DR. JOHN F. WALVOORD*
[* NOTES. (1) Words placed inside blue square brackets, are not part of the author’s writing.
(2) Because the following ‘Preface’ relates to what was once three separate books - “The Nations In Prophecy,” “Israel In Prophecy,”
and “The Church In Prophecy” - which are now available in one volume, ellipsis are used.
(3) At the end of “Israel In Prophesy,” in Chapter 1 of “The Nations In Prophecy” (see Part 1, pp. 13-20),
is included to show the present world’s condition, from what Scripture describes it will be
during the Messianic “Age” for “a thousand years,” (2 Pet. 3: 8; Rev. 20: 2, 3, 4, 6, 7).
(4) In Chapter 4 of “the Church In Prophecy” (see Part 2, pp. 49-69), is also shown to describe the Church’s apostate condition of Christ’s Church, prior to the first rapture of saints and the establishing of His Millennial Kingdom. The chapter is divided into seven sub-titles:
(I) ‘The History Of Apostasy’; (II) ‘The General Character Of Heresy In The Last Days’; (III) ‘The Denial Of The Person
And Work Of Christ’; (IV) ‘Denial of the Second Coming Of Christ’; (V) ‘Coldness And Indifference In The Church,’
(VI) ‘The Relation Of The Rapture To The Apostasy,’ and finally (VII)
‘Prophecies Of The End Of The Church Age Fulfilled’.]
With one-fourth of the Bible prophetically future when it was written, the interpretation of prophecy is one of the most challenging areas of biblical study. Too often preconceptions have led interpreters to draw from the biblical text doctrines that are quite removed from what the text actually states. Because prophecy is scattered from the early chapters of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation and deals with so many different situations and subjects, interpreters of prophecy have too often abandoned any detailed interpretation and reached only general conclusions.
From the careful
study of the prophetic Scriptures three main subjects emerge: (1) what the
Bible teachers about the nations, (2) what the Bible teaches about
The study of man as told in history and prophecy is the most exciting drama ever written. It reveals the omnipotent God unfolding his purpose for the nations in measured movements designed to demonstrate his own sovereignty, wisdom, and power. Though in the original creation man was made in the image and likeness of God, in the fall the image is marred. Nevertheless man was destined to be the channel of divine revelation. The history of the human race as recorded in Scripture was designed to demonstrate both the inadequacy of the creature and the sufficiency of the omnipotent Creator. Earth was to be the divine stage and man the actor, but there can be no question that human destiny remains in the hands of the unseen God even if at times He seems to work behind the scenes.
In the twentieth
century when history seems to be moving rapidly toward its destiny, the study
of history and prophecy in Scripture is especially appropriate. Only the Bible can provide a divine
interpretation of history and the revelation of the prophetic future of
nations. However, one of the most
neglected areas of biblical prophecy is that of the predictions concerning the
Before the eyes
of the entire world the seemingly impossible has occurred. A people scattered for almost two millenniums
are now firmly entrenched in the land of their forefathers. What has often been denied as impossible now
provides a new emphasis to the study of prophecy concerning
interpretation of prophecy concerning
The material in
The study of
prophecy relating to the church is a fitting capstone to … prophecy relating to the nations
introduced this major revelation of prophecy when he declared to Peter in his
previous conversation with him, “I tell you that you are Peter,
and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades - [i.e., the place of the souls of the dead, before the time of
their Resurrection] - will not overcome it” (Matt. 16: 18).
In a particular way the Gospel of Matthew blends the past with the
present and the future, introducing for the first time prophecy relating to the
church. The Gospel of Matthew
primarily is a bridge from the Old to the New Testament explaining Christ’s
fulfilment of prophecies of his first coming.
In the final message of Christ in the Upper Room (John 13-17) Christ revealed in detail for the first time the distant
character of the church. This revelation
is introductory to the prophetic hope of the church in its theology, ethics,
and distinctive character as unfolded in the epistles. The consummation of the prophecies relating
to the nations,
The study of
prophecy relating to the church is essential to revealing the distinctive
purpose of God in the present age. This
subject was not revealed in the Old Testament.
In the interpretation of prophecy concerning the church the same general
principles of exposition of the Word of God are followed as in previous
discussions of the nations and
In these present
closing years of the twentieth century, evidence is pointing to the fulfilment
of end-time events leading up to the second coming of Christ. Most important is the revelation of the
special purpose of God to catch up the church in the [first]* rapture before the final drama runs
its course. The hope of the church today
is the imminent return of Christ to take his own from the world to heaven while
great world events consummate and fulfil many prophecies relating to the
[* This rapture, before the Great Tribulation, is shown to be conditional! See Luke 21: 34-36. cf. Rev. 3: 10.]
- Dr. John F. Walvoord.
* * *
NEW STATE OF
When Theodor Herzel announced in 1897 the purpose of the
Zionist movement - “to create for the Jewish people a
THE HISTORY OF
The history of
Though God miraculously fulfilled the promise of a son in
Isaac, Abraham himself never possessed the Promised Land but lived as a pilgrim
and stranger. Rich in earthly goods,
Abraham never fulfilled his hope of a homeland in his lifetime.*
His son Isaac shared a similar fate.
Under Jacob, Isaac’s son, the people of
[* See ‘The Promises of Abraham Never Yet Fulfilled’ by Robert Govett at www.themillennialkingdom.org.uk ]
Again, however, moral deterioration attacked from within. Because of Solomon’s disregard of the law
against marriage to the heathen, many of his wives were pagans who did not share
his faith in God. His children,
therefore, were raised by their pagan mothers and they were trained to worship
idols instead of the God of Israel. The
resulting judgment of God upon
The book of Ezra records the restoration of
The history of
The subsequent history of
From A.D. 135 to modem times, the nation
THE RETURN OF
Before control of
The Zionist movement was given impetus during World War I when
British Foreign Secretary Arthur J. Balfour instituted the Balfour Declaration
on November 2, 1917, in which he stated: “His
Majesty’s Government views with favour the establishment in
In 1939, during the early portion of World War II, the British
government issued a white paper which set forth the conditions for establishing
an independent Arab state in
During World War II, however, due to
the world wide sympathy aroused for the people of
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE NEW STATE OF
On May 14, 1948, as the British withdrew control,
Since 1949, the nation
The restoration of
AND MILITARY GROWTH OF
Of special significance is the fact that
The constitution of
One of the important factors of
The corps of the army consists of volunteers who are
supplemented by reserves. Men on
reaching the age of eighteen serve for two and one half years. They are eligible for service until they are
forty-five. Single women are also given
two years of training. A system has been
devised by which reservists are settled in border areas and
Humanly speaking, it is because of the efficiency of their
DEVELOPMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND INDUSTRY
Probably the most astounding aspect of
the restoration of
One of the first problems which beset
Though hampered somewhat by failure to conclude peace
agreements with Arab nations which share the water available, by making the
most of its own opportunities,
Progress in agriculture and reclamation of the land has been
matched to some extent by establishment of industries. Textiles have now become an important part of
The expanding economy has also furnished a basis for
construction of fabulous new cities. The
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM AND REVIVAL OF BIBICAL HEBREW
One of the impressive sights in
It is to be expected with the rebirth of the nation and its
renewed interest in the Bible that attendance at the synagogue has taken on new
The religious life of
POLITICAL AND PROPHETIC SIGNNIFICANCE
THE NEW STATE OF
The significance of the new state of
The repossession of a portion of their ancient land by the new
In the subsequent history of
The return of
* * *
THE PROMISE TO ABRAHAM
In approaching the study of eschatology, the theology of Biblical prophecy, one is plunged immediately into a major division of divine revelation which is determinative in theology as a whole. Eschatology is the doctrine of last things, the word being derived from eschatos, meaning last and logos, referring to theology as a rational science. In its larger dimension, it includes all that was prophetically future at the time it was revealed. This is subject to further subdivision into eschatology which has been fulfilled and eschatology which is still future or unfulfilled.
In modern theology this simple definition has become obscured. The modem concept of “realized” eschatology reduces its status to that of divine purpose. By so doing, it robs eschatology of its quality of specific prediction of the future. This point of view is based on the idea that it is impossible for anyone, even for writers of the Word of God, to predict the future.
Orthodox theology, however, has never submitted to such a limitation and throughout the history of the church it has been assumed that the Bible can speak authoritatively on things to come. Though there is evident difference of opinion as to how prophecy should be interpreted, the orthodox position does not question the authenticity of prophecy itself. In this discussion, it is assumed that the Bible in its original writings was given by inspiration of God and is an infallible revelation of His mind and purpose. The problem before us then is not one of demonstrating the validity of prophecy or the accuracy of the Scriptures. It is rather one of theological induction and interpretation of the revelation given in the Bible.
MAJOR DIVISIONS OF THE DIVINE PROGRAM
In order to approach the subject of eschatology intelligently, some principle of organization must be adopted in the interpretation of the broad and extensive field of Scriptural prophecy. Among a number of possibilities, two such principles may be mentioned by way of introduction.
First, the eschatological program of God may be considered in
four major divisions: (1) The program for angels, including the present
ministry and future blessedness of the elect angels and the present activity
and future damnation of fallen angels, usually embraced in the branch of
systematic theology called Satanology.
(2) The program of God for Gentiles embodied in the broad provisions of
Cod’s covenant with Adam and Noah and subsequently unfolded in the visions
given to the Prophet Daniel in the book that bears his name. Included in God’s program for the Gentiles is
provision for the salvation of those who turn to God in true faith. (3) The
divine program for
[* See ‘The Bride In Genesis’ by A. L. Chitwood. ** See ‘Firstborn Sons Their Rights And Risks’ by G. H. Lang.]
ALTEMATE APPROACH OF COVENANT THEOLOGY
The fourfold division suggested for the program of God for His
moral creatures is a comprehensive and illuminating approach to the tremendous
mass of Scriptures which bear upon the divine purpose of God. An alternative to this is provided by a
second approach, that of the so-called covenant
theologians. It is not our purpose to
deal in detail with this point of view, but its principal elements can be
stated. It is the assumption of the covenant
theologian that the major purpose of God is the salvation of the elect,
embodied in a covenant of grace or covenant of redemption, and that all other
purposes of God are subordinate to this.
For this reason the divine revelation as it relates to angels is usually
ignored as somewhat irrelevant. The
contrast between God’s program for
At least two major objections can be mentioned opposing the covenant theologians’ interpretation. First, the covenant theologian is guilty of the reductive error, namely, taking one facet of God’s divine program and making it all-determinative. It leaves without adequate explanation the dealings of God with the natural world, and with the mass of unsaved humanity, which is regarded simply as an unfortunate context for God’s major purpose. Second, the interpretation of Scripture required for covenant theology involves passing over the specifics of hundreds of prophecies in Scripture and taking these either in a spiritualized sense or ignoring them altogether.
Preferable is the point of view that
regards God’s major purpose in the universe as that of self-manifestation. In this approach the summum bonum is the manifestation of the infinite
perfections of God which constitute His glory.
With this point of view, the natural world takes on wonderful meaning in
that “the heavens declare the glory of God.”
The [future] salvation of the elect in all dispensations
is recognized as a major aspect of manifesting His glory, for in this alone can
His infinite love and righteousness merge in grace, but other aspects of the
divine program are not displaced. The
separate programs of God for the angels, Gentiles,
PRINCIPLE OF INTERPRETATION
In the broad approach of interpretation of prophecy attention needs to be given to two alternative principles of interpretation. That adopted in this study is the principle that Scripture should be interpreted in its normative, literal sense, except in such instances where a figurative or nonliteral interpretation is obviously indicated. In applying this principle no distinction needs to be observed between Scripture which is non-eschatological and Scripture which is eschatological. The same hermeneutical principles which apply to any other portion of Scripture apply equally well to eschatology.*
[* As eschatology is the study of end-time events; the same can be said of soteriology, which is the study of Salvation. Throughout Scripture there is mention made of (1) a salvation past, (2) a salvation present and (3) a salvation future! Regenerate believers have been saved; they are presently being saved; and they shall be saved, - at some unknown time in the future! For example, in 1 Peter 1: 5, 9, 10, we read of a future salvation - “the salvation of souls,” (verse 9, R.V.). This future salvation is reserved for disciples of Christ, who presently have obtained eternal salvation by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour, (Eph. 2: 8, 9).
This future salvation, which was spoken by God’s Old Testament prophets, had to do with “what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it (He) testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ” - which are now past - “and the glories that should follow them:” (verse 11, R.V.) - which are still future! That is, Peter was testifying to those who were already in possession of eternal salvation - by God’s ‘grace’ - and pointing them forward to a time, yet future, to what the Old Testament prophets said, would follow Messiah’s sufferings: “the GLORIES which should follow them”! These “glories” will only be fully known and seen after Messiah’s Second Advent! At that time we are told: “the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea:” (Habakkuk 2: 14; Isaiah 11: 9, R.V.).
By comparing the above with Matt. 16: 28b - 17: 1-13; Mark 9: 2-8; Luke 9: 28-36, R.V.; and with what Peter, James and John saw on the Holy Mount - (after being chosen from amongst Christ’s other disciples) - we have an understanding of what Jesus meant by His previous words to them: “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then shall he render unto every man according to his deeds. Verily I say unto you, There be some of them that stand here, which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in His KINGDOM:” (Matt. 16: 27, 28, R.V.).
By Peter’s words in (2 Pet. 1: 10, 11, 15-21); addressed “to them that have obtained a like precious faith” (verse 1), we understand, (1) Jesus will make a selection from amongst His former disciples; (2) there will be a future judgment of their deeds; (3) those selected, will be privileged to “see” and enter Messiah’s “Kingdom” by means of resurrection from the dead; and (4) this future “Kingdom” of our “Lord,” will be manifested upon this earth for “a thousand years”; (5) there will be those who will be partakers of the “First Resurrection” (Rev. 20: 4-6), prior to its commencement; and (6) those alive on earth at that time, shall “see the Son of man COMING IN HIS KINGDOM.”]
An alternative point of view was advanced by Augustine who suggested a dual hermeneutics, namely, that while all Scripture should be interpreted normally - that is, literally - prophecy or eschatology was to be understood in a figurative or nonliteral way. His principal reason for this dual hermeneutics was that a literal interpretation of prophecy would lead to chiliasm, or the premillennial interpretation.
Modem a-millenarians have not improved much on Augustine’s original dismissal of pre-millennialism. Their principal objection continues to be that the pre-millennial system is hopelessly confused and self-contradictory. The answer to this objection, while having many facets, is in the main a demonstration that pre-millennial interpretation is not only consistent with Scripture but consistent with itself and provides a program for eschatology which is not afforded in any other point of view.
It will be impossible within the confines of this study to debate in any satisfactory way the question of pre-millennialism versus a-millennialism. This has been presented many times by competent scholars. Such works as J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come; Charles Feinberg’s Premillennialism, or Amillennialism?; Alva J. McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom; Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology; The Bags of the Premillennial Faith by Charles Eyrie; and my own volume, The Millennial Kingdom, set forth a sufficient answer for those who are willing to examine their pages.
The purpose of this study will be to
examine Biblical prophecies relating to
EXEGESIS OF THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT
The first statement of the covenant of God made with Abraham, given in Genesis 12: 1-3, was originally delivered to Abraham while still in Ur of the Chaldees and is stated in these words: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto the land that I will show thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” God promised Abraham, that subject to his obedience to the command to leave his own country and go to a land that God would show him, certain blessings would accrue to him.
