My Critique of Dispensationalism (8)

Dispensationalists like to contrast their literalist method of prophecy interpretation with preterists, whom they say allegorize them. Thus, dispensationalists vehemently disagree with preterists. They claim preterists allegorize because preterists see much of the highly charged symbolism of prophecy as fulfilled by the events of A.D. 70 unlike dispensationalists, who assign them to the end times.

However, any time a prophecy of Scripture can find fulfillment in Scripture, that, in itself, holds God’s Word in high esteem. Also, whenever a Scriptural prophecy is fulfilled historically, that too lends itself to the preeminence of God’s Word. And finally, whenever the plain sense of a word or passage finds fulfillment in its basic understanding and context, rather than a mystic or obscure one, that likewise does justice to the Scriptures.

So, what exactly is an allegory? The first definition from a simple Google search reads thus: “As a literary device or artistic form, an allegory is a narrative or visual representation in which a character, place, or event can be interpreted to represent a hidden meaning or political significance.”

Here is my take on that definition: Whenever a reader applies a hidden meaning to a text outside the author’s direction, that exegete can make the text say whatever they desire. Therefore, because dispensationalists’ seventh dispensation, the millennial kingdom, which supposedly begins with the church’s rapture, is entirely in the future, to construct their hypothesis, they have had to take various verses and passages from their context and place them into the seventh dispensation.

The following definition is from Britannica.com: “Allegory may involve an interpretive process that is separate from the creative process; that is, the term allegory can refer to a specific method of reading a text, in which characters and narrative or descriptive details are taken by the reader as an elaborate metaphor for something outside the literal story. For example, the early Church Fathers sometimes used a threefold method of interpreting texts, encompassing literal, moral, and spiritual meanings. One variety of such allegorical interpretations is the typological reading of the Old Testament, in which characters and events are seen as foreshadowing characters and events in the New Testament.”  

That definition makes three important points. First, in our example from last time, characters such as Hagar and Ishmael, or Sarah and Isaac (Galatians 4:21-31), were metaphors for something outside the literal Genesis story. The author of the New Testament narrative, the apostle Paul, expressly stated that they allegorically represented children of slavery and the promise, respectively. That goes to the above explanation where the author, in this case, the inspired apostle, instructs us that he is allegorizing the original story.

That also speaks of the Historico-Grammatico method of interpretation, which leads to our second point. Allegorical texts are part of the Scriptures, as our example shows. Interpreting them, and literal, moral, and spiritual texts, or any other genre of text requires the reader to adapt to the particular type of literature they are reading. That’s opposed to dispensationalists, who ignore those principles and context and instead fill their literal, premillennial eschatological bucket.

The third point is about the typological reading of the Scriptures. Typology is a big part of the dispensational interpretation method. But unfortunately, they look at most Old and New Testament prophecies as types of the end times when the reality is Christ is the antitype of nearly all Old Testament types and prophecies. Not only that, as we said at the beginning of this article, most New Testament prophecies find their fulfillment in the events leading up to and including to A.D. 70.

A final note is this, there are many books written by scholars on this topic that can do more justice to it than a Google search. But the ease at which enough information to make an informed decision about it is available makes it incumbent on the student to study to show oneself approved (2 Timothy 2:15), rather than accept any particular doctrine carte blanche. We must be like the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to make sure the things they were told were so (Acts 17:10-11).

What is most telling is how misinformed most Christians are about matters of eschatology. Not only that, sadly, most espouse the dispensational view without even knowing it. They may express opinions about events, such as the rapture, the Antichrist, Daniel’s seventieth week being the Great Tribulation, even the Battle of Armageddon. They may say that the raptured church will return with Christ and reign with Him on earth in the millennium for a thousand years but they cannot tell you what chiliasm is. Most will also say the apostle John wrote Revelation in Domitian’s reign in the 90s, but they cannot tell you where they got that idea or what Irenaeus meant about what he wrote regarding that faulty view, if they even know who he was.

So, as dispensationalists will say, the argument is between their literalism and the preterists’ allegorizing or spiritualizing. But Scripture interpreting Scripture or history that fulfills prophecy is not allegorizing. It is sound exegesis. Conversely, interpreting symbolic and figurative texts as futuristic is neither proper exegesis nor allegorizing. It is making something up where nothing exists. It fills the dispensationalists’ seventh dispensation with the material to weave their narrative, but it does nothing to help Bible students understand the true eschatological message.

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