Dispensational Pre-Mills and Israel?

Question
Since Christ is Lord both in the Old and New Testaments, why are there two separate and distinct churches?
Answer

Dispensational Pre-Mills view a distinction between Israel and the Church, along with that of a special future for ethnic Israel that is separate from (distinct from and in addition to) that of the New Testament church.

However, we need to ask if this distinction is warranted.

Israel is Christ's Bride:

Ezekiel viewed Israel as God's bride saying:

When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine (Ezek. 16:8).

Jeremiah 3:1-5 reveals that Israel was guilty of playing the harlot with many lovers. Thereafter, in Jeremiah 3:20 Israel is compared to a wife who has turned away from her husband:

Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD (Jer. 3:20; cf. Ezek. 16:15-34; Hos. 2:2-5).

God divorced his wife (Jer. 3:6-10). Israel is punished for her adultery (Ezek. 16:35-43; Hos. 2:6-13). The restoration of Israel as Jehovah's wife is described in Isaiah 54:1-8 (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 16:60-63) and the remarriage is further described in Isaiah 62:4-5:

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah [meaning, my delight is in her] and your land Beulah [meaning, married]; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride so will your God rejoice over you.

Clearly, Israel is Christ's bride.

New Testament Church is Christ's Bride:

In the New Covenant, we observe a similar fact concerning the New Testament Church. The New Testament church is the bride of Christ:

2 Corinthians 11:2 I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Ephesians 5:25-27 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

Clearly, the New Testament church is the bride of Christ.

So, the Dispensationals have a problem, a serious one. Since they see such a strong distinction between Israel and the NT church, their god then becomes a bigamist, having two separate distinct brides.

But, Jesus Christ is no bigamist. God doesn't have two brides, but only one. In God's providence, he cuts off all the unfaithful branches of the Olive Tree (Rom. 11:17-21; 2:28-29). So, the Lord only has one "invisible church" (see below) throughout all the ages. So, to answer your question more directly, the Bible does not show that there are two separate and distinct churches - one being Israel and the other the New Testament Church. God only has one bride. He only has one church of his redeemed. He even calls this church body "all Israel" in Romans 11:26.

The apostle Paul teaches:

Ephesians 2:12-13 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Brought near to what? Clearly, brought near to the covenants of promise belonging to the Jews. Paul goes on to say:

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit (Eph. 2:14-22).

So, Paul teaches that God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ has taken the two groups - Jew and Gentile - and made them "one" (Eph. 2:14); "one new humanity" (Eph. 2:15). Now both Jew and Gentile belong to God's "household" (Eph. 2:19); Jesus himself being its "chief cornerstone" (Eph. 2:20). Paul says, God is making "a" holy temple (Eph. 2:21) or "a" dwelling (Eph. 2:22) in which God lives by his Spirit. So there is only ONE church, not two.

In Revelation 19:9 we observe the invitation to all of the elect (Jew & Gentile) to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. "Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb." And he said to me, "These are the true words of God." In Revelation 21:9, John says, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." Throughout Scripture God has only had one redeemed church.

There is only one church.

Related Topics:

Pre-Mill Dispensationalism and Historical Premillennialism Problems?
Is Dispensationalism consistent with Covenant Theology?
The Old/New Testament Church
What is the Visible / Invisible Church?
The Re-Newed or New Covenant?
What Is Covenant Theology?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).