First, certain promises were given to Abraham personally. Of Abraham, God would make a great nation. His divine blessing would rest upon Abraham. His name would be great. Abraham himself would be a blessing. In regard to Abraham, God promised a special circumstance in which He would bless those who blessed Abraham and would curse those who cursed him. The blessing promised through Abraham, according to verse three, was to extend to all families of the earth.
Second, though the Abrahamic covenant as given was directed
primarily to Abraham as a person, it is obvious that out of it come two other
major aspects of the covenant. Not only
did God direct promises to Abraham himself, but the promise was given of the
formation of a great nation out of Abraham.
Third, the blessings falling on Abraham and his descendants would reach
out unto all other families of the earth.
Hence, an ordinary exegesis of the Abrahamic covenant in its original
pronouncement involves (1) promises to Abraham; (2) promises to the nation,
The prophecy of this Scripture is enriched by further revelation given later. In Genesis 12: 7 God declared to Abraham: “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” The promise of the land is reiterated in Genesis 13: 14-17 where Abraham is exhorted to survey the land in all directions. In addition, Abraham’s seed, destined to occupy the land, is described as being as numerous as the dust of the earth.
The dimensions of the land promised to the seed of Abraham are
recorded in Genesis 15: 18-20.
The entire area from the
These many Scriptures dealing with the Abrahamic covenant will
be discussed more at length later, but their mere itemization establishes the
basic promises embodied in the Abrahamic covenant which can now be summarized
as follows: (1) Abraham’s name shall be great.
(2) Abraham shall personally have great blessing. (3) Whoever will bless Abraham will be
blessed and whoever will curse Abraham will he cursed. (4) From Abraham will come a great nation,
innumerable as the dust of the earth. (5) Abraham will be the father of many
nations, not just one. (6) Kings shall come
from the line of Abraham. (7) Abraham’s seed shall inherit the land from the
[* NOTE. That is, for as long as this present earth lasts!
“The word ‘Olam,’ ‘Ever,’ does not, of itself,
and by fixed necessity, always denote the annihilation of time, but as
frequently, in Hebrew usage, denotes simply unbroken continuance up to a
special epoch in history, or to a certain natural termination. It has a relative as well as an absolute
sense, a finite as well as an infinite length.
It means ‘Here’ as well as ‘Beyond,’ and applies to a kingdom that comes
to ‘an End,’ as well as to one that has ‘no End.’ For this reason, a great World-Period, or
Age, are called ‘Olam,’
and in World-Periods, or Ages, are called ‘Olammim,’ and in order to express
infinite time, the reduplication is used, ‘Ages
of Ages,’ ‘Olammim Olammim.’ It is therefore a false conclusion to say
that because the term ‘Le Olam,’ ‘Forever,’ is applied to the Messianic kingdom, therefore the
Hebrews contradicted themselves, when they assigned to it limits at the same
time. Messiah’s kingdom is Temporal and also
Eternal, and in both senses, Olamic. The
bondsman’s free covenant to serve his master lasted ‘forever,’ but that only meant
‘till Jubilee.’ The Levitical economy was established to be ‘forever,’ but that only meant
till ‘the time of reformation.’ The Christian
Church is ‘forever,’ in its present form, but
that only means ‘till He comes.’ True to this view, the Jewish Teachers ever
held to a
– Taken from writings by NATHANIEL WEST.]
In arriving at these details, the plain language of Scripture and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant have simply been itemized. If the facts stand as they seem to be presented in the Scriptures, a massive presentation of the divine purpose of God for Abraham’s seed is thus unfolded. It is a dramatic declaration of a new divine purpose quite different from His declared purpose for Gentiles as a whole. A particular rill of humanity has been sovereignly chosen to fulfil a divine purpose distinct in its character and in its fulfilment.
It is obvious, however, to any interpreter of Scripture that all will not agree on such a literal interpretation of these promises and it is therefore necessary to give attention not only to the exegesis but to the interpretation of the words and statements embodied in the Abrahamic covenant and its subsequent enlargement and repetition. Two major considerations confront the interpreter of the Abrahamic covenant: (1) Are these promises to be taken simply and literally, or are they to be interpreted in a non-literal or figurative sense? (2) Are the promises embodied in the Abrahamic covenant sovereignly given or are they contingent upon subsequent obedience on the part of Abraham and his seed? In brief, the issue is literal versus spiritualized interpretation, and the question of whether the covenant is conditional or un-conditional.
ARE THE PROMISES TO ABRAHAM LITERAL?
In approaching the interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant, one is faced with a determinative decision which goes far beyond the borders of specific promises of this covenant. The issue in a word is whether prophecy can be interpreted literally and normally or whether it should be understood in a figurative or spiritualized sense. The Anti-millennial point of view requires extensive spiritualization of prophecy, whereas the Pre-millennial interpretation is more literal. As related to the Abrahamic covenant, the question hinges on the interpretation of the expression, “the seed of Abraham,” and the specifies that are promised. The problem has been somewhat confused by the fact that some Pre-millenarians have tended to build their system upon an A-millennial foundation and have not kept clearly in mind a proper basis for pre-millennial truth. In general, however, the pre-millennial point of view requires that the promises given to Abraham should be fulfilled by Abraham. Promises to Abraham’s seed shall be fulfilled by his physical descendants, and promises made to “all families of the earth” will be fulfilled by Gentiles, i.e., those who are not physical descendants of Abraham. Hence, extreme care should be taken in determining precisely what promises are given to what peoples.
Guided by this principle, one can observe certain promises true only of Abraham, i.e., Cod’s personal blessing upon him, the promise that his name shall be great, and that God will make a great nation of him. The promise given to all nations is limited to the idea that they shall be blessed through Abraham. This of course is subsequently enlarged in God’s total program in grace for believing Gentiles in general and the church in particular. The crux of the interpretative problem, however, lies in the definition of the expression, “the seed of Abraham.” How shall this expression be understood?
An examination of all references to the seed of Abraham in Scripture reveals that the expression is used in three distinct senses. First, there is the natural use, i.e., the natural seed of Abraham referring to those who are actual physical descendants of Abraham. Though there is a sense in which all natural descendants of Abraham are included, such as Ishmael and his descendants and Isaac and his descendants through Esau, it is clear that the particular promises of God to the seed are narrowed first to Isaac and then to Jacob and through Jacob to the twelve tribes of Israel. To them, God promises in a special sense to be their God. To them was given the law of Moses, and the perpetual title to the Promised Land is given to them.
Second, the expression “the seed of Abraham” is used in special reference to the
spiritual lineage coming from Abraham, that is, those in
A third division, however, relating to the spiritual seed of Abraham is unfolded in Galatians 3: 6-9 which reads as follows: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed. So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.” Here we learn that there is also a spiritual seed of Abraham who are Gentiles, those who are not physical descendants of Abraham. Some, on the basis of this Galatians passage, have drawn the unwarranted conclusion that all distinctions between the natural seed of Abraham and the spiritual seed are thereby erased.
The passage itself, however, makes very clear that Gentiles who are recognized as the children of Abraham come under the promise given to the Gentiles and not under promises given to the physical seed of Abraham. The portion of the Abrahamic covenant which is quoted by Paul refers to the Gentiles in the words: “In thee shall all the nations be blessed.” Paul’s conclusion therefore is: “So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.” This means that they come under the blessing promised the nations, but it does not mean that they come under all the promises given to Abraham personally or to his seed in the physical sense. A Gentile in the present age is Abraham’s seed because he is “in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28). It is on this basis that Galatians 3: 29 states: “And if you are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.”
A Gentile Christian therefore becomes the seed of Abraham not
because of any physical lineage with Abraham himself
nor simply by imitation of Abraham’s faith, but because he is regarded by God
as in Christ who is indeed a physical descendant of Abraham. The promises thereby assured are the promises
given to Gentiles, not the particular promises given to
It may be concluded, therefore, that the seed of Abraham is
used (1) of the natural seed of Abraham, more specifically the descendants of
Jacob; (2) spiritual Israel, i.e., descendants of Jacob who trust in God; (3)
Gentiles who are in Christ and are spiritual seed of Abraham, thereby
qualifying for the promise of blessing to Gentiles in Abraham. Promises addressed to Abraham, therefore, can
be apportioned according to the qualifying characteristic of each group. The promise given to Abraham that God would
bless those who bless him, and curse those who curse him, has to some extent
been extended to the entire nation of
The realization of most of the promises, however, depends upon
an individual Israelite being spiritual.
Only thus will he ever enter into the future millennial kingdom, either
as a survivor of the tribulation or as a resurrected saint. The blessings of God to
[* Since ‘the righteous acts of the saints’ in Rev. 19: 8, are shown to be the qualifying factor, not all within God’s redeemed family will qualify! At the judgment seat of Christ, there will be a selection from amongst those previously selected; and only the overcomers within the churches (shown in Rev. chs. 2 & 3) will qualify to rule with Messiah ‘in the land’ and for ‘a thousand years’! (Rev. 20: 4-6. cf. Luke 20: 35.). To limit this privilege to Jews only, will make a dispensational division concerning the inheritance in ‘the land’ between Jews and Gentiles; which is something the New Testament Scriptures do not do! Gal. 3: 26-29. cf. Gal 5: 13-21.]
The principal opposition to this threefold distinction in the
usage of the term “the seed of Abraham” arises from the Anti-millennial interpretation and
more particularly from those who embrace covenant theology. Illustrative of
this Anti-millennial point of view is the work, The Seed
of Abraham, by
Albertus Pieters. To him the term “the seed of Abraham” means only the spiritual seed of Abraham without distinction
While it is not the intent here to provide a complete
refutation of the A-millennial exegesis of the Abrahamic covenant, certain
important objections can be raised.
First, the argument of Pieters rests on the assumption that there is no
one today who is a physical descendant of Abraham. This extreme position is not shared by most
A-millenarians as it is faced by almost insuperable problems. The racial continuity of
A notable weakness in the A-millennial exegesis of the Abrahamic covenant is the fact that it does not take into consideration the specifics of God’s revelation. Pieters for instance passes over Genesis 15: 18-21 without even a word of comment, and the revelation that the covenant is everlasting - and that the land is promised as an everlasting possession in Genesis 17: 7, 8 is likewise given silent treatment. The fact is that any reasonable understanding of the terminology of these passages leads unmistakably to the conclusion that Abraham understood the promises as given to his physical seed, which forms the background of his special interest in Isaac and the promise of the land which evidently Abraham understood in a physical way. It is true that Abraham’s faith went beyond the promise of the physical land to that of the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem in the eternal state, as indicated in Hebrews 11: 10. But the promise of the land is obviously related to the temporal and, will be fulfilled as long as the present earth lasts, whereas the promise of the eternal city had to do with the eternal state.
A spiritualized understanding of the promises of the land
becomes ridiculous in that the land has to be made to mean heaven.
The description given of the land in Genesis 15:15-18 as
extending from the
ARE THE PROMISES TO ABRAHAM CONDITIONAL?
The traditional A-millennial interpretation of the Abrahamic
promises tends to follow the method of spiritualizing them thereby removing the
element of specific and literal Predictions.
Another device, however, adopted by modern A-millennialists,
follows the argument that the promises are conditional. Under this approach a literal interpretation
of the promise can be followed, i.e., it may be held that
Therefore the promises are withdrawn. Such is the approach of Oswald Allis in his book, Prophecy and the Church.
Allis states his support of the conditional element in the Abrahamic covenant in these words: “It is true that, in the express terms of the covenant with Abraham, obedience is not stated as a condition. But that obedience was presupposed is clearly indicated by two facts. The one is that obedience is the precondition of blessing under all circumstances. ... The second fact is that in the case of Abraham the duty of obedience is particularly stressed” (p. 33).
It is true that, in some cases in the Bible, promises are given in a conditional way. For instance, the Mosaic covenant contains many conditional promises, i.e., blessing for obedience, cursing or divine judgment for disobedience. However, it is not true that in Scripture obedience is always the condition of blessing. Allis, who is a Calvinist, has forgotten his doctrine of unconditional election [unto eternal life]. He has also forgotten the principle of divine grace in which God blesses those who are unworthy. The fact is that many of God’s blessings fall upon those who are the least worthy of them. In such a doctrine as the [eternal] security of the believer, which Afflis would be the first to support, there is recognition of the principle that God makes promises which depend on Himself and His grace, not on human faithfulness. It certainly is not true that God’s promises or that prophecy as a whole is conditioned upon human action. The major premise of Allis therefore, that obedience is always the condition of blessing, is a fallacy. God is able to make promises and keep them regardless of what men may do.
The second aspect of the position of Allis, that in the case
of Abraham the duty of obedience is particularly stressed, is true in itself,
but it does not affect the argument. In
several instances in Abraham’s life he was disobedient and in none of these
instances did God withdraw the promise of the covenant. On other occasions when Abraham was obedient
God reiterated the promise and added further details. But never was the promise made contingent
upon later obedience. As a matter of
fact, the history of
There is, however, a partial validity
to the point of view of Allis, namely, that under the covenant an individual Israelite would qualify
for personal blessings by obedience which he would not receive if he
were disobedient. For instance, when
A-millenarians are wont to bring up numerous problems, such as the conditional judgment pronounced upon Ninevah by Jonah, the judgment upon Eli’s house, and limitation and application of blessings of the Abrahamic covenant to the spiritual scene. These have been answered in detail by Pre-millenarians (cf. The Millennial Kingdom by the writer, pp. 154 ff). In a word, conditional promises under the Mosaic covenant do not affect the Abrahamic covenant. There is a proper answer to every A-millennial objection, and the support of the concept that the Abrahamic covenant is unconditional is abundant.
The evidence that the covenant with Abraham, is unconditional should be understood as supporting the idea that the complete fulfilment of the covenant was rendered sure when God gave it to Abraham in the first place. By using the word unconditional, it is not intended to imply that there were no human contingencies, but rather that God took all these contingencies into consideration when He made the promise. Further, it should be understood that the promise is not necessarily in all of its aspects fulfilled to every individual [redeemed]* Israelite, but that some aspects of the promise are reserved for particular Israelites in a particular generation and limited to a large extent to those in Israel who are qualified as the spiritual seed of Abraham. The promise is not necessarily fulfilled therefore by all the seed of Abraham, but by some of the seed of Abraham.
[* See Num. chs. 14. &16.]
The unconditional aspect of the Abrahamic covenant is
confirmed by the fact that all of
The prophetic program of God for
The Abrahamic covenant contributes to the eschatology of
* * *
[See “Israel’s National Future” (2) by G. H. LANG on the website.]
