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Chapter 3 – Doctrines that Divide Christians

Doctrines that Divide 

  1. Premillennialism: Teaching that Christ will literally and physically be on earth for a thousand year reign (Rev. 20:1-7)
  2. Amillennialism: Teaching that states that there is no millennium reign (1000 years) of Christ on earth.
  3. Postmillennialism: Teaches Reconstructionism, a belief that God’s kingdom began at the first coming of Jesus, and will advance throughout history until it fills the whole earth through conversion to the Christian faith and world view.
  4. Preterism teaches that the events of the book of Revelation were fulfilled in the 1st century. Preterists believe the dating of the book of Revelation is of vital importance and that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

1 – DISPENSATIONALISM: A Premillennial system of theology that recognizes three basic tenets (1 Cor 9:17Eph. 1:103:2Col. 1:25):

  • There is a theological difference between Israel and the Church.
  • Scripture is to be interpreted by the literal method unless the text itself mentions a figurative or symbolic interpretation.
  • The underlying purpose of God in this world is His glory.

Ephesians 1:9-10 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”

Ephesians 3:2 “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you.”

Author’s Note: Dispensationalism has the smallest following, estimated at 5-10% of Christians and is currently found in American Evangelicalism since the latter half of the 19th century on through to the 21st century.

Dispensational View of Scripture:

  1. Philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require that we interpret it literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate with man.
  1. Every prophecy about Jesus Christ (over 300) in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), Jesus’ ministry as a suffering servant (Is. 53: 1-3), Jesus’ death (Ps. 22), and Jesus’ resurrection (Ps. 16: 10) all occurred exactly and literally as the Old Testament predicted.

There is no non-literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament. If literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each and every person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by faith—in God in the Old Testament and, specifically, in God the Son in the New Testament.

Dispensationalists hold that the Church has not replaced Israel in God’s program, and the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the Church. They believe that the promises God made to Israel (for land, many descendants, and blessings) in the Old Testament will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation Chapter 20.

Dispensationalists believe that just as God in this age is focusing His attention on the Church, He will again, in the future, focus His attention on Israel. Romans 11:1 “I ask then: Did God reject His people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.”

There are 7 Dispensations from Genesis to Revelation, representing God’s interaction with man at different periods of time:

  1. Innocence: Creation to the fall (Gen. 1 – 3) (Gen. 1:27-28)
  2. Conscience: Fall to the flood (Gen. 4 – 8
  3. Human Government: Exit from the Ark to Abraham (Gen. 9 – 11) (Gen. 9:6)
  4. Promise: Abraham to the Law (Gen. 12 – Ex. 19
  5. Law: Ten Commandments to Calvary (Ex. 20 – Acts 1
  6. Grace: Pentecost to the Rapture (Acts 2 – Rev. 4:1) (Rom. 6:14Eph. 2:8-9)
  7. Millennial Kingdom Age: Imprisonment of Satan to the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20)

2 – COVENANT THEOLOGY: Mostly Amillennial

Covenant Theology is a framework for interpreting Scripture. It is usually contrasted with Dispensational Theology.

Covenant Theology defines two overriding covenants: the covenant of works (CW) and the covenant of grace (CG). A third covenant is sometimes mentioned, namely, the covenant of redemption (CR), which logically precedes the other two covenants. The important thing to keep in mind is that all of the various covenants described in Scripture (e.g., the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant) are outworkings of either the covenant of works or the covenant of grace.

According to Covenant Theology, the Covenant of Redemption (CR) is a covenant made among the three Persons of the Trinity to elect, atone for, and save a select group of individuals unto salvation and eternal life.

The Covenant of Works is the first covenant we see in Scripture. When God created man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him one simple command: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

When Adam failed in keeping the covenant of works, God instituted the second covenant, called the covenant of grace. In the CG, God freely offers to sinners (those who fail to live up to the CW) eternal life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We see the provision for the CG right after the fall when God prophesies about the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15.

