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Confession statement 35

Published in 1646

The Text used: There has been some updating of Old English words but otherwise no changes have been made to the original texts.

CONFESSION OF FAITH of seven congregations or churches of Christ in London. which are commonly, but unjustly, called Anabaptists; published for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them. Printed in London, Anno 1646.

XXXV. AND all His servants of all estates (are to acknowledge Him to be their prophet, priest, and king;) and called thither to be enrolled among His household servants, to present their bodies and souls, and to bring their gifts God hath given them, to be under His heavenly conduct and government, to lead their lives in this walled sheepfold, and watered garden, to have communion here with His saints, that they may be assured that they are made meet to be partakers of their inheritance in the kingdom of God; and to supply each others wants, inward and outward; (and although each person hath a propriety in his own estate, yet they are to supply each others wants, according as their necessities shall require, that the name of Jesus Christ may not be blasphemed through the necessity of any in the Church) and also being come, they are here by Himself to be bestowed in their several order, due place, peculiar use, being fitly compact and knit together according to the effectual working of every part, to the edifying of itself in love.

Acts 2:41,47; Isa.4:3; 1 Cor.12:6,7, etc.; Ezek.20:37,40; Song of Sol.4:12: Eph.2:19: Rom.12:4,5,6; Col.1:12, 2:5,6,19; Acts 20:32, 5:4, 2:44,45, 4:34.35; Luke 14:26; 1 Tim.6:1; Eph.4:16.

The First London Baptist Confession 1644/46 

Confession statement 33

Published in 1646

The Text used: There has been some updating of Old English words but otherwise no changes have been made to the original texts.

CONFESSION OF FAITH of seven congregations or churches of Christ in London. which are commonly, but unjustly, called Anabaptists; published for the vindication of the truth and information of the ignorant; likewise for the taking off those aspersions which are frequently, both in pulpit and print, unjustly cast upon them. Printed in London, Anno 1646.

XXXIII. JESUS Christ hath here on earth a spiritual kingdom, which is His Church, whom He hath purchased and redeemed to Himself as a peculiar inheritance; which Church is a company of visible saints, called and separated from the world by the word and Spirit of God, to the visible profession of faith of the gospel, being baptized into that faith, and joined to the Lord, and each other, by mutual agreement in the practical enjoyment of the ordinances commanded by Christ their head and king.

Matt.11:11; 2 Thess.1:1; 1 Cor.1:2; Eph.1:1; Rom.1:7; Acts 19:8,9,26:18; 2 Cor.6:17; Rev.18:4; Acts 2:37,10:37; Rom.10:10; Matt.18:19.20; Acts 2:42, 9:26; 1 Pet.2:5

The First London Baptist Confession 1644/46 

Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 5

‘Hermeneutical methodologies’ used by Premillennialists and Amillennialists.

In our last article we examined the hermeneutical methodologies of premillennialists and showed how their approach to Biblical exegesis is on the same par as that of postmillennialists. In other words, both interpret God’s redemptive plan from an Old Testament perspective and they do not allow God’s greater revelation, of the New Testament, to determine what God meant in the Old.

Today I want to examine the hermeneutical methodologies of amillennialists as they approach the exegesis of scripture. In so doing I will first quote from Antony Hoekema:

 

“There is a basic difference in the method of biblical interpretation employed by premillennialists and amillennialists. Premillennialists, particularly those of dispensationalist persuasion, are committed to what is commonly called the “literal’ interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. John F. Walvoord, a prominent spokesman for the dispensational premillennial viewpoint, defines the hermeneutical method of this school of interpretation:

“The premillennial position is that the Bible should be interpreted in its ordinary grammatical and historical meaning in all areas of theology unless contextual or theological reasons make it clear that this was not intended by the writer.”(1)

In his discussion of this principle Walvoord admits that sometimes an Old Testament passage contains indications that certain parts of it are not to be interpreted literally but figuratively — for example, the “rod of his mouth” with which Christ is said to smite the earth in Isaiah 11:4.(2)

Amillennialists, on the other hand, believe that though many Old Testament prophecies are indeed to be interpreted literally, many others are to be interpreted in a non-literal way.(3) In the abstract, an amillennialist might agree with the definition of the premillennial hermeneutical method given by Walvoord. The difference between an amillennial and a premillennial interpreter comes out when each tries to indicate which prophecies must be interpreted literally and which prophecies are to be interpreted in a non-literal sense. On this question there would be wide divergence of opinion.

There is no space in this short chapter to go into these differences of interpretation in depth. It will be helpful, however, for us to take a brief look at two Old Testament passages which are commonly understood by premillennialists as picturing a future earthly millennial reign. When we do so we shall see that the premillennial interpretation of these two representative passages is by no means the only possible one.

