Dispensationalism and the Reversal of Pentecost

If we can interpret and establish Rom. 11:15 “……what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” to be the same time that the “dead in Christ” are raised, then is it settled that there can be no pre-trib rapture, since the resurrection of the “dead in Christ” is, by all accounts, the rapture, which is, of course, contemporaneous with the resurrection?

We can establish that the national resurrection / birth of the beleaguered nation takes place at the moment of Christ’s return (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9; 12:10; Mt 23:39; 24:30; Lk 21:24; Acts 3:21; Ro 11:25-26; Rev 1:7; 11:2 et al.) But even after we prove the intersection between the national resurrection of the nation and personal resurrection of the saints, we have proven nothing against the rapture, at least not to their peculiar kind of thinking. Let me explain why.

They are instant to grant that Israel’s experience of tribulation ends in national resurrection at the return of Christ, which is simultaneous with the resurrection of OT believers and the martyrs of the tribulation who will come to faith AFTER the rapture. According to their view, everyone saved before Pentecost and after the pre-tribulational rapture belong to a distinct people of God, separate, not only from unbelieving Israel, but even from the regenerate saints of Israel who died before Pentecost, with those who come to faith after the rapture, thus dispensationalism’s famous theory of ‘two peoples’ of God. These groups are thought to belong to different economies or dispensations, thus the term, dispensationalism.

According to pre-tribulational dispensationalism, God’s “foretold” prophetic program for Israel is resumed only after the present ‘mystery’ dispensation (parenthesis / intercalation) that ends with the rapture. Recognizing that the books of Daniel and Revelation depict saints in the tribulation, so-called ‘church saints’distinguished from so-called ‘tribulation saints’. The former are removed by secret translation before the tribulation can begin. They acknowledge that the national resurrection of Israel comes with the end of the times of the gentiles and the sudden regeneration of the nation that Ezekiel and Hosea represent as a resurrection and Isaiah will depict as the moment of birth (Isa 66:8; Eze 37; Hos 6:2). Scripture is clear that the national rebirth or resurrection of the nation is contemporaneous with the post-tribulational resurrection of ‘those who sleep in the dust of the earth’ (Isa 26:16-21; Dan 12:1-2; Job 14:14 with 1Cor 15:52 & Job 19:25-27 with Zech 14:4, 7-9). This does not stop their theory because they simply assign the post-tribulational resurrection of OT saints to another dispensation that begins after the church has been removed. That is to say that saints who died before Pentecost do not go up in the rapture but continue to sleep in the dust of the earth for seven more years.

In contrast to God’s prophetically foretold purpose for Israel, it is believed that the church occupies an entirely distinct and completely un-foretold dispensation that was a mystery in other ages, the so-called, ‘church age’. Of course, we believe this is a complete misinterpretation of what Paul means by his use of the term, ‘mystery’. He is not using the term to dissociate the new revelation that has come to light in Christ from what stood written in the prophets. On the contrary, what has come to light in the gospel, though hidden until the appointed time of revelation, was fully foretold. That was the hallmark of its authenticity and verification that makes the world accountable (Acts 26:22; 1Cor 15:3-4 with Ro 16:25-26; 1Pet 1:11). That something has been newly revealed or brought to much fuller light, does not necessarily mean that it is newly existent. For example, the mystery of Christ and His pre-existence and co-eternality in the Godhead has come to much greater light since the revelation of the gospel. You see the point. I believe the same could be said of the church. It could not have been conceived as the body of Christ prior to the revelation of the mystery of Christ and the gospel, of course, but this does not mean that the church had no prior existence before Pentecost, as believed by dispensationalists.

Dispensationalists believe the mystery is the church as a new organism that has nothing to do with what was foretold in prophecy. Only after God’s mystery program for the church has been completed with the rapture does the focus turn again to God’s prophetic program for Israel (their words). Then begins the Day of the Lord, which they make to include the entirety of Daniel’s last week (another untenable claim). All who are saved after the rapture belong to another, completely distinct people of God. Not only the redeemed of Israel, but all who come to faith after the rapture, and all from among the nations that will be saved throughout the millennium, are NOT to be reckoned as belonging to the body of Christ, which belongs distinctly to the interim between Pentecost and the pre-tribulational rapture.

Dispensationalists will be the first to tell you that unless the body of Christ is restricted to those who are indwelt by the Spirit between Pentecost and the rapture, the case for a pre-tribulation rapture falls apart. Indeed, if the saints depicted in the tribulation in Daniel and Revelation belong to the body of Christ, then the conclusion cannot be avoided that the church is in the tribulation. Therefore, dispensatinalists would probably have no problem acknowledging that ‘life from the dead’ for national Israel coincides with the resurrection of Daniel and all the saints who died either before Pentecost or after the rapture. They know there is a spiritual resurrection of Israel at Christ’s return to establish the kingdom, they just don’t think this interferes with the inferences that they have built around the presupposition that the church, by definition, cannot be in the tribulation. That is what they do. They define the church out of the tribulation by a definition that was unknown until it was first proposed by John Nelson Darby as a break through insight from his sick bed in 1836.