Covenant Theology views the Scriptures as manifestations of either the CW or the CG. The entire story of redemptive history can be seen as God unfolding the CG from its nascent stages (Genesis 3:15) all the way through its fruition in Christ. Covenant Theology is, therefore, a very Christocentric way of looking at Scripture because it sees the OT as the promise of Christ and the NT as the fulfillment in Christ. Some have accused Covenant Theology as teaching what is called “Replacement Theology.” The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16). All people who exercise the same faith as Abraham are part of the covenant people of God (Galatians 3:25-29).

Author’s Note: Covenant Theology remains the majority teaching for Protestantism since the time of the Reformation, and it is the system favored by those of a more Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion.

3 – REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY/ SUPERSESSIONISM: A system of theology that essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.

All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the church is a continuation of Israel (replacement/covenant theology), or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel (Dispensationalism Premillennialism).

Replacement Theology became the position of the Church during the time of Augustine (A.D. 354-430), who popularized it in his book The City of God. Initially, Augustine claimed that he was a Chiliast, one who believed in the literal thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth, the basic view of Premillennialism today.

Having come to the conclusion that this view was “inferior” and “carnal,” he adopted the position that the reign of Christ should be much more “spiritual” and it would occur during this present Church Age.

Therefore, the view of the Church was that the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 was brought about divinely, that God had ordained the end of unbelieving Jewish Israel. The prophecies of condemnation and judgment, however, still remain for national Israel and the Jewish people.

Author’s Note: Major problems exist with this view, such as the continuing existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries and especially with the revival of the modern state of Israel.

If Israel has been condemned by God, there being no future for the Jewish nation, how do we account for the supernatural survival of the Jewish people, Israel’s rebirth among the gentile nations (Isaiah 66:7-8), victories in major wars with the Arabs, and a flourishing modern democratic Jewish state?

Replacement Theology may be either Amillennial or Postmillennial. It is currently the most widely held belief in Catholic teaching as well as the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church USA, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church (ELCA), the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ.


  1. The book of Revelation is all history
  2. The book of Revelation is dated before AD 70
  3. No Rapture, Great Tribulation or Second Coming
  4. Roman Emperor Nero was the Antichrist

More Definitions:

Abomination of Desolation: Antichrist will take control of Jewish worship midway through the Tribulation, declaring himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:4). He demands worship from the Jews, in their own temple.

Antichrist: Before Christ comes to set up His Kingdom of peace, Satan will enter a man’s body and present his counterfeit, the antichrist, as the Messiah. Other names include: Little Horn (Dan. 7:8), King of fierce countenance (Dan. 8:23), The Prince that shall come (Dan. 9:26), the man of sin, the son of perdition and the wicked one (2 Thess. 2:8), the Beast of the sea (Rev. 13:1). The antichrist enforces a seven year peace treaty that amazes the world.

Church Age/Age of Grace: The 2000 year period that begins at Pentecost and ends at the Rapture of the Church.

False Prophet: Religious leader who ascends to world popularity via his close alignment with the antichrist. He is the leader of the one world church in Rev. 13:11. He will work amazing miracles and lead people into idolatry by worshiping the image of the beast.

Rapture: Also called the Day of Christ. Harpazo is a Greek word meaning snatched up or caught up; the Latin is rapturo. It is the catching up of the true believers of Jesus Christ. The Rapture is the literal, visible and bodily return of Jesus Christ in the heavenlies (1 Thess. 4:13-185:9).

  • Mid – Trib Rapture believes that the rapture will happen at the middle of the tribulation period, and prior to the “great tribulation”, which is the last three and a half years of the seven year tribulation period (Dan. 7:259:27Mat. 24:151 Cor. 15:51-52Rev. 6:17)
  • Post – Trib Rapture teaches the belief in a combined resurrection and rapture at the end of the 7-year tribulation period (1 Cor. 15:51-52Rev. 20:4-5)

(Dispensational theology is Pre-Millennial/Pre-Tribulation)

Second Coming/Millennium: Literal and bodily reign of Christ on earth.

Tribulation/Day of the Lord/Daniel’s 70th week: A 7-year period of the current age, with Israel as the main focal point. It begins with an enforced peace treaty with Israel. It becomes the “Great Tribulation” at the mid-way point (42 months), when Satan enters a man’s body. Also called “The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”