The word "millennium" comes to us from the Latin, meaning "a thousand years." It refers to the thousand years of Rev. 20:1-7. In these verses there are six references to this period of time. It is here given as the time during which Satan is to be bound and the saints are to reign with Christ.
When the opponents of premillennialism assert that the word "millennium" is not in the Bible they speak deceitfully. It is just as truly in the Bible as the expression "one thousand years." Since these expressions are English, neither of them was in the original manuscripts. But the word "millennium" represents the meaning of the Greek as truly as the expression "one thousand years." Thus there can be no point in saying that the word in question is not in the Bible, except it be said to prejudice one's hearers or readers.
Our treatment of the subject will not justify the charge that premillennialism "builds chiefly on one passage in Revelation 20:1-10," or that premillennialists "start with a certain interpretation of Rev. 20:1-10 and then work their idea back into the epistles and gospels." Rather we shall begin with other Scriptures and interpret the passage in Revelation by them.
Moreover our discussion will conform to a rule enunciated by one of our opponents; viz., "It is a sound principle of Biblical interpretation to begin with Him who is the Light of the World; in other words to begin with the study of the New Testament, and go back into the Old with the light of the New." That shall be our method of procedure exactly.
However, after we have done this, after we have let the New Testament focus the light of the Old upon this question, then we shall interpret Rev. 20 in view of that light. And if our opponents wish to continue ranting about our reading into the text what is not there, we shall treat the accusation with complacent and tolerant disdain. There is not a one of them that does not "read into" such passages as Luke 13:3 that faith as well as repentance is a condition of salvation. Thus it is throughout the Bible. We take the various details of collateral passages and put them together to get the full truth.
I. THE PRESENT AND FUTURE FORMS OF THE KINGDOM
1. THE PRESENT FORM OF THE KINGDOM IS NOT THE FINAL FORM
This is plainly indicated by a number of passages that point to a future kingdom. See Matt. 6:10; 25:34; Mark 14:25; Luke 13:28, 29; 2 Tim. 4:1. Note also that some of the parables in Matt. 13 indicate that the kingdom of Heaven now contains false professors (tares and bad fish), while other passages speak of a form of the kingdom of Heaven into which only the righteous will enter. See Matt. 5:20; 7:21. These passages evidently point to the period that shall follow the fulfillment of Matt. 13:41. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend and them that do iniquity." Manifestly this is to be accomplished in the judgment at the end of this age (Matt. 13:39, 40), and then shall ensue the kingdom or form of the kingdom alluded to in Matt. 5:20; 7:21, and also in Matt. 25:34. From these passages, then, we see clearly that the judgment at the end of this age will not bring an end to the Messianic reign, but rather will usher in its final form.
Nor are we to regard this plain teaching as contradicted by 1 Cor. 15:24. We can never hope to arrive at the truth unless we let the plainer passages suggest the interpretation of those that are somewhat obscure. Read vss. 22-24 in the revision. Note the reading, "then they that are Christ's at his coming" instead of "afterward they that are Christ's," etc. Thus the revision gives "epeita" the same meaning as "eita." "Then" is used to translate both. Notice, then, that the first "then" allows the lapse of time between the resurrection of Christ and His second coming. Therefore "then cometh the end" cannot be used to prove that "the end," whatever it is, occurs immediately after Christ's coming. "Epeita" and "eita" in these verses mark not immediate temporal succession, but rather sequence in enumeration depending "on the nature of things enumerated" (Thayer). Certainly there is not the difference in the words that will allow the first to admit of a lapse of more than nineteen centuries while forbidding any lapse of time to the latter. Thus understood it will be seen readily that vs. 24 itself suggests that "then cometh the end" does not fix the time "when he shall have delivered up the kingdom of God" (better, "whenever he shall deliver" etc), but rather vice versa.
Moreover, as E. P. Gould says very significantly, "At His coming," may be translated, in the parousia or presence- i. e., during the time of Christ's presence on the earth, following His second coming." This is the meaning, if, as we believe, on the basis of Isa. 65:20 and implications in other passages, death will continue on the earth after the establishment of the "new heavens and a new earth" (Isa. 65:17).* In other words, this passage admits of a continuous resurrection of the righteous through the reign of Christ on the earth, and we believe that the Scriptures in general demand it. As believers in natural bodies die they will be resurrected immediately. We can then give to "then cometh the end" its most natural meaning according to its context, understanding it to mean the end of the Messianic kingdom; which will come not immediately, but only after death is completely conquered.
2. CHRIST IS NOW KING, BUT HE IS NOT NOW ON HIS THRONE
The author flatly disavows the view that Christ is not reigning now. This is held by some premillennialists, but is not a necessary part of premillennialism. Christ is already king over a spiritual kingdom (usually spoken of in the New Testament as "the kingdom of God"), that is, a kingdom without visible head and physical boundaries, whose subjects may be distinguished by spiritual characteristics alone. That Christ is already king over such a kingdom is defiantly and unmistakable taught in Matt. 28:18-20; John 18:36; Col. 1:13; Rev. 3:21.
*It is evident that "a new heaven and a new earth" alluded to by John in Rev. 21:1 is not the same as the "new heavens and a new earth" mentioned by Isaiah. Manifestly John saw the results of a second renewal that is to follow the loosing of Satan and the consequent rebellion of Gog and Magog. See Rev. 20:7-10.
Notice that Christ is now sitting with the Father in the Father's throne, and that it is implied that at some time in the future He will sit on His own throne, at which time overcomers (all the regenerated, 1 John 5:4) will sit with Him. The contrasts here are significant- the "Father's throne" contrasted with "my throne," and the present "am set down" contrasted with the future "will sit." This passage is dead against those who contend that the millennium is now in progress, and we have never known a single one of them to try to deal with it.
Acts 2:25-32 does not prove, as has been alleged, that Christ is now on the throne of David. Our opponents offer groundless arguments on the basis of this passage together with 2 Sam 7:12- (1) That this passage teaches that Christ was to sit on the throne of David immediately after His resurrection. But the passage says nothing of the kind. It teaches that the resurrection was necessary to His sitting on the throne, but not that He ascended that throne immediately. Scriptures already cited show that this was not the case. (2) That David understood from the promise quoted by Peter (2 Sam. 7:12) that Christ would sit on David's throne while David was still sleeping with his fathers, and not after the resurrection of the righteous dead. This is marvelous logic to come from those who protest that we read into Rev. 20:1-7 things that are not taught there.
The letter and natural phase of 2 Sam. 7:12 referred to the placing of Solomon on David's throne, and to insist that the fulfillment of the spiritual import of the promise conform to the letter is merely to argue absurdly for the support of a proposition that is too weak to stand. One could just as well argue that, inasmuch as the natural phase of the passage looked to an immediate successor to David, Christ ascended the Davidic throne at David's death. In Acts 2:29 Peter speaks of the fact "that David is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day" merely to prove that David could not have been speaking of himself when he said that his soul should not be left in Hades and that he should not see corruption. This fact is evident to all, except those blinded by a desire to sustain an unscriptural theory.
