Christian Life 

Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism

Two contradictory and competing 'systematic theologies' have been, and remain very influential in shaping Christian belief and action.
 
 
 

 

CT and DNote: The 'response' facility relating to this article is available to (logged on) site members only.


Preface

The following article is a modified extract from an earlier article entitled 'A Covenant-keeping God'. The latter, which contains an overview of the major Biblical covenants, is itself part of a 'Drilling Down' series of articles (a 'work in progress').
 

Foreword:

Theological constructs;
frameworks of interpretation
(aka Systematic Theology)

 


Regarding interpretational systems and frameworks or – to use the fancy term – hermeneutics, it is important to note the distinction between terms which are ‘theological’ and those which are ‘biblical’. Theological terms need to be treated with great caution.
Whilst they might be convenient in the discussion of key biblical themes and concepts (e.g. the term ‘Trinity’ as used in reference to the triune Godhead) these are essentially – in the grand sweep of history – neologisms.
They are essentially religious rather than biblical terms or, to use another word, ‘inventions’. They are often lacking clear definition and, across the Christian spectrum, experience differing levels of (dis)agreement and common understanding.
An example is the word ‘sacrament’. It is not found in the Bible and theologians have differed regarding the precise nature of a ‘sacrament’ and also what is (and isn’t ) covered by the term. (See New World Encyclopedia on the subject.) And the different opinions are not confined to the clichéd Roman Catholic/Protestant divisions. The Reformers Luther and Zwingli were famously in disagreement over Communion.

It is also important to differentiate between inductive learning and deductive reasoning. The former derives a view directly from (out of and formed by) the Bible text (exegesis): the latter is arrived at by a process of logic. For instance (and only for the sake of illustration) if it is held that God predestines some to salvation, then logic should dictate that God must, by extension, predestine some to a lost eternity. The use of logic can produce doctrines that are arrived at by eisegesis (reading into a Bible text from a particular and pre-suppositional theological framework).
Clever murder mysteries use 'deduction' to lead the reader or viewer on a false trail and to suspect the wrong person of the crime. (But of course Hercule Poirot's incisive and 'out-of-the-box'  thinking shames the logic of we armchair sleuths every time.)

This is not to detract from the benefits of Systematic Theology which (in plainer language) is merely a themed approach to Bible study, but rather to highlight that theological suppositions should never be placed on a par with or, infinitely worse still, sit above the Word of God.
 

------------

 

Introduction

 
Two major theological systems -
 
(which contradict each other whilst also failing the Berean test: Acts 17:10-11).

EO logo1Caveat: Whilst focussing on particular interpretations, this is an 'equal opportunities' document in that it offers scope for upset right across the theological spectrum.

In the Christian community across the world there are a variety of theological positions. However two of these have gained widespread support and – whilst disagreeing with one another – have both been highly influential in the formulation of belief. And it is important to stress again that these are theological constructs. The earliest of the two has been termed ‘Covenant Theology (mainly formulated and codified in the 17th century; see Footnote): the other being ‘Dispensationalism’ (with its origins in the 19th century).
 
The former is a central plank within Presbyterian churches around the world and across the (Presbyterian) denominational spectrum. The latter originated in the UK (pioneered by those within what became the Plymouth Brethren), but crossed the Atlantic to become hugely influential in the late 19th century. Dispensationalism informed the belief of the pentecostal churches at the start of the 20th century and has, since then, expanded both denominationally and geographically.

 
Covenant Theology

 


Covenant Theology






Covenant Theology (CT) developed two principal terms to describe its dual covenant interpretational framework viz. a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace. (Some argue that there is only one covenant – the Covenant of Grace. Others include a Covenant of Redemption between the Father and the Son.) These theological terms have been employed to develop a whole range of doctrines and, because of the influence that they have had, we will (d.v.) come back to these later in more detail.

However, for the moment and with reference to the most common 'dual-covenant' view – developed first by Dudley Fenner, an English Puritan, in 1585; and then Scottish theologian Robert Rollock (1555 - 1598)  – it is sufficient to say that the (theological) Covenant of Works is used to denote the period prior to the Fall in the Garden of Eden. In simple terms the Covenant of Works would say: “If Adam and Eve had obeyed the instructions given to them then they would have been OK. “ However Adam and Eve didn’t, so God had to embark on Plan B – the Covenant of Grace.”