One of the central questions in prophecy
Variations in the statement of these three major points of
view abound. The opinion of Albertus
Pieters has already been discussed and the evident facts pointing to the
THE CONTINUANCE OF THE PHYSICAL SEED OF ABRAHAM
Though it is allowed by all conservative expositors of
Scripture that Abraham had a physical seed, and in particular that Jacob was
the father of the twelve tribes of
It should also be evident from Scripture and history that
With the destruction of
Much of the evidence which supports the concept of
Relative to the express question concerning the perpetuity of
The matter of
EXPRESS PROMISES OF
In addition to the strong predictions
17, the most pointed
pronouncements are made elsewhere in the Old Testament concerning
In view of the fact that some
Anti-millenarians contend that the Abrahamic promise concerning Israel is
conditioned on their obedience and therefore is set aside upon disobedience, it
is most significant that this strongest prophecy in the Old Testament for the
continuance of Israel is given in a setting when Israel is manifestly in
apostasy and about to be carried off into captivity. It would be difficult to provide a setting
anywhere which would make it clearer that this is God’s sovereign purpose
entirely apart from
The promise of
Isaiah referred to this same time in Isaiah 11: 9 when he predicted: “For the earth
shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as
the waters cover the sea.” This was an especially
strong prediction in view of the fact that both Isaiah and Jeremiah lived in a
day when ignorance of the Lord prevailed and apostasy characterized
The new covenant is frequently mentioned elsewhere in the Old
Testament. In Isaiah 61: 8,
9, in a similar context speaking of
The Prophet Ezekiel repeats all the familiar elements found in
earlier statements of the covenant, namely that Israel is to be re-gathered, to
be reunited in one kingdom, to be ruled by one king, is to be forgiven and
cleansed from idolatry, and will dwell forever in the land of their covenant of
peace (Ezekiel 37: 21-28). God is going to be
present with them, and
Because these prophecies interpreted in their normal and natural
way would unmistakably affirm the Pre-millennial interpretation of prophecy,
A-millenarians deny these conclusions and usually hold that the new covenant as
given to Israel is being fulfilled by the church today. Though this is quite foreign to the Old
Testament presentation, they claim that the New Testament authorizes this
transfer of promises from the nation to the church and that particulars such as
the coming time of tribulation, re-gathering of Israel, their re-establishment
in the land, their being ruled by one king, and being united as one nation must
be interpreted spiritually as being fulfilled in the gathering, out of the
church from all nations into the one body of Christ. Before turning to other
New Testament evidence confirming the continuance of
There are five references in the best texts of the New Testament in which the term new covenant (kaine diatheke) is found (Luke 22: 20; 1 Corinthians 11: 25; 2 Corinthians 3: 6; Hebrews 8: 8; 9: 15). In addition there are several other references which are properly within the sphere of this study as referring to the new covenant without the precise words being used (Matthew 26: 28; Mark 14: 24; Romans 11: 27; Hebrews 8: 10, 13; 10: 16; 12: 24). It is, of course, hardly possible to treat the subject adequately without a more prolonged discussion than can be undertaken here. A more complete presentation is afforded in The Millennial Kingdom, chapter 18, by the writer, and in Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come, chapter 8.
In regard to
The argument of Hebrews at this point is that Jesus Christ as
our High Priest has a more excellent ministry and is the Mediator of a better
covenant providing better promises than that of the Aaronic priesthood built on
the Mosaic covenant. This is stated in Hebrews 8: 6: “But now hath
he obtained a ministry the more excellent, by so
much as he is also the mediator of a better covenant, which hath been enacted upon better promises.”
The writer of Hebrews then proceeds to prove this by quoting the new
covenant of Jeremiah as demonstrating that the Mosaic covenant was faulty and
needed to be replaced. He states in verse 7: “For if that
first covenant had been faultless, then would no place
have been sought for a second.” He continues by
quoting Jeremiah’s new covenant with the words: “For finding fault with them,
he saith, Behold, the
days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of
The interpretation of this quotation as it relates to the new covenant
is complicated by the fact that conservative scholars have no less than five
differing points of view, one of which is the A-millennial interpretation. Briefly stated, these five positions are
these: (1) The Post-millennial interpretation that the promise of future
blessing for the Jews will be fulfilled in the people of Israel in the latter
days of the period of the church on earth when the Jews are converted and
accept Christ as Saviour. This was
typical of the conservative Post-millennialism, of the nineteenth century. (2) That the new covenant in both the Old and
New Testaments concerns
The Post-millennial point of view has been largely discarded
with a defunct Post-millennialism and does not figure prominently in current
eschatological discussions. Interpreters
usually choose either between the A-millennial point of view
or one of the three Pre-millennial interpretations. Darby’s teaching that the new covenant both
in the New and Old Testaments concerns
Oswald Allis defines the A-millennial interpretation in these
words: “For the gospel age in which we are living is
that day foretold by the prophets when the law of God shall be written in the
hearts of men (Jeremiah 31: 33) and when the Spirit of God abiding in their hearts will enable
them to keep it (Ezekiel 11: 19, 36: 26f)” (Prophecy and the
Church, p. 42). He argues that the quotation before us in Hebrews 8 is a clear and unmistakable statement
to this effect. Allis writes: “The passage speaks of the new covenant. It declares that this new covenant has
already been introduced and that by virtue of the fact that it is called ‘new’ it has made the one
which it is replacing ‘old,’ and that the old is about to vanish away. It would be hard to End a
clearer reference to the gospel age in the Old Testament than in these verses
in Jeremiah” (ibid., p. 154). An examination of the
passage in Hebrews, however, does not support what Allis claims. Though the writer quotes the entire new
covenant as given by Jeremiah, in his exegesis he uses only one word, namely,
the word new. His argument in brief is based on the fact that
Jeremiah predicted a new covenant in the Old Testament. This prediction proved
that the Mosaic covenant was not intended to be an everlasting covenant and
would in fact be done away. He does not
say that Jeremiah’s covenant is in effect now.
While the New Testament in other passages alludes to the covenant of
Jeremiah as in the quotation in Hebrews 10: 16 and states that Jesus is the Mediator
of a new covenant in Hebrews 12: 24, nowhere in the New Testament is the church specifically put
under the detailed provisions of the covenant of Jeremiah. The normal Pre-millennial interpretation
therefore considers these references (1) as an application of the general truth
of the grace of God illustrated in the new covenant with
A study of further particulars in the New Testament related to the question of Israel’s continuity serves to confirm that the word Israel is used in the New Testament in the same sense as in the Old and that promises to Israel continue to be inviolate, including their future restoration.
A-millenarians, while denying any future to
NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE
A study of the New Testament demonstrates beyond question that
there is a continued contrast between
Not only is
Perhaps more to the point in this discussion is the New
Testament contrast between natural
A central passage in the New Testament on this point is found
11 where Paul raises the
question that is before us: “I say then, Did God
cast off his people?” (Romans 11: 1). In his argument which follows he,
first of all, answers this question in an absolute negative by asserting that there always has been a remnant of
Not only is the nation
Probably the most important text used by those who attempt to prove that Israel and the church are one is that found in Galatians 6: 15, 16, which reads as follows: “For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as shall walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” It has been argued that the expression “Israel of God” is used here of the church as a whole.
It may be observed first that if this passage does use the term “Israel of God” for the church, it is the only passage in the entire New Testament where there is any evidence in the text for such a conclusion. Seen in the setting of its context, it is by no means the clear assertion that the church is the Israel of God as is sometimes claimed by its proponents. Paul is stating in these closing verses of the epistle to the Galatians the pre-eminence of the cross of Christ before which neither circumcision nor uncircumcision availed. The important fact is that those who trust in Christ who died for them become a new creature quite apart from any rite of circumcision or its lack. Upon those who have, thus apprehended the grace of God and have been delivered from the law and its religious regulations, Paul breathes a benediction of peace and mercy. Then he adds, “And upon the Israel of God.” The most natural explanation of this is that Paul is stating that anyone, whether Jew or Gentile, who walks by this rule is worthy of his benediction, but especially is this so for the Israel of God, i.e., Israelites who are the godly remnant of this age, that is, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. The use of the Greek kai is best translated by the word and; and only rarely is used in the sense of even as would be required if the term Israel of God is entirely equivalent to the expression “as many as walk by this rule.” The passage does not state that the Israel of God and the church, i.e., the new creation, are coextensive. At the most, such identification is possible, but not probable. Paul’s statement is simply a recognition of his particular interest in Israelites who have come to know Christ and expresses the hope that they would enter into the freedom of grace of which he is such an able exponent in the epistle to the Galatians.
One of the familiar arguments against the continuance of
This question is largely answered by the materials already
presented. The fact of continued
In Matthew 21: 43 Christ said in connection with the parable of
the householder: “Therefore say I unto you, The
This declaration of Christ is understood when it is
interpreted as a statement that the scribes and Pharisees who rejected Christ, illustrated
in the rejection of the son of the householder in the preceding parable, would
never enter into the blessings of the
[* See Matt. 5: 20; 7: 21; Mark 11: 17. cf. Luke 20: 35; Phil. 3: 11; 20: 4-6.]
A second major text in the New Testament has already been
mentioned, namely, the question raised by Paul in Romans 11: 1: “Did God cast off his people?” To this Paul gives a categorical negative in
the words, “God forbid.” He not only expressly
denies that God has cast off
In this discussion three points of view concerning
* * *
PROMISE OF THE LAND TO
In the broad program of prophecy
Practically all conservative expositors agree that Abraham was
instructed in his original call to leave his native country,
It would seem redundant to cite these proofs if it were not
for the fact that the term the land and its related promises are frequently spiritualized
as if they had no geographic implications whatever. As has been pointed out in previous
discussion, A-millenarians usually follow one of two routes in evading the
Pre-millennial interpretations of this passage, namely, (1) that the promises
of the land are to be spiritualized and relate to heaven; or (2) that the
promises are to be interpreted literally but are conditional and will never be
fulfilled. In order to consider the
A-millennial argument, it is necessary to examine first the promise of the land
to the seed of Abraham as unfolded in the Old Testament; second, to study the
dispossessions of the land involved in the three dispersions of Israel; third, to
ascertain whether these promises have in some sense already been fulfilled or
whether they are subject to future fulfilment; and, fourth, whether taking the
evidence as a whole there is good ground for belief in the future fulfilment of
these promises. Certain conclusions may
then be drawn concerning
THE RROMISE OF THE LAND TO ABRAHAM’S SEED
In examining the promise of the land, it may be observed first
that Abraham understood the promises of God as relating to the literal
In Genesis 15: 18-21 the exact
dimensions of the land are given and the territory is described as running from
The New Testament comments on this expectation of Abraham. in Hebrews 11: 8, 9 where it is written: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he became a sojourner in the land of promise, as in a land not his own, dwelling in tents, with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise.” So far, all must agree that a literal land is in view. A-millenarians are quick to point out however, that verse 10 goes on to say: “For he looked for the city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Also, in Hebrews 11: 16 it adds: “But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city.”
Do these allusions to a heavenly city nullify the idea of a literal land? A careful study of this passage will demonstrate that the subject is Abraham’s faith. His faith first of all was in regard to the land, and his faith was indicated by his obedience and his sojourning in the land in tents. The same faith which he manifested in God’s promise concerning the land is also manifested in Abraham’s faith concerning the heavenly city. The land represented God’s promise in relation to time, more specifically, the future [millennial] kingdom of Christ on earth, while the heavenly city has to do with eternity, the New Jerusalem and the new earth. In the case of both, Abraham never possessed in life the fulfilment of the promises and like others he died in faith before the promises were fulfilled.* The fact that Abraham believed both the temporal promises of God and the eternal promises of God does not lead to the conclusion that the earthly promise and the heavenly promise are one and the same. It is rather that they require the same attitude of faith. The major emphasis of Scripture, however, is on Abraham’s belief in the temporal promises of God and to this the Scriptures constantly refer. The allusions to the eternal state and Abraham’s expectation and faith are in fact rare, while the promises relating to possession of the land are one of the major themes of the Old Testament.
[* NOTE. “BUT JEHOVAH HAS NEVER YET
FULFILLED THAT COVENANT TO ABRAHAM. He promised him the
And Stephen said, ‘Men, brethren, and fathers, hearken; the God of Glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, And said unto him, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall shew thee. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldaeans, and dwelt in Charran; and from thence, when his father was dead, he removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell. And he gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that he would give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child.’”
So says the Writer of Hebrews (i.e., the Holy Spirit). Heb. 11: 8, 13: “ ‘By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into the place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out not knowing whither he went.’ ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’
But it may be said
- ‘Did not Abraham receive the fulfilment, if not in
his own person, yet in his seed as represented by
And we answer - No, in no wise!
2. Never in their palmiest days, did they possess the land in its extent as
given by the covenant, - from Nile to
3. But the chief reply is - That it is not said, that Abraham should inherit the land in his seed; but that he AND his seed should possess it. ‘All the land which thou seest, to THEE will I give it, and to thy seed for ever:” Gen. 13: 15. Besides, if so, the Scriptures could not assert, that Abraham had never received the land. On that supposition, he has received it in the persons of his representatives; which was all that was promised.
The covenant of Gen. 15, moreover, confirms the land to Christ as Abraham’s individual Heir; and no subsequent engagement of God can make that void: Gal. 3: 17. But Christ has never possessed the land.
The promises of
– R. GOVETT. See Robert Govett’s exposition: ‘The Promises To Abraham Never Yet Fulfilled’ on the website: www.themillemmialkingdom.org.uk ]
In presenting the Messianic hope, Isaiah, in the major passage
11: 1-12, after describing the justice which
will characterize the land when the Messiah reigns, prophesies the re-gathering
of the children of Israel “From Assyria, and
from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from
Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.” He goes on to state that He is going to “gather together the dispersion of
Similar passages abound in Isaiah. For instance, in Isaiah 14: 1 it is declared: “For Jehovah
will have compassion on Jacob, and will yet
In Isaiah 43: 5-7 the re-gathering of Israel to the land is described: “Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; every one that is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yea, whom I have made.” It is stated categorically in Isaiah 60: 21: “Thy people also shall be all righteous; they shall inherit the land for ever.”
The book of Isaiah concludes with a great prophecy concerning
the re-gathering of
This theme of Israel is continued in Jeremiah 16: 14-16: “Therefore, behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that it shall
no more be said, As Jehovah liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of
Egypt; but, As
Jehovah liveth, that brought up the children of
Israel from the land of the north, and from all
the countries whither he had driven them. And I will bring them again into their land
that I gave unto their fathers. Behold, I will
send for many fishers, saith Jehovah, and they shall fish them up;
and afterward I will send for many hunters, and
they shall hunt them from every mountain, and
from every hill, and out of the clefts of the
rocks.” It should be noted that the re-gathering of
In describing the time of the great tribulation in Jeremiah 30: 1-7, it is declared in verse 3:
“For, lo, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will turn again the captivity of my people Israel and
Judah, saith Jehovah; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to
their fathers, and they shall possess it.” It is further stated in Jeremiah 30: 10, 11: “Therefore fear thou not, O Jacob my servant, saith
Jehovah; neither be dismayed, O
In the description of the new covenant in Jeremiah 31: 31-40 it is predicted that Israel will return to the land and that Jerusalem
will be built in a certain area which had formerly never been used for building
purposes. It is remarkable that this
precise area has been built into a portion of the modem city of
Another clear reference to the re-gathering of
Ezekiel 20: 33-38 describes the judgment upon
In the great prophecy concerning the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37 the significant statement is given in verses 21, 22: “And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them in to their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall he king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.” Ezekiel adds in verses 24, 25 that David is going to reign over them. In verse 25 he writes: “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto jacob my servant, wherein your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.”
The process of the re-gathering of Israel is declared in Ezekiel 39: 25-29 to extend to the whole house of Israel and indicates that they will be brought back into their land to the last man, as stated in verse 28: “And they shall know that I am Jehovah their God, in that I caused them to go into captivity among the nations, and have gathered them unto their own land; and I will leave none of them any more there.” The meaning of this passage is that they will be gathered to their land and that God will not allow a single Israelite to remain in dispersion. This has never been fulfilled by any previous re-gathering.
