Friday, June 28, 2024

Dispensationalism vs. Covenantalism

By Stan Feldsine -

Definition of Literal, Grammatical, Historical Methodology

Dispensationalism is more related to how one interprets the Bible, or a "hermeneutic". A Dispensationalist interprets the Bible using a "consistent literal, grammatical, and historical" method of interpretation.

Dispensationalism is not a theological system of understanding that is imposed on to the text, so as to modify the plain reading of the text, rather, it is an understanding that arises out of the method of interpretation and the plain reading of the text.

A "literal interpretation" is defined as a type of interpretation that is based on the actual words in their ordinary meaning, while not reading back into the text more than it actually says. Words in the Bible are assigned the same meaning they would have in normal usage in normal conversation.

David L. Cooper's “Golden Rule of Interpretation” incorporates what is meant by a "literal" interpretation:

"When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise."

With a literal hermeneutic we seek to understand what the writer was plainly speaking, and we understand that that plain speech is how the writer communicated to the original hearers and how the writers original hearers understood the text. It cannot mean something different to us today than what it meant to the original hearers then.

DISPENSATIONAL HERMENEUTICS: The Grammatico -Historical Method by Andy Woods

Definition of Dispensationalism says:

"Dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Gen 1:1Gen 3:7), Conscience (Gen 3:8Gen 8:22), Human Government (Gen 9:1Gen 11:32), Promise (Gen 12:1Exo 19:25), Law (Exo 20:1Act 2:4), Grace (Act 2:4Rev 20:3), and the Millennial Kingdom (Rev 20:4-6). Again, these dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Each dispensation includes a recognizable pattern of how God worked with people living in the dispensation. That pattern is 1) a responsibility, 2) a failure, 3) a judgment, and 4) grace to move on."

This plain reading, or literal interpretation of scripture by Dispensationalist results in biblical understanding that is pre-millennial and usually is a pre-tribulational understanding of the rapture. It also results in an understanding that the church and Israel are two distinct people groups.

There are 3 sine qua non (indispensable conditions) of Dispensationalism:

  1. A consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy.

  2. A view of the uniqueness of Israel as separate from the Church in God’s program.

  3. Our purpose is doxological, meaning that our purpose is to bring honor and praise to God. explains in "What is dispensationalism and is it biblical?":

Philosophy of the Literal, Grammatical, Historical Methodology

Using a consistent literal, grammatical, and historical method of Bible interpretation will avoid pitfalls and bad interpretations.

As Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum points out in "Israelology - The Missing Link in Systematic Theology", J. Dwight Pentecost cites four dangers when a literal approach is not used, and an interpretive method such as the Allegorical Method is used in it's place:

  1. The authority of the text transfers from the text to the interpreter. The interpreter becomes the final word on what the text is saying. Instead of relying on the text as it is plainly written, we read between the lines and add interpretation that ultimately comes from our own will and imagination.

    We end up understanding things that say one thing but allegedly mean another, and those whom we are teaching are tied to the instructor instead of the text. The text becomes subjective instead of objective.

    Dr. John F. Walvoord observes:

    "It’s not too difficult to account for the widespread approval of the spiritualizing method adopted by many conservative theologians as well as liberal and Roman Catholic expositors. Fundamentally its charm lies in its flexibility. The interpreter can change the literal and grammatical sense of Scripture to make it coincide with his own system of interpretation."

  1. Scripture itself becomes subject to what the interpreter thinks.

  2. The student is left with no way to test the conclusions of the interpreter. The objective standards of the plain text is done away with through the interpreters subjective interpretation. In this scenario, each interpreters interpretation becomes just as valid as the others, and the means to determine correct interpretation is no longer a possibility.

  3. Once the door is opened to allow the interpreter to read between the lines and pull out subjective interpretations by spiritualizing the text, there are no restrictions on the interpreter to prevent run away speculation and imaginings. The literal interpretive method relies upon the text itself to keep the interpreter reigned in.