This term – again simply speaking, but remembering that it is a theological expression, not a biblical, one – covers the continuous period from the Fall until the final consummation and Kingdom come.
However this span of time is (it is argued) split into two ‘administrations’ (again a non-biblical term); basically delineated by the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT) periods. In these two ‘administrations’ (it is said) God applied the same principles but in two different situations and in two different ways to the one people of God. These were Israelites in the OT and believers (Gentile and Jewish) in NT times.

Whilst this is a convenient hermeneutic, it is not biblical. The nation of Israel was in effect a theocracy within which some were in communion with God (cf Heb. 11) while others were very obviously not. In contrast the church (in the true sense of the bride of Christ) comprises solely of people in blood-bought communion with God.
So 'OT Israel = OT expression of church' is both overly-simplistic and grossly misleading . As a corollary, 'Church = Israel' is also untrue. (More on this below.) But as Covenant Theology has been widely accepted as ‘biblical’ it has led directly to (for instance) infant baptism. Accordingly paedobaptism is claimed to be the NT equivalent of circumcision – even though circumcision was never the symbol of salvation and union with God; and was only ever applied to males. [Again, more on this at later date (d.v.) when looking at 'Who are Abraham's seed?']

One of the other principal, and even more serious, mistakes deriving from Covenant Theology has led to what is commonly called ‘Replacement Theology’. This ‘theology’ – also termed Supercessionism – teaches that the Jews have now been ‘replaced’ by the mainly-Gentile church and (therefore, by deduction and logic) the promises to the Jews have now either all been fulfilled or spiritualised;or will find any contemporary or future fulfillment in the church. (So for instance many older Bibles have chapter headings for Isaiah 59 as “God’s curses on the Jews” and Isaiah 60 as “God’s blessings on the Church”.)
The ‘replacement’ view is most emphatically rejected by Paul in his letter to the (Jewish and Gentile) church at Rome. In fact this is his core message (Rom 11:1-2; 11-12) and the underlying reason for writing this – his longest – letter.

 

Dispensationalism

 


Dispensationalism







In contrast to Covenant Theology the other system of interpretation that has attracted widespread support is that of Dispensationalism.

There is a view that Dispensationalism (as distinct from, but embracing pre-millennialism) has its genesis in a Scottish believer (Margaret Macdonald; 1815-1840) and a Church of Scotland minister (Rev. Edward Irving; 1792-1834). What is undisputed is the fact the John Nelson Darby (founder of the Plymouth Brethren as a distinct grouping with its roots in the wider Brethren movement) is the latter-day father of this theological system. Darby took his pre-tribulation rapture teachings (the removal of believers from the earth prior to the return of Christ and before the ‘great tribulation’ of Matt. 24) to America where they were enthusiastically embraced by a lawyer called Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921).
 
Scofield in turn produced the Scofield Reference Bible (first published 1909) which is annotated throughout in support of Darby’s interpretations – especially with reference to eschatology, the end-time prophecies and events regarding Christ’s return. The Scofield Bible has been hugely influential right through to the present day – in America and right around the world. The teachings are now being propagated through the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Dallas Theological Seminary, and more than 200 other lesser-known Bible institutes..

Dispensationalism divides history into sections, covering the periods of Innocence, Conscience, Civil Government, the Patriarchs, the Law, Grace (the church age), the Millennium and the final consummation leading to the everlasting kingdom. However, and perhaps because this theological system lacks biblical warrant,  there is a range of opinions (disagreement) on how many dispensations there are (varying from three to eight) and where, in history and in Scripture, the dividing lines lie.
But irrespective of the number of dispensations, the agreed assumption is that God has dealt differently with his world and its people in each of these different dispensations. Accordingly then a different hermeneutic needs to be applied to the different portions of Scripture which cover these different periods of time.

What is also generally agreed is that the church age is a parenthesis – a defined interlude – in God’s overall plan of salvation i.e. in the OT is God dealing through the Jews while the NT is the time of the Gentile church until Jesus’s rapture of the saints
(with a pre/post/mid-Tribulation rapture range of views) . This will usher in a further period of God again dealing with and through the Jews.

