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History of Dispensationalism

Certain elements of dispensationalism have been taught since the early days of the church. In particular, the teaching of a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth was taught from the earliest days. During the dark ages these truths were almost entirely lost. As part of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries the theological system known as Covenant Theology was developed and in this system the truth of a literal future Millennium for Israel was abandoned. It was not until the mid 19th century that the truth of a literal 1000 year reign of Christ over the nation of Israel was recovered. At that time other elements of Dispensational Theology were recovered and systematized. This came about primarily through the teaching of John Nelson Darby of the Plymouth Brethren. As shown below these truths were then popularized by C.I. Scofield in his Reference Bible and by L.S. Chafer at the seminary level. This is shown below.

The Bible and Early Church Fathers

John Nelson Darby
(1800-1882)
Classic Pauline Dispensationalism
Vertical Orientation
This has been referred to as vertical dispensationalism because it sees this current Dispensation of Grace as one of heavenly orientation. Positionally, the believer has died with Christ on the cross, been raised up, and is now seated in Heaven with Christ. The emphasis for Christian growth is man in Christ or vertical.
William R. Newell
(1868-1952)
This Dispensational System sees a distinct difference between Israel and the Church and thus between law and grace. It is a more literal understanding of the Scriptures than either Traditional Dispensationalism or certainly than the Covenantal System. The key for Christian growth is the identification truths of Romans 6 to 8 and Ephesians and Colossians.
 
Resources
Romans, Verse by Verse (W.R. Newell)
The Green Letters (M.J. Stanford)
 
Isaac Watts
(1674-1748)
 
 
C.I. Scofield
(1843-1921)

This was a modified form of an earlier Covenantal scheme of Isaac Watts but with inclusions of certain elements from the Dispensational system of J.N. Darby. Because of its basic tie to the Covenantal system, Scofield's system, which was followed by Chafer and others, did not fully separate the earthly promises to Israel from the heavenly position of the believer.

Lewis Sperry Chafer
Dallas Theological Seminary
(1871-1952)
Traditional Dispensationalism
Walvoord, Ryrie, Pentecost
Horizontal Orientation
This has been referred to as horizontal dispensationalism because there was no direct connection made with the believer's position in Heaven. The emphasis for Christian growth was primarily horizontal.
Progressive Dispensationalism
Neo Dispensationalism = Reformed Covenantism
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