The distinctive doctrines of dispensationalism have been most consistently taught by a movement variously identified as Hyper-dispensationalism, Ultra-dispensationalism, Consistent-dispensationalism or Bullingerism. The movement had its origin in the teaching of Ethelbert W. Bullinger. Bullinger was a descendant of Heinrich Bullinger, the successor of Zwingli. Bullinger's teaching separated Israel and the church even more radically than Darby or  Scofield, placing the beginning of the church with the imprisonment of Paul in Rome.

There was no beginning of a church on that day of Pentecost.1 This positive statement that Paul was not only confirming the word which "began to be spoken by the Lord"; but that, like the Lord's own ministry, Paul's was based entirely on the Old Testament prophetic Scriptures, "Moses and the Prophets." From this it is conclusive that there can be no Dispensation of the Church in Acts of the Apostles, and certainly no revelation of the mystery (or Secret) as subsequently made known in the later epistles written from his prison in Rome2.

This doctrine does amazing things with the application of Scripture to the church. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John describe the preaching of the "gospel of the Kingdom" and have no direct application to the church. The period between the cross of Christ and the end of the Acts of the Apostles is the realm of the Hebrew Church, as distinguished from the "mystery" church to which Paul's prison epistles are addressed.

During this transitional period the "gospel of the Kingdom" which Christ had offered to the Jews was still in effect. Peter, James, Jude, Hebrews, and the epistles of John are all addressed to this Hebrew Church, which is not the "body of Christ" but a church "built on Christ". This Jewish Church, built on Kingdom promises, will be reestablished during the millennium, and will worship at the rebuilt Temple with atoning sacrifices. The "mystery" church has only the prison epistles of Paul for doctrine. The sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper, having been instituted before the revelation of the "mystery" church are relegated to the old dispensation, although they may have application to the tribulation saints.

The "mystery" church needs no "mediator of the New Covenant" as it is the "body" - it IS Christ. Some Bullingerites have taken up heresies such as soul sleep and annihilationism, and others proclaim a brand of universalism that grants salvation even to Satan himself. The extent to which the Hyperdispensationalist has gone with Darby's doctrine has shocked even the dispensational faithful. Harry Ironside, one of dispensationalism's stalwarts, states - Having had most intimate acquaintance with Bullingerism as taught by many for the last forty years, I have no hesitancy in saying that its fruits are evil. It has produced a tremendous crop of heresies throughout the length and breadth of this and other lands; it has divided Christians and wrecked churches and assemblies without number; it has lifted up its votaries in intellectual and spiritual pride to an appalling extent, so that they look with supreme contempt upon Christians who do not accept their peculiar views; and in most instances where it has been long tolerated, it has absolutely throttled Gospel effort at home and sown discord on missionary fields abroad. So true are these things of this system that I have no hesitancy in saying it is an absolutely Satanic perversion of the truth3.

Bullinger's schemes show the weaknesses in traditional dispensational interpretation, and set out to solve them with consistent dispensational application. Bullinger was one of the first to admit that the Old Testament saints were to arise at the end of the tribulation, and came up with a program of multiple resurrections. Most dispensationalists see the gospel of Matthew as a Jewish book with the Jews in mind in the apocalyptic chapters 24 & 25, yet wish to preserve the Great Commission as applicable to the church. Consistent dispensationalists assign the Commission to a future Jewish remnant church.

Thus we see that the ultradispensationalists go to the end of the dispensational line while the more moderate dispensationalists, at the cost of consistency, try to get off at midpoint. Both varieties of dispensationalists believe that there is a qualitative difference between Israel and the church...

The moral of all this for the Scofieldian dispensationalist is that if he will not build on the covenantal continuity of the earlier dispensations, there is simply no way by which he can make room for the church at a later stage. The ultradispensationalist has been pointing this out for a century. Covenant theologians have been showing it for millennia4.

The Bullingerite stands with arms outstretched to welcome the moderate dispensationalist. All that is required is to apply the dispensational system consistently.   

1.E.W. Bullinger, Foundations of Dispensational Truth (London: Eyre and Spottiswood, 1931), p.34.

2.Ibid., p.219.

3.Harry Ironside, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, sub-titled "Ultra-Dispensationalism Examined In The Light Of Holy Scripture" (Loizeaux, n.d.), p.11. Ironside himself was an ardent dispensationalist but rejected Consistent-dispensationalism.

4.John H. Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), p.204-5. 

* Extract from the article "Dispensationalism" by Gospel Plow