DeMar’s “The Myth of an Israel-Church Distinction”

Welcome to my exposé of Gary DeMar’s book, 10 Popular Prophecy Myths Exposed, chapter 1, The Myth of an Israel-Church Distinction.

As I have been reading DeMar’s book, I have noticed his frequent implication that “if Dispensationalists have made any sort of mistake, then we must revert to the older ideas, like Post-Millennialism”.  I disagree with this attitude, and I think I can show you why;

Dispensationalists have perpetrated the myth of an Israel-Church distinction that they say is based on a straightforward reading of the New Testament where at a particular point in biblical history God’s redemptive program changed from Israel to a new entity called “the Church.” It’s at this point, dispensationalists argue, that Israel’s prophetic clock stopped and a “mystery parenthesis” called the Church Age was inserted between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:24–27). The Church Age will end, so the argument goes, when the Church is “raptured.” It will be at this time that the prophecy clock will begin ticking again and God will once again deal with Israel during the seven-year Great Tribulation, Daniel’s 70th week.” (DeMar, chapter2, page 11)

I hate the way he says it, but DeMar is correct that the idea of a distinction between Israel and the Church is a myth, to a point.

The bible itself does speak of the Church as being a mystery hidden in the Old Testament (Romans 11:25 and 16:25). 1 Corinthians 15:51 speaks of the removal of the Church, the rapture, as also being a mystery. So the use of the term “Mystery”, in relation to the Church, should not necessarily indicate that a system is wholly inaccurate.

A straight forward reading of Hosea 5:15 – 6:2 does indeed imply that this “Mystery Parenthesis”, the Church age, would be about two thousand years in length.

DeMar spends the rest of the chapter showing that the Greek word Ekklesia, which is translated as “Church” actually means “an assembly of people”, and was used hundreds of years before Christ in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint, or LXX. This is true, but it does not necessarily follow that the Old Testament Saints, and the New, are the same Ekklesia.

I was very disappointed that DeMar failed to address Daniel 9:24-27 in the entire chapter, as if proving that Ekklesia means an assembly would somehow render the last seven years of Daniel’s prophecy irrelevant.

So then, without an Israel-Church distinction and a shift in prophetic programs from Israel to the Church, there is no dispensationalism. If it can be shown that this Israel-Church distinction and two-program view is based on a redemptive fiction, then the entire dispensational system collapses. ” (DeMar, page 12)

The problem is; Who says that “if Dispensationalists have made any mistakes, the whole system is in error”? As he shows, some Dispensationalists do say this, but Dispensationalists are not infallible!  What if some of their findings are true, while others are not?

DeMar’s error is that he teaches that the older system must be correct simply because of its antiquity. Since several books in the New Testament were written to combat errors, like Gnosticism, and Judaizing, errors that are still with us, it is obvious that the antiquity of an idea is no guarantee of its truthfulness.

Given the above statement, and a statement by Charles Ryrie, to the effect that a “a dispensationalist keeps Israel and the Church distinct”, DeMar spends a lot of energy attempting to show that the believing of Israel, and the believing of the gentiles, are one in the Church. He does a good job, really, but he fails to address the big questions; “Does the bible make some sort of distinction between some believers, and others? Which ones? When, and how?

If the bible makes any such distinction, then the teachings of Dispensationalists are closer to the truth than those who hold to the idea that all believers of every age have the same status with God. I agree with DeMar that the Dispensational teachings on these distinctions are incorrect, but the distinctions themselves really are there!

DeMar actually quotes from Hebrews 12:24 yet fails to note that the Church-age believer is under a new covenant, and has a better sacrifice than that of Abel;

And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of AbelHebrews 12:24

Everything about the New Covenant is superior to the Old!

Probably the most striking example of the difference comes from the Lord Himself;

Verily I say unto you, Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. Matthew 11:11

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Luke 7:28

Now ask yourself; “Was John a true believer?” Of course he was. “Was John in the kingdom of Satan?” Absolutely not! “Isn’t everyone, even those in the kingdom of God, born of a woman?” Absolutely! “Didn’t John, as a great prophet, know the Holy Spirit?” Yes, absolutely! “Wasn’t John a part of an assembly of believers, an Ekklesia?” Yes, he was.

So what was Jesus talking about here?

