Back in January of 2013 I was invited to a big bible prophecy conference in Dallas, Texas, to give three presentations based on my books and research. At that time I really thought I had it all figured out, and my end-times outlook was solidly Dispensational. In the aftermath of the conference, through meeting several key people, I was challenged to examine some very serious accusations regarding the Apostle Paul. A few highly motivated bible scholars had collected evidence that Paul was a false apostle, allegedly mentioned by Jesus in Revelation 2:2. This led to a season of study and prayer as I tried to sort it all out, and I finally offered my personal conclusion in my online series “Jesus and the Law,” which I finished on the last day of 2013.
Part of my deep study into the life and ministry of Paul included diving into the massive book about Paul written by N.T. Wright, which came out in November 2013. I figured that since I had listened to the enemies of Paul it was only fair that I take a look at the work of a serious scholar who supported Paul. The only problem was that the book was 1700 pages long! It took me many months to read it, and I think I finished it while I was visiting China in September of 2014. Yet at the beginning I dove right in, and it did not take long for me to realize how wrong Paul’s detractors were, and how shallow their evidence was, compared to the in-depth treatment given to Paul by Tom Wright.
Hallelujah, the big book on Paul helped to save me from going down the misguided route of Hebrew Roots! Unfortunately this is often a natural route to take from a dispensational mindset. Dispensationalists read the Old Testament prophets literally and try to apply it to today, and it is not a far stretch from that point to read the OT Law literally and try to apply it to today as well. I am not anti-Semitic by any means, and I do love digging into the OT to discover the Hebrew Roots of the New Testament. But I do have a litmus test when it comes to Hebrew Roots teaching: If it points forward to Jesus, then it is good; if it points back to Moses, then it is highly suspect!
N.T. Wright helped me to understand the OT through Paul’s eyes, which kept me from reading the Law literally, and even showed me that the Dispensationalist approach to prophecy was flawed as well. In fact NONE of the New Testament writers read their Bible the way that Dispensationalists teach it today! That’s because the Apostles were using a hermeneutic given to them by Jesus Himself. It’s no longer all about “literal interpretation” because the OT was always looking forward to spiritual realities. This is reflected in my new study of the end times focused on the New Exodus.
In any case, the point of this post is to recommend that everyone, especially American Christians with dispensational backgrounds, take a second look at the way they read their Bibles. Don’t be afraid to dig deep and to question what you have been taught. Don’t be afraid to seek out other perspectives. Maybe even take a look at N.T. Wright’s book on Paul. Or if you don’t have the stamina for 1700 pages, take a look at the new book by Derek Vreeland which condenses Wright’s book down to about 120 pages.
It contains some great insight that will help prepare you to grasp the spiritual depth of the New Exodus!