3. CHRIST WILL ASCEND HIS THRONE AT HIS SECOND COMING
This is made indisputable by the following passage.
"WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, THEN shall he sit upon the throne of his glory" (Matt. 25:31).
In this passage we have further answer to the absurd contention noted above. It is at His second coming that Christ will sit on His throne. At that time will be established the future form of the kingdom referred to in Matt. 13:43; 25:34. This accords with Like 19:12, where "a certain nobleman" represents Christ.
II. THE NATURE OF THE FUTURE KINGDOM
1. IT WILL BE UPON THE EARTH
Rev. 5:10, where the redeemed (twenty-four elders), after speaking of redemption through Christ, say:
Zech. 14:9: "And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord and his name one."
We have quoted the first passage from the revision, which follows the Alexandrine manuscript in reading "they reign" instead of the Sinaitic in reading "we shall reign." Thus we must choose here between two outstanding manuscripts in deciding whether the tense is present or future. However, A. T. Robertson, with no affinity for premillennialism, says that we have the "futuristic use" of the present active indicative. And who, except one seeking proof of a theory rather than the truth of the Scriptures, can doubt that we have here a reference to the same thing as in Rev. 2:26, 27; 3:21; 1 Cor. 6:2, where it is consistently put in the future?
Note from this passage, then, that this reign is to be on the earth; and remember that Rev. 3:21 tells us that the saints will sit with Christ on His throne. Thus we see that, since the saints' reign is to be on the earth, Christ's throne and, therefore, His kingdom, are to be here.
The second passage refers to that which is yet future. At no time up to the present has the whole earth been subject to the Lord. The passage is to be fulfilled after the events of the previous verses have taken place. Those who have tried to find a fulfillment of this chapter in the past have been able to make out only a and garbled makeshift of a fulfillment. For instance one writer argues quite conclusively that the chapter was not fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, A. D. 70, because At that time all instead of half of the people were "cut off from the city." Moreover, at that time, God did not fight for the Jews, but against them; sending forth the Roman armies even as His own, He "destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city," as Jesus said He would (Matt. 2-2:7). Furthermore it is pointed out that since that time Jerusalem has been "trodden down of the Gentiles" ( Luke 21:24), and no one has gone there to "keep the feast of tabernacles." But then this same writer goes on to try to make out a fulfillment in God's care of His people during the darkness and afflictions of the inter-biblical period, referring it particularly to the terrible persecutions inflicted on the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria, in the second century B. C. But he undertakes to find no detailed fulfillment, which, of course, he could not do. The following glaring differences exist between the siege described in Zech. 14 and the wars and persecutions under Antiochus:
(2) In Zech. 14 the siege was to last but one day (vss. 6, 7), while under Antiochus and his son there were attacks over a period of years; and at one time temple worship in Jerusalem was abandoned by the Jews for three years, during which time the Jewish religion was forbidden and the temple devoted to the worship of the Grecian god, Jove.
(3) In Zech. 14 the siege and victory are followed by a glorious period of blessing and spiritual prosperity, while the period following the wars under Antiochus was marked by further war, internal division, rivalry, intrigue, and civil war among the Jews, ending up in their subjugation to Rome.*
(4) In Zech. 14 a great plague is prophesied for the opposing armies (vs. 12). This did not occur at the time of Antiochus.
(5) In Zech. 14 the siege is to be followed by those who are left of the nations that came against Jerusalem coming up from year to year to worship and to keep the feast of tabernacles. This did not follow liberation from persecution under Antiochus any more than it occurred following the destruction of Jerusalem A. D. 70.
Our opponents acknowledge that "someone's feet are to stand upon the Mount of Olives," but they are not certain who the person is. This is not certain to them because they are committed to a theory that forbids them to admit evident facts. To those not so bound it is clear that the unmistakable grammatical antecedent of "his" in vs. 4 is "the Lord" in vs. 3. Also it is evident that the statement that "the Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee" refers to the second advent of Christ, just as do similar statements in the New Testament. See Jude 14; 2 Thess. 1:7; Matt. 25:31. Thus we conclude that our point here is proved.
2. IT WILL BE IN THE NEW EARTH
We wish here to call attention to Matt. 19:28, which reads:
"And Jesus said unto them (the twelve apostles), Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the REGENERATION when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, YE ALSO SHALL SIT UPON TWELVE THRONES, JUDGING THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL."
Commenting on the phrase, "in the regeneration," A. T. Robertson says: "The new birth of the world is to be fulfilled when Jesus sits on His throne of glory." John A. Broadus says: "When the Messianic reign is fully established there will be a new birth of all things, called a 'restoration of all things' (Acts 3.21, Rev. Ver.), 'new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness' (2 Pet. 3.13) . . ."
*Blaikie says: "It would be impossible to narrate all the sieges, battles, murders, and massacres, that gave their dark hue to this period of history" (Bible History, p. 398).
But more interesting than these comments are two Old Testament passages that link up with this passage in a very definite way. Note these two passages:
"For, behold, I create new heaven and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people; and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days; for the Child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat of the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock; and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord" (Isa. 65:17-25).
"For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord" (Isa. 66:22, 23).
Can there be any reasonable doubt that our Lord had these passages in mind when He spoke of "the regeneration"? Furthermore, is it not evident that Peter also had these passages in mind when he wrote of the "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Pet. 3;13)? The author regards it as definitely settled that Peter's words allude to the same thing as do those of our Lord in Matt. 19:28 and that the establishment of the millennial reign of Christ will be ushered in by the establishment of new heavens and a new earth.
3. IT WILL BE PREEMINENTLY JEWISH
We have noted that believers will reign with Christ in His throne. But Matt. 19:28, which we have noticed already, tells us that the twelve apostles will occupy twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Of course the spiritualizers will anathematize us for taking the Lord to mean exactly what He says here, but we are not in the least afraid of, nor slightly worried by, their ruthless campaign to emasculate the Word of God.
Just as our Lord, steeped in prophesy as He was, very likely had in mind the passages already cited from Isaiah in speaking of "the regeneration," so likewise there is another passage from Isaiah that He must have had in mind in referring to twelve apostles and their sitting on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. This other passage is Isa. 1:26, which reads:
All of this implies, and the Bible conclusively teaches, the regathering of Israel, the conversion of Israel, and the restoration of Israel's national life. Let us note:
(1) The Regathering of Israel.
A. Scriptures that allude to it.
"And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall all the Gentiles seek, and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day that the Lord shall set his hand a second time to recover the remnant of his people which shall be left, 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. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" (Isa. 1:10-12).