Let us look first of all at Isaiah 11:6-9 as rendered by the New Scofield Bible:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together. And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the nursing child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”(4)

In the New Scofield Bible of 1967 the heading above Isaiah 11, which covers verses 1-10, reads, “Davidic kingdom to be restored by Christ: its character and extent.” A footnote to verse 1 reads, “This chapter is a prophetic picture of the glory of the future kingdom, which will be set up when David’s Son returns in glory.” It is obvious, therefore, that the New Scofield Bible interprets this passage as describing the future millennial age.

John F. Walvoord, a representative contemporary premillennialist, shares this interpretation of the chapter:

“Isaiah 11 paints the graphic picture of the reign of Christ on earth, a scene which cannot be confused with the present age, the intermediate state, or the eternal state if interpreted in any normal literal sense. As presented it describes the millennial earth. . . . The description [found in this chapter] . . . describes animals such as wolves, lambs, leopards, kids, calves, young lions, all of which are creatures of earth and not of heaven, and further pictures them in a time of tranquility such as only can apply to the millennial earth.”(5)

It can easily be understood that if a person believes in a future earthly millennium, he will see that millennium described in these verses. Such an interpretation is, however, by no means the only possible one. We know that the Bible predicts that at the end of time there will be a new earth (see, for example, Is. 65:17; 66:22; Rev. 2 1:1). Why may we not therefore understand the details found in these verses as descriptions of life on the new earth?(6) This is particularly likely in view of the sweeping panoramic vision conveyed by verse 9: “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Why should these words have to be thought of as applying only to a thousand-year period preceding the new earth? Do they not picture the final perfection of God’s creation?

The other Old Testament passage I should like to adduce in this connection is Isaiah 65:17-25, also quoted from the New Scofield Bible:

(17) For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

(18) But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

(19) 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.

(20) There shall be no more in it an infant of days, nor an old man that bath not filled his days; for the child shall die an hundred years old, but the sinner, being an hundred years old, shall be accursed.

(21) And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

(22) They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat; for like the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

(23) 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.

(24) And it shall come to pass that, before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

(25) The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.

In the New Scofield Bible the heading above verse 17 reads, “New heavens and new earth.” The heading above verses 18-25, however, reads, “Millennial conditions in the renewed earth with curse removed.” It would appear that the editors of this Bible, while compelled to admit that verse 17 describes the final new earth, restrict the meaning of verses 18-25 so as to make them refer only to the millennium which is to precede the final new earth. Walvoord, in similar fashion, understands Isaiah 65:17-19 as describing the eternal state(7) and verses 20-25 of this chapter as describing conditions during the millennium.(8)

Once again it may be observed that if one does not believe in a future earthly millennium, he will certainly not be compelled to accept it by the reading of these verses. If, however, one does believe in such a millennium, he may very well find it described here. But in order to do so he will have to overcome a rather serious exegetical obstacle.

One can find a description of the millennium in this passage only by deliberately overlooking what we find in verses 17-18. Verse 17 speaks unambiguously about the new heavens and the new earth (which the book of Revelation depicts as marking the final state). Verse 18 calls upon the reader to “rejoice forever” — not just for a thousand years — in the new heavens and new earth just referred to. Isaiah is not speaking here about a newness which will last no longer than a thousand years but about an everlasting newness! What follows in verse 19 is linked directly with the preceding: “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” (see Rev. 21:4). There is no indication whatever that at this point, or at either verse 18 or 20, Isaiah is suddenly shifting to a description of a millennial age preceding the creation of the new heavens and new earth!

In verse 25, in fact, we have a description of the animal world which reminds us of the picture of the final state found in Isaiah 11. At the end of this verse we hear an echo of what is found in 11:9, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD.”(9) Truly a beautiful description of the new earth! One will see a millennium here only if he has previously put on his millennial glasses!”(10)

 

Notice that Walvoord above admits that premillennialists sometimes do not always employ a strict literalism when interpreting scripture. For instance, Walvoord stated that the “rod of his mouth” is figurative and should not be taken literal. Premillennialists boast of a strict literalism, but when they approach scripture, especially the Book of Revelation, they tend to make only those portions of scripture, that agree with their system, literal and they spiritualize or make figurative the rest.

Anthony Hoekema states above, that there are texts in the Old Testament which must be interpreted literally and others which must be interpreted figuratively. In deciding how to interpret each text one must allow the context of the chapter to be the deciding factor of what hermeneutical method should be employed.

Also Amillennialists recognize genre within scripture. They do not interpret the Book of Revelation as they would the Book of Romans. Amillennialists recognize that one is apocalyptic while the other is didactic. Amillennialists also recognize the different types of speech within scripture. In other words they recognize that figurative language is not supposed to be taken in a ‘literalistic’ way, but in a literal way. In other words, the literal reading or exegesis of a figurative passage is to read it as figurative.

