time of the Apostles. Dispensationalists professed to have received special light which others have not received and, therefore, their own method of Bible interpretation is, they believe, far superior to that of all others, in every generation of Christians and every Christian era since Christ. Of course, as the reader will immediately recognize, this sort of philosophy is the bases of all error and the precedent upon which all cults and sects are founded.
Dispensationalists believe that God has two separate but parallel means of working - one through the Church, the other through Israel (the former being a parenthesis to the latter). According to dispensationalists there is, and always will be, a distinction between Israel, the Gentiles and the Church. The Marcion also stressed the radical nature of Christianity vis-à-vis Judaism. In his theology there existed a total discontinuity between the OT and the NT, between Israel and the church, and even between the God of the Old Testament and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Stephen Sizer informs us that,
However, many of their own leading lights, such as A. W. Pink, Donald G. Barnhouse, Philip Mauro, and G. Campbell Morgan, to name but a few, eventually denounced Dispensationalism as unbiblical and misleading, and warned others against its teachings.
Dispensationalism, whilst parading as Fundamental is, in fact, a sect, and not part of historic orthodox Christianity. Like Jehovah Witnesses, Dispensationalists also have their own Bible version. This is known as the Scofield Reference Bible, in which the doctrines of Dispensationalism, distort, colour and deny, the truth of Holy Scripture. Not only so, but Dispensationalism, purporting to be Christian, is far more dangerous to undiscerning and gullible believers, as it has a "form of godliness", whilst "denying the power thereof." (II Tim. 3:5)
Concerning Darby's ability to understand Scripture, one writer has stated:
Another writer says,
It was Darby who first insisted that: ‘The Jewish nation is never to enter the Church’ [The Hopes of the Church of God (London: G. Morrish, n.d.), p. 106.]. Scofield later developed this idea further, and states:
C. I. Scofield, Scofield Bible Correspondence Course. 19th edn. p. 23.
Lewis S. Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary and a student of C. I. Scofield, elaborates on the dispensationalist theory about Israel and the church:
Lewis Sperry Chafer, Dispensationalism (Dallas, Seminary Press, 1936), p. 107.
Chafer states that, ‘Israel is an eternal nation, heir to an eternal land, with an eternal kingdom, on which David rules from an eternal throne,’ that is, on earth and distinct from the church who will be in heaven.
Lewis Sperry Chafer. Systematic Theology. 1975. Vol. IV. pp. 315-323.
According to Dwight Pentecost, who was a former member of Chafer's seminary;
Things to Come. 1958. p. 529.
Lewis Chafer also declared that Dispensationalism had;
Dispensationalism. Bibliotheca Sacra 93 (October 1936), 410, 416, 446-447.
Contradicting the clear teaching of Christ's Apostles that the New Covenant is for the seed of Abraham the fulfilment of the Old Covenant, dispensationalists teach that the promises made to Abraham and through him to the Jews, have been postponed because the Jews of Jesus day rejected His apparent offer of an earthly kingdom. They maintain that because the Jews rejected Christ's offer and crucified Him, God put into place plan 'B', that is to say the Church of Jesus Christ. According to dispensationalist teaching God originally had not intended that the Church should exist, but was an after through based on the fact that the Jews of Jesus day messed up His plans by refusing Christ's offer of an earthly kingdom. Not only do dispensationalists believe such unbiblical and preposterous nonsense, they also teach that God's promises to Abraham, instead of being fulfilled in Christ, will be fulfilled in some future age.
1. [John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question.1979), p. 25]
2. [Keith A. Mathison, Dispensationalism, Rightly Dividing the People of God?.1995]
3. [Michael Horton, ‘The Church and Israel’ Modern Reformation May/June (1994), p. 1.]
From the above we see that the cased again Dispensationalism being unbiblical is without doubt a mighty one. Those who trust in this system of doctrine are asked to read and consider carefully the articles on our links page.
