The GOSPEL TRUTH
What it is Not.
GEORGE B. FLETCHER
I. INTRODUCTION: The Sine Qua Non of Fellowship
II. PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION
III. WHAT THE MILLENNIUM IS NOTA. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE1. The Silence of Christ
2. Christ not a Political Messiah
3. No Days After the Last Days
4. The argument from Galatians and Hebrews
B. INTERNAL EVIDENCE1. The Absurdities of Literalism
2. Reading Into the Text a Theory
3. The First Resurrection Metaphorical
C. HISTORY OF DOCTRINE1. The Origin of Premillennialism
2. The Testimony of the Creeds
D. INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES1. The Importance of the Captivity
2. The Conditional Element of Prophecy
3. Some Old Testament Prophecies Expounded
4. The Gap Theory
E. THE NEW TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES1. An Illustrated Principle of Interpretation
2. The Gospel Covenant Confirmed to Abraham
3. The Throne of David
4. The Tabernacle of David
5. The Relation of the Jew to the Gospel
6. The Spiritual Israel of God
7. The National Restoration of the Jews
F. OTHER NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES1. The Mount Olivet Discourse
2. II Thessalonians 2
3. Three Important Scriptures
THE SINE QUA NON OF FELLOWSHIP
To one who is open-minded, a fair and candid presentation of the controversial question of the Millennium, however it may differ from one's own opinion is always of interest and worthy of attention.
In recent years, however, the unfortunate trend in the discussions of the millennial question has been the serious mistake of some, in their zeal, to identify Fundamentalism with Premillennialism, and to make the Premillennial interpretation of Bible prophecy the criterion of orthodoxy. It is to be regretted that in this day of revived pagan ideologies, humanistic modernism, and atheistic materialism that there are those among the brethren who make their Premillennial shibboleth the sine qua non of Christian and Church fellowship.
The testimony of a notable Christian servant confirms the development of this trend in recent years. "Not all those who hold to the interpretation of the prophecies which goes under the name of 'premillennialism' are guilty of such discrimination against those who hold the view of prophetic truth called 'amillennialism,' but a sufficiently large section of them do so discriminate, to warrant the attempt to justify the view in question, according to sound exegetical canons of Biblical interpretation." ("The Basis of Millennial Faith," by Floyd E. Hamilton, p. 18.)
Dr. T.T. Shields, a distinguished servant of Christ, wrote to me his experience as follows: "My fellowship for the greater part of the time had been chiefly with those who held what is usually known as the premillennial view. As I believed them to be sound in the basic principles of evangelical Christianity, I welcomed them to my pulpit. Even when they preached their pretribulation rapture theory I did not contradict them, but exercised my right in the course of my own ministry to teach what I believe. As soon as many of these brethren discovered that I did not pronounce their shibboleth, if I was not anathematized, I was certainly ostracized. It has been a matter of observation with me for a long time that truth is never at variance with truth, and those who hold the truth, whose doctrinal position can be clearly substantiated from Scripture, will never be found persecuting others. The persecutor will invariably be found to be one who loves darkness rather than light. I have come now to believe that the postponement theory, and the pre-tribulation rapture notion are very definite and dangerous heresies. Indeed, I should probably go much farther than you would be disposed to go. I believe the whole millennial question needs reconsideration."
My correspondent did not know how far I had gone, for I had many misgivings as to the details of the prophetic program which I then held. For many years, I was a militant and ardent premillennialist, the possessor of large charts, and a teacher in Bible classes and Bible Institutes in cities large and small. I reconsidered the postponement and pre-tribulation rapture theories, and eventually my rethinking the millennial question compelled me to abandon modern dispensationalism and the futurist interpretation of Rev. 20.
This might prejudice some on the principle that I now destroy what once I built up. But let all such consider that Divine Revelation is final and complete; but illumination is progressive. A man can do no other than change his views, if there are good reasons for doing so, unless he violates his conscience. It is better to tear down what one has once built up, if it is contrary to the Word of God, than to rebuild the middle wall of partition which God has broken down; or to be an advocate of a "worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9:1), "carnal ordinances" (Heb. 9:10), and the "weak and beggarly elements" of the Old Covenant (Gal. 4:8-11), which the Holy Spirit has said is done away forever (Heb. 8:13).
My search for a satisfactory explanation of the Millennium in harmony with the whole tenor of Scripture was facilitated by the process of elimination. Guided by ruling principles of revelation I was able to say what it was not, and by such elimination my search was narrowed down. This procedure increased the possibility of arriving at an understanding of what it is. In pursuing this method, there are six factors of elimination which helped me to determine what it does not mean; namely, external evidence, internal evidence, history of doctrine, interpretation of Old Testament prophecies, the New Testament's interpretation of Old Testament prophecies and other New Testament passages. I submit to the reader these arguments and interpretation of Rev. 20 to judge of their scripturalness.
If what I have advanced in these pages has a tendency to free any of the subjects of Christ from human inventions; rouse their attention to the unerring Rule of historic, Biblical Christianity as set forth in the inerrant, inspired, infallible scripture, or remove the unreasonable prejudices of premillennial brethren from those with whom they differ on the millennial question, my end is gained.
PRINCIPLES OF INTERPRETATION
In the study of the Old Testament there are certain sound principles of exegesis that should guide us in the search for Truth.
The First Principle
It is sound exegesis to harmonize the Old Testament with the higher light of the New Testament, and not vice versa. Whatever Christ taught by His Holy Spirit through the apostles is final, authoritative, and infallible. Therefore, we cannot go first hand to the prophecies in order to explain the New Testament by them. We must enter the prophecies with the New Testament key, by which they are opened to us either by express quotations, the history of facts, or by doctrine. Consequently, the prophecies in general will not admit of a strict and natural interpretation, when applying them to the affairs of the New Testament This would lead us into the very error of the Jews and Judaizing professors, who minded earthly things, and affected a worldly kingdom. "Because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him" (Acts 13:27). Hence, the necessity of attending diligently and adhering strictly to the apostle's explication of the prophecies, as well as types of the Old Testament. As the apostles were the able ministers of the New Testament (2 Corinthians 3:6), so they had the infallible inspiration of the Spirit of Truth, whereby they were sufficiently qualified to explain and apply the prophetic word according to its true intent and meaning.
The Second Principle
We are taught in I Corinthians 15:46: "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual." Everything under the legal economy of the Old Covenant framed and established by means of the faithful ministry of Moses, was "for a testimony of those things which were to he spoken after," namely, under the gospel (Hebrews 3:5). Moreover, the law had "a shadow of good things to come" (Heb. 10:1), but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:17). Thus, many things were typical: Abraham's natural seed, the nation of Israel, the land, circumcision, the Old Covenant, the Tabernacle, the Priesthood, the Sacrifices, the Sabbath, etc. According to the principle of I Corinthians 15:46, there are two realms in which prophetic prediction may be fulfilled, namely, in the realm of the natural or in the realm of the spiritual. The antithesis of natural is not literal but rather spiritual, and the fulfillment of the prophecy is literal in either or both realms in which it is brought to pass. For example, the healing of the blind man in John 9 was in the realm of the Spiritual, namely, the opening of the eyes of the understanding unto the salvation of the soul. In both cases, it was the literal working of the power of God, but in different realms.
The Third Principle
Divine Revelation is progressive. "But the path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18). There is no going back, but always a going forward to something more glorious, There will never be a restoration of the "divers washings," "carnal ordinances," "beggarly elements," "worldly sanctuary" with its sacrifices and Levitical priesthood, and the "middle wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile (Hebrews 9:1,10; Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 2:14). Such carnal, worldly, Mosaic distinctions have gone and gone forever. It seems to us that those who assert otherwise preach a revived Talmudic Judaism and ancient Rabbinism, and not the message of the New Testament.
The Fourth Principle
The Old Covenant, which was the sole and only basis of the national relationship of Israel to God, was a temporary arrangement, and has vanished away, never to be restored. "in that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13). Thus was dissolved the national relationship to God of the nation Israel after the flesh and that forever. The Old Covenant was made with a nation after the flesh, with the promise of material blessings in the land of Canaan, and therefore, could not be eternal. Under the New Covenant, which is spiritual and therefore eternal, national distinctions were wiped out, and the flesh is set aside forever. Christianity transcends, supersedes, and fulfills Judaism. Apart from the Gospel of Christ it is evident there is nothing special in the future for the Jews in national covenant relationship with God. The last commissions of Christ to His disciples offers salvation to the Jew as an individual on the same terms that it does to the Gentile. There is no future special bargain offer to either one in national capacity (Matthew 28:19,20; Luke 24:47,48). "But the scripture hath concluded all (both Jew and Gentile) under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe" --whether Jew or Gentile (Galatians 3:22).
"The heresy of dispensationalism results from the lack of a proper understanding of the nature of the Old Covenant and its relationship to the New. The Dispensationalists have never properly evaluated the change of covenants at Calvary" (Dr. Cecil J. Lowry in his excellent booklet, "Whither Israeli.")
The Fifth Principle
The great object and end of the prophetic dispensation, as declared in I Peter 1:10,11, was to "testify beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." Christ directs the Jews to search the scriptures, and says, "they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). His disciples were greatly disconcerted by His death; but after His resurrection He blames them for their slowness of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken; and asks, "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:26,27). And He tells them, "These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me" (Luke 24:44). The apostle Peter, having adduced the testimony of Moses, adds "Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:22-25). And in general, he says, "To him give all the prophets witness" (Acts 10:43). Paul declares that in preaching the gospel, or "witnessing both to small and great," he was "saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come; that Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people and to the Gentiles" (Acts 26:22,23). From these passages it is evident, that the great scope and ultimate design of prophecy in general, was to bear testimony to Christ, and the affairs of His kingdom (Hebrews 10:7; Psalms 40:7), which is nowhere in the New Testament spoken of as an earthly, Israelitish, political, or temporal one (John 18:36). And this is what the angel means when he says to John, "The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10), which imports, that the testimony concerning Jesus is the real scope and spirit of the whole dispensation of prophecy, and that it has its ultimate accomplishment in Him, and in the affairs of His government.
The Sixth Principle
1 -- THE STARTING POINT FOR BUILDING UP A SCRIPTURAL INTERPRETATION OF THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY IS FOUND IN THE OLD TESTAMENT EXPRESSIONS THE LATTER DAYS, THE LAST DAYS, AFTERWARD, AND IN THAT DAY. (Genesis 49:1; Numbers 24:14-17; Deuteronomy 4:30; 31:29; Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Joel 2:28; Amos 9:11). According to the Old Testament, time was divided into two eras; the present age and the last days or the Messianic age. The prophets saw imminent judgment upon their nation as well as upon others, but in the future the Anointed One should come. His coming marked off a new era. The prophets were granted the privilege of seeing some of the glories of the time of the Messiah. Together their glimpses form one grand composite picture of the LAST DAYS in which Messiah should reign. The prophets saw no third age beyond the "LAST DAYS." This may be shown by a diagram as follows:
THE PRESENT AGE
(That in which the prophets lived)
THE LAST DAYS, THE DAYS OF THE MESSIAH
2 -- THE NEW TESTAMENT PROPHETIC REVELATION BUILDS DIRECTLY ON THIS OLD TESTAMENT DISTINCTION. (Acts 2:17; 15:15,16; Hebrews 1:2; 2:5; 9:26; I Peter 1:20,21; I John 2:18). More emphatic than merely to say something is fulfilled, Peter uses language of identification: "This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel." He refers to the time of Christ's first coming as THESE LAST TIMES, and John refers to his day as THE LAST TIME. In Hebrews the writer preserves the Old Testament distinction, according to which the time of God's speaking through His Son is in the LAST OF THESE DAYS (A.R.V.) The WORLD TO COME of Old Testament prophecy is subjected to Christ; and as he explains, "We see Jesus ... crowned with glory and honor." The conclusion to which these Scriptures lead is that the present time (from Pentecost to the end of time) is the last days of the Old Testament prophecy. What the prophets spoke concerning the age of the Messiah is now being gloriously fulfilled.
3 -- THE NEW TESTAMENT DIVIDES THE LAST DAYS INTO TWO PARTS: THE PRESENT WORLD AND THE WORLD TO COME (Matthew 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 20:34-36; Romans 8:38; I Corinthians 3:22; Ephesians 1:21; 2:2,7; I Timothy 4:8; 6:17-19). The present world is temporal and limited to things of this life. The world to come is eternal, being inaugurated by the resurrection. In the WORLD TO COME they neither marry nor are given in marriage. Timothy is enjoined to charge them that are rich in THIS WORLD (age) to lay up in store a good foundation against THE TIME TO COME. The New Testament knows of no age intervening THE PRESENT WORLD and THE WORLD TO COME. This may be shown by diagram as follows:
THE LAST DAYS
Christ's First Coming AND the Resurrection
(begins with Christ's FIRST COMING)
THE WORLD TO COME
(begins with Christ's SECOND COMING)
Into this prophetic framework of time eras falls the New Testament teaching concerning the kingdom. The present kingdom belongs to THIS WORLD and is temporal, while the future kingdom belongs to the WORLD TO COME and is eternal." ("The Fulfillment of Prophecy," by Chester K. Lehman).
WHAT THE MILLENNIUM IS NOT
A. EXTERNAL EVIDENCE
1. The Silence of Christ
From time immemorial man has labored and hoped for a golden age, a millennium. Many and futile have been the schemes he has devised to bring it about. These may be classified into two general groups: non-Christian millennial theories, and nominally Christian millennial theories. The schemes of nationalism aimed at world domination, such as the Communist's Millennium of Russian and China, and schemes of internationalism aimed at world collaboration such as the World Association of Parliamentarians for World Government and the United Nations Organization are examples of political and economic utopias belonging to the first group. Among the nominally Christian millennial theories are those of the Modernist with its Socialism and Inclusivist Church: the Romanist's as seen in the Clerical-Fascism of Spain; and the Dispensationalist's millennium of a thousand years of Jewish supremacy. Just as the Nazis asserted there would be a thousand-year reign of Aryian supremacy, so the dispensationalists declare there will be a thousand years of Jewish Semitic supremacy with Jerusalem as the world capital instead of Berlin, Moscow, London, or Washington. By classifying the dispensationalist's millennium with the nominally Christian theories, it is not to be understood that we mean that all those who hold this view are not Christians; quite the contrary, many are numbered among the most godly spiritual believers the author has known. But we do believe that the millennial view held by these good people is Christian in name only.
All of these man-made schemes are doomed to failure. The non-Christian theories of political and economic eras of millennial blessing will fail, because they are based upon the false principle of man's inherent goodness. Those who hold these views are attempting to build a grand and imposing superstructure on the rotten foundation of unregenerate and totally depraved humanity, and therefore, they cannot succeed.
The nominally Christian theories are likewise doomed to failure, because they are nowhere promised in the Scripture. With respect to the dispensationalist's millennium, Christ, in His eschatology, is silent about a corporeal reign in a world power kingdom of Jewish supremacy for a thousand years with headquarters in Jerusalem AFTER His Second Advent. Neither the Gospels nor the book of Acts speak of a thousand-year kingdom on earth in which there will be mingled both mortals and immortals. The Epistles give no hint of a return to Palestine of natural, carnal, fleshly Israel; but, instead, many of them were written to counteract the Judaizing tendencies of Jewish converts.
There is no prediction in the Apocalypse of the return of the Jews to Palestine where Christ, AFTER His Second Advent, will reign with His immortal saints on an earthly throne in Jerusalem over mortal Jews and Gentiles, still on probation, living and dying, and begetting their kind. There is not one text in the whole Bible that speaks of a thousand years corporeal reign of our Lord in a temporal world power kingdom of Jewish supremacy AFTER His Second Advent. But why did not Christ and His apostles clearly predict that the Temple would be rebuilt, the Levitical sacrifices re-established, and Jerusalem made the center of the world's worship in a thousand-years-world-power-kingdom of mortals and immortals? There is, I think, but one answer --they did not believe it! True the Apostles before Pentecost imbibed the popular notion of the day. They believed that when the Messiah came He would abide on earth forever (John 12:34; Matt. 16:21,22). They entertained mistaken views of the nature of Christ's kingdom, and conceived of it as earthly, carnal, political, and Jewish. They fought among themselves for the chief place in it. There was nothing that hastened the crucifixion of Christ more than the false notion of the religious leaders concerning the kingdom of Christ. Subsequent to Pentecost the Apostles were delivered from this erroneous concept. It was this doctrine, which had its origin in Jewish apocalyptic writings, that the apostle Paul called "Jewish fables" (Titus 1:14).
2. Christ Not a Political Messiah
If Christ had offered a literal kingdom to the Jews in the pomp and glory of David and Solomon, they would have rallied to His standard. But it was this very thing He refused to do: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone" (John 6:15). The next day He plainly declared unto them that He was not a political Messiah, or miracle Bread-King, but a spiritual Messiah who came down from Heaven to give His life unto the world (John 6:22-71).
To assume that Christ offered to the Jews a temporal world power kingdom, and then, upon perceiving their official rejection of it, postponed it to a thousand-year period of time AFTER His Second Advent, is as contrary to Scripture as anything could be.
This theory inadvertently asserts that unregenerate men could frustrate His purpose and force Him to postpone His plans. It involves the Deity of Christ, and implies that sinful men can hinder the purposes of Him who doeth His will in the armies of Heaven and among the sons of men (Dan. 4:35).
If Christ did not offer the Jews a literal world power kingdom, what are we to understand by Mark 1:15: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye and believe the gospel"?
The kingdom of Christ was to take place during the last of Daniel's four monarchies, viz., the Roman Empire: "In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (Dan. 2:44). The four kingdoms represented by the Image of Daniel 2 have forever passed away, and therefore the period when Christ, the God of Heaven, should set up His kingdom is passed. Unless He did set it up "in the days of these kings" --the Roman Emperors (Luke 2:1; 23:2 --this prophecy is false; for if it were not then fulfilled, it never can be fulfilled. But inasmuch as it was set up by the God of Heaven, it is termed in the New Testament the Kingdom of Heaven, these terms being interchangeable.
