The New Covenant| Dispensational Premilennialism and the Gospel
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God’s promise to make a New Covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:29f), is one of the most important promises of the entire Old Covenant. Most Christians today would affirm that we are under a New Covenant. The sacrificial world of Israel has been removed, and Christ’s perfect sacrifice is our atonement. Yet, what is not normally advertised is that the dispensational world does not believe that Jeremiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant, has been established.
There are, in the millennial world, three differing views concerning the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31.
First, some progressive Dispensational Premillenialists argue that the New Covenant has been “partially fulfilled” in the church. This view is by and large strongly rejected by most classical dispensationalists.
Second, there is what is known as the Two Covenant theory. This view suggest that there are two New Covenants, one for the church, the current gospel of grace, and the other (Jeremiah 31), for Israel exclusively, in the millennium. There is also the view of John Hagee that the Jews of today do not need to be evangelized, since they are still the direct heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant, and will be saved through that.
Third, the consensus view per Penney, is that the church in no way fulfills the New Covenant promise of Jeremiah 31, but that the church is nonetheless, “somehow ‘receiving the benefits’ from the New Covenant.” I suggest that the claim that the church is somehow receiving the benefits of a non-existent covenant is the epitome of sophistry. How can anyone receive the benefits of something that does not exist? That is somewhat like saying, “I don’t have a million dollars in the bank, but I receive the benefits of that (non-existent), million dollar account!”
The consensus among Dispensational Premillennialists is that the New Covenant has not yet been established with Israel. If however, it can be shown that the New Covenant has indeed been established, in the words of Penney, “there is no pre-tribulational rapture.” (Russell L. Penney, Tyndale Theological Seminary, Ft. Worth, Tx., “The Relationship of the Church to the New Covenant.” Internet article at: www.conservativeonline.org/journals/02_07_journal/1998v2n7_id05.htm). Walvoord says that if it could be proven that the New Covenant has been established, “it would be a crushing blow to the premillennial contention that there is a future kingdom.” (John Walvoord, Major Bible Prophecies, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1991)186). Pentecost says that, “If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the New Covenant or anywhere in the scriptures, then (dispensational) Premillennialism is condemned.” (Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1957)116).
Dispensational Premillennialism – A Brief Outline
I need now to outline the millennial concept of the New Covenant for the reader to understand that paradigm a bit better.
1.) God promised to make the New Covenant with Judah and Israel, not with the church. Per Dispensational Premillennialism, the distinction between Israel and the church is one of the most critical and foundational tenets of Biblical theology. The church does not receive Israel’s promises, and Israel does not receive the blessings of the church. Of course, it is insisted that the blessings of forgiveness belong to both entitites, but, in the Dispensational paradigm, Israel receives forgiveness through the Jeremiad Covenant, which is not the gospel of Christ.
2.) Due to Israel’s rebellion and unbelief, the church has temporarily replaced Israel in God’s program. Israel’s kingdom program has been suspended and postponed until the rapture. Ice cites Gentry, who says that the church has superceded Old Israel for all time, and responds by saying: “I could almost agree with his definition if he removed the phrase ‘all time.’ We dispensationalists believe that the church has superseded Israel during the current church age, but God has a future time in which He will restore national Israel ‘as the institution for the administration of divine blessings to the world.’” (Pre-Trib Perspectives, P. O. Box 14111, Arlington, Tx., Vol. VII, Number 3, August 2002).
3.) At the rapture, the church will be removed from this world, and God will resume His kingdom program with Israel.
4.) Israel signs the peace treaty with the anti-christ, and, “Judaism is revived, and traditional sacrifices and ceremonies are re-instituted in the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.” (Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Prophecy Watch, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1998)60).
5.) The anti-christ breaks the treaty with Israel, sets up the Abomination of Desolation and the Great Tribulation ensues. At its worst point, Jesus descends from heaven for the destruction of the forces of evil and the millennial reign ensues.
6.) With the salvation of Israel in the millennium, Jeremiah’s promise of the New Covenant is finally realized.
7.) Under the Jeremiad Covenant, Jerusalem is fully restored. Jesus sits on the literal throne of David. The temple is rebuilt (again). The priesthood is restored. Animal sacrifices are re-instituted, again. Circumcision is once again mandated by God.
While an examination of each of these distinctives would take volumes, for our purposes here, I want to ask, what happens to the gospel of Christ when this proposed Jeremiad covenant is established and the temple cultus is restored?
DISPENSATIONAL PREMILLENNIALISM AND THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
All believers would agree that the gospel of Christ, sanctified by his blood, is a marvelous thing, almost beyond description!
