Essays On Chiliasm (Part 6)

   So, it is necessary to see that the resurrection is none other than the restoration of the privileges which Adam lost.  As God created man from the dust of the ground and placed him in Eden, so God shall renew man from the dust of the ground, and place him in the city of Jerusalem, which then will be established on earth, inasmuch as it is the palace of the Great King.  And really, all these things were predicted by the ancient prophets.  They are not really as obscure as many suppose; though admittedly, some make them obscure with their allegorical and subjective interpretations.  But let us simply look at the Scriptures, and we’ll see a correspondence between John’s vision and those of the Hebrew prophets on all the essential points.

   For Ezekiel speaks of the same tabernacle of God being placed in the midst of His people.  He writes: “Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.  My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary will be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37: 26-28). 

   This vision is described as being fulfilled at the resurrection of the just.  For the prophet says: “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.  And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezek: 37: 12-14).

   Granted, these visions, and prophecies relating to Israel in general, may be applied to the church.  For indeed there is an “Jerusalem, which is above” and which is “the mother of us all” (Gal. 4: 26). But the prophecies shall have a  more complete fulfillment in the times of the Millennium.  For John sees the same city descending from heaven to earth, and being placed amongst the nations.  Moreover, he sees these same nations walking in the light of this city, and kings bringing their glory and honor into it.  This corresponds with the Messianic prophecies that all nations (not only a few) will do homage to Jesus Christ, the King of all the earth, once Satan’s kingdom has been brought to desolation.  It is crucial that we recognize this distinction between the present age and the age to come.  In the present age, Jesus Christ is absent from earth.  He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, and “waiting” until His enemies be made His footstool (Ps. 110: 1).  The heavenly city is above, not on earth.  Thus the church represents Jerusalem during the present dispensation. 

   But when Christ returns to execute justice in the earth, and the resurrection of the just takes place, the city of Jerusalem will come down to earth.  Notice that our Lord brings His house with Him, and places those who have been accounted worthy within it.  Within the walls of the city is located the Paradise of Eden.  This is a state of things which can only happen on earth.  And anyone who reads the prophecies will see that it is so.  For if John’s visions are only accomplished in heaven, why did he affirm that the leaves of the Tree of Life (Rev. 22: 1) are for the healing of the nations?  For when one has attained to heaven, there is no longer any need for healing.  But John mentions the medicinal properties of the Tree of Life to show that it will bring healing on earth.  And the city must first be placed in the midst of the earth, for the Tree is located within the city.

   Now unbelievers will scoff at this view, and say that the Tree represents something spiritual.  And as I’ve already mentioned, it is true that all of these visions may be applied to spiritual things. But if you agree with me that the Tree of Life from which our first parents were prohibited from eating was a real tree, you must also admit that the Tree of Life in John’s vision is of a like nature.  For in the “regeneration,” or Millennium, the heavenly things will come down to earth. 

   If his predictions involved spiritual realities alone, John would never have described Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and being placed among men.  This is a real and substantial city he is talking about.  And everyone knows that Jerusalem can not be at the same time both in heaven and on earth.  At the present time it is in heaven truly, and if the nations require healing they must go to the pure fountains of the Gospel, and draw life therefrom.  But when Jesus Christ returns to take up His abode on earth, such a state of things will no longer be necessary, for the nations shall come to Christ personally to be healed–just as they did when He first dwelt among us. 

   For Ezekiel prophesies the same thing as John, when he describes the Third Temple.  It is known that his predictions have puzzled and perplexed expositors for centuries.  For it is hardly possible to interpret his visions as relating solely to the present dispensation.  But he sees the great city planted on earth, and the living waters rushing forth the east to replenish and heal the earth (Ezek. 47: 1-10).  Moreover, he says that, “by the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezek. 47: 12). 

   Now, since man is a compound being, formed both of body and soul, it is apparent that these blessings cannot be restricted to the soul alone, but must also pertain to the body.  For when Christ was among us He healed both spiritual and bodily infirmities.  Now that He is absent we must be content with spiritual things, while our outward man languishes.   But when He returns, His saints shall be refashioned after His image, and enabled to enjoy communion with Him in the outward man.  For there is a distinct reason why in the present time we must be willing to abnegate the desires of the flesh.  Since we are “carnal, sold under sin” (Rom. 7: 14), we cannot righteously pursue a life in the body: but when we attempt to do so, we become immersed and immured in sin.

   Wherefore Christ, knowing that the outward man must be put to death, after purging our sins in His own blood through the sacrifice of Himself, sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we might live after the things of the Spirit, keeping our focus on the things above (Col. 3: 2), until the body of death be destroyed.  Then, when Christ restores all things, our bodies shall be remade in glory and splendor, and able to enjoy life according to the laws of righteousness.  For it was not, as some contend, Christ’s purpose to do away forever with life in the body.  For when those sent by John the Baptist asked Him why  His disciples never fasted, He replied: “Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them?  But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then they shall fast” (Matt. 9: 15).  Christ tells us in plain words, that His disciples will indeed feast with Him, but not according to a carnal conception. The body of sin must first be subdued and put down, that the true feast may be kept in holiness.

