WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM

WITH PROOF TEXTS

Q. 23. What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A. Christ, as our Redeemer, executed the offices of a prophet,of a priest,and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

executed the offices of a prophet

[62] Deuteronomy 18:18. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. Acts 2:33. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. Acts 3:22-23. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Hebrews 1:1-2. God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds

of a priest

[63] Hebrews 4:14-15. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 5:5-6. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

and of a king

[64] Isaiah 9:6-7. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. Luke 1:32-33. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. John 18:37. Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. 1 Corinthians 15:25. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.

 

Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?

A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us,and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

[71] Psalm 110:3. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. Matthew 28:18-20. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. John 17:2. As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. Colossians 1:13. Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.

in ruling and defending us,and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

[72] Psalm 2:6-9. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Psalm 110:1-2. The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Matthew 12:28. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. 1 Corinthians 15:24-26. Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. Colossians 2:15. And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Modern Dispensationalism and the Unity of Scripture

Volume 15, Number 15, April 7 to April 13, 2013

By

Oswald T. Allis

The rejection of the Old Testament, in part or in whole, was one of the numerous errors of the Gnostics This article was first published in The Evangelical Quarterly, January 1936.No doctrine concerning Scripture is of more practical importance to the Bible student than that which affirms its unity and harmony. Obviously, the trustworthiness, perspicuity and plenary inspiration of Scripture cannot be maintained aside from the belief that the Bible is a thoroughly self-consistent whole. The Westminster Confession of Faith in enumerating some of the “incomparable excellencies” of Scripture, mentions “the consent of all the parts”. And it is on the basis of a recognition of this essential feature that the Westminster divines laid down this “infallible rule” for the interpretation of Scripture? The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself; and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one) it may be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

1

This rule has been called the “analogy of Scripture” or the “analogy of faith”. Its meaning and importance has been well stated by Hodge:If the Scriptures be what they claim to be, the word of God, they are the work of one mind, and that mind divine. From this it follows that Scripture cannot contradict Scripture. God cannot teach in one place anything which is inconsistent with what He teaches in another. Hence Scripture must explain Scripture. If a passage admits of different interpretations, that only can be the true one which agrees with what the Bible teaches elsewhere on the same subject.

2

This great doctrine has been recognized and accepted, more or less clearly and consistently, by the Christian Church throughout its history. It has been a sign of heresy to reject or ignore any part or portion of Holy Writ. Thus the rejection of the Old Testament, in part or in whole, was one of the numerous errors of the Gnostics. Within comparatively recent times-a century or more-this doctrine has been challenged by two quite different groups, both claiming a place within the Christian Church.The so-called “Higher Criticism” has as one of its most characteristic and fundamental assumptions the denial of the unity and harmony of the Scriptures. In place of the doctrine of the “consent of all the parts”, it posits the doctrine of the dissent of all or many of the parts. It divides the Pentateuch, for example, into documents which differ from and even contradict one another; and it is not too much to say that these documents are constructed on the basis of, and with a view to establishing and illustrating, the alleged differences. Thus, the opening chapters of Genesis are alleged to evidence two different and contradictory traditions as to the antiquity of the covenant name LORD (JHWH). According to one tradition (the J account) the name was known and used from the earliest times; according to the other (the P account) it was first used in the days of Moses. So considered the Higher Criticism may be described as a quest of contradictions. Document is pitted against document; and it is simply astonishing the number of differences and contradictions which the enterprising critic can find in narratives which to the uninitiated show remarkable evidence of unity, continuity and harmony. The Higher Criticism is justly entitled to the name” divisive”, because it divides up Scripture into documents which have no existence except in the imagination of the critics. The Higher Criticism is also rightly called “destructive” because the divisive method which it employs is destructive of the ordered and organically progressive unity of the Bible and tends to disintegrate it into a meaningless mass of contradictions. One of the most dangerous of the contradictions introduced into Scripture by the critics is the recognition of two distinct types of religion in the Bible, the priestly and the prophetic, “prophetic” religion being the true one and finding its fruition in Christianity. This leads logically to the rejection of the vicarious atonement of Christ, of which the “priestly” religion of the Old Testament was directly typical. The Higher Criticism in short is the error of the Bible disbeliever.

II

The second” divisive” tendency within Christendom today is one which we hesitate to place in the same category with the one just mentioned because while it clearly belongs there it differs from the Higher Criticism in many important respects. If Higher Criticism is the error of the Bible-disbeliever, “Dispensationalism”, as it is called, is the error of many a Bible-believer. The Higher Criticism is naturalistic and is largely dominated by the theory of evolution. Dispensationalism is intensely super-naturalistic and even catastrophic in its view of human history and destiny. Higher Criticism reduces Scripture to a merely human book, inspired if at all only as Shakespeare is inspired. Dispensationalism holds a high view of Scripture and assigns to it a unique inspiration and authority as the very Word of God. Higher Criticism, at least in its consistent forms, finds in the Cross a stumbling block or foolishness.Dispensationalism, with an important exception to be noted later, exalts the Cross as the only hope of hell-deserving sinners. But, despite these and other differences that might be mentioned, Dispensationalism shares with Higher Criticism its fundamental error. It is divisive and holds a doctrine of Scripture which tends to be and is in many respects as destructive of that high view of Scripture which its advocates assert as it is disastrous to some of the doctrines most precious to the hearts of those that hold it. In a word, despite all their differences Higher Criticism and Dispensationalism are in this one respect strikingly similar. Higher Criticism divides Scripture up into Documents which differ from or contradict one another. Dispensationalism divides the Bible up into dispensations which differ from or even contradict one another; and so radical is this difference as viewed by the extremist that the Christian of today who accepts the Dispensational view finds his Bible (the part directly intended for him) shrunk to the compass of the Imprisonment Epistles.The divisive tendency inherent in Dispensationalism appears clearly in the definition of a “dispensation” as given, for example, in the widely used Scofield Bible: A dispensation is a period of time during which man is tested in respect to obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God. Seven such dispensations are distinguished inScripture.

3

Dispensationalists differ as to the number and extent of these dispensations. The seven recognized in the Scofield Bible are Innocency, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace, Kingdom. And since during each dispensation man is tested in respect of some special revelation of the will of God”, the tendency is to confine to or concentrate each of these specific features in its own proper period, and to set each period definitely and distinctly over against and even at odds with the others. This leads to strained exegesis and strong-arm methods of inclusion and exclusion which are dangerous in the extreme. For the purpose of the present discussion we shall confine ourselves to the last three of the dispensations: Law, Grace, Kingdom.One of the best known and at the same time most characteristic illustrations of the dispensational method and the dangers that beset it is the Lord’s Prayer. There are thousands of Christians today who do not use this prayer: there are many ministers who have eliminated it from the accustomed order of worship in their churches. Why is this? The reason is briefly stated in the comment which is found in the margin of the Scofield Bible on the Fifth Petition, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”:“This is legal ground. Cf. Eph. iv. 32, which is grace. Under law forgiveness is conditioned upon a like spirit in us; under grace we are forgiven for Christ’s sake, and exhorted to forgive because we have been forgiven.See Matt. xviii. 32 xxvi. 28, note.”

4

“This is legal ground” is the indictment brought by Dispensationalism against this petition. Law, of course, belongs to the Dispensation of Law. We are today in the Church age, the Dispensation of Grace. Therefore this petition and by inference the whole prayer is legal and not for the Christian. Dr. Haldeman puts it bluntly when he says “…it does not belong to the Church, it is not for the Christian at all”. He calls it “a prayer that has no more place in the Christian church than the thunders of Sinai, or the offerings of Leviticus.”