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without a teraphim; afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king: and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4, 5).
"Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: and they shall be my people, and I will be their god: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting Covenant with them, and I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me" (Jer. 32:37-40).
"And I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God" (Amos 9:14,15).
Note that these prophecies speak of a recovering, a return, a gathering, and a bringing again of the Jews. We affirm that they have reference to Israel as a nation and they have not yet had their complete fulfillment. We make this affirmation on the basis of the following facts:
(a) A distinction is made in the first passage between the Gentiles and His people. The Gentiles are to participate in the blessings of Christ's kingdom, but it is His people, Israel and Judah, that are to be regathered.
(b) This is to be God's "second time to recover the remnant of his people."
(d) This is to be accomplished in the day when "there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people." This plainly refers to the times of the Messiah.
(e) The second passage affirms that in the day of their return the Israelites are to "seek the Lord their God, and DAVID THEIR KING." This again plainly refers to the days of the Messiah.
(f) The third passage stipulates that at the time of this regathering God is going to make an "everlasting covenant with them," with the result that He will never again "turn away from them" and "they shall not depart" from Him.
(g) The fourth passage tells us that when Israel has been regathered, "they shall no more be pulled up out of their land." They were pulled up out of their land again after the return from captivity under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
B. Objections offered by our opponents against our interpretation of these prophecies.
These objections are many and they are urged with great insistence. But as far as space will permit, we will take them up and show that they are groundless.
(a) In spite of the facts to which we have called attention we are told quite confidently that the first passage given above (Isa. 11:10-12) refers to the return recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
This is said on the basis of the fact that in Isa. 10:24-34 the prophet "refers to the Assyrian." But this by no means proves that nothing in the following chapter can go beyond the historic return of Israel, even as our opponents themselves admit by
*For a prediction of the present general dispersion of the Jews, see Deut. 28:49-69. This was fulfilled in 70 A. D. under the Romans. "The distance from which the Romans came, the rapidity of their marches, the emblem of their arms, their military training, and foreign tongue, could scarcely have been described in more accurate terms. The continued desolation that was to ensue is not applicable to the time of Nebuchadnezzar or of Antiochus" (Urquhart, The New Biblical Guide, Vol. 8, p. 275).
referring a part of this prophecy to our times. Note is taken of the fact that "the Lord shall set his hand A SECOND TIME to recover the remnant of his people," but we are told that the "first time" was their deliverance from Egypt. This is said simply on the basis of the fact that vs. 16 says that in the day of Israel's return "there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people like as it was to Israel in the days that he came up out of the land of Egypt."* We leave the reader to form his own opinion of the validity of this argument. Does the mere mention of a thing by a prophet give us the liberty of reading it into his writings wherever we see fit?
"In that day" of Isa. 11:10 is wrested from its connection with the rest of the sentence and made to refer to the day of return from Assyria and Babylon. No account whatsoever is taken of the fact that this prophecy is "dated," the whole thing being, attached to that day when "there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people."
(b) However, despite all their efforts, our opponents cannot find a complete fulfillment of these prophecies in the Old Testament. Thus they fall back on a second line of attack, and affirm a fulfillment in this present gospel age. We are told that the Holy Spirit has dated the prophecy of Isa. 11:1-10 and has declared it fulfilled in this age. Rom. 15:12 is given to prove this. We answer that Paul, in Rom. 15:12, makes merely an application of one and only one part of this prophecy to show "that God's purpose from the beginning was to comprehend both Jews and Gentiles in the wide embrace of His mercy, through the Messiah" (A. N. Arnold). There is not one thing in Rom. 15 or in any other New Testament passage that indicates that Christ and the apostles considered Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jews as finding consummate fulfillment in the Gentiles of this age. Paul, in Rom. 15:12, quotes from Isa. 11:10 only insofar as this latter passage refers
*Verse 16 is really a boomerang against our opponents when read in the light of the preceding verses. Vs. 15 tells us there shall be a smiting of the "tongue of the Egyptian sea" so as to "make men go over dryshod." This explains the reference to Israel's deliverance from Egypt. Just as they crossed the Red Sea dryshod, so in their final return from captivity they will cross waters dryshod. Let our opponents oblige us by telling us how this was fulfilled in the return from Assyria and Babylonia.
to the Gentiles, and that, as we have said, only by way of application. He says not one word about vs. 11 and its prediction of the return of Israel. Neither does any other New Testament writer make a spiritual application of such prophecies.
Nevertheless we are told that the New Testament explains and applies the prophecies of Israel's restoration from captivity to this gospel era (Isa. 52:11; Jer. 30:18-24; 2 Cor. 6:17,18), and hence that they are typical of our great deliverance by Jesus Christ. Let the reader read carefully the passages referred to. There is here nothing more than the application by a New Testament writer of a principle and an appeal that find their first enunciation in the Old Testament. This constant practice of our opponents in reading into New Testament passages arguments that are not there is sufficient evidence of the utter falsity of their contention. If they had any real proof, they would use it.
Similarly it is affirmed that Jeremiah's prophecy of the new Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34) was fulfilled and established in Christ. Since the new covenant is a covenant of grace under which God deals with individual believers instead of with a nation, as under the old covenant, believers are now under it. BUT SO WAS ABRAHAM! Gal. 3:6-18. This covenant was first made known fully to Abraham, and was applied through him to his spiritual seed through Christ. This is the reason Gentiles participate in it. But in Jer. 31 and 32 it is revealed that Israel as a nation (the nation living at the time) shall come under this covenant. Whereas once God dealt mainly with them as a whole under the old covenant, then He shall deal with the whole nation as individuals under the new covenant. Then the writer to the Hebrews, writing to professed believers among the Jews, makes application of Jeremiah's words to prove to these Jews that the old covenant has been replaced. There is nothing here to prove that there is not yet to be an application of this covenant to the whole house of national Israel. This is the evident meaning of Jeremiah's words, interpreted in the light of all Old Testament prophecy. When our opponents spiritualize them they do so, not upon the basis of Scripture, but upon the basis of their own preconceived notions. The only safe method if interpreting God's Word is to consider it literal unless there is clear indication of a figurative of spiritual meaning. They have utterly failed to produce that clear indication.
When we come to Isa. 11:11, 14 our opponents are hard-pressed indeed. They know full well that they cannot find a fulfillment in the Old Testament, nor do they seek to find one; but rather they tell us that it would require a miracle of raising from the dead the nations referred to if these verses are to have a literal fulfillment in the future. They refer, we are told, to the return in this age of the remnant according to election of grace from among the Jews, that is, their return to God and Christ. No; the future literal fulfillment of these verses will not require the raising of the nations mentioned from the dead. The nations mentioned merely represent the nations of the earth, from among whom, even "from the four corners of the earth" and "the islands of the sea," God shall "assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah."
