Postponement theology teaches that Christ will postpone the salvation
of "all Israel" until the tribulation period. This theology is usually
Charles C. Ryrie (born 1925) says of classical dispensationalism
that the: "basic primise of Dispensationalism is two purposes of God
expressed in the formation of two peoples who maintain their distinction
throughout eternity." Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 1966,
J. Dwight Pentecost is another dispensationalist theologian who in his
book Things To Come ( 1965) says "The church and Israel are two
distinct groups with whom God has a divine plan...These considerations
all arise from a literal method of interpretation." (page 193, J.
Things To Come, Zondervan, 1965)....
In postponement theology, the pre-tribulation rapture of the
dispensationalist church is "eschatology,"
or end time prophecy. The interpretation of Romans 11: 26, and
several Old Testament prophecies on the restoration of physical Israel
that God will save "all Israel" sometime in the future, perhaps in the
tribulation, is also end time prophecy. So is the coming of their one
man super anti-Christ who is to desecrate a newly re-built temple in
Jerusalem a part of their "eschatology."
But behind the particular kind of end time prophecy in postponement
theology is their "hermeneutic," a term derived from the pagan god
Hermes. A "hermeneutic" is a system of interpretation, and in this
theology it is a system used to interpret scripture. And the core
teaching of postponement theology is in its postulates. A postulate
is a starting axiom, or assumption which is taken to be self-evident,
though not proven. There are three basic postulates in postponement
theology, as shown in the brief quotes above from Charles C. Ryrie
and J. Dwight Pentecost.
The first postulate of this theology is consistent literalism in
interpretation of scripture.
In 1936, Lewis S. Chafer, a classical dispensationalist, defined
Scofield's literalism as "The outstanding characteristic of the
dispensationalist is ... that he believes every statement of the Bible
and gives to it the plain, natural meaning its words imply." From:
L. S. Chafer, ‘Dispensationalism,' Bibliotheca Sacra, 93, October
(1936), pp410, 417.
Charles C. Ryrie says "The word literal is perhaps not as good as
either the word normal or plain, but in any case it is interpretation
that does not spiritualize or allegorize as nondispensational
interpretation often does. The spiritualizing may be practiced to a
lesser or greater degree, but its presence in a system of
interpretation is indicative of a nondispensational approach." From:
Dispensationalism. Charles C. Ryrie. Moody Press, Chicago. 1995.
The postulate of consistent literalism in interpreting scripture is
not supported by scripture itself.
Christ in Matthew 13: 35 says "That it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I
will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of
Hosea 12: 10 says "I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have
multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the
prophets." Similitudes are a form of figurative language. Figurative
language, which is not literal, is used in very many scriptures,
especially in the Book of Revelation. Its the use of broad, sweeping
allegorization of a text which takes away its specific prophetic
meaning which is the culprit. An example of this broad, sweeping
allegorization is the amillennialist view of the 144,000 of Revelation
7: 1-8 and Revelation 14: 1-5, which says they are the saints of all
ages. This denies the prophetic statement that these people of God
are to be sealed before the destructrive events of the very end times
Postponement theology reacted against the broad, sweeping
allegorization of scripture by Origen, Augustine, the Roman Catholic
Church and by much of Calvinism. This reaction explains a great deal
about the particular kind of interpretative system that postponement
theology uses. Postponement theology went too far to the opposite end
of the spiritualizing-literal continuum.
This over-reaction against the spiritualizing or allegorical method
helps explain why the followers of postponement theology do not fully
accept and often reject the interpretative methods used by Christians
who want to follow scripture rather than theology. And this difference
in the methods of interpreting scripture between postponement theology
and those who want to stick to Biblical Christianity
makes it very hard to convince a postponement follower that his
theology does not agree with scripture. It is not just a matter of
the postponement follower not knowing scripture, but it is a matter of
his not interpreting scripture the same way as one who follows
And this brings up the issue of what to call those who want to follow
the New Testament and the Old Testament as interpreted by the New.
Since those who follow postponement theology are now in the majority
and control much of evangelical Christianity and the denominations, it
is a small minority now who want to follow Biblical Christianity. So,
the term used in scripture can be applied to those who want to hold to
Biblical interpretations. This is the Remnant, the Remnant of Israel.
The second major postulate of postponement theology is that physical
Israel, all of the Israel of the old Covenant, must be honored and
seen as still being God's people. The implication is that all of
Israel of the Old Covenant is still God's chosen people.