The ancient kingdom of Israel typified it. That kingdom admitted the use of the sword in its erection, government, and defense. Its inheritance was earthly, and its blessings of a temporal nature. Its sanctuary and ordinances of Divine worship were worldly and typical (Heb. 9:1-10; 10:1-4), and its people in general were carnal, the mere children of the flesh (Matt. 3:9; Rom. 9:8). From this worldly establishment, Christ distinguished His New Testament kingdom in His confession before Pilate, declaring "my kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36,37). It is not of a worldly origin or nature, nor has it this world for its end or object It is not promoted or defended by worldly power, influence, or carnal weapons; but by bearing witness unto the truth, or the preaching of the Gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from Heaven. None can enter it but such as are born from above (John 3:3,5), nor can any be subjects of it, but such as appear to the regenerated by the evidence of a credible profession of faith and obedience. Its privileges and immunities are not of this world, but spiritual and heavenly (Eph. 1:3).
It was proclaimed "at hand" by John the Baptist, our Lord, and His apostles. It is founded on Christ's death and resurrection by which He ratified the New Covenant with Abraham's spiritual seed of all nations who are blessed in Him (Gal. 3:7-9). He likewise set aside the Old Covenant with the national church or kingdom of Israel and all the typical and earthly things pertaining to it, admitting none of them into His New Testament Church and kingdom upon the footing of their descent from Abraham (Matt 3:7-12). Thus Daniel 2 is now fulfilled in the present spiritual kingdom of God (Mark 1-15), whereby we know that historical Christianity is a Divinely revealed religion (Heb. 12:28,29).
"The Church (i.e., churches of Christ) is the visible earthly form of the kingdom of Christ, and is the Divine organization appointed for its advancement and triumph. Organized and governed by the laws of the invisible King, and composed of the subjects of the heavenly kingdom, who, by the symbol of fealty, have publicly confessed allegiance to receiving authority to establish, under Divine inspiration, the form and order of the Church, received the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Wherever they gathered disciples, they organized a church, and at their death they left this (these churches) as the distinctive and only visible form of the kingdom of Christ on earth" (Harvey).
3. No Days AFTER the Last Days
The New Testament emphasizes the fact that "these days" which make up the present Gospel era are the last (Heb. 1:1,2), and the self-evident truth of this statement is that there can be no days after the last. See Jude 18 and I John 2:18 where it is stated that this Gospel age is the last time. Israel's history was providentially ordered, and the record of the events Divinely inspired for our admonition "upon whom the ends of the world are come" (I Cor. 10:11). Conybeare's translation renders this, "who live in the end of the ages." Now, since we live in the "end of the ages," there can be no thousand years age of time to follow this one. Peter declares that the Lord Jesus "was manifested in these last times for you" (I Peter 1:20). With which Heb. 9:26 agrees in stating, "but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." Young's translation renders this, "at the completion of the ages." Hence, the completion of all the ages allotted to this world. In fulfillment of Isa. 49:8: the Apostle Paul declares in II Cor. 6:2, "Now is the accepted time: now is the day of salvation." There is no offer of mercy AFTER this Day of Salvation. In this current dispensation, called "the dispensation of the fullness of times," Christ is gathering together in one all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). Which the message of the entire Epistle to the Ephesians declares is now being accomplished (Eph. 2:11-22; 3:5,6).
4. The Argument from Galatians and Hebrews
Bound up with a corporeal reign of Christ, in a thousand-year temporal kingdom AFTER the Second Advent, are the prophecies of the return of fleshly Israel with the restoration of the Temple and its worship. The Mosaic system with its Temple and sacrifices had a typical value only, and ended when its antitypes were reached. To believe in their restoration would reverse the natural and proper order of events, and carry us backward from the antitypes to the types, from Jesus Christ to Moses, from the Church to the nation of fleshly Israel, from the blood of Christ to the blood of bulls and goats, from the Melchisedec priesthood to the Aaronic priesthood, from the New Covenant to the Old Covenant, from believer's baptism to the ablutions of the Old Testament, from the Lord's Day to the Jewish Sabbath, from the Lord's Supper to the Jewish Passover. This would be the world's most horrible anticlimax Christianity superseded by Judaism. This is entirely contrary to the Divine procedure In God's plan, the superior is never supplanted by the inferior. The law is always: "First that which is natural, then that which is spiritual" (I Cor. 15:46). Now that the Sun of Righteousness has risen, we will not go back to the dim light of the candlestick. God's order is good, better, best (Proverbs 4:18). The Epistle to the Hebrews calls the Temple of the Mosaic economy a "worldly sanctuary" (Heb. 9:1), and the ceremonials of the Old Covenant "carnal ordinances" (Heb. 9:10). In the Epistle to the Galatians Paul declares them to be "weak and beggarly elements" (Gal. 4:9-11). A reinstitution of the Levitical priesthood and sacrifices would be a denial of the message of these two Epistles. The consummate flower of the human race, the God-Man, "offered himself without spot to God" (Heb. 9:14), and He will not again accept the offering of a beast. The concept of animal sacrifices being offered again during a millennium, even as a memorial, is both abhorrent and repulsive. It is certain that no prophecy of Israel's return which includes a restoration of the Temple and its sacrifices can have a future fulfillment. If it was not fulfilled in the law age, it has lapsed for some reason and will never be fulfilled at all.
From the four facts of External Evidence --the silence of Christ, the spiritual kingdom, no days after the last days, and the passing away of the Old Covenant --it is clear that, whatever the millennium of Rev. 20 refers to, it cannot be a reinstitution of the Mosaic economy, nor can it be placed AFTER the Second Advent of Christ
B. INTERNAL EVIDENCE
1. The Absurdities of Literalism
A literal interpretation of all the factors in Revelation 20 creates more difficulties than it solves. For instance, a literal chain could not bind one possessed with demons (Mark 5:3,4). How shall we believe that the Devil can be bound by a material chain, being a pure though unholy spirit himself? Again, is the Devil literally a dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and a tail dragging after him a third part of the stars of Heaven (compare Rev. 12:3,4))? Are we to take "bottomless pit" and "set a seal upon him" literally? While we should carefully shun all spiritualization, however ingenious, which robs the Word of God of its true force and beauty, we should shun with equal care a false literalism which extracts error out of figurative statements. There is danger on both sides, and we can only hope to avoid it by using the best sources of information which the Lord puts within our reach, and by relying continually on the guidance and keeping of the Holy Spirit. In a symbolic narrative we should read literally only in such places as the author has evidently departed from symbolism. Notwithstanding this simple rule, there are many who either literalize its symbols, or who do not uniformly interpret them.
Floyd E. Hamilton, in his book "The Basis of Millennial Faith," shows that the division of God's people during the millennium into several separate groups is one of the incongruous features of premillennialism. From the writings of pretribulationists, he enumerates several such groups:
"(1) The church with glorified bodies dwelling in the sky. (2) The glorified Jewish group of believers who were martyred during the tribulation. (3) The group of Gentile tribulation "saints" who are said to be raised at the close of the tribulation period but who do not join the church in the skies. (4) The believing Jews who enter the millennium in natural bodies. (5) The believing Gentiles who enter the millennium in natural bodies. (6) The Jewish believers who die during the millennium. (7) The Gentile believers who die during the millennium.There is not a scintilla of evidence for these arbitrary divisions of God's people, during a supposed AFTER the Advent millennium, by the Futurists. Mr. Hamilton concludes: "The different parts of their theory have been held independently and they have never seriously faced the logical implication of the separate parts or attempted to compare the contradictory implications" (p. 139). It is an axiom that a straight line cannot cross itself though projected indefinitely. "What with the great tribulation, the parousia, the rapture, the aions, the remnant, the revelation, eight covenants, seven dispensations, three comings of Christ, four judgment days, two endings of the world, several sets of last days, and three resurrection days, I submit there has been grafted into the simple Word of God an elaborate system of interpretation which could never occur to the ordinary believer through an unbiased reading of the Bible" (The Hope of His Coming" by Charles E. Brown, P. 71).
2. Reading Into the Text a Theory
The word "millennium" cannot be found in the Bible. "Millennium" is a Latin term meaning a thousand years, and the only mention of a thousand years in connection with any reign of Christ and His people is in the Book of Symbols (Rev. 20). And there is no mention in Rev. 20 of Christ's reigning on this earth, nor of the saints' reigning on earth AFTER the resurrection. There is no mention of a thousand years intervening between the bodily resurrection of the righteous and the wicked.
One reads in vain to discover any reference whatever to the Jews. The only way one can get the idea of a regathered Israel, reigning as a superior race in supremacy over the Gentile nations in a thousand-year world power kingdom AFTER the Second Advent, is to deliberately read into the text what is not there. Such a method is its own condemnation. It is eisegesis, not exegesis.
3. The First Resurrection Metaphorical
The first resurrection referred to in Rev. 20:5 cannot be taken in the literal sense for the following reasons: "(l) This passage does not mention the resurrection of the bodies, but only of the souls of the martyrs. The word rendered souls here occurs six times in this book, and signifies the life or living principle in the body (8:9; 12:11). It is distinguished from the body (18:13), and represented as existing in a state of separation from it (6:9), but is never put for the body itself, far less for the dead body, which alone is the subject of a proper resurrection, or of living again. (2) A literal resurrection of the righteous a thousand years before that of the wicked contradicts the plain account given of that matter in the Gospels and Epistles. For instance, Christ says, 'The hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation' (John 5:28,29). The hour here cannot signify two different periods at one thousand years distance from each other; yet in that hour all that are in their graves shall hear His voice and come forth: not the righteous dead only, for these are not all that are in the graves; nor the wicked dead only, for these have not done good; but in that hour both they that have done good, and they that have done evil, even all that are in their graves shall come forth, the one unto the resurrection of life, the other unto the resurrection of damnation. (3) Our Lord repeatedly declares that He will raise up believers at the last day (John 6:39,40,44,54), and He makes this last and describes the judgment both of the righteous and wicked as taking place at the same period (Matt. 25:31-46). Now to affirm that there will be a day one thousand years after the last day for the resurrection and judgment of the wicked, not only contradicts this, but is a manifest impropriety of speech. (4) The Book of Revelation itself places the proper and general resurrection and judgment, both of the righteous and wicked, after the thousand years reign of the saints, and the destruction of the armies of Gog and Magog (20:11-15). But to suppose that the saints, after having reigned with Christ one thousand years in their spiritual, immortal, and glorified bodies, shall be surrounded with enemies in gross earthly bodies, or even appear in judgment to receive their final sentence, after they have been so long glorified, is altogether unnatural as well as unscriptural. (5) We are expressly told that 'the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death' (I Cot. 15:26; Rev. 20:14). But if the first resurrection is the destruction of death to the saints, as the Futurists hold, then death is not the last enemy that shall be destroyed; for Gog and Magog are enemies which will be destroyed one thousand years after the first resurrection. These considerations convince me that the first resurrection is to be taken in a metaphorical sense" ("Christ's Commission to His Apostles" by A.M'Lean).
This furnishes us with the key to the interpretation of Rev. 20. It is a book of symbols, and the truths they are intended to portray will be just as literal if fulfilled in the realm of the spiritual as in the realm of the natural.
From our consideration of the Absurdities of Literalism, Reading into the Text a Theory, and the First Resurrection, it is evident that Rev. 20 is not speaking of a Jewish national world-supremacy state in a thousand years kingdom AFTER the Second Advent, in which Jerusalem will be the center of the world's worship, with the Jews as the head and the Gentiles as the tail Whoever can read that concept out of Rev. 20 must be reading through the rose-tinted glasses of political Zionism. It is impossible to get the mind of the Holy Spirit by reading into the text a theory of our own devising. No matter how plausible it may seem, its apparent incongruities will make it impossible to correlate it with the whole of Scripture.
There must be some simple explanation of Rev. 20 which will be in harmony with the rest of the Scripture. If there is such an interpretation, the question resolves itself into our choosing that which is in agreement with the whole of Divine revelation, or contrariwise, to accept that view which is characterized by absurdities.
C. HISTORY OF DOCTRINE
1. The Origin of Premillennialism
In many nations and religions there appears the idea, in some form or other, of a golden age. This expectation is due to God's Revelation, for as soon as sin had come into the world, hope was given in the promise of ultimate victory (Gen. 3:15). In the various religions of the pagan world there seems to be an echo of this hope. But there is something very interesting about this golden-age expectation; namely that the farther men get away from God's truth, the more carnal and materialistic this hope becomes. The history of Israel as a nation also illustrates this fact. After centuries of servitude in Egypt and forty years of wandering in the wilderness, they looked upon Canaan as the land of rest and promise. From Heb. 4 that appears as a mistake. That was not the rest promised to God's people. Only those who were of faith within the nation looked for a city whose builder and maker was God, and desired a better country, that is, an heavenly (Heb. 11:10,16). Later after seventy years of captivity, the captives in Babylon cry, "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Psa. 137:5,6). The earthly Jerusalem had plainly become their chief joy, and the hope of Israel had become the restoration of their land, city, and temple.
Chiliasm, or premillennialism in its simple form originated in the Jewish Apocalyptic writings of the inter-Biblical period, of which the following quotation is a sample from the Apocalypse of Baruch:
"The earth will yield its fruit ten-thousand fold, on each vine there will be a thousand branches, and each branch will produce a thousand grapes, each grape will produce a cor of wine, and those that have hungered will rejoice" (XXIX:4-6). The idea of a millennial reign on earth proceeded from Judaism, for "among the Jews the representation was growing, that the Messiah would reign a thousand years upon earth. Such products of Jewish imagination passed over into Christianity" (Neander's, "History of Christian Dogmas," Vol. 1, p. 248).
Johann Albrecht Bengel (d. 1752) has been called the father of modern premillenarianism, but about a century later a new form of premillennialism was introduced by J. N. Darby (1880-1882), a Premillennialism wedded to Dispensationalism. The new views of Premillennialism were popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible, and widely disseminated by voluminous writers of the Futurist school.
Dr. Donald W. Richardson, in his book, "The Revelation of Jesus," says: "If, however, we define heresy as 'doctrine that contradicts the historical universal Christian faith,' or as 'an opinion opposed to the commonly received doctrine, and tending to division or dissension,' then Darbyism, or Dispensationalism, as it is widely taught today is heresy --hurtful in its influence and hindering to the work of the Church as a divine institution for the advancement of the Kingdom of God" (p. 165).
"I fear the eschatological teaching which has been current the last few years, the putting of these blessings and promises of the Word into some distant millennial age, instead of teaching us that even now God is among His people, has had a deadening and carnalizing effect upon the religious life in general" (Dr. T. T. Shields Sermon on Romans 11:25, Gospel Witness for February 9, 1939).
2. The Testimony of the Creeds
From the days of the Apostles to the present, there has never been a time when any of the various millennial schemes, or even the main contention was regarded as a part of the universal teaching of the Second Advent. In its simple form Premillennialism goes back to the early days of the Church. Papias, Justin, and others held it as a Pious Opinion. It may be so held today. But to represent the doctrine of a temporal millennium AFTER the Second Advent as a "fundamental" of the Christian faith, is contrary to fact. In neither the Apostles' Creed, which is the earliest of them all, nor in the Nicene Creed of 323 A.D. is there the slightest allusion to two resurrections and a carnal reign of Christ between them.
After a resume of this history of Millenarianism covering ten pages, Dr. W.G.T. Shedd, in his "History of Christian Doctrine" concludes with these words: "The facts, then, established by this account of Millenarianism in the Ancient, Medieval, and Modern Churches, are the following: (1) That Millenarianism was never the ecumenical faith of the church, and never entered as an article into any of the creeds. (2) That Millenarianism has been the opinion of individuals and parties only --some of whom have stood in agreement with the catholic faith, and some in opposition to it."
Millenarianism not only never entered into any of the creeds, but on the other hand was condemned by the Augsburg Confession (Article 17), the Swiss Confession (Article 11), and the original articles of the Church of England in these words:
"They that go about to renew the fable of heretics called Millinnarii be repugnant to Holy Scriptures, and cast themselves to a Jewish dotage" (Article XLl).
The Second Helvetic Confession is also very strongly worded: the article on Judgment contains this sentence:
"Moreover, we reject the Jewish dreams that there will be before the day of judgment a golden age upon the earth and the pious will take possession of the kingdoms of the world after their enemies, the ungodly, have been subdued."
Of the early Church Fathers and Church Historians in whose writings nothing of premillennialism is found, but much against it are: Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Caius, Clement of Alexandria, Jerome, Eusebius, and Augustine. The leading Reformers--Savonarola, Huss, Luther, Melanchthon --were utterly hostile to the Premillennial views of the early Church, and Calvin in his Institutes, Vol. II, Box III, chapter 25 says:
"Not long after the days of Paul arose the Millennarians who limited the reign of Christ to a thousand years. Their fiction is too puerile to require or deserve refutation."
