The basic premise that defines dispensationalism is the radical distinction between Israel and the Church. It is the belief that God has not one, but two peoples; and not one, but two plans of redemption.

It is important to note that Dispensationalism is a relatively recent phenomenon, basically originating in the 1830s with the teaching of John Darby, an Anglo-Irish evangelist. Darby was also responsible for spreading the doctrine of a "secret rapture," another teaching with no prior history in the 1800 years of Christian theology. He later split the Brethren movement in a dispute over whether all churches had to follow his church's rulings on discipline.

Darby's novel doctrines soon found fertile soil in America, and were adopted by men such as D. L. Moody, R.A. Torrey, and C.I. Scofield. They were then institutionalized by Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. Now Dispensationalism is the dominant "theology" among Fundamentalists and Evangelicals in America. (theology is in quotes because Dispensationalism is more of a hermeneutic lens [system of interpreting the bible] than a true system of theology)

It is interesting and perhaps disturbing to note that John Darby had his revelation of the radical distinction between Israel and the Church in 1827 after a severe accident, the same year that Joseph Smith had an angelic visitation and the revelation of the "golden plates" of the book of Mormon. In the same time frame the baptist preacher William Miller also developed and began to spread his "adventist" teachings about prophesy that would later give birth to the Seventh Day Adventists (Ellen G. White) and then the Jehovah's Witnesses (Charles T. Russell).

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