Allegorical Method of Interpretation

6. The Contextual Method Of Biblical Interpretation

"... the abuses of the non-historical, non-grammatical method led to the formulation of another school of interpretation. The Historical-Grammatical textual-focused school of Antioch of Syria (third century) accused the allegorist of:

1. importing meaning into the text

2. forcing a hidden meaning into every text

3. putting forth fanciful and far-fetched interpretation

4. not allowing words and sentences to bear their obvious, normal meaning (Sire 1980, 107)

5. allowing human subjectivity to dominate the plain message of the original author"

Another way to describe the "Allegorical" method of interpretation is "spiritualizing" the text. It is also characterized by interpreting plainly written passages as being symbolic of some deeper meaning.

What is wrong with the allegorical interpretation method?


"Allegorical interpretation looks for a deeper, spiritual meaning within the text. While not necessarily denying that the text has a literal meaning or that the historical incidents reported are true, allegorical interpreters will look for a deeper symbolic meaning."

Interpretation as Related to Law as an Example

Arguably, the American system of government, consisting of 3 branches of government providing checks and balances between the judicial, legislative, and executive branches are based on a biblical pattern.

Isa 33:22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.

The Lord is our judge - the judiciary

The Lord is our lawgiver - the legislature

The Lord is our king - the executive branch

What Happened When We Were Not Looking

In law, a literal interpretation of an existing law is called "textualism". Textualism is the equivalent of "literal, grammatical, historical" biblical interpretation. A judge that interprets the existing constitution or law "textually" is called an "originalist".

The battle for the judiciary today is over the appointment of judges who are either textual originalist, or liberal revisionist.

Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett are textual originalist. They follow a literal, grammatical historical method of interpretation of law.

With the Civil Rights Act of 1964 the issue was discrimination of women on the basis of biological sex. The passage of the act provided for equal rights for women.

The judiciary, in response to a case brought before them referred to as "Bostock v. Clayton County", ruled that in the 1964 Civil Rights Act applied to transgenderism and gender identity, meaning that the 1964 law was to be applicable not only to a biological woman, but also a man identifying as a woman.

What happened here? What interpretive method was used to draw their conclusion of this law?

Justice Gorsuch’s Legal Philosophy Has a Precedent Problem

How should a textualist deal with bad case law?

"Justice Neil Gorsuch is a proud textualist. According to this approach, what Congress intended, or expected, when it passed a law doesn’t matter. What matters are the words printed on paper. In practice, Justice Gorsuch will strictly follow the text of statutes, no matter what result it yields. Last month, (2020/06) he decided that the 1964 Civil Rights Act has always prohibited LGBTQ discrimination. Everyone had simply missed it for half a century. And at the close of the Court’s term, he determined that an 1833 treaty between the federal government and American Indian tribes was never formally rescinded. Who knew that eastern Oklahoma has been Indian Country all along?

In both cases, Justice Gorsuch insisted he was sticking to the text, the whole text, and nothing but the text. Alas, he wasn’t. His interpretation was shaded by the work of justices who had not been so careful about text. And in both cases, Justice Gorsuch failed to acknowledge that the Court’s precedents were inconsistent with textualism. In doing so, he inadvertently undermined textualism’s justification. One can’t profess to follow the original meaning of a text while in fact following precedents that ignored that meaning. Going forward, he should criticize prior decisions that failed to take text seriously, and either reluctantly follow them, or formally abandon them."


  1. Instead of using the plain text of the law, they relied on prior cases.

  2. They inserted meaning into the law that did not exist in the mind of the original writers.

  3. Their conclusion in effect created new law that did not previously exist, and in so doing, usurped the role of the legislature.

  4. This is called an "activist judiciary". An "activist judiciary" is one that creates law. It could be on the basis of personal conviction, or on the basis of popular demand. In either case, it is usurpation of the role of the legislative branch, and is called "legislating from the bench".

  5. What happens to the American Legislative branch if the judiciary takes over the role of creating law through the reinterpretation of what the legislatures intent was?

How does this relate to bible interpretation?

  1. When the interpreter decides what the text says, there is no limit to how far off base they can go. The original intent of the writers is lost.

  2. Case based interpretation removes the interpreter from the text, and make them subservient to the opinions of others. It is presuppositional. I.E. personal conviction or popular demand claims the text says x, so the text is molded to fit.

