Progressive Dispensationalism is a recent refinement of the older Traditional (or Classic) Dispensationalism that arose in the 1980's and 90's. Though often misrepresented, Progressive Dispensationalism owns the following hallmarks, many of which are shared by Traditional Dispensationalists.
Dispensationalism itself is a hermeneutical framework used to guide biblical interpretation. Although often presented as a series of administrations enumerating God's major dealings with mankind, the interpretive center of Dispensationalism is actually a distinction between Israel, the Church, and the Millennial Kingdom. The opposing viewpoint found in Reformed theology is Covenant theology, sometimes referred to as Replacement Theology^^ in which interpreters view the church as the fulfillment of OT Israel. In this view, true Israel (the believing remnant) becomes the NT church and is expanded to include Gentiles. The OT promises made to Israel are fulfilled in the church. Progressive Dispensationalism somewhat combines the two viewpoints, but in a limited way.
Dispensationalists (whether Traditional or Progressive) all hold to the following: Jesus Christ will return to establish an earthly thousand year Kingdom on the earth in which the genetic nation of Israel and the Jewish people are specially exalted (not merely included).
Tenents of Progressive Dispensationalism
- Is not Replacement Theology; Progressive Dispensationalists assert that God will keep His promises made to “Israel according to the flesh,” the genetic descendents of Jacob.
- Acknowledges a future 7-year Tribulation followed by a 1,000 Millennium with Christ personally present and reigning from Jerusalem.
- Affirms that the nation of Israel (in the Millennium) will be exalted as a nation with a rebuilt Temple and sacrificial offerings (that the Messianic Age is compatible with Temple worship is demonstrated in Acts 21:17-26).
- Is similar to (the Messianic Jewish scholar) David Stern’s “Olive Branch Theology” espoused in Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel.
- Does see the church fulfilling many Old Testament prophecies (and thus differs from Traditional Dispensationalism on this point), but in a less literal sense or incomplete sense; Progressives break rank with Traditionals by concluding that the church was anticipated in the Old Testament (but not clearly). The term "mystery," when used in reference to the church, is not defined as "something previously unrevealed," (as in Traditional Dispensationalism) but "previously revealed unclearly."
- Views the church as being blessed through Israel; Progressives avow that God has never stopped working with Israel (some Jews now believe, and He is provoking others to jealousy); the Jews will rebuild the Tribulation Temple largely in unbelief; although the 144,000 will be saved during the earlier part of the Tribulation, most Jews will not believe until the Battle of Armageddon, as interpreted from Zechariah 12.
- Essentially recognizes the more literal fulfillment of prophecy (which is Traditional Dispensationalism’s strong suit) but accepts how the New Testament authors quote and apply the Old Testament to the church (Traditional Dispensationalism’s most vulnerable point).
- Is a "now, but not yet" viewpoint (as argued by C. Marvin Pate in The End of the Age Has Come); the Kingdom Age is breaking forth now, but will have a complete fulfillment during the Millennium.
Variations on Progressive Dispensationalism
Some Progressives depart further away from Traditional Dispensationalism than others, though none advocate Covenant Theology. Robert Saucy (The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism) presents a detailed work most closely resembling Traditional Dispensationalism, making a clear cut distinction between the Church and Israel, whereas others claim that Old Testament believers in heaven were joined to New Testament believers (melded into the universal church) on the Day of Pentecost (as, for example, Tim Warner). Some Progressives believe Christ is reigning on David's throne during the church age; many (perhaps most) reject such an assertion.
Progressive Dispensationalism is based the idea of Prophetic Double Fulfillment. Progressives argue that many prophecies have two fulfillments, a near (in time) less literal fulfillment and a distant (in time) more literal fulfillment.
As a result of the strong connection between Progressive Dispensationalism and Double Fulfillment, some PDs would interpret Revelation in a dual manner: a near (in time) less literal fulfillment to the early church and a more literal fulfillment pertaining to the end times.
Some advocates of Traditional Dispensationalism have misrepresented the true nature of Progressive Dispensationalism. Additionally, some Replacement Theologians have likewise attacked Dispensationalism (of all kinds) by characterizing the entire movement by its fringe elements.
- ? Replacement theology is usually a pejorative term used by dispensationalists to refer to Covenant Theology's view that the church is "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16). See a dispensational definition at Gotquestions.org and more discussion at Wikipedia's article on Supercessionism.
- Blaising, Craig A., and Darrell L. Bock. Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition (Zondervan Pub. House, 1992) ISBN 0310346118
- Blaising, Craig A., and Darrell L. Bock. Progressive Dispensationalism (BridgePoint, 1993) ISBN 156476138X
- Feinberg, John S. Continuity and Discontinuity: Perspectives on the Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments; Essays in Honor of S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. (Crossway Books, 1988) ISBN 0891074686
- Saucy, Robert. The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism (Zondervan, 1993) ISBN 0310304415