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The winds of dispensationalism

January 27, 2012

The nature of the truth is like rock; it is rigid, and unmoved, which contrasts with air,  and wind. David said, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. … For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?” [Psalm 18:2, 31] Also, “But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.” [Psalm 94:22]

Paul referred to Satan as the “prince of the power of the air.” [Ephesians 2:2] The meaning of this is suggested in the same epistle, where Paul said: “… That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive…” [Ephesians 4:14]

The expression wind of doctrine can be linked to the power of the air previously referred to in Ephesians 2:2. What else is the power of the air, if not wind? Air and wind, the opinions of men, may be contrasted with rock, and with mountains, symbolic of the words of Scripture.

The apostle Peter identified false teachers with “clouds that are carried with a tempest.” [2 Peter 2:17]

Jesus compared his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount to a rock, and the man who does them, he said, is like the wise man who builds his house upon a rock, while the foolish person builds his house upon the sand. [Matthew 7:24-28] He said of the house built on a rock, “And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” The words of God are compared to rain, and snow. [Isaiah 55:10-12]

The contrast between rock, and the winds of doctrine, parallels the contrast between the word of God in the Scriptures, compared to the theories or interpretations of men. This contrast is illustrated by the promise made to David that his throne will be established forever, and the interpretations that men have proposed for it.

The dispensational theory of the throne of David, as explained by Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1952), the founder and first president of Dallas Theological Seminary, denied that Christ reigns on the throne of David now. Chafer insisted that it meant “an earthly throne and earthly kingdom.” He sneered at the interpretation which prevailed in the church for centuries, which says Christ’s kingdom exists now, and is spiritual in nature. Chafer wrote: [1]

To the attentive, believing Bible student it is clear that vast issues are contained in the covenant God made with David as recorded in 2 Samuel, chapter 7. To Abraham God covenanted an earthly seed and a land (Gen. 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:5-7), and to David God covenanted an everlasting throne, an everlasting King, and an everlasting kingdom. The precise character of that throne and kingdom was revealed to David. His own response to Jehovah’s covenant and his impression respecting it (cf. 2 Sam. 7:18-29; Ps. 89:20-37) indicate clearly that it was, as covenanted, none other than the perpetuation of David’s earthly throne and earthly kingdom. The student will search in vain for any point in subsequent revelation wherein it is revealed that this throne and kingdom underwent a metamorphosis by which a literal, earthly throne and kingdom, as were promised to David by the oath of Jehovah (cf. Acts 2:30), became the spiritual kingdom which modern theologians fancy exists, and which is so changed that David himself is no longer essential to it. In truth, no subject is more baffling within the range of prophetic themes to those who spiritualize the kingdom than the question why it was prerequisite for Christ to be born of the line of David. If His is a spiritual kingdom, He need be born of no particular human line. The Bible does not follow a program adapted to human ideals. The Davidic covenant promised with an oath of Jehovah’s that out of the fruit of David’s loins, according to the flesh, God would raise up Christ to sit on David’s throne (Acts 2: 30), David believed the covenant which Jehovah made respecting his earthly throne and kingdom–what right had he to doubt?–and that is why he spoke of the fact, as recorded in Psalm 16:10, that Christ would not be left in the grave. In the Sacred Text the whole Davidic covenant program moves majestically on with subsequent revelations regarding it quite confirmatory (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:25-31; 15:16-18), and continues in certain prospect until it is consummated at the return of Christ when he will sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem. This is the kingdom proffered by Christ in his Earth ministry and preached by His disciples. The same kingdom was rejected by the nation when they rejected their King.