5

It should hardly be necessary to call attention to the radical way in which Dispensationalism thus cuts itself off from historical Protestantism. Schaff in a brief comparison of “the typical Catechisms of Protestantism,”—Luther’s (1529), the Heidelberg (1563), the Anglican (1549), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) —says of them all: “They are essentially agreed in the fundamental doctrines of catholic and evangelical religion. They teach the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer; that is, all that is necessary for a man to believe and to do in order to be saved. They thus exhibit the harmony of the chief branches of orthodox Protestant Christendom.”

6

Three elements common to all —the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer! (7). Yet many Dispensationalists refuse to recite the Lord’s Prayer, mainly because the Fifth Petition is legal ground; and of course the inclusion of the Ten Commandments in these catechisms makes them doubly offensive to the thoroughgoing Dispensationalist. For what could be more legal than the Decalogue?

III

Having noted how radical is the departure of Dispensationalism from traditional Protestant usage as to the Lord’s Prayer, let us examine the reasons given in the Scofield Bible in support of it. After describing the words of the “Fifth Petition” as “legal ground”, the comment goes on to say, “Cf. Eph. iv. 32, which is grace.” This verse which reads as follows, “And be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted,forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”, is interpreted to mean, “Under law forgiveness is conditioned upon a like spirit in us; under grace we are forgiven for Christ’s sake and exhorted to forgive because we have been forgiven”. We are then referred to “Matt. xviii. 32 and xxvi. 28, note.” Turning first to the latter passage where there is a marginal note which deals with the subject of “Forgiveness” we read, “Human forgiveness rests upon and results from the divine forgiveness. In many passages this is assumed rather than stated, but the principle is declared in Eph. iv. 32; Matt. xviii. 32, 33”. We have turned to this note first, because it indicates with perfect clearness that Matt. xviii. 32, 33, like Eph. iv. 32, states the principle of forgiveness under grace. This can be the only meaning of the placing of Eph. iv. 32 and Matt. xviii. 32, 33, together in the statement: “…the principle is declared in Eph. iv. 32; Matt. xviii. 32, 33”. Both passages referred to must illustrate the same thing, the principle of forgiveness under ‘grace’. Let us now turn to Matt. xviii. 32, 33. These verses are a part of the conclusion of the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, a passage which sets forth the obligation of forgiveness with terrible impressiveness? 32. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt,because thou desiredst me 33. Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”This according to the Scofield Bible is “grace” and is similar to Eph. iv. 32. But let us read on to the end of the chapter:34. And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”This separation between the Kingdom and the Church which is as unscriptural as it is dangerous leads to one of the most serious errors of Dispensationalism, the tendency to minimize the importance of the present Gospel age in the interest of the Kingdom age that is to come. This is the age of individual conversions, the snatching of a brand here and there from the burning. That is to bean age of mass conversions, nations born in a day. Yet this age as has been pointed out is, according to Dispensationalism, pre-eminently, we may even say exclusively, the age of the preaching of the Cross. We have said above that the Dispensationalist with an exception to be noted later, exalts the Cross as the only hope of hell-deserving sinners. Here we see clearly what the exception is. It is a very important exception. It is for the dispensation of grace, for the Church age and for this age only that he exalts the Cross. One of the most amazing statements to be found in the Scofield Bible concerns the meaning of the phrase “at hand” as used by Jesus in Matt. iv. 17: ‘At hand’ is never a positive affirmation that the person or thing said to be ‘at hand’ will immediately appear, but only that no known or predicted event must intervene. When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing, in the order of revelation as it then stood, should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom. In the knowledge of God, not yet disclosed, lay the rejection of the kingdom (and King), the long period of the mystery-form of the kingdom, the world-wide preaching of the cross, and the out-calling of the Church. But this wasas yet locked up in the secret counsels of God (Matt. xiii. 11, 17;Eph.iii.310).

(p.998 note).How such a statement can be reconciled as to the Old Testament with the 22nd and 110th Psalms and the 53rd of Isaiah, or as to the New Testament with the words with which the Baptist greeted our Lord, “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world”, or with the words of the risen Lord to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” or with the whole grand argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews, is a mystery. They are simply irreconcilable. But what we are here concerned to point out is the terrible way in which this treatment of the Cross disparages it and minimizes its importance in the history of redemption. The “Gospel of the grace of God” is, according to the Scofield Bible, the Gospel for the Church age; and the Church age is a parenthesis of indeterminate length between the sixty- ninth and seventieth weeks of Daniel ix. It is an interlude in the history of God’s people Israel. It is a time when the great prophetic clock is silent. It does not figure in prophetic history.It is “time out” in sacred chronology. Yet this parenthesis period is the Church age, the age of the Cross, of the preaching of the gospel of the grace of God. How could a “Bible Christian” minimize more seriously the value and centrality of the Cross in Biblical Revelation?

14

This will sound like a gross misrepresentation to many Dispensationalists. But we ask them simply to ponder the words: “When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing in the order of revelation as it then stood, should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom.” We ask them to read again the definition of the “Gospel of the kingdom” and then to face this question seriously and squarely, Where does the Cross come in? It is hard to see how any thoroughgoing dispensationalist can sing the lines of the familiar hymn, “In the Cross of Christ I glory, Towering o’er the wrecks of time; ‘All the light of sacred story Gathers round its head sublime’.” For, according to the logic of his position, the Cross belongs to the Church age, not to sacred story as a whole. And it is a parenthesis; we are tempted to say, merely a parenthesis, between the Kingdom age that is past and the Kingdom age that is yet to come. One of the most characteristic features of Dispensationalist is its pessimistic view of the present or Church age. The Bible teaches that this is the age or dispensation of the Spirit. Jesus said to his disciples before his Death, “It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you.” The Bible also teaches that this is the age of the invisible reign of the Sovereign Lord who said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth.” Yet the Dispensationalist regards this age as demonstrably bankrupt and is looking to the Kingdom age to accomplish by a display of kingly power and through the binding of Satan what the preaching of the Cross has been unable to accomplish in nineteen Christian centuries. What is this if not to minimize the Cross? Yet it is the clear teaching of Scripture and the experience of every true Christian that it is the preaching of the Cross which is the power of God unto salvation, that it is by his Cross that the divine Saviour, has drawn, is drawing, and will draw all men unto Himself.

VII

In what has been said above the writer has been speaking of consistent Dispensationalism and its implications, and has appealed especially to the express statements of the Scofield Bible. Fortunately the Dispensationalists are not thoroughly consistent. Doubtless many of the Dispensationalists who read this article, if they do read it, will say that they do not draw these conclusions. The reason the Scofield Bible is such an extremely difficult book to understand is because the attempt to avoid the logical implications of a consistent dispensationalism makes it at many points a jumble of inconsistencies and contradictions. But if we are to have the distinct dispensations of law, grace and the kingdom, and if the dispensation of grace, or the Church age, is to be regarded as merely an interlude in God’s dealings with Israel, a parenthesis in the history of redemption, the inferences and conclusions which we have stated are logical and inevitable.The fundamental error of Dispensationalism is, as was stated at the outset, that its attitude toward Scripture is divisive, and consequently destructive of its essential unity and harmony. What is needed to day is a return to and a hearty recognition of the fundamental importance of that great doctrine regarding Scripture of the “consent of all the parts”. The slogan of Dispensationalism, “rightly dividing the word of truth”, is itself a Misinterpretation. This exhortation does not mean to divide up Scripture into dispensations and set each one at variance with the others, but so to interpret it that by a study of each and every part, the glorious unity and harmony of the whole shall be exhibited and the correctness of the exposition of the one part be established by its perfect agreement with every other part of Scripture as the God-inspired Word.

