THE DANGER OF THE SUBJECTIVE TEST

[THE NON-MILLENARIAN DOCTRINE]

 

ByG. H. LANG.

 

Objectivism is "the tendency to lay stress upon what is objective or external to the mind."  Subjectivism is "the quality or condition of resting upon subjective facts or mental representation." (Shorter Oxford Dictionary).

 

Meeting a stranger one may immediately form an impression of him, favourable or unfavourable.  Every fair-minded person allows that this subjective opinion requires to be checked by external facts afterward to be learned: for experience shows two things, either that such an impression may be well-founded and valuable, or it may be wrong and misleading.

 

It is the same in matters spiritual and doctrinal.  The spiritual man has a power of spiritual discernment in spiritual things (1 Cor. 2: 10-16).  On first hearing or reading some line of teaching he may form instinctively a judgment that it is of God or that it is false.  But experience teaches that this needs to be confirmed, amended, or rejected by careful objective study of the Word of God; for, as a bishop said to his clergy: "none of you is infallible, not even the youngest of you."

 

The danger of being misled by subjective views or feelings is constant and severe.  The Christian can propose for himself some purely subjective test of truth which may be without basis in fact and prove disastrous.

 

1. THE THOUSAND YEARS

 

The danger of subjective ideas misleading the mind is forcibly illustrated in the doctrine that blots the millennial kingdom out of Godís program and conceives that the gospel age will continue until there arrives a single general wind-up of earthís affairs going over into eternity, a fulfilment of 2 Peter 3: 8-13.  This scripture will certainly be fulfilled, but the cancellation of the Millennium is plainly only a subjective idea, for not even one clear statement of Scripture affirms it, whereas the plain testimony of the Word of God is forced to yield to it.

 

The personal, visible coming of Christ in power and great glory, and the establishment by Him of a kingdom of righteousness and peace on the earth, is the unequivocal meaning of both Old and New Testaments.  Every passage which bears on the subject is to this effect, as is shown in detail in my essay Israelís National Future.

 

In Rev. 20: 1-7 the Spirit of God six times mentions distinctly a period given as a "thousand years."  Whether the number is to be taken literally or as meaning a vast period of time, in either case it is placed between a first and second resurrection.  In the former, resurrected saints are said to "live" and to reign with Christ the thousand years.  By pure "spiritualizing," an eminently subjective process, "they lived" is declared to be the new birth, and reigning with Christ is regarded as sharing directly after death in a supposed present reign by Him at the right hand of God.  This again involves several subjective suppositions.

 

(1) That the first resurrection equals the new birth.  But it is set in this scripture at the close of the rule of and at the destruction of a then future Antichrist, the Beast, whereas John and thousands more had long before already experienced the new birth, as millions have done since, though nothing has been yet seen of the Antichrist, the binding of Satan, and the absence of external temptation to sin.Non-millenarians would make our Lordís victory over Satan by His cross and resurrection to be this binding of Satan.  They confuse the personal victory of Christ and the full carrying out of its results in heaven and earth.  According to Rev. 12: 7ff., fifty years after the Lordís ascension Satan was still active in heaven: he had not yet been even restricted to the earth, let alone imprisoned in the abyss. It has been pithily remarked that if in this age Satan has been bound, it must be with a very long chain!

 

(2) The common supposition is accepted that believers go at death to heaven.  This is not taught in Scripture.  They go where their Leader went at death, to Hades, and will leave it, and ascend to heaven, only as He did, by bodily resurrection.

 

(3) It is further assumed that Christ commenced His reign at His ascension.  But this is true only to a degree strictly confined in Scripture.  All things have been put in subjection to Him so that He may be "head over all things to the church, which is His body" (Eph. 1: 19-23).  It is the "exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe" that is in question in this passage; but as regards the actual suppression of His foes and the entering in active sovereignty upon the dominion universal that is His title, this remains in abeyance, even as it was said to Him by God long since, "Sit thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool (Psa. 110: 1)."  This is confirmed in Heb. 10: 13, which shows that many years after the ascension the Lord, at the right hand of God was still and "henceforth expecting till His enemies be made a footstool of His feet."  That Epistle reveals that in the interval from the ascension to that expected hour Christ fills His office as Priest, acting on behalf of His people still in a world where the devil operates and of which he is prince, but from whose spiritual tyranny Christ in resurrection frees His own people. Ļ

 

Clearly there may be an interval between the hour when a king has the crown set on his head and the day when he may summon his forces and go forth to reassert his authority in rebel territory.Revelation 4 and 5 shows Christís actual and public investiture with executive authority as being still future when John saw the visions, even as chapter 4: 1 gives the words of the angel to John, "I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter," and this was, say, half a century after the ascension of the Lord.  Daniel 7 was an earlier vision of the same investiture, and places it at the close of the forth world empire with the destruction of its final king (Antichrist).  Not till then will the kingdom be actually given to the Son of man and to the saints of the Most High (vv. 26, 27). Only then will He and they receive in fact what was already theirs in title, even the actual sovereignty over heaven and earth, men and angels.

 

2. A REVIEW OF EARLY AND LATTER CHRISTIAN TEACHING

 

1.  During the first two centuries after the apostles the dominant expectation of Christians was that this Christian age will close with the rise and rule of a personal Antichrist.  He will be overthrown by Christ at His personal return to the earth, Who will thereupon establish His visible kingdom and rule for one thousand years.  So Barnabas, Papias, Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Victorinus, Lactantius, Justin Martyr set forth as the general belief of orthodox Christians. (Dialogue with Trypho: about A.D. 150).