  3. False teachings come out of the minds of men.

Literal--> Dispensationalism --- Allegorical--> Covenantalism

From a broad point of view, a consistent literal grammatical and historical method of interpretation results fundamentally in a Dispensational theological view of scripture, and an allegorical or spiritualized method of interpretation results fundamentally in Covenant theological view of scripture.

A Dispensational view of scripture is one in which the coming of Christ in relation to the Millennial Kingdom is a futurist Pre-Millennial viewpoint of eschatology that maintains an Israel / Church distinction, and see's much of prophecy yet to be fulfilled in the future.

A Covenant view of scripture is one in which the coming of Christ in relation to the Millennial Kingdom is either a historicist Pre-Millennial, Post-Millennial or A-Millennial viewpoint of eschatology that conflates Israel and the Church, and see's much of prophecy as already fulfilled in the past.

A-Millennialism can be further broken down into subgroups including Preterism and Partial Preterism, which teach that all prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD including the second coming (Full Preterist), or that all prophecy except the second coming and the last two or three chapters of Revelation have been fulfilled in the past (Partial Preterist).

Post-Millennialism can be broken down into two subgroups. Dominionist and Pentecostal Charismatics.

Specific beliefs of movements and individuals break down into a complex spectrum, and it is beyond the high level purpose of this study to get into that level.

  • Literal, Grammatical, Historical --> Dispensational Theology --> Pre-Millennialism

  • Allegorical or Spiritualization --> Covenant Theology --> A-Millennialism, Post-Millennialism, historicist Pre-Millennialism.

Dispensational Theology

A consistent literal, grammatical and historical interpretation of scripture provides an understanding that there are differing administrations or periods of history in which God dealt with mankind, and in particular, Israel. The purpose behind these differing administrations was for God to reveal Himself to man a little at a time, and in stages. This is called "Progressive Revelation".

Progressive Revelation

Examples of progressive revelation are seen in the difference in the way God relates to man from Adam until the flood, from the flood to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, and from Moses until Christ, from the giving of the Holy Spirit to the Millennium, and from the Millennium to the Eternal State.

In each of these time periods, there are commands, requirements, warnings and promises that are new, that end, and that continue. For example:

  • Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is a command that is no longer applicable.

  • Before the flood, God had provided the plants of the earth for food, but Noah was told after the flood that he could eat meat.

  • Abraham was the progenitor of the Israelites through Isaac and Jacob. That was new.

  • 430 years after Abraham, the Israelites were given the Law of Moses. This law only applied to Israel, and it only applied for a specific period of time, until Christ came. This period of time also saw the distinction between the Old (Mosaic) and the New Covenants.

And so we can see that some things had beginning points, and some of those things came to and end while others continued. One thing that has continued, for example, is the command not to kill other human beings. So each of these differing period of time in which God was advancing the revelation of Himself are called "dispensations", hence, Dispensationalism.

Where Covenant Theology, to be discussed next, is seeking uniformity in the written word, I.E. "one people of God", Dispensationalist are noticing discontinuity, or differences in the way God relates to people.

Israel and the Church

The principle of discontinuity in the way God relates to people through the ages carries through to the identities of Israel and the Church. A literal reading of scripture reveals that Israel and the Church are treated as two distinct groups. Israel is an ethnic national group, while the Church is a multiethnic and has no national identity.

When Jesus spoke of the church, he said, "I will build my church" (Mat 16:18). The "will" in the Greek is in the future tense. Jesus did not ever address the church in the past tense, to Him it was a future work. It would also be known as "the body of Christ", and would be indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who had not yet been sent. The start of the Church was at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came in power. Covenant theology sees the church originating early in the Old Testament.

Additionally there are many passages of scripture that speak of Israel as a unique entity, such as 2Sa 7:10-16, Eze 36:22-24, Eze 37:1, Jer 31:33, Jer 31:36, etc.

Dispensations in Progressive Revelation

Although differing theologians see differing numbers of dispensations, the seven basic dispensations are listed here:

Dispensation of Innocence - This period was marked from the creation of Adam and Eve until the fall. Until they ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were innocent. Their innocence ended when they ate the forbidden fruit (Gen 1:28-30, Gen 2:15-17).

