Probably one of the greatest errors in modern Christianity is the theological error of Dispensationalism, which leads to the political error of Christian Zionism. Dispensationalism is the idea that God deals differently with people at different periods of history. Most notable is the notion that God deals with Jews and Gentiles differently. The premise comes from John Nelson Darby (AD 1800 – 1882), a rogue Anglican priests turned Evangelical, who came up with an exotic eschatology that was based entirely on futurism. What made Darby’s futurism (which was part of his Dispensational belief system) unique was the way he separated Christ’s Church from Kingdom Israel, a totally unbiblical concept. His error is subtle at first, which is probably why most novice Bible students usually miss it, but in time it snowballs into a colossal heresy that leads not only to a warped understanding of Christianity, but also an error that puts the Church and Israel on two different paths of salvation, and ultimately places Jews above Christians in God’s eschatological plan. Christianity (the Church) becomes a mere afterthought, a happy little accident of God’s real intentions with Israel (the Jews). Christians are then measured by their political support of the Israeli Republic. “True Christians” unconditionally support the Israeli Republic, while “false Christians” or the “Synagogue of Satan” do not. It truly is a warped theology.
Dispensationalism was popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible, a product of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (AD 1843 – 1921), also known as C.I. Scofield. This Reference Bible is filled with the Dispensationalism notes of John Nelson Darby in the page margins. Because of the copious cross-references as well, the Scofield Reference Bible became a favorite tool for Evangelical pastors all over the United States and Canada. Through this Bible, Darby’s strange and exotic eschatology, along with his modernist errors, became the backbone of modern Evangelicalism.
Of course, the biggest problem with Dispensationalism is that it’s just plain wrong, and it flies in the face of the entire New Testament. The New Testament is crystal clear on this topic. Jesus was, and is, the promised Messianic King of Israel. Since he is the King of Israel, then the true Israel, or Kingdom Israel, consists of anyone who follows him as King. That would include his disciples (all Jews), along with any Jew who will listen to them, and any Gentile willing to do the same (Romans 11). What Jesus did, that was so revolutionary, was claim his Kingship, and then set up his new (restored) Kingdom of Israel, otherwise known as the Church…
To those who would listen, Jesus said:
“Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” — Matthew 4:17
To the priests, scribes and elders of Israel, Jesus said:
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” — Matthew 21:43
To his disciples, Jesus said:
“Do not fear, little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” — Luke 12:32
The following are just some Scripture references that back this point. They are certainly not all the Scripture passages that can be found, but rather a good cross section of them. The Bible plainly teaches that the Church is Israel….
WHAT IS THE NEW COVENANT?
- The New Covenant Is With Israel: Jeremiah 31:31-33
- The New Covenant Is With The Christians: Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:6-10
WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD?
- Israelites Are The Children Of God: Exodus 4:22, Deuteronomy 14:1, Isaiah 1:2,4, Isaiah 63:8, Hosea 11:1
- Disobedient Israelies Are Not The Children Of God: Deuteronomy 32:5, John 8:39-44
- Christians Are The Children Of God: John 1:12, John 11:52, Romans 8:14-16, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:5-7, Philippians 2:15, 1 John 3:1
WHAT IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD?
- Israel Is The Kingdom Of God: Exodus 19:6, 1 Chronicles 17:14, 1 Chronicles 28:5
- Disobedient Israel Is Not The Kingdom Of God: Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 21:43
- Christians Are The Kingdom Of God: Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20, Colossians 1:13, Colossians 4:11, Revelation 1:6
WHO ARE THE PRIESTS OF GOD?
- The Israelites Are The Priests Of God: Exodus 19:6
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Priests Of God: 1 Samuel 2:28-30, Lamentations 4:13-16, Ezekiel 44:10-13, Hosea 4:6, Malachi 2:2-9
- The Christians Are The Priests Of God: 1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, Revelation 5:10
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE OF GOD?
