by Jerry Shugart
I. The Body of Christ as an Intercalation or Parenthesis
Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founding President of Dallas Theological Seminary, understood that the Body of Christ is "wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or follows it ":
"But for the Church intercalation -- which was wholly unforeseen and is wholly unrelated to any divine purpose which precedes it or which follows it. In fact, the new, hitherto unrevealed purpose of God in the outcalling of a heavenly people from Jews and Gentiles is so divergent with respect to the divine purpose toward Israel, which purpose preceded it and will yet follow it, that the term parenthetical, commonly employed to describe the new age-purpose, is inaccurate. A parenthetical portion sustains some direct or indirect relation to that which goes before or that which follows; but the present age-purpose is not thus related and therefore is more properly termed an intercalation" [emphasis added] (Chafer, Systematic Theology, 4:41; 5:348-349).
The Church Parenthesis in Progressive Dispensationalism
Today the progressive dispensationalists deny that there is such a things as a Church parenthesis or intercalation. Charles Ryrie says that progressive dispensationalism "has modified or clouded the classic, normative, dispensational dictinction between Israel and the church...by abandoning the concept of the church as an intercalation or parenthesis. Classic dispensationalism used the words 'parenthesis' or 'intercalation' to describe the distinctiveness of the church in relation to God's program for Israel. An intercalation is an insertion of a period of time in a calendar, and a parenthesis in one sense is defined as an interlude or interval (which in turn is defined as an intervening or interruptive period). So either or both words can be appropriately used to define the church age if one sees a distinct interlude in God's program for Israel (as clearly taught in Daniel's prophecy of the seventy weeks in 9:24-27)" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism [Chicago: Moody Press, 1995], 134).
The Gap in Daniel's 70 Weeks
The "distinct interlude" of which Ryrie speaks is the same thing as the "gap" between the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week.
Thomas Ice, the founder of the Pre-Trib Research Center, writes that "I think that sound biblical exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27 must lead to an understanding that the seventieth week is separated from the first sixty-nine weeks of years because of Israel's failure to accept Jesus as their promised Messiah. Therefore, God has postponed the final week of years until the start of the seven-year tribulation. In the mean time, the New Testament teaches us that the church age will intervene during the postponement of Israel's final week of years" [emphasis added] (Thomas Ice, Why a Gap in Daniels's 70 Weeks).
For more on this "gap" found after the end of the 69th week and the beginning of the 70th week please go to Appendix #1.
It is clearly seen that the events which make up the 70 weeks are in regard to the LORD's dealing with the nation of Israel. And during that time the nation is described this way:
"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deut.7:6).
But as Ice says, the Church age intervenes during the postponement of Israel's final week of years. And during the church age the only special people of the LORD are those in the body of Christ and in the Body these is no difference between the Jew and the Greek:
"For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal.3:27-28).
Ryrie understands that in "time" the LORD can only be dealing with either the nation of Israel or the Body of Christ but not both:
"That God is continuing His work of redemption in calling out a people for His name in the church, the Body of Christ, we gladly affirm, but we also insist that this Body of Christ is distinct from any previous body of redeemed people in its nature, characteristics, time, and promises" [emphasis added] (Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 131).
II. Did the Body of Christ Begin on the Day of Pentecost?
If the LORD is dealing with the nation of Israel then at that time the Israelites are a special people unto Him and therefore the Body of Christ cannot possibly be in view since in the Body there is no difference between the Israelite and the Gentiles.
Therefore, if we see something taking place at Pentecost that is in regard to the divine purpose toward the nation of Israel then we know that what is being described has nothing to do with the Body of Christ. With that in mind let us look at what Peter said here to the nation of Israel on the day of Pentecost:
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, that the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21).
In the Scofield Reference Bible we read the following commentary on this passage:
"The appeal here is national to the Jewish people as such, not individuals as in Peter's first sermon Acts 2:38,39. There those who were pricked in heart were exhorted to save themselves from (among) the untoward nation; here the whole people is addressed, and the promise to national repentance is national deliverance: 'and he shall send Jesus Christ' to bring in the times which the prophets had foretold" (Scofield Reference Notes, by Cyrus Ingerson Scofield--1917).
Scofield certainly understood that on the day of Pentecost the divine purpose was in regard to the nation of Israel. The mood of the Greek words translated "repent ye" and "be converted" is the "imperative" and we read the following about that mood:
"The imperative mood corresponds to the English imperative, and expresses a command to the hearer to perform a certain action by the order and authority of the one commanding. Thus, Jesus' phrase, 'Repent ye, and believe the gospel' (Mk.1:15) is not at all an 'invitation,' but an absolute command requiring full obedience on the part of all hearers" (Blue Letter Bible).
Since on the day of Pentecost Peter had received the Holy Spirit to guide him in all truth (Jn.16:13) then it is certain that the LORD's purpose on that day was in regard to the nation of Israel and not toward the Body of Christ.
From all of this we can understand that if the Body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost then it is impossible to defend a Church parenthesis and Progressive Dispensationalist Robert Saucy is correct when he says the following:
"The historical plan of God, therefore, is one unified plan. Contrary to traditional dispensationalism, it does not entail separate programs for the church and Israel that are somehow ultimately unified only in the display of God's glory or in eternity. The present age is not a historical parenthesis unrelated to the history that precedes and follows it; rather, it is an integral phase in the development of the mediatorial kingdom. Thus the church today has its place and function in the same mediatorial messianic kingdom program that Israel was called to serve" [emphasis added] (Saucy, The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993], 28).
The foundational teachings found in traditional dispensationalism can only be defended if the idea that the body of Christ began on the day of Pentecost is abandoned. Next, it will be demonstrated that the church (ekklesia) spoken of on the day of Pentecost is not the Body of Christ and it will be shown when the Body of Christ actually had its beginning.