Finally, Amillennialists allow the New Testament to interpret the Old. For instance, when Hosea declared that God loved Israel and called him out of Egypt 11:1, Amillennialists see that Matthew, under divine inspiration, has the right to declare that the greater fulfillment was the calling Jesus out of Egypt after the death of Herod Matt 2:15.

Amillennialists also, unlike dispensationalists, recognize that the land promise that was given to Abraham consisted of more than just Palestine. This is because Paul, under divine inspiration, interprets the land promise as consisting of the entire world Romans 4:13 and the Hebrews writer goes so far as to say that it was particularly a city whose builder and Maker is God Hebrews 11:10-16.

So as I move on to show particularly what the New Testament teaches concerning the end of the world and the coming of the world to come, it will be quite difficult for a premillenarian to square the teachings of the New Testament with their absurd belief of a future thousand year kingdom. The only way they can possibly do it is by ignoring the New Testament and instead reading the Old Testament as the final and complete revelation of God.

Go to my first article here.

This series began because of a discussion over at the blog entitled ‘Scripture Thoughts.’

 

(1) John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom (Findlay, Ohio: Dunham, 1959), p. 128.

(2) Ibid., p. 130

(3) See Martin J. Wyngaarden, The Future of the Kingdom in Prophecy and Fulfillment (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1934) for an elaboration and demonstration of the amillennial method of interpreting prophecy. This work is particularly valuable in that it shows how the New Testament spiritualizes many Old Testament concepts: Zion, Jerusalem, the seed of Abraham, Israel, the temple, sacrifices and so on.

(4) This and the following passage (Is. 65:17-25) are quoted from the New Scofield Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967) which gives the King James Version with only a few minor revisions.

(5) Walvoord, p. 298.

(6) Walvoord’s comment that the animals mentioned here are creatures of earth and not of heaven does not rule out the possibility that these words may be a prophetic description of conditions on the new earth.

(7) Walvoord, p. 325.

(8) lbid., pp. 253, 318-19.

(9) Note that in 11:9 Isaiah adds the reason why “they shall not hurt nor destroy”: “for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” Surely this condition will be realized only on the new earth in the life to come (see Rev. 21:27; 22:14-15). The last-quoted words cannot be a description of the millennium since during the millennium, according to premillennial teaching, there will still be disobedient nations which must be ruled with a rod of iron.

(10) Amillennialism: Part II – The Interpretation of Old Testament Prophecy by Anthony Hoekema from the internet at this address  http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/eschatology/amillennialsm/amillennialism-part-ii-the-interpretation-of-old-testament-prophecy-by-anthony-hoekema/

Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 4

February 18, 2013 2 comments

‘Hermeneutical methodologies’ used by Premillennialists and Amillennialists.

One of the benefits of the Reformation is that the Reformers brought us back to one interpretation of every scripture. The method that was being used during the Middle Ages is a method known as the quadriga. This method sought to pull out of every text of scripture four distinct meanings, they were: literal, moral, allegorical, and analogical. This method led to excessive allegorization of the Bible. The Reformers brought us the sensus literalis method. This method was designed to seek the plain sense of Scripture or the literal interpretation of the text. This is linked closely with the grammatico-historical method. This method focuses on the historical setting in which Scripture was written and pays close attention to the grammatical structure of the biblical text.

Another important factor of the Reformation’s influence on scripture was the interpretive method known as ‘the analogy of faith’ or {Sacra Scriptura sui interpres}. Simply put, this statement just means that scripture ought to interpret scripture. Do premillenarians follow this important rule when interpreting scripture? We shall see.

In this post, on the differences between Premillennialist’s and Amillennialist’s interpretations of scripture, I would like to discuss the underlying Hermeneutical methods used by premillennialists when they approach the study of scripture.

The Amillennialists are accused, by the Premillennialists, of using an allegorical method of interpretation in their exegesis of scripture, particularly in the exegesis of prophecy. This is a straw man argument that has been developed by Premillennialists because of their lack of understanding on how to do hermeneutics. You see in reality they are the ones who approach scripture with a different hermeneutical methodology, than they do other literature. It is one thing to accuse Premillennialists of using a different hermeneutical method on the Bible, than they do other literature, it is another thing to prove it. I shall attempt to prove what I have just stated, namely that Premillennialists use one method of hermeneutics on the Bible and another on other literature.

The premillenarians claim that they approach scripture with a ‘literal’ interpretation. This is untrue. The premillenarian actually approaches the Bible with a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic. What is the difference?

The difference between a ‘literal’ hermeneutic and a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic is that the former recognizes the differences in genre in literature, while the later draws no such distinctions. For instance, a premillennarian would not read the news portions of the daily newspaper the same way they would the comic section. Nevertheless, in their approach to the Bible, they want to force on every portion of scripture the same method of hermeneutics, namely a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic.