Dispensation of Conscience - Lasting 1656 years, this period was marked from the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden until the flood. This period was marked by the revelation of what mankind would do if left to their own conscience when tainted by sin (Gen 3:8 to Gen 8:22).

5 Major aspects of this dispensation are:

  1. Curse on the serpent

  2. Change in womanhood and childbearing

  3. Curse on nature

  4. Work to produce food became difficult

  5. Christ was promised as the seed who would bruise the serpent's head.

Dispensation of Human Government - Lasting 325 years, after God destroyed life on earth with a flood, it made the following promises and commands:

  1. God would not curse the earth again.

  2. Noah and family were to reproduce and replenish the earth.

  3. Noah and family would have dominion over the animal creation.

  4. They are allowed to eat meat.

  5. Capital punishment is established.

  6. God would never flood the earth again.

  7. The sign of God's promise is the rainbow.

Unfortunately, Noah and family did not scatter and fill the earth as commanded. Instead, their descendants began to build the Tower of Babel 325 years after the flood (Gen 11:7-9). Therefore, God scattered them and gave them different languages, giving rise to different nations and cultures.

Dispensation of Promise - Lasting 430 years, this period started with the call of Abraham, and continued through the patriarchs until the Exodus. The promises given during this time were:

  1. From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.

  2. God would make Abraham's name great.

  3. God would bless those that bless Israel, and curse those that curse Israel.

  4. Through Abraham, all the families of earth would be blessed, fulfilled in Christ.

  5. The sign of this Covenant with Israel was physical circumcision.

  6. The covenant was confirmed through Isaac and Jacob, and was confined to Israel.

Dispensation of Law - Lasting almost 1500 years, this period God dealt with Israel by giving them the Law of Moses which was in effect until the time of Christ (Ex 19-23). It was suspended at His death. In included temple worship through priests, prophesy through the prophets.

Dispensation of Grace - Lasting about 2,000 years so far, this is the current time period we are now living in. It began with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and will end with the Rapture of the Church. This dispensation includes Israel and Gentiles, and requires only that we believe on Jesus Christ for salvation. The Holy Spirit indwells believers during this time.

Millennial Kingdom of Christ - This period will last 1000 years (Rev 20:6), and is a period of time where Christ will reign on earth as King. Many prophecies regarding Israel and the earthly kingdom will be fulfilled during this time. Satan will be bound during this time. This period will end with the final judgment (Rev 20:11-14). The old world will be destroyed by fire, and a New Heaven and New Earth will begin.

Covenant Theology

Covenant Theology consists of basically two covenants, a Covenant of Works, and a Covenant of Grace. These "covenants" are inferred, as they are not found in scripture. Hodge, a Post-Millenialist, states regarding the "Covenant of Works" that "it does not rest upon any express declaration of the scriptures". In the meantime, the actual Covenants, such as Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, etc. are glossed over and minimized. As a result, all the explicit covenants become merely parts of the inferred covenants.

Covenant of Works

"The Covenant of Works" was made by God with Adam in the Garden. The agreement was that if Adam would obey God, follow Him, and resist eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the he would retain eternal life.

Presumably there would have been a probationary period in which Adam was tested, and the life that was promised was not just physical life, but eternal life. Nevertheless, Adam ate from the tree, and forfeited this life.

Since this agreement was life for obedience, it is called a Covenant of Works. Even though Covenant Theologians agree this "Covenant" is not specifically stated, it is implied by the statement "If you eat of it you will die". Of course, according to Romans 5 we know that in Adam, all have sinned and are deserving of the same death.

Covenant of Grace

"The Covenant of Grace" was made by God with the elect (Calvinist, Reformed) or with all of mankind. So in order to save sinners then, God makes another agreement, called "The Covenant of Grace". God, knowing that another "works" type agreement would not work, because works would not be able to fully pay the grievous price for the sin, God determines to send His Son to redeem mankind from the penalty of Adam's sin. In exchange for Christ's death, sinners will receive the righteousness of Christ. Our sin in imputed to Christ, it is charged against Him, and He pays the cost. This Covenant of Grace covers from Gen 3 to Rev 22. It covers the sin of everyone from Adam onward, OT and NT.