L. S. Chafer, C. I. Scofield, and other dispensational writers and preachers, expounded the ideas that were proposed previously by J. N. Darby and W. Kelly. But, dispensational views on the throne of David, such as those expressed above by Chafer, were rejected by a later generation of scholars at Dallas Theological Seminary. During the 1980’s, Darrell L. Bock, Robert L. Saucy, and Craig A. Blaising developed what they called “Progressive Dispensationalism,” an interpretation which caused a profound shake-up within dispensationalism. [2] [3] [4]

Mal Couch quoted Blaising and Bock as saying: [5]

Every New Testament description of the present throne of Jesus is drawn from Davidic covenant promises. Repeatedly, the New Testament declares that He is enthroned at the right hand of God in fulfillment of the promise given in Psalm 110:1. This is a Davidic promise; it is the son of David who fulfills it. In Acts 2:30-36, the resurrection, ascension, and seating of Christ in heaven at the right hand of God (Ps. 110:1) are presented in light of the prediction “that God had sworn to him [David] with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne” (Acts 2:30). No other throne is discussed in this text except the Davidic throne.

New Testament descriptions of this enthronement at the right hand of God are often filled with other Davidic features such as being exalted above all other kings, all rule, and all authority. Having all his enemies subjected to him or in some texts waiting to have all things subjected to him are both descriptions drawn from Davidic promises. The title Son of God also appears quite often in these texts and is explicitly linked to the Davidic promise of divine Sonship.

[Jesus’s] present kingship is further elaborated in Hebrews in terms of its Melchizedekian priestly office and function, another Davidic covenant promise…This priestly office is brought together with the already defined Davidic sonship to describe again His present throne–the “throne of grace.”

In another article Couch wrote: [6]

One of the major tenets of Progressive Dispensationalism is that Jesus is now occupying David’s throne spiritually in heaven. However, the Bible is clear that, when the throne of David is occupied in the future by Jesus, this will be the only fulfillment of the prophecy historically (i.e., that the Messiah will reign on David’s Throne; Luke 1:31-33). Traditional Dispensationalists and those consistent with their hermeneutics argue that Jesus, presently seated on the Throne of His Father, is not reigning on David’s throne. Progressive Dispensationalists, such as Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock, argue that Christ is now on David’s throne and reigning spiritually over a spiritual kingdom. They still claim there will be an historic, earthly rule in the future, however.

While they retain a belief in a future millennial earthly kingdom, the progressive dispensationalists acknowledge that Christ reigns in heaven now, on the throne of David, which is what amillennialists had long maintained. The new theory undermined the principles and teachings which men like Darby, Kelly, Scofield, and Chafer had loudly and confidently proclaimed, to the chagrin of other dispensationalists, such as Crouch.

Miles J. Stanford (1914-1999) was a Christian author who was influenced by Chafer. He protested against progressive dispensationalism. [7]

Todd Baker tried to defend old style dispensationalism from the claims of progressive dispensationalism. He wrote: [4]

In the book of Acts, it is even more evident that Christ is not presently reigning on the throne of David as Progressive Dispensationalism claims. Luke opens Acts with Christ’s post-resurrection ministry to the disciples for forty days. During that time, Jesus spoke to them “of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Surely, in all that time, if Jesus were to shortly reign on the throne of David in heaven, He would have plainly told them of this important change and transference of David’s throne from earth to heaven when they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). Christ did not reply, “You are mistaken about this Jewish misconception of an earthly throne and Kingdom in Israel. The throne of David has been transferred to the throne of God in heaven where I will ascend and shortly reign from.”

Instead, Jesus told the disciples that God the Father has appointed the time and season in the future when the Davidic Kingdom will be established in Israel (Acts 1:7). In the meantime, they were to go out and preach the Gospel in all the world, starting in Jerusalem (Acts 1:8). The Davidic rule and Kingdom did not begin when the Lord ascended to heaven, or He would have obviously told them so when questioned about the time and season for the establishment of the Kingdom in Israel. If Jesus is currently reigning on David’s throne in heaven, then Acts 15:16–18 contradicts this novel idea of Progressive Dispensationalism. The passage in Acts 15 deals with the issue of Gentile salvation and whether or not Gentiles must be circumcised and observe the Mosaic law to become Christians. James answers for the group at the Jerusalem Council by saying the calling out of Gentile believers is in keeping with the future promise of a Davidic Kingdom in Israel. Once the present age ends after the taking out of a Gentile body of believers “for His name” (a distinct characteristic and divine work of the present age), Christ will return to rebuild and restore “the tabernacle of David.” The phrase “Tabernacle of David” is a descriptive synonym of the Davidic throne and earthly Kingdom that has long been in ruins (Acts 15:16). It still remains this way during the present age and awaits the final restoration at the return of Christ to earth. If Christ were reigning on the throne of David in heaven at this time, why then did James say the Davidic monarchy was still in ruins? The only reasonable and clear answer is that Jesus has yet to return to earth to repair and rebuild it when He comes to reign on an earthly throne of David in Jerusalem, not heaven.