- The Israelites Are The People Of God: Exodus 6:7, Deuteronomy 27:9, 2 Samuel 7:23, Jeremiah 11:4
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not The People Of God: Hosea 1:9, Jeremiah 5:10
- The Christians Are The People Of God: Romans 9:25, 2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 4:12, Ephesians 5:3, 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Titus 2:14
WHAT IS THE VINEYARD OF GOD?
- Israelites Are The Vineyard Of God: Isaiah 5:3-7, Jeremiah 12:10
- Christians Are The Vineyard Of God: Luke 20:16
WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM?
- The Israelites Are The Children Of Abraham: 2 Chronicles 20:7, Psalms 105:6, Isaiah 41:8
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Children Of Abraham: John 8:39, Romans 9:6-7, Galatians 4:25-30
- The Christians Are The Children Of Abraham: Romans 4:11-16, Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:29, Galatians 4:23-31
WHO IS THE WIFE (OR BRIDE) OF GOD?
- Israel Is The Wife (Or Bride) Of God: Isaiah 54:5-6, Jeremiah 2:2, Ezekiel 16:32, Hosea 1:2
- Disobedient Israelites Is Not The Wife (Or Bride) Of God: Jeremiah 3:8, Hosea 2:2
- Christians Are The Wife (Or Bride) Of God: 2 Corinthians 11:2, Ephesians 5:31,32
WHAT IS JERUSALEM?
- Jerusalem Is the City And Mother Of Israel: Psalms 149:2, Isaiah 12:6, Isaiah 49:18-22, Isaiah 51:18, Lamentations 4:2
- Jerusalem Is The City And Mother Of Christians: Galatians 4:26, Hebrews 12:22
WHO ARE THE CHOSEN PEOPLE?
- The Israelites Are The Chosen People: Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 10:15, Deuteronomy 14:2, Isaiah 43:20,21
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Chosen People: Deuteronomy 31:17, 2 Kings 17:20, 2 Chronicles 25:7, Psalms 78:59, Jeremiah 6:30, Jeremiah 7:29, Jeremiah 14:10
- The Christians Are The Chosen People: Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 2:9
WHO ARE THE CIRCUMCISED?
- The Israelites Are The Circumcised: Genesis 17:10, Judges 15:18
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not The Circumcised: Jeremiah 9:25,26, Romans 2:25,28, Philippians 3:2
- The Christians Are The Circumcised: Romans 2:29, Philippians 3:3, Colossians 2:11
WHO ARE THE JEWS?
- Israelites Are Jews: Ezra 5:1, Jeremiah 34:8,9, Zechariah 8:22-23
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not Jews: Romans 2:28, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 3:9
- The Christians Are Jews: Romans 2:29
WHAT IS THE OLIVE TREE?
- Israel Is The Olive Tree: Jeremiah 11:16, Hosea 14:6
- Christians Are The Olive Tree: Romans 11:24
WHO IS ISRAEL?
- Israel is descended from Jacob: Genesis 32:38, Genesis 35:10, Exodus 3:14, Judges 20:11
- Disobedient Israelites Are Not Israel: Numbers 15:30-31, Deuteronomy 18:19, Acts 3:23, Romans 9:6
- The Christians Are Israel: John 11:50-52, 1 Corinthians 10:1, Galatians 6:15-16, Ephesians 2:12-19
Think of it this way. What Jesus basically did was set up a new government. Think of the old kingdom government of Israel as being totally corrupt. Herod, who wasn’t even a Jew, was ruling as the king of Israel at that time. Judea, the southern portion of Israel, was ruled by a Roman procurator — Pontius Pilate. The temple priesthood had been infiltrated by Roman moles. Some of them weren’t even Jewish, and they were serving as priests! The Sanhedrin was working with the Roman Empire to maintain peace and their positions of power. The old kingdom was so corrupt, and so utterly lost, that upon Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the Jewish leaders had the people cry out “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15) Stop and think about that. THIS is the environment that Jesus entered into, and THAT is why the gospels of Matthew (Matthew 1:1-16) and Luke (Luke 3:23-38) use so much parchment and ink tracing the royal genealogy of Jesus. The point is to prove, that through both Mary and Joseph, Jesus has a legitimate claim to the crown of David. Jesus then went on to claim his birthright, and acted accordingly, even to the point of accepting a messianic and royal entry into the city of Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1–11, Mark 11:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19), in accordance with Zechariah’s prophecy of how the promised king would enter the city (Zechariah 9:9). Pilate responded to all of this by placing a sign above Jesus head while he hung on the cross, which read in Hebrew, Greek and Latin: “This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” (Matthew 27:37 and John 19:19) And THAT was the reason for Jesus’ execution, as far as the official Roman records go. Jesus was executed for opposing Caesar, and making himself out to be a King. Even though Pilate found no guilt in Jesus’ version of a kingdom, because he did not oppose Caesar in a civic way (Luke 23:1-22; John 18:38), he allowed the Sanhedrin to use his troops to exercise their judgement against him (Matthew 27:22-26; Mark 15:9-15; Luke 23:23-25 and John 19:5-16). What was that judgement? According to the private records of the Sanhedrin in Jewish court, it was because he made himself to be divine. But according to the public records of the Sanhedrin in the Roman court, he made himself to be king by opposing Caesar.