John was an Old Testament believer. He was a saved man like Moses, Abraham, David, and many others, and like them, he was not permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came and went with John, and the other prophets.

This is why, when David sinned with Bathsheba, he cried unto God “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me”(Psalm 51:11)! He knew the delights of communion with the Holy Spirit, and He knew the Spirit would not stick around when he was embroiled in such deep sin.

In the Church age, however, we have another promise regarding the Holy Spirit;

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. John 14:16-17

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5

Nowhere in the Old Testament are believers universally given the Holy Spirit, but Jesus was speaking of the indwelling of believers as a future event;

 (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) John 7:39

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was a new thing. This event is in view in John 7:39. It is not as if the Old Testament believers were indwelt, and then He was taken away, only to come back later. Such an event is not mentioned, because it never happened!

In John chapter 3, when Jesus said “Ye must be born again” he was speaking of a time yet to come. This is the defining element of the age in which we live; the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all true Church members. Pre-Christian Believers, including John the Baptizer, were not given the Holy Spirit, nor were they ever said to be “born-again”. The true Church today is 100% born again, by the Spirit of God, and permanently indwelt by the same!

This is why Jesus said that John was the greatest among those who are born of women. John was only born of a woman. He missed out on the born-again experience! Church members who are indwelt will never be without Him for all eternity, whether on the earth, in Heaven, or in some other place that the Lord has yet to create! John, in order to be close to the Lord has to be in His physical proximity!

Gary DeMar is correct to note that salvation has always been the same; by grace through faith. Whether referring to Abraham, or Adam, or any other Old Testament believer, no one has ever been saved by keeping the law, or by animal sacrifices. The law shows us our sinfulness, that was all it was intended to do, and the sacrifices pointed to the only sacrifice that can work for salvation, the cross of Christ.

When Dispensationalists say that anyone was ever saved by keeping the law, they are incorrect. Seriously, biblically incorrect! This type of statement actually accuses God of being inconsistent with His own character! On this point I have to stand solidly with DeMar, but I’m afraid he has missed the major difference between the New and Old Testament believers.

Some Dispensationalists give the Jews a pass, as if Christ’s death on the cross wasn’t needed for them! No! The New Testament was written by Jews, who had received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, His death was for Jews first, and also for Gentiles! In this age, Jews and Gentiles are saved in exactly the same way, and DeMar is correct for pointing this out. Unfortunately he missed out on the prophetic implications of Daniel 9 because he was focussed on one Dispensational error.

DeMar’s proves that there was an Old Testament “Ekklesia”, an assembly of believers, but this does not prove that the last seven years of Daniel’s chapter 9 prophecy has already happened. Rather than look through the Scriptures for an alternative explanation he has fallen back on tradition, a real shame.

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About dknezacek

An average, ordinary guy. Author, husband, father, pilot, aircraft builder, test pilot, machinist, artist, just ordinary stuff that lots of people do. Don't forget bible student. Dan's passion is bible study, especially including the End Times prophecies.
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13 Responses to DeMar’s “The Myth of an Israel-Church Distinction”

  1. There are a lot of “I think” and “I” references in these critiques of DeMar’s book, but nothing from the early Church Fathers and how they read the Bible. Since they would know better how to interpret the New Testament, since they are the successors of the 12 apostles and the 70 apostles and Paul, and the rest of the NT apostolic ministers, and their successors had successors, and the message of the New Testament was the same everywhere from 30 AD till about 800 AD with Charlemagne, the Church combatted all the heresies and overcame them, forming the tradition from the Holy Spirit at Constantinople I in 381 AD forever sealing the unchangeable tradition of the Church founded by Christ, the Orthodox Church. There is no dispensationalism or pretribulation rapture in the Church Father and the early Church, 30 AD to 800 AD.

    • dknezacek says:

      Scott,

      Both Irenaeus and Jutin Martyr wrote about a literal return of Christ and a one-thousand-year reign on earth. A great many church fathers were millennarians, or chilliasts!

      This is a doctrine that the enemies of Christ have attempted to stamp-out from the first century until now. Gary DeMar is one of those enemies!

      The fact is that it is what the Scriptures themselves teach that is the issue here. Church fathers sometimes made mistakes.

      Paul was pre-tribulational, and so am I!

      I have done a lot of articles on the rapture, the signs of the End Times, and the Tribulation itself.