   And elsewhere He says: “But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until the day that I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matt. 26: 29).  Once again our Lord had no intention of doing away with life in the body.  For there can be no drinking of the fruit of the vine except in our bodies.  But until our bodies be restored to their original sinless condition, there can be neither eating nor drinking in righteousness.  And thus in the present economy, while our sins are being atoned for, we must abjure the things of the flesh. 

   Irenaeus writes: “He promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples, thus indicating both these points: the inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine is drunk, and the resurrection of His disciples in the flesh.  For the new flesh which rises again is the same also which received the new cup.  And He cannoy by any means be understood as drinking of the fruit of the vine when settled down with His disciples above in a super-celestial place; nor, again, are they who drink it devoid of flesh, for to drink of that which flows from the vine pertains to the flesh, and not spirit.” (Against Heresies, V. xxxiii. 1).

   So, inasmuch as the Lord saves the entire man, we shall certainly see a re-institution of life in the body when He returns.  And the nations shall enjoy this privilege as well, although not in any carnal manner.  Ezekiel’s vision, then, as well as John’s, may certainly have a spiritual application.  However, we believe that it more truly pertains to the times of the Kingdom.  And nobody will deny that the “trees” in Ezekiel’s vision may relate to Gospel ministers of the present dispensation.  For their teachings, when faithfully administered, constitute the true spiritual meat and medicine of the world.  But when the heavenly Jerusalem comes down to earth, the prophecies will also be fulfilled to the very letter; as Christ came to save not only the soul, but body as well.  And then the Gospel ministry, as we now know it, will be changed. For Christ’s laws will go out from Jerusalem directly, in a more complete and perfect manner than they’ve ever done.

   Otherwise, what does Jeremiah mean when he writes: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31: 34).  This prophecy cannot relate entirely to the present dispensation, for the church’s business is just that–to teach all men to “Know the Lord.”  But when Christ dwells among us personally, all will know Him, and all will have access to Him in a way equivalent to when He first lived and walked among us.  What need for doctrinal teaching when Christ returns?  His saints will spread knowledge of Him to every quarter, bringing all nations in subjection to Christ.  And all the kings of the earth will come to Jerusalem to do homage to Christ. 

   Moreover, the church, long worried and harassed by false teachers, will be freed from all enemies when Christ comes back.

   (Zechariah 13: 1-2) “In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.  And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.

   If these prophecies involve the present age alone, then it is remarkable that we should find so many false teachers and prophets functioning and flourishing among us.  And honestly, can anyone really claim with a straight face that idolatry has been abolished?  For although these things are described as taking place “in the land,” Isaiah gives us a “sure word of prophecy” that there will be a universal abolition of idolatry.  When speaking of Christ’s personal and visible reign on earth, he writes: “And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.  And the idols He shall utterly abolish” (Isaiah 2: 17-18).

   Unless you believe in extremely hypothetical and limited views of fulfillment, you’ll have to concede that no such state of things has ever been fulfilled on earth.  Since Christ ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, man has retained his loftiness, and we have been living in a world ruled by Satan.  The church has suffered greatly at the hands of evil and wicked men, idolatry has become general throughout the world, and if it weren’t for the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the hearts of the meek would have failed. Christ spoke truly when He said: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10: 34).  This state of turmoil has existed ever since He left, and shall continue for the sake of refining the righteous, until He comes back.  Peace and righteousness shall only be restored, when Christ establishes His reign on earth.  And He will reign from a visible and substantial city.

To be continued…

8 Comments Add yours

  1. Stefan says:

    I’m so glad to have found your site. Just in the last few days, I’ve come to accept the historic (covenantal, posttrib) view of premillennialism as the only eschatology that best fits a plain reading of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments. Despairing of finding thorough theological treatments of the subject (the only decent resource I have “offline”—apart from the Bible itself ;)—is Wayne Grudem’s Bible Doctrine), I finally tried searching for “Chiliasm” in Google, and providentially came upon this ongoing series of articles.

    It appears that you are not pretrib or dispensational, but even if so, with your scholarly, exegetical approach, you’re doing great justice to the whole subject of premillennialism.

  2. Hi Stefan,

    Good to hear from you! I, too, have just come back around to this view. You’re right, there really isn’t a whole lot of material available online, on a thorough & exgetical level. The problem seems to be the prevalence of superficial studies among Pre-Mil churches in general. I started off as a Fundamental Baptist, and can personally testify that many of the men who preach these doctrines haven’t a clue on the basic tenets of Christianity, let alone eschatology. I myself have gone back to the early Fathers of the 1st-3rd century in an attempt to understand Chiliasm on a solid exegetical basis. Although I myself am not a Dispensationalist, I tend to agree with some of their tenets, though not all. I do, however, believe that there will be a national salvation of the Jews. But I doubt this will happen until the last 3-and-a-half years when Antichrist oppresses the world. Anyhow, it’s awesome to know that you yourself are of the seed of Abraham. I believe all true Israelites will inherit the land of Canaan when Christ returns. And I and others look forward to that glorious day.