The Bible is a book that is made up of many different genres. It contains narrative, parables, prophecies, poetry, apocalyptic, and didactical literature. The premillenarian does not distinguish between these types of literature when reading certain portions of scripture. I will grant that the premillenarian will read the poetical sections as poetry and the narrative sections as narrative; yet when they approach the apocalyptical sections of the Bible, they force on it a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic. In other words, the premillenarian reads the apocalyptic literature as narrative or didactical. They make no distinction between Romans and The Revelation. The same ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic is applied to both, so that they end up interpreting both books in the same manner. This is where they err.

For instance John Walvoord writing on Revelation chapter four states, “Most of the struggles of scholars attempting to interpret the Book of Revelation stem from a failure to understand that the Book of Revelation is a book of prophecy and that prophecy has a chronological order.”(1)

Not only does Walvoord bring all his presuppositions into the Book of Revelation by forcing on the book a pre-trib rapture because the word ‘church’ is missing after chapter four, that only Jews go through the tribulation, and that there will be a premillennial kingdom, etc…; but also he does violence to the interpretation of this book because of his ‘literalistic’ approach.

The book of Revelation is a letter, a prophecy, and an apocalyptic. Though the book contains prophecy it is to be first and foremost interpreted in the historical context of the churches to whom it was written; after which we must understand that it is apocalyptic literature and therefore does not move in a chronological sequence of human events until one arrives at the culmination of such said events.

Moving on we must understand that the Bible also uses many different figures of speech in its pages. It contains similes, irony, hyperbole, metonymy, personification, anthropomorphisms, anthropopathisms, sarcasm, figurative and symbolic. These different figures of speech are to be recognized and interpreted differently when we come across them in all literature, whether it be the Bible or the daily newspaper. Failure to make distinctions in different types of genres in scripture and failure to recognize and distinguish figures of speech has led to many faulty and perverse interpretations of scripture.

Furthermore premillennialism’s approach to Biblical exegesis is akin to that of postmillennialism’s approach in that they both interpret scripture backwards. They do not allow the greater light of God’s revelation to interpret the lesser light of God’s revelation. In other words, they are highly dependent upon their Old Testament in their devising of end time schemes, than they are the New Testament. This is not to say that the Old Testament is not authoritative or inspired, but premillennialists by pass the New Testament in order to rely heavily on the Old for their understanding of Christ’s kingdom and the culmination of all that God has promised.

Professor David J. Engelsma is clear in the quote below that premillennialists and postmillennialists approach Biblical exegesis in the same manner:

 

“Postmillennialism, therefore, is forced back upon the Old Testament. This bypassing of the New Testament in order to rely on the Old Testament is both erroneous and ominous. The reason is not that the Old is not inspired and authoritative, or that the Old is less inspired and authoritative than the New. But the reason is that the New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old Testament. As the fulfillment particularly of the eschatology of the Old Testament, the New Testament both clarifies and authoritatively explains the Old Testament prophecies of the last things.

A sound interpreter reads the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. He does not force his understanding of the Old Testament upon New Testament doctrine.The renowned Old Testament scholar O. T. Allis called attention to the error of ignoring the eschatology of the New Testament, while concentrating on that of the Old Testament, in his classic refutation of dispensational premillennialism (the “rapture theory”). He noted “the tendency to exalt the Old Testament at the expense of the New Testament, to insist that its (the Old Testament’s) predictions stand, we may say, in their own right, and are in no sense dependent upon the New Testament for amplification, illumination, or interpretation.” On the contrary, wrote Allis:

“The doctrine of the Christian Church, as generally accepted, has always been that the New Testament takes precedence over the Old, that Christ and His apostles are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament, that its types and shadows are to be interpreted in the light of the clearer gospel revelation. As Augustine expressed it so aptly: “In the Old Testament the New is concealed (latet); in the New Testament the Old is revealed (patet).” This does not mean that the New Testament conflicts with the Old Testament, but rather that it explains it and that its explanation is to be accepted as authoritative (Prophecy and the Church, Presbyterian and Reformed, 1964, pp. 48, 49).”

Bavinck made the same telling point against the chiliasts, or millennialists. Bavinck observed that this teaching of a future, earthly kingdom of God “loves to appeal” to the court of Old Testament prophecy. With specific reference to the millennial insistence on interpreting this Old Testament prophecy literally, disregarding the teaching of the New Testament, Bavinck stated:

“… what the Spirit of Christ who was in them (the Old Testament prophets – DJE) wished to declare and reveal by them … is decided by the New Testament, which is the completion, fulfillment, and therefore interpretation of the Old…. The New Testament views itself – and there can certainly be no doubt about this – as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament…. The New Testament is the truth, the essence, the core, and the actual content of the Old Testament (The Last Things, pp. 91-98).”(2)

What is ominous is that in basing its doctrine of the end on Old Testament prophecy, rather than on New Testament clarification and interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, postmillennialism, which claims to be Reformed, lines up with anti-Reformed dispensationalism.”