 

2.  In the latter part of the second century there set in at Alexandria the practice of virtually eliminating a literal sense of Scripture and "spiritualizing" its statements.  Upon this treatment of the Word of God and its baleful effects we shall quote a competent scholar who, being an advanced higher critic had no theological bias in favour of millenarian views.  Dr. R. H. Charles, in The International Critical Commentary, Revelation, 2. 184, 145, says on ch. 20: 5: this is the resurrection the first.  This must not be construed in a spiritual sense and taken to mean a death to sin and a new birth unto righteousness.The earliest expounders of the Apocalypse, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Victorinus, quite rightly take the words in a literal sense of an actual reign of Christ with the glorified martyrs on earth.  The spiritualizing method which emanated from Alexandria put an end to all trustworthy exegesis of the Apocalypse, when adopted in its entirety, with reference to the Apocalypse.  The meaning assigned to the votaries of this method became wholly arbitrary, and every student found in the Apocalypse what he wished to find.  The earliest expounders were right, as they were in close touch with the apostolic time.

 

Clement of Alexandria, the principal teacher there, was saturated with pagan philosophical thought and modes of reasoning.

 

3. This process greatly prepared for the abandonment of the hope of the personal return of Christ, and the events to flow from it, which became the general outlook when Christianity was made the State religion.  Augustine greatly furthered this changed outlook.  The Papacy presents the notion that the church has the task in this age to subdue all mankind to itself and to establish on earth the authority of God.  Even where this political aspect is not held there is too commonly the idea that the gospel is to convert the race, and that only thereupon will Christ intervene and wind up affairs by a general judgment.

 

4.  Much essential basic truth was recovered by the Reformers but not that of the Biblical expectation of a personal Antichrist, the visible return of Christ, and the millennial kingdom.  The horizon was filled by their near and giant enemy the Roman Catholic Church, which was to them a corporate Antichrist, the Papacy being both Antichrist, Beast, and Scarlet Woman.

 

5.  Thus the common Protestant outlook did not envisage that the end of this age will see a restoration of Israel as a people to the chief earthly place in the kingdom of God on earth, or their prior oppression by Antichrist in the "tribulation the great" during the latter half of Danielís seventieth week of years, or the personal advent of Christ at the epoch, or the establishment of a millennial kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital, and the setting up of divine worship in a restored temple, with priesthood and sacrifice.  Though this whole program is the subject of innumerable passages of Scripture it is simply blotted out by the non-millenarian view that things will go on as now until at some indefinitely remote time the great white throne judgment will close earthís history.  This outlook has no room whatever for two resurrections with a thousand years between, though this is declared categorically in Rev. 20.

 

6.  In the century seventeen Biblical students in Europe began to re-discover Biblical prophetic truth.  In the next century this was furthered by J. A. Bengel and others, which advance continued in century nineteen.  See E. Sauer, From Eternity to Eternity, 141, 142.This recovery received powerful impetus through the ripe scholars who pioneered the Brethren movement from 1828 onward.  In particular, J. N. Darby and William Kelly pursued the subject with vigour and developed the dispensational scheme which led the field for a century.  Much as they helped these studies they unfortunately clogged and embarrassed the scheme with such ideas as the postponed kingdom theory, the "Jewish" character of the Synoptic Gospels, the view that Christ must certainly come for the church before the rise of Antichrist, that this coming will be secret, that Old Testament saints cannot share in the heavenly church, and that there are different gospels for different periods and different classes of believers.

 

It is natural and healthful that a reaction has come against these mistaken assertions.  It is to the good that such features as these of the Notes of the Scofield Bible should be challenged.  But it is regrettable that many opponents have failed to see that these details are not essential to the millennial hope as set forth in Scripture and can be dismissed without loss.  These critics have too often thrown over the broad purposes of God while rejecting the assertions of men.  For example: the rise and doings of Antichrist do not depend on whether the church is to be removed before or after his reign.The plain statement of Scripture that there are to be two resurrections, one before the millennium and the other after, is not jeopardized by whether Old Testament saints will share in the first or only in the second resurrection.

 

3. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIAN BELIEF AS TO THE MILLENNIUM AND ANTICHRIST

 

In 1849 Dr. Charles Maitland issued The Apostlesí School of Prophetic Interpretation.  In Chapter 2 he quoted and reviewed all but one of the known statements upon prophecy by Christian writers down to the time of Constantine, ending with the Christian Institutes of Lactantius (about 300 A.D.).  His summary of these writers (pp 201-205) reads as follows:

 

Before dismissing the primitive writers, we should notice accurately the amount of agreement prevailing among them in reference to, 1st, the thousand years of St. John, and 2nd. the last half week of Daniel.

 

Those who have recorded their opinion for or against the Millennium may be thus classed:

 FOR:-

St. Barnabas

Papias

Justin

Irenaeus

Tertullian

Hippolytus

Nepos

Cyprian

Victorinus

Lactanius

 

AGAINST:-

Origen

Dionysus

 

But on which side shall we range St. JohnWere he uninspired nothing could be more decisive than his statement: "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."  Have we at length come to this, that because we reckon him inspired, the plain sense of his words is to go for nothing?

 

The two writers who appear in opposition to the doctrine, are not altogether unexceptional.  The system by which Origen contrived to get rid of the millennium was soon branded with the name Origenism, having been found to interfere with the belief in the literal resurrection of the flesh. Nor can Dionysius be justified in his method of dealing with the Apocalypse: for not daring to revile it in his own name, he repeats with satisfaction the saying of "certain persons" that the book itself is devoid of sense and reason: also, that its title is utterly false, since it is neither written by St. John, nor does it, covered as it is with a thick and dense veil of ignorance, deserve the title of a Revelation.

 

Regarding the latter half of the seventieth week (of Daniel), the primitive writers were not entirely agreed.  It was applied by Irenaeus to Antichrist,

Tertullian to Vespasian,

Judas to Antichrist,

Clement of Alexandria to Vespasian,

Hippolytus to Antichrist,

Origen to Antichrist, Victorinus to Antichrist.

 

The majority, therefore, make that half week identical with the three years and a half of Antichrist.  In their favour may be urged:

 

First, The precise agreement of the time; the weeks being land weeks, or weeks of years.

 

Secondly, The identity of the events assigned to each: for everything said of the half week is repeated in the prophecies relating to Antichrist.  These things are, the cessation of the daily sacrifice, the setting up of the abomination, the desolation thereby occasioned, the consummation of Godís mystery, and the pouring out of the vials upon the Desolator.

 

Thirdly, The events of the half week are continued till the consummation: apparently the sounding of the seventh trumpet, when the mystery of God shall be finished.

 

According to the primitive scheme, the sense of the whole passage amounts to this:

 

Seventy sevens of years are fixed in the history of the Jews and of Jerusalem.  In these will be accomplished the summing up of iniquity, the work of atonement, the winding up of all prophecy, and the anointing of the Christ.

 

Between the edict to rebuild Jerusalem and the mission of Christ there will lapse two periods, seven sevens, and sixty two sevens, of years.  In the course of the first, the city will be rebuilt; and at the end of the second the Messiah will be put to death.

 

Afterwards the Romans under Vespasian will destroy both city and temple; and until the end of Godís warfare with His people (or after the end of the Roman war: so the Vulgate, "post finem belli, statuta desolatio"), it is determined that the desolation of the city and of the temple shall continue.

 

But God will renew His covenant with many of His chosen people, during a certain seven of years, the remaining week of the seventy; (probably by means of Elias, who will come and restore all things).But throughout the latter half of this week, that is, for three years and a half, the daily sacrifice will be taken away; and on account of the abomination set up by Antichrist, the temple will be made desolate: to remain so, till the consummation of the mystery, and till the end of the plagues that will be poured out upon Antichrist the Desolator.

 

Certain consequences plainly flow from these beliefs of Christian teachers who directly followed the apostles.

 

First.  The deferring of Danielís seventieth week to the close of this Christian age; including that a personal Antichrist will then arise; that he will be destroyed by the descent of Christ from heaven; that the Lord will then reign visibly at Jerusalem for a thousand years - these are still four most prominent features of the Futurist interpretation of prophetic scripture.

 

Second.  Therefore the allegation that this scheme was first suggested by the Jesuit Ribera in century sixteen is utterly unfounded, and must have been the result of ignorance or controversial malice.  Riberaís purpose, as to these matters, was to counter the assertion of the Reformers that the Papacy was the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning Antichrist.  For this purpose he revived the primitive belief that the Antichrist will be a person not a system, and therefore could not be the Papacy.  The common Protestant belief is clearly contrary to primitive belief, and with it falls the attempt of the "historical" school to identify the events of the Christian era with the visions of the Apocalypse.

 

Third.  It is equally plain that in the sub-apostolic period the majority of Christian teachers did not hold the non-millenarian view which sweeps away the program of the End days of this age, including the millennial kingdom, the restoration of Israel as a nation to the favour of God, and all that is associated with these expectations.

 

We do not seek to show here that the dominant primitive belief, as to the main matters in question, was drawn from the Word of God, but only what in general that belief was.  Post-apostolic views must be tested by Scripture; but it may well be asked how those who directly followed the New Testament days could have held almost unitedly the futurist outlook had it been the case that the apostles had taught that Danielís seventieth week had followed immediately after the sixty ninth without any break in the sequence, and so was already past; or that Antichrist would be a long protracted system and not an individual; or that neither Israel nor the Gentile nations had any national future, but would all be merged in the church of God; or that the Spirit meant nothing distinct when He moved John to speak distinctly concerning a reign of Christ for a thousand years.

 

When Maitland wrote, one of the very earliest post-apostolic documents had not been recovered, The Teaching of the Apostles (the Didache).  As to the date of this book Lightfoot wrote: "The work is obviously of very early date, as is shown by the internal evidence of language and subject-matter ... These indications point to the first or the beginning of the second century as the date of the work in its present form" (The Apostolic Fathers, 215, 216).  The closing section (16) shows the prophetic expectations of a Christian writer of that date, so near to the days of the last apostle, John.  That he makes no attempt to commend his views suggests that his readers would readily accept them as being generally held.  His remarks are worthy of much attention.  The translation is Lightfootís. The italics are words which he regarded as quotations from the New Testament.

 

Be watchful for your life; let your lamps not be quenched and your loins not ungirded, but be ye ready; for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh.  And ye shall gather yourselves together frequently, seeking what is fitting for your souls; for the whole time of your faith shall not profit you, if ye be not perfected at the last season.  For in the last days the false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate.  For as lawlessness increaseth, they shall hate one another and shall persecute and betray.And then the world-deceiver shall appear as a son of God; and shall work signs and wonders, and the earth shall be delivered into his hands; and he shall do unholy things, which have never been since the world began.  Then all created mankind shall come to the fire of testing, and many shall be offended and perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved by the Curse Himself.*And then shall the signs of the truth appear; first a sign of a rift in the heaven, then a sign of a voice of a trumpet, and thirdly a resurrection of the dead; YET NOT OF ALL, but as it was said: The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.  Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.

 

[*Another rendering is, "shall be saved under the curse itself" (Romestin.)] 

 

There is here much of deep interest as showing how literally the predictions of the Gospels were accepted so very near to the apostolic days; but for our main purpose it suffices to note from the words in capitals how definitely the writer expected more than one resurrection, thus harmonizing with our Lordís words: "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but they that are accounted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection which is from among the dead, etc." (Luke 20: 34, 35).  Here are set against each other a present age and a following age, the latter to be reached by a resurrection from among the dead (tees ek nekron).The singular "age" forbids the notion of "that age" meaning eternity following directly after this present age, for in Scripture, and by necessity, eternity is "the ages of the ages," equals "ages upon ages," not a single age.

 

Paul used Christís words when he said, "If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection which is from among the dead" (Phil. 3: 11, teen exanastasin teen ek nekron).

 

These statements agree with Rev. 20 by placing a first resurrection before an age of time, implying that there will be another and later resurrection after that interval of an age.  The force of such statements is inescapable: they preclude the notion of only one resurrection to close this age and be immediately followed by eternity, and the words of our Lord and Paul show that the conception of an era between two resurrections was not first stated by John, though declared by him with particular exactness.

 

There are not wanting modern English theologians of front rank who agree with the earliest teachers.  Thus Ellicott, on Phil. 3: 11, writes of Ďthe resurrection from the dead;í i.e., as the context suggests, the first resurrection (Rev. 20: 5), when at the Lordís coming the dead in Him shall rise first (1Thess 4: 16), and the quick be caught up to meet Him in the clouds (1Thess. 4: 17); cp. Luke 20: 35The first resurrection will include only true believers, and will apparently preclude the second, that of non-believers and disbelievers, in point of time ... Any reference here to a merely ethical resurrection (Cocceius) is wholly out of the question.

 

Lightfoot on the same passage accepts the same distinction between the resurrection from the dead and the general resurrection.

 

Alfordís comments on Rev. 20: 5 are as clear and strong as language can command against the "spiritualizing" treatment of this passage.They read:-

 

It will have been long ago anticipated by the readers of this Commentary, that I cannot consent to distort words from their plain sense and chronological place in the prophecy, on account of any considerations of difficulty, or any risk of abuses which the doctrine of the millennium may bring with it.  Those who lived next to the Apostles, and the whole Church for 300 years, understood them in the plain literal sense; and it is a strange sight in these days to see expositors who are among the first in reverence of antiquity, complacently casting aside the most cogent instance of consensus which primitive antiquity presents.  As regards the text itself, no legitimate treatment of it will extort what is known as the spiritual interpretation now in fashion.  If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain psuchai ezesan [souls lived] only at the end of a specified period after the first, - if in such a passage the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave; - then there is an end to all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to any thing.  If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which I suppose none will be hardy enough to maintain: but if the second is literal, then so is the first, which in common with the whole primitive Church and many of the best modern expositors, I do maintain, and receive as an article of faith and hope.

 

4. THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS

 

Several chief objections to the doctrine of the Millennium are examined with fairness and care in Erich Sauerís able book From Eternity to Eternity, Part 3.  It is striking how many of these objections are subjective ideas not based on the facts of Bible statements.  A statement by God in the Bible is a double fact: first, that God has made the statement, and second, that He has recorded it in the Bible.  But many of the objections in view are subjective, as for example - That the expectation of a literal kingdom on earth is contrary to sound Christian hope; or, it is contrary to the spiritual calling of the church; or, that the name Israel is to be taken "spiritually;" Or, that the New Testament is silent as to the coming visible kingdom of God on earth.

 

This last assertion is so wholly subjective as to be, not only without factual basis, but to be actually contrary to fact; as witness our Lordís own statement that He will come in his glory, and all nations shall be gathered before Him to be judged (Matt. 25: 31 ff.).  He shall come whence?  Obviously from the heavens whither He had just said He was going.  Come where?Clearly to the place where he was then speaking, Jerusalem.  What nations could be in question other than those of the earth?  Neither in heaven, Hades, nor hell do the national divisions of earth persist. All of these details Christ was repeating from the Old Testament.This does not need to be here shown, but see, for example, Zech. 12-14; Joel 3: 11ff.  This is an instance of the full agreement of both Testaments on this theme.

 

For another passage which speaks of the return of Christ to the earth see Rev. 20: 11-21, and note that the Word of God descends from heaven and that the armies of the Beast are mobalized to resist Him. In ch. 14: 13, 14 this is distinctly stated to be on the inhabited earth (R.V. margin 16) where they are destroyed.  This is followed in ch. 20 by reference to the kingdom of Christ and His saints.  This also is based on the Old Testament.

 

Sometimes it is urged that this doctrine of the Millennium is recent, whereas the opposed doctrine goes back through the centuries to the Reformation.  In the last chapter it has been shown that in fact the expectation of the millennial kingdom was the dominant hope of the early church.  But were it not so, the argument used is a repetition of that of Erasmus before cited that the Mass is true because held for so long.  The only true question is whether the doctrine is Scriptural.

 

But the chief objection to the hope of a millennial kingdom on earth is based on the opinion that the doctrine of the Epistle of the Hebrews forbids the idea of a revived temple worship with priesthood and sacrifices of animals, which being a central part of the picture of this literal kingdom, involves that Hebrews forbids this last also.  This is probably the only really weighty objection.  Without it the whole body of objections would be negligible.

 

Let the facts be first examined.  Theology can easily forsake the true approach to any subject, the collation first of relevant facts.

(1) Psalm 65. (2) Psalm 66. (3) Psalm 67. (4) Psalm 68. (5) Psalm 96. (6) Isaiah 19: 21. (7) Isaiah 27: 13. (8) Isaiah 66: 18-24. (9) Jeremiah 33: 14-18. (10) Ezekiel 37: 26-28. (11) Exekiel 40- 48. (12) Daniel 7: 11-14. (13) Micah 4: 1-4. (14) Hagai 2: 6-9. (15) Zechariah 6: 12-15. (16) Zechariah 14: 16-21. (17) Malachi 3: 1-4.

 

Psalm 65 pictures a time when "all flesh" seek God at Zion (ver. 2), and "all the ends of the earth" confide in Him.  At that time Zion is His centre, there He has a "house," a holy temple, with priests who dwell in His courts, and there vows are paid to Him.  It is clear that these conditions never have yet co-existed at Jerusalem, and the fulfilment must be in the future or there will be no fulfilment.  In my essay named it is shown that all the rest of these passages likewise await fulfilment in that coming kingdom of glory which the prophets foretold should result from Messaihís sufferings.They all agree in declaring the re-erecting of the temple, with priests and sacrifices.  This prospect the New Testament confirms at Matt. 24: 15; 2 Thess. 2: 1-4, and Rev. 11: 1, 2.

 

This vast, consentient, weighty, explicit forecast is the only prospect that Scripture opens upon the subject.  No hint is to be found of anything other than this, which is the fact as to Hebrews also.There is no reference in that epistle, direct or indirect, to the question of a future temple and sacrifice, and therefore no denial of the forecast.  Any such supposed reference has to be supposed, and is therefore subjective.

 

Yet the writer, so learned in Old Testament history and prophecy and in its spiritual meaning, could not but have known the mass of scripture statements mentioned above.  If he was undermining them, making them of no effect, he must have known well what he was about.  But he gives no hint of such effect of his teaching, though he is clear enough as to its effect upon the Mosaic instructions.  If his statements mean that non-millenarians say they mean, he must have recognized (or if he did not, we must recognize) that he was proclaiming a direct, head-on conflict with all Scripture on this subject, involving the annulling of the whole Old Testament as to the coming kingdom of Jehovah, of which the city, the temple, and the worship at Jerusalem was a central, vital feature.

 

But let the facts of his statement be observed narrowly.

 

1.  He affirms that a covenant has been cancelled.  What covenant?He states most explicitly that it was the covenant made between God and Israel at Sinai, and he cites Godís own words to this effect: "the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt."  That covenant is cancelled, "for they continued not in My covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord" (ch. 8: 9).  It was broken by the one party and declared void by the other Party.

 

It is vital to remember that when a statute or a covenant is declared canceled that only is canceled which is specified to be so.  Any earlier or unmentioned statute or covenant remains in force.  Now God had made with men prior covenants to that at Sinai, such as those with Noah and Abraham.  It is clear that the covenant with Noah, guaranteeing exemption from another such flood, is unaffected by the cancellation of the covenant made at Sinai.  That covenant with Noah was Godís response to burnt offerings of clean beasts and fowls!

 

It is thus also with the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. This covenant remains in force, and in divine law is the basis of all fellowship with God to-day and for ever.  This is shown clearly by Rom. 4: 16-25 and Gal. 3: 6-14, and that it applies to all men, Jew and Gentile, who believe God.  Now the basis of this covenant also was typical sacrifice, as was pictured most impressively at the time it was made (Gen. 15).  This practice of sacrifice was continued by Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, before the covenant was made at Sinai. Also there were priests and sacrifices in Israel before the tabernacle was erected (Ex. 19: 22; 24: 5).  Therefore it will be fully consistent with the Abrahamic covenant that pictorial sacrifices be resumed on earth when Israel and the nations, upon repentance and submission to Christ, enter into this covenant hereafter.  Such resumption is the plain and repeated assertion of Scripture.

 

But there are further facts to be noted as to the argument in Hebrews.

 

When God created the universe it was created with a two-fold major division, heavens and earth (Gen. 1: 1).  When Godís plans for the universe have come to completion this division will still obtain, there will be new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3: 13; Rev. 21: 1). The heavenly things are the pattern from which the earthly are copied (Heb. 8: 5), and even as these coexist now, so they can and will coexist for ever in the new heavens and the new earth.  There is therefore a heavenly Israel of God and an earthly, a heavenly Jerusalem and an earthly, a heavenly section of the kingdom of God and an earthly.

 

Now Heb. 11: 9-16 tell us that part of the promises made to Abraham was that he should attain to a place and glory in that nobler world above; whereas other promises were a guarantee that some of his descendants, as well as all the families of the earth, should receive their blessings on earth, and his radical descendants in particular in the land of promise, Canaan.  Nothing in the non-millennial outlook is more injurious than it obliterates this great distinction between heaven and earth, and between Abrahamís heavenly and earthly seeds, and merges them all into one general condition for all the saved, which is miscalled "the church."

 

It is evident that for those to whom belongs the heavenly sphere and portion, when they at least reach that heavenly realm above the earthly and physical things will have passed away; an earthly temple, priesthood, and sacrifices cannot obtain in that heavenly realm.  There will be the realities of which things here were copies. Now it is precisely as having obtained a share in the heavenly world that the Writer of Hebrews regards and addresses his readers, even as "holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling" (3: 1).  For such Sinai is cancelled, but Abraham remains, and the very stress of the exhortation is that they should on no account forfeit their prospects in the heavenly things by clinging to the earthly.  He does no more than glance at the earthly side of the covenant with Abraham, and he gives not the slightest hint that the prospects of this earthly seed, as given in the prophets, will never be fulfilled.  This last is the subjective notion which men insert into the Scriptures, without any basis in Hebrews and in defiance of the mass of scriptures to the exact contrary.

 

2.  But there is something still more positive. The Writer of Hebrews plainly declares that Israel and Judah will be brought into this covenant upon faith in Christ, and will share its spiritual benefits, even the cancelling of their iniquities, acquaintance with God, with His laws in their mind and heart as an instinctive guide in life (Heb. 8: 8ff).  All of these blessings will be as indispensable and as available in the earthly section of the kingdom of God as in the heavenly, for without them one would not be a subject in Godís kingdom at all.  And this is their direct connection in Jer. 31 which the Writer of Hebrews cites.  For in verses 33-40 of that chapter there is added to the promise of these spiritual benefits the express assurance that, just as sun and moon and stars are permanent features in the physical world, so Israel shall never cease from being a nation before God; and the great prophecy concludes with particulars as to the rebuilt city of Jerusalem, which particulars can never find any spiritual counterpart to whatever refined and grotesque "spiritualizing" may be pressed; and of that city it is declared without any equivocation that "it shall not be plucked up, nor thrown down any more for ever."

 

It is truly sad, indeed solemn, that godly men, including the great Reformers, should so miss the line of Godís thought and purpose as to assert that the very many scriptures which thus declare the intentions of God will ever find any sort of actual fulfilment, and should so mislead themselves by purely subjective reasonings of their own minds.

 

When the Writer of Hebrews specifically quoted this prophecy of Jeremiah he repeated from it the names "Israel and Judah" and "the house of Israel" (Heb. 8: 8, 9, 10).  Had he thought that Israel is to be merged into the church, and thus lose its national identity, it would have been to his purpose not to have repeated these national names.  His use of them here rebukes the idea of such merger and points to the same sense as the promise had in Jeremiah.  But since Israel as a nation will retain their earthly status and position there is involved national public worship.

 

These and all relevant scriptures are examined more fully in my discussion named.  The point here is that the literal fulfilment of them will not, as is asserted, contradict Hebrews.  The assertion is not based on any statement in that Epistle and has no factual basis: it is only a subjective idea, the idea certainly held by many with all sincerity but not securely based on any facts presented in Scripture, but rather contrary to the facts.  I earnestly invite my honoured brethren who differ to ponder more deeply the fact that there is to be a new earth, with saved nations dwelling on it (Rev. 21: 24, 26), with all that is necessarily involved in this.  It forbids the idea that finally all the saved are to form one undifferentiated company, "the church" for a smaller section of the redeemed who are to be more closely related to the Sovereign than the bulk of His subjects, even as his "body" or his "bride" are more intimately associated with a king than are the mass of his people.

 

5. CHARACTER OF MILLENNIAL SACRIFICES

 

1.  Further observing the facts of Scripture it is to be noted carefully that not one of the many passages above listed represents an individual as bringing a sin offering to seek individual pardon for sin.  This is in definite contrast to the purpose and facts of the Mosaic sacrifices, which were distinctly and principally for securing pardon.  See, for example Lev. 4: 20, 31, 35; 5: 10, 13, 16, 18; 6: 7. Etc.  But the passages which deal with those future sacrifices speak of worship, of men presenting burnt offerings, thank offerings, and payments of vows.* 

 

[* The one seeming exception is that the consecrated priest may become ceremonially defiled by allowable contact with the corpse of a deceased intimate relative.  To annul this defilement he must bring a sin-offering (Ezek. 44: 25-27).  But this was purely ceremonial, not a seeking pardon or a moral offence; and it was that he might resume his service to the worshippers.]

 

In Psalm 66: 13-16, the speaker, promising to offer burnt offerings and to pay vows, adds the sacrifice of "bullocks with goats;" but the fact that he uses the plural, "bullocks with goats," shows that he is not speaking as a culprit seeking pardon of specific sin, for one bullock or goat would be all the sacrifice needed: he has in mind the requirement that a sin offering must accompany other offerings to make them pure and acceptable.  Thus in the context also he speaks in the plural of paying vows and presenting burnt offerings as a regular practice, all speaking of devotion and worship.

 

2. In Ezek. 43: 18-27 and 45: 13-25, the passages which prescribe the offerings in that millennial temple, the facts are:

 

(a) That it is the prince who offers the sacrifices on behalf of his whole people. They are collective, not personal, and therefore not for atonement for specific sins.  In the matter of the Passover, the festival names, this is in contrast to the ancient practice, when each family or group offered his own lamb.  This collective aspect pervades ch. 46 also, culminating in its final sentence in the singular "the sacrifices of the people," not their sacrifices as individuals.

 

(b) These sacrifices by the prince are for the purpose of sanctifying the altar (ch. 43), and the house itself (45: 18-20), rather than the worshippers.

 

By this the worshippers will be taught that in our yet imperfect state (which will characterize the millennial age as it marks us now), there is sin in the believer, which in Godís holy sight defiles all that is connected with him.  It is that aspect of the atonement of Christ by which places and things are cleansed, both the heavens and the earth (Heb. 9: 23).  This also is not the same as an individual applying for forgiveness for unknown transgression and a personal sacrifice securing this pardon.  It is not this latter aspect which is in view.

 

3.  In other words the position as presented in the prophets and psalms corresponds exactly as that shown in Hebrews as the fulfilment of the new covenant promised in Jer. 33: "Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually" (Heb. 13: 15).  The persons to be in question in that future day are regarded as on the same footing as believers of the present day; that is, as having been already justified and cleansed from their guilty past, as having actually received a new heart and new spirit, with the consequent new standing before God and a real inward knowledge of Him and His holy will.  Therefore that whole sacrificial system foretold by God, as seen by Him and as presented in His prophetic word, is not for the purpose of effecting redemption and leading to justification of the guilty, but it proceeds on the basis that these have been effected and that the offerers are worshippers, who, having been once cleansed, have no further conscience of sins (Heb. 10: 2).

 

4. It results that those sacrifices will serve a similar purpose to the Lordís Supper to-day.  This ordinance likewise does not effect the forgiveness of sins (as some falsely teach), but it offers visible and affecting reminder of that holy body and blood the sacrifice of which on the cross provided the remission of which the worshipper takes grateful advantage when he may have failed.  In principle there can be no more objection to such a reminder in that coming day than there is to the Supper now.  In this age believers are comparatively few, have no universal public centre, and must often worship in secret, so simple a reminder as the Supper suits these external conditions, but this will continue only "till He come."  When, on the contrary, an universal kingdom is present in glory, then a public centre of worship, with more elaborate features, will suit the grander conditions.

 

6. MORAL STATE OF MANKIND AS THIS AGE CLOSES

 

There is yet another feature at which it may be helpful to glance as it is not much noticed.

 

Gal. 3: 23- 4: 3 describes Israel before Christ came as "children," and the Mosaic ordinances were designed for their education in things divine and moral.  Hence the pictorial element in their instruction by types of the truth to be clearly revealed in due season. When God sent Moses as their redeemer and leader they did not know even the name of the God of their ancestors (Ex. 3: 13), and nothing of His character and laws, so debasing had been the influence of their enslavement to the Egyptians.

 

Scripture shows that this spiritual state will prevail in the days to precede the advent of Messiah.  Zephaniah 3 predicts a time when Jehovah shall be in the midst of Israel and they a joy to Him before all the earth.  Ch. 1: 1-6 shows that when that period approaches there will again be idolatry in Israel.  It corresponds with this that, when God speaks to Ezekiel about the future temple where He will dwell forever, He reminds him of the former idolatries that had brought destruction and adds, "Now let them put away their whoredom ... far from Me, and I will dwell in the midst of them forever" (Ezek. 43: 1-9).

 

But at that time of darkness it will be said to Israel, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee. For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples: but Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.  And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Is. 60: 1-3).  Even the pious remnant that will be seeking the help of God (Joel 2: 15-17), will still have the veil upon their hearts, with much darkness as to the things of God.  It will be only a very small remnant that will give heed to Elijah and who will be spared in that day of consumption of the wicked. Isa. 1: 9; Zech. 13: 8; Zeph. 3: 8-13.  God pictures this small remnant as a "peculiar treasure" which a man contrives to secrete and save in a day of disaster, while the bulk of his possessions perish (Mal. 3: 17).

 

With the Gentiles it will be still worse morally; their darkness will be "gross." A hint of this is seen in the Lordís parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25: 37-39, 44). Neither class will have thought of Christ when befriending His persecuted brethren. Antichrist will all but succeed in blotting out the knowledge of the true God. Christ has Himself raised the question of whether there will be [the] faith on the earth when He comes (Matt. 18: 8).

 

A further hint of the then ignorance of Israel is given in the very passage in Ezekiel which foretells the restoration of the priesthood and sacrifices. Of the priests it is said, "they shall teach my people the difference between the unclean and clean" (Ezek. 44: 23). This was the moral necessity when Israel came out of Egypt, and a chief end of the Mosaic types and ritual was to dispel this darkness as to the character and claims of God.

 

Since such darkness will recur, and be deeper, and men be again infants as to knowledge of God, it will be but a repetition of the former grace and wisdom of God that pictorial instruction be repeated.

 

7. THE RIGHT METHOD OF STUDY

 

Another influential factor may be mentioned, which has indeed wide application beyond the present theme.

 

Non-millenarian writers are greatly occupied with discussing objections to and differences in certain dispensational views connected with the expectation of the Millennial kingdom, and very much less with weighing the positive testimony of Scripture to the coming of such a kingdom.  This is a subjective and psychological process which greatly disables the human mind from feeling the weight and force of positive testimony to any subject.

 

The fair and just process of investigation is that followed in the law courts.  The whole of the evidence and arguments for the plaintiff are heard first and alone; the counter evidence and arguments, the objections and difficulties, of the other party not being admitted until the positive case for the plaintiff has been fully investigated and weighed.  Unless the mind be thus kept resolutely free and open no fair estimate of the positive evidence and arguments will ever be formed.

 

No truth is free from difficulties, for the finite mind cannot grasp fully any spiritual subject.  The doctrines of the Trinity, creation, incarnation, and redemption all have problems we cannot explain. Yet the Christian believes these truths because he is satisfied with the positive testimony to them found in the Word of God.  This he accepts, not rejecting it because of difficulties that remain, and which he accepts will be resolved in due season.  In such circumstances we all accept Butlerís just principle that, if a belief has once been established by adequate evidence, no objections can overthrow it; because, in such case, the belief is based on our knowledge but the objections on our ignorance.

 

Let this be applied to the question of the millennial kingdom and belief in it will be all but inevitable, for the testimony of the Word of God is explicit and adequate.  But if during the investigation of this evidence the mind be busied with detecting or inventing difficulties, it will be almost impossible to form a sound and balanced judgment or to find solution of the self-created problems.  In this case also the subjective queries will override the objective facts as presented in Scripture.

 

8. ATTITUDE TO THE WORD OF GOD

 

Sundry other arguments in this matter are discussed in my paper Israelís National Future.  The present discussion must close by considering briefly the attitude involved to the Word of God.

 

In its lack of factual basis "spiritualizing" resembles the line of reasoning of deism and higher criticism dealt with earlier.  The results of those philosophies are heartily repudiated by the godly "spiritualizers" now in view; but they reason on the same principle in allowing the subjective to override the objective.  The position is that the mighty array of Scripture testimony agrees with one voice as to a future temple, priesthood, and sacrifices.  It would be wise and reverent for an objector to say that, as far as he sees, Hebrews does not allow the expectation of a literal fulfilment of Old Testament Scripture, but he will wait further light or the event in its season.  But it is not reverent to set oneís subjective opinion as to one scripture in direct conflict with what all the rest of Scripture categorically asserts, and to build oneís whole scheme as to the future of Israel and the nations upon ideas which have no basis of facts.

 

Involved in this is the momentous question of oneís real attitude to Holy Scripture as the revealed Word of God. It is not enough to declare, however honestly, that the word of God is wholly from Him and wholly to be accepted, and yet cancel the plain sense of the greater part of its statements as to the future. It is often urged that only one passage of Scripture mentions the Millennium (Rev. 20). It has been pointed out above that earlier scriptures lead to and involve the conception; but even if this were not so, does one who presses this point really acknowledge that the Bible is from God? Is not one single statement by Him ample to establish a matter? Is it not essential impiety to demand that the God of truth must state a thing more than once or it cannot be deemed credible? This objection also is wholly subjective and exhibits the profound peril of much reasoning.

 

There are many other matters mentioned only once in Scripture, as for instance - What God wrought in each of the six days of the reconstruction of the earth: the details of the crossing of the Red Sea and of the Jordan and of the capture of Jerico: that the sun stood still at the word of Joshua: the numerous miracles of Elijah and Elisha: the accounts of the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzarís madness, Belchazzarís feast, and the den of lions.  There are also those miracles and sayings of our Lord recorded in only one Gospel, and that He said "It is more blessed to give than to receive;" also the voyage and shipwreck of Paul.  Are all these and other statements to be challenged because recorded only once?  Any who would do this do not really believe that the Bible is Godís book; but it is involved implicitly in rejecting the period of one thousand years because it is mentioned specifically in only one passage.

 

At the beginning of this century I was walking in Bristol with that master of Scripture, Dr. A. T. Pierson.  He suddenly said: "I want you to take particular notice of what I am going to say - I have never met a believer who held intelligently the doctrine of the pre-millennial return of Christ who was ever troubled with higher criticism.  It seems that God has given us this hope as a helmet to protect our mind from unbelief."  Presumably he had in mind Paulís words: "putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation" (1Thess. 5: 8).  Faith and love protect the heart, the one Godward, the other manward, preserving the affections from injury: hope is a helmet to guard the intellect from error or from despair as to the future.  This being so, to what intellectual danger do they who reject the pre-millennial advent expose their own minds and those who heed them!

 

May the Lord graciously grant to us a fuller measure of the new spirit, heart, and understanding which are our possession under the new covenant; in order that, becoming more and more as a little child toward God our Father, we may penetrate ever further into the kingdom of heaven, understand its mysteries, and further the plans of our God.  I beg this for myself and my brethren.

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2. "The argument used by Erasmus."

 

ERASMUS.  This greatest scholar of the sixteenth century earnestly wished to see the Roman Church reformed in many particulars, but he clung tenaciously to certain of it doctrines and ceremonies. His account of why he retained the Mass, and transformation of the bread and wine into the veritable body and blood of Christ, is an instructive example of the danger in view.  He wrote:

 

"I never dreamed of abolishing Mass.  Concerning the Eucharist, I see no end to discussion; yet I cannot be and never shall be persuaded that Christ, who is the Truth, who is Love, should have suffered His beloved spouse, the Church, to cling so long to hateful error, as the worship of wheaten bread instead of Himself."

 

Here are two purely subjective tests of the truth of doctrine or practice.  First, that it can claim sufficient antiquity: note the words "so long": second, that it cannot be supposed that Christ will or will not do a certain thing.

 

The former implies that in the Christian sphere age guarantees truth: therefore the more hoary the error the more certainly it is truth!

 

The conjoined test is that in oneís opinion Christ will not do or allow this or that.  Erasmusí opinion as to the Lord was purely subjective, being not only without basis in objective fact but directly contrary to fact.  The Lord by His inspired apostle gave plain warning against believing every spirit, because many false prophets are in the world, and He laid down a two-fold test to be applied; first, the fact as to the true humanity of Himself, Jesus Christ, and second, the attitude of a person to apostolic testimony (1 John 4: 1-6).  It is simple and sorry fact that can be daily verified that many of Christís redeemed, whom He loves, are inviegled (lured) into false cults because they fail to apply these tests, but are swayed by some subjective feeling, such as that this man at the door, or his book, impresses me as sincere and trustworthy.

 

The objective fact as to Christ is that, though He is indeed truth and love, He does not prevent us being misled if we shut our eyes and follow any and every guide, even as He does not prevent the blind walking into a ditch if he follows a blind leader.  - G. H. Lang.

 

[3. The Church. 

Unlike Mr. Lang, I cannot (yet) find any Scripture which teaches two separate, distinct companies of the redeemed; or two separate flocks of redeemed Ďsheepí of God! (Matt. 26: 31); "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one Shepherd" ... you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life and they shall never perish ... "(John 10: 16, 26-28).  And again: "I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one" (John 17: 20; cf. Rom. 11: 25, 26 etc.) See also Acts 7: 38 "the church in the wilderness."]

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