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 Abel. Hebrews 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.