Pre-tribulationists view the time between Pentecost and the rapture as ‘the dispensation of the church’ (the so-called, ‘the church age’). This is based on the belief that the church did not exist in the OT. They will cite Mt 16:18. “Upon this rock, I will (future tense) build my church.” They will point out that only with the pouring out of the Spirit (after the glorification of Jesus as Messiah; Jn 7:39) did the Spirit begin to baptize believers into the newly revealed body of the one new man. We take great exception to this view, but there are many besides dispensationalists who believe (I think incorrectly) that Pentecost was the ‘birthday’ of the church. But quite apart from that discussion, here is what is especially obnoxious to their system: It is the radically baseless inference that they haste to draw from 2Thes 2:7. The restrainer is held to be the Holy Spirit and His removal permits the Antichrist to be revealed. That is not the only interpretation for the identity of the restrainer, but even if it is allowed (though I do not allow) that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, it would not necessarily follow that when He is withdrawn from His ministry of restraining evil, every believer who is indwelt by the Spirit is also taken away.

This is an inference based on a presupposition that leads to absurd conclusions. Those who take this view do not blush to call this event “a reversal of Pentecost” (Walvoord and many others). I call it a ‘retraction’ of Pentecost, because that’s what the theory implies. They argue that since the Holy Spirit did not indwell saints before Pentecost (on the contrary, saints were indwelt by the Spirit), He will no longer indwell those who come to faith after the rapture. They will be born again but not indwelt (how is that?). Tribulation believers will sustain a relation to the Spirit that they assume (I think falsely) existed before Pentecost. It is believed (quite incorrectly) that the Holy Spirit did not indwell believers before Pentecost. Until Pentecost, He only resided “with” them. This view is built on what can be shown to be a faulty interpretation of Jn 14:17.

The two pillars of dispensationalism that are indispensable to its defense is first the doctrine of imminence and secondly their definition of the church as restricted only to this age. The second pillar is based on two principle presuppositions that are essential to its support: 1). Their own new view of Paul’s use of the term, mystery as applied to the new revelation by the Spirit, and 2), their view that Holy Spirit’s indwelling is restricted to saints living only between Pentecost and the pre-trib rapture. Touch either one of these pillar points and the whole edifice of modern dispensationalism starts to crumble. But that is only if one knows their own system well enough to know what is absolutely necessary to its support.

Most who embrace the pre-trib theory (with its doctrine of an any moment return and new and novel ecclessiology) might give pause if they only knew what the academic defenders of their position must teach in order to hold the system together, things so obnoxious to the normal believer as the thought that none of the righteous who died before Pentecost can participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb. Why? Because it is believed that no one living before Pentecost can belong to the body of Christ. All the righteous of the older dispensation continue their sleep in the dust of the earth for an additional seven years. This is clear from Dan 12:1-2 and a number of other scriptures that show that the resurrection of the OT faithful takes place only AFTER the tribulation at the time of Israel’s deliverance. Not only so, but Jesus said that those who would believe on Him would be raised, not at an undisclosed, pre-trib rapture, but ‘at the last day’ (Jn 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48).

Such observations may not dissuade those who have deeply imbibed academic dispensationalism, but few things could be more obnoxious or theologically untenable to the average believer than the imaginative notion that the Spirit who has been once and for all given (as based on the once and for all glorification of Jesus; Jn 7:39), that His indwelling presence should also be taken away at the rapture, so that He will no longer indwell those who become saints after the rapture. Not only does this so-called ‘reversal of Pentecost’ obtain throughout the last seven years of this age. By the same principle, all who come to faith all throughout the millennium cannot be indwelt by the Spirit. He is with them but not in them, because that distinction is what makes the body unique to this dispensation. Believest thou this? Such is the price of consistency.

This is a point where they stand most to be embarrassed. For the sake of those who might give pause, love bids that we endeavor to educate the unwary of what the academic defenders of dispensationalism admit to be necessary to support the doctrine of an imminent, and therefore pretribulational rapture.

Not only was the Spirit given on the basis of Jesus’ once and for all glorification, which can NEVER be reversed, but as you so well asked, “how will the outpouring / baptism of the Spirit that will come to the penitent Jewish survivors ‘in that day’ NOT also baptize them into the body of Christ?” Exactly! How can the Spirit not put one in the body in that day no less than this? How can one be in Christ and not be in His body? And how can the Spirit who will be poured out upon the the penitent Jewish survivors of tribulation produce a lesser result than Pentecost, particularly when Pentecost was the first fruits of that which is to come? How is it that He baptizes believers now into the revealed body of Christ but He will not do the same for those who receive the ultimate promise made to Israel? Absurd! Not only is this poor eschatology; it is disastrous theology! It belies a terribly deficient understanding of the inward working and abiding union of the Spirit as the basis of that union with the divine nature that is salvation. And, though impossible apart from the cross and resurrection of Jesus, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is certainly NOT something that began only after the cross, as witness Jesus’ reprimand of Nicodemus for not recognizing that just as a nation cannot be born apart from the Spirit, neither can a person, and so on we could go in demonstrating by many scriptures and evidences too plain to dispute that the Spirit of Christ indwelt, not only the prophets (1Pet 1:11) but all the children born of the Spirit (Gal 4:29 etc.), but that’s another discussion, albeit a needful one.

Filed under
Dispensationalism, Pre-Trib Rapture, Romans, The Mystery of Israel
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