Dispensational teaching has been greatly popularised and adopted through hugely-influential and best-selling books like Hal Lindsey’s ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’ (1970) and the ‘Left Behind’ series of novels by Tim LaHaye. The Left Behind books – the first in the series appeared in 1995 – have sold over 50 million copies, and have been turned into a cinema production. The books are freely available from and often prominently displayed in Christian bookshops.
As stated earlier, the core element of these novels is the ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ which, as already stated, teaches that all Christians will be suddenly and without any warning removed from the earth prior to the return of Christ. (See Footnotes.) However, and apart from the wider Christian community, even within the Brethren camp there was disagreement. George Mueller (of Bristol Orphanage fame) broke with Darby over this issue. The great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon also declared the teaching to be unscriptural. Nevertheless the doctrine has persisted.
 
 In summation...
 

 Both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism have been and continue to be highly influential in formulating Christian belief, but both are disputed.

Covenant Theology dismisses swathes of end-time prophecy as irrelevant or allegorical, and sees no place in God’s final purposes for the Jews other than (perhaps) a final ingathering as outlined in Romans. In terms of latter-day expectations prior to the return of Jesus, the former implicitly teaches a universally positive response to the Gospel (reading more into Matt. 24:14 than the verse allows; cf Matt 7:14).

Meanwhile, though recognising the prophesied 'time of great trouble' (Dan 12:1; Matt 24; 2 Tim. 3:1-12), Dispensationalism (in pre-tribulation rapture form), teaches that believers will be spirited away, leaving the Jews to face the music of Satan’s final onslaught. (See Footnotes.)
So while the Gentile believers look down from a safe vantage point in heaven (as God's 'heavenly people'), the Jews will be God's latter-day 'earthly people' who will suffer greatly but endure through the Great Tribulation. Within the Dispensationalist view, Matthew 24 (et al)  and, for some, Revelation chapters 4 - 19 are seen as only of academic interest  – given the belief that the Gentile saints will be in heaven during that period.

Regarding God’s end-time purposes for the Jews, Dispensational Theology cannot get the church and Israel together, whereas Covenant Theology cannot get the church and Israel apart. The former sees the Jews and the church as totally different entities separated by ethnicity and end-time progression, whereas the latter see Israel and the Jews as essentially an earlier expression of the church, differentiated only by two separate and distinct ‘administrations’ of time (OT/NT) in God’s grace. In fact Israel was/is a physical nation comprising the saved and the lost (Rom 9:7), whereas followers of Christ are a spiritual nation made up exclusively of the redeemed (Gal 3:7,8; 1 Pet 2:9).
 
At the very least it can be confidently stated that because these two systems disagree markedly with one another, they cannot both be completely right. (And it could be argued that in critical issues they are both wrong.) Yet both of these systems have created expectations and assumptions which could leave believers scripturally askew; vulnerable through false hopes; and ill-prepared to understand the times and the purposes of God in our day as the cosmic upheavals preceding Kingdom Come drawn ever nearer.

At the risk of vain repetition, the theological systems of Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism lack Biblical support in major areas of doctrine, theology and eschatology. Moreover they profoundly disagree with each other on very significant points – especially concerning the times preceding the coming again of Christ; the place of, and God’s purposes for the Jewish people; and the establishment of His everlasting kingdom.

 
Footnotes:

1. Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the church as taught by most Dispensationalists. The view held is that Christ will have two comings: the first will be invisible 'for the saints' and the second 'with the saints'.
pre-trib rapture

-------------------

Westminster Confession2. The Westminister Confession of Faith (1644) codifies much of what is described as 'Calvinism' and is subscribed to as a 'Subordinate Standard' by Presbyterian denominations worldwide.

The document is predicated on so-called 'Covenant Theology' and contains material which is, in the broad sweep of the formulation Biblical, extra-biblical, and unbiblical representing Truth mixed with error.
It is also deficient in failing to cover some some major biblical themes: making bare mention of the person and role of the Holy Spirit, and with no mention of the Great Commission.

3. The Millennium
MillenniumBroadly speaking Reformed (Covenant) theology teaches the Millennium as being a definite period prior to the coming again of Christ at the end of the age. However, the early church believed in a literal Millennial reign of Christ on earth.
While many today share this view, not all who do are Dispensationlists (i.e. all Dispensationlists are pre-millennial but not all Pre-Millennialists adhere to Dispensationalism). See article The (Coming) Millennium by a Scottish lay preacher and city mission superintendent.