Postponement theology does not accept Paul's separation of Israel into
two Israels in Romans 2: 28-29, Romans 9: 6-8 and in Galatians 4:
25-26. The distinction he makes between Israel of the flesh which is
not born again in Christ and that Israel which is born again is
supported by some other of his texts, such as I Corinthians 10: 18
("behold, Israel after the flesh"), and Philippians 3: 2-9, especially
verse 3 which says "..we are the circumcision, which worship God in
the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the
flesh." By saying "we are the circumcision" he means descendants of
Abraham who believed on Christ, that Remnant he talks about in Romans
9: 27 and Romans 11: 5 who were born again in Christ.
Honoring all of Old Covenant physical Israel is very important in
postponement theology. And this postulate leads to the fundamental
teaching of this theology that all of physical Israel shall be
Originally John Darby proposed that during the tribulation another
"dispensation" would begin and somehow it would be a kind of return to
the dispensation of law. This proposal had a problem since if the
dispensationalist "church" was still on earth when the tribulational
Jewish new dispensation of law began, how would the "church" deal with
that? the solution for Darby - and for postponement theology - was the
pre-tribulation rapture of the "church" off the earth. Darby's
proposal of a new dispensation during the tribulation was moderated
and not played up by his later followers, some of whom have said that
the Jews will be saved by accepting Christ during the tribulation.
The third main postulate of postponement theology says that the
"church" is a body of Christ, or a people of God, separate and always
different from physical Israel, still the chosen people.
"Church," from the Greek ekklesia, is used many times in the New
Testament. But unlike the "body of Christ,' or the "saints," the
"church" is not used in the New Testament to refer to the spiritual
identity of Christians in Christ. Paul does not say anywhere in
Romans 11 that the "church" is grafted into his good olive tree, whose
root is Christ and some of whose branches are the Remnant of physical
Israel who believed on Christ. Had he said this, it would have a
meaning of something like "the meeting was grafted into the olive
Postponement theology opposes the idea that there is a "spiritual
Israel" or born again Israel which includes, as Paul clearly teaches
in Galatians 3: 28, both those who were once physical Israelites and
Gentiles. Some of those influenced by postponement theology may agree
with Galatians 3: 28, and with Romans 2: 28-29, but will not agree
that "the Israel of God" in Galatians 6: 16 is that born again Israel
which includes both former Israelites and Gentiles. This apparent
double-mindedness can be a result of the application of the system of
Bible interpretation to scripture by the followers of this theology.
In order to honor all Israel, or all physical Israel, postponement
theology has to keep Israel separate from the Gentiles, which it calls
the "church," though some of its theologians admit that believing Jews
are part of the "church," but in the "church age" believing Israelites
are very few.
Lets see in a brief way, how these three starting postulates of
postponement theology work for many of its followers.
Again, the problem in discussing scripture with followers of
postponement theology is not just that they do not know scripture well
enough, but that they do not share the interpretations of scripture
with those of the Remnant. Its a conflict between interpretative
authority. The postponement people will take scriptures and interpret
them by their interpretative authority, their theology, and hold up
these scriptures as authority. Remnant people may set up other
scriptures as authority which contradict the meanings assigned to them
by the postponement crowd. There is no easy winning of such an
argument, and, in fact, the Holy Spirit does not want debate,
especially not endless debate, but the intent, "It is written," and
agreement with Him.
There are some statements in scripture that can be used as guidelines
for interpreting scripture.
II Peter 1: 20 says "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the
scripture is of any private interpretation." Private is from the
Greek idios, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Number 2398,
"pertaining to self, private or separate, apart, aside, private." We
can say that no scripture is to be interpreted by the natural mind,
the carnal mind, since I Corinthians 2: 14 teaches that "But the
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they
are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are
Scripture is not to be interpreted in a private way, different from
the meanings of other scriptures which are relevant. II Peter 1: 20
could mean in some cases that a person cannot interpret a scripture
differently than the majority of Christians - but, and this is
important, at times in history and in certain places, the majority
interpretation is wrong, and the Remnant is right.
So II Peter 1: 20 can be seen as saying that scripture should not be
interpreted separately from other scriptures which are relevant to it.
Why this has to be is explained in the next verse.
II Peter 1: 21 says "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will
of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy
And II Timothy 3: 16 says " All scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for
instruction in righteousness:"
Since all scripture is given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit to holy
men of old, the Spirit who is God, knows what he has inspired men to
say before and what he will have them say in the future. Scripture,
therefore, has a consistent nature because it is inspired by God.
