The goal and purposes of God’s covenant promises to His people were once hidden and now have been revealed through the preaching of the Gospel. At the fall, the world was plunged into darkness. From the first gospel of Genesis 3:15, God opened the door a crack and let in a little light, a faint glimpse of hope in God’s Promised Deliverer. Darkness is still the default mode of our fallen world, but God has given progressively more light to His people through His Word over the centuries that Scripture was written.
The absolute climax of God’s revelation was the coming of Christ (John 1, Hebrews 1:1-3). Christ is God’s Final Word. The light of this Ultimate Revelation casts the shadow of the cross and the glory of the resurrection back onto the Old Testament. Progressive revelation is present in the Old Testament, but the coming of Christ blew the lid off and exposed the once-hidden mystery of God’s promised salvation.
My dispensational friends are probably with me so far, but my concern with dispensationalism is that the distinctions between the dispensations are overdrawn. The simple progressive outline that I see all over the New Testament is clouded by emphasis on various Old Covenant dispensations.
The New Testament talks about promise and law, old and new covenant, Abraham and Moses. God’s promise of a Deliverer under girds all of this. Today, Christians in this present age and are looking forward to the age to come. We still see “through a glass darkly” compared to the age to come, but our light is different in kind compared to the prophets of the Old Covenant.
The light that shines on the Old Testament makes the tabernacle/temple, sacrifices, laws, land and priesthood look pretty shabby in their material presence when we look back on them in the light of Christ. However, when we see what these types and shadows pointed towards, namely the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then we continue to rejoice in them and learn from them. The law of the Lord is good and perfect, but the physical representations of heavenly realities were temporary and, with the coming of Christ, are now obsolete.
What about the unfulfilled promises to Israel? What unfulfilled promises? For instance, what did Joshua and Solomon say about God’s promises? Note, too, that these promises were conditional upon the obedience of the people (compare Jeremiah 31:31-34). A dispensationalist may protest that these are promises given through Moses, not Abraham, but look at how Paul interprets the Abrahamic promises in Galatians 3 and 4.
Why would we go back to the tokens when the Reality has come?
Imagine I promise my daughter an IPod for her birthday. When her birthday arrives, the Ipod is late arriving in the mail. In order to break the tension, I put in a picture of an Ipod from a flyer into her birthday card. The daughter is thrilled, but when the real Ipod arrives, she pushes it away and says, “No, I like this piece of paper better – it is, after all, what I got for my birthday.”
This, in a nutshell, is my problem with dispensational premillennialism. Why would we go back to a division of the people of God (compare Ephesians 2:11-22), a physical temple, “memorial” sacrifices and other shadows and types when Christ has come?