Category Archives: End Times

The Gap Solves Everything??

Literal Interpretation vs. Convenient Gaps

Arguments over eschatology often culminate when one party says to the other, “Brother, just read the Bible.” For whatever reason the person who says this usually believes that this statement scores him an automatic point. I agree that the Bible must be our ultimate source when we are discussing doctrines, however, how a person reads the Bible then becomes a very important matter.

There are some Christians who claim to be strict literal interpreters of the Scripture and yet how they define literal is very selective in deed. One of the areas where supposed literal interpreters of the Bible like to play carefree with the facts is in that area of Biblical interpretation that deals with time. A few examples should illustrate what I mean.

  • The early chapters of Genesis can be embarrassing when compared with the discoveries of modern science, so we will place a gap of indeterminate length between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
  • Jesus only seemed to say that he would be “coming soon.” Soon is not a term that has anything to do with length of time, but means that His coming could be at “any moment.” So soon in reality means immanent.
  • In Daniel’s vision of the “70 Weeks,” the time table that the text brings us is long since over with, but the “strict literalists” again find a gap of indeterminate length between the 69th and 70th week.
  • This generation in Matthew 24:34 does not mean. this generation it means…and there is a long list of corrections to what Jesus said so that are able to save Jesus from an embarrassing “false prophecy.”
The Gap Solves Everything??

The Gap Solves Everything??

Hal Lindsey begins his “Late Great Planet Earth.” with a comparison between Biblical Prophets and other so called predictors of the future. The # 1 criteria he lists is that the prophet of God must be 100% correct. If they are not, then they are not a Biblical prophet. He then shows how famed astrologist Jeanne Dixon fails the test of a true prophet. I am in no way defending Jeanne Dixon, but Hal seems to be operating with a stacked deck.

If I predicted that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series next year, and I staked my entire reputation on that prediction, who would let me get away with inserting a gap of indeterminate length between my prediction and the someday future fulfillment? I don’t think anyone would let me have a pass and yet many of the “most respected” voices of Biblical prophecy want us to believe this is the way the Bible is written.

I do know there are difficult passages in the Bible that are not always the easiest to interpret, however, when the Bible speaks in terms of time, we don’t have to make excuses for the supposed mistakes. It is amazing, when we let the Bible actually mean what it says, how much clarity there is.

One of the scenarios I listed above is Daniel’s 70 weeks. I have read all kinds of fascinating and inventive scenarios regarding Daniel’s 70 weeks. But what is at the heart of all of them is the idea that in order for Biblical Prophecy to be fulfilled accurately one of those Gaps of indeterminate length must be inserted between the 69th and 70th week. Rather than strengthening one’s belief in Biblical prophecy such an interpretive scheme actually undermines one’s believe in the clear meaning of the text.

The events spoken of in the vision of Daniel’s 70 weeks were all fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I will write about this a little bit more in my next entry.

A Couple Dispensational Problems

The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction between Israel and the Church. This grows out of the dispensationalists’ consistent employment of normal or plain interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself through salvation and other purposes as well. —    Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today

In the above quote Charles Ryrie, a leading dispensationalist expresses his view that the key tenant of Dispensational theology is the distinction between Israel and the Church.   What is really interesting about this “distinctive” doctrine, is that prior to the 19th century it was unheard of any where in Church history.

Keith Mathison in his excellent book on Dispensationalism, titled “Dispensationalism: Rightly Dividing the People of God?” says:`“The early church fathers are almost unanimous in their identification of the church and Israel.   One example will suffice.  Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165) is often quoted by dispensationalists attempting to prove the history of premillennialism.   He (Martyr) was a premillennialist, but he was certainly not a dispensationalist.   In chapter 135 of his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin writes, “As therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israeliteic race.   Here is Justin, a gentile church leader speaking to Trypho a Jew, and claiming that the church is the true Israel.”

Dispensationalists in their attempt to to defend the historic standing of their position, equate dispensationalism with pre-millennialism.  But the two are not the same, and dispensationalism is definitely the new kid on the block.  I did a paper a few years ago where I listed five specific views that dispensationalists hold that separate them from not only historic premillennialism, but historic Christian teaching in general.   I will discuss a couple of those here.

First,    dispensationalism teaches that God has two distinct programs in history.  One is for Israel and one for the church.   As I mentioned earlier the distinctive doctrine of dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the church.  How God deals with these two groups of people in history is a consequence of this distinctive view.

J. Dwight Pentecost, a leading dispensationalist, in his book “Things to Come,”  says that the church is made up of the “heavenly people of God.”   Clarence Larkin, says “The Church is not the old Jewish dispensation in another form.  It is an entirely new thing.   It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and was unknown by the Old Testament prophets.   It was first revealed by Christ and was future in His day.”  You may be familiar with Clarence Larkin’s as he is one of the first to make all the elaborate end times charts.

Probably the most influential of all the purveyors of dispensationalist doctrine was Cyrus I. Scofield.  In his notes on Romans 11:1 he wrote,“The Christian is of the heavenly seed of Abraham (Gen. 15:5-6; Ga. 3:29), and partakes of the spiritual blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 15:18), but Israel as a nation always has its own place, and is yet to have its greatest exaltation as the earthly people of God.”

Not only is this position that God has different plans for Israel and the Church theologically dangerous it is also deceitful.   If by “Israel,” they mean national, unbelieving, political Israel, and by “the Church,” they are referencing believers, then obviously we are dealing with two distinct groups of people,  But the historic position of the Church of Jesus Christ has always made this distinction.

Both Scripture and the historic Church teach that all believers in all ages have one God, one Savior, and Lord Jesus Christ.   There is only one way of salvation, and only one eternal destiny.   The believers of all ages are one body and not two.   They are one bride not two.

Secondly, dispensationalism teaches that the church and the church age is a “mystery.”  What they mean when they say this is that there were no Old Testament prophecies about the Church.  You can briefly summarize that position by saying that “prophecy is for Israel.”

I mentioned Clarence Larkin earlier as the guy who drew all the prophecy charts.  One of his drawings  is attached here.  The drawing is called “The Mountain Peaks of Prophecy.”  Larkin says of this drawing, “The Old Testament prophets spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21).  They did not understand what they prophesied.  (1 Peter 1:10-12.)   They believed that their prophecies as Christ were all to be fulfilled as His first coming.  This accounts for why the people of Christ’s day looked for Him to set up a “temporal kingdom.”  They did not see that this dispensation was to intervene between the cross (The sufferings of Christ), and the crown.  (The Glory that should follow) (1 Peter 1:11).  The prophets saw the events they foretold as separate peaks of one great mountain.”

Notice in the drawing there is a large “Valley of the Church,” which none of the prophetic vision is able to glimpse.  According to Larkin, Pentecost, and dispensational theology the Church  is never spoken of in the Old Testament.   Pentecost says, “It is unrevealed in the Old Testament.”

Let me be clear, like their distinctive teaching about Israel and the Church this teaching too is novel.  Scripture and historic Christian teach both contradict this view.   Dispensationalism, identifies the birth of the church at the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, and yet in Acts 3:24 we read “and all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.”

The idea that the Old Testament prophets foresaw nothing of the Church age is not only preposterous, it has done great damage to the church in terms of her mission, and her calling.  If the Old Testament does not speak to the church, then where, and how does the church understand obedience?  Remember we don’t become a kingdom of priests without obedience, and what exactly is it that we are supposed to obey.  According to the dispensationalist more than three fourths’ of the Bible just does not apply.