 

 

So in conclusion we see that premillennialism, in its failure to recognize genre and figures of speech in scripture, in its bypassing the New Testament interpretation of the Old, and in its failure to interpret scripture with scripture has led to a false hope of a kingdom that will only lasts a thousand years, instead of lasting for eternity.

In our next article we will examine the hermeneutical methodology of amillennialists in their approach to Biblical exegesis.

Go back to my first article here.

This series began because of an attempt to discuss these matters over at Scripture Thoughts Blog.

 

1. John F. Walvoord, Every Prophecy of the Bible (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor, 1990, 1999), p. 542

2. A Defense of (Reformed) Amillennialism (Part VIII) Prof. David J. Engelsma-Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 10, Number 4, January 20 to January 26, 2008

Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 3

February 4, 2013 10 comments

A few weeks ago I began a series on what scripture teaches concerning a millennial kingdom. This article first originated because of a discussion I had with the owner of the blog entitled “Scripture Thoughts.”  In an article, put out by this blog, there was an attempt to try and prove that the early church was premillennial by quoting from a modern day dispensationalist. Therefore my goal is not so much as to prove or refute what the early church taught, but rather to show what the word of God teaches concerning a millennial kingdom. The scriptures are the source from which all our theology ought to originate.

I was going to go into discussing ‘hermeneutical methodology’ of premillennialists and amillennialists in this article, but thought it necessary to show the differences between ‘Historic premillennialism’ and ‘Dispensationalism’s view of premillennialism.’ I am doing this because so many today want to point back to the early church and state that the early church was premillennial, so therefore their premillennialism is the correct interpretation of scripture. Most who argue like this hold to dispensational presuppositions. In other words they try to divide the people of God. They claim that there is a separate plan for Israel and the church inside of God’s written word and they try to claim that the early church fathers held to this view just because a few held to a Jewish interpretation of a millennial kingdom after this age.

So in this article I am going to give ten differences between ‘Historic premillennialism,’ of which a few in the early church held to and ‘Dispensational premillennialism,’ of which the majority of the western world holds today. Here are the ten differences:

1. Older premillennialism taught that the church was in the fore vision of the Old Testament prophecy; Dispensationalism teaches that the church is hardly, if at all, in the Old Testament prophets.

2. Older premillennialism taught that the great burden of the Old Testament prophecy was the coming of Christ to die [at the first advent] and the kingdom age [at the second advent]. Dispensationalism says that the great burden of Old Testament prophecy is the kingdom of the Jews.

3. Older premillennialism taught that the First Advent was the specific time for Christ to die for man’s sin; Dispensationalism teaches that the kingdom [earthly] should have been set up at the first advent for that was the predicted time of its coming.

4. Older premillennialism taught that the present age of grace was designed by God and predicted in the Old Testament; Dispensationalism holds that the present age was unforeseen in the Old Testament and thus is a “great parenthesis” introduced because the Jews rejected the kingdom.

5. Older premillennialism taught that one may divide time in any way desirable as long as one allows for a millennium after the Second Advent; Dispensationalism maintains that the only allowable way to divide time is in seven dispensations. The present age is the sixth such dispensation; the last one will be the millennial age after the second advent. It is from this division of time that dispensationalism gets its name.

6. Older premillennialism taught that the Second Advent was to be one event; Dispensationalism holds that the Second Advent will be in two sections–‘the Rapture and the Revelation.’ Between these two events they put the [to them] unfulfilled seventieth week [seven years] of Daniel 9:23-27, which they call the “Great Tribulation.”

7. Older premillennialism taught that certain signs must precede the Second Advent; Dispensationalism teaches that no sign precedes the “rapture stage” of the Second Advent, which may occur “at any moment.” However there are signs that precede the “revelation stage” of the Second Advent. The “Rapture” could occur “at any moment,” but the “Revelation” must take place after the seven years of the Great Tribulation. The first stage is undated and unannounced; the second stage is dated and announced.

8. Older premillennialism had two resurrections–the righteous before the Millennium; the unrighteous after the Millennium. Dispensationalism has introduced a third resurrection–“the tribulation-saints” at the “revelation-stage” of the Second Advent.

9. Older premillennialism usually held what is called the “historical symbolic” view of the book of Revelation. This view makes Revelation a picture in symbolic form of the main events in the present age. Dispensationalism holds generally to the “futurist” view of the book of Revelation, which view makes almost the whole book [especially chapters 4 to 19] a literal description of events to take place during “the Great Tribulation” or Daniel’s seventieth week, which dispensationalism considers as yet unfulfilled.