Most of the minor prophets continue
this prophetic strain, so prominent in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. The undying
love of God for
The Prophet Amos, after an almost unrelieved indictment on
Obadiah continues this strain on the re-gathering of
Micah gives a comprehensive picture of the future Messianic
kingdom in 4: 1-8.
The remaining minor prophets continue
this theme. Zephaniah closes chapter 3 with the picture of
The careful analysis of these many promises relative to
THE DISPOSSESSIONS OF THE LAND
Though only Pre-millenarians insist that
The third and final dispersion began in A.D. 70, with the
The principles involved in the dispersion and re-gathering of
This re-gathering is connected with the return of Christ
mentioned in Deuteronomy 30: 3 and involves the restoration and re-gathering of all the children of
Israel scattered over the face of the earth including righteous Israelites who have died and gone to [not] heaven [but into ‘Hades’/ ‘Sheol’]. As stated in Deuteronomy 30: 4:
“If any of thine outcasts be in the uttermost parts of
heaven, from thence will Jehovah thy God gather
thee, and from thence will he fetch thee.” According to Deuteronomy
they are promised that they will be re-gathered to their land, restored
spiritually, delivered from their enemies, and abundantly blessed. Though the prophecy is given in a context
which conditions fulfilment on the future repentance of
The dispossessions of the land, therefore, are temporary
judgments upon the generations of
HAS THE PROMISE OF THE LAND ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED?
Generally speaking, A-millenarians who deny that
A careful study of this passage in the light of its context,
however, will demonstrate that, while Solomon ruled over all this area, he did
not possess it, inasmuch as the kings are indicated as continuing their rule
even though they paid tribute and served Solomon. The area was therefore not incorporated in
A similar argument is offered by
Much later in
The passages already cited relative to
There are three essentials to the fulfilment of the original
promises given to Abraham regarding the possession of the land. First, the land must be actually possessed,
that is, occupied, not simply controlled. Second, the possession must continue as long
as the earth lasts, i.e., forever.
Third, the land during this period of possession must be under the rule
of the Messiah in a time of peace, tranquillity, and blessing. Nothing in history fulfils the many promises
given to the prophets and, if it be judged that these promises must be
fulfilled literally and surely, there remains only one possible conclusion -
that is, that
ARGUMENTS FOR FUTURE FULFILMENT OF THE PROMISE
In reviewing the material already presented relative to
The strongest kind of promises are
related to the possession of the land in that not only the nation Israel is
promised eternal continuity, but the land is promised as an everlasting
possession. The emphatic description of
the land given in Genesis 15: 18-21 almost defies spiritualization,
including as it does the heathen tribes which possessed it at the time the
promise was given. The fact that
On every hand, therefore, an examination of the promises of
The theological implications of the
promise of the land to
The dispersions predicted when
The Anti-millennial argument that the promise of the land was
fulfilled in Solomon’s day was refuted by the fact that Solomon never fulfilled
the promise in any proper sense, and that subsequent Scriptures regarded the
promise as subject to future fulfilment.
Assertions of Joshua and Nehemiah to the fact that God had fulfilled all
His promises to
* * *
THE KINGDOM PROMISED TO DAVID
In the study of the prophecy relating to
First intimations of a future kingdom are found in the
promises given to Abraham in Genesis 17: 6 where it is recorded: “And I will make thee exceeding
fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.”
This is restated in verse 16 of the same chapter in relation to the promise of the son of Sarah: “And I will
bless her, and moreover I will give thee a son
of her: yea, I
will bless her, and she shall be a mother of
nations; kings of peoples shall be of her.”
The promise of a kingdom given to Abraham’s seed is subsequently
narrowed to Isaac and Jacob, and in Genesis 49: 10 is further limited to the tribe of
The subject of the kingdom as it relates to
THE COVENANT WITH DAVID
In understanding the promises of a future kingdom given to Israel, One of the major Scriptures is that containing the Davidic covenant recorded in 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17. In this covenant the promise of a king and a kingdom is narrowed to David’s seed.
According to the context, David had been concerned that the worship of the Lord had centered in the tabernacle, a tent-like structure, which had been originally built by Moses. David himself had built permanent houses for his family, and he felt it was unfitting for the worship of God to centre in such a temporary structure. Accordingly, he called in Nathan the prophet and said to him: “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” Nathan responded as recorded in 2 Samuel 7: 1 “Go, do all that is in thy heart, for Jehovah is with thee.” That night the Lord corrected Nathan the prophet in reminding him that God had never commanded them to build Him a house of cedar. Nathan was instructed to deliver a message to David, the substance of which was that God would build a house to David in the sense of a posterity and that his son, yet to be born, would build a temple for the Lord.
The provisions of the covenant are given in 2 Samuel 7 beginning in verse 11: “Moreover Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house. When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: but my lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.”
The promise given to David includes the following provisions: (1) David is promised a child who would succeed him on the throne. (2) The temple which David desired to build would be constructed by this son. (3) The throne of his kingdom would be continued forever and would not be taken away from David’s son even if he committed iniquity. (4) In summary, the prophet declared that David’s house, kingdom, and throne would be established forever. Part of these promises were fulfilled in Solomon in that Solomon was later born and ultimately built the temple. The promise goes far beyond Solomon, however, in that the kingdom, throne, and David’s house itself were established forever. There seems to be little disposition to question that Solomon is the son mentioned in the covenant and that he built a literal temple as a house for the Lord. The difficulties in interpretation come in examining the exact meaning of the term house as it pertains to David’s posterity and the words throne and kingdom.
By way of preliminary definition, it
would seem only natural to assume that by the term throne was meant the political rule of David over
OLD TESTAMENT CONFIRMATION OF THE COVENANT
It is probable that there would be little question about the meaning of this covenant, if it did not involve eschatology as a whole. It would seem that the promises are simple and direct that David’s posterity should continue forever and that his political kingdom would not end. However, even such a simple interpretation presents some immediate problems, as David himself seems to anticipate when he notes that the prophecy concerns a long time to come.
The principal difficulty, however, seems to be that the connotation of the Davidic covenant supports the pre-millennial interpretation of the Bible involving a future reign of Christ on earth as David’s greater Son. This point of view is quite unacceptable to the Anti-millenarian and therefore for them some interpretation of the Davidic covenant must be found other than that of a literal fulfilment. Generally speaking, A-millenarians deny that this covenant has any decisive force on the millennial question and find its terms fulfilled in the present day with God’s dealings with the church. Quite often the attempt is made to deny that anything in the Old Testament construes a Pre-millennial eschatology and statements are made such as that of Louis Berkhof: “The only Scriptural basis for this theory [i.e., pre-millennialism] is Revelation 20: 1-6, after an Old Testament content has been poured into it” (Systenwtic Theology, p. 715).
In brief, the A-millennial point of view is that the Davidic kingdom promised to David’s posterity is not a rule over the house of Israel, but a spiritual rule over the saints fulfilled in Christ’s present session at the right hand of God. Such an idea of course is not contained in the Davidic covenant as it is recorded in 2 Samuel 7, but it is asserted that later Scriptures give this interpretation. For this reason the implications of the provisions of the Davidic covenant can be determined only after ascertaining the interpretation placed upon this covenant by other Old Testament Scriptures. Then a further step must be taken of examining the New Testament treatment of the same subject. Though this can he done only briefly within the limits of our present discussion, some important facts can be cited which decisively determine the ultimate interpretation of the Davidic covenant.
The covenant with David is not only given twice in its major
content - namely, 2 Samuel 7 and 1
Chronicles 17 - but it is
also confirmed in Psalm 89. In this and other Old Testament references
there is no allusion anywhere to the idea that these promises are to be
understood in a spiritualized sense as referring to the church or to a reign of
God in heaven. Rather, it is linked to
the earth and to the seed of
In the well-known prophecy concerning the birth of Christ given in Isaiah 9: 6, 7 it is stated again that the throne of David is in view: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.” Again the throne of David is mentioned specifically and the promise indicates that the fulfilment will go on forever.
In Jeremiah 23: 5, 6
the reign of the king who
is the son of David is described as coming to pass in a day when Judah and
Israel shall be saved and dwell safely.
Jeremiah writes: “Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will
raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he
shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall
execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days
It is certainly extreme spiritualization to take the
In Jeremiah 30: 8, 9 another reference is found to the
reign of the seed of David and again it is in a context of
A similar confirmation is found in Jeremiah 33: 14-17 where the same particulars are spelled out in detail. Jeremiah writes: “Behold, the days
come, saith Jehovah, that I will perform that good word which I have spoken
concerning the house of
It would seem hardly necessary to cite all the additional
passages that might be available, but, inasmuch as this subject has been
controverted, the mass of Old Testament prophecies that deal with the subject
certainly give added stature to the literal interpretation of the Davidic
covenant. Ezekiel 37: 22-25 indicates that
[* See Psalm 16: 9b-10a, and compare with Acts 2: 27, 34, R.V. “Sheol” in Hebrew is synonymous with “Hades” in Greek. According to Christ’s teachings and interpretations of the Old Testament Scriptures, both these words refer to the intermediate place and state of the Dead, before the time of Resurrection! See Matt. 16: 18; Luke 16: 19-31; 23: 43; Matt. 12: 40; John 3: 13; cf. 1 Sam. 28: 3-19, R.V.!]
One of the problems which is often raised concerning the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant is the fact that for many years the throne was unoccupied. From the time of the Babylonian captivity on there was no literal earthly kingdom. This, however, is taken into full consideration in the Word of God. According to Hosea 3: 4, 5, written long before the Babylonian captivity, it was predicted: “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king, and without prince, and without sacrifice, and without pillar, and without ephod or teraphim: afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek Jehovah their God, and David their king, and shall come with fear unto Jehovah and to his goodness in the latter days.” According to this passage, therefore, it can be assumed that God, while permitting the throne to be empty, nevertheless assured it to David and his seed prophesying Israel would return to the Lord, i.e., in the future millennial kingdom and resurrected David would be their king.
It is also promised in Amos 9: 11 that the tabernacle of David would be
restored in the latter days, apparently another reference to the revival of the
As far as the Old Testament narrative is concerned, the
prophets are clear in these multiplied passages that God anticipated a literal
fulfilment of His promise to David. It
would seem evident, therefore, that the people of
NEW TESTAMENT CONFIRMATION
It has been demonstrated that the Old Testament clearly
predicts a future kingdom in which David and his posterity would rule over the
One of the first texts dealing with this subject is found in the announcements of the angel to Mary that she is to be the mother of Christ. In this connection she is told that Christ will reign on the throne of His father David over the house of Jacob. According to Luke 1: 30-33 the angel said: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall he called the Son of the Most High: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” In the light of the prominence given this same subject in the Old Testament, the question may be fairly raised: What would such a prophecy mean to Mary? For any Jewish maiden who accepted the Old Testament prophecy concerning the future of Israel and entertained the hope of a coming Messiah, would hardly question that the prophecy given by the angel would be interpreted literally, that is, she would understand by the throne of David an earthly throne [upon this earth] such as David enjoyed in his lifetime.
Further, it is declared that Mary’s Son would reign over the house of Jacob forever. Mary certainly would not understand by the phrase “the house of Jacob” a reference to saints in general regardless of racial background. To her it could mean only one thing and that is the descendants of Jacob, namely, the twelve tribes of Israel, Inasmuch as this would be the normal and natural understanding on the part of Mary in such a prophecy, it is almost unthinkable that God would have used this terminology if as a matter of fact the hope of Israel was, a mistake and the prophecies given in the Old Testament were not intended to be understood literally.
It seems quite clear that the disciples anticipated much the
same kind of a literal fulfilment.
According to Matthew 20: 20-23, the mother of James and John came to
Christ with a request concerning them: “Command that these my two sons may
sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left, in thy
kingdom.” She certainly was not asking that these
disciples would share the Father’s throne in glory, but it is obvious that what
she anticipated was that they would share the earthly rule of Christ in the
kingdom promised to
[* NOTE. Christ has set before His disciples an undisclosed standard of personal righteousness, which will be required of those chosen for that honour! See Matt. 5: 20 and 7: 21. cf. the overcomers promises in Rev. chs. 2. & 3.]
It is entirely possible that the request originated in the
incident recorded in Matthew 19 where Christ had promised them in verse 28: “Verily, I say unto you, that ye who
have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the
throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon
twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Here Christ is specifically confirming the
concept of a future kingdom in which
As late as Luke 22
on the night before His crucifixion, Christ said to His disciples in verses 29, 30:
“I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of
[* NOTE. It is a failure in faith by the regenerate, when they refuse to believe that resurrected saints cannot have fellowship or intermingle with the un-resurrected upon this earth during the millennial Age! In ‘The Thousand Years In Both Testaments,’ Nathaniel West has addressed this unbelief as follows:-
“As to the mode of intercourse between the glorified and un-glorified, there are many vain speculations. We only ‘know in part,’ and time will bring the answer to our various askings. The whole discussion binds itself to our conceptions of the Resurrection-Body, - what it needs, and what its functions, are. From the very first, the Jewish teachers were embarrassed here, and much divided in their views. The later Jews are not more clear. Saadias and Maimonides maintained that ‘they who rise in the resurrection, eat, drink and marry, and their bodily members serve them, for these are not in vain and they die again.’* It was an ancient view, and founded on the cases of the resurrection of the son of the Shunamite, and the son of the widow of Zarepta, ‘both whom,’ says Saddis, ‘ate and drank and doubtless took wives.’ On the other hand, Bechai and Abarnanel maintained that ‘they who rise in the resurrection neither eat, nor drink, nor marry, for there is no further need of these, after the resurrection, nor do the risen righteous ones return to dust again. They have their bodies, in which the fleshly functions have ceased, as in the case of Moses, when in the Mount with God.’ ** Our Lord corrects both these views when, confuting to the Sadducees, He replies that “they who shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (Olam Habba) and the resurrection out from the dead, - [therefore, they cannot return again to the death state and remain in Hades until the millennium has ended, - Ed.] - neither marry nor are given in marriage, NEITHER CAN THEY DIE ANY MORE; for they are equal to the angels, - [that is, able to ascend to heaven or descend upon earth; and therefore able to rule in both spheres of the messianic kingdom during the Millennium, - Ed.] - and are sons of God, being sons of the RESURRECTION.’ Luke 20: 35, 36. Saadis and Ben Maimon said that the Risen ‘eat, drink, marry, die.’ Bechai, Abarbanel, Talmud and Cabbala, aver they ‘neither marry nor are given in marriage, neither can they die any more,” but says nothing as the ‘eating’ or ‘drinking.’ What he [Messiah] teaches is that the children of the resurrection are as the sexless angels. Beyond the fact that Lazarus ate after his resurrection, John 12: 1, 2, remains the fact that our Lord Himself, after His resurrection, had a tangible and visible material body, already free from the limitations of His former humiliation, and possessed of resurrection-life, and yet ‘ate’ food in Jerusalem and at the shore of Galilee, Luke 24: 30, 41, 42; John 21: 12, and not only promised to the Twelve to ‘drink of the fruit of the vine, new in the Kingdom of God,’ Matt. 26: 29, but ‘appointed’ them ‘a Kingdom,’ in which, said He, ‘ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel.’ Luke 22: 29, 30. We can grossly carnalize this, on the one hand, and as ethereally spiritualize it on the other. The fact remains that the Resurrection kingdom is ‘ON THE EARTH,’ and that the ‘children of the resurrection’ have material bodies, adapted to spiritual uses, and free from certain physical functions. While we must shun an Ebonite Chiliasm on the one hand, we must equally avoid a Gnostic Chiliasm on the other, and not rob corporeity of its rights in the resurrection, or dissolve, under the idea of ‘Glory,’ the resurrection body into a gauzy texture ballooning in the sky. Such a conception is foreign to the whole word of God. The risen ones shall have a human body, like their Lord’s, know each other, and be known, and live in relation to the saints UPON the earth, and to the Nations. Their mode of immorality and intercourse are not revealed. It is enough for us to know that not more difficult is the faith of Christ’s companionship with His disciples during the 40 days next following His resurrection. It is enough to know that Death is robbed of his empire, and that, as Professor Milligan himself admits in his able work on the resurrection, our lord’s body was a true spiritual, glorified body, immediately upon His rising, and not first after His ascension, and that our bodies are to take the form and equality of His. Equal to the ‘angels’ we shall be, in one respect. Like ‘Him,’ we shall be, in another. As both, in all. ‘Flesh and blood’ cannot inherit God’s Kingdom, because ‘corruption’ cannot ‘inherit incorruption,’ 1 Cor. 15: 50. And yet ‘flesh and bones,’ pervaded by the Spirit, and made incorruptible, is what our Lord’s body was in His resurrection, Luke 24: 26, a ‘glorious body,’ and ‘like’ which – not ‘equal’ to which – ours shall be at His coming. Phil. 3: 21. In such bodies, the Risen Saints shall have fellowship with the unrisen in the Millennial Age. For the rest, our curiosity must be restrained, and will be, if we listen to the Angel’s voice to Daniel, ‘Go thy way, Daniel, till the End shall be!’ Inquire no more. Be content with what is already spoken. Leave the unrevealed future to God. Sure we are of one thing. ‘We shall behold God’s face in righteousness,’ and ‘be satisfied when we awake with His likeness!’ Ps. 17: 15. Even so, Lord Jesus!”