(c) But our opponents are not done yet. Lest there might be some bits of prophecy that have escaped the methods of elimination already noticed, they come with a third attack. We are told that if there be any left, that are not properly included in the foregoing classifications, they must be considered forfeited and cancelled, because the conditions were not met. It is alleged that Christ and the apostles declare this to be true in Matt. 23:37, 38; Rom. 11:10; I Thess. 2:15,16.
Let us examine these passages. In the first one (Matt. 23:37,38) Jesus says: "Behold your house is left unto you desolate." This, He told them in the next verse, was because He was going away from them, which in the purpose of God was in consequence of their rejection of Him. Hence they would not see Him henceforth- for how long? Not forever, but "TILL YE SHALL SAY, BLESSED IS HE THAT COMETH IN THE NAME OF THE LORD." This points to the time when Israel will be no longer unbelieving, but will gladly receive Christ. This is to be, according to Christ, at HIS COMING. We shall notice more about this later.
The second passage is Rom. 11: 10, which reads: "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway," a quotation from Psa. 69:23. This deprecation, when read, as certainly it should be, in the light of the whole of the sixty-ninth Psalm and the eleventh chapter of Romans, can be taken as APPLYING PRIMARILY TO THE GENERATION OF THE JEWS LIVING AT THE TIME OF CHRIST'S EARTHLY MINISTRY. Beyond that, it can APPLY TO THE CONTINUED NATION ONLY SO LONG AS THEY CONTINUE THEIR REJECTION OF CHRIST. Notice that David implies that they will not always reject the Messiah, when in vs. 35 he says: "For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah; that they may dwell there, and have it in possession." Paul develops this thought and makes its meaning unmistakable, viz., "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that a hardening in PART hath befallen Israel, UNTIL THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN" (Rom. 11:25). This is the key verse of the whole chapter. The whole chapter is based on two facts: (1) That Israel's hardness and unbelief are only IN PART, partial, not involving the whole nation-there being now "a remnant according to the election of grace" (Rom. 11:5). (2) That it is TEMPORARY, extending only "UNTIL the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." Then, as the next verse states, and as we shall note more fully later, "all Israel (the nation living at the time) shall be saved."
What we have just said about Rom. 11:10 also fully explains the third passage cited, 1 Thess. 2:15,16.
This alleged forfeiture and cancellation of blessings promised to Israel is based on what our opponents call the conditional element in prophecy. As proof of this conditional element they cite Deut. 28:13-15, 25, 43, 44; Jer. 18: 17-10.
To which we reply that God's blessings are always conditional. God's grace and blessings to believers in this age are conditioned* on their faithfulness and final perseverance. See. Matt. 10:22, 32; Acts 14:22; Rom. 2:6-10; 11:22; Col. 1:21-23; Rev. 2:7, 11. Yet God declares in absolute terms that all who truly believe on Christ will be finally saved. It is only the Arminian that denies this. And our opponents put themselves on Arminian ground when they allege the cancellation and forfeiture of the blessings promised to Israel. They are no better on this score than the Arminian is in seeking to prove that saved people may fail to receive their eternal inheritance. We had just as soon argue one as the other. The cases are exactly parallel. The blessings promised to Israel are stated in terms fully as absolute as are the words spoken of and to believers. Turn and read again the Scriptures given on a previous page to prove the regathering of Israel. Words could not be more manifestly absolute.
upon God's eternal foreknowledge and choice, upon eternal, unconditional election, if you please. See. Rom. 8:29, 30; 11:2, 27-29.
This brings us then to note:
(2) The Conversion of Israel.
The following passages show that Israel will receive all the things promised of God by turning to Him as a whole in genuine repentance and faith through His grace and the operation of the power of the Holy Spirit:
"And I will turn my hand upon thee, and thoroughly purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin; and I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful town. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness."- Isa. 1:25-27
"And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem; when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning."- Isa. 4:3, 4.
"And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."- Isa. 25:9.
"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of the flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them."- Ezek. 36:24-27.
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn."- Zech. 12:10.
"And I will cause the captivity of Judah and the captivity of Israel to return, and will build them, as at the first. And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have transgressed against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it" (Jer. 33:7-9).
"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant unto them when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are not repented of" (Rom. 11: 26-29).
The "all Israel" that shall be saved is explained by Isa. 4;3, given previously, viz.. "he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, . . . every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem." This latter passage is further explained by Zech. 13:8, 9 which reads: "And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the Lord, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; BUT A THIRD PART SHALL BE LEFT THEREIN. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God."
B. Objections offered by our opponents against our interpretation of these prophecies.
(a) Will any of our opponents say that these prophecies have been accomplished already in the experience of national Israel? If so, then let them note:
(1) That this conversion, according to Zech. 12:10, was to come after the Jews had pierced Christ; for it is said, "...they shall look upon me whom they have pierced," and it is evident that this passage refers to the same experience spoken of in the other passages we have given. (2) There was no time in the history of Israel in the Old Testament when every one remaining in Jerusalem was called holy, as declared by Isa. 4:3. (3) Paul's reference to the salvation of Israel (Rom. 11:26) shows that this was not an Old Testament experience. (4) The words of every passage given imply something surpassing anything experienced by Israel either in the return from Babylon or their liberation from Antiochus Epiphanes.
Are we not told that Israel will say, "Lo, this is our God"; that a new heart and a new spirit will be put within them, causing them to walk in God's statutes and keep His judgments; that there will be poured upon them the spirit of grace and of supplications; so that they shall be purged, washed, cleansed, redeemed, and pardoned? How could language be made more absolute? If the blessings of these passages were forfeitable, then so also is the salvation of all God's elect. Before we can believe that these promises are not absolute, we shall have to be convinced of the truth of Arminianism.
(c) No; perhaps not many of our opponents will take either of two views already noticed. Most of them will say that these promises are to be spiritualized and applied to believers in this gospel age; to which we reply:
(1) What is the meaning, then, of "I will restore thy judges as at the first" (Isa. 1:26)? (2) Furthermore, what is the meaning of "every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem" (Isa. 4:3)? (3) Again, what is meant when God says to Israel that He will "build them, as at the first" (Jer. 33:7)?