 

Notes

1.chap. I, 9.

2.Systematic Theology, Vol. I, 187

3.p. 5, note 4

4.p. 1002, note 1

5.How to Study the Bible, pp. 135, 140.

6.History of the Christian Church, Vol. VI, p. 555.

7.In the Westminster Shorter catechism there are 107 questions and answers of which about forty deal with the Ten commandments and nine with the Lord’s Prayer.

8.The word “freely” is especially noteworthy.This is not unwarranted exegesis. It is simply the application of the principle that Scripture, which so clearly teaches that salvation is of grace, must interpret this passage in harmony, not in conflict with itself.

9.According to the Scofield Bible Matt.xviii. belongs to the period after “the kingdom of heaven …has been morally rejected” and “the new message “ of “rest and service” or “discipleship has been substituted (cf. Scofield Bible, p. 1011). Since according to the Scofield Bible the “final rejection” did not take place till Matt. xxi. (Bullinger puts it at Acts xxviii.), the attempt might be made to explain the alleged contradiction between “law” and “grace” in Matt. xviii. 32-35 as due to the period being “transitional”. But there is no excuse for ignoring verse 35, however it may be explained.

10.In justice to Dr. Scofield it should be stated here that he not only recognizes but stresses the fact that the Old Testament ritual of sacrifice plainly sets forth in type Christ in his atoning work as Saviour. But the form of statement here must be admitted to be both unfortunate and dangerous.

11.The antithesis between these different “forms” of the Gospel appears especially clearly in a statement in the definition of the “ everlasting Gospel” which is mentioned third in the list (p. 1343). There we are told definitely, “It is neither the Gospel of the kingdom, nor of grace.”

12.In the comment on Zech. vi. 51, there is definite reference to the priesthood of Christ. But this note is itself an anomaly because according to the definite teaching of the Scofield Bible, the “rejection of the king”, which led directly to the Cross , “was as yet locked up in the secret counsels of God” (p.998). How then could it be revealed in Zech. vi. 11f?

13.p. 999, note 2. It is not expressly stated here that perfect obedience will constitute “righteousness” in the Kingdom age. But the inference is a natural one. It is instructive to note in this connection that the “exposition of the Davidic Covenant by the prophets” (p.977) makes no mention of “atonement”. Yet we are told that this Covenant “has not been abrogated but is yet to be fulfilled.” Furthermore we are told elsewhere (p.1226) that this promise “enters the New Testament absolutely unchanged” and the sections under this head which describe the future kingdom say nothing of salvation but speak in terms of royal rule and authority. Chafer (‘The Kingdom is, History and Prophecy’, p.49) tells us: “It should be borne in mind that the legal kingdom requirements as stated in the Sermon on the Mount are meant to prepare the way for, and condition life in, the earthly Davidic kingdom when it shall be set up upon the earth…”

14.The “parenthesis” view of the Church which is taught in the Scofield Bible sheds important light upon the distinction drawn there between the Gospel of the grace of God and the Gospel of the

The Binding of Satan

by

Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible that speaks of “the millennium”—the thousand-year reign of the triumphant Christ on earth. Nowhere else does Holy Scripture mention this word, so it is necessary to look at related teachings elsewhere in Scripture to understand what it means in Revelation. A sound principle of biblical interpretation (used from ancient times by Augustine, Tychonius, and other early Christian writers) is that one interprets the few mentions of a word or concept in light of the many, and the symbolic in light of the plain. It would be contrary to a clear understanding of the Scriptures to make the many fit into the one, or the plain into the symbolic. Therefore, we should understand what Revelation 20, a highly symbolic book, says about the millennium in light of the very large number of other biblical passages that tell us more plainly (and less symbolically) what occurs between Christ’s resurrection and ascension to heaven, and His final return to earth to complete His victorious work. With that in mind, let us seek biblical help in order to make sense of the very first thing that is said to occur in this thousand-year period between Christ’s two comings: the binding of Satan.

Revelation 20:1–3 says that a mighty angel from God binds the Devil for a thousand years. Specifically, verse 3 relates that he is bound from deceiving the nations during this period. Something happens to Satan’s ability to keep the nations of earth blinded from seeing who God is, and what His gospel means for them. As a result of Christ’s finished work in dying on the cross, in rising from the dead, in ascending to the Father, and in being crowned on the throne of glory, Satan lost his power to deceive the untold millions of pagans, whom he formerly kept blinded to God’s saving truth.

The ancient story of Job may give us some important insight into this massive reduction of Satan’s power over the heathen nations. Job 1:6–12 portrays Satan as possessing the ability to come into God’s immediate presence along with other angels, or “sons of God” (v.6). He used this place of power to cause great harm to Job. But according to what Christ says in the Gospels, Satan lost that privileged access to the heavenly courts as a result of the incarnation and work of Christ. In Luke 10:18–19, the seventy disciples return with great joy from their successful mission in preaching the gospel, healing the sick, and casting out demons. Christ then explains how they were able to accomplish these wonders: “He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’” (v. 18). Jesus explains Satan’s fall in terms of Christian ministry: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (v. 19).

It is significant that the first beings to recognize the incarnate Christ, according to the gospel of Mark, were demons. Mark 1:24 and Luke 4:34 are among the passages that show the demons crying out in terror that the Holy One of God has come to torment them. Jesus explained that when He cast out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28–29), it meant that the kingdom of God had come. In His work, He was binding the strong man (that is, the devil), who formerly had been keeping people in the dark and painful prison of unbelief, sin, and certain judgment.

After the Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection, and immediately before His ascension back to the Father, He commissioned the church to “go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). They would be able to do this because of Christ’s victory over Satan, who had long blinded the nations, for Jesus said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ (v. 18). Satan’s illegitimate power over the nations has been wrested from him, and placed into the hands of the legitimate Lord and Savior of the world. Now the Christian church can do its work; it can engage in successful mission all over the world, bringing the good news of freedom from captivity to those who had long been in chains because of sin and unbelief.

Colossians 2:14–15 makes it clear what happened to the powers of evil through Christ’s ministry, especially what He accomplished on the cross: “[He] cancel[ed] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” This indicates that wicked powers were defeated in principle at the cross of Christ. When Jesus purged all of our sins on Calvary, something happened to Satan. The evil one lost his authority to keep people back from God. He was bound by what Jesus did.

The missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul into the pagan territories of Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome were successful in turning the once-darkened nations to the saving light of God in Christ on the basis of the binding of Satan. Paul says in Acts 28:28, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.” That has been the engine of all Christian missions and evangelism from that day to this one.

How long does the millennium last? There can be no doubt that it began with the completed work of Christ on earth. Revelation 20 follows immediately upon Revelation 19, which celebrates the triumph of the One who is “King of kings and Lord of lords” (v. 16), whose robe was dipped in blood (v. 13), and who now rules the nations with a rod of iron (v. 15). But when does it end? Revelation 20 presents it as continuing until the end of the age, when after a brief uprising by Satan, the final judgment takes place (20:7–11). That means that the evil one is bound from deceiving the nations until just before the conclusion of salvation history.