* Eisenmenger. Eut. Jud. II. 943. ** Ibid 495.]
A final confirming word is given by Christ in connection with
His ascension in Acts 1. Here it is recorded that the disciples came
to Christ and asked the question according to Acts 1: 6: “Lord, dost thou at this time
restore the kingdom, to
One of the important passages in the New Testament bearing on
this subject is found in Acts 15:
Here in the council in
Of major importance is the main thesis of his remarks which is
based on a reference and partial quotation of Amos 9: 11, 12. Scholars have not agreed on the
precise interpretation of this passage and A-millenarians in particular have
laboured to make this a contradiction of the Pre-millennial point of view. However, it seems that “after these
things I will return” refers to the return of Christ after the period of Gentile prominence
which began in 606 B.C. and is destined to continue until the second
coming. It is after these things - i.e.,
That the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David is the
restoration of the kingdom to
The consummating Scripture of course in the New Testament
which puts the capstone on all these indications is found in Revelation 20 where it is stated plainly that Christ
will rule for 1000 years. His rule is
marked off by certain events which occur before and certain events which follow
His millennial reign. The claim of the
Anti-millenarian that Revelation 20 is the only passage in the Bible which teaches an eschatology
IS THE COVENANT TO BE INTERPRETED LITERALLY?
With the Scripture testimony before us, it is now possible for us to consider some of the problems which exist in this interpretation. It has already been pointed out that postponement and delay of the kingdom is by no means an argument against it, for Hosea 3: 4, 5 anticipates precisely such a situation. Further, the long years in which no one was on the throne of David did not hinder the angel from assuring Mary that her Son would sit on the [same] throne. As in other promises of God, delay and postponement does not affect the certainty of the ultimate fulfilment.
Probably the leading question in the entire argument is whether a literal fulfilment of these promises is to be expected. This of course faces frontally the whole Pre-millennial - A-millennial argument which can only be resolved on the relative cogency of the results of the methods. A-millenarians, generally speaking, tend to spiritualize promises which would teach a future millennium, though they interpret literally prophecies which do not interfere with their system. Pre-millenarians, on the other hand, believe that prophecy is not a special case requiring spiritualization any more than any other area of divine revelation and they believe also that prophecy should be interpreted normally - that is, in an ordinary, grammatical and literal sense unless the context or theology as a whole plainly indicates to the contrary. Pre-millenarians do not find the A-millennial charge - that the Pre-millennial position is untenable, self-contradictory, and hopelessly confused - is sustained. While obviously the Pre-millennial system of interpretation has much more detail than the A-millennial denial, and even though there are countless minor problems, the major elements of the Pre-millennial system have seemed quite cogent to thousands of careful Bible students and scholars. The question of literal interpretation therefore cannot be brushed aside a priori as if the literal interpretation of prophecy is impossible. Rather, there are sound and good arguments to the contrary.
George, N. H. Peters in his
The matter of literal fulfilment of the promises is confirmed
also by the fact that certain portions of it have been literally
fulfilled. One of these is in the birth
of Christ Himself who literally fulfilled many promises pertaining to David’s
seed. Here the meticulous accuracy of
the promises given to David and Solomon is illustrated. In the covenant as originally given there is
a careful distinction between the seed of David, the seed of Solomon, and their
respective thrones. In the covenant
David is assured that his seed will reign forever, while Solomon is only
promised that his throne will continue forever.
In this fine point is an illustration not only of the literalness of the
prophecy, but of God’s intention to cut off Solomon’s line at the time of the
This literal interpretation and expected fulfilment of the
Davidic covenant is of course in keeping with the other covenants previously
studied. Certainly it fits in
beautifully with the idea that the Abrahamic covenant anticipates
The assertion of A-millenarians that the Davidic throne is
simply a reference to God’s throne in heaven is not supported by either the Old
or the New Testament prophecies relating to the future of
Samuel H. Wilkinson, in his book, The
Israel Promises and Their Fulfilment, pp. 56, 57, has given a forceful summary of this point. “Nevertheless, facts
are stubborn things. It is a fact that
God has declared that
THE FUTURE PROGRAM OF
On the basis of prophecy which has already been fulfilled and
prophecies which can be expected to be fulfilled in the future, a broad future
With the destruction of the enemies of Christ and the
establishment of the millennial kingdom, the process of
During the thousand-year reign of Christ, the remnant nation
Israel, surviving the great tribulation, will greatly increase as will the
Gentile nations, and repopulate the earth and rebuild their cities. At the end of the millennial reign of Christ,
Satan is loosed and divine judgment overtakes any born in the millennium who rebels against Christ, who are Jewish and Gentile
unbelievers. Though all the details are
not supplied, it seems clear that the saints living on earth at the end of the
millennium will be translated into their eternal state. The new heaven and the new earth will be
created. The heavenly city, the New
Jerusalem, will descend and rest upon the new earth. The description of the new earth given
21: 22 seems clearly to include
The future of
The provisions of the covenant of David therefore form a broad
platform for the eschatology of
* * *
The predicted suffering of
The trials of
Spiritual warfare in relation to
The incomplete possession of the land, the spiritual
degeneracy which characterized the time of the judges, and the apostasy that
followed the days of Solomon are given large place in the Old Testament. In every particular Satan sought to spoil, to
hinder, and to mar the purpose of God in the elect nation. The scattering of
The sufferings of
THE SUFFERING OF
Early in the recorded history of
In the verses which immediately follow, however, hope is held out to
Important in this promise of restoration is the first
reference to a time of special tribulation in the latter days which will be
related to their return to their ancient land.
This seems to be a reference to events which are yet future, connected
with God’s dealings with [a
surviving remnant of the nation of]
[* See also in Matt. 24: 9-14, where not only ‘Israel’ is in view, but also “disciples” of Christ (even His apostles are being instructed (verse 3)! and the salvation, which is promised to those at this time, “that endureth to the end” (verse 13), is not a reference to the eternal salvation which all regenerate disciples of Christ presently have!]
One of the major sections in the Bible on
The closing verses of Deuteronomy 28, beginning with verse 62, are a graphic description of God’s future discipline of the nation. Moses writes: “And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the stars of heaven for multitude; because thou didst not hearken unto the voice of Jehovah thy God. And it shall come to pass, that, as Jehovah rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so Jehovah will rejoice over you to cause you to perish, and to destroy you; and ye shall be plucked from off the land* whither thou goest in to possess it. And Jehovah will scatter thee among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; and there thou shalt serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou nor thy fathers, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, and there shall be no rest for the sole of thy foot: but Jehovah will give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and pining of soul; and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear night and day, and shalt have no assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would it were morning: for the fear of thy heart which thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see” (Deuteronomy 28: 62-67).
[* NOTE. Always keep in mind: “the Land” which Jehovah promised as an “inheritance” to Israel; is typical of an INHERITANCE in the same “land,” which Jehovah has promised to CHRIST, and to CHRISTIANS who will be “accounted worthy” to be with Him DURING HIS MILLENNIAL REIGN UPON THIS EARTH, (Luke 20: 35. cf. Rev. 3: 21, R.V.).
This scriptural doctrine is easily proved by God’s oath in His
They shall not “see the land” because they will remain in “Hades” - the place of the souls of the dead (Luke 16: 23-31. cf. Acts 2: 27a, 34, R.V.) - until “the thousand years are finished” (Rev. 20: 7, R.V.): and after their resurrection, when “books are opened,” their names will be “found written in the book of life” (verse 15), because they could not possibly ever come into judgment for something they previously received from God as a “free gift,”! (Rom. 6: 23, R.V.).]
In this massive prediction of Israel’s future sufferings, God makes plain that Israel will be left few in number, they will be scattered among all the nations of the earth, and they will have no rest of mind or heart, their very lives being in danger from morning until evening. The fearful consequences of neglecting the law have been only too graphically fulfilled in the history of the nation.
Recorded in the Old Testament itself are the captivities which
were a major form of suffering for
In the New Testament after the four hundred years which
separate the Old and New Testaments, the strain of prophecy concerning
In pronouncing judgment upon His generation, Christ was in
effect predicting the final dispersion and their ultimate re-gathering when the
godly remnant of
THE FUTURE TIME OF JACOB’S TROUBLE
The predictions of
In Jeremiah’s prophecy the main elements of
The Prophet Daniel in a similar way refers to
The purge of
On this same subject of
In this passage Christ introduces the fact that the time of
the great tribulation is going to be that of which Daniel the Prophet spoke in
connection with his reference to the abomination of desolation. It seems clear that Christ had in mind the
prediction of the climax of
We read of this in Daniel 9: 27 in these words: “And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate.” Further light on this abomination of desolation is given in Daniel 12: 11 where it is predicted: “And from the time that the continual burnt-offering shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall he a thousand two hundred and ninety days.” This apparently is a reference to the breaking of the covenant, the stopping of Jewish sacrifices, and the erection of an idol representing the prince that shall come who will become a world ruler.
In commenting on Daniel’s prophecy, Christ exhorts those who
are living in the day of its fulfilment in
The significance of Christ’s statement that all flesh would perish unless the period were cut short is borne out by a study of this same period afforded in the book of the Revelation. Even a casual study of the description of the time of trouble which will characterize the end of the age will reveal a time of unprecedented difficulty.
As held by many expositors, the chronological structure of the book of Revelation is supplied by the sequence of seven seals affixed to the scroll in the possession of the Lamb. As each seal is broken, it unfolds a new period in the order of end-time events. The seventh seal is a comprehensive one, apparently including in its scope the details provided in the seven trumpets which subsequently sound and including the events described as the outpouring of seven bowls of the wrath of God which is related to the seventh trumpet.
The scene of devastation of divine judgment and human iniquity
which is unfolded in these events is without parallel in the history of the
world. According to Revelation 6: 7, the judgments attending the opening
of the fourth seal involve the death with sword, famine, and wild beasts of one
fourth of the earth’s population. If
this were applied to the present world population now approaching three
billion, it would mean that 750,000,000 people would perish, more than the
total population of North America, Central America, and
Though the judgments will obviously fall on all races and
people, it seems that
Out of the total number of
Just as the Scriptures faithfully portray the fact of
Though the meaning of this passage has been debated, probably
the best interpretation is to regard it as a national promise, namely, that at
the time of the end when her period of suffering has been fulfilled,
In contemplating this tremendous revelation of Cod’s divine
purpose and plan for
The important world events which are taking place today may be
regarded as a prelude to the consummation which will include
For the Christian these events are of utmost significance, for
many Scriptures seem to teach that Christ will come for the [watchful and obedient of the]*
church, the body of saints, in this present age of grace, before these end-time
events take place.
[* NOTE. There will be two raptures of living saints! The first rapture will embrace only the watchful and obedient believers who “prevail to escape all these things that shall come to pass:” (Luke 21: 36). Again: “Because thou didst keep the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of trial, that hour which is to come upon the whole earth, to try them that dwell upon the earth:” (Rev. 3: 10, R.V.)
** In 1 Thess. 4: 17, we read of a second translation of living saints, which will take place at the end of the Great Tribulation, when Christ returns to resurrect the holy dead: “… then we that are alive, THAT ARE LEFT,” - (that is, “left” because they will not have been judged worthy to escape with those in the previous rapture! Therefore, they will be “left” to endure under the persecutions of Antichrist) – “shall together with them” - (the resurrected holy dead, verse 16) – “be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. …”]
* * *
GLORIOUS RESTORATION OF
The partial restoration of the nation
FINAL JUDGMENT OF
At the time of the second coming of
Christ to establish His [messianic] kingdom,
two major aspects of
[* NOTE. ‘Rewards’ have to do with positions of authority under Messiah, during the time of His millennial reign in righteousness and peace: “… ye are they who have continued with me in my temptations” (Gk. ‘trials’): “and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink in my kingdom; and ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel:” (Luke 22: 28-30, R.V.).]
The resurrection of the righteous of Israel is indicated In Daniel 12: 2,
3 in these words: “And many of them that sleep in the
dust of the earth shall awake, some to
everlasting life, and some to shame and
everlasting contempt. And they that are wise shall shine as the
brightness of the firmament; and they that turn
many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
Scholars have not all agreed on the details indicated by this
prophecy. It has been characteristic of
some branches of Pre-millenarians to include the resurrection* of
Though disagreement on the interpretation of this passage
continues, many careful students of premillennial truth have come to the
conclusion that the opinion that
A further difficulty is found in the fact that Daniel 12: 2 states that some awake to everlasting life and “some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Premillenarians are agreed that the resurrection of the wicked does not occur until after the thousand-year reign of Christ. The declaration of the resurrection of the righteous in almost the same breath as the resurrection of the wicked, separated as they are by the thousand-year reign of Christ, is a difficulty for some Pre-millenarians.
A careful study of the passage, however, reveals that most of the difficulty is in the English translation. The Hebrew seems to make quite a sharp contrast between those who are raised to everlasting life and those who are raised to shame and everlasting contempt. A paraphrase would render the passage this way: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, these to everlasting life, and those to shame and everlasting contempt.” The passage then becomes a statement that subsequent to the tribulation all the dead will be raised, but in two groups, one group to everlasting life and the other group to everlasting contempt. The fact that these are separated in time is clearly spelled out in Revelation 20, and the fact that this detail is not given here should not be considered a major problem.