10. The general attitude of older premillennialism was on the whole mild and reverent in its approach to Scripture. There have been some outstanding scholars who have been persuaded that the premillennial view is the correct view. In contrast, Dispensationalism has assumed a far more dogmatic attitude. It has introduced a number of novelties in prophetic interpretation that the church never heard of until about a century ago.(1)

I hope that Dispensationalists who read this list will clearly see that the early church fathers did not hold to their presuppositional biases, though a few were premillennial. If Dispensationalists were honest, after reading this information, then they would quite committing the fallacy of trying to claim the early church fathers as their own.

My next article will be on the ‘Hermeneutical methodologies’ used by Premillennialists and Amillennialists.

Visit Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 1

 

(1) This was taken from Dr. Wick Broomall’s unpublished syllabus entitled “The Bible and the Future.”As quoted in John Gerstner’s “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth.”—-(John H. Gerstner, “Wrongly dividing the word of truth: a critique of dispensationalism” (Brentwood, Tn., Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 18-20.)

Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 2

In my last posts I introduced the topic of the attempt of premillennialists to prove their premillennialism with quotes from Church Fathers and modern theologians, instead of scripture. I pointed everyone to a blog, of which I have been following, that quotes from men such as John Walvoord and Mal Couch in order to prove that the early church taught the premillennial view.

Today I would like to counter John Walvoord’s quote, on the other blog, with a quote of my own. This quote is from “Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth” (A Critique of Dispensationalism (1)) by John H. Gerstner, PH.D(2) (John Gerstner follows the church age up through the centuries in his book showing what theologians have said about the view of the early church fathers on the millennium. In this quote he is only dealing with the second century A.D.)

 

“Most dispensationalists are prone to claim the whole sub-apostolic age for premillennialism. For example, John Walvoord calmly states that “the most ancient view, that of the church of the first centuries, was what is known as premillennialism or chiliasm.”(3) Such an ambitious statement goes far beyond the evidence. While we grant that Justin Martyr, Hermas, Papias, and Irenaeus may have been premillenarians and that many regard the epistle of Barnabas as also premillennial, the following considerations need to be noted.

First, it can be shown with respect even to some of these that their theology was clearly not dispensational. For example, Justin and Irenaeus(4) regarded the church as the fulfillment of the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31. This fact precludes their Dispensationalism because Dispensationalism regards the church age as not predicted by the Old Testament prophets.

Second, Justin Martyr, though a premillennialist, did not regard premillennialism as a test of orthodoxy, but admitted that some right-minded Christians did not agree with his view on this subject.(5)

Third, it should also be pointed out that chiliasm was widely held among the heretics. Agreeing with the great German church historian (and Jewish convert to Christianity) August Neander, W. G. T. Shedd noted that the premillennialism in Christian churches was just a revival of a Jewish belief that flourished especially between A.D. 160 and A.D. 250. “Chiliasm never formed a part of the general creed of the church. It was diffused from one country (Phrygia), and from a single fountainhead.” (6) The arch-heretics Cerinthus, Marcion, and Montanus were premillennialists, as were apocalyptic books of Enoch, The Twelve Patriarchs, and the Sibylline Books.

Fourth as intimated by Neander, premillennialism was not the doctrine of the catholic creeds. Furthermore, the creeds appear to be distinctly anti-chiliastic. The Apostles’ and the Nicene Creeds leave no room for a millennium, and, speaking of Christ’s kingdom, the Council of Constantinople affirmed that “of whose kingdom there shall be no end.” The Anthanasian Creed states: “at whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works, and they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.” (7) Thus, the eschatology of these early creeds is better characterized as amillennial or postmillennial. (8)

Finally, the millennialism of the first centuries is itself rather ambiguously premillennial. One of the ablest recent premillennial writers, D. H. Kromminga, claims far less for ancient millennialism. He finds Barnabas to be, not only not a premillenarian, but “The Father of Amillennial understanding.”(9) Of the Apostolic Fathers, Kromminga claims only Papias as a millenarian, but does not find the evidence conclusive. (10) He grants that Justin and Irenaeus acknowledge the presence of millennial eschatologies in the church. (11) He notes that Justin laid the foundation for the Reformed doctrine of the covenants and that he was not a premillennialists.(12) Speaking generally, he says:

“So far as the available evidence goes, there is no ground for ascertaining that Millenarianism was prevalent in the church during the apostolic period, ending with the year 150 A.D. Not only was there very little of it, so far as the literature indicates but what little there was can be traced rather definitely to un-christian Jewish apocalyptic sources. (13)

Others take a similar view of premillennialism in the early church. W. Masselink, for example, finds no chiliasm in Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Anthanasius, or Theophilus. (14) Louis Berkhof writes, “It is not correct to say, as Premillenarians do, that it was generally accepted in the first three centuries. The truth of the matter is that the adherents of this doctrine were a rather limited number.” (15)

An important treatment of this period by a dispensationalist is found in the Dallas Seminary thesis by Allan P. Boyd. (16) This work indicts the statement by Charles Ryrie that “Premillennialism is the historic faith of the Church.”(17) Citing noted dispensationalists Dwight Pentecost, John Walvoord, and others, Boyd points out that the assumption of “continuative premillennialism” is general among dispensationalists. Focusing on Ryrie, Boyd shows that his “premillennialism” includes rapture thinking, the division of Israel and the church, Dispensationalism, literalism, and pretribulationism.