The Editor, 30/07/2013

Feedback:
(page   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13)
Colin Ford (Guest) 08/08/2013 22:36
John,
I used to believe in an "any moment" Coming of the Lord, until I learnt that the Bible teaches that events MUST happen first.
I well understand that my post regarding the word "meet" is hardly compelling evidence, at least on it's own! I was merely articulating the veritable fact that in times gone by people would go out to "meet" an arriving king, queen, dignitary etc, but would come back to the place of departure! (This practice still happens today).In this case to rule with the Coming King. This is why I went into much detail regarding the word "meet", in order to explain why we would NOT remain in the air at that time. And of course at that time "so shall we ever be with the Lord"! With regards to Acts 28.15, we must remember that Scripture isn't padded out with meaningless words and sentences? (I am not suggesting that you believe such). These are there for a reason?
I only added this to the other evidence that is contrary to the doctrine of imminence. And despite what you say there IS a Scriptural precedence to teach why we will return with the Lord, after meeting Him in the air?
Pre trib "any moment/imminent" believers always claim that 1 Thessalonians 4.16-17 teaches an "any moment" Coming, but it teaches no such thing. Our bodies will be changed in the "twinkling of an eye" as 1 Corinthians 15.52 teaches, and of course I heartily agree with Mr Spafford's hymn (I don't see any pre trib teaching there?)
Before the cross believers and unbelievers went to "sheol" (Hebrew) Hades "Greek"; Luke 16 teaches us about this; there were two compartments below with a chasm that couldn't be passed? After the Lord from Heaven conquered death, His elect upon death went to be with Him immediately; Luke 23.43. These Scriptures, I believe must be read in conjunction with with Ephesians 4.8-9, 1 Peter 3.19-20..I am going off tangent here..
We must remember that when the Thessalonian believers were concerned about their dead who died in the Lord, Paul taught them that they would not be disadvantaged-they would rise first?
Another thing we must not lose sight of, the Jewish Nation/Israel only knew of two ages; pre Messianic and Messianic?
Please accept my apologies for this post being disjointed, I didn't get home till quite late.
John Ferguson (guest) (Guest) 09/08/2013 10:44
Colin

You you say any moment rapture can't happen because the bible teaches events must
take place first.My understanding is everything is in place.What events have you in
mind?
John Miller 09/08/2013 12:07
Colin, I am encouraged that you did at one time believe in an "any moment" (as you put it) coming of the Lord for his saints as there are many scriptures that confirm this.

Firstly allow me to point out most respectfully that you have omitted from your reference to 1 Cor.15:52 a most important fact. Before our bodies are changed "the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible". All this happens in the twinkling of an eye. In 1 Thess.4:13-17 Paul gives more details of this extraordinary event. Now this was not an addition because we understand that his letters to the church at Thessalonica preceded those to Corinth. We must not question the difference in Paul's presentation of this event to the two churches because for example we need to read all four Gospels to discover the seven words from the cross. The Bible is not a source of information to the curious, it is rather a revelation of God's ways and purposes to be enquire into in a Berean-like spirit.

Now you dismiss the concept of Christ coming unexpectedly (your description - an any moment coming) but scripture teaches exactly that. The event of which the Apostle speaks in these two passages is clearly unexpected by all except true believers in Jesus who are here urged to expect it and look for its imminent happening. Paul includes himself in the "we" of the living in both passages, This clearly indicates that he hoped that it would be something that he would experience in his lifetime.

Now let mew refer you to some other scriptures where the words of Christ are recorded.

John 14:2,3 - "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I shall have gone and shall have prepared a place for you, I shall come and take you with Me that there wher I am you also shall be".

Gen:5:24 - "Enoch walked with God; then he was no longer, because God took him". It was by faith that God took him and he was seen no more because God had removed him from a scene of impending judgement but he had received the witness that before his removal from earth he had pleased God (Heb.11:5).

2 Kings 2:1, 3, 9-12 _ Elijah had a similar experience and note that those who refused the testimony of Elisha sent out a search party to find him because they thought that God had caught him up and then brought him down in some unknown location.

Acts 1:9,10 - The greatest of all, the ascension of Christ into heaven and note the reference to the cloud, corresponding to Paul's prophecy.

Matt. 24:31,40,41 - Two taken, two left, one taken, one left etc. Does this not point to an unexpected, unforeseen event whose time and date was completely unexpected.

Here is a series of facts clearly affirmed by Paul in 1 Thess. 4:16-18.