It is evident from Daniel 12: 3 that the main purpose of this revelation is to deal with the resurrection of the wise. These are declared to “Shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” In this statement it is evident that the resurrected saints of the Old Testament, which is primarily the resurrection of Israel but will undoubtedly include [the resurrection of] the righteous of the Gentiles as well, will be an occasion for recognition of their good works. Rewards will be distributed to them much in the way that rewards were given to the church, that is, those who are righteous - [i.e., those whose undisclosed standard of personal righteousness, will exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees] will be given places of prominence and privilege in the millennial kingdom of Christ* and their righteousness will be displayed for all to see.
[* See Luke 20: 35. cf. Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5.]
A parallel passage to this resurrection of
[* Keep in mind: the word ‘wicked’ is also used throughout scripture to describe some who were redeemed! “… Depart, I pray you from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins:” Num. 16: 26, R.V. And again: “Put away the wicked man (i.e., the incestuous ‘brother,’ 1 Cor. 5: 1) from among yourselves:” (verse 13, R.V.).]
As in previous declarations concerning God’s work of restoring
The clear-cut division in
RULE OF CHRIST OVER
According to the second Psalm, it is the divine purpose of God
that His Son will reign over the earth. In spite
of the raging of the nations and their rebellion against God, the sovereign
purpose of God that His Son will rule is plainly stated in these words: “Yet I
have set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; this
day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and
I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance,* and the uttermost parts of
the earth for thy possession.
Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces
like a potter’s vessel:” (Psalm 2: 6-9). In this declaration God not only affirms that
Christ will reign from
[* NOTE. What a fearful and dangerous position the Anti-millennialists have entered into; when, by their philosophy, they are actually denying their Lord and Saviour His messianic ‘INHERITANCE’: “… denying the master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction:” (2 Peter 2: 1b, R.V.)]
The rule of the Son of God [or God the Son] is described in a similar way in many other passages. In Daniel 7: 13, 14 it is written: “I saw in the night-visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Here the kingdom is described, not simply in its millennial context, but as that which continues after the millennium in the eternal state.
According to Isaiah 2: 14, [the present]
One of the interesting aspects of the millennial government is
the fact that resurrected David will apparently be a prince under Christ in
administering the millennial kingdom in so far as it relates to
The government of Christ will obviously be one of righteousness and justice. In the comprehensive view of the kingdom afforded in the prophecy of Isaiah 11: 1-10, the character of Christ’s rule is revealed. In verses 3 to 5 the following description is given: “And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah; and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither decide after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth; and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his waist, and faithfulness the girdle of his loins.” The millennial [and theocratic] kingdom will therefore be a time of justice for all, and any who dare to rebel against the king will be subject to immediate divine judgment. For the first time since Adam the entire earth will be under the immediate control and direction of God with resulting blessing in every aspect of human life.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
Students of prophecies relating to the millennial kingdom are
embarrassed by the wealth of materials which is afforded. Passage after passage describes in glowing
character the righteousness of the [coming messianic] kingdom, the universal peace which will
characterize the world, and the fact that there will he universal knowledge of
the Lord. Peacefulness will not only
extend to relationships of men, but even the natural world will be affected. Beasts that are naturally ferocious and
enemies of other beasts will live together harmoniously. As depicted in Isaiah 11: 6-9, it will be a time of universal knowledge of the Lord. According to Isaiah 11: 9; “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.” According to the provisions of the
new covenant outlined by Jeremiah 31: 33, 34, God will write the law in the hearts
Many other passages confirm these conclusions. Isaiah 9. 6, 7 affirms that Christ is the Prince of Peace who
will reign on the throne
of David and establish
justice and righteousness. Isaiah 16: 5 reveals that Christ will sit in the tent
of David ministering perfect justice. Isaiah 24: 23 states that Jehovah of hosts will reign in
The ministry of Christ as King will not only be one of
absolute justice, but one of great beneficence, as is brought out in Isalah 42: 3,
to Isaiah 52: 7-15, the introduction to the great Messianic
chapter, Isaiah 53, the
King will come to
The concluding prediction of Zechariah 14: 16,
17, gives us an insight into the character of the millennial
reign of Christ. Zechariah writes: “And it shall
come to pass, that every one that is left of all
the nations that came against
The very fact that Christ will be bodily and gloriously
present in the earth during the millennial kingdom and that Satan will be bound
and inactive (Revelation 20: 1-3) provides a context of spiritual life on the part of Israel which is most
favourable. As has been previously
pointed out, everyone will have the basic facts about the Lord (Isaiah 11:
9; Jeremiah 31:
The millennial government will assure that there will be peace among
nations and righteousness in the administration of justice in relation to the
individual (Isaiah 2: 4; 11: 3-5). The resulting world situation
will, be a joyous one in sharp contrast to the dark hour of
The millennial period for both
A number of Scriptures also describe the temple worship which will characterize the millennial
kingdom. * According to Ezekiel, a magnificent temple will
be built, and a system of priesthood and memorial sacrifices will be set up. Scholars have not all agreed as to the
interpretation of this difficult portion of Ezekiel. Some have felt it impossible to have a system
of animal sacrifices subsequent to the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross in
the light of New Testament passages stating that the sacrifice of Christ makes
other sacrifices unnecessary. Though
varied explanations have been given for Ezekiel 40-48 which unfolds these details, no
satisfactory explanation has been made other than that it is a description of
millennial worship. In any case, it is
clear that the sacrifices are not expiatory, but merely memorials of the one
complete sacrifice of Christ. If in the
wisdom and sovereign pleasure of God the detailed system of sacrifices in the
Old Testament were a suitable foreshadowing of that which would be accomplished
by the death of His Son, and if a memorial of Christ’s death is to be enacted,
it would seem not unfitting that some sort of a sacrificial system would be
used. While problems remain, it seems
[* Is this not what Christ meant when He “came to Jerusalem: and he entered into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and them that bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the money changers, and the seats of them that sold the doves: and he would not suffer that any man should carry a vessel through the temple: and he taught, and said unto them, Is it not written, MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL NATIONS …?” (Mark 11: 15-17, R.V. cf. Isa. 56: 7, N.I.V.]
SOCIAL, ECONOMIC, AND PHYSICAL ASPECTS
The combination of righteous government and abundant spiritual
life will issue in many practical results in the millennial kingdom, and
There will be general prosperity in all aspects of economic
development. Jeremiah speaks of this in Jeremiah 31: 12:
“And they shall come and sing in the height of Zion,
and shall flow unto the goodness of Jehovah, to the gram, and to the new
wine, and to the oil, and to the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all.”
Ezekiel speaks of causing evil beasts to depart out of the land,
permitting them to sleep safely in the woods at night (Ezekiel
Increased rainfall is mentioned and abundant yielding of fruit trees (Ezekiel
34: 26, 27).
A similar picture is given in the prophecies of Joel 2: 21-27. Joel writes of rich
pastures, trees bearing fruit, and the vine yielding its strength, of rain
coming down in abundance, of floors being full of wheat, of vats overflowing
with wine, and
It would seem clear from prophecy that most of the earth’s population will perish in the great tribulation and subsequent judgments and that the millennial kingdom begins with a comparatively small number of people. According to Jeremiah 30: 19, 20, however, the earth’s population will mushroom during the millennium and from those who have survived the tribulation who are still in their natural bodies, a multiplied offspring will come. According to Jeremiah 30:19, 20 God declares: “And I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me; and I will punish all that oppress them.”
THE CONCLUSION OF THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM
This selective study of the many Scriptures bearing upon the
future restoration of
[* See 1 Thess. 4: 15.]
HOPE OF THE CHURCH
In the present world scene there are many indications pointing
to the conclusion that the end of the age may soon be upon us. These prophecies relating to
[*NOTE. It has been said that a child trafficked occurs every 30 seconds – 3300 per day; and 25 evil people are involved in the trafficking of one child into prostitution! See also: “The Rod Will God Spare it” on the website. See Footnote from the same author.]
Today, to the north of the nation
The formation of the United Nations and the universal recognition of some form of world government as an alternative to war seem to be paving the way for the acceptance of the world ruler of Revelation 13 which will characterize the great tribulation. Never before have more people been persuaded that a world government is the only way to world peace.
The rising might of communism, embracing as it has a large portion of the world, and its spectacular rise which is without parallel in the history of the world, also has its prophetic portent. Though communism as such does not seem to enter into the prophetic picture of the end, its basic philosophy of materialistic atheism seems to be precisely the character of the false religion of the great tribulation (Daniel 11: 36-38). Millions of youths in communistic lands are being systematically taught to trust only military might and to give blind allegiance to a human leader in place of worship of and service to the omnipotent God. Just such a point of view and just such blind devotion will be required by the world ruler who will honour only the god of military might and disregard all other deities.
The modem movement toward a world church embodied in the ecumenical program seems also a preparation for acceptance by the world of a world church in the earlier phases of the tribulation period. The wicked woman of Revelation 17, the epitome of apostate ecclesiasticism, seems to be the representation of this ultimate ecclesiastical organization after every true Christian is removed by the rapture. The apostasy and unbelief which exists in our day seems to be the forerunner of the utter blasphemy which will characterize the worship of the beast in Revelation 13.
One of the most dramatic evidences that the end of the age is
approaching is the fact that
The study of the history and prophecy of
* * *
[The following writing is from chapter 1 of the author’s book: “The Nations In Prophecy” (pp. 13-20). It is presented below to show the vast contrast which will then exist under Christ’s righteousness rule and lasting peace over all nations,
from what we see happening throughout the world today. Ed.]
THE NATIONS IN CRISIS
The world today faces an international crisis unparalleled in all the history of man. A tremendous revolution is under way in the international scene, in science, in economics, in morals, in theology, and in the religious structure of the church. The world is aflame with the raw passions of men ambitious for power and desperate to be freed from poverty and frustration. An ominous cloud hangs over the hearts of men and nations. The nations are indeed at the crossroads, and impending events cast their shadow on every aspect of human life. The world is moving faster and faster like a colossal machine out of control whose very power and momentum inevitably will plunge it into ultimate disaster.
Apart from the Bible, the world does not have a ray of
hope. Our most brilliant leaders have
not found an answer. World leaders,
The present world crisis is not a result of any one factor, but a concurrence of causes and effects which combine to set the world stage for a conflict which may quickly bring an end to hundreds of years of progress in western civilization and establish new centers of international power. Whatever the future holds, it is going to be dramatically different than the past. In this dark picture only the Scriptures chart a sure course and give us an intelligent explanation of world-wide confusion as it exists today. The present world crisis in the light of the Scriptures reveals the existence of [Page 14] remarkable components in almost every area which may lead to a dramatic climax of world history. The present crises in every area of human life all point to the same conclusion, that disaster awaits the nations of the world.
The twentieth [and 21st century] century has witnessed a gathering spiritual crisis. The history of the church to some extent has paralleled the intellectual progress of the world since apostolic days. For many centuries Christianity was largely obscured in the darkness of the Middle Ages. The vigorous evangelical movement of the church largely sprang from the Protestant Reformation and political freedom which permitted the proclamation of the Gospel. During the last century an unprecedented missionary effort has been witnessed. Thousands of missionaries carried the Gospel to distant lands and the Bible was published in hundreds of tongues. Through the printed page and through radio the Gospel has reached most of the civilized world to some extent, and more individuals are within potential reach of the Gospel than ever before.
Although there are many encouraging aspects to contemporary missionary efforts, it should be obvious even to the most sanguine observer that the proclamation of the Gospel is not even keeping up with the population explosion, much less overcoming opposition engendered by the nationalism of small nations and the vigorous growth of communism in many lands. As far as numbers of converts are concerned, communism as well as some of the non-Christian religions of the world, are far exceeding Christianity in its present outreach. Even in so-called Christian United States of America, Biblical truth has had realistic application to only a small segment of the population and has not materially influenced our national policies whether in politics, business, or educational areas of national activity.
The spiritual crisis is pinpointed by the rejection of Jesus
Christ as Saviour and Lord by the masses of world population in every
If the historic Christian faith embodied in the great creeds of the church and expressed by the Protestant reformers, are taken as the standards, it is evident that the church today is in a major theological crisis. Central in this controversy is the rejection of the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. In spite of the fact that more facilities are available than ever before to print, translate, and proclaim Scriptural truth, the educated people of the world have not turned to the Scriptures in faith. Within the walls of the professing church unbelief in the Scriptures has come in like a flood until many so-called Biblical scholars assume that the historic faith in the Bible as God’s holy Word is now outmoded and not even worthy of debate. Substituted for Biblical faith is confidence in spiritual experience - either natural or supernatural, and in the promotion of ritualism, moralism, and rationalism.
Man has once again assumed the impossible task of defining and proclaiming infinite truth apart from God’s divine revelation, an effort which history has demonstrated is doomed to failure. Churches and institutions of learning which are standing with the Protestant Reformers in fundamental doctrines are all too few and are an evident minority in the great mass of contemporary Christendom.
While in our day some of the extremes of liberalism have been rejected, there is no observable trend toward the absolute standard of accepting the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. There does not seem to be any hope of reclaiming this doctrine for the majority of the church. Organized Christendom today is like a ship without a rudder and an anchor, at the mercy of the winds of chance and bound for no certain port. The ultimate end can only be disaster for the ship and all those who put their trust in it.
It is only natural that spiritual crisis and theological crisis should have its ultimate end in the moral crisis of our day. Never before in the history of the world has there been more organized and deliberate immorality in defiance of Biblical ethics. The new liberal theology has bred a new morality. That such immorality [Page 16] should be true of the heathen world is to be expected. That it should come from cultured, educated, and liberated people is certainly an omen that only divine judgment can deal with this situation. Even in lands where Christianity has been widely taught, the basic morality of honesty and decency, the sanctity of marriage and the home, and related ethical standards are dragged into the mire of a civilization devoted to every sinful pleasure and to ridiculing any return to decency.
Such a situation is plainly treated in 2 Peter 2 as a natural result stemming from departure from the doctrine of the person and work of Christ. The immorality of our day is the inevitable fruit of departure from Christ and the Word of God. For it there can only be divine judgment such as the Scriptures clearly predict.
The trend away from Biblical theology and Biblical morals has precipitated in the modem church a desire to organize all Christendom in one centrally governed body. In this way the church can achieve a powerful role in the world not dependent upon its theology or spiritual power. Although motivated in many cases by a sincere desire to advance the cause of Christ, the ecumenical movement has emerged in the modem scene as a colossus embracing all Christendom in a gigantic organization responsible to its leaders but not to its laity. This centralization of power is no substitute for the spiritual unity accomplished by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
Because the majority of the organized church are committed to theological and spiritual doctrines which differ from historic Christianity, progress in the ecumenical movement can only result in the throttling of evangelical activity true to the Gospel. Both on the mission field and in the homeland its influence has tended to make the way difficult for those who still proclaim the old orthodoxy. Most important in understanding our times is the suggestion that the creation of an ecumenical church is a foreshadowing and preparation for a new world religion which in the prophetic future will be completely devoid of spiritual truth related to Christianity. The present demand for conformity to the organized church could end in the throttling of freedom of speech and conscience which would threaten any future spiritual progress for the church at large.