During the last fifty years Premillennialism has been spread far and wide by modern propagative methods, and popularized by the Scofield Reference Bible. If one keeps in mind that this Bible only claims to be a Reference Bible, one may find it very helpful as one does other reference books on one's bookshelf. But if an individual considers the notes printed on the same page with the sacred text as inspired as the text itself, and believes them to speak with infallibility and finality on all questions, particularly prophecy, then to such an individual this Bible can become a source of harm. The main idea of Millennialism is not modern or new, it is a revival with slight modification of ancient rabbinism. It is based largely on a particular interpretation of certain Old Testament Messianic prophecies. These prophecies of the coming Messiah were for the most part stated in terms of a restored and prosperous Israel, which were the popular concepts of that time. The rabbis always interpreted them in literalistic style; hence, they pictured the Messiah as gathering Israel, and restoring the Davidic throne and reign in Jerusalem. To all the Jews this was "the hope of Israel." But when Christ came, He made no effort to carry out this literal program, and for this reason He was rejected by the Jews. Whenever He or His inspired apostles quoted Old Testament prophecies they invested them with a higher, spiritual meaning, and applied them now. Not once did they create a future age or millennium, in which to carry out on the plane of the natural these Old Testament prophecies. In Acts 26:6,7, Paul on trial before Agrippa, declared that it was because of the "hope" of Israel that he was accused of the Jews, which hope he shows to be the resurrection from the dead. In Acts 28:20, he says, "for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain," which he never would have been had he held out to them the prospects of an earthly kingdom in the pomp and glory of David and Solomon. In Acts 13:27 he says further concerning the Jews: "Because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him." Because they did not understand their prophets, they crucified Christ, and sent Paul bound in chains to Rome!
D. INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES
1. The Importance of the Captivity
The Premillennialists acknowledge that their concepts of an earthly millennium are found not so much in the New Testament as in the Old Testament. This involves the interpretation of these Old Testament prophecies. One of the most prolific sources of error in interpreting Old Testament prophecy has been the failure to appreciate the chronology of the prophecies in relation to the Captivity of Israel in Assyria and Judah in Babylon. It began about 730 B.C. when Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria, carried away the first great section of the people (II Kings 15:29), and reached its fullest extent in the final deportation of Judah to Babylon in 586 B.C. The return from Captivity, the full restoration and re-establishment, were gradual and occupied the long period of approximately ninety years from the decree of Cyrus, B.C. 536; to that of Darius, B.C. 520; to that of Artaxerxes to Ezra, 457 B.C.; and was not complete until B.C. 446 under Nehemiah. It should also be remembered that from the time of Malachi, the last prophet, to the coming of John the Baptist was approximately four hundred years. Many of Israel returned from Assyria, together with their brethren of Judah from Babylon, when Cyrus the Persian issued his famous edict of restoration in the first year of his reign (II Chron. 36:22,23). After this return, these people were no more two kingdoms, their city was restored, their Temple rebuilt, and their sacrifices resumed. With varying fortunes they continued in their land and city until they were finally overthrown by the Romans in A.D. 70. If God's prophets in both kingdoms were inspired to predict these captivities, must they not have spoken of the return and the blessing which it would bring them? Promises of blessing upon repentance and restoration are God's way of exciting hope. And would not as many of these prophets as wrote before or during these captivities be particularly moved to see and predict the return from Assyria and Babylon, and the consequent restoration of the city, temple, and sacrifices? And if they did predict a return under such conditions, would it not be most natural and proper to believe that restored Israel with city, temple, and sacrifices, after these captivities, fulfilled these predictions?
The chronological data of the prophets in relation to the return from exile is important for one to grasp when attempting to interpret Old Testament prophecies. Jonah, who says nothing about the captivity or return, wrote B.C. 862, or about three hundred and twenty-six years before the decree of Cyrus. Joel (B.C. 800) flourished two hundred and sixty-four years before Cyrus's decree. Amos (B.C. 767) wrote two hundred and seventy-years previous to the decree Hosea (B.C. 785-825) wrote two hundred and four years prior to Cyrus' command. Isaiah (B.C-760-698) names Cyrus and his conquests with the decree for Israel's return, a hundred and seventy-six years before the decree was issued. Micah (B.C. 750-710) wrote at least one hundred and seventy-four years before the decree. Nahum (B.C. 713) wrote one hundred and seventy-seven years before the decree of Cyrus. Zephaniah (B.C. 630) wrote ninety-four years before the decree. Jeremiah (B.C. 629-595) wrote fifty-nine years earlier than Cyrus' decree. Living during part of the captivity, he naturally would write much about the return. Habakkuk (B.C. 626) wrote ninety years before. Obadiah (B.C. 587) wrote fifty-one years before the decree and during the captivity. Daniel (B.C. 607534) wrote two years this side of Cyrus' decree. Ezekiel (B.C. 595-574) lived during the captivity, and ceased to write probably thirty-eight years prior to the decree. Haggai and Zechariah (B.C. 520) wrote at least sixteen years after the decree of Cyrus. Malachi (B.C. 397) wrote one hundred and thirty-nine years after Cyrus' decree. He represents Israel in the return as still an impenitent backslider, not meeting the conditions which the Lord required. Only two of these prophets wrote after the return under Cyrus and before it was complete under Nehemiah (B.C. 446), for the return was in three installments under Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes. Therefore, the fun return from Babylon was this side of every Old Testament prophet except Malachi, who naturally says nothing about it. This fact is exceedingly significant, and should lead us to be careful not to wrench the prediction of a return, and a resumption of legal ceremonies and sacrifices from a dispensation to which they were natural and proper, to place them in a present or future age, from which they are positively excluded. Of the prophets who foretold the future of Israel, eleven wrote before the Captivity began in 606 B.C. Two wrote during the Captivity and before the decree of Cyrus in 536 B.C. Two wrote about sixteen years after the decree of Cyrus, and probably some seventy years before the full end of the return under Nehemiah in 446 B.C. Only one wrote after the entire ninety years of the period of the return; namely, Malachi. Sixteen prophets, therefore, when they wrote of a return may have meant a return from Babylon unless the nature of the prophecy forbids it.
2. The Conditional Element of Prophecy
Conditions are a rule of prophecy, and are attached to the prophecies regarding Israel, especially concerning Israel's return from the Babylonian captivity. The nature of the blessings and curses promised to Israel in Deuteronomy, chapters 28 to 30, were in themselves absolute, but the experience and reception of them by Israel depended upon themselves (Deut. 28:13-15,25,43,44). One would think that, with these solemn words before them in their law, neither they nor others could doubt that the prophecies concerning them would be conditional. The little word "if" governed the fulfillment of them, both the blessing and the cursing. According to Webster, "If implies a condition." The rule is found in Jer. 18:7-10, "At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good wherewith I said I would benefit them." A rule never changed in mercy, never broken in wrath; a rule more unalterable than the laws of the Medes and Persians (Dan. 6:8,12), a rule followed in dealing with Jew and Gentile, a rule not always stated in connection with a promise of blessing or a threat of doom, as the story of Nineveh in Jonah shows; but applying in similar cases that related to Israel. . National rebellious Israel is cut off by it, while the "Israel of God" are saved. In confirmation thereof, read again God's decree to Israel; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it (Isa. 1:19,20). Following out this line of thought we hear Jeremiah five or six years previous to the captivity in Babylon, and while Israel's sins provoke a wrath so terrible that it found "no remedy" (II Chron. 36:36), saying thus: "If thou wilt return, O Israel, saith the Lord, return unto me; and if thou wilt put away thine abominations out of my sight, then shalt thou not remove" (Jer. 4:1). They refused and were carried away into bondage.
If the conditions of the Mosaic law determined Israel's history for nine hundred years, from Moses to the Babylon Captivity, why should we doubt that it determined all the rest of it? We know that Israel went to Assyria because of idolatry, in exact accordance with the law, even as Judah went to Babylon for the same sin, and the refusal to let the land enjoy her Sabbaths" (Lev. 26:14,15,31-43; II Chron. 26.20,21). These facts lead us to conclude that any prophecies of return from these captivities would be subject to the same law and conditions that governed their preceding history. The law of Moses and its conditions were for the whole of the Mosaic dispensation, and hence as certainly ruled after the exile in Babylon as they did before it.
Not complying with God's conditions after their return from exile, as the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the prophetical books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi abundantly testify, the prophecies of national power, glory and prosperity after the return from Babylon were but partially fulfilled. Israel returned. Jerusalem was rebuilt, but not according to the "pattern" of Ezekiel. "Princes," "nobles," "rulers," and even "Kings" reigned there. Zerubbabel was a "prince of Judah," of the royal family of David. Others in the same line followed. After the death of Alexander the Great the Jews were for about a century subject to the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucidae of Syria, the "kings" of "the south" and "north" of Dan. 11. Finally they revolted against Antiochus Epiphanes who desecrated the temple and dedicated it to Jupiter Olympius; and then followed a struggle for liberty under the Asmonean or Maccabean family, in which the Jews were victorious; and in 133 B.C., Aristobulus assumed the title of "king." A dispute between two of his successors, however, led to the intervention of Pompey, who took Jerusalem B.C 63. Then in B.C. 47 Antipater, the father of Herod, was made procurator; and in B.C. 37 the Roman senate conferred the crown of Judah upon Herod the Great, who was "king of the Jews" when Jesus was born. (See the books of Maccabees and Josephus). But the nation never attained, during these five centuries, the power and glory that had been promised, because the promise was conditional, and the conditions had been broken. Israel was swept away to "bow down their back alway" (Rom. 11:10), "for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost" (I Thess. 2:15,16). See I Sam. 12:6-25.
3. Some Old Testament Prophecies Expounded
The dual prophecy of Isa. 2:1-5 and Micah 4:1-3 contemplate the exalted position of Israel after the return from the Babylonian captivity. "The mountain of the Lord," here, is evidently Zion; for Zion is mentioned as the place from whence the law shalt go forth. But a "mountain" is a symbol of a kingdom, and the fact that this "mountain" is to be above other "mountains" and "hills" shows that the kingdom of Israel was to be "exalted" above other and surrounding kingdoms. Now, it is said that, as Israel as a nation has never, since this prophecy was given, been so exalted, and has never exercised such influence among the nations, it must apply in a dispensation still future. But several things should be noted concerning these two prophecies which prove they belong to the past. (1) The prophecy is of "Judah and Jerusalem" (Isa. 2:1) and refers to a time of sacrifices in an age of the law (Isa. 2:3). But we have seen in the light of the New Testament there can be no restoration of the Temple and its sacrifices either in this age or in that to come. (2) It must apply in mortal conditions; for it is a time of "many nations," and a time of "swords" and "spears." But death ceases as an active agent at the second coming of our Lord. The age beyond the resurrection being without marriage, will be without births, and consequently without deaths (Luke 20:35,36). We may say, then, with confidence, that this present dispensation is the last one of births and deaths; and if so, we may say with equal confidence, that AFTER the Second Advent all national and mortal distinctions will have been lost in the one, eternal kingdom of Christ. Therefore, inasmuch as the prophecy contemplates fleshly Israel, we must seek another explanation. (3) The expression "last days," or "latter days" as in the Revised Version--found but three times in the Old Testament (Gen. 49:1; Isa. 2:2; Micah 4:1) means no more in the Old Testament than "in later days." It refers to some indeterminate period after the prophet's writing. Both Isaiah and Micah, as contemporaries, prophesied before the return from Babylon, and the post-exilic period was to them "the latter days." (4) The setting of the prophecy in both passages ins post-exilic, as is evident from the context of what immediately precedes and follows. Isaiah prophesies Israel's desolation with exhortations to repentance and promises of restoration (Isa. 1:7,8,19,20,31). Then, in chapter 2:1-5, follows the description of the glory and power which Israel might attain after the desolation. Micah, in chapter 3:9-12, speaks likewise of threatened evil: "Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places in the forest" (Micah 3:12). These words immediately precede the prophecy of Israel's exaltation in Micah 4:1-7. Just before the captivity in Babylon which began in 606 B.C., Jeremiah declared that it was not too late for repentance: "The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and the Lord will repent him of the evil that he had pronounced against you" (Jer. 26:12,13). Could the conditional element in prophecy be more clearly revealed? Jeremiah, in chapter twenty-six, verses seventeen to nineteen, cites the prophecy of Micah 3:12, spoken in the days of Hezekiah that Zion should be plowed as a field. Jeremiah, in these verses, shows that it was conditional and had lapsed, because the people in Hezekiah's day had repented. This established the principle that all prophecies should be interpreted in the light of their conditions. If a prophecy of evil could lapse because of repentance, as in the case of Micah 3:12 and the prophecy of Jonah against Nineveh, a prophecy of good could lapse because of continued impenitence, as in the case in the dual prophecy of Isa. 2:1-5 and Micah 4:1-7. No matter how strong and glowing a description the prophet may give of Israel's exaltation, it must lapse if the conditions are not fulfilled. Immediately following the prophecy that Zion should be "plowed as a field" in the days of Assyria, which lapsed because of repentance, is Micah's prophecy of exaltation (Micah 4:1-7). "But in the last days it shall come to pass that the mountain of the house of the Lord (against which the former prophecy of Micah 3:12 was uttered) shall be established in the top of the mountains" (Micah 4:1,2). This shows that the exaltation was associated in the prophet's mind with the period after the Assyrian or Babylonian captivity, and not with some future dispensation. But note also what immediately follows this prophecy of Micah 4:1-7 and note particularly verse 10: "Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in travail; for now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon: there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies" (See also Micah 7:8-13). It is certain, therefore, that the return of Israel, which was to be followed by great exaltation and power, was the return from Babylon; and whoever wrenches this prophecy from its context and surroundings, to assign it to some future age makes a great mistake. Someone might ask if it does not say that God "shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever?" It does; but it is after the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever. The one expression is the corollary of the other--and was intended to last only so long as the other. Compare II Chron. 15:2, and Lev. 26:23,24.
Other prophets speak of the restoration of Israel's national power and greatness in just as vivid terms as Isaiah and Micah, and yet they place it after the return from Babylon. See Zech. 2:10,11 as an illustration, and compare the preceding verses six to nine which say, *Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon."
We conclude that the dual prophecy of Isa. 2:1-5 and Micah 4:1-7 was conditional, and that Israel failed of the dignity and power promised, because of failure to meet the conditions of promised blessing according to the rule of Jer. 18:9,10. Read again the historical books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the prophetical books covering this period of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi to see how miserably Israel failed. Consequently, the nations did not defer to the restored Jews, they did not accept the teachings of the law, they did not "beat their swords into plowshares." The temple was rebuilt after the return from Babylon, but not after the "pattern" of Ezekiel. Haggai prophesied that "the glory of the latter house," the house that Zerubbabel was building, should be "greater than of the former" (Hag. 1:12-15; 2:1-9). But Ezra says that the ancient men that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice (Ezra 3:12). This temple was afterward plundered and profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, and still later it was pulled down. Then followed "the temple of Herod," into whose courts our Lord entered. This last temple was destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans.
Finally, the New Testament explains and applies the prophecies of Israel's restoration from captivity to these Gospel days (Isa. 52:11; Jer. 30:18-24; II Cor. 6:17,18) and hence, they were typical of the great deliverance by Jesus Christ. Thus the promises delivered upon occasion of, and in a language accommodated to, the temporal deliverance, had a further significance and were only fully accomplished to the elect within the nation in the realm of the spiritual. In this sense, how could the mountain of the lord's house be more truly exalted above all other mountains than it was by the fact that it became the scene of the labors of the incarnate God, and the center from which His gracious kingdom spread to all the nations of the earth? (Mal. 1:11; John 4:20-24; Rom. 15:9-12).
"For if that which was to be abolished came with glory, much more is that which is permanent arrayed in glory. With such a hope as this, then, we speak without reserve, unlike Moses, who used to throw a veil over his face to hide from the gaze of the children of Israel the passing away of what was but transitory. But indeed their minds had grown dense; for to this day during the reading of the Old Testament the same veil remains unlifted, because it is in Christ that it is to be abolished. Yes, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their hearts. But whenever they return to the Lord, the veil is withdrawn" (II Cor. 3:11-16. Weymouth Translation.)
The context of this prophecy clearly shows that the prophet had Israel's return from captivity in mind.
The first time then refers to their restoration from captivity in Babylon, where Jeremiah had prophesied either captivity for seventy years and that afterward He would restore them to their land (Jer. 27:22, 29-. 10). Isaiah named the king who would let them return to Jerusalem, approximately 150 years before that king was born (Isa. 44:28; 45:1,13). Cyrus, king of Persia, granted the Jews permission to RETURN to their homeland as Isaiah said he would and that was before Cyrus was born (Ezra 1:1-3). The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record Israel's restoration to their homeland. The return from Babylon was gradual, and occupied the long period of approximately 90 years from the decree of Cyrus, B.C. 536 to B.C. 446, when it was completed under Nehemiah. Therefore, the full return from Babylon was on the Old Testament side of every Old Testament prophet except Malachi, who naturally says nothing about it, nor about any other future restoration in their land. Albert Barnes asserts "the second time" in Isaiah 11:11 refers to a future recovery after the return from captivity in Babylon and in the days of the Messiah.
THE SECOND TIME. This word properly means, as it is here translated, the second time, implying that the prophet here speaks of a deliverance which would resemble, in some respects, a FORMER deliverance or recovery. By the former recovery to which he here refers, he cannot mean the deliverance from Egypt under Moses, for at that time there was no recovery from scattered and distant nations. Besides, if THAT was the reference by the former deliverance, then that here mentioned as the "second" deliverance would be that from the Babylonish captivity. But on the return from that captivity, there was NOT a collection of the Jews from all the nations here specified. When the Jews were led back to Judea under Nehemiah, there is not record of their having been collected from "Egypt," or from "Cush." or from "the islands of the sea." While this prophecy had a fulfillment in Israel's return from captivity, the apostle Paul shows that its true spiritual meaning has to do with the gospel days of this present age in which it is fulfilled (Rom. 15:12, compare 15:8,9).