The whole question as to the spiritualization of the passages given may be resolved to the proper interpretation of Rom. 11:26. The spiritualizers tell us that "all Israel" here is the elect of all nations, so-called spiritual Israel. But such an interpretation of this passage is nothing short of a ruthless wresting of it from its context. It is so absurd that we make bold to say that no careful reader will adopt it except that he is more interested in sustaining a theory than he is in knowing the truth. The contrast all the way through the chapter is between the Gentiles and Israel, and vs. 25 makes it plain that this distinction carries right on into vs. 26. Therefore candid commentators, wholly apart from any interest in the millennial question, recognize that the allusion here is to national Israel, viz., "The immediate context . . . argues for the Jewish people 'as a whole'" (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament). "But surely it puts violence on words, and in thought, to explain 'Israel' in this whole passage mystically. Interpretation becomes an arbitrary work if ye may suddenly do so here, where the antithesis of Israel and 'the Gentiles' is the very theme of the message. No; we have here the nation, chosen once to a mysterious specialty in the spiritual history of man, chosen with a choice never cancelled, however abeyant. A blessing is in view for the nation; a blessing spiritual, divine, all of grace, quite individual in its action, but national in the scale of its results" (H. G. Moule, The Expositor's Bible). "All Israel shall be saved: the great mass of the Jews, in contrast with the 'remnant' referred to in verse 5" (J. M. Pendleton, The New Testament With Brief Notes). "And so. . . all Israel shall be saved- that is, the literal Israel, in the collective sense of the word, all the posterity of Jacob. That the word is to be taken in this sense and not in the sense of spiritual Israel, including the Gentiles, is fairly inferred from the sharp distinction between Jews and Gentiles observed throughout this whole section; see 9:24, 30, 31; 10:12, 19-21; 11:11, 12, 13, and especially in the immediate context, ver. 17-31" (A. N. Arnold, An American Commentary on the New Testament). "In our view Paul teaches that ... Israel as a whole, perhaps 'the whole nation which shall then be in existence' (Prof. Turner), will accept Jesus as their Messiah..." (D. B. Ford, ibid).
A. The theocratic government of Israel will be restored. Christ will be their king and the twelve apostles will be their judges. Isa. 9:7; 32:1; Jer. 23:5, 6; Ezek. 34:23, 24; Zech. 3:14, 15; Zech. 14:9, 16; Isa. 1:26; Matt. 19:28.
B. Jerusalem will be the center of government and religious life. Isa. 2:3, 4; Joel 3:16, 17; Zech. 14:8, 9, 21.
Our opponents say a literal fulfillment of these passages in the future will be impossible.
By which we are reminded that Sir Isaac Newton once predicted that it "was necessary for the fulfillment of prophecy that the means of rapid communication between all nations should be greatly extended . . . as to enable men to travel forty miles an hour. On which opinion Voltaire made this remark: 'What do you think Sir Isaac Newton said? Why, he actually predicts that the time will come when people will travel at the rate of forty miles an hour. See to what extremities the study of the Bible can drive a great and gifted mind"' (Urquhart, New Biblical Guide, Vol. 8, page 287). We smile at this from Voltaire. But the argument of our opponents is just as puerile and stupid. Do they think that it is impossible with God to bring this about? Do they know how much faster international communication shall become? Can they predict that geographical conditions in the new earth will not render this easier than at present? For ourself we believe that inasmuch as the mouth of God spoke the prophecy that same mouth will command its accomplishment; and it shall be done.
D. Worship will be in full accord with the finished work of redemption. We feel that neither logic, nor consistency, nor anything said in the Bible, obliges us to believe that the sacrificial system of the Jews will be wholly restored.
There will be a house of worship, called both a tabernacle and a temple (Ezek. 37:27; 43:5-7; Zech. 6:12, 13; 14:21; Mal. 3:1). The temple shown Ezekiel in vision (chapters 40-47) is perhaps a foreshadowing in general of that temple, especially in view of Ezek. 45:5-7; 47, but as to the letter we regard the pattern as that which Israel should have followed in rebuilding the temple after returning from Babylon.* Here perhaps is a merging of the two: the temple that Israel should have built, and the one that the Lord Himself shall build; just as in other passages we have a merging of the two returns of Israel the two advents (Mal. 3:1-5;
*We do not have it positively declared in Ezekiel that God would bring about the construction of a temple according to all the details of this vision. On the other hand, it is positively declared that God will accomplish the return, conversion, and reestablishment of Israel. Thus we can consistently believe the latter without believing the former.
Isa. 61:1,2*), and the two sieges of Jerusalem (Matt. 24- the one that occurred in 70 A. D., and the one that shall occur in the battle of Armageddon, Zech. 14:1,2; Rev. 19:19-21). There are passages that speak of sacrifices in connection with the millennium. But these may be mere figurative expressions of worship. We feel sure that the work of priests under Christ's reign (Isa. 66:21) will be so altered as to make it fit into His finished redemption. The sacrifices that were made in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles (Zech. 14:16) and any other special seasons that may be observed, we feel sure, will be either abolished or so altered as to fit into the nature of Christ's reign. We are not the least afraid that God will not know how to fit these things into His plan.
To interpret references to sacrifices in the new earth as figurative does not mean that in order to be consistent we must ruthlessly spiritualize all prophecy that was not fulfilled to Israel in the former dispensation. There is absolutely no reason for spiritualizing the regathering, conversion, and reestablishment of Israel as a nation. They are never spiritualized in the New Testament, and there is nothing about them that is incongruent with the reign of Christ. But in the case of the sacrificial system, it is different. Thus we are sticking to our rule of interpreting Scripture literally, unless we have clear indication of, or good reason for, a figurative or symbolic meaning. Also our interpretation here is in harmony with the face that the literal and the symbolic are sometimes mingled together in the Bible.
At this point it is appropriate to reply briefly to certain objections:
(1) There will not be a return from Christ to Moses, for Christ will be there in Moses' stead, according to Deut. 18:15. Grace and the gospel will reign in the millennium as now. (2) There will not be a return to the old covenant, but the application of the new covenant to Israel as foretold. (3) There will not be a turning back to the Aaronic priesthood, except insofar as it fits into the reign of the
*Note how our Lord, in reading in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-20), stopped in the middle of this verse; because the rest of the verse had not to do with His first advent, but His second. In like manner, whatever there is in the vision of Ezekiel that does not fit into the reign of Christ on the earth we may consider as not applying to it.
Messiah. Christ will be the high priest then as now. He will appoint priests and Levites to assist Him, Isa. 66.21. We are willing to trust Him to work this out in full harmony with His finished work. (4) It will not be a backward step when the church gives way to redeemed Israel. Rather it will be a glorious climax. Rom. 11:12; Isa. 11:10. (5) Christianity will not be superseded by Judaism, but rather the grace of God will triumph over and permeate Israel; and Israel will be made whatever it pleases God for her to be. We expect to be there and to rejoice in it. Isa. 65:17-19; 66:10-14. We rejoice even now as we live in anticipation of it.