Scripture cannot contradict itself, for it it appears to do so, there
is something wrong with our interpretative system.
Some followers of postponement theology will try to say the context
makes a particular scripture say something different than a similar
scripture in a different context, when in fact, the Holy Spirit is
consistent in his meanings in different contexts.
Postponement followers do not fully accept the Protestant idea
that Scripture interprets Scripture. This is, for example, why they
will sometimes think they have shot down I Corinthians 15: 52 where
Paul says that Christ will appear the second time at the last trump,
or last trumpet,
by saying Paul is talking about a trumpet on a Hebrew feast day and did not
mean the 7th trumpet of Revelation because Revelation was not written when Paul
wrote I Corinthians. And they will try to say that Matthew 24: 29-30
is not about
the same event as Paul describes in I Corinthians 15: 52. They do not
in meaning regarding then Christ will appear to the Holy Spirit as the
author of both I Corinthians 15: 52 and Matthew 24: 29-30. In other
words, they do not want to connect the dots even
on this one clear set of scriptures both of whom say Christ will
appear at the end of the
tribulation - because their theology says different.
And important to postponement theology, they do not interpret
scripture by scripture for
Romans 11: 26, "and so all Israel shall be saved." They may appear to
agree with Romans 2: 28-29, Romans 9: 6-8 and Galatians 4; 25-26 in
isolation from Romans 11: 26. But they will not interpret Romans 11:
26, "all Israel shall be saved" by these other scriptures in Romans
and the one in Galatians.
Their interpretative authority for Romans 11: 26 is their theology,
not scripture interpreted by scripture.
And again, for Romans 11; 26 there is no easy winning of a "debate"
with them. Not unless they begin to change their interpretative
They are doubtful about the concept that scripture interprets
scripture because its all given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
They may think this is a way to spiritualize away
what to them is "literal" in scripture.
They appear not to like it when one connects the dots to several
scriptures to show a strand of thought in the mind of God which runs
through more than one scripture. They prefer to consider each
scripture in isolation so far as they can. The concept of a gist
meaning beyond the literal words
of more than one text is suspicious to them, because this "gist
meaning" might lead to spiritualizing the texts - unless a list of
scriptures, often from the Old Testament, can be interpreted
to be consistent with their theology.
Postponement theology people do not like those who are not part of their theology
to use New Testament texts to interpret Old Testament scripture. They will
insist that the Old Testament prophecies on the restoration of physical Israel must
have their fulfillment during the tribulation when God, they say, will
save "all Israel."
Amos 9: 11, for example, as one of the restoration of Israel prophecies, says
"In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:"
Postponement people will say this, among other Old Testament prophecies, predicts
that "all Israel" shall be saved during the tribulation. But James in Acts 15: 7-9 and 13-17 quotes and
interprets Amos 9: 11, as an example of the Old Testament restoration of Israel prophecies.
"Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
8. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
9. And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith....And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:
14. Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.
15. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,
16. After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:
17. That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things."
James says "to this agree the words of the prophets." Meaning all the prophets who wrote about the restoration of physical Israel, including Hosea 3: 5, Amos 9: 11, Micah 5: 3, and Zechariah 12: 10, and other prophecies that talk about some restoraton of Israel.
The postponement follower might deal with Acts 15 by giving a literal interpretation
of Amos 9: 11, and perhaps bringing in other Old Testament prophecies on the
restoration and imply that this rules over what is said in Acts 15. He may try
also to limit Acts 15 somehow to the context of the crisis of the conflict between the
who believed saying all Christians must be circumcised to be saved,
and Paul's teaching among the Gentiles that circumcision was done away with.
Christians who believe that New Testament texts have interpretative
authority over Old Testament texts would say, no, since James
writes that the prophets all agree with the New Covenant, that
the New Testament interpretation of James has authority over these Old Testament
prophecies on the restoration of Israel, and these prophecies do not apply
to the tribulation period.
And as before, until the follower of postponement theology changes his
interpretative authority, he is not going to be convinced by New Testament
scripture, even if it were spelled out in a more specific way
than in Acts 15,
that this very important part of postponement theology is wrong.
Those who still follow the view that scripture interprets scripture and that
Testament is the interpretative authority for the Old Testament, will say
that Acts 15 is the final word for all the prophets who talk about a restoration of physical
Israel. But the followers of postponement theology will, in some way or another, try to
wiggle out of Acts 15, and in effect say, the Old Testament prophecies on the restoration of
Israel must apply to the tribulation, when "all Israel shall be saved."