Some are ready to admit that part of the prophecy of Isa. 11 is fulfilled now, but insist that there is much which has never been literally fulfilled, and consequently, is still in the future. For example, verses 6 to 8. Let us test this reasoning by the following considerations: (1) Has the Holy Spirit dated the prophecy and declared it fulfilled in this age (Isa. 11:10 compare Rom. 15:12)? If so, He is the final authority, and His interpretation is the end of all controversy. (2) Has Christ, or the apostles anywhere in the New Testament given any specific teaching or even inference of the literal fulfillment of verses 6 to 8 in this age, or in an age to come? On the contrary, they teach that the manifestation of the Son of God, and of the sons of God, and the redemption of the bodies of believers will synchronize with the regeneration of the entire creation when the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (II Thess. 1:7-10; I Cor. 15:51-57; Rom. 8:19-23). (3) To say that these verses must have a future literal fulfillment, because they have never been so to [this] day, is to ignore the fact that the prophets often use poetic and figurative language to express spiritual truth. (4) Suppose verses 6 to 8 were to be literally fulfilled in an age to come, as set forth in the premillennial dispensational view, what would it amount to? At best it would be but a demonstration of the power of God, but do men need such in view of the two great standards of Divine power as revealed in the Old Testament and the New? In the Old Testament the standard of Divine power was the opening of the Red Sea, and in the New Testament the resurrection and exaltation of Christ (Eph. 1:19-23). Can there be any greater demonstration of Divine power than that already given in Christ? If men believe not, though One rose from the dead, would the changing of the nature of beasts from carnivorous to herbivorous be more conducive to faith? (5) These verses should be interpreted spiritually, as a figurative description of the peaceableness and power of Messiah's kingdom.
Dr. John Gill, writing on Isa. 11:6 says: "This and the three following verses, describe the peaceableness of Messiah's kingdom . . . The wild and tame creatures shall agree together, and the former shall become the latter; which is not to be understood literally of the savage creatures, as if they should lose their nature and be restored, as it is said, to their paradisiacal state, which is supposed to be the time of the restitution of all things; but figuratively of men comparable to wild creatures who, through the power of Divine grace accompanying the Word preached, shall become tame, mild, meek, and humble."
Calvin says with respect to Isa. 11:14: "The Jews, who dream of an earthly kingdom of Christ, interpret all this in a carnal sense, and apply it to I know not what external power; but they ought rather to judge it according to the nature of Christ's kingdom. Partly, no doubt, the accomplishment of this prediction was seen when the Jews returned from captivity, and God brought them into moderate prosperity, contrary to the wish and in spite of the opposition of all the neighboring nations; but believers were led to expect a more splendid victory, which they at length obtained through the preaching of the Gospel."
Likewise, it is now, in this Christian dispensation, and not in some supposed millennial-age-to-come, that "the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isa. 11:9, Hab. 2:14). Before the coming of the Messiah, the true God was only known to the one nation (Eph. 2:12; Acts 14:15-17). The prophet Isaiah foretold a day when the knowledge of the glory of the Lord would not be confined to one people, but the whole earth would be filled with it (Mal. 1:11; Luke 2:10,13,14). This prophecy is explained by our Lord's words. "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). See Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8. By the aid of the modern printing press, radio, TV, and our swift means of travel, the knowledge of the true God is rapidly filling all the earth (compare Dan. 12:4).
About all the false doctrines in the world today can be summed up under two headings; some other but Christ; some other time but now" (D.S. Warner).
Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) was fulfilled and established in Christ, as is testified to by the words of the institution of the lord's Supper in Luke 22:20 and I Cor. 11:25. Moreover, there is no other Old Testament prophecy to the exposition of which four chapters of the New are devoted; and the fulfillment of which we celebrate every time we sit down to the Lord's Table (II Cor. 3 and Heb. 8 to 10). Yet, in spite of all this, we are told that the New Covenant has not yet been established, but that it will be established in the millennium with the Jews! That, for prophetic purposes, the Church as a Divine institution is the New Covenant Israel, is confirmed by the statement of Apostle Paul, with regard to the participation of the Gentiles in Israel and the promises. Formerly, they were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise," but now they are "fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:11-20-, 3:5,6). This is not to say that Israel and the Church are in all respects the same, nor to deny that the Church was also, in one sense, a new institution. Now the terms of the New Covenant that, "They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord," is neither a denial nor a contradiction of Isa. 11:9. The knowledge of Isa. 11:9 is a universal dissemination of gospel truth, whereas the knowledge of Jer. 31:34 is limited to all who have an interest in the New Covenant. It is a saving knowledge of God in the forgiveness of sins.
As to the latter part of Isa. 11, verses 10 to 16, it would plainly require a miracle of raising from the dead the nations referred to, if these verses are to be literally fulfilled in the future. The nations of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and the Philistines have long since ceased to exist, and to be reckoned among the nations of the earth. These verses are rather a prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles (verse 10), and of the return of the remnant from among the Jews, that is, their return to God in Christ (verses 11,16). This prophecy began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when "Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven," were evangelized by the apostle Peter, and returned home to God in Christ, the Mighty God. Under a figure of speech, these Hebrew preachers are represented as flying from Jerusalem with eager activity upon Philistia to convert it, as an eagle pounces upon the shoulder of a sheep or other animals, its prey (see Acts 8:26-40; 9:32-43). "As it was in the Exodus from Egypt when the Red Sea was divided; and as it was on the return of Judah from Babylon after the waters of the Euphrates had been dried up, so it will be in the days of Christ and the Gospel. All the Red Seas of spiritual Egypt (compare Rev. 11:8), all the rivers of spiritual Assyrias, will own His power, and be made subservient to the manifestation of His glory, and of His truth and the good of His Church. And then, as Moses and Miriam sang songs of victory after the overthrow of the Egyptians and their own deliverance, as the returning exiles sang 'songs of Sion' (see Psa. 120) after the fall of Babylon for their own restoration, so the Church of the Redeemed will sing a Song of Victory and Praise, which now follows" (Wordsworth).
Ezekiel 38 and 39
An Old Testament prophecy concerning Gog and Magog is found in Ezek. chapters 38 and 39, and a New Testament prophecy in Revelations 20:7-10. When compared, it is evident that these two prophecies of God and Magog are not identical. The Gog of Ezekiel comes down from the "North" parts upon Palestine, while the Gog of Revelation comes up from the "four corners of the earth." In Ezekiel, he is spoken of as coming "against the returned exiles" from Babylon (38:11,14) whereas in Revelation he comes against "the camp of the saints and beloved city" (a symbolic expression of the New Testament Churches) or people of God. The sixth part of the armies of Ezekiel's Gog escape destruction (39:2), while in Revelation Gog and his forces are "devoured" by fire sent down from Heaven. From this evidence, we conclude that Ezekiel and the apostle John were not writing of the same events.
These two prophecies have occasioned much speculation as to their fulfillment --when and by whom? The Scofield Reference Bible declares that "all agree" that the primary reference is to the northern European powers, headed up by Russia. But Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown's commentary disagrees and asserts the following concerning "the price of Rosh:"
"The Scythian Tauri in the Crimea were so called. The Araxes also was called Rosh. The Modern Russians may have hence assumed their name, as Moscow and Tobolsk from Meshech and Tubal, though their proper and ancient name is Slavi, or Wends."
So with the Russians it, is therefore, but an assumed name, and not their original and proper name at all! Others interpret Gomer of Ezek. 38, verse 6, as referring to Germany, but the learned and scholarly John Gill declares:
"The Targum renders it here the province of Germany; as it is also interpreted in the Talmud, but wrongly."
The prophecy finds its fulfillment in Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, and his expeditions against the Jews. For about a hundred years, the Jews seem to have enjoyed much peace and prosperity, being treated with more or less kindness and forbearance by Persia, Greece, Egypt, and Syria, as these nations successively rose to power. But in the struggle for predominance, which took place between Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucid kings of Syria, Judea was the scene of many bloody battles. Moreover, the office of High Priest, taking on a semblance of royalty, was a prize which excited the ambition of rival candidates, whose factions filled the nation with strife. The common people declined from the observance of religion, and the wickedness of the land again called for punishment. Then came upon them (B.C. 169) a terrible persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria. He plundered Jerusalem and its temple with the most savage cruelty. He stopped the offering of the daily sacrifice, and erected the statue of one of the heathen gods on the altar of burnt offering. He compelled the Jews under pain of death to sacrifice to idols, and sought to stamp out the Mosaic worship by burning up every copy of the law that could be found. He has been called the "Nero of Jewish History." (Consult I Macabees, chapter 1-6 and II Macabees, chapters 4-9).
The history of the inter-Biblical period of the Seleucidae adequately fulfills all Ezek. 38 and 39 requires, as is evident from the following considerations:
(1) The armies of Gog would come from the north (39:2): Syria was located north of Palestine.
(2) Gog would attack a "people gathered out of the nations" (38:8) and "Dwelling safely" (38:14). Palestine was resettled after their return from captivity and the Jews enjoyed a large measure of peace and prosperity.
(3) The armies would be large (38:15,16). In the wars of the Macabees, the Jews were constantly opposed by numerically superior forces. With 10,000 men Judas Maccabeus confronted the Syrians with 60,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, and was victorious.
(4) History records that Antiochus Epiphanes sent a huge force against Judea under three generals, and so sure were they of victory that Grecian merchants were already in the camp in order to buy up the Jewish soldier-captives as slaves (38:13).
(5) The Scythians were famous for their skilful use of the horse, bow and arrow: they answer to the descriptions of the prophecy (38:4,5; 39:9,19).
(6) History records they took the "silver and gold" from the house of the Lord
(7) "Antiochus had an army made up of the very nations here named, and many others. These people had been at variance with one another, and yet in combination against Israel" (Comprehensive Commentary --see Ezek. 38:4-6).
(8) History declares that again and again, as if by a miracle, Jehovah, in answer to prayer, caused the armies of the Maccabees to triumph over the superior forces of Syria under Antiochus (38:21; 39:3).
(9) In the miraculous defeats of Antiochus Epiphanes by Judas Maccabeus, the Syrians were obliged to leave thousands of dead on the field of battle, and their wooden weapons of warfare provided firewood for months (39:9-12).
(10) Ezekiel prophesied during the years 593-571 B.C., at which time the Jews were in captivity. The remnant did not return from Babylon until 536 B.C., some 35 years later. Antiochus did not appear till 175-164 B.C. Consequently, between Ezekiel's prophecy and its fulfillment in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes (in B.C. 169) there was a period of approximately four hundred years! This prophecy was fulfilled in what to Ezekiel and to the men of his day was "the latter days," "the far-distant future" though to us of today it is the hoary past. These latter days were later days, some indeterminate period of time after the prophet's writing: and refer not to the latter days of this present dispensation, but to the latter days of the Mosaic dispensation. Ezekiel's prophecy, therefore, does not refer to a future battle of Armaggedon at the close of this present dispensation, but belongs to the past and has been fulfilled.
Ezekiel, Chapters 40 to 48
The Temple and city of Jerusalem lay in ruins and the people were disconsolate in Babylon, to which they had been carried captive. All looked dark and discouraging for the nation. Ezekiel, the Priest and Prophet, an exile at the river Chebar in Babylon saw in vision a new Jerusalem with its Temple, Priesthood, and sacrifice rise out of the desolation. In vision he also saw the land again divided out to the returning captives by lot, as it was in the days of Joshua. In particular, this vision was doubtless intended to minister comfort to the faithful among the exiles in captivity, and in general, it afforded a motive unto repentance for the nation at large. Its literal fulfillment was conditioned on their being "ashamed of all that they have done" (Ezek. 43:11).
From the time of the destruction of Solomon's Temple to the second year of Darius, when it was rebuilt by the returning exiles, was a long century. Few, if any, were living who had seen the first house or remembered its exact structure. Ezekiel's pattern would aid them. Upon their return to the land, the Temple was rebuilt, but not according to the pattern of the great Draftsman shown to Ezekiel. Ultimately it was repaired and enlarged in magnificent style by Herod. It was to this Temple, forty and six years in building, that Jesus their Messiah came. At the beginning of His ministry He declared it to be "a house of merchandise" and at the close of approximately three years of public ministry, He asserted that the Jews had made it a "den of thieves" (Matt. 21:13). Shortly thereafter He prophesied its desolation and utter ruin (Matt. 23:34-39; 24:2). Truly, they were not "ashamed of all that they had done" (Ezek. 43:11), as is evidenced by their rejection, betrayal, and murder of their King Jesus, the Son of God. By a Divine Judgment upon the nation, in the rending of the veil of the worldly sanctuary, the rejection forever of divers washings, carnal ordinances, and Aaronic priesthood, the Old Covenant of the Mosaic Dispensation "vanished away" (Heb. 8:13). Nor will it be brought into remembrance by memorial animal sacrifices appended to the New Covenant. The apostle Paul, a converted Jew, has put on record by Divine inspiration, that wrath is come upon them to the uttermost (I Thess. 2:15,16). And that the "Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children" (Gal. 4:25). In blessed contrast and in keeping with the spiritual nature of Christianity, the true spiritual Israel of God have an "altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to his name" (Heb. 13:10-15).
The general plan of the Temple is after the model of Solomon's, yet this vision is not to be understood as a prophecy of the rebuilding of Solomon's Temple with the city in which it stood, and the repossession of the land after the Babylonish captivity. In the Temple rebuilt by Ezra and Nehemiah there were no living waters issuing from under the threshold, and there will be no Temple built in the future which God will own, or sin offerings offered therein which He will accept (Heb. 1:3; 10.12-14).
Several particulars in the description make it plain that it was not intended to be understood literally, particularly Ezekiel 47:1-12. The vision was an emblem of the power of God's grace under the Gospel, capable of healing all but the incorrigibly impenitent, represented by the marshy ground that cannot be healed (vs. 11). These waters may be considered as a type of the progress Christianity should make in the world during the reign of the Messiah in this present Gospel era. There were only a few poor fishermen at the first (Matt. 4:18-22) and a narrow stream of God's grace flowing to the Jews at first (Ezek. 47:3; Acts 11-19), then waters to swim in (Ezek. 47:5) as the Gospel of the kingdom went out in an ever widening stream to the nations of the world (Matt. 24:14; Rev. 7:9). By the streams of God's grace the righteous shall bring forth; (1) The fruits of faith; (2) The fruits of the Spirit; and (3) The fruits of love to God, obedience to His holy will, and love to all men (Ezek. 47:12). In Ezek. 47:12 the prophet Ezekiel had a glimpse of the glories of heaven. Compare this verse with Revelation 22:1-5.
Spiritual blessings are often symbolized by water-springs, wells, and rivers --as is evident from the following Scripture: Isa. 12:2,3; 43:19-21; 41:17-20; 55:1; Psalm 46:4,5. Our Lord doubtless had these Scriptures in mind when He spoke the words of John 7:37-39: "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me AS THE SCRIPTURE HATH SAID, OUT OF HIS BELLY SHALL FLOW RIVERS OF LIVING WATER." (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive; for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified). Two other prophets have spoken of waters; Zechariah 14:8 of "living waters" and Joel 3:18 of a fountain that "shall come forth of the house of the Lord," Joel 3:18 --"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine and the hills shall flow with milk and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters, and A FOUNTAIN SHALL COME FORTH OF THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, and shall water the valley of Shittim." Shittim was in the plains of Moab beyond Jordan --see Numbers 33:49; and Joshua 3:1. In order for this river to water the valley of Shittim it would have to cross the river Jordan. Rivers flow into one another, but do not cross one another. Hence, as no stream of water could flow from the Temple of Jerusalem, cross the river Jordan to reach the valley of Shittim, it must be considered symbolically. Jerome expresses its true spiritual meaning thus:
"A fountain will flow forth from the house of the Lord, which is the Church of Christ. It is described by Zechariah and Ezekiel at the close of their prophecies. Its beneficent purpose will be, to change our barren land of Shittim, which yields only thorns and briars, into the fallow land of the Lord; and to refresh our dry places with copious streams; so that, instead of brambles, we may yield flowers; and in order that in the same Moab, where Israel was guilty of harlotry, and was initiated into the foul orgies of Baal-Peor, the lilies of chastity and roses of virgin modesty may flourish and diffuse a sweet perfume."
Ezekiel's vision (chapters 40 to 48) is rather a symbolical representation of the coming deliverance and enlargement of the true spiritual Zion, which is God's Church, the same in all ages. The resettlement of the land of Canaan, and the rebuilding of the city and temple after the captivity, were only a part, and a very small part of the "good things to come" which the vision shadowed forth. As the time had not yet come for the Old Covenant to pass away, Ezekiel, who was himself a priest under the law of Moses, saw the future revival and enlargement of God's kingdom under the forms of this covenant. The new Jerusalem which God revealed to him had its temple, priests, altar, and sacrifices. All these were shadows of Christ's perfect priesthood, of the spiritual temple of which He is the chief cornerstone, and of the spiritual priesthood of His people (Heb. 10:1; I Pet 2:5-9).
The Scofield Reference Bible by its heading for this section of Ezekiel, chapters 40 to 48, asserts that they apply to "Israel in the land during the kingdom-age." In a footnote on Ezek. 43:19, the same Reference Bible declares that these offerings (In the age to come) "will be memorial, looking back to the cross." The vision does not portray any future rebuilt Temple in the city of Jerusalem in an age to follow this Day of Grace, in which regathered Jews in national capacity, existing in a mortal state, will once again offer animal sacrifices. Such cannot possibly be so from the following considerations (1) Ezekiel's temple was to be built while the Levitical priesthood was still in force (Ezek. 40:46; 44:15) but the Levitical priesthood was terminated at the Cross, being superseded by the Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6). (2) It was to be built while the law of sacrifices and offerings still obtained (Ezek. 46); but Christ the great Antitype nailed the law of sacrifices and offerings to the Cross, as against and contrary to the faith of any one who, this side of the Cross, accepts Christ. (3) The temple was to be built while circumcision was still in force (Ezek. 44:9); but the law of circumcision was abolished at Calvary (I Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:2). (4) The feasts and jubilees were still in existence (Ezek. 45:21-25; 46:9,11,17); but they likewise were terminated by the death of Christ (Col. 2:14-17). (5) It was to be built while the law of distinction between clean and unclean meats was still enforced (Ezek. 44:23,31); but that is now done away forever (Acts 15:19,20). (6) This prophecy could only be literally fulfilled while the dispensation of types and shadows of the Levitical priesthood and the Old Covenant sanctuary still existed; but another dispensation has succeeded and fulfilled that; consequently, the Old Covenant and its worldly sanctuary has come to an end forever. It has been succeeded by the New Covenant and the Heavenly sanctuary, of which the service in the Mosaic sanctuary was but a type (Heb. 8:1,2,5,13; 9:23, 8-12,24-26). (7) If this Day of grace were to be followed by an age in which this prophecy would have a literal fulfillment, we would expect Christ and the apostles to have something to say about so important a matter. But they say absolutely nothing about a rebuilt temple, of such being Jewish, or of it being in Jerusalem, where the carnal ordinances of animal sacrifices would be reinstituted. Christ taught quite the opposite (John 4:20-24), as did Stephen (Acts 6:13-14), and the apostle Paul (Heb. 10:1-18). (8) By no stretch of the imagination can II Thess. 2:4 be said to refer to a rebuilt Jewish temple in an age to come, in which the Antichrist will sit.