Some Covenant theologians claim the Covenant of Grace started with Adam's fall, and others believe it was started with the start of the Abrahamic Covenant.

A Unifying View

This provides for a unifying view of the whole Bible, and adherents view the OT the same as the NT. For example, they see that the way we understand the Holy Spirit under the NT is the same understanding that people in the OT experienced Him, including His indwelling, sealing, and empowering.

When you ask what happened at Pentecost, or what is new in the New Covenant, the answer is that those events provided an extension, projecting the OT truths on into the future and to greater numbers of people. No longer for just Israel, but now for Gentiles as well. So in this way, the Mosaic, Davidic, New Covenants are just extensions of the Grace Covenant, not new covenants themselves.

Dispensationalism views it differently, not as the same things being extended or expanded, but that something new has come about. The Spirit was only sent after Christ's ascension as something new, or the Law of Moses was set aside as something new took it's place.

Israel and the Church

An important area to consider regarding Covenant Theology is Israel and the church. CT adherents, with their uniformity view between the OT and the NT sees Israel as the people of God, and the church as the people of God. So this results in them seeing each as the same people. So there is really only one people of God in both testaments, both saved by faith, both serving the same God, both special objects of God's saving love. So the people of God becomes a spiritual people, and the physical differences are not considered, such as ethnicity.

Unfulfilled Promises

But that leaves the question of the promises to Israel in the OT that are yet unfulfilled. The answer to that is these promises are to be fulfilled in the church, and Israel has no special place in the plans of God for their future. This leads to spiritualization of the text, in that the promises of a land and a kingdom for the Jews in the future really means a spiritual kingdom that applies to the church, both Jews and Gentiles.

Promises of Israel's Land

Literal promises to the Jews as offspring of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been forfeited due to their rejection of Christ and have been reapplied to the church. The Land accordingly now belongs to the church.

Here are some prophetic references that are spiritualized by CT that result in Israel being denied their promised land. The plain reading indicates that the land promises are to Israel alone. CT spiritualizes the texts with the result that Israel is no longer the sole owner of the land. Israel, by virtue of being members of the church, now share the land with the world. Rom 4:13 is the proof text for this, even though Rom 4:13 is referring to spiritual, not physical blessings.

Gen 13:14-16 The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, "Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. (15) All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. (16) I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.

Gen 15:18-21 On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates-- (19) the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, (20) Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, (21) Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites."

Gen 17:7-8 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. (8) The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God."

Exo 23:31 "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.

Lev 26:40-46 "'But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors--their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, (41) which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies--then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, (42) I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. (43) For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. (44) Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God. (45) But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.'" (46) These are the decrees, the laws and the regulations that the LORD established at Mount Sinai between himself and the Israelites through Moses.

Num 34:2-15 "Command the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries: (3) "'Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start in the east from the southern end of the Dead Sea, (4) cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, (5) where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea. (6) "'Your western boundary will be the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This will be your boundary on the west. (7) "'For your northern boundary, run a line from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor (8) and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, (9) continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north. (10) "'For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. (11) The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee. (12) Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea. "'This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.'" (13) Moses commanded the Israelites: "Assign this land by lot as an inheritance. The LORD has ordered that it be given to the nine and a half tribes, (14) because the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance. (15) These two and a half tribes have received their inheritance east of the Jordan across from Jericho, toward the sunrise."

Deu 1:7-8 Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. (8) See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the LORD swore he would give to your fathers--to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--and to their descendants after them."

Deu 11:24 Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea.

Deu 34:1-4 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land--from Gilead to Dan, (2) all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, (3) the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. (4) Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."

Jos 1:2-3 "Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them--to the Israelites. (3) I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.

Jos 13:6-8 "As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, (7) and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh." (8) The other half of Manasseh, the Reubenites and the Gadites had received the inheritance that Moses had given them east of the Jordan, as he, the servant of the LORD, had assigned it to them.

1Ch 5:9 To the east they occupied the land up to the edge of the desert that extends to the Euphrates River, because their livestock had increased in Gilead.