Why, then, does Revelation use the expression a thousand years? In terms of biblical numbers, ten represents fullness, and a thousand is ten times ten times ten, hence fullness times fullness times fullness. It seems to equal a vast number of years without being a precise chronology of human history. Nowhere else does Scripture limit the binding of Satan and the success of the church’s mission to a specific period of time before the end of the age. Moreover, there are other places in Scripture where the word thousand is used without being a literal number. In Psalm 50 this same number is employed in a different context, where it says that God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” (v. 10). This could not mean that the only thing God owns in His creation is one thousand hills, for “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” (24:1). It is an expression for fullness. It is the same in Psalm 68:17, where the chariots of God are said to be “twice ten thousand.” It is highly unlikely that God has only twenty thousand active angels at his behest, for Christ on the cross could have called down twelve legions of angels (Matt. 26:53), which is far more than twenty thousand. The message in Psalms 50 and 68 is one of fullness, and it is the same in Revelation 20. One day, the fullness of the elect will be brought into the church, and then the end will come. It is not a matter of literally one thousand years, but of God’s secret timing as to the gathering of His people into union with Christ, however long that may take from our human perspective.

Although the evil one still has limited power in a fallen world, it is far less than what he had when he was able to bind and blind all nations outside Israel. And believers can still overcome even Satan’s limited power, for James 4:7 commands us, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” Revelation 12:11 testifies of the embattled saints that “they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Hence, on the foundational truth of Satan’s having been bound from blinding the nations, the church may daily pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10), and find comfort in God’s assurance: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps. 2:8).

Douglas Kelly

Dr. Douglas F. Kelly is Richard Jordan Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. and author of Systematic Theology: Grounded in Scripture and Understood in Light of the Church.

Index

Christian Zionism and Messianic Judaism

Chapter 8 of
The Sociology of the Church
Essays in Reconstruction
James B. Jordan, Th. M.
Geneva Ministries
Tyler, Texas

Copyright 1986
James B. Jordan
ISBN 0-939404-12-5
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 86-080571

Printed in the United States of America
Typesetting by Thoburn Press, Tyler, Texas

Published by
Geneva Ministries
P.O. Box 131300
Tyler, Texas 75713

http://www.biblicalhorizons.com


8. Christian Zionism and Messianic Judaism … 175
Zionism, 175
Not all Jews are Zionists
False and spurious criticisms of Zionism
How many Jews were killed by Nazism?
Are modern Jews really Jews at all?
Did Zionists have a right to invade Palestine?
Orthodox Dispensationalism versus Christian Zionism, 178
Sound dispensational theory must hold that modern Israel is not embraced by prophecy
Pop-dispyism is not true to dispensational theory
Jerry Falwell and Christian Zionism, 180
Falwell’s pro-Zionist statements contradict Scripture and history
Messianic Judaism, 184
Not simply a cultural movement, but an heretical one
The historic church preserves the ancient Israelite culture

CHAPTER 8
CHRISTIAN ZIONISM AND MESSIANIC JUDAISM

One of the most grotesque aspects of the sociology of modern American protestantism is the phenomenon of Christian Zionism. While related to the theology of dispensationalism, Christian Zionism is actually something altogether different theologically. The purpose of this chapter is to explore this movement, and in particular to point out its grievously heretical theoretical basis. To facilitate discussion, we shall interact with the expressed beliefs of a Christian Zionist, Jerry Falwell. We close with a brief note on Messianic Judaism.

Zionism
Zionism is a political movement built on the belief that the Jewish people deserve by right to possess the land of Palestine as their own. During the last part of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries, Zionism gained support throughout the Christian West. This was due to two factors: the influence that Jewish wealth could purchase among politicians, and the emotional sup-port that the history of Jewish tribulation could elicit from a Christianized public conscience.1

With this support, Zionist guerillas succeeded in throwing Palestine into havoc during the late 1940s, and eventually took over that land, The result was the disenfranchisement of the people who had historically dwelt there. The Moslem Palestinians were formally disenfranchised, and the Palestinian Jews were effectively disenfranchised as a result of being swamped by larger numbers of European Jews who immigrated to the new State of Israel.

It is important to realize that the most conservative Jews were anti-Zionists, believing that Palestine was not to become a Jewish land until made so by the coming of the Messiah. (This viewpoint was dramatized in the recent and rewarding film, The Chosen. ) Much of the most severe criticism of the political Zionist movement has come from anti-Zionist Jews, the most noted being Alfred M. Lilienthal.2

Spurious criticisms of Zionism abound on the right. I have no wish to be associated with these, and so at the outset I want to critique them before dealing with the heresy of Christian Zionism. First of all, we hear from some rightist sources that it is a myth that 6,000,000 Jews were slaughtered by the National Socialists. It is argued that there were not that many Jews in Europe, that it would be impossible logistically to do away with that many people given the time and facilities that the Nazis had, and so forth. This may be true; I have absolutely no way of knowing. The argument, however, seems to be that virtually no Jews were slaughtered by Nazis, and this is nonsense. Even if the number is 600,000 rather than six million, the event is still a moral horror of astonishing magnitude. Even if only one man were killed simply because he was a Jew, this would be a moral horror. And there can be no doubt but that many, many Jews were slaughtered.

Of course, a blasphemous theology has been erected upon this in some Jewish circles, which is the notion that the Nazi persecutions fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 53, and that the Jews suffered for the sins of the world. As Christians we can only abominate such a construction, and we must call it what it is: a Satanic lie. Still, it is not necessary to deny the event itself in order to argue against an evil theological construction put upon the event.

Perhaps more common is the assertion that most modern Jews are not Jews at all: They are Khazars.3 The Khazari race seems to lie behind the Ashkenazik Jews of Eastern Europe. This kind of assertion can, of course, be debated. The real problem in the discussion is the notion that Jewishness is a blood or racial phenomenon. It is not.

Biblically speaking, a Jew is someone who is covenanted into the people of the Jews by circumcision, for better or for worse. When Abraham was commanded to circumcise, he was told to circumcise his entire household, including his 318 fighting men and his other domestic servants (Gen. 14:14; 17:10-14). Competent scholars imagine that Sheik Abraham’s household probably included at the very least 3000 persons. These servants multiplied as the years went by, and Jacob inherited them all (Gen. 27:37). Although only 70 from the loins of Jacob went down into Egypt, so many servants went along that they had to be given the whole land of Goshen in which to live.

All these people were Jews, but only a small fraction actually had any of Abraham’s blood in them. Later on we see many other people joining the Jews; indeed, the lists of David’s men include many foreigners, of whom Uriah the Hittite is but the best known. What this demonstrates is that covenant, not race, has always been the defining mark of a Jew (as it also is of a Christian). Genealogical records were kept for the immediate family, of course, since the Messiah had to be of the actual blood of Abraham, and later of David; but this could not have applied to more than a fraction of the total number of people.

Thus, the Jews are those who claim to be Jews, who are covenanted with the Jews. The Khazari converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages, and they are Jews, British-Israelite rightist nonsense to the contrary.4 (Of course, modern Zionists do not understand this religious principle any more than do their British-Israelite critics. Both conceive of everything in terms of blood and race.)