This is evident from the Greek word NAOS, which the apostle interprets of the Church in all but one passage, namely, I Corinthians 6:19. See I Corinthians 3:16,17; II Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:20-22; II Thessalonians 2:4). Seeing that all four passages were written by the apostle Paul, it would be inconsistent with the Pauline spirit and method to interpret the first three of them as applying to the Church, and the last one as applying to some future Jewish Temple, as futurists do. These Scriptures tell us unequivocally that the Church of Christ is the Temple, NAOS, or sanctuary, the dwelling place of God. This is Paul's use of the word. It can in no sense be applied to a future Jewish Temple, for all these epistles of Paul were written to ultra-Gentile Churches, who were taught by Paul to regard the Church as the Temple of God. The apostle's fourth reference, II Thessalonians 2:4, states that the man of sin seats himself in the NAOS --Temple of God --which term NAOS here is clearly used METAPHORICALLY. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which one subject is likened to another by speaking of it as if it were that other, as HE WAS A LION IN BATTLE. Thus the meaning of II Thessalonians 2:4 is the man of sin will arrogate to himself authority over God's TRUE people. They will not recognize this violent usurper and will refuse to render homage to him. The result will be great tribulation for the true people of God. Upon whose authority then is this NAOS --God's dwelling, the Church --changed into a future Jewish Temple?
If the Jews should build a temple in Jerusalem --and they may --it could not be called the temple of God, for it would be built by people who reject Christ, and the temple they would build would be a pagan temple and not the Temple of God. God has rejected the old regime of the Jews as a nation in covenant relation to God, ever since the Lamb of God made expiation for iniquity on the Cross, and the veil of the old temple was rent in twain by God Himself, and set aside forever. From that time the temple of stone has not been the Temple of God, but something vastly different, for "the Lord of heaven and earth dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24; see I Peter 2:5-10).
In conclusion: (1) Ezekiel's prophecy (chapters 40 to 48) has no reference to a so-called "age-to-come," nor to the present dispensation, except as spiritually interpreted; (2) his prophecy could have been literally fulfilled only in the Mosaic dispensation; (3) even a literal fulfillment was conditioned upon repentance (Ezek. 43:11), which they as a nation never did (Matt. 21-33-46; 22:1-14). (4) The time limit having expired and the conditions never having been complied with, the prophecy never has been completely, and never will be literally, fulfilled.
To put this prophecy in the age-to-come would mean the reinstitution of ceremonial days, sacrifices, distinction between clean and unclean meats, Levitical priesthood, etc., all of which would be a denial of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Eph. 2:14-17, and Col. 2:14,15. Neither will they be reinstituted as a memorial, for the only memorial of a finished atonement is the lord's Supper which is to continue "till He come" (I Cor. 11:26). It is an axiom that two truths or a thousand can no more antagonize, than two or a thousand parallel lines can cross each other. Contradictory systems or theories, no more than antagonizing elements in nature -light and darkness --can exist in the same time or place without antagonism. Therefore, since Christianity has fulfilled, superseded, and transcended Judaism, it is impossible for them both to exist in the same time and place as the dispensation of God. Moreover, a revived Judaism will never succeed the glory that now excelleth (IICor. 3:10). The only glory to follow the glory of this day of grace is the eternal glory.
The prophecy of Zechariah 14 refers to "a day of the Lord" (v. 1, R.V.), which was to be a day of siege at Jerusalem (v.2). The day of the Lord is not the Second Advent, but a special Divine intervention in behalf of Israel. To the prophets, any day of darkness, trouble, war, or visitation, was "a day of the Lord" (Isa. 2:12; 10:3; 13:6,9-19; Joel 2:1). God gathers the nations to this siege (v.2); therefore, it is for unfaithfulness. The siege is to result in the city being "taken," half of its inhabitants to go "into captivity," while others "flee" (v. 2,5). Then the Lord is to intervene, and "fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle" (v. 3). It was also a common thing for the prophets to speak of any great change as "a Divine intervention," a "day of the Lord," or a "coming of the Lord," (v. 5; compare Deut. 33:2). God came down or "sent his angel" at different times in the old dispensation to bring blessings to His people or to inflict judgments upon His enemies (Gen. 11:5; Ex. 19:29; Num. 11:25; Heb. 3:3; Matt. 21:40).
Some have regarded this as a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70; but this cannot be because all the people were then "cut off from the city" instead of "half" of them. Moreover, God did not fight for the Jews, but against them. He "sent forth" the Roman armies as His own, and "destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city," as the Lord Jesus said He would (Matt. 22:7). Jerusalem has been "trodden down of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) ever since, and no peoples have gone there to "keep the feast of tabernacles." It is certain therefore, that Zechariah predicts an earlier siege, in which the besiegers should finally be defeated.
Whatever the true application of this prophecy may be it is certainly not referring to a future restoration of Israel after the flesh. Firstly, it would be a physically impossibility for "everyone that is left of all the nations" to go up "from year to year" to worship at Jerusalem, as every reflecting person must know. Secondly, the prophecy speaks of "yearly worship at Jerusalem" (v. 16), the "feast of tabernacles" (vss. 16,18,19), "pots in the Lord's house" (v. 20), "bowls before the altar" (v. 20), and of "sacrifices" being offered (v.21). These elements in the prophecy show that Moses' law was not yet abolished; yet since the Cross, the Old Covenant, which was the basis of the Mosaic economy, has forever passed away (Heb. 8:13). We have seen that there is to be no return to the ceremonials of the abrogated law, or any future keeping of "the feast of tabernacles" by Israel after the flesh. Therefore, this chapter contains no scheme of Jewish restoration in this age, or the age to come. Restore Israel "after the flesh," and you must restore the law; restore the law and you must restore its ceremonials. This is to go back from the building to the scaffolding, from the substance to the shadow, from Christ to the schoolmaster, from the better hope to that which made nothing perfect, from the perfect Gospel to the yoke of bondage.
It is reasonable to suppose that, when the voice of prophecy was about to cease for four centuries, its concluding utterances would bear upon the things which should befall God's chosen nation before He again opened His mouth to speak unto them by His Son (Heb. 1:1,2). I venture to express the deliberate conviction that this prophecy foretells the Lord's care over His afflicted people during the dark days of the inter-Biblical period, and refers particularly to the terrible persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria in B.C. 169. Then came the courageous resistance of the priest Mattathias, and the glorious victories of his son Judas Maccabaeus, by which the Lord delivered the people and the city from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes (Zech. 12:8). Remember Zechariah prophesied in B.C. 487, and Antiochus' persecution was in 169 B.C., some three hundred years later.
The prophecies both of good and evil to Israel after the captivity were conditional and the good and evil came in proportion to their obedience or disobedience. This prophecy of other people coming to Jerusalem to keep the feast of tabernacles is in line with the other predictions of Jewish headship and greatness, of which their coming would be an acknowledgement. But as the Jews never attained the headship, the other nations were never brought into such relations to them. Jerusalem did not become the Mecca of the nations; for it was not worthy.
The prophecy also contains several highly figurative expressions. Someone's feet are to "stand upon the Mount of Olives;" but it is not certain who the person is. The mount is to "cleave in the midst" and leave a "great valley." It is to be a peculiar "day;" the fight of that day "shall not be clear, nor dark" but "at evening time it shall be light," which implies a reversal of nature; then, living waters shall go out from Jerusalem in two directions (vv. 4-8). We must distinguish Abraham's natural offspring into the children of the flesh and the children of the promise (Romans 9:6-8), and also the promises themselves into temporal and spiritual. The temporal promise of deliverance in this prophecy was fulfilled to Israel after the flesh in the times of the Maccabees. The intermingling spiritual promises to the remnant within the nation looked onward to the glorious light that should break in upon the eventide of Israel's national existence, as fulfilled in the Gospel (John 8:12; II Cor. 4:6). The typical deliverance of the Jews from the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes finds its antitypical fulfillment in the great spiritual deliverance which was wrought by Christ at His First advent The spiritual seed of Abraham under the New Covenant--being of no peculiar fleshly race, but of all nations, according to the promise made to Abraham (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:8; Rev. 7:9) --come not unto the earthly Jerusalem which gendereth to bondage (Gal. 4:24,25) but "unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:23), which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26-28). Thus if fulfilled, (Mal. 1:11), as Christ Himself declared (John 4:20-24). These children of promise are the true circumcision, "which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). the "Israel of God" made up of believers of all nations, enjoy now in this Gospel day the true feast of tabernacles: "In the last day, that great day of the feast (see John 7:2), Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:37-39). These children of promise, Abraham's true spiritual seed, who walk in the steps of his faith, also look forward to the New Heaven and New Earth wherein there "shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts (Zech. 14:21; Rev. 21:27).
4. The Gap Theory
A principle of interpretation that has wrought havoc in explicating the prophecies is the Gap Theory. This is the principle of inserting a time period in some particular prophetic passage and arbitrarily dividing its parts. There are several examples that might be cited. For instance, between the leg and the toe division of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel 2:36-45 the whole of this present dispensation is inserted. These four kingdoms of the colossus together representing Gentile world dominion were essentially one. MedoPersia conquered and incorporated Babylon. Greece did the same to MedoPersia, and Rome did virtually the same to Greece. Verses 40 to 43 are simply a graphic descriptive summary of the history of the last of four world empires seen in the dream. The phrase "in the days of the kings" (Vs. 44) cannot refer to the kings of the fourth monarchy, for no such kings are mentioned; the only kings or kingdoms mentioned are the four empires. It was while the image was still standing that the blow was struck. In the days of the last of the four empires as together representing Gentile world dominion was the kingdom of Messiah to be set up. Thus the correct interpretation is that the dream was chronologically complete from the Babylonian to the Roman Empire, and that IN the days of the last empire (Roman) the God of Heaven set up a kingdom. This is exactly what happened and the New Testament declares it has been fulfilled (Mark 1:14,15). The kingdom of God is of Divine ORIGIN and eternal DURATION; hence, it cannot be the millennium which is but 1,000 years in length. It cannot be conquered by others, but will ever be in the hands of the same people, the true Israel of God, the Church (Matt. 16:18). It will break in pieces and destroy other kingdoms, for this kingdom which God established is the sphere of His reign or sovereignty among men. Truly, the kingdom of God will completely triumph, and the kingdom of men (as represented by the image) will be completely destroyed. "The dream is certain and the interpretation thereof sure" (vs. 45).
The most flagrant example of the application of the Gap Theory is Daniel 9:24-27, where Seventy Weeks are prophesied upon Israel. Daniel's prophecy of Seventy Weeks is to us HISTORY, not prophecy; BEHIND us, not before us; FULFILLED, not awaiting fulfillment. It was the last chance for Israel AS A NATION. They were given a time limit --"Seventy weeks are DETERMINED upon thy people."
The original word for week means simply SEVEN; hence, seventy sevens or a total of 490. From subsequent history it is quite obvious that this refers to years. Within that framework of time six divinely determined things were to be fulfilled in the light of Daniel 9:24: (1) Finish the transgression (Luke 11:47-51; Matt. 23:29-32). (2) Make an end of sins (Matt. 1:21; Heb. 9:26). (3) Make reconciliation for iniquity (II Cor. 5:18-21; Heb. 2:17). (4) Bring in everlasting righteousness (Rom. 3:25,26; Heb. 9:12). (5) Seal up the vision and prophecy (Heb. 1:1,2; Matt. 21:37--Christ is God's LAST WORD to men). (6) Anoint the Most holy (Acts 2:1-4; I Cor. 3:16,17; 6:19,20).
Sixty-nine of seventy weeks reached unto "Messiah the Prince" (Dan. 9:25). Messiah means "anointed" and Christ was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Matt. 3:16; Act 10:38), and subsequently went about His Messianic work. Consequently, the 483 years or 69 weeks reached to the baptism of Christ.
The 490 years reach seven years farther than the 483 years, that is, to approximately A.D. 34. This was the end of the seventy weeks DETERMINED upon Daniel's people. The prophecy declares that "AFTER three-score and two weeks (which followed the preceding seven weeks, making 69 weeks in all) shall MESSIAH BE CUT OFF, BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF" (Dan. 9:26). This places the crucifixion of Christ WITHIN the 70th week. These weeks were all of them consecutive, the second followed the first, 70th and 69th. To say that the 70th week is separated from the 69th by this present evil age of some almost two thousand years period of time is to destroy the measurement of seventy weeks. It would be like sawing off a yard stick at 35 inches and then to attach a piece of elastic to the two pieces and stretch it to one's liking. Such would be to destroy the measurement of 36 inches as determining the measurement of one yard.
Two things are said to occur AFTER the 69 weeks had expired. (1) the MESSIAH WOULD BE CUT OFF BUT NOT FOR HIMSELF (Dan. 9:26; Isa. 53:8). Consequently, the Messiah was cut off in the 70th week, because that week is AFTER the 69th. The Jews rejected their Messiah and filled up the cup of their iniquity (Acts 3:13-15; I Thess. 2:15,16), and God has rejected them AS A NATION forever as the people of God in covenant relation to Him. They confirmed their rejection of Christ by stoning Stephen (Acts 7:51-60; 8:1-4), and subsequently the Gospel was sent to the Gentiles. (2) "And he shall CONFIRM the covenant with many for one week and cause the sacrifice and oblation to cease (Dan. 9:27). The Septuagint translates this --"Now one week shall confirm a covenant for many, and in the half of that week MY sacrifice and libation shall be taken away" (Heb. 10:11,12). Moreover, it was during this last week that Christ did confirm His covenant with many according to Matthew 26:26-28. On this solemn occasion Christ instituted the most sacred of Christian ordinances, the Lord's Supper, saying, "This is My blood of THE NEW TESTAMENT (literally covenant), which is shed for MANY for the remissions of sins" (Isaiah 53:11; Rom. 5:19; Heb. 10:15-18).
There are 281 references to "covenant" in the Scriptures according to Young's Analytical Concordance and not one of them in any way introduces the idea of a covenant between the Jews and the Anti-Christ. When the Jews broke the OLD Covenant (see Jeremiah 31:31-33) then God purposed to make a new and lasting covenant with His people. Consequently, all the prophets refer to it and Daniel foretold that it would be RATIFIED in the 70th week of his prophecy (Heb. 8:7-10), which by the death and resurrection of Christ was brought into effect.
Christ's parable in Matthew 21:33-46 is a counterpart of Isaiah 5:1-7, which declares "I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it (i.e., the vineyard). Plainly, that people are never to have the Holy Spirit poured upon them as a nation in covenant relationship with God. The Jewish nation will never again be God's people, that is, in national capacity and covenant relationship with Him. Christ declared concerning the FIG TREE (often taken as a type of the nation of Israel). "Let no fruit grow on thee HENCEFORWARD FOREVER (Matt. 21:18,19). God of heaven has declared that "He HAD DONE ALL HE COULD: HE COULD DO NO MORE" (Isa. 5:4; II Chron. 36:14-16; Matt. 21:37). Some forty years later Christ destroyed the city and the Temple fulfilling Matthew 24:2. The angel said these "weeks" were "DETERMINED UPON" Daniel's "PEOPLE AND CITY;" hence, they were to measure the entire national existence of Israel in the flesh, and any interpretation of other prophecies which gives them a longer or a renewed national existence as a political commonwealth in covenant relationship to God must be incorrect.
We see the Gap Theory applied by the Futurist to the doctrine of the Second Advent, where between the so-called Rapture (the coming of Christ to the air for His Church), and the Revelation (the coming of Christ to the earth with His Church) is inserted seven years --the "missing link" --of Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy (Dan. 9:24-27).
Another instance of the Gap Theory is that of arbitrarily inserting between the BODILY RESURRECTIONS of the just and of the unjust the thousand years of the millennium, warranted it is believed by Rev. 20:4,5. But when one realizes that Rev. 20:4 is NOT speaking of the BODILY RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS, one concludes that the insert of a thousand years between the bodily resurrections of the righteous and the wicked is to accommodate a theory.
There are those who fervently preach the re-establishment of David's literal throne in Old Jerusalem, the reinstitution of the ancient sacrifices, and the rebuilding of the Temple. But they create a false hope, a hope never to be realized, for let it be remembered, there are no promises in the Bible concerning Israel's return to their own land which were written this side of the return from the Babylon captivity.
Most of the promises made to Israel and expressed in the terms of the natural were fulfilled in the course of their natural history. There are those who declare the prophecies of Israel's restoration and prosperity are yet future. But there is not much left in the body of the Old Testament prophecy when we eliminate three distinct groups: (1) Those known to be truly MESSIANIC, and thus fulfilled already; (2) Those pertaining to the original land of Canaan and its possession by the Israelites, which Joshua and Nehemiah declare to be fulfilled (Joshua 21:43-45; 23:11-16; Neh. 9:7,8). What ground is there to suppose that God is under any obligation whatsoever to the Jews to fulfill all over again the promises respecting the land which He has so faithfully performed TO THE VERY WORD AND LETTER in the past history of that nation? (3) Those pertaining to the restoration of Israel after the Exile, which were fulfilled as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. If there be any left, that are not properly included in the foregoing classification, then they must be considered FORFEITED AND CANCELED, even as Christ and the Apostles declare (Matt. 23:37,38; Rom. 11:10; I Thess. 2:15,16), because the conditions were never met within the time limit determined upon the people (Dan. 9:24).
