Monday, September 26, 2011

Prophecy, Israel and the church

Romans 11:26 "And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"

2 Thessalonians 2:1 "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him"

1 Thessalonians 1:10 "And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come."

One sure thing, God's people won't have to suffer wrath
    One of the "definites" of eschatology is the fact that the people of God will not have to suffer the wrath of God at the end of the age.  If you will recall from part one of this blog series, "definites" comprise the core area of any Bible doctrine.  The fact that God's saints won't have to undergo the final outpouring of wrath in the end is an unmoveable truth (please compare 1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Its the one fact that distinguishes the destiny of the saints from those who reject Christ ultimately and finally.
    Now in today's blog we want to consider positions that stem from this definite conviction.  When it comes to identifying the people of God in the Bible, the Bible tells us that there are two such designations - Israel and the church.  The place where differences arise is in whether or not these are two different names for God's people, or whether thet are two distinct categories with distinct characteristics.  We will now briefly consider the major positions on these, as well as there implications for understanding Bible prophecy.  The first position we will consider is what Bible teachers call "dispensationalism".

Two positions on how God has administered salvation in human history

      How God deals with His people and how He runs our world and salvation is a major discussion in the study of eschatology.  The first position pictures our world as "God's house" over which God has placed human beings and His people to manage and run.  In the Old Testament it was Israel, and in the New Testament it is the church.  This system or "economy" of God's dealing with Israel, and then the church, is what we call "dispensationalism". 

What is a dispensation?
 A dispensation is a period of time by which He administrates salvation and tests human beings in response to whether they will trust in Him or rebel.  Dispensationalists see Israel and the church as two sets of God's people, with Israel being now set aside but later restored.  Dispensationalists differ on how many "periods" or "dispensations" there have been in history.  Typically the scheme is to have a dispensation of law, followed by the current church age, with a final age of the Millennium (which is why dispensationalists are typically Pre-millennial).

This description of course is very general and does not take into consideration that various adjustments that have occured in this viewpoint over the years.  However for now this will suffice in helping us understand this particular approach to the Bible as it pertains to eschatology (or the study of prophecy).  In tomorrow's blog we will look at a second approach to understanding how God guides history and prophecy - Covenant theology

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