1. The time is fixed by God and is unknown to all others.
2. The whole event happens in the twinkling of an eye.
3. Christ shall descend from heaven into the air, no mention of a descent to earth.
4. He will raise and change the bodies of the dead who died in faith.
5. He will change the bodies of all living believers in that moment on the earth.
6. All believers, resurrected and living, all changed, will be together taken up on the clouds to meet the Lord in the air in order to be forever with him.

Unbelievers will be left to face tribulation and eventual judgement.

In contrast to this when He comes in public glory to judge and rule He will return to the earth with all His saints, His church to the Mount of Olives whence He ascended to Heaven (Zech.14:4,5, Acts 1:11,12). He then comes as the Judge, the Universal King not the Bridegroom. His descent into the air to meet and welcome His church is the act of a Bridegroom receiving His bride. It si clear that before this mighty and glorious return to the earth, the Lord must gather together His elect and take them to be with Him where He is as He said, before bringing them back with Him to share in His kingly glory.

You have asserted that the seventh trumpet of Revelation is the trumpet sound spoken of by Paul in Thessalonians and Corinthians. Let us examine the purpose of these trumpets.

In Matt.24:31 it says "He shall send His angels (plural) with a great sound of a trumpet and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven (lit."the sky") to the other".

In Rev.11:15-19 we have a description of the effect of the seventh trumpet sounded by the seventh angel (singular). It bears no relation to the effect of the trumpet sounded by the angelic host in Matt.24.

I believe the key to the misunderstanding of many in these passages of scripture is the fact that future events are often intertwined in scriptural prophecy. We see this most prominently throughout the Old Testament in the prophecies relating to the first and second advents of Christ. This is a different subject but many. many times they are spoken of in a way that seems to only speak of one advent. The Jews rejected Jesus because they were not prepared for a suffering Messiah. They looked for a powerful, mighty deliverer who would be the Messiah to deliver them from the yoke of Rome. Had Jesus come in that way at that time there would have been no provision for my salvation.

In Psalm 69:4 we read these wonderful words, "Then I restored that which I took not away"; Glorious Redeemer, Mighty Saviour, Glory to His Name!

These are a few more thoughts to clarify my understanding. Please note that I do not accuse those who see things differently of being unbiblical. What I would say is that their understanding and interpretation of the Holy Writ may be different from mine but in God's time all will become clear.

There are many wonderful spiritual songs and hymns which speak of both the rapture and the Lord's return to earth but for the true interpretation of the word of God we must search out in it its own interpretation.






Colin Ford (Guest) 09/08/2013 15:30
John,
The "any moment","secret" or "imminent" Coming DOES indeed SOUND Biblical. I mean God is sovereign, and yes logically; one would think because of this, indeed, He can come anytime He so chooses. But does Scripture bear this out? Does it teach that He will come at "any moment". This is where I part with you: If He were to come at "any moment", He would be breaking His word, God will not do that.
I believe Scripture teaches unequivocally that the Saviour will come AFTER the great tribulation (Matthew 24.29) and after the SPECIFIC apostasy, and the "man of sin" has been revealed, 2 Thessalonians 2.3, and then the Day of the Lord will commence.
Without over old ground again, I have already from Scripture shown that Paul was NOT expecting an "imminent" rapture, he expected to die; 2 Timothy 4.6. His hope was in the Lord. And yes, I am well aware that the Thessalonian epistles were some 13-15 years earlier than the epistles to Timothy. But his words were inspired by God Himself? I have the fullest confidence in Holy Writ, and that there are NO contradictions. If there appear to be so, it is because we are lacking in understanding.
1 Corinthians 15.52, 1 Thessalonians 4.16, Matthew 24.31 and Revelation 11.15 in my belief are speaking of exactly the SAME event; and this is ushering in the Day of the Lord. It is at His Coming that we will be "raised incorruptible" at the "twinkling of an eye", at the "last trump", or indeed the seventh trumpet, the last in a series of seven.
When you write that I "dismiss the concept of Christ coming unexpectedly"; I MUST correct you. Again, Scripture DOES teach that the Lord WILL come "unexpectedly" to believers and unbelievers alike. Although Christ comes suddenly for both, believers and unbelievers, it is only the latter (1 Thessalonians 5.3) and NOT the former (1 Thessalonians 5.4-5) who are taken by surprise.
The Scriptures teach that there is only ONE Second Coming, Hebrews 9.28, but it has two different effects and characters to those who watch and those who slumber. The Lord's words in Revelation 3.3 speak of this.
When you refer to the Lord's words in John 14.2-3, where does that teach a pre tribulation rapture? Indeed when He comes according to Scripture, He will "prepare a place" for His people. Likewise with Genesis 5.24 and Hebrews 11.5, God indeed did translate Enoch. Also Elijah was taken in a similar way. God is sovereign, these Scriptures certainly CANNOT be used as proof texts for a pre tribulation rapture! They can however be used to teach how believers at the appointed time will be "caught up", as in 1 Thessalonians 4.17. Again, I am NOT questioning the "snatching up" or as some would call it the "rapture", only the timing of it.
As regards Matthew 24.40-41, this confirms that when the Lord comes, indeed, "one will be taken, and the other left"-it is the angelic "gathering".
What about Matthew 13.30? You should read how pre trib "scholars" skirt around that one!
We must remember that there is tribulation going on in the world in various places today, men and women choosing to die rather than renounce their Lord? We are not yet in the "Great Tribulation", but I certainly believe it is not afar off.
I believe from everything that I have written here, and in other posts that the pre trib rapture is a deception, delusion, call it what you will. The Lord warned us in many places against deception, for example when He was talking to His disciples/church in Matthew 24.4.
This deceptive teaching would have us believe that while the church is up in heaven, having a party, Antichrist is doing his worst down below!