So then, it is spurious to criticize Zionism on the grounds that “Jews really didn’t suffer during World War II,” or “Who knows who the real Jews are?” It is pretty obvious who the Jews are, and they are, as always, a force to be reckoned with.

The third line of criticism against Zionism concerns the rightness or wrongness of its invasion and conquest of Palestine. We can listen to arguments to the effect that the Jews stole the land from its inhabitants, that they have persecuted the Palestinians, that they committed horrors during their guerilla campaign, and the like. Then we can listen to arguments that say that the Jews in Palestine were mistreated under Moslem rule, that the Palestinians are better off today under enlightened Jewish government than they formerly were, that the Jews have exercised dominion over the land and the Moslems did not, thereby forfeiting their right to it, and the like.

Actually, none of this is any of our direct concern as Christians. As Christians we see both Jews and Moslems as groups that have rejected Christ as Messiah, and who have opposed the true faith. If they want to convert, we rejoice. If they want to kill each other off, then that is too bad, but let them have at it — there’s nothing we can do about it.

But then, that brings us to the issue: Are Bible-believing Christians supposed to support a Jewish State, for theological reasons? Such is the assertion of Jerry Falwell, and of the heresy of Christian Zionism. Let us turn to this doctrine.

Orthodox Dispensationalism versus Christian Zionism
During the nineteenth century, a peculiar doctrinal notion known as “dispensationalism” arose. Its leading lights were Darby and Scofield; its Bible was the Scofield Reference Bible; and in re-cent years its primary headquarters has been Dallas Theological Seminary. Technically, dispensationalism teaches that God has two peoples in the history of the world: Israel and the “Church.” We presently live in the “Church Age ,” and God’s people today are Christians, the Church. At the present time, the Jews are apostate enemies of God and of Christ, and are under God’s judgment until they repent.

Someday soon (it’s always soon!), Christ will return to earth invisibly and snatch away all the Church-Christians (this is called the “Rapture” of the saints). At that point, God will go back to dealing with Israel. There will be a seven-year period called “The Tribulation,” and during that period, apostate Jewry will form an anti-God alliance with the Beast, but God will begin to convert the Jews, and in time the Beast will turn and begin to persecute these converted Jews. Just when things look hopeless, Christ will return and inaugurate the Millennium.

One other point to note: There are absolutely no signs that the Rapture of the Church is near. It will come “as a thief in the night.”

Now, this entire scheme, though popular in recent years, has no roots in historic Christian interpretation of the Scriptures, and at present it is collapsing under the weight of criticism from Bible-believing scholars of a more historically orthodox persuasion. All the same, there are several things to note.

First, by teaching that there are no signs that precede the Rapture, dispensationalism clearly implies that the modern State of Israel has nothing to do with Bible prophecy. If Israel collapsed to-morrow, it would make no difference. The existence of the State of Israel, while it may encourage dispensationalists to believe that the Rapture is near, is of no theologically prophetic importance.

Second, dispensationalism teaches that Jews of today, and even into the Tribulation period, are apostate, and this certainly implies that they are under the wrath and judgment of God. Christians should minister to them, and try to convert them, and show them all kindness as fellow human beings; but Christians should understand that during the Church Age, the Jews are not the people of God. Rather, the Church is the people of God today.

Third, by teaching that Israel is “set aside” during the Church Age, dispensationalism clearly implies that the promises made to Israel are also “set aside” during that period. The land promise, and the promise “those who bless you, I will bless,” have been set aside, until we re-enter “prophetic time.” Thus, the Jews have no right to the land during the Church Age, and also there is no particular blessing for Gentiles who treat the Jews with especial favor.

Fourth, dispensational theologians are most strict on the point that the Church is a “new people ,” composed as one body in Christ of both Jew and Gentile. During the Church Age, the distinction between these two is not to be felt in the Church. Thus, dispensational theology is, by implication, opposed to the kind of stand-point articulated in many “Messianic Jewish” groups.

What I am setting forth is standard, consistent dispensationalism. As far as I am concerned, dispensationalism is sorely wrong in its prophetic view, but it is at least orthodox in its view of salvation and blessing. Blessing comes to the Jews when they repent and accept Christ; until then, they are under God’s curse. How can it be otherwise? All blessings are in Christ. This is the teaching of orthodox Christianity, and Darby and the early dispensationalists were orthodox Christians on this point, as far as I can tell.

Jerry Falwell and Christian Zionism
My description of dispensationalism may seem rather strange, because this is not the teaching of Hal Lindsey, of the modern Dallas Theological Seminary, or of other modern dispensationalists. I call these people “pop-dispies ,” for short. In contrast to the dispensational system, these people hold that God presently has two peoples on the earth: the Church and Israel. The consistent dispensational system teaches that there are no prophecies whose fulfillment takes place during the Church Age, because the Church exists outside of prophetic time, but modern pop-dispies teach that the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 was a fulfillment of prophecy.

Consistent dispensationalism teaches that God is dealing with His “heavenly” people today (the Church), and that during the Church Age, God has “set aside” His apostate “earthly” people (Israel). Pop-dispies, on the contrary, hold that even though apostate, Israel still must be regarded as being under God’s present blessing. They hold the heretical notion that the Jews do not need to repent in order to obtain the blessings of God’s covenant. They hold the un-Biblical notion that apostate Jewry is not today under the wrath of God.

A well-known advocate of this unfortunate position is the Rev. Jerry Falwell. A modern Zionist, Merrill Simon, has recognized this fact, and has written a book, Jerry Falwell and the Jews.5 This book is a series of interviews with Rev. Falwell, designed to present him as a friend of Zionism, and to alleviate suspicions that liberal Zionist Jews naturally have when it comes to a supposedly orthodox, fundamental Christian preacher.

I should like to cite some quotations from this book, and make some appropriate comments. The books says, however, “No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without prior written consent from the publishers,” which rather cramps my style. You’ll just have to believe me, as I summarize Falwell’s comments. You can always go to your local library and look it up for yourself.

On page 13, Falwell is asked if he considers the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as a sign of God’s rejection of Israel. Falwell answers by saying that he surely does not believe a “vengeful” God brought the Roman army to Jerusalem to destroy the Jews. Falwell ascribes the event rather to anti-Semitism.

Now let’s hear what the Bible says about it. We needn’t quote Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 in their entirety. Read them at your leisure, and ask this question: Do we see an angry, “vengeful” God here threatening to bring horrors upon Israel if they apostatize? Also read Psalm 69:21 and ask Whom this refers to, and then continue reading until the end of the Psalm, remembering that the Romans surrounded Jerusalem at Passover time.

Notice Psalm 69:25 speaks of the “desolation” of Jerusalem, and consider that in connection with Jesus’ pronouncement of the desolation of Jerusalem in Matthew 23:38. Falwell is completely out of line with Scripture on this point.

On page 25, Falwell says that he believes anti-Semitism is inspired exclusively by Satan, as part of his opposition to God. Against this, read Job chapters 1 and 2. Here we find that Satan is never allowed to do anything without God’s permission. More-over, we find from the rest of the Bible that God frequently raises up enemies against His people, as scourges to punish them. Read the Book of Judges. Read Kings and Chronicles about Assyria and Babylon. Read Habakkuk. This is not some minor point tucked away in some obscure passage. Rather, this truth pervades the entire Scriptures.