III. THE APOSTLES AND THE FUTURE KINGDOM
The apostles, after attending upon Christ's ministry for three years, believed that the kingdom was to be restored to Israel as evidenced by their question, Acts 1:6. They had heard Him speak the words of Matt. 19:28, which promised them that they would rule over Israel, and the words of Matt. 23:39, which carry the inescapable implication that Israel would some day say: "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Perhaps He had enlarged on these matters in their presence, and had spoken of them at times other than those referred to above. Christ's words had confirmed the hope that Old Testament prophecy had kindled in their hearts. They believed the fact, but were confused as to the time. Consequently they asked Him: "Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Here was Christ's opportunity to set them right if they were wrong. But He did not do it! Why? If our opponents had been in His place, they certainly would not have passed up the opportunity. They are very active and zealous today in trying to rescue from "heresy" those of us who believe exactly what the apostles believed, i. e., that the kingdom in due time will be restored to Israel. Was Christ less zealous for the truth than they? Was He less interested in the apostles than they are in us? Why did He not tell those "erring" apostles, as surely our opponents would have done, that this Jewish fable that had originated in the apocalyptic writings of the inter-Biblical period was not taught by the prophets and that they were not to understand Him as teaching this in anything He had said; that the distinction between Jews and Gentiles had been obliterated forever; that all the prophecies of the Old Testament not literally fulfilled in that period, either had been forfeited or were to be spiritualized and applied to this age? We ask again, Why did Christ not disillusion them?
Christ's failure to correct this supposedly wrong notion becomes even stronger evidence that it was not wrong in the light of John 14:2- "In my Father's house are many mansions; IF IT WERE NOT SO, I WOULD HAVE TOLD YOU."
Then, when, instead of correcting them, He gave an answer that distinctly implies the truth of their belief, it furnishes certain proof that they were right. He said simply: "It is not for you to know the times or the season, which the Father hath put in his own power."
Our opponents make much of what they call the silence of Christ and the apostles as to the details of what we believe concerning the future kingdom. This silence is not so great as they would have us think. They deny everything that is said, and then shout that the New Testament is silent. They are like a disputant that forbids his opponent to speak and then uses his failure to speak as an argument against Him.
We have noted that the New Testament predicts a future kingdom. We have noted that it teaches unmistakably that Christ will ascend His throne when He comes, and that the apostles will occupy special positions of rule over Israel. We have shown how this connects up with prophecy. We have seen that all believers will reign with Christ when He ascends His throne. We have observed that "all Israel"* in distinction from the Gentiles will be saved, saying "Blessed is he that cometh in the
*Another argument of our opponents as to the meaning of "all Israel" (Rom. 11:26) is that it refers to the elect remnant among the Jews and not to the whole nation. But vss. 16 and 25 make this very untenable for all who put truth above a theory. The former verse argues that the elect remnant of Paul's day were the "first fruits," and that inasmuch as these first fruits were holy, "the lump (the nation in prospect) is also holy." Then, as we have pointed out previously, the latter verse informs us that the blindness of the nation is not only partial, but also temporary, existing only "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in."
name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:39), which event was manifestly in the mind of Paul when in speaking of the veil that is yet upon the heart of Israel he said: "Nevertheless when it (the nation) shall turn to the Lord, the veil shall he taken away" (2 Cor. 3:16). In harmony with this, Christ taught that Jerusalem, after its devastation by Titus, 70 A. D., would be "trodden down of the Gentiles not always, but only "until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). Then we have the much disputed passage of Rev. 20:1-7, concerning which we shall see more later. These references are enough to show the meaning of prophecy.
However it is true that the New Testament says much less than the Old Testament about the future of Israel as a nation. This is because its primary application is to the times of the Gentiles. This is similar to the fact that the Old Testament has comparatively little to say by way of good about the Gentiles.
On the other hand, let it be observed that the passages on which our opponents rely are comparatively few and inconclusive. They can find no reference to Christ's sitting on the throne of David now. They can point to no statement from Christ or any apostle to the effect that prophetic references to the regathering of Israel refer to the gathering of the elect out of all nations; that Old Testament references to Jerusalem and the blessings that should come upon it have been fulfilled in this age or that they refer to "new Jerusalem"; that believers are now reigning with Christ on earth or in Heaven. Thus the discussion narrows itself down to two questions. (1) Are the New Testament references relied on by us stronger and more conclusive than those relied on by our opponents? (2) Will Old Testament prophecy submit to the methods of elimination used by our opponents? Every student must decide these questions for himself.
V. THE FUTURE KINGDOM AND THE INTERPRETATION OF REV. 20:1-7
We are ready now to inquire into the proper interpretation of this much-disputed chapter. It is altogether proper to interpret it in the light of the rest of the Bible, particularly the New Testament. When so interpreted, are we to conclude that Satan is now bound or that he has been bound at any time during this age, as some of our opponents contend? Are there any other references that suggest or commend this conclusion? We certainly do not believe so. The victory of Christ over the Devil at the Cross, so far as it affected the world in general, was potenital, not actual. Matt. 12:29; Luke 11:22 have reference to individual cases and not to the general binding of Satan. The same is true of Christ's giving of authority over devils to the apostles. That affected his work only in the case of those with whom the apostles came in contact. It left him perfectly free with others. Nor do 1 John 5:18; John 10:28; Jas. 4:7 have any reference to the general binding of Satan. Throughout the New Testament he is seen, not chained and in the bottomless pit, but catching "away that which was sown in the heart (Matt. 13:19); sowing tares in the field (Matt. 13:39); sifting believers (Luke 22:31); holding the lost in his power (Acts 26:18) and blinding their eyes (2 Cor. 4:4); corrupting minds "from the simplicity that is in Christ" and transforming himself "into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:3); as "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience" (Eph. 2:2); hindering believers (1 Thess. 2:18); and walking about as a roaring lion "seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Such passages as in Rom. 16:20 and Rev. 12:12 (if Rev. 12 he interpreted as the birth of Christ) must be interpreted where the word "short" has been found already to allow the lapse of more than nineteen centuries.