Similarly, H. Wayne House discussed the “Dangers of Progressive Dispensationalism.” [7]

The diverse views of the scholars fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel 38, which described the invaders of Gog and Magog as being like “a cloud to cover the land.” [Ezekiel 38:9] Clouds are changeable, and so is dispensationalism. In the examples above, their theories tend to obscure that rocky mountain of truth, that Jesus Christ reigns on the throne of David, which is an eternal throne.

Dispensationalism is not the rock of God’s word, but is merely one of the “winds of doctrine.” It is one interpretation among many. Now, dispensationalism itself is divided up into competing camps, in the midst of prominent seminaries, like DTS, Moody Bible Institute, and Wheaton College, Illinois. Like the wind blows in various directions, and carries clouds along with it, the tempest of dispensationalism drives its followers, and scatters them in various directions; some follow one approach, others a different one; meanwhile the “rock” of Scripture is unchanged.

In Genesis 12:7, God promised Abraham that his seed will possess the land of Canaan, a promise that was repeated to Isaac, and to Jacob. In Jacob’s blessing of Joseph, the promises of God are identified with mountains, and “everlasting hills.” [Genesis 49:26] As one of God’s promises, the Messianic promise of a perpetual throne is one of “the mountains of Israel” in the language of the prophets. But Jeremiah said that God’s people have turned away on the mountains, and have “forgotten their restingplace.”

Jeremiah 50:6
My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.

Christians and especially dispensationalists have forgotten their restingplace, which is the throne of Christ, the King who reigns on the throne of David. They have been misled by their shepherds. Ezekiel said that God’s sheep “wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill;” they were “lost sheep.”

Ezekiel 34:6
My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.

Ezekiel 36:3-6 describes the mountains of Israel as “desolate;” they are “swallowed up on every side,” and have become “a possession of the heathen;” they are “taken up in the lips of talkers, and are an infamy of the people,” and have “became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;” they have “borne the shame of the heathen.” I suggest that the mountains in Ezekiel’s prophecy represent the promises of God, such as the promise to David of a perpetual throne. Critical scholars, supporters of various denominations and sects, and dispensationalists claim to possess the “right” interpretation of prophecy, but that is going to change. The prophecy is fulfilled as the church understands the truth. The mountains of Israel in Ezekiel’s prophecy are not the literal mountains of Palestine, but they are symbolic of God’s promises, and revelations in scripture.


1. Lewis Sperry Chafer. Systematic Theology.  p. 246.

2. Darrell L. Bock & Craig A. Blaising eds. Dispensationalism, Israel, and the Church. Zondervan 1992.

3. Darrell L. Bock & Craig A. Blaising. Progressive Dispensationalism. BridgePoint, Wheaton, IL. 1993.

4. Robert L. Saucy. The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism. Zondervan. 1993.

5. Mal Couch. Progressive Dispensationalism: Is Christ Now on the Throne of David?–Part II

6. Mal Couch. Progressive Dispensationalism: Is Christ Now on the Throne of David?–Part III

7. Miles J. Stanford. Regressive Dispensationalism

8. Todd Baker. The Doctrine of Progressive Dispensationalism

9. H. Wayne House. Dangers of Progressive Dispensationalism to Pre-Millennial Theology: Reflections of a Pre-Progressive Dispensationalist