Millennialism means racism --Jewish supremacy. Nationalism, whether it be Anglo-Saxon, Teutonic, or Jewish has no place in the kingdom of Christ (Matt 16:1820; 28:18-20). Christ's genealogy (Luke 3) is the last Jewish genealogy and it includes the names of all true Israelites for in Christ all are one. In Christ race has no claim. All racial, national, and ceremonial distinctions have gone forever, and Christ is all in all to all who believe in Him. This means that the Old Testament promises are fulfilled in Christ's present kingdom.. Therefore the Jews are not to be saved as a superior people, but as penitent sinners brought into the Church in this Messianic era.
The Christian millennarians and the unregenerate Jews are alike blind to the fact that the Messiah set up His Universal Kingdom at His FIRST ADVENT and that millions of Jews and Gentiles have become citizens thereof by obeying the King's command (Matt. 18:3; Mark 1:15; John 3:3). They know not that at His SECOND ADVENT He shall close His Mediatorial Kingdom, raise all the dead, judge the world in righteousness, sever the wicked from among the righteous, render to every human being his just deserts, burn up this old world and bring in the eternal state of Paradise Restored (Matt 16:27; Rom. 8:19-21; Heb. 12:26-28; II Peter 3:3-13). Millennialists who promise the Jews a national salvation after they have missed spiritual salvation in Christ's present kingdom are anti-Semitic. Racism is an enemy of the Gospel of Christ. Jewish aspirations are anti-gospel.
E. NEW TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION OF OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECIES
1. An Illustrated Principle of Interpretation
It is a sound principle of Biblical interpretation to begin with Him Who is the Light of the World; in other words to begin with the study of the New Testament, and go back into the Old Testament with the light of the New.
The prophecies point to Gospel times, and ultimately respect the true Israel; yet they are delivered in a figurative style and clothed in a language suited to the typical or earthly economy. The state of things under the New Covenant is held forth in these prophecies by expressions alluding to the earthly typical state of things under the Old Covenant. In order to understand the principle upon which such Prophecies are constructed, so as to bear a twofold sense and application to things so different in their nature, the following observations should be considered: (a) that the Jewish economy was a prefiguration of Christ's Church and kingdom. The writers of the New Testament declare that the design of that constitution, which was framed and established by means of the faithful ministry of Moses, was "for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after," namely, under the Gospel (Heb. 3:5) --that the law had a shadow of good things to come (Heb. 10:1)--and that the body or substance of that shadow is Christ (Col. 2:17). (b) As the main design of the Jewish economy was to prefigure the future dispensation of the Messiah, and stood related to it as an introductory and subordinate part of one great connected scheme, so there are several promises and prophecies which are constructed upon that principle, and involve in them things relating both to the type and antitype. These are what are called prophecies of a double sense. In their letter or literal sense, they respected the affairs of the Jewish church and state which were typical; but in their spirit or spiritual sense, they were predictions of what the types themselves prefigured; namely, Christ and the affairs of His kingdom. Some of the Prophecies, indeed, though expressed in figures borrowed from Jewish affairs, had no respect to them, but referred entirely to Gospel times; but those of them which are formed upon the principle we are now speaking of, had a respect to both.
Thus the promise made to Abraham: "A father of many nations have I made thee" (Genesis 17:5) would naturally lead us to think that Abraham was to be the natural father of these many nations, especially when we read it in connection with verse 6, and find from history that many nations really sprang from him. But when we look to the apostle's explanation of that promise in Rom. 4.13,18, we see that the many nations, ultimately intended in that promise, include the uncircumcised Gentiles blessed in Christ (Rom. 9:6-9; Ga. 3:7-29; 4:21-31).
When we consider how the apostle explains the promise of the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-35) in Heb. 8 and 10:16,17 and what he says of the subjects of it (Ga. 3:8,9,26-29; 4:21-31), then we find that it is the New Covenant in Christ's blood and that it is made with the spiritual Israel of all nations, whether of Jews or Gentiles
In short, though the Person, offices, and kingdom of Christ are laid down in these prophetic writings with greater perspicuity than in the books of Moses, yet still, they are covered with the veil of figures and ceremonial and typical phrases. They describe spiritual blessings by the image of civil peace and plenty. Conversion is presented by going up to Jerusalem, in opposition to the apostasy of the ten tribes, who worshipped the calf of Bethel and Dan; and Gospel worship is represented by incense and a pure offering (Mal. 1:11) and by the celebration of the Jewish festivals.
This double sense of prophecy seems implied in what the angel says to John in Rev. 19:10; "The testimony of Jesus is the "spirit of prophecy." Consequently, though prophecy may be delivered in figurative language, and have a literal meaning answerable to the letter of the figure, yet it has also a spirit or spiritual sense, which is the main thing intended. And this spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Jesus, or concerning Jesus, which was the great design and ultimate object of the prophetic dispensation (Acts 10:43). Hence the inspired apostles, seldom, if ever, take any notice of the letter of such prophecies as have a double sense, but apply them solely and directly to the Messiah and His kingdom, according to their true spirit and ultimate design.
2. The Gospel Covenant Confirmed to Abraham
The original promise made to Abraham, recorded in Gen. 12:3 and which was 430 years before the law, is termed by the apostle "the covenant" that was confirmed before of God in Christ" (Ga. 3:17). This was afterwards renewed and confirmed by an oath (Gen. 22:18; Heb. 6:13-18). The promise in this covenant is, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." the Apostle explains it entirely in a spiritual sense, as being the Gospel which was preached before to Abraham respecting God's design of justifying the heathen through faith (Gal. 3:8); and upon this view of it he grounds his argument through Galatians chapter 3. The apostle Peter declares this promised blessing to be spiritual and fulfilled in the Gospel (Acts 3:25,26). Nowhere in the New Testament is the promised blessing said to be national, and to include a restoration of fleshly Israel to the land.
About eight years after the original transaction, God made a covenant with Abraham respecting the inheritance of the land of Canaan. He had promised in the form of a covenant ratified upon sacrifice (Gen. 15:9,10,17) and so it is said, "In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham..." (v. 18; see also Psa. 105:8-12). About sixteen years after this God gave him the covenant of circumcision (as it is termed in Acts 7:8), in which He reviewed the promises of multiplying his seed, of giving them the land of Canaan, and of being a God to him and to his seed after him in their generations. As a token of this covenant in their flesh, He commanded that every man-child among them should be circumcised (Gen. 17:4-15). Thus we see that there were different covenants made with Abraham, and so the apostle speaks of them in the plural number, calling them the covenants (Rom 9:4), the covenants of promise (Eph. 2:12). The first contained the promise of spiritual blessings in Christ Abraham's spiritual seed of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, as the apostle explains it at large. The other two contained temporal blessings to Abraham's fleshly seed, which were literally fulfilled to the nation of Israel, served to keep them distinct from all other nations till Christ should come of them, and at the same time were types and pledges of spiritual blessings to the faithful among them.
3. The Throne of David
The original promise in covenant concerning David's throne is found in II Sam. 7:11-17 and I Chron. 17:9-15. This is the oath which God swore by His holiness to David (Psa. 89:3,4,35,36) the covenant which He made with him respecting the perpetuity of his royal seed and kingdom--the word upon which He caused him to hope (Psa. 119-.49), and which is afterwards so much insisted on throughout the Psalms, and by the succeeding prophets. This promise, like that made to Abraham, has a two-fold aspect. One to David's fleshly seed and temporal kingdom, the other to the Messiah and the kingdom of Heaven and it respected the former only as types and pledges of the latter so that those who saw it accomplished in what respected David's temporal house, had a proof that the lord spoke by the prophet. In this they also had a pledge that He would also in due time fulfill the spiritual part of it by raising up the Messiah to sit forever on His throne, which is the main thing intended in the promise, as the Scriptures abundantly testify.
That it had a respect to David's natural seed who were to succeed him on the throne of Israel, is evident from David's application of it to his son Solomon, in whom the temporal part of it had begun accomplishment (I Chron. 22:6-11; 28:5-8). The Lord Himself also applies it unto Solomon when He appeared unto him (II Chron. 7:7,18). It contains a threatening against such of David's children as should commit iniquity (II Sam. 7:14; Psa. 89:30-33), which was verified on his royal posterity who succeeded him on the throne, whom the Lord punished for their transgressions, as sacred history sufficiently shows. It was to fulfill the temporal part of this promise that the Lord continued the house of David so long on the throne of Judah, notwithstanding all their rebellion against him (I Kings 11:36; II Kings 8:19; II Chron. 21:7), and it was frequently pleaded by the Jews when the judgments inflicted upon David's temporal house and kingdom seemed to make it void (Psa. 89:38-52; Psa. 132). This promise, as it respected David's natural seed, was conditional; so that though the Lord at length deprived them of the kingdom (Matt. 21:43) He did not thereby make void the covenant with His servant, for this was what He had threatened to do, in case they should not forsake His law (Psa. 89:30-32). Accordingly, David tells Solomon, "if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off forever" (I Chron. 28:9).
But how then, was the promise made good, that David's seed should sit forever on his throne? The spiritual and eternal part of this promise respected only the Messiah, who was to come of the seed of David according to the flesh, and to be raised up from the dead to sit forever on His heavenly throne This promise, as it respected the Messiah was absolute, and in Him it had its full accomplishment. That David understood it in this sense, appears from his last words in II Sam. 7:16; 23:5.
We are not left, however, to our conjectures on this subject. Peter, by the infallible inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us expressly how David understood this promise. After having cited his prophecy of Christ's resurrection from Psa.16, he adds, "Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne, HE SEEING THIS BEFORE spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:25-32). From these words, it is evident that David understood from this promise, not only that the Messiah was to come of his seed, but that He was to be raised up from the dead to sit on His throne. Observe that at the very time this kingdom and throne of David was to be established forever, it was said of David himself, "Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers" (II Sam. 7:12). So instead of Christ's sitting on David's throne after the resurrection of the righteous, this text proves that it would take place while David was still sleeping with his fathers (Acts 2:29,30; Psa. 132:11).
In confirmation of this Heb. 10:12,13 declares Christ is reigning now, while His enemies are being subdued, and that--while David sleeps with his fathers. Finally, I Cor. 15:22-28 gives five facts relative to Christ's reign now on David's throne, which He transferred to Heaven, just as David transferred his from Hebron to Mount Zion (II Sam. 5:1-7); (1) there will be a resurrection of the dead (v. 22); (2) it will take place at the Second Advent (v. 23) (3) then the end (v. 24), meaning of time, of salvation, of the world. There is no difference between probation after death and probation AFTER the Second Advent. It is un-Biblical to offer salvation to men after the Second Advent (II Cor. 6:2). (4) With the resurrection of the dead the last enemy, death, shall be destroyed. The destruction of death is put at the end of His mediatorial reign, and not at its beginning (v. 26). (5) Hence, Christ's reign is before the resurrection of the dead, and not after it, and it is while His enemies are being subjected and not after their subjugation. "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may all in all" (v. 28).
4. The Tabernacle of David
For a proper understanding of Acts, chapter fifteen, and particularly the words of James in vs. 13-18, we must remember that the Jerusalem conference had to do wholly and solely with "the conversion of the Gentiles" (v. 3). which was not only a new thing, but an astonishing thing to the Jewish believers. The conference was not occupied with some future work of God, but with what He had at that very time begun to do. The visitation of the Gentiles, beginning with Peter at the house of Cornelius, and continuing through Paul and Barnabas in various places in Asia Minor, was the subject and only subject considered at that conference. In view of this fact the words "after this," do not specify a period of time subsequent to this Gospel dispensation (as supposed by some) but to a period subsequent to the time when Amos the prophet spoke them. The apostle James is not giving, in verses 15 to 17, a prophecy of his own; but that of Amos, and is stating the substance of other Old Testament prophecies that likewise had their fulfillment in these Gospel days, such as those referred to by Paul in Rom. 15:8-12. And we ourselves are proof of the correctness of this interpretation. The tabernacle of David was reared again that "the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles" (Acts 15:17). Are we Gentiles? Have we sought the Lord, and found Him? Then the tabernacle of David is reared again, and the prophecy is fulfilled; for a cause always precedes its effect.
The reference to "the tabernacle of David" is literally "the tent of David," and refers to David bringing the Ark from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David (II Sam. 6:12), which was Zion (II Sam. 5:7). There it was placed in "the tent that David pitched for it" (I Chron. 16:1) amidst great celebration (I Chron. 15:25 to 16:3). The remarkable significance of this great historical event was that it constituted a decided break with the Levitical ordinances given through Moses in that the Ark of God's presence was no longer in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle of the wilderness, which was then at Gibeon, but in the tent or tabernacle of David on Mount Zion. This remarkable suspension of the system of worship under the Law was a foreshadowing of that to come in these Gospel times. This is the foundation of many references in the Psalms and the prophets to Zion as the dwelling place of Jehovah, and is what gives to the terms "Zion," and "Mount Zion" their high spiritual significance.
"David, a type of Christ, was permitted to give, in the tabernacle pitched by him on Mt. Zion, a wonderful foreshadowing of the worship by prayer, preaching, and song which characterizes the gatherings of God's people during this Gospel dispensation. That spiritual worship was not continued in the reign of subsequent kings as history records. A fearful decline set in and continued to the end of the kingdom era. But Amos, in the days of Uzziah, delivered his famous prophecy concerning the raising up of the tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11,12) and all the apostles, elders, and people assembled at Jerusalem accepted it as decisive of the question as to whether the Mosaic ritual was to be imposed upon Gentile converts. The question before the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 was --must the ritual law of Moses be imposed upon Gentile converts? The apostles answered that inspired prophecy declares the kingdom of Christ is not to be a revival and extension of Mosaicism, but on the contrary a restoration of the tabernacle of David. And since in that sanctuary the Mosaic ritual had no place, so it can have no claims in the Christian Church. There in Jerusalem itself, within sight of the temple where the ritual of the law was still performed, the whole body of the Church repudiated its claims, and adopted the tabernacle of David as the Divinely appointed model for all Christian practice and institutions" (P. Mauro).
In further elucidation of this phrase "the tabernacle of David," we give the following from the pen of Dr. Albertus Pieters: "The word 'tabernacle' in Amos 9:11 is a mistranslation of Hebrew. Two words are used in Hebrew for 'tabernacle,' viz., 'ohel,' which properly means tent, and 'mishkan,' the golden sanctuary under the 'ohel.' Neither word is used in Amos, but the word 'sukkah,' which means booth, hut, or shed. The plural is 'succoth,' and this name was given to a town east of the Jordan, because Jacob there built sheds to winter his cattle (Gen. 33:17). The prophecy in Amos is therefore a play on words. God had promised to build David'a house; that is, a royal line; but in the days of Amos this line was no more than a 'shed,' a sukkah. God promises that it shall again become a 'house,' which took place at the coming of Christ." (Heb. 3:6).
To other passages from the book of Acts are frequently quoted to prove that a literal Davidic kingdom is to follow this Day of grace, namely, Acts 1:6,7 and 3:19-21. With respect to the former Scripture we give the following quotation from the pen of Paton G. Gloag:
"The apostles connected the outpouring of the Spirit with the establishment of the Messianic kingdom; and therefore, when our Lord promised that after a few days they would be baptized with the Holy Ghost, they regarded this as an indirect indication that He would then restore the kingdom of Israel. It is, however, not very clear what ideas the apostles attached to the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. No doubt they shared in the erroneous notions of the Jews in general concerning a temporal Messiah. They still clung to the idea that the Messiah would restore to Israel the palmy days of David and Solomon; that He would rescue Judea from the Roman yoke, and establish His throne in Jerusalem. These views had indeed received a terrible shock by the crucifixion of their Master; but His resurrection, and His renewal of the promise of the Spirit, had inspired them with new hopes. Still, however, we cannot suppose that the apostles, after being so long associated with Christ, would entertain wholly carnal views concerning the Messianic kingdom. They probably imagined that the world would be gradually converted to Judaism, and that Jerusalem, the holy city, would be the resort of all nations: most evidently they had not the slightest conception of any other way by which the Gentiles could be admitted into the kingdom of God, except by embracing the Jewish religion. It was not until many years after this that they recognized the great truth, that God was the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews, and that all were freely invited into the Messianic kingdom. ..The apostles had asked Him concerning the time, and our Lord's answer is confined to this point. He tells them not to be too curious regarding the future, but to refer times and seasons to Him who has reserved them in His own power. But it is to be observed that He neither denies nor affirms the fact of the kingdom. He does not correct the misconceptions which He well knew the apostles entertained, knowing that the Holy Spirit, who was shortly to be given, would impart to them clear views of the spiritual nature of His kingdom, and would guide them into all truth. The course of events, also, would soon correct their erroneous notions."
With respect to Acts 3:19-21, the apostle Peter exhorts to repentance and turning, so (a) that their sins might be blotted out; (b) that great revivals might come from the glorified Lord; (c) that He must remain in the Heaven until the times of restoration of all things attested by all the prophets; (d) that this Jesus was the great Prophet like unto Moses who, according to Moses, God would raise up from among the brethren; (e) that whoever would not hear this prophet would be cut off from Israel; (f) that Samuel and all succeeding prophets foretold these things; (g) that they, as the sons of the prophets and of God's covenant, were first offered the blessings of forgiveness. To this indictment of rulers and people and this marvelous exhortation, the people made great response. About five thousand men, not counting women and children, were converted (Acts 4:4). The message charged sacrilege and murder in the rejection of Jesus. It affirmed the resurrection, the exaltation and the glorification of the rejected Lord. It preached repentance on account of this sin. It promised remission of sin and eternal life to those who believed. It threatened exclusion from the covenant of all impenitent and unbelieving.