Does it seem likely that the binding of Satan means no more than that he should not prevent the preaching of the gospel to all nations? Is not the language of Rev. 20:2, 3 too strong to be adapted to such a weak meaning? Does the fall of the pagan Roman empire satisfy the fact that Satan, in the vision, was cast "into the bottomless pit," where he was shut up by a seal? Does this sound like a mere limiting of his activity? or does it sound like complete restraint? Was paganism the only method of deception used by the Devil? Did not the so-called Holy Roman Empire become as great an enemy to true Christianity as paganism had ever been? Did it not imbibe much of paganism and bring it within the pale of Christianity, thus corrupting the truth? Was not this even worse deception than before? And has not this deception grown to great dimensions, involving people of all nations? In the light of Rev. 3:21, which shows that Christ is not now on His own throne, and Matt. 19:28 and 25:31, which give us the earliest time when He is said to sit on His throne, that is, at His coming, can we regard the saints as reigning with Him now either on earth or in Heaven? In the light of the use of "souls" in Acts 2:41; 27:37; 1 Pet. 3:20, can one insist that the words, "I saw the souls of them that were beheaded," etc., prove that those alluded to were to reign in the disembodied state? Is it not evident that the "beast" of Revelation is one and the same as Paul's "man of sin" (2 Thess. 2:4)? If so, then since the man of sin is to be destroyed "with the brightness of His (Christ's) coming," is it not manifest that Rev. 19:11-16 depicts the coming of Christ, inasmuch as the event here described results in the destruction of the beast (Rev. 19:20)? If this is true, then, since the resurrection of the righteous will occur in connection with Christ's coming (1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 4:16), is it not likely that the "first resurrection" referred to in Rev. 20 is the actual resurrection of the righteous, rather than a spiritual or metaphorical resurrection? Does it not appear strained and illogical to regard the "first resurrection" as symbolizing the revival of things for which martyrs had stood and consequently the corresponding "second resurrection" as symbolizing the revival and triumph of the things for which the wicked had stood, when there in vss. 12-14 an actual resurrection is depicted? In other words is it not poor exegesis to postulate a resurrection in vss. 7-10, where there is no mention of a coming forth from the dead, when the required "second resurrection!' is provided in vss. 12-14, in which we have an actual coming forth of the dead? Is it not straining the ordinary use of language to insist on such exactness as to require the words, "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished," to mean that the "second resurrection" had to come exactly at the expiration of the thousand years and could not occur at the end of the following "little season"? Does not vs. 6 indicate that "the first resurrection!' is a bodily resurrection by implying that all who do not participate in it will come under the power of the second death? Can the "first resurrection!" be considered representative of a revival of the piety and principles of the martyrs when vs. 4 does not say that only martyrs sat upon thrones? John saw the thrones occupied, and he saw the martyrs; but the verse certainly does not prove that only the martyrs were on the thrones.
As we answer these questions for ourselves we conclude that the passage under discussion refers to the same kingdom that we have been considering; that kingdom that will ensue when Christ comes and ascends His throne. In our mind the evidence for this view is conclusive.
VI. THE FUTURE KINGDOM AND CERTAIN GENERAL OBJECTIONS
As we have proceeded with our discussion we have tried to answer as many of our opponent's specific objections as we have been able to deal with in an orderly way. We shall now turn to some more general objections to the things set forth in this chapter.
1. We are told that the New Testament characterizes the days of this gospel era as the "last," and that there can be, therefore, no further period of time beyond the end of the present age. Passages cited in this connection are as follows: Heb. 1:1,2; Heb. 9:26; 1 Cor. 10:11; 1 John 2:18; 1 Pet. 1:20.
The reply here is simple. These passages, speaking of "the end of these days," "the end of the ages," "the ends of the ages," "the last time," and "these last times," must be understood in the light of the following passages: Matt. 12:32; Luke 18:30; Eph. 1:21; 2:7; Heb. 6:5, which speak of "the world to come," "the ages to come," and "the age to come." In the light of these latter passages, the former ones can mean no more than that we are now living in the last days, ages, and times of the present order of things, while the latter passages tell us of other ages yet to come. Those who deny this put themselves in direct and unmistakable opposition to the Word of God.
Nor is it ours to say arbitrarily what will be the divine order of things for the age that immediately follows this one. We must let the Word of God answer. This age will be terminated with judgment. See. Matt. 13:40; 25:31-46. (Our opponents will agree with us this far.) This will be followed by the saved on earth entering into the kingdom prepared for them. Matt. 25:34. It is in connection with this judgment and this kingdom that we have the first mention of Christ's sitting on His throne. Then we learn more about the nature of this kingdom by turning to Matt. 19:23, where we find that it will be ushered in by "the regeneration," and by the twelve apostles sitting on thrones judging the tribes of Israel. "The regeneration" unmistakably points back to the "new heavens and a new earth" of Isa. 65:17-25. It will be seen by reading these verses that they do not describe the final state of the righteous, but just such an order of things as one would expect under the promised blessings of God upon Israel and the binding of Satan. It is an order where death will yet prevail, where sin will enter, though it will not be present at first; where houses will be built, vineyards planted, and prayer offered.
We are living in the last days of gospel opportunity for those now living. None who die in unbelief or who are found in unbelief when Christ comes to judge the world will enter into His future kingdom, but will perish, Matt. 25: 41. Hence none now living will have an opportunity to be saved beyond this life or age.
The judgment of Matt. 25 is a judgment of nations in the sense of the individuals that make up these nations. None but saved individuals will enter the millennium. These are the sheep of this judgment. They are Gentile believers. On the other hand, we have shown that "all Israel," the nation that witnesses the return of the Lord (Isa. 4:3,4; Zech 12:10), will be converted as individuals. Hence only saved Jews will enter the millennium. But, if as we believe, these saved Gentiles and Jews will enter the millennium in their natural bodies, the race will continue to reproduce itself and the children that are born will need to be saved. Certainly the gospel will not have lost its saving power for them. Let us remember that the term "gospel age" for this present period is of our own coining. The New Testament has not given it this designation. The Bible designation for this age is "the times of the Gentiles" (Luke 24:21). We have no ground, therefore, for inferring that this is the only age in which the gospel will be preached. Our opponents make unwarranted assumptions here as elsewhere.
2. Our opponents find intolerable incongruity in the mingling of mortals and immortals in the millennial kingdom.
We do not know just how much mingling there win be between the two. But the reply here is again very simple, exceedingly simple, and quite brief. The saints who reign with Christ will have bodies like that of Christ (1 John 3:2; 1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21): the body in which He was raised from the grave, in which He ascended, and in which He will come again (Acts 1:11). While here on earth in that body Christ mingled with the mortal disciples, being seen of above five hundred of them at one time. 1 Cor. 15.6. Seemingly He found no incongruity in this. Neither would our opponents if they were not hard-pressed for arguments.
A. Ezek. 37 is given as teaching this. In this chapter the regathering and restoration of Israel is likened, not to a resurrection, but a restoration. Ezekiel saw sinews, flesh, and skin corning upon dried bones and these bones were made to live. Our opponents would see this if they would look for facts, instead of putting upon every passage they deal with the interpretation that suits them. The vision was given because the Israelites in captivity were saying: "Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost; we are cut off for our parts" (vs. 11). Therefore the "graves," mentioned in the next verse, out of which God promised to bring His people, are not holes in the ground, but the nations that swallowed them up. Lam. 2:16; Ezek. 36:3; Hos. 8:8.
The parable of the two sticks that follows that of the dry bones in the valley shows the meaning of the former. Ezekiel was to hold the two sticks joined into one before the eyes of the people, and say: "Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land." Vss. 20,21. Then the verses that follow show that this looked to Messianic times for its consummate fulfillment, a time when "David my servant shall be king over them," and when "they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob . . ." (vss. 24, 25). There is nothing here that hints even remotely at the resurrection of believers.
