The ‘Mystery’ of Progressive Dispensationalism -- By: Jeremy M. Thomas

Journal: Conservative Theological Journal
Volume: CTJ 09:28 (Dec 2005)
Article: The ‘Mystery’ of Progressive Dispensationalism
Author: Jeremy M. Thomas


The ‘Mystery’ of Progressive Dispensationalism

Jeremy M. Thomas

Those calling themselves “progressive dispensationalists” have come up with a new way to define the term “mystery” in the NT. They have redefined the traditional dispensational idea in their attempts to find more continuity between the Testaments. But is their novel interpretation valid?

Introduction

There are twelve “mysteries” in the New Testament; ten divine and two satanic.1 In what sense are these twelve things “mysteries”? Were they “mysteries” in the sense of being mysterious? Were they “mysteries” in the sense that they were only partially revealed in the Old Testament? Were they “mysteries” in the sense that they were not in historical existence? Or were they “mysteries” in the sense that they were not previously revealed? Just what does the word “mystery” (musterion) mean? Nuances in definition can and do have significant bearing on the whole scope of systematic theology, particularly in the areas of ecclesiology, soteriology, and eschatology. Of direct inquiry in this paper is the definition of “mystery” in relation to ecclesiology (Eph 3:2–13; 1 Cor 15:51ff; Col 1:24–27; Eph 5:22–33). In what sense was the church a mystery? A much disputed passage related to the ‘mystery’ of the church is found in Ephesians 3:2–13. Covenant Theologians interpret this mystery as something partially revealed in the Old Testament and more fully revealed here in the New Testament. This significantly distinguishes Covenant Theology from Dispensationalism, which should be no surprise. However, the meaning of this word in this context also divides Traditional Dispensationalism from Progressive Dispensationalism. Traditional Dispensationalism is a system of theology that sees discontinuity of Israel and the Church as the dominant factor. Progressive Dispensationalism is a system that sees continuity of Israel and

the Church as the dominant factor. Therefore, the question is, “what is the meaning of the word “mystery” and does it support the continuity or discontinuity of Israel and the Church?” Paul wrote,

Ephesians 3:2–13 For this reason, I Paul, the prisoner of Christ [Jesus], for the sake of you Gentiles—surely you have heard of the administration of the grace of God that w...

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