It is true that anti-Jewish feelings are not part of the Christian message, and that Christians should be as considerate toward Jews as they are toward all other men. It is also true, however, that it is God Who stirs up the Babylonians and Assyrians. Until the Jews repent and convert (as Romans 11 promises that someday they shall), they remain God’s enemies, and He does stir up pagans against them. Anti-Jewishness has been part and parcel of secular humanism from the time of Frederick II, through the Renaissance, down to today. The Christian church protected the Jews throughout the Middle Ages, and has continued to do so.6

On page 55, Falwell says that Jews and Christian may differ at some points, but they have a common heritage in the Old Testament. Would Falwell be willing to say the same to a Moslem? At any rate, the statement is incorrect. Judaism looks to the Talmud, not to the Bible, as its law. It shows extreme ignorance of Judaism, medieval or modern, to think that Christians can appeal to the Old Testament as common ground. Judaism never approaches the Bible except through the Talmud.

On page 62, Falwell says that the future of the State of Israel is more important than any other political question. He says that the Jews have a theological, historical, and legal right to Pales-tine. He affirms his personal commitment to Zionism, and says that he learned Zionism from the Old Testament.

The Bible teaches us that when Adam and Eve rebelled, they lost their right to the Garden, and God cast them out. God used the very same principle with Israel, giving them the land, but warning them over and over again that if they rebelled, they would be cast out. It is beyond me how Falwell can read the Old Testament Scriptures and fail to see this. Modern apostate Jews have absolutely no theological, and therefore no historical and legal right to the land of Palestine.

The church of all ages has always taught that the New Testament equivalent of the “land” is the whole world, in Christ, and ultimately the New Earth. God’s people, Christ-confessors, are given the whole earth, in principle, and progressively will take dominion over it in time. Even if dispensationalism were correct in its assertion that someday the land of Palestine will be given back to the Jews, we should still have to say that they must convert to Christ first!

On page 68, Falwell says that one thing in modern Israel disturbs him. It is that Christians do not have the liberty to evangelize for the gospel. In other words, Falwell is aware that Christians are being persecuted in Israel today, but he still supports Israel! If this is not a betrayal of the faith, what is?

Finally, on p. 145, Falwell is asked about abortion, since modern Jews advocate abortion. Simon asks him whether or not the death penalty should be used against a woman who has an abortion, and her physician. Falwell replies that he has never thought about this before, and that he thinks any action against the woman would be wrong.

Well, there we see it. Mr. Simon knows what the issues really are, but Rev. Falwell is so confused, befuddled, and blind that he cannot see them. Obviously, if abortion is murder, then we have to advocate the death penalty for it! Of course, Falwell here sounds just like most of the rest of the modern anti-abortion movement: They’ve never even thought about some of the most basic, elementary issues involved. “Abortion is murder,” they cry. “Reinstitute the death penalty for murder,” says the Moral Majority (Falwell’s political group). Anybody with an IQ over 25 can figure out the implications of these two statements, but apparently Falwell has never thought of this before. We live in sorry times, when such a novice is the spokesman for the New Christian Right!

Christian Zionism is blasphemy. It is a heresy. Christians have no theological stake whatsoever in the modern State of Israel. It is an anti-God, anti-Christ nation. Until it repents and says “blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord,” it will continue to be under the wrath of God. The modern State of Israel permits the persecution of Christians and Christian missionaries. We must pray that God will change the hearts of Jews, as of all other pagans, to receive Christ. But to support the enemies of the Gospel is not the mark of a Gospel minister, but of an anti-Christ.

I’ve been pretty hard on Jerry. Somebody needs to be. This kind of thing is inexcusable, and needs to be repented of. A couple of years ago I wrote an essay defending Falwell against a some-what liberal critic.7 What I have said here does not change what I wrote then, because Falwell’s critic was wrong; but I have certainly come to take a dimmer view of Mr. Falwell since. His trumpet is giving forth an uncertain sound. He needs to clean it out.

Messianic Judaism
In recent years, a large number of Jewish young people have turned to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Many of these young people have formed “Messianic Synagogues,” and have articulated here and there various theologies of “Messianic Judaism.” For many, Messianic Judaism is simply a way of keeping some Jewish cultural traditions while becoming Christian, and there is nothing wrong with this. It is proper for Christians of various tribes and tongues to give expression to the faith in a variety of cultural forms.

Unfortunately, for some, Messianic Judaism is seen as an alternative to historic Christianity. This is due to the influence of pop-dispyism. After all, if the Millennium is right around the corner, and Jewish culture will be imperialistically triumphant during the Millennium, then even today Jewish practices anticipate that superiority. In fact, some Messianic Jews apparently believe that they can claim unlimited financial support from Gentile Christians, because of this preeminence.8

Most of what I have written regarding Christian Zionism above applies to this group of Messianic Jews. I should like, however, to call attention to another facet of the matter. These Messianic Jews believe wrongly that Gentile Christianity (the historic church) departed from Biblical forms in the early days of the church. They see as their mission a restoration of these customs, which they believe they have preserved.

In fact, this is completely false. Anyone who has seen a presentation of “Christ in the Passover” is amazed at the number of non-Biblical rites that are discussed and exhibited (the use of eggs, bread broken in three pieces and hidden in cloth, etc.). These customs arose after the birth of the church, and do not preserve Old Testament ritual at all. Moreover, to try to place a Christian interpretation on the various features of these rituals is most misguided and artificial. Clever as such presentations are, they are grossly misleading.

As a matter of fact, the leading features of Temple and Synagogue worship were brought straight into the church, as she spoiled the new enemies of God: apostate Jewry. The period of this spoiling was A.D. 30 to A.D. 70. Once the church had completed her integration of the spoils of the Old Covenant into her new, transfigured body, God destroyed the remnants of the Old Covenant completely. Modern Jewish rituals and music owe far more to racial/cultural inheritance from the peoples of Eastern Europe than they do to the Old Covenant.9

Thus, while there is nothing wrong with converted Jews maintaining a cultural continuity with their past, there are no grounds for the assumption that post-Christian Jewry has preserved the musical and liturgical forms of the Bible. Those forms were preserved in the church, and in her alone. Jews who wish to recover their heritage would do well to study the early Church, not the traditions of Eastern European cultures.

End Notes

  1. On the former aspect, see Ronald Sanders, The High Walls of Jerusalem: A History of the Balfour Declaration and the Birth of the British Mandate for Palestine (New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston, 1984). [1]
  2. Lilienthal has authored several books on this subject. His magnum opus is The Zionist Connection (New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1978). [2]
  3. On the Khazars, see Arthur Koestler, The Thirteenth Tribe (New York: Random House, 1976.) [3]
  4. British-Israelitism claims that the Anglo-Saxon people are the true Jews, and thus inherit the covenant promises by means of race alone. This weird, stupid idea is promoted by the Armstrong cult, but also crops up in right wing Christian circles. For a fine analysis and refutation of this viewpoint, see Louis F. Boer, The New Phariseeism (Columbus, NJ: The American Presbyterian Press, 1978). [4]
  5. Middle Village, NY: Jonathon David Publishers, Inc., 1984. [5]
  6. On the church’s protection of the Jews, see Harold J. Berman (himself a Jew), Law and Revolution: The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition (Cambridge: Harvard U. Press, 1983), pp. 90, 222. [6]
  7. See my essay, “The Moral Majority: An Anabaptist Critique?”, in James B. Jordan, ed. The Failure of the American Baptist Culture. Christianity and Civilization No. 1 (Tyler, TX: Geneva Ministries, 1982). [7]
  8. See Gary North, “Some Problems with ‘Messianic Judaism,’” in Biblical Economics Today 7:3 (Apr./May, 1984). [8]
  9. Louis Bouyer has shown at considerable length that the Eucharistic prayer of the early church was a modification of the prayers of the synagogue and Temple. See Bouyer, Eucharist (Notre Dame: U. of Notre Dame Press, 1968). Similarly, Eric Werner has shown that the plainchant of the Christian church preserves the style of music known among the Jews of the Old Testament period. See Werner, The Sacred Bridge (Columbia U. Press, 1959; the paperback by Schocken only reproduces the first half of this important study). [9]

Used by Permission – Copyright ©1986 by James B. Jordan, Th. M.