      I would suggest you search this site for those terms, or better yet, get a copy of my book “The Spirit of Prophecy”

      Having read only one of my articles, and a brief one at that, I doubt you understand where I am coming from!

      And by the way the teachings of the Church, for all time, were sealed with the writing of the book of Revelation, somewhere around 90AD. What was added in Constantinople in 381 was nothing but Heresy!

      Dan

      • Perhaps you don’t know it, but the idea that the teachings of the Church were sealed at 90 AD with the book of Revelation is contradicted by 2 Thess. 2:15 which says the traditions of Paul and the apostles were spoken and not in the NT only. Sola Scriptura was invented by Martin Luther and other early heretics. What was happening at Constantinople in 381 was the truth, and to call it heresy is to make oneself a heretic. When one sets oneself up as an authority, one violates Scripture which says in St. Peter that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation”. Acts 15 sets the precedent for the NT Church, when any matter of doctrine was in dispute, the bishops and elders of the truth got together and listened to the Holy Spirit and together taught the “faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). The authority in the Church is not any individual Church Father, but the 7 ecumenical councils. And the Church already decided in 381 AD that of Christ’s “kingdom there is no end” (no chiliasm/premillennialism). It is also doubtful that Irenaeus was a chiliast in the modern Zionist dispensationalist sense, as he did not use the newspaper and the secular headlines to interpret the Bible by ever changing current events.,

      • Irenaeus Justin Martyr and all of the Church Fathers taught only one literal rapture second coming of Christ, not two second comings of Christ, as in the raptures before and after the great tribulation.

      • Dan, Have you ever actually read and studied the Nicene Creed finished at Constantinople in 381? Heresy? Have you studied it, word for word, and found anything in the NT that calls it heresy? Did any Church Father teach a pretribulation rapture? Is there any creed before 400 AD that officially taught chiliasm and pretribulationism? The facts show that the Church condemned chiliasm in 381 and that is good enough for me. God bless you. Yes, you are correct, salvation is by the cross and blood of Christ, not by OT law, to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles.

      • dknezacek says:

        I have not read The Nicene Creed in its totality, and what I have read is correct, however, it is only a synopsis, and does not cover every doctrine of the bible. Creeds cannot, and were not meant to, replace Scripture.

        Augustine was an Arch-Heretic, and cannot be trusted on any doctrine! Jerome’s vulgate is an unreliable “translation” and again cannot be trusted.

        Modern pretribulationism has always been with the true saints, and I am talking about the people Rome burnt at the stake. You should read “Dispensationalism before Darby”by William Watson. Interestingly Mr. Watson has found over 350 documents with references to Dispensationalism before Darby was even born. Most of these are from the 1600-1700s although a few are from the 1500s.

        The authors in question are not “Church Fathers” since God does not use such people. He just uses the common man in the pew, and Pastors and elders. None of the other positions in the “Church”, such as Pope, Bishop, Cardinal, Monk, Nun, etc. are biblical.

        God never authorized tradition to replace or supersede Doctrines in the bible. If a tradition is not found in the bible it must be rejected by true believers.

        16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
        17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Tim. 3:16-17

        Notice that there is nothing here about tradition! It is Scripture that furnishes the man of God unto all good works. Not some good works, not most good works, but ALL good works! It is Scripture that matters, tradition is not even mentioned! Tradition spoken of in Scripture was given by the same people who wrote the scriptures, and in no way contradicted Scripture!

        On the other hand the “tradition” called “Transubstantiation” that the bread and wine turn into the literal body and blood of Christ, is a direct contradiction of the Word of God! Jesus said “the flesh, (His flesh) profiteth nothing!” (John 6:63)

        So, my focus is on what the Scriptures say, not what the Church “Fathers” said. The only real Church Fathers who actually matter are men like Paul, John, Peter, James, Luke, Matthew, Mark, and the other Apostles. And, since these Church Fathers, and Jesus, constantly referred to the Old Testament prophets, the OT Prophets are also very important!

        The Church that Constantine and Augustine founded has always fought against the true Church, even to this day!

        And, when the rapture actually happens, and they are left behind, the members of the false Church will still deny that there ever was a rapture!

        Seriously!

        If they admit it was the rapture they would be admitting that they themselves aren’t really Christians, and their whole world would come crashing down around them!