Psa 105:8-11 He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations, (9) the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. (10) He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: (11) "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit."

Jer 3:14-18 "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion. (15) Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. (16) In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land," declares the LORD, "people will no longer say, 'The ark of the covenant of the LORD.' It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made. (17) At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts. (18) In those days the people of Judah will join the people of Israel, and together they will come from a northern land to the land I gave your ancestors as an inheritance.

Jer 32:37 I will surely gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in safety.

Eze 37:14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.'"

Eze 37:25 They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever.

Eze 47:13-23 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "These are the boundaries of the land that you will divide among the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance, with two portions for Joseph. (14) You are to divide it equally among them. Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it to your ancestors, this land will become your inheritance. (15) "This is to be the boundary of the land: "On the north side it will run from the Mediterranean Sea by the Hethlon road past Lebo Hamath to Zedad, (16) Berothah and Sibraim (which lies on the border between Damascus and Hamath), as far as Hazer Hattikon, which is on the border of Hauran. (17) The boundary will extend from the sea to Hazar Enan, along the northern border of Damascus, with the border of Hamath to the north. This will be the northern boundary. (18) "On the east side the boundary will run between Hauran and Damascus, along the Jordan between Gilead and the land of Israel, to the Dead Sea and as far as Tamar. This will be the eastern boundary. (19) "On the south side it will run from Tamar as far as the waters of Meribah Kadesh, then along the Wadi of Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea. This will be the southern boundary. (20) "On the west side, the Mediterranean Sea will be the boundary to a point opposite Lebo Hamath. This will be the western boundary. (21) "You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. (22) You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. (23) In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance," declares the Sovereign LORD.

Promises of a Literal Throne of David in Israel's Land

Some examples of spiritualizing the text to deny the Throne of David.

The Throne of David accordingly is now understood as a "spiritual concept" of blessing and possibly heavenly destination as the church.

2Sa 7:10-16 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning (11) and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. "'The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: (12) When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. (13) He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (14) I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. (15) But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (16) Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.'"

Mat 25:31-32 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. (32) All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Luk 1:32-33 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, (33) and he will reign over Jacob's descendants forever; his kingdom will never end."

Rev 3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Promises of Israel's Continued Existence as a Nation

National Israel no longer exists and the Jews have been absorbed or will be absorbed into the church.

Jer 31:35-36 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD Almighty is his name: (36) "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will Israel ever cease being a nation before me."

Rom 11:25-26 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, (26) and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.

Rom 11:1-2 I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. (2) God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don't you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah--how he appealed to God against Israel:

Rom 11:28-29 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, (29) for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.

The Promise of the Holy Spirit At Pentecost (Not Since Adam)

Another example of spiritualizing is in how they determine that the Holy Spirit was indwelling all of the people in the OT. They reason out that since the people in the OT had faith, and John 3 says the spirit gives birth to spirit, then they say the Israelites must have had the Holy Spirit or they wouldn't have been saved.

There is a general failure to associate the events of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Num 11:16-17 The LORD said to Moses: "Bring me seventy of Israel's elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. (17) I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

Num 11:25-29 Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied--but did not do so again. (26) However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. (27) A young man ran and told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp." (28) Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (29) But Moses replied, "Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!"

Jer 31:31-33 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. (32) It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. (33) "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Eze 36:26-28 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (28) Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.

Mat 16:18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Joh 7:38-39 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (39) By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Joh 14:15-16 "If you love me, keep my commands. (16) And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever--

Joh 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Act 1:4-5 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. (5) For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Act 11:15-17 "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. (16) Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' (17) So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God's way?"

Infant Baptism

One of the things that some Covenant Theology followers do is baptize infants. The reason this is done is because in the OT, the sign of the Israelites being a part of the covenant was circumcision. Circumcision was administered to infants 8 days old. Now that Christ has come, we are all the "new" Israel, and they baptism infants as the mark of Jesus' death and resurrection.


Q137 : Covenant, Reformed, and Dispensational Theology

Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism

What is the preterist view of the end times?

Is partial preterism biblical?

What are the seven dispensations?


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