Through and under the gospel we are saved by grace through faith, not by Law.
Through and under the gospel all men in Christ are one. There are not to be any ethnic, social, political, economic, or other barriers between us.
Through and under the gospel man is free from the restrictions of the Old Law and being judged in regard to meat, drink, new moons, feast days, and the observance of days, weeks, months and years (Galatians 4; Colossians 2).
Through and under the gospel the law of circumcision as a characteristic identifying mark of the child of God is removed, for we receive the circumcision of the heart, a circumcision not made with hands, in faith and baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).
Through and under the gospel all believers are priests unto God, to offer up spiritual sacrifices (Hebrews 13:15; Revelation 1:5f).
Through and under the gospel, because we have the forgiveness of sin, animal sacrifices have been abolished because, “where there is remission of sin, there is no more sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:16-18).
Through and under the gospel, we memorialize the deliverance from sin and death through his sacrifice, in our Communion Supper. The Communion Supper is the memorial of deliverance. It is not “for atonement,” but a celebration of atonement.
I do not know of any millennialists that would deny the general validity of these statements. So, why would I state these universally agreed upon doctrines, in our discussion of the promised Jeremiad New Covenant and the proposed millennium? Here is why.
Our millennial friends believe that when the Jeremiad New Covenant is established in the proposed millennium things are different – totally different!
1.) According to Dispensational Premillennialism, In the millennium and the new covenant, Jew and Gentile distinctions will be restored. Pentecost says, “Gentiles will be the servants of Israel during that age.” (1957, 508). When the reign of Jehovah-Jesus is established, “the distinction of Israel from the Gentiles will again be resumed” (Pentecost, 1957, 519). He then cites Unger, who says that in the millennium, Israel is blessed directly, and the Gentiles only mediately and subordinately to the Jews–a state of things in diametrical contrast to Christianity.” (1957, 527).
2.) In the millennium those who do not observe the Sabbaths, the new moons, the feast days, the pilgrimages, etc. are condemned by JHVH This is based on Ezekiel 43-45 as well as Zechariah 14.
3.) In the millennium, those not circumcised cannot enter Jerusalem to worship, and without this privilege, they are condemned. (The question of circumcision in the millennium is one that Dispensationalists do not, understandably, like to discuss. However, in countless private discussions, and in formal public debates, I have asked millennialists if circumcision will be required in the millennium, and the invariable answer has been “Yes.” They have no recourse but to believe this based on Ezekiel 44:9).
4.) In the millennium, the Levitical priesthood is restored, and the priesthood of all believers is abolished. This is another theme that is disturbing to the millennialists. They like to deny that the Levitical priesthood will be restored, insisting instead that it will be a Zadokite priesthood. This is obfuscation. The Zadokites were Levitical!
5.) In the millennium, animal sacrifices, have now been caused to cease, and are forbidden due to the efficacious sacrifice of Christ, will be re-instituted and restored. In a radio debate with noted Dispensationalist J. Randall Price, I asked him if animal sacrifices would be restored in the millennium, in light of the fact that Christ’s sacrifice now abolishes them. He answered that while animal sacrifices are now abolished in Christ, that, “this does not mean that is the way it will be in the millennium.” Unfortunately, the archive of that debate was eliminated when the radio network that carried it sold, and they erased all previous programming.
6.) In the millennium, the Supper that memorializes our deliverance from sin and death will be abolished, and the animal sacrifices “for atonement” will be restored (Ezekiel 44-45).
Dispensationalists are very divided on the issue of the purpose of sacrifices in the millennium. Scofield insisted that they were to be memorial (Bible foot note on Ezekiel 43). On the other hand, Ice and Demy insist that this is not accurate stating that the millennial sacrifices “are for atonement rather than memorial.” (Prophecy Watch, 261). To admit that the restored bloody cult of Israel will be restored, for the purpose of “making the atonement” should be troubling to all serious students of the Bible. This is a rejection of the efficacy of Christ’s work of Atonement.
Now, it must be remembered that all of these praxis will be mandated by the New Covenant promised by Jeremiah. So, if the Jeremiad New Covenant will command the observance /restoration of all of these practices, that are now forbidden by, or mandated by the gospel of Christ, we have to ask our question again, what happens to the gospel of Jesus when this proposed Jeremiad covenant is established, and the temple cultus is restored?
With these preliminaries in mind, we will defer further comments until the next installment. In the meantime, I think that you can see that there are major problems when it comes to the doctrine of the New Covenant and Dispensational Premillennialism.