        So, Catholics will deny the rapture until it happens and then they will continue to deny it, even as they form the Church of the Antichrist!

        Dispensationalism does not fit the definition of a “Private Doctrine” because it is a movement of a large number of true believers. Rather it is a fulfillment of Daniel 12:4

        “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

        God wasn’t talking about general knowledge, but knowledge of the Scriptures. As more and more Christians compare Scripture with Scripture the knowledge of the End Times is increasing. It was all there from the beginning, but God only reveals His intentions more fully as the day approaches, and as Christians study His Word.

        God is revealing more and more of the End Times truths, as the day rapidly approaches, but those stuck in their traditions will never see it!

        Your faith is in men, not in God!

        Dan

      • I understand where you are coming from. You were taught there are only 2 forms of Christianity: Protestant, or Catholic. Well, Catholicism is not Catholic (Universal). You talk of Rome. It is true the tradition of papal infallibility is not in Scripture. But neither is dispensationalism and the pretribulation rapture in Scripture. The tradition of “Scripture alone” is not in Scripture, according to Scripture itself, 2 Thessalonians 2:15. I am not a Catholic. I am Eastern Orthodox. And the Church founded by Christ does not teach the pretribulation rapture. Dispensationalism is faith in the men who taught dispensationalism. Saint Paul got his revelation neither from men nor from an angel, but from Christ Himself, Who revealed Himself to Saint Paul. The revelation of God is in the Orthodox Church, so what we believe in Orthodoxy comes directly from God in the Holy Spirit, not from men. We are not free to make it up as we go along, as the dispensationalists do. Typically, dispensationalists like Hal Lindsey and Jack Van Impe look at the newspaper, instead of the Bible, to try to understand the prophecies of the Bible. You also state the facts, and mention that there was dispensationalism since the 1599s. This is logical, since modern errors stem to the Reformation, with its private interpretations of Scripture. For further reading on how I found the truth, see: Gillquist, Peter E. (2009). Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. 3rd edition. Chesterton, IN: Ancient Faith Ministries. We follow neither the Roman Papacy nor dispensationalism: We follow the Holy Trinity in the Church founded by Christ, the Orthodox Church.

      • Constantine and Augustine did not found the Church. Jesus Christ did. Jesus Christ Himself founded the Church. The Orthodox Church. (Matthew 16:18ff.). Augustine’s traditions are not the same as those of the Orthodox Church. And Constantine is not a villain; he was used by God to secure liberty for early Christians.

  2. Most of the Church Fathers were amillennialists, no premillennialists or postmillennialists like Gary DeMar. In their modern sense, premillennialism and postmillennialism didn’t develop until between and after in the 18th and 19th century, and Saint Irenaeus was not a chiliast in the modern dispensationalist pretribulationist sense.

  3. Find anything in Augustine, Jerome, Basil, Athanasius, Irenaeus, John of Damascus, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Maximus the Confessor, that said “Paul was pretribulational”. The facts show modern pretibulationism didn’t happen until the British Isles William Morgan in the 18th century and Margaret MacDonald and Edward Irving and John Nelson Darby in Scotland England and Ireland in the 19th century. “It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything, upon sufficient evidence. People who believe absurdities will commit atrocities”. Pretribulation rapture is one absurdity, and Hal Lindsey said the rapture would happen one generation after the birth of Israel in 1948, and a generation, 40 years later, no pretribulation rapture happened in 1988 AD.

  4. According to the Bible, God never authorized the Bible alone to supercede or replace the traditions of the Church founded by Christ, the traditions of the Apostles, of which the Bible is the main written part, but according to the Bible, going by the Bible alone is not in the Bible 2 THESSALONIANS 2:15 KJV.

  5. Correction, you also state the facts, you mention dispensationalism going back to the 1500s. (Not 1599s; my typographical error). But you don’t have a document from 30 AD to 500 AD that comes from one of the councils of the Church, or from many many Church Fathers, who are men of God. Augustine made some errors, but there is some truth in his writing. He has some serious problems in his theology, which is rather a philosophy than Biblical theology, but some of what he states is Biblical and perfectly Christian, and some is not. John Chrysostom is a much more reliable Church Father than Augustine.

  6. Your faith is in dispensationalism, not in God!

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