One of the major elements in our modern world is the rapid rise of science whether in the field of electronics or the atomic structure of matter. Incredible advances are being achieved in one year which more than equal the advance in whole centuries of the past. The modern world has been brought together by rapid communication and transportation. The atomic bomb has greatly increased the ability of evil men to destroy or control. The race to command space is driven by the fear of some breakthrough which would give one nation a dominant position of power over the entire world. To the horrors of war already conceived are added the possibilities of bacteriological or chemical warfare which could well wipe out whole civilizations and drastically change the face of the earth.
The scientific colossus is such that increased knowledge brings only increased fear, and those in the best position to know have the greatest dread of that which the future may hold. The scientific advance has contributed tremendously to the accumulated evidence that the world is facing a showdown, that history in the future will not be as it was in the past, and that some gigantic crisis looms on the horizon.
Among the tensions contributing to the international scene are
growing racial tensions evident not only in the
From a Biblical standpoint, anti-Semitism in the
From the standpoint of prophecy this issue looms large in the
present day and in the prophetic future, and
Those living within the
While certain areas of the world are experiencing unprecedented prosperity, other portions are still labouring in desperate need of the basic material things of life with millions who are in constant danger of starvation and for whom the simplest shelter and provision of clothing is often lacking. The mushrooming population of the world has only aggravated the situation until major sections of the earth can no longer support themselves. The resulting pressures inevitably will affect future world history and continue to erupt until the whole earth is caught in a world crisis combining all of these several elements.
One of the most evident areas of crisis is in the international scene with nations motivated by communistic principles attempting to wrest control from the non-communist world. Never before in history have such dramatic changes taken place as have occurred in the last twenty-five years. During these years major countries have been freed from control of other nations and many small nations have emerged as independent states. The immaturity of the new countries and their lack of economic resources and wise leadership already have produced an erratic course which does not [Page 19] portend a glorious future. The world-wide struggle between communism and the non-communist nations is moving relentlessly in favour of communism, and the question which many thoughtful leaders raise is how long will this struggle continue. For those interested in freedom of conscience, freedom of enterprise, and freedom of speech, these are indeed dark hours, and no one humanly speaking dares to predict what another generation will face.
CRISIS IN PROPHETIC FULFILMENT
The many factors which contribute to world crisis in our day have tremendous significance as compared to the Scriptures. The amazing fact is that these factors fit into a prophetic pattern which describes the end of the age. The Bible anticipates that a world crisis would precede the coming of Christ to establish His millennial kingdom (Matthew 24: 15-24). Before the final world crisis comes to its head Christ will come to take those who believe in Him out of the world in the rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4: 13 - 5: 11).
In describing end-time events, the Bible makes plain that the
world crisis will eventually result in a world government headed by an evil
world dictator (Revelation 11: 1-10). The United Nations of
our present world built on the assumption that world government is the only way
to world peace may well be a part of the preparation for world-wide acceptance
of a world dictator as the only way out.
In preparation for the formation of this world empire, the Bible seems
to anticipate a revival of the ancient Roman Empire, a formation of a
This preliminary stage, however, is only the forerunner of a
final world government in which the world dictator assumes supreme control and
demands that all worship him in recognition of a new world religion of which he
is the head (Revelation 11: 8).
The significance of the present world crisis is that it
contains practically all the elements which are a natural preparation for the
end of the age. The raging of the
nations (Psalm 2: 1) is the forerunner to the Son of God
establishing His government in
* * *
The following writing is from chapter 6 in the author’s book: “The Church In Prophecy”(pp. 49-69).
It is presented below to show the apostate condition which will exist within Christ’s Church at the consummation of this evil age.]
THE CHURCH IN THE END OF THE AGE
ARE THERE SIGNS OF THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH?
One of the neglected areas of prophetic study is that pertaining to the end of the church age. The assertion is often confidently made that there are no signs of the rapture of the church, as it is presented everywhere in Scripture as an imminent event. Therefore, it is argued, we should be looking for the coming of the Lord, rather than for signs that precede, as the rapture of the church is before the time of tribulation predicted in Scripture.
Most of the prophetic word relating to the end time has to do with the second coming of Christ to establish His kingdom in the earth. Prophecy is devoted to the events which precede the second coming rather than a series of events preceding the rapture itself. In the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, the general and specific signs leading up to the second coming of Christ are clearly outlined and the great tribulation is presented as the great, unmistakable sign of the second coming of Christ to the earth. In a similar way in the book of Revelation, an extended revelation is given beginning in chapter 6 of the events which will mark the end of the age preceding Christ’s return to the earth. If these events follow rather than precede the rapture of the church, they cannot be taken as signs of the rapture itself.
There are, however, two bona fide areas of study relating to anticipation of the rapture itself. One of these has to do with preparation for events which will follow the rapture. There are extensive preparations in the present [Page 50] world scene which seem to be a foreshadowing and preparation for events which will follow the rapture. If so, these would constitute evidence that the rapture itself may be near. These signs will be presented in a later discussion.
Another important area, however, is the Scriptural description of the church at the end of the age. According to Scripture, there will be a progression of fulfilled prophecy in the church age itself which will be observable before the rapture even though its final form will not come into existence until after the true church has been caught up to be with the Lord. In a word, the Scriptures predict that there will be a growing apostasy or departure from the Lord as the church age progresses, and its increase can be understood as a general indication that the rapture itself is near. The Scriptures dealing with this subject are those which describe the church in the end of the age. These are in contrast to events of the tribulation itself which come to pass subsequent to the rapture.
THE HISTORY OF APOSTASY
The concept of apostasy or departure from the faith is by no
means a new idea, but can be traced throughout Scripture beginning in the
Garden of Eden. There the taunting
question expressed by the serpent to the woman, “Yea, hath God said?” (Genesis 3:
1), introduced unbelief to the human race which has borne its sad
fruit through the centuries since Adam. Basically,
apostasy has always been a departure from faith in God’s revealed Word, whether
oral or written. It was that unbelief
which inspired the first sin and in subsequent generations made necessary the
terrible judgments of God upon human sin. In the Old Testament, it took the form of questioning
God’s revelation concerning sacrifices as revealed in Cain’s rejection of blood
sacrifices as a way of approach to God which ended in the murder of his
brother, Abel. It was this same attitude
of unbelief which rejected the preaching of righteousness through Noah even as
he was building the ark which ended [Page 51] in the terrible judgment of the
flood. It was the departure from the
revealed worship and will of God which led to the construction of the
The history of the church subsequent to the close of the canon
is also a sad record of departure from God. The church, kept pure through persecution in
the early centuries, soon began to depart from the faith contained in the Scriptures
once the church became a popular organization under
The next important casualty in Scriptural doctrine was the departure from grace beginning with Augustine and his theology. While holding resolutely to the doctrine of human depravity with its corresponding need of divine grace, [Page 52] Augustine and subsequent theologians in the Roman Catholic Church maintained that grace was channelled through the church and the sacraments and, apart from this medium, there could be no true salvation or bestowal of grace. As a result, the great doctrine of justification by faith, the truth of the fullness and power of the Holy Spirit, and the truth that believers had immediate access to the throne of grace without an earthly priest as mediator became dim. Soon the authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God became subordinate to the authority of the church, and the interpretation of the church took precedence over the teaching ministry and illumination of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God, thus shackled and to a large extent kept from the people, cast its restricted light on the darkness of the Middle Ages.
The Protestant Reformation, of course, brought a fresh study of great essentials of Christian truth. Once again the Word of God was made its own authority. The great doctrine of justification by faith was proclaimed. The Roman priesthood was thrust aside in favour of the clear teaching that every Christian is a priest once he has put his faith in Christ and can have immediate access to the throne of God in the name of his Saviour. Likewise the grace of God came as an immediate bestowal of the Holy Spirit. Though Protestantism did not completely shake loose the sacramental idea of the Romanish system, it was a new state of freedom. Every man now could interpret the Bible guided by the Holy Spirit as his teacher and could revel in the abundance of God’s sanctifying truth.
The Protestant Reformation, however, had barely begun before the sad evidence of further departure began. In the centuries that followed, the enlightenment freed men’s minds and wills to believe and do as they pleased. No longer shackled by the dogma of the church, men could achieve new understanding of the physical and philosophic realm. Soon higher criticism began to rear its ugly head, and rationalism demanded that Christian doctrines be [Page 53] submitted to the bar of reason. Mystics arose who made experience the criteria of theological judgment. Critics began to divide the Bible and challenge traditional views of authorship and historical backgrounds. Apostasy invaded Protestantism with the same devastating effect it had had on the Roman Church.
The departure from the doctrine of infallible inspiration of
the original writings in the nineteenth century in Europe soon found its way to
The twentieth century marked not only the departure from Biblical Christianity to an extent never before witnessed in the history of the church, but also signalled the rise of new and confusing heresies. Multiplied cults and new forms of religion arose with varied degrees of allegiance to Christianity, a new combination of old errors came into being, of which the most powerful and important is neo-orthodoxy. The growth and character of apostasy in the world today, when viewed in the light of predictions in the Scripture concerning the last days of the church, seem to be a clear parallel to what one might have a right to expect in the days immediately preceding the rapture.
THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF HERESY IN THE LAST DAYS
One of the major revelations concerning apostasy in the last days is that contained in 1 Timothy 4: 1-3: “Now the [Page 54] Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
This revelation given by Paul to Timothy according to the passage itself has to do with the “latter times.” The character of departure from the faith is specified as containing the following items: (1) giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (2) speaking lies in hypocrisy; (3) having a conscience which is insensible; (4) forbidding to marry; (5) and commanding to abstain from certain food. While these factors can be seen to some extent throughout the history of the church, they are increasingly evident in modem Christianity. The satanic character of departure from the faith is evident in the confusion existing in the church regarding its proper theology. That which is contrary to the Scriptures is offered as the truth of God. Much that is travelling in the guise of religion is to spiritually minded Christians nothing other than an evidence of the power of Satan with all its deceptiveness. False doctrines are advanced without any attempt to relate them to the Word of God. In the name of religion much is promoted that demonstrates an insensitivity to the morality and holiness commanded of true Christians.
Of special interest is the prophecy that in the end of the age there will be prohibition of marriage and requirement to abstain from certain foods. It is evident in the Roman Church today that priests are forbidden to marry on the ground that the single estate is more holy than the married estate, something which is not taught in the Word of God. It should be clear to any reader of Scripture that the creation of Eve was God’s plan, not Adam’s, and that the command to populate the earth by bearing children preceded rather than followed the fall. Though in individual [Page 55] cases it may not be God’s will for some to marry, as illustrated in the case of Paul, others were in the will of God in the married estate as in the case of the Apostle Peter. The prohibition regarding marriage originates in the commands of men, not in the Word of God, and is a sign of the encroaching false religion which characterizes the end of the age in contrast to the true faith contained in the Scriptures.
Another obvious factor is the religious custom to abstain from meats on Friday and to refrain from certain foods during Lent. This again is a man-made invention and certainly not taught in the Word of God. As the apostle indicates, if the food is that which God has created to be received with thanksgiving, then it can be eaten without violation of the moral will of God. The encroaching ritualism represented in these two items of 1 Timothy 4: 3 is typical of religion as it attempts to curtail freedom which belongs to the child of God under grace. The fact that these three verses provide such an accurate picture of the contemporary scene leads to the conclusion that that which Paul described as coming to pass in the latter time is already being fulfilled in the professing church today.
THE DENIAL OF THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST
One of the major sections on apostasy in the last days is that provided in 2 Peter 2-3. In these two chapters a comprehensive picture of the false teachers of the last days is given. In 2 Peter 2: 1, 2, the major features of apostasy are predicted: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
According to Peter, there
would arise in the church period false teachers corresponding to the false
prophets [Page 56] which
It would be almost impossible to state more succinctly the fundamental denial of the Christian faith which characterizes our day, for modern Christianity has indeed denied the Lord that bought them. This is actually a twofold error which is having a devastating effect upon the church. It is, first of all, the denial of the person of Christ and, second, a denial of His work.
It is characteristic of modem liberalism to teach that Jesus Christ was not born of a virgin, but actually was the natural child of Joseph and Mary. In attempting to explain the unusual influence of Christ upon His generation, and to account for the formation of the Christian church, it is often admitted that Christ was an unusual person even if He were only an ordinary man.
Modern liberals often explain that Jesus as a lad was an unusual person. He had an unusual consciousness of God and an unusual devotion to the will of God. Liberals explain that this was so noticeable in His character that people began to identify Him with God and called Him the Son of God. Accordingly, they point to Christ as the great example. They say that just as Christ became the Son of God by yielding to the will of God, by thinking God’s thoughts, by worshiping God, and by doing God’s will so others also can follow in His example and also become the sons of God.
From the standpoint of orthodox Christianity, of course, this is indeed a damnable heresy. It is affirming that Christ was an ordinary man who became divine in His experience but not in His person. It by-passes the whole matter of Christ’s substitutional atonement, the natural depravity of men, and the need for supernatural grace. Though often taught cleverly and covered up with evangelical terminology, it is all the more a deceptive device to take people from the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
Modern neo-orthodoxy, while not straying as far as many liberals have gone, nevertheless tends to ignore the question whether Christ existed from all eternity past as the Second Person. They tend to by-pass the problem of whether there was indeed a genuine incarnation of the infinite God and man and whether Christ as a man was indeed all that He was before as the infinite God. Though the expression “Son of God” and the adjective “divine” are often attributed to Christ, it is not at all clear whether they mean by this something distinctive and unique. There is far more denial of the person of Christ in modern Christianity than is immediately apparent. It is probable that never before in the history of the church has there been more subversion of the true doctrine of Christology than there is in the contemporary theology of the church.
If denial of the person of Christ is common, even more so is there denial of the concept that Christ bought us. The idea that Christ is a substitute for sinners, that He died as a Lamb upon the cross, that He bore our sins as the Scriptures indicate, and by the shedding of His blood effected a judicial basis for our salvation, is all most offensive to the modem mind. To modern men the death of Christ is at best a noble example of sincerity of purpose or a demonstration of the wickedness of man, in that man would crucify such a noble character. To the liberal, the love of God is redemptive itself apart from the sacrifice of Christ and in effect liberals do exactly what Peter predicts, they deny that the Lord bought us with His shed blood.* While [Page 58] there may be differences of opinion on the interpretation of prophecy within the body of Christ, which do not affect the eternal salvation of those who hold these opinions, it should be obvious to every careful student of the Word of God that a denial of the person of Christ and a denial of the sacrifice of Christ strikes a blow at indispensable Christian truths and, as Peter predicts, those who deny this will bring upon themselves the righteous judgment of God.
[* NOTE. This fact alone, illustrates those spoken about in 2 Peter 2: 1, 2, who ‘shall’ apostatize from the faith, are regenerate believers! “… as among you also there shall be false teachers, who shall privily bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master that BOUGHT THEM, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their lascivious doings; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”]
Peter goes on to prophesy that many will follow their pernicious ways. It is sadly true that the way of truth is in a minority in the modern day. While churches beautiful in architecture and rich in appointment are evident in every city, their existence and their popularity is not in itself an evidence that the truth is being preached. Instead, Bible-believing Christians are sometimes viewed as Cultic, as abnormal, as reactionary, as anti-intellectual, and as those who do not keep abreast of the times. Not many churches today welcome either to the pulpit or to the pew those who expound apostolic doctrine which is normally considered orthodox in the history of the church. Instead, those who have platitudes of good works, who preach interesting but unchallenging sermons and who leave their congregation undisturbed seem to be in the ascendancy.