Creedal Amillennialism

by Rev. Ron Cammenga

Rev. Cammenga is pastor of Southwest Protestant
Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan.
Bound by the Creeds

The Reformed creeds define the Reformed faith. What it is to be Reformed, the creeds establish. The creeds are the standard against which every teaching that claims to be Reformed and clamors for acceptance by Reformed believers is to be judged.

Every Reformed believer is bound by the Reformed creeds. No one has the right to consider himself to be a Reformed Christian who blatantly contradicts what the Reformed creeds teach.

Especially is the Reformed officebearer bound by the teaching of the creeds. At ordination Reformed ministers, elders, and deacons sign the Formula of Subscription. By doing this they affirm that they “… heartily believe and are persuaded that all the articles and points of doctrine contained in the (Belgic) Confession and (Heidelberg) Catechism of the Reformed churches, together with the explanation of some points of the aforesaid doctrine made by the National Synod of Dordrecht, 1618-’19, do fully agree with the Word of God.” In the Formula, the Reformed officebearer goes on to promise “… diligently to teach and faithfully to defend the aforesaid doctrine (of the creeds), without either directly or indirectly contradicting the same, by our public preaching or writing.”

What is true with respect to all the fundamental doctrines of Holy Scripture is true of the doctrine of the last things (eschatology) and the coming of Jesus Christ. The Reformed creeds have a great deal to say on these matters. From what they say, there can be no doubt about it that the Reformed creeds endorse amillennialism.

The creeds are explicitly amillennial. The creeds leave no room for postmillennialism or premillennial-dispensationalism. No appeal can be made to the Reformed creeds in support of either of these heretical millennial positions. More than that, the Reformed creeds expressly repudiate the major tenets of both postmillennialism and premillennial-dispensationalism. On the basis of the creeds these teachings are judged as heretical. Those who hold to these teachings embrace false doctrine.

The amillennial character of the Reformed creeds is challenged today. There are those who contend that the creeds are largely silent on the matter of the millennium. Their view is that the Reformed creeds leave the issue of the millennium an open question. They go on to encourage toleration of the variant millennial views in the church. It is argued that one can be a postmillennialist or even a premillennialist and still subscribe to the Reformed creeds.

But this is not honesty to the Reformed creeds. Spokesmen for both the postmillennial and the premillennial-dispensational schools of thought of a former generation conceded this. Dr. John F. Walvoord, one of the most well known dispensationalists of recent time, wrote: “Reformed eschatology has been predominantly amillennial. Most if not all of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation were amillennial in their eschatology…” (Biblio-theca Sacra, January-March, 1951).

Samuel G. Craig, writing the biography of Benjamin B. Warfield included in Warfield’s Biblical And Theological Studies, states:

Many, perhaps most, Calvinists, not to mention evangelicals other than Reformed, do not share Warfield’s post-millennialism. Both of his great Calvinistic contemporaries, Kuyper and Bavinck, for instance, were amillennialists, as was his esteemed colleague, Gerhardus Vos, perhaps the most erudite advocate of amillennialism in America. He himself freely admitted that amillennialism, though not known in those days under that name, is the historic Protestant view, as expressed in the creeds of the Reformation period including the Westminster Standards (p. xxxix).

 

It is the purpose of this article briefly to demonstrate how incompatible postmillennialism and premillennial-dispensationalism are with the Reformed creeds. Our concern will be with the Three Forms of Unity, the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession of Faith in particular.

The Reformed Creeds and Postmillennialism

The teaching of the Reformed creeds is that the New Testament, the time from Christ’s first coming until His second coming, will be a period of persecution and suffering for the true church of Jesus Christ. The creeds take the amillennial view of the progress of New Testament history, namely that apostasy and wickedness will become worse and worse. The world will become increasingly evil and the church will be more severely persecuted the nearer the second coming of Christ.

There is absolutely nothing in the Reformed creeds to suggest an earthly kingdom of peace and prosperity dominated by Christians. There is no hint in the Reformed creeds of an improving world, of righteousness prevailing on this present earth, of a “golden age” of a thousand years or more in which sin and the consequences of sin will be well nigh eradicated.

The Second Helvetic Confession (1566) expresses the Reformed consensus when it condemns all hope of an earthly kingdom as “Jewish dreams”:

And out of heaven the same Christ will return unto judgment, even then when wickedness shall chiefly reign in the world (emphasis mine, RC), and when Antichrist, having corrupted true religion, shall fill all things with superstition and impiety, and shall most cruelly waste the Church with fire and bloodshed. Now Christ shall return to redeem his, and to abolish Antichrist by his coming, and to judge the quick and the dead (Acts xvii. 31)…. Moreover, we condemn the Jewish dreams, that before the day of judgment there shall be a golden age in the earth, and that the godly shall possess the kingdoms of the world, their wicked enemies being trodden under foot; for the evangelical truth (Matt. xxiv. and xxv., Luke xxi.), and the apostolic doctrine (in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians ii., and in the Second Epistle to Timothy iii. and iv.) are found to teach far otherwise (The Creeds of Christendom, Philip Schaff, volume 3, p. 852).

The 52nd Question of the Heidelberg Catechism asks, “What comfort is it to thee that ‘Christ shall come again to judge the quick and the dead’?” The “thee” in the question is the New Testament believer, every New Testament believer, believers in the days in which the Heidelberg Catechism was written, as well as believers today. The comfort that the 52nd Answer gives expression to is a comfort experienced in the face of “sorrows and persecutions.”

That in all my sorrows and persecutions, with uplifted head I look for the very same person who before offered Himself for my sake to the tribunal of God, and has removed all curse from me, to come as judge from heaven; who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall translate me with all His chosen ones to Himself, into heavenly joys and glory.

The comfort of the New Testament Christian is not fixed on some soon-coming “golden age” in which all Christ’s and our enemies shall be put down. No such false hope is presented. The hope and comfort of the Reformed believer is fixed on the second coming of Christ. Then, and only then, will His and our enemies be judged and we be glorified with Him.

The 127th Question and Answer of the Heidelberg Catechism speak of the threefold enemy of the believer, the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. According to the Answer, these enemies “cease not to assault us.” There never comes a time in this present age when the world is so subdued that for all practical purposes that world ceases to assault the believer. But God’s promise, the Answer points out, is to preserve us in this spiritual warfare until at last we obtain the complete victory.

Article 37 of the Belgic Confession presents the same scenario. In the final judgment, elect believers

… shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked, who most cruelly persecuted, oppressed, and tormented them in this world; and who shall be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences, and, being immortal, shall be tormented in that everlasting fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels.

