Dr. Couch, in dispensationalism it is taught that there is a "difference" between Israel and the church, but I don’t hear much about regeneration in the Old Testament. Can you help?
ANSWER: It is a cloudy issue concerning regeneration for the OT saints. As with Abraham we know he was justified, or legally acquitted by his faith in the fact that God would be giving him an uncountable number of children (Gen. 15:6). Paul picks up on this and over and over says that belief is what now saves, though the object of that faith is Christ, whereas with Abraham it was simply trusting in God’s word.
The OT predicted that God would, under the New Covenant (in contrast to the Mosaic Covenant), give birth spiritually to the Jewish people as they enter the land under the millennial reign of Christ. This "new birth" is regeneration and it is unique to the New Covenant. Ezekiel says "They will come to life" (Ezek. 37:9), will be spiritually washed (36:25), have the Lord’s Spirit placed within them (v. 27), and "you will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers" (v. 28). Regeneration, or the new birth, is again described for Israel in the land like this: "I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life [the new birth], and I will place you in your own land" (37:14).
[Can you believe the foolish Reformed folks take the above verses allegorically and say this is about the church! However, some like Ellicott understand rightly that these verses are to be taken literally. He says: "Therefore the promise for Israel of earthly restoration must yet be made, and must in due time be literally fulfilled."]
The church now benefits from the New Covenant that was ratified by the death of Christ, though originally meant for Israel first (Luke 22:20). The church does not fulfill the New Covenant, but instead, simply benefits by the death of Christ for sins.
Paul gives one of the most important verses about regeneration in Titus 3:5. From the Greek he writes:
He saved us, not on the basis of works which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by means of the again birth (regeneration) and the again making (remaking) done by the Holy Spirit.
This is virtually what is written in Ezekiel.
To further answer your question, dispensationalists do not propagate the differences between Israel and the church. The Bible does, and all dispensationalists do is "observe" carefully what the text indicates!
Thanks for asking.
Mal Couch, Ph.D., Th.D.