After careful surveying and citing the texts of the early church fathers, Boyd ends by saying, “It is the conclusion of this thesis that Dr. Ryrie’s statement is historically invalid within the chronological framework of this thesis.”(18) “These early churchmen were not literalistic; drew no essential distinction between Israel and the Church; did not have a dispensational view of history; though Papias and Justin had a thousand-year kingdom, that was the only similarity to Dispensationalism; did not hold to imminency and pretribulationism; and their eschatological chronology was not synonymous with Dispensationalism’s.”(19) In fact, the early eschatology was “inimical”to Dispensationalism and was “perhaps” a seminal amillennialism. (20)

What was Ryrie’s response? Boyd comments in the preface that, “on the basis of classroom and private discussion….Dr. Charles Ryrie, whose statements regarding the historicity of dispensational premillennialism in the Church Fathers are carefully scrutinized in this thesis, has changed his opinion on these matters. Unfortunately, he has not published these clarifications, and it is hoped that he will do so in the near future.” (21)

 

Several in the above quote stated that Papias might have been premillennial, but premillennialist have no idea of the allegorical interpretations that Papias held concerning a millennium. Those who claim that millennialist hold a literal interpretation while amillennialist allegorize have first and fore most never read a church father and secondly have never understood proper hermeneutical methods of interpretation. Here is a quote by Papias:

 

“The days will come in which vines having ten thousand branches will grow. In each branch, there will be ten thousand twigs, and in each shoot there will be ten thousand clusters. Each cluster will have ten thousand grapes, and every grape will give twenty-five metretes of wine, when pressed…..In like manner, a grain of wheat will produce ten thousand ears.”(22)

 

Notice all the wine that will come from one grape according to Papias. One would need a truck to haul that grape around.

The fact that people try to quote theologians or early church fathers as proof texts for what they believe shows that the word of God is not their authority on what God has stated. These quotes were only given to counter those at Scripture Thoughts. Also many do not realize that Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Ignatius, and many others are the immediate church fathers after the apostles. In their writings, especially Ignatius’ writings, one cannot find any future millennial kingdom spoken of. (23)

My next post will be on Hermeneutics and then we will move to scripture to see what it teaches concerning a millennial kingdom.  You can read part one of this article Here.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. I understand that Gerstner is writing mainly against Dispensationalism’s method of hermeneutics and not particularly writing against those who hold to Historic Premillennialism. Nevertheless if modern day millennialist want to quote dispensational theologians as proof that amillennialism is not true, then they need to take the whole system of these theologians into consideration. For instance, I was accused of diverting the discussion, on the other blog of which I commented, simply because I mentioned that I used to be dispensational, yet the author of the blog was quoting a dispensationalist. How ironic was that?
  2. John H. Gerstner, “Wrongly dividing the word of truth: a critique of dispensationalim” (Brentwood, Tn., Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 8-11
  3. John F. Walvoord, “Postribulationism Today, Part II: The Rapture and the Day of the Lord in 1 Thessalonians,” Bibliotheca Sacra 139 (1982):4.
  4. Justin Martyr, “Dialogue with Trypho,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952; reprint ed.) 1:260-267, Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint ed.), 1:511, 562
  5. Justin, “Dialogue,” p. 239.
  6. W. G. T. Shedd, A History of Doctrine, 2 vols. (Minneapolis, Minn.: Klock & Klock, 1978: reprint ed.), 2:642. See also Emil Schurer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus, 3 vols. In 5 (New York: Scribner, 1896), II/2:170-177.
  7. Philip Schaff, ed. The Creeds of Christendom, 6th ed., 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990; reprint ed.), 2:45, 59, 69-70.
  8. See James H. Snowden, The Coming of the Lord (New York: MacMillian, 1919), p. 20. From a survey of the early creeds, Snowden concludes that they are “postmillennial.” This, however, was because he entertained no alternative to premillennialism except postmillennialism.
  9. D. H. Kromminga, The Millennium in the Church (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1945), p.37
  10. Ibid., pp. 43, 48.
  11. Ibid., p. 43
  12. Ibid., p. 49. We will see later that Reformed covenants are quite different from dispensational covenants. See Harold O. J. Brown, “Covenant and Dispensation,” Trinity JournalNS 2 (1981):69-70.
  13. Ibid., p. 41.
  14. W. Masselink, Why a Thousand Years? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930), p. 27.
  15. Louis Berkhof, The History of Christian Doctrines (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 270.
  16. Allan P. Boyd, “A Dispensational Premillennial Analysis of the Eschatology of the Post-Apostolic Fathers (Until the Death of Justin Martyr)” (Th.M. Thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977).
  17. Charles Cardwell Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (New York: Loizeaux, 1953), p. 17.
  18. Boyd, “Analysis,” p. 89.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Ibid., p. 91.
  21. Ibid., preface. Larry Crutchfield has tried to offset this somewhat by his study of later church fathers in “Israel and the Church in the Ante-Nicene Fathers,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 144 (1987):254-276.
  22. Irenaeus Citing Papias, “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs,” (Peabody Mass. Hendrickson, 1998), p. 450.
  23. Clement of Rome was a disciple of Peter and later Bishop of Rome. He wrote 1 and 2 Clement. This is said to be around 95 A.D. No millennium is spoken of in his writings. Ignatius on his way to Rome to be martyred is said to have written seven epistles. Some fix this date around 107 A.D. No millennium is spoken of in his epistles. Polycarp wrote his epistle to the Philippians and many other epistles that we do not now possess. He was martyred around 155 A.D. No millennium is spoken of in his epistle.