The article goes on to say that it is only at this second coming of Christ and the time of the final judgment that

… the faithful and elect shall be crowned with glory and honor; and the Son of God will confess their names before God His Father, and His elect angels; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes; and their cause, which is now (emphasis mine, RC) condemned by many judges and magistrates as heretical and impious, will then (emphasis mine, RC) be known to be the cause of the Son of God.

There is no notion in the Belgic Confession of a future “golden age.” There is nothing of the hope of an earthly kingdom in which finally the world’s rulers will promote and enforce the law of God. On the contrary, in this world the persecution which the Reformed churches in the Lowlands experienced – de Brès himself suffering martyrdom – will to a greater or lesser degree be the experience of the church until the return of Christ.

This is confessional amillennialism.

The Reformed Creeds and Premillennial-Dispensationalism

With the same rigor with which the Reformed creeds repudiate postmillennialism, they reject also premillennial-dispensationalism.

It was for this reason that D.H. Kromminga, sympathetic to the main tenets of premillennialism, attempted to persuade the Christian Reformed Church in the 1940s to change Article 37 of the Belgic Confession. In Perspectives on the Christian Reformed Church, in a chapter entitled “The Premillennial Eschatology of Dietrich Hinrich Kromminga,” Harry R. Boer writes,

For the most part (sic) premillennialism cannot be harmonized with the official Reformed creedal basis. Article 37 of the Belgic Confession, one of the three creeds of the CRC, teaches ‘…we believe … that, when the time appointed by the Lord … is come and the number of the elect complete … our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven … to declare Himself Judge of the living and the dead.’ For Kromminga the critical phrase in the statement was ‘and the number of the elect complete.’ This confessional assertion effectively bars belief in the return of Christ before a millennial period in the course of which men will be brought to Christ to complete the fullness of the church and thereby the fullness of the elect (p. 153).

If the Reformed faith parts ways with Roman Catholicism over the little word “alone” (grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone), it parts company with premillennial-dispensationalism over the word “one.” That little word, all by itself, is the difference between Reformed amillennialism and the premillennial-dispensational teaching that is at odds with Reformed amillennialism. The Reformed amillennialist teaches one people of God in both the Old and New Testaments, one coming of Jesus Christ, one resurrection, one final judgment.

Both Heidelberg Catechism, Question and Answer 52, and Article 37 of the Belgic Confession speak of the(in the singular) final judgment. There is no mention anywhere in these creeds of another judgment than this judgment. In the same places, these creeds speak of the coming of Christ, not of comings of Christ. And absolutely no notion of a secret rapture.

Consistently the creeds identify the church of the Old Testament and the church of the New Testament. They are fundamentally one.

It will suffice to refer in this connection to the Heidelberg Catechism. According to Question and Answer 19 of the Catechism, the same gospel that is preached in the Reformed church today was the gospel first revealed by God in Paradise, afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets, and represented by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the Old Testament law. Question and Answer 31 make Christ our King, that is, the King of New Testament believers. According to Question and Answer 54, the church, the one church, is gathered by the Son of God from the beginning to the end of the world. Question and Answer 74 deal with infant baptism. In the 74th Answer there is identification made between the old and the new covenant. Essentially there is one covenant of God, so that baptism replaces circumcision. And Question and Answer 123 identify the church and the kingdom of God.

Article 25 of the Belgic Confession is a very decisive article in repudiating premillennial-dispensationalism. The article is entitled, “Of the abolishing of the Ceremonial Law.” With regard to the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament, it is the teaching of the article “… that the use of them must be abolished amongst Christians.” That is significant! The creedal Reformed position is that the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament have been abolished, abolished once and for all, abolished forever. They have not been temporarily set aside in order after the present hiatus to be restored in some future millennial kingdom, as is the teaching of premillennial-dispensationalism. They have been abolished!

Amillennialism is the creedal Reformed position. To embrace the Reformed confessions is to embrace amillennial eschatology. To reject amillennialism, whether for postmillennialism or premillennial-dispensationalism, is necessarily to reject the Reformed creeds.

But the Reformed creeds, in this critical matter of the doctrine of the last things and the return of Christ, are biblical. 

‘Transgender’ Preacher Tells Baptist Gathering ‘Angel of Reason’ Helped Affirm Desire to Be Woman

Robinson-compressedST. LOUIS, Mo. — The nation’s first “transgender” Baptist preacher spoke to a national Baptist gathering on April 8, explaining that the doctor who delivered him as a baby was wrong in declaring him a boy, and that it was an “angel of reason” that caused him to accept his inclinations to identify as a woman.

Daniel Robinson, who goes by the name Allyson Robinson, had been studying to be a pastor at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in 2005 when he began to wrestle with his gender identity as never before. He had struggled with his desire to be a man since childhood.

“I have known my entire life that the world was wrong about me, that on the day I was born, when the doctor took a cursory glance between my legs and authoritatively declared ‘It’s a boy,’ he was wrong—dead wrong,” Robinson told the Alliance of Baptists in St. Louis this month.

He said that one day in his early seminary days he contemplated suicide, but an “angel of the Lord” that he called “reason” stopped him.

“What if God hasn’t fixed you because you’re not broken?” Robinson said he heard inside of himself.

“That can’t be true,” he thought. “The Bible says I’m broken.”

“What if the Bible is wrong?” the voice said. “What if you’ve been reading it wrong?”

Robinson told those gathered that in that moment he “sacrificed his certainty” and hoped that God would count it as “righteousness.”

In other appearances, Robinson has explained that he went into therapy but kept his gender identity issues as secret until graduating from Baylor due to the seminary’s policies about homosexuality and transgenderism. He also took a position as pastor of Meadow Oaks Baptist Church in Temple, Texas during his time at Baylor.

Robinson’s wife, Danyelle, expressed her support about his desire to identify as a woman.

In 2014, he worked as a transitional minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., and was ordained there as a woman.

“Allyson Dylan Robinson is a minister of the gospel, trained for the task, and ordained to the gospel ministry by another community in which she has served as pastor,” former leader Amy Butler wrote at that time. “Over the course of her journey, God has invited her to step into the faithful witness of a new identity, a true identity, and a new name.”

Robinson now speaks as an itinerant preacher and appeared at Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner’s renaming ceremony last year.

“Frankly I consider Job, Gautama Buddha, Joan of Arc, Rumi and Johnny Cash to be my spiritual predecessors far more than Augustine, Aquinas or Barth,” he told the Alliance of Baptists this month. “My hymnal has a lot less Isaac Watts and Fanny Crosby, but it’s full of Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Tupac and Beyonce.”

However, some have come to the opposite conclusion of Robinson, and state that it is not healthy to support and affirm a person’s desire to live as those of the opposite sex.

As previously reported, Walt Heyer, a 75-year-old man who obtained a sex change operation in the 1980’s to live as a woman for eight years before reverting back to his biological gender, now leads a ministry in which he shares his story with the world of how Christ redeemed his life and gave him hope.

“Nobody’s ever born a transgender,” he told the Daily Mail last January. “They’re manufactured as a result of something, a developmental childhood issue that has yet to be determined for many people.”

“All of them have some level of depression, and we’re not treating them,” Heyer lamented. “We’re just cutting off body parts and giving them a new name and a new gender.”

“God designed man; He designed women,” he also said in a video recorded last year. “God will redeem the lives of people who struggle with gender identity issues just like I did. He redeemed my life, and I’ve been free from it as a result of that.”