EARLY CHURCH DOCTRINE

by Tim Warner

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While the early orthodox Church trained by the Apostles was pre-millennial, and generally held to a literal interpretation of Scripture, it did not hold to a "dual program" kind of dispensationalism, but held that the "Church" consists of all of the redeemed, from both Israel and the nations. They saw a series of progressive dispensations, unfolding in a single plan of God for the redemption of mankind. The nation of Israel was a key component in this plan. The "dichotomy" between Old and New Testament programs found in modern dispensationalism is not found in the early orthodox Christian view, but was actually found in the Gnostic sects the early Church so vigorously opposed. The same is true of the "heavenly destiny" concept. The early orthodox Church saw its destiny as a horizontal hope, the Millennial Kingdom when Christ returns to earth, followed by the eternal state on a restored earth. It was again the Gnostics who imagined a "heavenly destiny." This concept was carried into Christianity by the writings of Origen, and later made mainstream by Augustine's amillennial view. The early premillennial Christians claimed that their view was handed down by Apostolic authority, and they were quite skilled in defending it using a literal hermeneutic. In today's terminology, the early orthodox Church was "progressive dispensational," "futurist," "post-tribulational," and "pre-millennial."

In Darby's abandonment of amillennial historicism, and return to premillennial futurism, he failed to abandon a key element of amillennialism, the "heavenly destiny" concept. He was right to reject replacement theology. He was right to reject allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures related to Israel. But he was wrong to continue to maintain the "heavenly destiny" concept for the Church. The "heavenly destiny" concept of amillennialism being blended with the "chilaism" (pre-millennialism) of the early orthodox Church, is what produced modern dispensationalism (and pre-tribulationism) with its dichotomy between God's program for Israel and His program for the Church. Darby was on the right track with Israel, but he did not go far enough in undoing the damage of amillennialism.

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Excerpted from a debate at -
The Last Trumpet
Progressive Dispensationalism Debate



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