It intimated a transfer of the kingdom of the Gentiles, if they persisted in their rejection, so the Sadduccees had to accept the challenge. The blessing of Abraham, which is the distinguishing blessing of the New Covenant, is interpreted as spiritual, namely, the forgiveness of sins; and it denies that the real blessing intended in the promise to Abraham was earthly, temporal, nor national (Acts 3:25,26). The apostle declares that Heaven must receive Christ until the times of restitution of all things (vs. 21), but the phrase "all things" is restricted by the qualifying statement "spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets" (vs. 21). There are the "all things" of creation (John 1:3); of redemption (Eph. 1:10); of Providence (Rom. 8:28); of prayer (Matt. 21:22); of inheritance (I Cor. 3:21); and of prophecy (Matt. 17:11). But none of the prophets have spoken of the restoration of the Jewish nation as a political state, the return of the Jews to Palestine as their national homeland, or the reinstitution of the ancient sacrifices during this age, or AFTER the Second Advent.
"In the New Testament when God gave a final revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ, religion became purely and exclusively personal, ethical, and spiritual. The racial or national aspects of religion were forever transcended. There is now no respect of persons; no man is any longer accepted or rejected on racial or national grounds. Christianity is not a family, racial, or national matter, all racial and national distinctions are wiped out. There is no longer any Jew or Gentile before God. The Christian religion is purely spiritual and personal. Hence any interpretation of prophecy, or of the Bible as a whole, that says that now or any time in the future God is going to deal with the Jew as a Jew is founded on false assumption. There are to be no racial or national distinctions within the kingdom of God. Nor is there to be any racial or national or political kingdom. All such distinctions were nailed to the Cross and are forever gone. The Jew like the Gentile must come to God as a penitent sinner to be saved and dealt with by God's grace on a level with all other men." (From the Foreward by W.T. Coner, in "God and the Jew" by W.T. Rouse).
5. The Relation of the Jew to the Gospel
In Romans, chapters 9 to 11, the apostle Paul deals with the relation of the Jew to the Gospel. In chap. 9 he is speaking of the rejection of the greater part of the natural seed of Abraham, who were formerly the peculiar people of God, and God's choosing only a remnant of them, together with the Gentiles, to be partakers of His promise by the Gospel. (1) He expresses his sorrow for Israel's failure and consequent rejection (9:1-5). (2) The apostle shows that the rejection of Israel is not against the faithfulness of God in His promise to the seed of Abraham, which he shows did not respect His natural seed as such, but His spiritual seed of Jews and Gentiles who believe in Jesus. (3) He declares the rejection is not inconsistent with the righteousness of God for making such a difference among men as to choose some who are not better, and reject others who are not worse than other men are (9:14-18). (4) The apostle rebukes the charge that God's exercise of His sovereignty conflicts with human responsibility and is unjust, by stating that God as God has a sovereign right over His creatures, and any questioning of Divine procedure is really rebellion (9:19-24). (5) This procedure of God is seen from the prophets to be that of Divine sovereignty, calling the Gentiles and a remnant of Abraham's natural seed (9:25-29).
The argument of Romans 9:30 to 10:21 is that God is just in His action toward the vessels of wrath, that is unbelieving Israel, for He thrice offered them life and righteousness under the prophets (9:30-33), the law (10:1-13), and the Gospel (10:14-21), but they rejected it. In chapter eleven the apostle declares that "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew ... a remnant according to the election of grace" (11:1,5). Observe, that "those whom God foreknew were "his people," of whom Paul was one. Did God foreknow those who rejected His Son as "his people?" No; but He foreknew as such those who accepted Him. Therefore, what God had still in store for Israel was for "his people." Hence, Paul adds, "Israel (fleshly) hath not obtained what he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (v. 7). But who were "the election?" They were those whom God foreknew as "his people." "The rest were blinded" --the unbelieving portion. The apostle concludes his argument with the declaration that "all Israel shall be saved" (v. 26). It is apparent by the twelve references to Israel in Romans, chapters 9 to 11, that he is referring to the Jews in contrast from the Gentiles (9:3-5,6,27,30,31; 10:19,21; 11:1,7,25,26). But what does the apostle mean by "all Israel" (11:26a)? Does the term refer to the people of the Jews as a whole, or does it signify the entire Jewish remnant that is gathered into the fold of God through the centuries and is still being gathered in, according to the election of grace? It is this latter view that we believe the apostle is teaching, namely, that the "all Israel" is the "remnant according to the election of grace" (11:5). This remnant is defined as being the true "Israel" (9:6); "the children of the promise" (9:8); a seed (9:29) "his people whom he foreknew" (11:2); the "seven thousand" in Elijah's time (11:4); "the election (11:7); those Jews that continue not in their unbelief (11:23); and "all Israel" (11:26a).
"This 'all' clearly indicates the total number of elect Jews, without a single exception; all the elect. In Elijah's day there was a remnant. In Paul's day there was a remnant. These remnants of all the ages, taken together, constitute 'all Israel.' So also 'the fullness of the Gentiles' indicates the total number of Gentiles that are saved ... (The) context tells us that the hardening which has come upon Israel is not complete and throughout this dispensation never will be --that was the mystery which Paul knew by revelation --hence, in every age until the last elect Gentiles is saved there will also be Jews who, by sovereign grace, accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and 'so all Israel shall be saved.' The very rejection of the mass of Israelites, instead of making void the promise of God would be a link in the fulfillment of that promise; on this wise, as Paul reasons: (a) Carnal Israel is rejected because of its unbelief. Result: (b) The Gospel is brought to the Gentiles, and the elect Gentiles are saved. Result: (c) God uses this salvation of the Gentiles to stir up the elect remnant of the Jews to holy jealousy. Result: (d) The Jewish remnant, too, accepts Christ by faith, in accordance with God's eternal plan." (Hendriksen, William. "And So All Israel Shall be Saved."
As to how "all Israel" is to be saved, the word "so" meaning in the manner described, directs us to the verses immediately preceding 17 to 27. By the "good olive tree" the apostle intends the original promise made to Abraham that in his seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed. This seed is Christ, who is the root from which all true branches derive their fatness. The tree is the true Israel, the Israel who are "Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise" (GaL 3:29). The branches broken off are the unbelieving Jews. They could no longer remain in the tree, because faith in Christ was the condition of remaining, and they had not faith (John 1:11,12). Branches from "the wild olive tree," the outside Gentile world, were "grafted in among" the branches that remained by faith, and partook "of the root and fatness of the tree" --became part of the tree, and thus shared its blessings, being made "fellow-heirs and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel" (Eph. 3:6). The branches that were "broken off" then ceased to be a part of Israel. But they can be "grafted in" again "if they abide not still in unbelief" (v. 23), and when they are, it will not be into Moses but into Christ; nor into the national Jewish state erected at Sinai but into that body which is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). This gives no hope to "Israel after the flesh" any more than to Gentiles, "for God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all" (v. 32). And hence Paul says to the believing Gentiles, "Now therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19). If they are "fellow-citizens" and "fellow-heirs and of the same body," they have a right to the fellow-name of Israel.
This method in the salvation of the "all Israel" agrees with the prophecies that went before, even Isa. 59:20,21, and which Paul, quoting in Rom. 11:26,27, declares to be fulfilled now. He does not say that the Deliverer was yet to come out of Zion. He quotes Isaiah as saying no more than seven hundred years before our Lord's First Advent. Finally, there is not the slightest hint in the entire passage of Romans, chapters nine to eleven, of a national conversion of the Jews, or of an earthly world-power-kingdom of a thousand years Jewish supremacy over Gentile nations. Moreover, verse 26 does not say "and then" meaning after the fullness of the Gentiles be come in all Israel shall be saved, but, "And so all Israel shall be saved." The little word "so" (meaning, in the manner described, "thus," "by this means," "in this way") controls the meaning of the verse. In the light of the whole argument in these chapters of Romans nine to eleven, whatever bequests still remain for "Israel" are not to be given to "Israel after the flesh," but to the Israel of the New Covenant. Israel after the Spirit; in a word, to "The Israel of God."
6. The Spiritual Israel of God
The name "Israel" is used in two senses in Scripture. Its first and general application is to the fleshly descendants of Jacob who was surnamed "Israel" by the angel who wrestled with him at the ford of Jabbok. But in the teachings of Christ and the Apostles this name became a designation for believers of whatever race or nation. Christ said of Nathaniel, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile" (John 1:47), as if the masses of Jacob's descendants were unworthy of the name. In Rom. 9:6-8, the apostle declares, "They are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed." Again, "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Ga. 3:29). Then it must be correct to speak of all true Christians as the spiritual seed of Abraham, or spiritual Israelites. Paul emphasizes this truth in Gal. 6:15,16: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and upon the Israel of God." The Israel of God are "New creatures" and all "new creatures," whether Jews or Gentiles, are "the Israel of God." Even the name "Jew" underwent a similar change in the New Testament as Paul testifies: "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God" (Rom. 2:28,29). Hence, it is not a case of Abraham being a friend in relation to the believers of the New Testament times; but of our being "blessed with faithful Abraham" (Gal. 3:9), counted as his children (Gal. 3:7), and consequently his heirs (Gal. 3:29).
The promises which the Lord spoke unto Israel by the prophets were designed particularly for the elect remnant, though they were wisely published to the nation at large. Hence, come those wonderful interminglings of judgment and mercy which we find in the prophecies, such as: "I have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches; yet now hear, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen; fear not" (Isa. 43:28; 44:1). The nation, as the natural branches, was broken off through unbelief, and the kingdom taken from them as a nation and given to the spiritual Israel of God, chosen from among both Jews and Gentiles. "Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken away, from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof" (Matt. 21:43). Hence, the promise forfeited by Israel comes over to the Church; or, as Paul says, "Israel bath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it." For "the nation" which is to receive the kingdom is the Church. Peter makes certain when he quotes from Ex. 19:5-7, a promise made conditionally to Israel, and applies it to the Church in I Peter 2:7-10: "For you therefore that believe is the preciousness (honor, R.V. margin):.. ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that ye may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous fight; who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy." The apostle Peter declares that Hos. 1:10 and 2:23 are fulfilled now, and thus he agrees with Paul (Rom. 9.24-26). Special privileges for any national or racial group have ceased completely and forever. Now, "there is no difference between Jew and Greek--for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever (Jew or Gentile) shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Rom. 10:12,13). Probation AFTER the Second Advent is as unBiblical as probation after death.
7. The National Restoration of the Jews
Ezekiel 37 is the Old Testament scripture quoted by dispensational premillennialists to prove the national restoration of the Jews to Palestine. It is claimed that the graves are the nations where they now lie buried, and that at the end of this age they will be brought forth, and regathered to the land of Palestine (Ezek. 37:11-14). There they will be united as one nation, a political commonwealth (vs. 22). There David shall be King over them constituted as a political state (vs. 24). There they will be blessed (vss. 26,27) and made a blessing (vs. 28). But is this what the chapter is intended to teach? To which we answer an emphatic no!
Here is another illustration of a prophecy with a literal sense and a spiritual sense. It is another instance of an Old Testament scripture which should be interpreted by the light of the New Testament teaching. This prophecy was fulfilled in a subordinate degree by the restoration of Israel to their own land under Zerubabbel by Cyrus. The edict proclaimed by Cyrus for the restoration of the Jews, to all the provinces of his kingdom, was like the breath of God quickening them, and calling them forth from their tomb (II Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1:1). "Cyrus, the 'Shepherd,' 'the Anointed' of God, the Conqueror of Babylon, and the Liberator of Israel, was a type of Christ; and the voice, or proclamation of Cyrus for the restoration of Israel, was a prelude to the Voice of Christ, speaking in the Gospel, and sending John the Baptist, 'the Voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the lord'--Prepare ye his Way, who comes to raise Israel to spiritual life, and to restore them to their spiritual inheritance, promised to their fathers in the Seed of Abraham, which is Christ." (Woodsworth).
Subsequent to the Babylonian captivity, the schism of Israel was healed. Henceforth they were joined in one name, in one nation, and in one worship. Thus the prophecy found a fulfillment in their restoration to the land after the Babylonian captivity, but finds its complete fulfillment in the deliverance from their bondage of Satan and sin, and their restoration to the kingdom of God. Christ is their true King, who reigns upon David's throne over His elect, the spiritual Israel of God (Luke 1:31). Christ is the One Shepherd, who tends His one flock made up of believing Jews and Gentiles (John 10-16). He is our peace (Eph. 2:14,15) and has made a covenant of peace with those who are of faith among any nations, both Jew and Gentiles (Col. 1:21,22; Rom. 3:29,30, 4:6-8; 5:1). The one nation of verse 22, is the holy nation of I Pet 2:9. And the terms of God's dwelling among them is none other than that of the New Covenant of Grace, which we celebrate every time we observe the Lord's Supper (II Cor. 6:14-7:1; Heb. 8:6-13).
There is not a single passage in the New Testament in which there is any mention of a return of the Jews to Palestine now or in the future.
"It must be conceded that we have no right to appeal to the letter of the Old Testament in support of such theories as the return of the new Jews to Canaan; a practice which is the more indefensible, as the New Testament is altogether silent on the subject of any such return" (Hengstenberg, Christol. 3.64, English translation).
"This would be unaccountable, if God had designed such a return. The prophecies of Holy Scripture become clearer and clearer as they advance from the domain of the Old Testament into the New. And if such a return were intended in the Old Testament, and were yet to be expected, it is certain that we should have distinct predictions of it in the New Testament. Nor is this all. Not only is the New Testament silent as to any such return, but it even looks with an air of indifference on the local Jerusalem of the future. Our Lord Himself classes it with Gerizim 'Believe Me' (He says to the woman of Samaria), 'the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father' (John 4:21). This would be unaccountable if such results as a literal return of all the Jews to Jerusalem, as their religious center, were to be expected." (Wordsworth).
There is as much Biblical basis for the restoration of the Jews to Palestine as there is for the restoration of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, or Roman Empire to their respective lands. Their present possession of a part of Palestine as their homeland and their present status as a political sovereignty among the nations has been obtained by political chicanery and diplomatic intrigue. Their driving the Arabs from their homeland and confiscating their property by violence and military force is a sordid story. Their repossession of the land is not in fulfillment of Bible prophecies or promises, for there are no such prophecies or promises in Holy Scripture.
"There will never be a kingdom of Jesus over Jews, as Jews. There will never be a restoration of the Jewish policy. It would be a horrible anti-climax. Christ was crucified because he would not restore the national Jewish policy, but established a spiritual kingdom. Premillennial dispensational adventism representing Christ as coming to reign for a thousand years in a restored earthly Jerusalem over a restored Jewish nation, with the Gentile world in subjugation, nullifies the Cross and seeks to rebuild what He there forever cast down. There never will be a reversion to Moses. The great central truth of the Cross and what it abrogates, as set forth in Colossians, enlarged in Ephesians, and elaborated in every detail in the Letter to the Hebrews, makes an eternal break with Judaism, as is fitly followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple and the eternal cessation of its sacrifices and priesthood. The Jerusalem that now is answereth to Mount Sinai and is in bondage with her children. The Jerusalem that is above is our mother, and regeneration is our certificate of citizenship. Heaven is our Holy Land. Let us by illumination, faith, hope and love make tours to that holy land." (B.H. Carroll, Colossians, pages 53-55).
"The New Testament shows that the restoration of the Jews is the conversion of the Jews; that it is a spiritual restoration, and that the Jerusalem they come into is the heavenly Jerusalem, and not the earthly Jerusalem, and that the Old Jewish policy will never be set up" (Carroll, Acts, page 307).
In the light of the New Testament, the Gospel Covenant confirmed to Abraham, the throne of David, Amos' prophecy of David's tabernacle, and Paul's teaching concerning the relation of the Jew to the Gospel, the spiritual Israel of God, and the supposed national restoration of the Jews, it is evident that Rev. 20 teaches no doctrine of earthly thousand years world-power-Jewish-supremacy-kingdom which includes the restoration of the temple and sacrifices. It contains no such doctrine, neither as an interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, nor as an original prediction. The Old Testament prophecies quoted in the New Testament are given a spiritual interpretation and declared to be fulfilled now in these Gospel days: "Yea and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days" (Acts 3:24).
That the prophet saw the final fulfillment of their prophecies concerning Israel culminating for all the election of grace in the resurrection, and the New Heaven and New Earth, the New Testament confirms. Hear Paul the apostle: "I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:6-8). Then these promises cannot be finally fulfilled without the resurrection. The promises of the kingdom and the inheritance come to their full fruitage then, as Paul declares in I Cor. 15:50-53: "Flesh and blood (man in his mortal condition) cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." He then states how corruptible man can inherit the incorruptible kingdom: "This corruptible must put on incorruption" by a resurrection or translation. Consequently, the Second Advent will not usher in a mixed kingdom of mortals and immortals, but all immortals--resurrection and translated saints.
Israel's true and final "return" to the lost inheritance is by the resurrection; hence we find promises of the resurrection mingled with the promises of return, of which the return from Babylon was the type. For instance, Isa. 25:6-8: "He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from all the earth." But Paul declares this will be fulfilled in the resurrection: "When this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, THEN shall be brought to pass the saying, that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory." (I Cor. 15:54).
Ezekiel's vision of "dry bones" represented the captive people in Babylon (Ezek. 37:1-14). The typical fulfillment came with the return from Babylon; but the final and antitypical fulfillment will come at the resurrection of which it was a simile. Daniel prayed for the restoration of his people to their land; and they were restored; but he was told of a mightier restoration then afar off in the future, and yet one in which he should participate. "At that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them which sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake ... But go thou thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days" (Dan. 12:1-3,13).
