Dispensationalists claim to view scripture literally. This is often contrary to the manner in which the Apostles viewed the Old Testament. I’m not suggesting we have the authority of the Apostles to take scripture and spiritualize it as they often did, rather, I hope to view scripture in the way it was intended to be understood. Dispensationalists and Amillennialist both agree on the historical-grammatical method of understanding scripture but we differ on how to gleam the “literal meaning” of scripture. A good example of a forced and therefore false literalism can be found in the differing interpretations of the eschatological Temple mentioned in Ezekiel and Revelation. To gain some idea of how the Dispensationalist forces a meaning on scripture considering Amos 9 and Acts 15.
We read, “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us.In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:” (Amos 9.9-11)
At first glance it might might conclude with the Dispensationalist that a some point in the future a Temple will be rebuilt. If we use a historical-grammatical method of interpretation, without considering the New Testament, we miss the meaning of these verses. Most eschatological positions do not force the interpretation of this passage, pick up commentaries by 17th century Premillennialists or Postmillennialists and you’ll see they look to the New Testament as the final interpreter of the Old. For a New Testament understanding we read the words of Peter who reinterprets the verse in light of the work of Christ on the cross.
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” (Acts 15.16)
In this passage we see Peter applying the Old Testament prophecy of a future Temple to the Church. The Tabernacle of David is the church according to the Apostle Peter which is contrary to the Dispensationalist position. If we use a historical-grammatical method we must conclude that Peter meant what was recorded in scripture. Peter spiritualized the old prophecy and applied it to the church. We find Peter, literally calling the church “the tabernacle of David!” Peter does this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and we must accept Peter’s reinterpretation of the prophecy. We find this spiritualizing tendency in the epistles as well.
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2.20-22)
The Church is called the “holy temple of the Lord.”
Peter states again, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 2.5)
To look for the physical shadow or type when it has been fulfilled denies the centrality of Christ and is called in the New Testament “carnal.” Paul weights in.
“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life.” (2 Cor. 4 & 5)
Under the old Mosaic Covenant of Works the tabernacle or Temple was the dwelling place of God. Israel had to attend to the lawful worship of God at the Temple. Believers in the New Covenant of Grace have the indwelling of the Spirit, and a new heart, which is why Peter refers to the body as the tabernacle.
“Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.”
Ezekiel has a few BIG passages used by Dispensationalists to force the old covenant type or shadow upon the New Covenant meaning given by Spirit to the Apostles. Let me point out how quickly the Dispensationalist abandons the so-called “literal” meaning when it comes to Eze. 43.19.
We read, “And thou shalt give to the priests the Levites that be of the seed of Zadok, which approach unto me, to minister unto me, saith the Lord God, a young bullock for a sin offering.”
This verse is found in the often cited portion of Ezekiel that Dispensationalists believe foretells a future rebuilt Temple but this future Temple will return to offering sacrifices for sin. To the credit of most Dispensationalists they abandoned their pretension to “literalism” and claim the sin offer is not really a sin offering but rather a memorial or commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ. This is a “shoe horn method” of reading scripture where we find nothing in the passage that would indicate the need to insert ideas of memorials or commemoration but yet the Dispensationalist applies a “shoe horn” to slip in ideas, verses or meanings not found in the text. And they do so to avoid adding to the finished work of Christ. Amen. Is it a tenable position? Or course not. The sacrificial system was said to “decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8.13) and it did with the destruction of the Temple in ad 70. The Dispensationalist would have Israel, at some future date, return to this Old Covenant ignoring what the Apostles had to say on the matter.
Christ’s death put away any need for Old Covenant types and shadows. (see Hebrews 9 & 10) Paul goes further to state that the old system was “a shadow of things to come” (Col. 2.17) and old system was a “shadow of heavenly things…” (Heb. 8.5) If we read these cited passages using a historical-grammitical method, trying to gain a literal meaning from the authors, we find the Dispensationalist is engaging in a sleight of hand.
Read the passages for yourself.
Yours in the Lord,