Non-dispensationalists like me would say that all the promises made to Israel have been fulfilled, and the redemption of Israel according to those promises made it possible for Gentiles to be grafted into an already existing Jewish assembly of believers that the Bible calls the Church. Soon after Jesus’ ascension, the gospel is preached to “Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). If this is not God dealing specifically and solely with Israel, then I don’t know what is. To say that the Church is a “mystery” unknown to the OT prophets contradicts what Peter states in Acts 2:16: “this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel.” “This,” a near demonstrative, is a reference to the events of Pentecost. If Joel predicted what was happening, and the dispensationalists claim that Pentecost is the beginning of the Church Age, then the Church is not a mystery; it is the fulfillment of Bible prophecies made first and foremost to Israel.

Dispensationalist Thomas Ice understands the implications of this logic, so he must add a word to Acts 2:16 to make it fit his parenthesis eschatology. He rewrites the verse to read, “But this is [like] that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” He tries to explain the addition of “like” this way: “The unique statement of Peter (‘this is that’) is in the language of comparison and similarity, not fulfillment.”[1] He’s begging the question, assuming what he must prove. Dispensational author Stanley D. Toussaint writes, contradicting Ice on his point, “This clause does not mean, ‘This is like that’; it means Pentecost fulfilled what Joel had described.”[2] After saying this, he goes on to argue: “However, the prophecies of Joel quoted in Acts 2:19–20 were not fulfilled.” So which is it? He says the fulfillment will come “if Israel would repent.” But Israel did repent: “Now having heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent. . .’” (2:37–38). The result? “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (2:41).

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Dispensationalists will argue that “all Israel” must be saved (Rom. 11:26), and all Israel was not saved in the first century. In the Romans context, “all Israel” is the believing elect remnant (11:5). Dispensationalists don’t interpret “all Israel” to mean every Israelite who has ever lived. They don’t even understand “all Israel” to mean every Jew alive during the post-rapture great tribulation since they believe that two-thirds of them will be slaughtered (cf. Zech. 13:8). They mean by “all Israel” the remnant! If “all Israel” can mean a remnant in a post-rapture scenario, then it certainly can mean a remnant in a pre-destruction of Jerusalem scenario.

Peter addresses the crowd at Pentecost as the “men of Israel” (Acts 2:22). He expands his message to include “all the house of Israel” (2:36). The “brethren”—Jewish brethren—want to know what they, as Jews, must do to be saved. Peter tells them, “For the promise is for you and your children. . .” (2:39). There is nothing in this chapter that indicates that the Abrahamic promises are not being fulfilled right then and there. Peter continues to preach to his countrymen by informing them that “Jesus the Christ” was “appointed for you” (3:20). The “restoration of all things” (3:21) is the pre-ordained redemptive work of Jesus to fulfill what all the prophets have written. Peter tells them that the prophets “announced these days” (3:24). “It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed’” (3:25). There is no mention of a postponement of the promises—“an intercalary period of history”—made to Abraham. These Jewish believers, the recipients of the promises spoken by the prophets (3:24), made up “the church” (5:11). We learn later that Gentiles became a part of this existing Jewish Church to take Part 1n the promises given to Israel (10:34–48). Notice Peter’s conclusion: “And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also” (10:45). “To the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16; 2:9–10), Paul writes, because now, in Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” for we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Paul makes the same point in Romans 11 when he describes that the Gentiles were grafted into an existing Jewish body of believers that Acts describes as “the church” (Rom. 11:12–21).


[1] Tim LaHaye, ed. Prophecy Study Bible (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000), 1187, note on Acts 2:16.**
[2]** Stanley D. Toussaint, “Acts,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983), 358.