Current Messianic Activity and OT Davidic Promise: Dispensationalism, Hermeneutics, and NT Fulfillment -- By: Darrell L. Bock

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 15:1 (Spring 1994)
Article: Current Messianic Activity and OT Davidic Promise: Dispensationalism, Hermeneutics, and NT Fulfillment
Author: Darrell L. Bock


Current Messianic Activity and OT Davidic Promise:
Dispensationalism, Hermeneutics,
and NT Fulfillment

Darrell L. Bock*

Dispensationalism has been the object of caricature for at least four decades. The term dispensation refers to an administrative arrangement in the plan of God. The theological system of dispensationalism attempts to discuss the nature of these different arrangements within God’s plan, “to rightly divide the Word of God.” Everyone recognizes two such periods: Israel and the church. Dispensationalists, being premillenarians, discuss three periods: Israel, the church, and the period of Christ’s rule on earth after he returns, also called the millennium or the kingdom. Among the caricatures that have surrounded dispensationalism’s attempts to describe God’s plan are: (1) that it has two ways of salvation; (2) that it is antinomian in soteriology; (3) that it denies the current relevance of the Sermon on the Mount; (4) that the gospels and Jesus’ teaching are largely irrelevant for the church; (5) that dispensationalism is disinterested in ministry in the wider culture and is pessimistic in its approach to ministry; (6) that all it cares about is the future, Israel, and the pretribulational rapture; and (7) that the kingdom of God (or heaven) is strictly future. While any one of these views or combinations of them might be taught by a dispensationalist or found in some pockets of dispensationalism, as a group they do not describe mainstream dispensationalism of the latter part of the twentieth century.

Dispensationalism has never been as monolithic as its opponents have portrayed it. History shows a variety of views within dispensationalism, especially on one of the central themes of the Bible, the kingdom of God.1 Within this variety, describing the nature of the distinction between Israel and the church in God’s plan has always been key. As a result, dispensationalism is known as a theology that highlights discontinuity in Scripture over continuity.

* Darrell L. Bock is Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary.

But another characteristic of dispensationalism is its desire to measure itself constantly by Scripture. This dynamic has produced recent “in house” discussions among dispensationalists about the kingdom and covenant promise. It has resulted in a proposal that sees much greater continuity in the kingdom plan than have previous forms of dispensationalism, producing much discussion and interest among evangelicals both inside and outside the tradition.2 This essay summarizes the basic issues of this new dia...

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