Hosea also, in a chapter which treats of Israel's sin, captivity, and restoration, is suddenly moved by the Spirit to utter that glorious promise; "I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave I will be thy destruction; Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes" (Hos. 13:14). The apostle Paul quotes these words and declares that their final fulfillment will be at the resurrection to immortal life (I Cor. 15:55).
Thus, the prophets of the return from Babylon also saw by the Spirit the glorious antitype, when all God's true Israel shall be "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21-23). Unto them "it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven" (I Peter 1:10-12). Thus, when we interpret these Old Testament prophets in the light of the New Testament, and the light of "the Holy Ghost send down from heaven," we see that the types which inhered in fleshly Israel are to be finally fulfilled in spiritual Israel, "the Israel of God."
F. OTHER NEW TESTAMENT PASSAGES
1. The Mount Olive Discourse
The Mount Olive Discourse is entirely concerned with eschatology. The fullest account of it is found in Matthew 24 and 25; parallel passages occur in Mark 13 and Luke 21. The occasion for this teaching was the prophecy of Jesus with reference to the destruction of the Temple (Matthew 24:1,2), and the two questions which this elicited from the disciples, "Tell us when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the age?" Our Lord gave a two-fold reply to a two-fold question. The real basis for connecting the two events is the logical relationship between them. Each brings to its close a great period in the history of God's dealing with the world. The first ended the Mosaic economy of things by God's judgment upon ONE nation, the Jewish in A.D. 70; and the other will end the Christian economy of things by God's judgment upon ALL nations at the Second Advent. The destruction of the Jewish beautiful temple and the final passing of her city were a judgment upon Israel for her sin; the Second Advent will bring judgment upon the total world of the ungodly. Note three great world catastrophes in the discourse: (1) The destruction of the Anti-deluvian world (24:37-39); (2) The destruction of the Jewish economy (24:15-22); and (3) The destruction of the world at His Second Advent (24:29-31). All the moral, spiritual, economical, and political conditions that obtained before the Flood and the destruction of Jerusalem will obtain before the Second Advent of Christ only in an intensified, accumulated form. Note also three distinct tribulations: (1) That which would characterize the whole period between the First and Second Advent of Christ (24:9); (2) That which would characterize the destruction of Jerusalem (24:21); and (3) That which would characterize the age end just prior to the Second Advent (24:29-31).
An analysis of this discourse reveals that it is highly unified and follows a clear and simple outline. The discourse falls into six divisions, of which the first four deal with the question of signs; while the last two present more general material. The analysis is based on the Lange commentary.
I. GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION DOWN TO THE END OF THE AGE (Matt. 24:1-14; Mark 13:1-13; Luke 21:1-19). This section gives a broad and sweeping delineation of the character of the Christian era, naming several characteristics that would stand out. First, many false religions would be taught in his name (Matt. 24:5,11; Mark 13:6; Luke 21:8). Second, recurrent warfare would prevail (Matt. 24:6,7; Mark 13:7,8; Luke 21:9,10). Third, as the earth grows older, untoward calamities of nature would increase (Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11). Fourth, abounding iniquity couples with spiritual lukewarmness in the church (Matt. 24:12). Fifth, persecution and separation of families for the faith's sake (Matt. 24:9,10; Mark 13:9,11-13; Luke 21:12-17). Sixth, world-wide missionary activity (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10). As the conditions described become increasingly prevalent and marked, they tend in the same proportion to become an omen of the end of the age. Our lord represented, these age conditions as "the beginning of sorrows" (Matt. 24;8,6), the word "sorrows" signifying literally the pangs of childbirth. The Christian era is pictured as a mother giving birth to the eternal age. The signs of conditions are the birth-pangs. As these conditions increase in frequency and in intensity we may expect the birth of the new age to draw near. Hence, the general signs of his coming were to be fulfilled, not consecutively, but concurrently and cumulatively.
II. THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND ITS PREMONITORY SIGNS: the approaching end of the Jewish regarded as a type of the end of the Christian age (Matt. 24:15-22; Mark 13:14-20; Luke 21:20-24). The "abomination of desolation" of Matt. 24:15 is parallel to and connected with the encompassing of Jerusalem with armies in Luke 21:20. Verse 16 was literally fulfilled in the flight of the church of Jerusalem to Pella, in the mountains of Perea, upon the approach of the Roman armies. This is a sure indication that this section pertains to the fall of the city. Verse 21 refers to the terrible sufferings of the inhabitants during the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D., one of the most horrible in all history as Josephus the Jewish historian proves. Over one million Jews perished during this frightful holocaust.
III. THE INTERVAL BETWEEN THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM AND THE END OF THE AGE (Matt. 24:23-28; Mark 13:21-23). This section has no parallel in Luke's gospel. In this section Jesus returns to the theme of his first section, that of the cumulating evidence which would characterize the Christian age. he thus builds a bridge from the subject of Jerusalem's fall and its premonitory signs to the antitypical event, the end of the world, and the tokens which were to be premonitory of it, "Then" (Greek TOTE) points to the period after the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans and before the final catastrophe brought to view in the next section Verse 24 --"false Christs" --literally pseudo-Christs. The awful figure of Antichrist was to appear during this interval. "False prophets" refers to all kinds of erroneous Christian teachings, cults, and "isms" which are multiplying rapidly in our own day. Verse 26 refers specially to last-day errors with regard to the nature of the PAROUSIA (coming) of Christ. Many will claim it is to be secret or unobserved. Christ warns against so fundamental a misconception of so important a subject. The doctrinal propaganda of Jehovah's Witnesses and of the "secret rapture" theory are in fulfillment of these signs.
IV. THE END OF THE WORLD (OR CHRISTIAN AGE) AND ITS SPECIAL PREMONITORY SIGNS (Matt. 24:29-35; Mark 13:24-31; Luke 21:24-33). With verse 29 begins the description of the end of the world with its immediate, precursory signs. A correction for the understanding of this verse and these signs is very important. The "tribulation of those days" of verse 29 is not the same as the "great tribulation" of verse 21, but rather is set over against it in contrast. As this was a tribulation which brought the Mosaic dispensation to a close, so will that be a period of suffering and turmoil leading up to the close of the Christian age. Implicit throughout the chapter is the distinction between the nearer event (fall of Jerusalem) in THESE days, and a more distant and greater event in THOSE days; viz., the coming of Christ and the end of the world. Just as it is evident from the context that the tribulation of verse 21 is connected with the fall of Jerusalem so it is clear, contextually, that the tribulation of verse 29 is in connection with the end of the world. The "tribulation of THOSE days" (vs. 29) is closely related to the period of economic and social unrest and distress, as well as of international perplexity, mentioned in Luke 21:25,26. Thus the deepening shadows of that tribulation will culminate in the throes of the final, titanic struggle between Christ and Satan that is Scripturally called Armageddon (Rev. 16:14-16). The signs of the immediate onset of the end which rapidly follow "the tribulation of THOSE days" are the darkening of the sun and moon, falling of stars and shaking of the powers of the heavens. These will follow in quick order; convulsions of nature betokening the breaking up of the world that now is, the "shaking of the heavens and the earth" (Haggai 2:6,7,21), the final birth-pangs of the new creation. Then will become visible the signs of the Son of man in heaven; perhaps the gradual dawning in the heavens of the Shekinah or effulgent glory of the heaven-descending Christ, followed by the open revelation of the presence of Christ himself (Matt. 24:30; II Thess. 2:8).
"The expression 'THIS GENERATION' of verse 33 refers to A KIND of men, namely, an EVIL KIND that reproduces and succeeds itself in many physical generations. Nor is 'this generation' the human race, or the Christians, or all the wicked. 'This generation' consists of THE TYPE OF JEWS that Jesus contended with during this Tuesday (Luke 19:45; 20:47). He foretells the destruction of their nation (Luke 21:20-24); and one might easily conclude that this would surely end the generation of Jews who were like the Pharisees and the Sadducees. But no; we are solemnly assured (and for this the assurance is in place) that this type of Jews will continue to the very Parousia. It has continued to this day. The voice of Jewish rejection of Christ is as loud and as vicious as ever; he is not the Messiah, not the Son of God! Here is Jesus' answer to those who expect a final national conversion of the Jews either with or without the millennium" (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke's Gospel).
V. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS, WARNINGS AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE END OF THE AGE (Matt. 24:36-25:30; Mark 13;32-37; Luke 21:34-36). The observations and warnings have to do with the uncertainty of the time of the Advent, and the necessity of preparation for the SUDDEN AND UNEXPECTED coming of that day. The illustrations include some of the best known parables of the kingdom; the parable of the Good and Evil Servants (24:45-51), the parable of the Ten Virgins (25:1-13), and the parable of the Talents (25:14-30). Certain definite eschatological ideas are contained in this section. (a) The time of the Advent is unknown and unknowable (24:36). (b) It is therefore necessary that we be always ready for that event whenever it may come (24:42-47; 25:1-13). (c) There is no opportunity of salvation after the Advent (25:11,12). (4) We are responsible for the use we make of our abilities and opportunities while waiting for the Lord to come, for when he returns he will "reckon with his servants" (25:14-19).
VI. THE GENERAL JUDGMENT (Matt. 25:31-46). There will be one general judgment both of the living (Matt. 25:31-46) and of the dead (Rev. 20:11-15). The scripture speaks of "the judgment" in the singular number, not of judging different classes at intervals on different tribunals. It speaks of the "day of judgment" rather than JUDGMENT DAYS (II Pet. 3:7). Jude makes reference to "THE judgment of THE great day." Who would suppose this to mean several judgments on widely separated occasions? See also Acts 17:30,31. The judgment will be universal; it will embrace all mankind. (Matt. 25:32; Rev. 20:12; Acts 17:31; II Tim. 4:1), and includes not only sinners but also the righteous (II Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:15; Matt. 25:32-36). "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." The purpose of the judgment will be two-fold: (a) MANIFESTATION. It will make manifest to all who His sons and daughters are (Rom. 8:16-19). (b) VINDICATION. The suffering righteous, who have endured the buffetings and scorn of the ungodly in this life, shall be vindicated before the eyes of their traducers "in that day" and God will justify his providence and his ways with men. Often there is an inequality of the balances in this world. The righteous suffer while the wicked flourish and prosper. Virtue often goes unrewarded, vice unpunished. A universal day of judgment will serve to adjust the balances and to vindicate the even and perfect justice of God.
II. Thessalonians 2
The Apostle instructed the Thessalonians that before Christ returned from glory there would be a "great falling away" and the "man of sin be revealed whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming" (II Thess. 2:3,4,8). Once again we have the order of events that preceded the Second Advent of Christ (1) Apostasy (vs. 3); (2) Antichrist (vs. 3); a chapter of appalling horror and amazing glory. It contrasts and compares two comings: That of anti-christ and Christ; of the man of sin and the Son of man; of the son of perdition and the Son of God; of the mystery of iniquity and the mystery of godliness; of the wicked one and the Holy One; of the working of Satan and the working of the Lord of glory. Two companies are brought before us as they have to do with the end-time. The reprobate and the elect. Those that believe not and those that believe (vss. 12,13); the lost and the saved (vs. 10); the strong delusion and the truth; the vessels of wrath self-fitted for destruction --the "received not the love of the truth ... but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (vss. 10,12) and the vessels of mercy, God-fitted for salvation through "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" (vs. 13). It closes with an exhortation to "stand fast and hold the traditions" (vs. 15) and a prayer for hope, comfort and their being established in every good word and work (vss. 16,17).
The Scofield Reference Bible in a footnote on page 1272 asserts that the Holy Spirit is to be "taken out of the way" at the Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church as the One who has been hindering the full manifestation of the mystery of iniquity. This interpretation assumes, without proof, that the Church will be "caught up" before the man of sin is manifested, and assumes also, that the restraining one is the Holy Spirit. But it would seem to be incredible that those who will be witnesses for Christ against the anti-christ will be left to their own resources in coping with the delusions and awful persecutions of that time without the aid of the Holy Spirit. The phrase "taken out of the way," is plainly a mistranslation. The Greek "eoos ek mesou genatai" literally is, "until out of the midst it came to pass." The mystery of iniquity, or secret purpose of lawlessness is already working, only there is something now withholding until the lawless one comes into being out of the midst into universal, world-wide manifestation. This is what the Greek text is really saying. There is not the slightest suggestion of any force taking away the Church. What is plainly stated is that something from WITHIN comes to the surface and exists openly WITHOUT, when the restraining force ceases to act, and then shall the lawless one be uncovered, whom the Lord will consume by the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the shining forth of his coming --"the EPIPHANY OF HIS PAROUSIA" (II Thess. 2:8).
There has been some restraining power keeping this iniquity out of sight so that it will not come to the surface before the day appointed for its manifestation and destruction. Hogg and Vine, ardent if not militant premillennialists, make this enlightening comment in their work on the Thessalonian Epistles, that "the restraining power is GENTILE DOMINION, which continues until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24), existing authorities being ordained to act in restraint of lawlessness (Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:13-17). "When the appointed days of Gentile dominion have run their course (Luke 21:24) this restraint will cease, and the individual, probably a Jew, (see Daniel 11:37), sufficiently gifted to recognize the opportunity over the law, and finally 'raising the standard of ATHEISTIC PANTHEISM will proclaim himself the INCARNATION OF THE ABSOLUTE,' and so become the object of their worship." This antichrist or lawless one will act "with all power, signs, and lying wonders; and in all deceiveableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved," the Lord giving them up to a "STRONG DELUSION" (or working of error) that they might be damned. Everywhere in the New Testament the order of events at the closing of this present age is: APOSTASY, ANTICHRIST, TRIBULATION, ADVENT, AND THEN JUDGMENT with the rest and glory for the redeemed, and wrath and indignation for the lost --AND BOTH OF THESE ASPECTS OF THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST OCCUR AT THE ONE AND SAME TIME. The self-same day Noah entered the ark, the flood came and destroyed them all. The same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all (Luke 17:29,30). The same waters, raised like a wall for the safe conduct of Israel through the Red Sea overwhelmed the pursuing Egyptians. The lions whose mouths were sealed unto Daniel's deliverance thereupon devoured his enemies.
3. THREE ALL-IMPORTANT PASSAGES
The fallacy of the Secret, Pre-Tribulation, TWO-STAGE RAPTURE THEORY is clearly seen by the study of three all-important prophetic passages of Scripture, namely, Romans 8:19-23; I Corinthians 15:23, 51-58 and II Peter 3:4-16.
The Apostle Paul reveals that the "manifestation of the sons of God" SYNCHRONIZES with the "redemption of our bodies" (Romans 8:19,23), which takes place at the resurrection (I Corinthians 15:23,51-58), or the Second Advent of Christ.
The Apostle Peter reveals that the long suffering of our Lord is SALVATION (II Peter 3:15), and that he delays his coming, "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). The Secret, Pre-Tribulation, TWO-STAGE fallacy DECLARES THAT AFTER Jesus our Lord returns to the AIR FOR his church there will be many saved during the seven-year great tribulation, and multitudes during the millennium, plus a little season to follow. Somehow THAT escaped Peter. Peter does not appear to have known anything about it for he says nothing about such a concept in his gospel (the gospel of Mark), his sermons in the book of Acts, or in his Epistles (I and II Peter), but rather declares the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved and the elements shall melt with fervent heat" (I Peter 3:12). That this is at the close of this present Christian era compare II Thessalonians 1:7. Note that order of eschatological events as found in II Peter 3. (1) The world will grow worse (vs. 3); (2) Christ will come (vs. 4); (3) the final judgment day follows at once (vs. 7); (4) at which time the world and the works that are in it are to be burned up (vss. 10,12); and (5) to be followed at once by the new heavens and the new earth (vs. 13). The uniform testimony of Scripture is the coming of our Lord to usher in the eternal state, and not a millennium of Jewish or Gentile supremacy in a world-wide kingdom maintained by force --the rod of iron rule --in a mixed state of mortals and immortals, the mortals living, dying, and begetting their kind AFTER the Second Advent of Christ. THERE WILL BE NO MORE OPPORTUNITY OF SALVATION FOR JEW OR GENTILE AFTER THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST THAN THAT THERE IS AFTER DEATH!
The Apostle Paul reveals that Christ is NOW REIGNING, and "must reign till he has put all enemies under his feet" (I Corinthians 15:25), and the LAST ENEMY that shall be destroyed is death" (I Cor. 15:26), at his Second Advent (I Cor. 15:54,55). IF THE LAST ENEMY IS DESTROYED AT THE SECOND ADVENT OF CHRIST, HOW CAN ANY OTHER ENEMIES ARISE AFTER the LAST ENEMY HAS BEEN DESTROYED? These three scriptures in Romans, I Corinthians, and II Peter show that the manifestation of the sons of God, the deliverance of the whole creation, the destruction of death the LAST ENEMY, and the bringing forth of the New Heaven and New Earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness are ALL SYNCHRONOUS! From the foregoing considerations, the Secret, Pre-Tribulation, TWO-STAGE Rapture of the Church fallacy some seven years BEFORE the Second Coming of Christ to be followed by a thousand years of time plus a little season must be rejected as one of "the divers and STRANGE DOCTRINES" of the last days (Hebrews 13:9). They may be rightly termed "Jewish fables."
We look not for a thousand years corporeal reign of Christ upon the earth in a world-power-kingdom of Jewish supremacy when Jerusalem will be made the center of the world's worship in a mixed state of mortals and immortals. The present earthly Jerusalem is in bondage with her children (Gal. 4:25), and is likened unto "Sodom and Egypt" (Rev. 11:8), appointed to a fiery destruction (Luke 17:28-30); II Peter 3:7,10).
We "look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" from Heaven "Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself" (Phil. 3:20,21).
"Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:13, R.V.), we rejoice at the prospect of creation's deliverance "from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom. 8:19-23). This is God's New World Order.
"Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (II Pet. 3:13).
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus."
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