The election of Israel as people of God may be traced from Abraham (Gen. 12; compare Gal. 3:29; Rom. 9:7-8). However, the relationship between Yahweh and Israel began in the Exodus. Exodus 19 represents a special covenant form with both conditions (v. 5) and promises of the covenant (vv. 5b-6). The condition of the covenant was obedience; the promise was that "you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples." This promise involves a God-people and people-God relationship which is the centre of the Old Testament. This promise was inherited by the church as the true Israel or the new Israel (Rom. 9:6-8; 1 Cor. 10:18-21; Gal. 6:16). Here is the unique position of the church as the people of God in the divine order (Rom. 9:25-26; 1 Cor. 6:14-17; Titus 2:14; Heb. 8:10; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Rev. 21:3). See Church; Covenant; Election; Israel, Spiritual.
The faith of Israel became more concrete when the remnant idea was developed from corporate salvation out of the divine wrath and judgment. To the remnant fell the status and condition of God's long purpose for His people. The remnant as the chosen one is explained by Jesus in Matthew 22:14. Most of all, Jesus Himself is the remnant. Truly, the church carries the ideas from the Old Testament that the remnant in the figure of the Servant is the witness of universal salvation and the agent of a final revelation. The servant of Yahweh represented by Israel would be a light to the nations. The universal character of Israel's vocation is most clearly expressed here. The idea of God's people in the Old Testament culminates in the person of the Servant who is the idea of the remnant personified as an individual.
Christ claimed His servant-messiahship, for He is the Son of David, fulfilling the promise of God in the Old Testament. Jesus is the King but rejected every political interpretation of His messianic vocation. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). He is the Suffering Servant, who gave His life as a ransom for many and thereby inaugurated the New Covenant.
The role of servant-messiah developed another dimension in its collectivity, that is, church. The servant idea is determinative for an understanding of the priesthood of the whole church. Christology (Christ) is related to ecclesiology (church) (2 Cor. 4:5). Christians are servants sharing that servanthood which the Servant par excellence creates. The call into peoplehood is a call into servanthood. The church is truly the people of God.
The church, one gathering of all believers under the lordship of Christ as the continuation of God's work with Old Testament Israel. This is in contrast to most references in the Old Testament to religious or secular assemblies or to those in the New Testament that designate a local congregation of Christians, but never in any way mean a building.
Israel is the name given to the descendants of Jacob and to the grouping of people in the twelve tribes coming from Jacob's sons. In Old Testament times they constituted the people of God, for He chose them as His own for faithful service. Scripture is clear that Christ came to earth to establish His heavenly kingdom as a substitute for the Jewish kingdom that had failed (Matthew 21:43). Throughout the New Testament the church is spoken of as the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is presented as an actual entity ruled by God, a spiritual acceptance of the rule of God, or Jesus Christ, the One fully in submission to God and a personification of the kingdom. Paul distinguished between genealogical Israelites and the true “Israel of God,” God's people, those who believe the good news and receive the peace and mercy of God (Galatians 6:16). Spiritual Israel, the Christian church, has supplanted the Jews as the elect people of God (Romans 9:6-13; 1 Peter 2:9). Spiritual Israel includes Jews who believe in Jesus. Christians are divided as to the fate of Israel. This centres on interpretation of passages such as Romans 11:25-36; 2 Corinthians 3:16.
Such interpretations seek to understand the mystery of divine election which began with Israel and climaxed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The history of divine election includes Israel's disobedience by depending on human achievement rather than divine mercy which led to their rejection of Jesus, and will climax in the salvation of “all Israel” (Romans 11:26). The point at which interpretations differ is the meaning of all Israel. Is spiritual Israel the church, Israel of all generations from Abraham to the end of time, Jews at the end of the ages, or the remnant of believing Jews included in the church or brought into the church in the last days? Many interpretations have been made. What is certain is that God in His grace of election opens the door to salvation by faith to all people regardless of the race or tradition out of which they come.
J. William Thompson and Trent C. Butler
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