DISPENSATIONALISM’S INCONSISTENT LITERALISM (2)

PMT 2014-039 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

In this article I continuing an expose of populist dispensationalism’s claim to consistent literalism. This study was begun in my last blog post (PMT 2014-038). This is an important argument that can be effectively used against dispensationalists. Unless, of course, they simply write you off as figurative, not being a real person. In which case, I don’t know what to tell you.

According to Ezekiel 45, the “millennial” sacrifices actually “make reconciliation” (Eze 45:15, 17, 20. The prophecy uses the piel of the Hebrew kaphar (as in Lev 6:30; 8:15; 16:6ff). But Pentecost notes that “the sacrifices will be memorial in character.” [1] Yet this question needs to be faced by self-professed literalists: what literalist, reading the phrase “make reconciliation,” would surmise that this is only “memorial”? Where is the consistent literalism here? Some dispensationalists allow that this passage “is not to be taken literally,” but is merely “using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day.” [2] This is convenient but illegitimate, for it breaches the claim to “consistent” literalism.


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In The New Scofield Reference Bible at Ezekiel 43:19 we read: “The reference to sacrifices is not to be taken literally, in view of the putting away of such offering, but is rather to be regarded as a presentation of the worship of redeemed Israel, in her own land and in the millennial temple, using the terms with which the Jews were familiar in Ezekiel’s day.” Though it diminishes the final work of Christ (cf. Heb 10:10), at least Johnston maintains literalism when he declares: “The Prince and the Zadokites will offer sacrifices to YHWH to make atonement for sins and express worship: sin, guilt, burnt, grain, drink, freewill, and fellowship offerings (Ezek. 40:38–43; 43:18–44:31).” [3]

Isaiah 52:15 declares of Messiah: “So shall he sprinkle many nations.” The New Scofield Reference Bible comments: “Compare the literal fulfillment of this prediction in 1 Pet. 1:1–2, where people of many nations are described as having been sprinkled with the blood of Christ.” Is this literal? When was Jesus’ blood literally sprinkled on the nations? This sounds more like “spiritualizing” than “consistent literalism.”

We learn that Isaiah 13:17–22 “predict[s] the destruction of the literal Babylon then existing. The verses also look forward to the destruction of both political Babylon and ecclesiastical Babylon in the time of the Beast.” [4] At Revelation 18:2 we read: “The term ‘Babylon’ in prophecy is sometimes used in a larger sense than mere reference to either the ancient city or nation.” [5] I agree. This is exactly the case. This same approach is true in many other such cases, as with Israel (Gal 6:16; Heb 8:6–13), David’s throne (Lk 1:32; Ac 2:29–31), circumcision (Php 3:3; Col 2:11), sacrifices (Ro 12:1; 1Pe 2:5), the temple (1Co 3:17; Eph 2:19–22), the tabernacle (Ac 15:16; Heb 9:11), and so forth.

But when it suits dispensationalists, they vigorously argue for literalism. For instance, of Isaiah 9:7 we read: “‘The throne of David’ is an expression as definite, historically, as ‘the throne of the Caesars,’ and does not admit of spiritualizing.” [6] Yet Gordon H. Johnston writes: “God will fulfill His promises in the Davidic covenant (2 Sam. 7:8–16) to establish the eternal Davidic dynasty over Israel through a single ideal Davidic King who will reign eternally (Ps. 89:20–37).” [7] But when we read this passage we discover it expressly mentions David himself, not a “Davidic King”: “I have found David My servant; / With My holy oil I have anointed him, / With whom My hand will be established; / My arm also will strengthen him” (Ps 89:20–21).
Johnston continues: “The Davidic King will rule as the co-regent, Prince (Ezek. 34:24), under the divine kingship of YHWH (Ps. 72:19; Isa. 40:4–5).” [8] Pentecost states that “the promises in the Davidic covenant concerning the king, the throne, and the royal house are fulfilled by Messiah in the millennial age,” then lists Ezekiel 34:23–25 and Hosea 3:5 as evidence. [9] But Ezekiel 34:24 actually states: “And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken” (Eze 34:24). While Hosea reads: “Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the Lord their God and David their king.” And again Johnston declares: “Judah and Israel will serve the Davidic King.” [10] Yet the verse actually states: “But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up for them” (Jer 30:9). How can references to David actually mean Christ — in a strictly literalistic system?

The catastrophic judgment prophecy in Jeremiah 4:23–28, where the heavens become black and the mountains shake and all the birds flee, is not to be understood literally, according to dispensationalist Charles H. Dyer: “Jeremiah pictured God’s coming judgment as a cosmic catastrophe — an undoing of creation. Using imagery from the Creation account (Gen. 1) Jeremiah indicated that no aspect of life would remain untouched.” The universal catastrophe imagery had to do with “the approaching army of Babylon.” [11] The Prophecy Study Bible agrees. [12] John A. Martin, writing in the same dispensational commentary, explains the language of Isaiah 13:10–13, where the sun, moon, and stars are darkened and the earth is moved out of its place: “The statements in 13:10 about the heavenly bodies (stars . . . sun . . . moon) no longer functioning may figuratively describe the total turnaround of the political structure of the Near East. The same would be true of the heavens trembling and the earth shaking (v. 13), figures of speech suggesting all-encompassing destruction.” [13]

Notes

1. Pentecost, Things to Come, 525. See also Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible, 1299.
2. New Scofield Reference Bible, 888, n. 1 (at Ezek. 43:19).
3. Gordon H. Johnson, Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 270.
4. New Scofield Reference Bible, 724, n. 3.
5. New Scofield Reference Bible, 1369.
6. New Scofield Reference Bible, 721.
7. Johnston in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology 269.
8. Johnston in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 269.
9. Pentecost, Things to Come, 476.
10. Johnston, Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, 269.
11. Prophecy Study Bible, 841.
12. Prophecy Study Bible, 841.
13. John A. Martin, “Isaiah,” Bible Knowledge Commentary, 1:1059.


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2 thoughts on “DISPENSATIONALISM’S INCONSISTENT LITERALISM (2)

  1. Cecil C. May 11, 2014 at 5:46 am

    Hello, I enjoy reading all of your posts. I wanted too write a little comment to support you. Keep up the good work.

  2. Robin October 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Very helpful! 🙂

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