    Peace and Health,

    Brian

  3. Stefan says:

    Hi, Brian:

    I see in the Old Testament prophets (God’s promise of ingathering the Gentiles) and in the apostles’ writings a single way of salvation for both Jew and Gentile: by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, earning citizenship in the single spiritual kingdom of God. This is what saved me, and this is the hope I earnestly look forward to for others, including whatever large number of Jews will come to salvation as described in Romans 11.

    But I agree with the Dispensationalists in not spiritualizing the book of Revelation. The early church fathers didn’t see it that way. Augustine did great service to God in his dispute with Pelagius, but I’m not so sure about his allegorizing Genesis and “amillennializing” Revelation.

    By the way, I have wondered why the Reformers have remained for the most part adamantly amillennialist for so many centuries (with a few notable Premill, Postmill, and Partial Preterist exceptions), and I stumbled upon this article: The Reformation’s Repudiation of Chiliasm. The author’s thesis is that the continental Anabaptists’ beliefs in ushering in the Kingdom now, precipitated a reaction by the magisterial Reformers to distance themselves as far as possible from the Anabaptists, one consequence of which was rejecting any straightforward (sequential) reading of the Millennium and the events leading up to it. (The author himself is stridently anti-premillennial, though, as he indicates in his last paragraph.)

  4. Stefan says:

    I meant to add in my first paragraph that I see an invisible church stretching back to Adam, Eve, Abel, Seth, Enoch, Noah, and all their descendants who were saved by faith in the promises of God, mediated by the Passover Lamb yet to come.

  5. Hi Stefan,

    I agree perfectly on the invisible church starting with Adam. Although I’ve held different views of Revelation in the past, I tend to agree also on the literal interpretation. Like I told someone the other day, only the events themselves can furnish the key to interpretation.
    Also, I’ve definitely seen a marked “anti Chiliast” tendency among some of the Reformers, though its hard to say to what extent this should affect Christian relations. I think many of the Post-Mil & A-Mil writers go overboard in their attacks on Chiliasm. In my opinion Chiliasm is the only view that makes sense of the Scriptures in a way that any disciple can understand. And that goes a long way!
    After leaving Chiliasm, I followed allegorical methods for quite a while before I realized that none of these expositors could give a credible interpretation. At any rate, it feels great to be back home. BTW, I added a link to your blog at http://chiliasm.blogspot.com
    There’s also another man from Australia (Gavin Finley, M.D.) who has written some great material. Admittedly, it’s hard finding people who adopt this view who really focus on the truth of Christianity, and not just end-time prophecies.

    Peace and Health,

    Brian

  6. Stefan says:

    Hi, Brian:

    Thanks for the links to your blog and Dr. Finley’s site. Now that I’ve settled on an eschatology, other things are beginning to fall into place: the nature and history of the church; the end purpose of God’s redemptive plan; and so on. It’s like finely focussing a hermeneutical lens.

    By the way, it seems to be a credible assertion that no less than Charles Spurgeon was a post-tribulational premillennialist—this according to a long essay at the Spurgeon Archive (whose owner is himself pretrib and not posttrib): Charles H. Spurgeon and Eschatology. John Piper and Wayne Grudem are as well; D.A. Carson is asserted to be, though I don’t know for sure. (Apologies for only naming “Reformed” types, but they’re the ones I know best.)

    …But I was already leaning in this direction before I learned that any of these gentleman embraced this particular eschatology (and they’re a minority in the circles they move in); what’s more important is the witness of ancient church fathers who were Chiliasts, and how Chiliasm seems to be the best fit for Revelation, Matthew 24, and other apocalyptic passages of Scripture.

  7. Stefan says:

    …Oh, and of course George Eldon Ladd, whose Theology of the New Testament I’m reading now.

  8. Hi Stefan,

    You know, it’s good to hear you mention Charles Spurgeon. I was just reading one of his sermons the other day in which he professes Chiliasm. From what I’ve read most of these older Chiliasts were all Post-Trib. They also equate the Millennium with the ‘new heavens and earth,’ and I think that’s the correct doctrine. I agree with you that Revelation is Chiliastic in nature. That’s really the only way anyone can explain the book. And Irenaeus even implies that John himself was a Chiliast! Of course, these teachings have all been lost or buried under the flood of novel end-time views.
    I’ll have to check out those other names you mentioned as I’m unfamiliar with them. There’s a lot of material I’m still looking over, like yourself, but I’m seeing things clearer each day.

    Peace and Health,

    Brian

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