The Apostle Peter spares no words in describing these false teachers. He accused them of “covetousness,” of “feigned words,” of making “merchandise of you,” as being subject to God’s “judgment,” and “damnation:” (2 Peter 2: 3). He accuses them of walking “after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness,” of being such as “despise government,” who are “presumptuous,” “self-willed,” who “speak evil of dignities:” (2 Peter 2: 10). He declares that they are “as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed,” who “speak evil of things that they understand not,” and who “shall utterly perish in their own corruption:” (2 Peter 2: 12). He declares that they “shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in [Page 59] the daytime:” (2 Peter 2: 13). Even in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, they are “spots” and “blemishes” (2 Peter 2: 13). Their immorality is revealed in that they have “eyes full of adultery,” and “cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls” (2 Peter 2: 14). They are “covetous,” “cursed children”; “they have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness:” (2 Peter 2: 14, 15). They “are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever [i.e., Lit. “for an age” (Greek)]: (2 Peter 2: 17). They “speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh:” (2 Peter 2: 18). They promise “liberty” though “they themselves are the servants of corruption” (2 Peter 2: 19). They are said to fulfil “the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire:” (2 Peter 2: 22).
In the Epistle of Jude, a similar indictment is levelled against those who are
apostates. They are said to be “ungodly men, turning the grace
of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the
only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ:”
Jude does not spare denunciation of apostate teachers, comparing them to
the apostates in
From these extended references to the moral character of apostasy, it is clear that God takes a far more serious view both of the theology and morality of false religion than is common among Christians today. The Word of God strips the apostates of any veneer of respectability, sincerity of motives, or worthy purpose, and reveals them for what they are, tools of Satan and the enemies of Christ and of all who love Him.
This shocking portrayal of the character of false teachers and
their doctrines is too little realized by the
DENIAL OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
In the form of a postscript to the Apostle Peter’s general description of apostates in the last days, the prediction is added that there would also be departure from the truth of the second coming of Christ. Peter writes: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming: for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation:” (2 Peter 3: 3, 4). In this passage false teachers are described as “scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” On the one hand they are unbelievers, that is, those who will not accept the Word of God concerning the coming of the Lord [to establish His messianic kingdom upon this earth], and, second, they are motivated by their own lusts and immorality.
It is an obvious fact that modern liberals scoff at the second coming of Christ, motivated primarily by their desire to avoid the doctrine of divine judgment upon [wilful]* sin which is commonly associated with it in Scripture. The widespread denial of a bodily return of Christ is prompted by a desire to avoid the teaching of Scripture concerning the revelation of righteousness which will accompany fulfilment of prophecy relating to the second coming. These false teachers approach the doctrine of the second coming with a question born of unbelief as they ask, “Where is the promise of his second coming?” They attempt to support their unbelief by the statement, “Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.”
[* Hebrews 10: 23-31, R.V. cf. 2 Cor. 5: 9, 10; 1 Cor. 6: 8, 9; Gal. 5: 21; Eph. 5: 5, R.V.]
Both the questions raised and the supporting evidence is, of course, contradicted by the facts of history. There is no logical support of the idea that a delay in the second coming of Christ is a valid argument against its ultimate fulfilment. Many prophecies in the Scriptures were fulfilled thousands of years after their deliverance, and there is no reason to believe that the passage of time alters the sure Word of God. The argument that all things have continued undisturbed since creation is contradicted by many, Scriptures.
Peter points out that their assumption that all things have continued without interruption from beginning of creation is an absolute untruth. The entire Word of God bears its testimony to the fact that God does intervene in human events, that He does guide human history, that both naturally and supernaturally the providential government of God is manifest in the history of the world. An illustration is afforded first of all in the doctrine of creation itself in that God by His own command caused the earth to stand out of the water and in the water and created the starry heavens above. In verse 6 he refers to the earth as being destroyed by being overflowed with water. This is usually considered a reference to the flood of Noah. Peter says that just as God once destroyed the earth with water, so it is predicted He will in the future destroy the earth by fire.
Though not mentioned by Peter, it is obvious that the history
of Scripture contains many other interventions of God into the natural situation.
Many of His chastisements of
The promise of a future destruction by fire is joined to an explanation as to why the second coming has not already been fulfilled. As Peter explains it, in the first place, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day:” (2 Peter 3: 8). By this he means that time is not a factor with God in the same sense as it is with man, in that a thousand years pass as quickly for God as one day does with man. On the other hand, he means that there is the same planning in one day of human experience as there is in a thousand years of human history. God views the world in its history both from the microscopic and telescopic viewpoint. For this reason, the passage of several thousand years since the first coming of Christ is no argument at all that the second coming [and the establishment of His messianic kingdom of “a thousand years” (Rev. 20: 4)], will not be fulfilled in God’s [appointed and set] time.*
[* See Hosea 6: 2. cf. Micah 5: 3, 4, R.V.]
In contemporary theology, however, even liberals have been forced to give renewed attention to the doctrine of the second coming. Liberals have been jarred from their complacency by the events of the first half of the twentieth century including World War II. They have had to face the fact that the world [as we know it today] could come to a sudden and dramatic end and that such an end is not beyond reason and certainly not beyond the Scriptural revelation. As the second half of the twentieth century began, however, it soon became clear that this renewed attention to the doctrine of the second coming of Christ was not a return to the Biblical truth, but rather an attempt to evade its plain teaching. The second coming of Christ is thus regarded as a spiritual experience, as a divine intervention into human consciousness or possibly as fulfilled in the death of the believer. The dramatic events related in Scripture as preceding and following the second coming of Christ are usually ignored.
Further light is given on the real cause for delay in Christ’s return to the earth in 2 Peter 3: 9: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all” - [i.e., regenerate and unregenerate alike] – “should come to repentance.” The reason for the seeming delay in the coming of the Lord is not due to slackness or inability to fulfil His promise, but is inspired instead by the longsuffering of God who wishes to extend mercy to the ultimate limit, permitting all who will come and escape the divine judgment which attends the second coming. God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This is His desire and though the Scriptures clearly reveal that God’s heart will not be completely satisfied in this respect in that many will perish, it is the will of God that opportunity should be afforded as long as possible.
In due time, however, the Day of the Lord will come. Peter describes this in verse 10 as a time “in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up:” (2 Peter 3: 10). From Revelation 20:11; 21: 1, we learn that this will take place at the end of the Day of the Lord rather than at its beginning, that is, the Day of the Lord is viewed as the extended period of time between the rapture of the church and the end of the millennium, and will be climaxed by destruction of the present heaven and earth and the creation of a new heaven and earth.
It is stated plainly that the [present] earth and the works in it are going
to be burned up. According to 2 Peter 3: 11:
“All these things shall be dissolved.” This could not be at the beginning of the millennium,
for life continues including identifiable geographic locations such as the
Mount of Olives, the city of
The prediction that there will be scoffing concerning the second coming of Christ is sadly fulfilled in the twentieth century. Few pulpits today proclaim a bodily second coming of Christ to the earth. In the minds of many professing Christians, truths concerning the second coming are considered as proper items of faith only for cults and those outside the main body of Christendom. Countless thousands of professing Christians are totally ignorant concerning the facts of Scripture which describe the second coming of Christ.
Though modern liberals have written in recent days numerous works dealing with the second coming of Christ, an examination of their contributions revealed that they are not talking about the second coming of Christ as presented in the Bible, but are using the terminology to refer to crisis in Christian experience or to the death of the believer. Actually, though using the terminology, they do not believe in a bodily second coming of Christ and thereby contribute to the confusion and unbelief that is characteristic of modern Christendom in relation to these great truths. Never before in the history of the church has the truth of the second coming of Christ been so vaguely held so far as the church at large is concerned as in our day. Actually the modern church denies the very idea of the prophetic and declares that it is impossible for anyone to predict the future whether it be the second coming of Christ or any other event in prophecy. Thus, unbelief is on the throne and faith and hope are shoved aside.
COLDNESS AND INDIFFERENCE IN THE CHURCH
In the letter to the church at
The church today is too evidently overtaken by its worldliness. The lives of its people are often indistinguishable from those outside the church. Its prayer meetings are the poorest attended meetings of the week. Its congregations build great cathedrals to house their own worship, but often have little concern for the dying multitudes who have never heard of Christ. In some of our major denominations, it takes over forty congregations to support one full-time missionary on a foreign field. Rejection of such a pseudo-Christianity is evident in the striking statement, “I will spue thee out of my mouth” (Revelation 3: 16). If the Laodicean church is characteristic of the church of the last days, it does not foreshadow any glorious triumph such as is prophesied in postmillennialism.
In 2 Timothy 3: 1-5, there is a graphic picture of apostasy in the last days. Paul described it as a time of peril (2 Timothy 3: 1), a time when “men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3: 2-5). His summary of the situation at the end time in 2 Timothy 3: 13 makes it clear that the end of the age will be one of apostasy, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”
The increment of evil, the growth of hypocrisy, selfishness, and unbelief within the bounds of professing Christendom are according to Scriptures the signs of the approaching end of the age. Though there are thousands of faithful congregations and many pious souls still bearing a faithful testimony to Christ in our modern day, it is hardly true that the majority of Christendom is bearing a true testimony. It is the exception rather than the rule for the great fundamentals of the church to ring from the pulpit and for the pew to manifest the transforming grace of God in life of sacrificial devotion. In a word, the last days of the church on earth are days of apostasy, theologically and morally, days of unbelief, and days that will culminate in divine judgment.
THE RELATION OF THE RAPTURE TO THE APOSTASY
In the church at Thessalonica, a misunderstanding concerning prophecy is corrected in 2 Thessalonians 2. Apparently through a false letter or report, they had been led to believe that the Day of the Lord had already come, and they were now in the predicted time of trouble from which they had been assured they would be delivered in 1 Thessalonians 5. In correcting this misunderstanding, the apostle definitely states that the Day of the Lord cannot come until apostasy of a special character takes place as defined in 2 Thessalonians 2: 3, 4: “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”
According to this revelation, the Day of the Lord which apparently follows the rapture of the church cannot come, that is, cannot fulfil its predicted character until there be “a falling away first” or, as it may be literally translated, “a departure first.” It has been debated whether this departure refers to the departure of the church as indicated in the rapture or whether the traditional interpretation that it refers to a departure from the faith should be in view. If it refers to the rapture, it is an explicit statement that the [first] rapture must occur before the Day of the Lord and it constitutes a support of the pretribulational position. If it refers to the departure from faith, i.e., apostasy, it teaches that the Day of the Lord cannot come until the man of sin be revealed, a person described as “the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God:” (2 Thessalonians 2: 3, 4). Most expositors refer this description to the first beast of Revelation 13, the one described as the coming world ruler who will be worshiped by all men. Some refer it to the second beast of Revelation 13, that is, the false prophet who will be the religious head of the world in that day. In either case the reference is to a period between the [first] rapture of the church* and the second coming of Christ to the earth, a period described by our Lord as a time of great tribulation.
[* See Luke 21: 34-36; Revelation 3: 10, R.V. Some Christians will escape the Great Tribulation via rapture; others will be left to endure ‘unto the end’; to be tried or martyred for ‘the faith,’ under Antichrist’s short reign of terror.]
The apostasy here described, while a culmination of the apostasy which characterizes the end of the church age, has the peculiar character of centering in a man who claims that he is God and demands that the entire world worship him. The description corresponds to that found in Revelation 13 where the world ruler is described as one who blasphemes God, who has power for forty-two months, the exact length of the great tribulation, who makes war with the saints, who has power over all kindred, tongues, and nations, and whom all that dwell upon the earth shall worship (Revelation 11: 5-8).
When the [first] rapture of the church takes place, every true Christian [“accounted worthy to escape” (A.V.)] will be caught up out of the world. Those who are within the professing church who are left behind are unsaved* and without real redemption in Christ. There is little to hinder their progression into the utter apostasy described for this period which is completely devoid [of any conditional]** Biblical truth. The false religion of that day will be inspired of Satan, and culminates in the worship of a man who blasphemes God and all that is called Christian. The character of apostasy before and after the rapture therefore stands in sharp contrast, though in some sense the apostasy following the rapture builds upon that which has preceded it.
[* That is, ‘unsaved’ not in the sense of being unregenerate; but in the sense of not being “accounted worthy to escape” the Great Tribulation! A parallel account is found in Matthew chapter 24; where Christ is directing words of warning toward His own disciples! “… the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the consummation of the age? And Jesus answered and said unto them Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many” - (apostate disciples and false teachers) - “shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray:”(vv. 3-5, R.V.).]
** For conditional promises of God throughout Holy Scripture, see ‘Accountability truths’ in Pastor J. Faust’s book: “The Rod Will God Spare It” - chapters 8, 26, 27 and 28. Also in G. H. Lang’s book: “Firstborn Sons Their Rights And Risks, (pp. 122-124).]
As will be brought out in later discussion, apostasy in this period takes two forms. First, that which has the semblance of Christianity and is the culmination of the movement toward a world church, as will be characteristic of the first part of the period between the rapture and the second coming. Second, the final stage of apostasy wi11 follow, which will be that predicted in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13, namely, the worship of Satan’s man who will be both the political dictator of the world and the object of its worship as God. The super-church foreshadowed in Revelation 13 is seen also in Revelation 17 in the symbolism of the harlot sitting upon the beast. The final state is that of the worship of the world ruler who has destroyed the super-church in favour of the worship of himself (Revelation 17: 16).
PROPHECIES OF THE END OF THE CHURCH AGE FULFILLED
The important conclusion which may be reached upon a careful study of prophecies dealing with the end of the church age is that all that is necessary before the rapture has been fulfilled, and that we can confidently await the coming of the Lord for His church as the next step in the fulfilment of prophecy relating to the church. There is a sense in which this has always been true inasmuch as these prophecies were to some extent fulfilled even in the first [Page 69] century. With the passing of the years, however, the trend has been irresistibly in the direction foreshadowed by these prophecies and today the situation is clearly parallel to that which is anticipated in the great prophecies of Paul, Peter and John.
In the Middle Ages, the ignorance and unbelief of the masses as well as the blindness of the church could be traced in part to a lack of dissemination of ideas. In a modern world, however, where communications have reached a new peak with multiplied thousands of books and other publications supplemented by radio and television, there is less excuse today than ever before in the history of the world for unbelief. To a large portion of the world, at least, the facts are available for those who wish to investigate. In the face of such modern conveniences and opportunity, unbelief is all the more startling because, humanly speaking, God has no other device than that of proclamation of the truth.
The world today is responsible not because the truth is inaccessible but because they have turned away from it deliberately. There is no recourse in such a situation but divine judgment. The best efforts of the evangelical church are falling far short in keeping up with the increasing birth rate, much less countering the avalanche of unbelief and ridicule which expresses the world’s attitude toward divine revelation. The stage is therefore set for a demonstration of the power of God, first in the period of judgment preceding the second coming, and then climaxing in the second coming of Christ and the gathering of the nations before the bar of divine justice.
For the true church, it means that the days of its pilgrimage may be coming fast to a close. On the one hand, this calls for expenditure of every effort to snatch as brands from the burning those who have not yet come to Christ. On the other hand, the hope of His soon return should constitute both a comfort and a challenge to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord:” (1 Corinthians 15: 58) and to purity of life and motive (1 John 3: 3).