Early Dispensationalists and Mid-Acts

This originally appeared as an email delivered on
Saturday, November 25th, 2023.

It is commonly reported that J.N. Darby was the father of dispensationalism. True or not, what is clear is that he was much closer in some points to being Mid-Acts Pauline than the modern variety of dispensationalist.

In a letter dated May 1st, 1848, Darby wrote:

“I distinguish entirely between the church and prophecy.”

He further explained that the church was not to be found in prophecy because it was “hid in God from the foundation of the world” according to Ephesians 3.

“Hence the church cannot be the subject of prophecy.”

“Hence it has no place in prophecy.”

He did not believe the church to be the subject of prophecy and rightly placed it as the subject of the revelations given to Paul. Read how Darby describes where the doctrine of the church is found in the book of Acts:

“We [the church] are properly nowhere, save in the extraordinary suspension of prophetic testimony, or period, which comes in between the sixty-ninth and seventieth week of Daniel, or at the end of that age which was running on when Christ was here, the close of which was suspended by His crucifixion; His return to establish it then, according to Acts 3, being precluded by the rejection of the testimony of the Holy Ghost, which followed – finally declared at Stephen’s death.”

Darby says that the church is nowhere in the prophetic kingdom age of Jesus’ earthly ministry, which final establishment was prevented by the rejection of the Holy Ghost’s testimony in early Acts, declared final at Stephen’s death in Acts 7! For a mid-Acts dispensationalist, this sounds familiar. Let’s pick it up in Darby’s letter after Acts 7:

“Whereupon the doctrine of the church in union with a heavenly Head, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, was fully revealed, and entrusted to Paul, who had joined in that rejection, in a ministry, beginning not at Jerusalem but Antioch.”

According to Darby, the doctrine of the church was revealed to the apostle Paul sometime between Acts 9 and 13 (where he was sent from Antioch).

If Darby fathered dispensationalism, then dispensationalism was born with the knowledge that mystery and prophecy were to be separate and that the doctrine of the church was revealed mid-Acts to the apostle Paul.

Mid-Acts dispensationalism is just picking up where Darby and other dispensationalists began 175 years ago.

For truth,

Justin “historic dispensationalist” Johnson

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