As you correctly allude -if Israel did accept Jesus as the King at His First Advent, the crucifixion would never have happened, NOBODY could then have been saved! Old Testament saints and New Testament believers alike. There was never a bona fide offer of the kingdom; the OT prophets speak against this, although the earlier Dispensationalists did teach such, and many are still confused about this today. Remember Jesus Christ is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" Revelation 13.8.
W Benn (Guest) 09/08/2013 16:43
Thank you for your earnest contribution Colin. The final straw for me at church was the glint in the eye of the lay-reader as he expressed his enthusiasm for the rapture.The words he quoted were the epitome of superstition and fabrication. They sounded utterly ridiculous and out of place with all that we know of the earth and heavens. That said, it was remarkable how so many of my fellow listeners appeared to take it on board and lap it up like gullible children. It was eye opening and freed me from the church.
John Miller 09/08/2013 17:03
Colin, I have said again and again that I accept that there are some who disagree with the concept of a pre-tribulation rapture, which I hold to be scriptural and have attempted to explain. You accuse me of delusion and deception. I do not similarly accuse you although I believe that you are mistaken in your interpretation of scripture.

I find your intolerance of any interpretation of God's word other than your own, particularly the the passages that deal with the end times rather sad. I was brought up in a denomination where this was the norm and believe me it represents a spiritual dead end.

For example your assertion that Paul was not expecting an imminent rapture is a denial of what he writes himself in a simple, plain statement, "we the living who remain". His letter to Timothy was written much later and shows that the Lord had by then revealed to him that he must go through the article of death. There is no contradiction in that.

Paul was not infallible in his thoughts and he expressed to the Thessalonians his expectation at that time. Later in the experience and light of his personal communion it had clearly been revealed to him that he must suffer death. This is a wonderful description of the progression of the Lord's ways with His great Apostle and the continuing revelation of His perfect preparation for heaven of arguably His greatest servant.

Your suggestion that to believe that is to suggest that scripture contradicts itself is, to put it plainly, nonsense. At one time in his missionary work Paul intended to go to Ephesus but was not allowed to do so by the Spirit. On his next missionary journey he was directed there. Does this infer that there was a reversal of God's plan? Of course it does not. It shows that at a later date the Lord revealed to Paul that now the time was right for the great work in Ephesus to take place.

At the beginning of Paul's ministry the Lord told Ananias that He would show Paul how much he would suffer for His name. Have we the right or title to presume that Jesus showed Paul all at once everything that he would have to suffer? I think not, brother Colin.

