A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensational Theology




Pattern of History

Covenant of Works with Adam; Covenant of Grace with Christ on behalf of elect (some distinguish between Covenant of Redemption with Christ and Covenant of Grace with the elect).

Divided into dispensations (usually seven); e.g., Innocence (pre-Fall), Conscience (Adam), Human Government (Noah), Promise (Abraham), Law (Moses), Grace (Christıs First Coming), Kingdom (Christıs Second Coming).

View of History

Optimistic; God is extending His kingdom.

Pessimistic: the Last Days are marked by increasingly worse wickedness in the world and by apostasy in the church.

God's Purpose in History

There is a unified redemptive purpose.

There are two distinct purposes, one earthly (Israel), one heavenly (church).

View of the Biblical Covenants

They are different administrations of the Covenant of Grace.

They mark off periods of time during which God's specific demands of man differ.

Relationship of Old Testament to New Testament

Acceptance of Old Testament teaching required unless specifically abrogated by New Testament.

Old Testament prescriptions are not binding unless reaffirmed in New Testament.

Relationship between Israel and the Church

The Church is spiritual Israel, in continuity with true Israel of Old Testament.

The Church is the spiritual people of God, distinct from Israel, the physical people of God.

Old Testament Prophecy

Refers to God's people, the Church.

Refers to ethnic Israel.

Church Age

Godıs redemptive purpose continues to unfold.

There is a parenthesis between past and future manifestations of the kingdom.

Role of Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit indwells Godıs people throughout history.

The Holy Spirit indwells God's people only from Pentecost to the Rapture.


Unified covenant generally used to support infant baptism.

Israel/Church distinction often (but not always) used to support believers' baptism.

Social Implications

Emphasizes "cultural mandate."

The only way to save the world is to save individuals; therefore evangelism takes precedence over "social action."


Usually amillennial; rarely postmillenial; occasionally premillennial.

Premillennial, usually pretribulational.


Symbolic, often identified with present age.

Literal, earthly 1000-year reign after Second Coming.

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