B. Another passage used by our opponents in this connection is Isa. 25:2-9. This passage makes allusion to the resurrection, but it cannot be taken that the prophecies concerning Israel's restoration were to be fulfilled through the resurrection, for "It shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (vs. 9). These are the words of restored Israel, and they are the words, not of people resurrected, but of people converted. Vs. 8 mentions the resurrection of believers as occurring along with Israel's restoration, but not as the means of it.
C. Dan. 12:1-3, 13 is also offered in defense of this position. But no such teaching is found there. Vs. I speaks of one fact, the deliverance of the Jews, the living nation, while vss. 2,3,13 speak of another, the resurrection of believers. Again the two are associated, but the latter is not made the means of the former.
D. In Hos. 13:14 the restoration of Israel is expressed as a resurrection, but it is just as easy to understand this as being a figurative representation of the restoration of a living nation as it is to understand passages that describe such a restoration as being a figurative representation of a resurrection. We believe the Bible demands the former. The fact that Paul, in 1 Cor. 15: 55, quotes from Hos. 13:14 proves nothing as to the application of this passage to Israel. Its language alludes to a resurrection, and can therefore be applied to a resurrection. But the application of the verse to Israel must be governed by the preponderance of scriptural testimony.
E. Acts 26:6-8 is used in an effort to prove that the resurrection of believers is the hope of Israel, but the passage says no such thing. The hope was, as Hackett points out, "'Of the promise'-i. e., of a Messiah- 'made unto our fathers.'" The resurrection mentioned is that of Christ, as shown by Acts 13:32, 33, and not that of believers, as our opponents would have us think; "because the resurrection, considered as involving the ascension and exaltation, was essentially the finishing act in the fulfillment of the promise relating to the Messiah" (Hackett).
F. In somewhat loose connection with the foregoing passages, our opponents also use Acts 3:24; 1 Pet. 1:10-12.
Acts 3:24 says that "all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." Yes, all the prophets have foretold of "these days," but the passage does not say, as our opponents would arbitrarily assume, that ALL THAT THE PROPHETS WROTE HAS ITS APPLICATION TO THESE DAYS. They spoke of the first advent of Christ and His earthly ministry, but they also spoke of HIS SECOND ADVENT AND THINGS THAT WILL FOLLOW. Vs. 21, for instance, speaks of "the times of restitution (or restoration) of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." This looks beyond the second advent and alludes to "a sate of primeval order, purity, and happiness, such as will exist for those who have part in the kingdom of Christ at His second coming" (H. B. Hackett, in An American Commentary on the New Testament). The word for "restoration" was "used by the disciples to Jesus in Acts 1:6" ("Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel") and by Josephus "of the return from captivity" (Robertson).
Nor does 1 Pet. 1:10-12 teach that all that the prophets wrote pertains to believers of the present age. Peter says of the prophets that it was revealed unto them "that not unto themselves, but unto you they did minister the things"- What things? The remaining words of the verse give the significant answer- the things "which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you..." This is far from saying that the prophets wrote nothing that pertains to a future age.
4. Our opponents also use Luke 17:20, 21; John 18:26, 37 and Luke 20:35, 36 against our idea of the millennium.
A. In Luke 17:20, 21 the Master told the Pharisees that "the kingdom of God cometh not with observation ... the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." The present tense here shows that Christ spoke of the present form of the kingdom. But we have shown that the kingdom is to have a future form; and our opponents, regardless of how much they differ with us as to the future form of the kingdom, must admit that it will come with observation. It will come, as we have shown, when Jesus comes again, and His coming is to be visible. His first act as a king on His own throne will be to judge the nations. This judgment will be visible. As a result of this judgment the sheep will enter into the kingdom, or form the kingdom, then to be established. All this will be visible.
B. In John 18:36 Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world." But He certainly did not mean that His kingdom is not in this world, for we have just noted a Scripture that says the kingdom is now in the midst of men. He meant that His kingdom was not of the material that worldly kingdoms are made of; that it was not permeated by the same spirit, not worldly in nature. This will be just as true of the future form of the kingdom as it is of this present form.
C. The statement of our Lord in Luke 20:36, 37, let it be noted, says not simply: "But they which shall . . . obtain that world, neither marry nor be given in marriage." Rather, it says: "But they which ... obtain that world, AND THE RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD," etc. The statement applies only to those who come forth in the first resurrection. The question in the preceding verses, as well as the verse under consideration, shows this to be true.
5. Our opponents have much to say about the book of Revelation being a "book of symbols."
It is thus that they would seek to frighten us away from the truth, and get us to accept their system of arbitrary interpretation. We realize that there is much that is figurative in the in the book, but we will never admit, as they do not, that all of it is figurative. Nor will we agree to follow them as they spiritualize at will in order to fit things into their preconceived theory.
We recognize that the rider of the white horse in Rev. 19 is a symbol, a symbol of Christ. And when we read in this chapter, "in righteousness he doth judge and make war," smiting the nations and ruling them with a rod of iron, taking the beast and false prophet and casting them into a like of fire, common honesty will not allow us to say that this all alludes to the fall of the pagan Roman empire, A. D. 476. We see here the glorious second advent of Christ, for other passages tell us that when He comes He will come to judge (Matt. 25:31) and make war (Zech. 14:3-5). We see in vss. 19-21 the same thing that is described in 16:14-16, as well as partially in 2 Thess. 2:8, and this to occur in connection with "that great day of God almighty," which is manifestly the day of judgment for this world. Moreover when we read of the beast and false prophet that "both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone," we believe it means the same thing that similar statements mean, i. e., that they were cast into Hell. This is confirmed by 20:10, which refers to their presence there at the time of the judgment of the great white throne. Thus again we find connection between Rev. 19 and Matt. 25:31-46.
Then when we come to chapter twenty we recognize some more symbols. We do not believe that Satan is to be bound with a physical chain or that he will be shut up in a physical pit. Neither a chain nor a pit could confine a spirit being. But we do recognize that this means that God by His power will temporarily suspend the work of the Devil. Our opponents not only want to spiritualize at will, but they want to rob some of their symbols of about all their force. We refuse to trifle with the Word of God by saying that this means merely that the Devil could not henceforth take believers out of God's hand, or merely could not prevent the preaching of the gospel to all nations because of the overthrow of pagan political power.
Furthermore when we read of occupied thrones and reigning with Christ we see here all believers reigning, because other passages tell us that they will. See Rev. 2:26; 3:21 in the light of 1 John 5:4. Moreover when we find this reigning consistently put in the future (Rev. 2:26; 3:21; Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2, 3), we are confirmed in placing this chapter where it rightfully belongs according to the events of the nineteenth chapter. Finally, observing the reign of the saints is to be on the earth (Rev. 5:9, 10), we conclude that this whole matter alludes to an earthly reign. This is confirmed by Zech. 14:9; Isa. 2:4.