I think it likely with Paul as with every believer the Lord directs, revealed to him and equipped him for what he would have to face as he traveled along the way with Him.
John Miller 09/08/2013 17:09
Mr Benn's contribution shows how the thought of an imminent rapture is ridiculous to an unbeliever because it flies in the face of human logic.
Colin Ford (Guest) 09/08/2013 17:17
John (Ferguson),
Many Christians believe in the "doctrine of imminence". Scripture as I read it,(and many others) does not bear this out.
Paul knew he would die, 2 Timothy 4.6, likewise Peter never expected to die as an old man, John 21.18-19. Thereby teaching against an "imminent" rapture in Apostolic times.
Israel was prophesied to come back to the land in unbelief Ezekiel 37.14. This happened in 1948. Jerusalem will be "trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" Luke 21.24. This age will continue until the specific apostasy and the Antichrist "man of sin" (lawlessness-NIV)be revealed BEFORE the Second Advent, 2 Thessalonians 2.3. The Lord Jesus speaks of this event in Matthew 24.15 and Mark 13.14. Daniel 9.27 prophesied of this very event.
So as I understands things today in 2013, Israel is back in the Land, in unbelief, Jerusalem is still being "trodden down", the specific apostasy has not yet happened (I am not totally convinced what this is-this mustn't be confused with the general apostasy) and of course the "man of sin" hasn't yet been revealed.
These last two things MUST happen before the rapture, although this specific apostasy could well be presently under way.
Now I am sure you are well aware that the internet is awash with all kinds of madness and crazy theories about the identity of the Antichrist. Some hold that this individual is actually Barack Obama.
In May 2009 Obama promised the Palestinian Arabs that Jerusalem would one day belong to them. He reaffirmed this after his election victory in 2012. I haven't got the details to hand, but some as I have said believe that Obama is the one behind Daniel 11.39, and that this "treaty" has already been signed, and that Antichrist will be revealed in 2014; then comes the 31/2 Great Tribulation.
Now, I am NOT, repeat NOT saying that I necessarily believe this (I am certainly WATCHING world events), but it is interesting, as there have been so MANY treaties and agreements flying about. The definitive one may well have been signed?
Lets be clear about this. Whoever Antichrist is, he is not going to shout from the rooftops "Hey all you pesky Bible believing Christians, I have signed the treaty"? We will only know by hindsight, for many it may be too late?
We must also remember that whoever Antichrist is, that he DOESN'T KNOW what he is doing-Isaiah 10.6-7 ? He will be Satanically empowered?
What is interesting about this theory, is that if true, the end of the seven year treaty would coincide with seventy years after Israel becoming a nation.
We must WATCH AND WAIT AND WITNESS TO A LOST PEOPLE?

Colin Ford (Guest) 09/08/2013 17:33
John,
If I don't believe that the pre trib rapture is Biblical, then excuse me, how ever do I describe it? A half truth?
I do believe it is a deception and a delusion: a man made theory invented by Darby, the father of Dispensationalism, and successfully propagated by Scofield. They didn't believe in one body of saved people, this is the fruit of their teachings. As I have stated earlier, I never once claimed that a correct understanding of eschatology is a pre requisite to one's salvation; perish the thought.
But in these ever dark days in which we live; do bear in mind that the window of opportunity for this imminent rapture is ever closing? Considering as you say it could have happened nearly 2000 years ago?
However, is it a light thing to be believe in something that cannot be taught from Scripture, and how will it impact our lives in these so-called "end times" as many call them?
W Benn (Guest) 09/08/2013 18:22
Thank you for that John but I would point out that my view of religion has been formed by much more than the religious account of the Rapture.I am with Roland Farr in observing the numerous biblical contradictions;the lateness of god's alleged intervention into world affairs,thus causing much pain and distress; some entries in the bible that illustrate human cultural preferences, rather than timeless godly utterances;faithful followers attending church but killed by the Luftwaffe signifying randomness,that contrast with some corrupt and cynical humans leading comparatively untroubled lives; frequent killings on school premises; back- peddling clergy that are found to be wrong in their interpretation of the physical universe and even their own bible; some churches obsessed with sex; the claim that humans are made in god's image - I would feel sorry for god in some instances,if that were true, but evolution strongly suggests that it is wrong; the lack of evidence and false claim that the bible is history:sure it has some accurate geographical references etc but no professional historian regards the bible as history in academic terms - its faith. Finally your god's cruelty to innocents, especially in the OT but also in the NT.

I could go on for the best part of an hour but will spare you that.There,I feel better and just like RF I will leave.Just one last thought:if you feel you are able to pick up on a point or two, that you feel you can challenge, and thus make yourself feel better,do not forget the force of the other observations that are beyond satisfactory explanation, because I will notice it, if they are made reasonable timely, even though I will no longer respond on this site for,I suppose, the sake of my sanity.
(page   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13)

NOTICE: - The 'Response' facility on most articles is restricted to CT site members. Site members should login here. Comments/questions from non-site members should be sent to the Editor by e-mail.


Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism