Dispensationalism teaches that God manages things in a certain way at a certain time; He has plans for us and if we are diligent to read and take the teaching of scripture literally, we will see His purpose and plans for us unfold.
Dispensationalism teaches that there is a difference between the church and Israel. It holds that the Bible teaches that Israel is unique in that God has given them (the Jews) certain promises that the church will not inherit.
Thus if you take a literal, dispensational approach to Scripture, then you cannot conclude anything other than that God has a future for Israel. What that means is that the Church is distinct from Israel, and when God is through with the Church, and takes the church to glory then He uses seven years of tribulation to purge and redeem Israel, and the kingdom comes.
Dispensationalism teaches that there is a literal kingdom, a literal tribulation, and a literal rapture. But here is the different involvement in these two groups—Israel and the church.
The rapture: the church (which includes all believers, Jews and Gentiles) will be raptured.
The tribulation: the church will have been raptured, so they will not be a part of it. The tribulation is also called the time of Jacob’s trouble. The tribulation is a time decreed by God for the nation of Israel—to cause them to repent.
The millennial kingdom: This is a period of 1000 years. It is the kingdom of God on earth. All believers from all of history will have a part in this reign, but there will be obvious differences. The church and Old Testament saints and tribulation martyrs will all have glorified bodies, and those believers who survived the tribulation will not have glorified bodies. Many of those survivors of the tribulation will be Jews. These are the ones who will finally inherit the eternal covenants that God promised to them. It will be a glorious time on the earth for the Jews, and all Gentiles will look up to them.
The above teaching to me is very clear, very literal and very basic. But many have gone beyond what is taught in scripture and have tried to make an elaborate system out of scripture in an effort to clarify its teaching. I don’t wish to talk about this too much, but here are just a few things.
1. Many see a distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. I don’t.
2. Many say that there are natural phases of salvation: that a new believer will normally invite Christ into his life just to be saved, and then later on he may choose to invite Him in as Lord. The bible teaches that we must receive Him as Lord or not at all.
3. I was shocked when a very popular teacher told me that the gospels were not written to the church, but were only for the Jews. He said that only the epistles were for the church.
4. Similarly, some say that the Sermon on the Mount is not for us in this time, but is for the millennial kingdom.
5. I like to make charts, but there have been some who seem to think they can make a chart for everything. I’m not sure we should try to make things clear that are really not that clear. Some things we should just let unfold to see what happens.
This post is about Dispensationalism. There is also covenant theology. This is entirely different. The main difference as I see it is that they believe that the church is the new Israel and that there is no future kingdom for Israel. There are many other things I could say about this but that will be for another post.