During his earthly ministry, one if the first acts Jesus did as King was appoint a new royal court. These would be Peter and the twelve Apostles…
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
— Matthew 16:16-19 RSV-CE
Here in this passage, Jesus is acting like a King. He has spent a great deal of time talking about the Kingdom of God, now he is officially acting as the King of this Kingdom. Here he is establishing the Kingdom office of prime minister. The “keys” you see, are an Old Testament sign of authority of the Davidic Kingdom…
In that day I will call my servant Eli′akim the son of Hilki′ah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.
— Isaiah 22:20-22 RSV-CE
The “keys” that Jesus gave to Peter are not literal of course. Rather, they represent something. They represent an office of authority. Jesus, acting as the King of Israel, has just promised to give Simon Peter the office of prime minister in his Kingdom. Indeed, the Kingdom of God was already present, and at that time it subsisted entirely in Jesus Christ, but soon it would spread throughout the world, in an entity known as the Church.
Now stop and think about this. What is Jesus actually doing here? He is living in a land with a puppet “king” already — Herod — who isn’t royalty and is not even Jewish. One region of that land is governed by a Roman procurator. The Roman occupation is propped up by cooperation from the Sanhedrin and the leadership in the Jewish Temple. This system of order is 100% dependent on the subjugation of all Jews in the region. They don’t have to like it, but they do have to accept it. Yet, what did Jesus just do here? He has at length talked about HIS coming Kingdom, and now he is acting as a King. He is giving Simon Peter authority as his prime minister.
Kings often have many prime ministers during the course of their reign. Queen Elizabeth II of England has had fourteen just in the UK alone. Jesus’ first prime minister was Peter, but because Jesus lives forever, he has had two-hundred and sixty-six (266) successors of Peter, or prime ministers, over the last two-thousand years. The man we call the Pope, occupies the role and office of prime minister. Not all Christians are in communion with the Pope. Thus, they have a problem with the current prime minister of the Church (Kingdom Israel), but they still place themselves under King Jesus, so they are still part of Kingdom Israel (the Church). They just live an an awkward state, recognizing the King, but rejecting the King’s prime minister. The purpose of this essay is not to critique that position, but to just point out what it is.
The main point of this essay is to correct the theological error of Dispensationalism, which leads to the political error of Christian Zionism. To do this, we must understand that the Church is Kingdom Israel. As for the Israeli Republic, in the Middle East, that is just a man-made secular entity, which has nothing to do with the Biblical Israel of the Bible. The Biblical Israel, we read about in the Bible, is a Kingdom. The man-made replica, this human imitation in the Middle East today, is just a republic. It’s made to look like the real thing, but it’s not.
Whether or not one chooses to support the Israeli Republic should always be a political decision, not a religious one. There are many good political reasons to support the Israeli Republic, but not a single good religious one, at least not from the perspective of authentic Christian religion anyway.
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.