The Great Apostasy
Oct 25, 2011
It is hardly possible to overestimate the importance of understanding Paul's commentary on Hagar and Sarah in the fourth chapter of Galatians. It is the virtual antidote to John Darby's "Dispensationalism" developed in the 1800's and popularized by Scofield.
What used to be called Dispensationalism is now mainstream Christianity among most Evangelicals and Pentecostals. In fact, it is so mainstream that most of them are now unfamiliar with the term, and it is assumed that Christians have believed its tenets since the Apostle Paul. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Darby was really the first to develop the teaching of the Pre-tribulation Rapture and the idea that the Millennial Age to come would be centered in Jerusalem, where Christ would rule from a physical temple. Israel--by which he meant the Jews--would again become God's chosen people and would be regathered in the old land. This, then, became the basis for the later rise of Christian Zionism.
The view assumed that Jerusalem, which Paul identified as Hagar, would be the centerpiece ("mother") of the Kingdom of God. It assumed that the Jews, which Paul identified as the children of Hagar (i.e., "Ishmael") were the chosen heirs of the Kingdom. The view was based on the idea that God is able to graft Israel back into the Kingdom Tree, according to Paul's statement in Romans 11:23. This verse says,
(23) And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again.
It was originally assumed that the Jews would have to be converted before God would graft them back into this "Tree." But in 1948 when the Jewish state was established apart from their conversion to Jesus Christ, the common theology was changed. Jews became "chosen" even apart from Christ. Many still believed that Jews had to be converted first, but as time has progressed, a new theology began to arise known as Dual Covenant Theology. They seem to have missed Paul's condition: "if they do not continue in their unbelief [they] will be grafted in."
In this theology, Jews were chosen and already saved by virtue of the Old Covenant, as long as they were religious Jews who followed the Law (actually, the Talmud). Christians were saved in a different manner--by grace through faith. This view accommodated "Jewish sensitivities" about the teaching that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation.
The idea that Jerusalem was the mother of the Kingdom was rooted in the belief that the Jews will all be converted at some point. There are many variations of this belief. I was raised in the belief that there would be a great tribulation in which the Jewish state would be invaded by Russia, and all Jews would be killed except for 144,000. Christ would then come at the last minute to save those 144,000 survivors, and when they saw Him coming in the clouds, they would somehow recognize Him as Jesus and be converted. Then those survivors would become the greatest evangelistic missionaries to the world for the rest of The Great Tribulation.
Before this took place, of course, all non-Jewish believers would be "raptured" to heaven.
I was also taught that the fig tree which Jesus cursed would once again come to life as Jesus said in Matt. 24:32.
"Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near."
And so I was taught that this verse was fulfilled in 1948 when the Jewish state ("fig tree") came back to life. In other words, Jesus' curse was only a temporary curse.
What was ignored completely was the fact that Jesus had cursed the fig tree for its lack of fruit, not for its lack of leaves. Matt. 21:19 says,
(19) And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it, and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.
I do believe, even today, that the fig tree came back to life in 1948. I disagree, however, when they try to turn leaves into fruit. Jesus made it clear that this fig tree would not bring forth the fruit that God requires of those who would be part of His Kingdom. Leaves can put on a great show of righteousness, but one cannot eat fig leaves. In fact, fig leaves have been the problem since Adam and Eve. They are a false covering for sin, based on self-justification and man-made excuses.
To develop a theology based upon a blatant contradiction of Jesus' words can hardly be considered a credible Christian view. Will the Jewish state ever come to accept Christ and bear the fruit of the Kingdom? No, never. Not as a nation. Will there be individuals who come to Christ? Yes, of course. Those individuals can be grafted back into the Kingdom Tree, "if they do not continue in their unbelief."
Such individuals must transfer their source from the withered tree to the Tree of Life in Christ. The common idea that Jews are "almost Christians" and are therefore chosen heirs of God on account of their claim to be Abraham's physical children--this is doctrine that is foreign to the Scriptures. In vain do we search the Scriptures to find non-believing full-blooded Israelites being heirs of the Kingdom. Both the Law and the Prophets condemn them--to say nothing of Jesus and the apostles.
Yet the Remnant of Grace that was present in the days of Elijah and on into the New Testament have indeed been heirs of the Kingdom. Paul explains this clearly in Romans 11:1-7. After bringing up the 7,000 believers in the time of Elijah, Paul writes in verses 5-7,
(5) In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice.... (7) What then? That which Israel [as a nation] is seeking for, it has NOT OBTAINED, but those who were chosen [the remnant] obtained it, and the rest were hardened.
Here Paul makes it clear that the chosen ones (or "elect") are the remnant of grace--not the whole nation. No one is "chosen" apart from faith in Christ, who was known as Yahweh in the Old Testament and Jesus (Yeshua) in the New. No one has ever been chosen purely on account of his genealogical connection to Abraham. Not in the Old Testament. Not in the New. The "hardened" ones are not chosen.
Darby changed all of this and perverted Paul's teaching. He made race the substitute for grace. He disputed with Jesus Himself over the destiny of the fig tree, saying that it would again bear fruit. Jesus said that it would bear leaves.
Darby's blindness has become a communicable disease throughout the Church. It is now assumed in mainstream Evangelical and Pentecostal thinking that Jerusalem is Sarah, not Hagar, that unbelievers are chosen if they are Jews (or converts to Judaism), and that the fig tree will again bear fruit.
This is at least part of the great apostasy of 2 Thess. 2:3 that must come before "the day of the Lord." It is part of the perversion of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Dispensationalism has rebuilt the middle wall of partition in the temple (Eph. 2:14) by separating believers into Jewish and "Gentile" camps. This has destroyed the concept of "one new man" (Eph. 2:15) that God established in His Law as far back as the time of Moses.
The Law itself mandated equality and impartiality between Israelites and aliens. The dividing wall destroyed that impartial application of the Law. Jesus, in turn, destroyed that dividing wall of men's traditions and reinstated the proper understanding of the Law. We now must choose between the two.
Dr. Stephen Jones