I understand from Wikipedia and elsewhere that dispensationalism can be broken into three main categories:

  • Classical (Scofield, Chafer)
  • Traditional, revised, or normative (Ryrie, Walvoord)
  • Progressive (Bock, Saucy)

From what I gather, classical dispensationalism has largely disappeared, while traditional/revised remains strong despite the growth of the more recent progressive position.

Here I'm interested in the main differences between the first two categories. Obviously there are going to be distinctives in the thought of each of these theologians, but, broadly speaking, what is an overview of the differences between classical and revised/traditional dispensationalism?

Put another way, what is an overview of the theological distinctives between classical and revised/traditional dispensationalism that make it fruitful to treat them as separate categories?

  • 4
    Dispensationalism seems to change with modernization. As it is a rather new way of looking at the Devine Economy, we will soon run into a situation where we run out of names for the categories. Perhaps we should refer to the stages by associating them with era that they come to being: Classical Late 1800's Traditional Mid 20th Century Progressive 21st Century Ultra Progressive, then Mega Ultra Progressive, Then Trans Classical Progressive modern conservitive .
    – Marc
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:32
  • 4
    @Marc That's pretty funny. I imagine that as time goes on, if the positions continue to evolve, the historical categories will get broader. I suspect that "Calvinism" is a much broader term today than it was in 1600. Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 20:37

1 Answer 1


This is from my limited understanding of dispensationalists after debates with them.

Majority of them are of the traditional branch, which is a slightly developed version of the classical.

  • It seems that Classical beliefs eternal separation between New covenant Church and Israelite Saints even in heaven. Two brides or two wives of God. The saved groups have separated compartments even in heaven eternally. The teachings of Christ and epistle to Hebrew do not apply to us new covenant Christians or Church. The Church is a new mystery entity founded by Paul, and mainly his and other apostles' teachings apply to us.

  • Traditionalists only add slight harmony and reduce eternal separation among dispensations; but still there are two brides of God; Israeli Christians have a confused identity not exactly same as the NC Church. Wacky end times charts and clocks are rejected. There may be vague line of distinction between classical and traditionalists. Christ's teachings or commands in the gospels still remain broadly irrelevant to the Church.

  • Progressive differs a lot from the above that most of them do not consider this to be a part or branch of dispensationalism. This acts mainly as Historic premillennialism (HP). What distinguish this as a branch of dispensationalism is the literal millennial reign; otherwise it could be hardly identified under dispensationalism. Jesus rules as Davidic throne immediately after ascension formally but not physically in an "already but not yet" sense. The Church is not a new invention created by Paul but by Jesus; and the OT believers comprises in the Church itself. There is great harmony of covenants and dispensations.

    Distinct structures within a unified Kingdom and salvation program of God. The reason Israel and the church are distinct is because they are structurally distinct and the kingdom program is bigger than either of them. Israel is a nation and race. The church is the body of Christ, representing him as he is present in heaven. When the consummation comes with the kingdom completed, Jesus will be present on earth and Israel will again be a part of the kingdom program blessing in the consummated kingdom which arrives in stages- provision now, consummation to come matching the two comings of Messiah.

Behold, your house will be abandoned ... you will not see me until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" (Matt 23:38-39; Luke 13:35).

See Romans 16:25-27, Eph 2:11-22 for how the program is unified, plus too many OT texts are used of current realities to see separate programs. Even promised NC elements, forgiveness and the Spirit are in the mix as the benefits are present now in line with promises made with OT hope (Luke 3:15-17; 24:49- Father's promise; Acts 1:4-8).

  • 2
    Thanks for the detailed answer! Do you happen to have any references to back this up, either in general or some of the specific statements? And could you be a bit more specific regarding what you mean by "wacky" end times charts? Thanks! Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 12:58
  • It might be worth adding in quote blocks for scripture citations to pull them out of the text as presented. (Also, you may wish to cite your favorite/current translation, as the words often differ and the translation you prefer is the best one for your answer). I proposed an edit for Matthew 23:38-39, as an example. Commented Sep 20, 2016 at 16:12
  • Is the distinction between the two groups related to the passage in Revelation where the 144 000 are described in Rev 7:4-8, and then in 7:9 is described the multitude who cannot be counted from all nations, dressed in white robes etc? If so, that might be worth including in your paragraph 1. Commented Nov 2, 2016 at 12:30
  • @Nathaniel Some good examples of 'wacky end times charts': clarencelarkincharts.com
    – bradimus
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 0:44

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