Sola Scriptura and the Millennium Pt 1

January 21, 2013 4 comments

There seems to be a fascination among premillennialists to prove their view of the millennium from early Christianity, instead of the Bible. As if the deciding factor on whether or not a doctrine is correct rests on whether or not Justin Martyr and Irenaeus taught it. This to me seems almost a Romanist approach to Biblical exegesis. For instance, during the Reformation the Reformers were accused by Rome of teaching against the early Church Fathers. Calvin responded in his prefatory address to Francis King of the French by saying,

“It is a calumny to represent us as opposed to the Fathers, (I mean the ancient writers of a purer age,) as if the Fathers were supporters of their impiety. Were the contest to be decided by such authority (to speak in the most moderate terms,) the better part of the victory would be ours. While there is much that is admirable and wise in the writings of those Fathers, and while in some things it has fared with them as with ordinary men; these pious sons, forsooth, with the peculiar acuteness of intellect, and judgment, and soul, which belongs to them, adore only their slips and errors, while those things which are well said they either overlook, or disguise, or corrupt, so that it may be truly said their only care has been to gather dross among gold. Then, with dishonest glamour, they assail us as enemies and despisers of the Fathers. So far are we from despising them, that if this were the proper place, it would give us no trouble to support the greater part of the doctrines which we now hold by their suffrages.

Still, in studying their writings, we have endeavored to remember, (1 Corinthians 3:21-23; see also Augustin. Ep. 28,) that all things are ours, to serve, not Lord it over us, but that we are Christ’s only, and must obey him in all things without exception. He who does not draw this distinction will not have any fixed principles in religion: for those holy men were ignorant of many things, are often opposed to each other, and are sometimes at variance with themselves.”

Protestants realized that the traditional view of scripture was good in certain circumstances, nevertheless all our doctrines ought to rests in what the word of God teaches and not in the theological speculations of men who have come before us.

To give an example of such attempts by premillennialists to prove their assertions I shall point you to a blog that I have followed the pasts several months. This blog is called Scripture Thoughts and can be found right here.

What I found ironic about the blog is that it is a blog claiming the name Scripture Thoughts. By very definition of the title one would expect to find blog posts on thoughts concerning what scripture has stated, yet I have yet to see one blog posts come forth that has anything to do with scripture, but rather seems to be centered on quoting certain men in order too prove a premillennial view of scripture or to show that the Reformed faith is not true.

In the latest blog posts the author of this blog attempted to show that the early church fathers taught a premillennial view, yet the author of the blog never quotes any early church fathers, but rather quotes from John Walvoord and Mal Couch. I attempted to engage the author of this blog, but was instead accused of diverting the discussion. Also when I pulled out the Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs the author of the blog decided to shut down the comment section. Did the comment section get shut down because I was rude? No. If one reads my comments they will see that I was very gracious in all my responses. So the only reason one could conclude that the comment section was shut down is because the author of this blog did not want their quotes examined by the early church fathers.

The reason for my posts today is to first and foremost refute the assumption that quotes by men are the deciding factor on whether or not a doctrine is true. I am going to produce several articles that began with counter quotes and move towards showing what scripture states on the matter of the millennium. I pray that those reading will be blessed and edified and that whether one agrees with me or not they will still see that my approach to the question of a premillennial kingdom does not stem from what early church fathers have said or from what modern day premillennialists have said, but rather from what saith scripture.

Blessings.