What is the Difference Between Dispensationalism and Replacement Theology?
Like many other subjects of Biblical interpretation, this question is forcefully debated by both sides. Pastor Yandian, myself, and most of the teachers that I study believe in the Dispensational view of Redemptive Theology. I will, therefore, present my response from that foundation.
Briefly (and simply) stated the two views are this:
1. Dispensationalism: This view considers that scriptural revelation falls into well-defined periods. These are clearly separated, and the recognition of these divisions and their divine purposes constitute one of the most important factors in true interpretation of the Scriptures. These divisions are termed “dispensations,” and in successive periods of time, different dispensations may be observed. One of the “key factors” of a dispensational interpretation is the place held by “the Nation of Israel—the Jews” as God’s People. Dispensationalists see the Promise of a “natural seed/nation” made to Abraham as an abiding reality until the consummation of all things in the New Heaven and the New Earth.
2. Replacement Theology: This view teaches that the Church is the replacement for Israel and that the many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian Church, not in biblical, literal, Israel. So, the prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Land of Promise, are "spiritualized" into promises of God's blessing for the Church, as are all the promises made to Abraham and the Jewish people. In this view, all the blessings and curses are visited on the Church, and God is forever finished with His dealings with Israel and the Jews. All the yet future prophecies that have not been fulfilled willed be fulfilled in the Church—Christians, not Jews. In other words, those who hold this view see God having no further dealings with Israel, no drawing of them to himself, no re-establishment of the Jewish nation, no restoration of Israel, no special protection of the nation, and no future visitation and revelation of himself to them. God is DONE with Israel.
Because we at Grace Church hold to the Dispensational view, I will present my contrasts to Replacement Theology from that perspective. There are many Bible teachers and denominations that hold to the Replacement viewpoint, and I do not mean to do them a disservice. However, I cannot speak from their perspective—I just can’t see it.
Is Dispensational Theology Biblical?
A dispensation can be defined as a stage in the progressive revelation of God constituting a distinctive stewardship or rule of life. [Notice that it is the revelation of/about God that is progressive—not just time] Although the concept of a dispensation and an age in the Bible is not exactly the same, it is obvious that each age has its dispensation.
“Ages” are often mentioned in the Bible (Eph.2:7; 3:1–12; Heb.1:1–2).
Eph 3:1–12 For this cause, I, Paul, am the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you nations, 2) if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me toward you, 3) that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in few words, 4) by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) 5) which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6) that the nations should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partaker of His promise in Christ through the gospel. 7) Of this gospel I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effectual working of His power. 8) This grace is given to me (who am less than the least of all saints) to preach the gospel of the unsearchable riches of Christ among the nations, 9) and to bring to light what is the [dispensation] of the mystery which from eternity has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ; 10) so that now to the rulers and powers in the heavenlies might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11) according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord; 12) in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through His faith.
Paul makes mention in this section of the “dispensation / stewardship” of the Grace of God—mystery of the Church—that Gentiles would be fellow-heirs with the Jews in One Body—the Church. This was “hidden” in time past while God dealt with mankind in another manner, but it was His intention throughout all time to bring this to light. NOW is that time!
Heb 1:1–2 God, who at many times and in many ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds…
“Ages” are also clearly distinguished, one from the other, in the Bible (Jn 1:17; cf. Matt 5:21-22; 2Cor 3:11; Heb 7:11-12).
This distinction is from God. As the true “author” of Scripture, God has defined certain periods of time by the manner in which He chose to deal with mankind, and by the revelation that was made known to them.