Reformed Chiliasm (Part 18)

   Now that we’ve given some account, however cursorily, of what the world will be like during the Millennium, many of us will naturally ask, what life will be like within Jerusalem itself, the blessed city?  In ancient times, Zechariah prophesied, saying: “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire about, and will will be the glory in the midst of her” (Zech. 2: 4-5). 

   That the prophet speaks of the personal presence of Christ, is intimated when he says: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.  And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of Hosts hath sent me unto thee.  And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.  Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for He is raised up out of His holy habitation.” (Zech. 2: 10-13).

   Our Lord will be “raised up out of His holy habitation” when He returns to earth to establish His kingdom.  At that time, all secular world-government will be brought to an end, and “the Lord alone will be exalted in that day” (Isa. 2: 11).  The Hebrew prophets are uniform in their testimony regarding the worldwide reign of Jesus Christ with all His saints.  Yet, although the prophets foretold wonderful times, many of their predictions are confessedly obscure to those who do not perceive, or won’t acknowledge, that a personal reign of Jesus Christ among men is part of the Divine plan. Yet such men are in the minority. 

   And here we should remind readers that Chiliasts are far from alone in advocating views of a worldwide reign of Messiah.  There be many earnest and reverent students of Scripture (perhaps a great majority of Christians) who perceive a permanent establishment of the “New Heavens and New Earth” when Jesus Christ comes back, and following the general judgment of all mankind.  The differences between the two prevailing schools of prophecy are far less conspicuous than their points of agreement.  Both concern themselves with the order, and not the reality, of the events themselves.

   Nevertheless, we have adopted the Chiliast view, which holds there will be a thousand year period of blessedness on earth, prior to the consummation of all things.  Tertullian writes: “But we do confess that a kingdom is promised to us upon the earth, although before heaven, only in another state of existence; inasmuch as it will be after the resurrection for a thousand years in the divinely-built city of Jerusalem, ‘let down from heaven,’ which the apostle also calls ‘our mother from above;’ and, while declaring that our politeuma, or citizenship, is in heaven, he predicates of it that it is really a city in heaven.  This both Ezekiel had knowledge of, and John beheld.” (Against Marcion, III. xxv).

   Tertullian recognizes, then, the correspondence between the temple seen by Ezekiel and that later behold by the blessed Apostle.  The two must be perceived as one and the same–that city, in fact, that Jesus Christ will bring down to earth when He establishes His presence among us.  For it is proper that the King should have a glorious habitation from which to rule and reign over all the earth.  As a matter of fact, if we look closely at Ezekiel’s prophecy, we’ll find that the King Himself shall enter by the east gate: “And of the glory of the Lord came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east (Ezek. 43: 4); and after He has entered, the gate shall be shut (Ezek. 44: 2).  For he (the prophet) says: “It is for the Prince; the Prince, He shall sit in it to eat bread before the Lord; He shall enter in by the way of the porch of that gate, and shall go out by the way of the same” (Ezek. 44: 3).

   Christ is seen ascending from the east, for He is “the bright and morning-star” (Rev. 22: 16), Who brings a new dispensation down to men.  And when He arrives, the New Jerusalem will be established, and the whole house filled with glory.  In no uncertain terms did the prophet Haggai predict this, when he wrote: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Haggai 1: 9).  Again, the prophet intimates when this shall be fulfilled: after the Lord has shaken all nations (Hag. 1: 7)– that is, after the Great Tribulation.  To this John has reference when he saw “a great multitude” of “all nations, and kindreds, and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7: 9) “which came out of great tribulation” (Rev. 7: 14) serving the Lord day and night in His temple.  “And He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”  (Rev. 7: 15).  Wherefore Ezekiel, not inconsistently, writes: “And the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there” (Ezek. 48: 35).

   But Ezekiel also speaks of the partitioning of the land among the children of Israel.  “And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel” (Ezek. 47: 22).  It is evident that the prophet is referring the ancient land promises, which shall have their true fulfillment in that day.  As the Lord Himself gave promise, so David also predicted, “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace” (Psa. 37: 11).  The context of the prophecy shows that this will occur after the destruction of the wicked (Psa. 37: 10).  Thus, the inheritance of the earth can in no wise be interpreted in a spiritual sense, nor can it be said to have fulfillment during the present time.  It is a real and substantial promise, which shall have fulfillment when the Lord returns.

   Let us call to mind the promise that God to made to Abraham himself, when He said: “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art, northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land that thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever” (Gen. 13: 14-15).  Again, He said: “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee” (Gen. 13: 17).  This precludes any kind of spiritualizing, for if God promised Abraham a celestial inheritance, He would not have told him to “walk through the land in the length of it, and in the breadth of it.”  The inheritance, then, can only be realized on earth.  But, Abraham himself never received the promise during his own lifetime.  For Stephen says: “And He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on: yet he promised that He would give it to Him for a possession, and to his seed after him, when as yet he had no child” (Acts 7: 5). 

   Now, after Sarah died, the Hittites, then in possession of the land, were willing to give Abraham the cave of Machpelah as a burying-place, which gift Abraham refused, purchasing it of Ephron for four hundred shekels of silver (Gen. 23).  For Abraham was unwilling to receive from men what God had already promised to give him.  For He said: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt, unto the great river the river Euphrates” (Gen. 15: 18).  This promise, far from being a matter of doubt, was ratified in a solemn covenant (Gen. 15: 17-18).  Thus, if Abraham received a promise that he and his seed would inherit the whole land of Canaan, and if he himself never received it, but sojourned as a stranger and pilgrim upon the earth (Heb. 11: 13), then it is manifest that the promise still holds good, and that it shall be fulfilled to the letter in the First Resurrection.

   Irenaeus writes: “If, then, God promised him the inheritance of the land, yet he did not receive it during all the time of his sojourn there, it must be, that together with his seed, that is, those who fear God and believe in Him, he shall receive it at the resurrection of the just.  For his seed is the Church, which receives the adoption to God through the Lord, as John the Baptist said: For God is able from the stones to raise up children unto Abraham.  Thus also, the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians: But ye, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise.  And again, in the same epistle, he plainly declares that they who have believed in Christ do receive Christ, the promise to Abraham thus saying, The promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his seed.  Now He does not say, And of seeds, as if He spake of many, but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.  And again, confirming His former words, He says, Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith are the children of Abraham.  But the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, declared to Abraham beforehand, That in thee shall all nations be blessed.  So then they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham.  Thus, then, they which are of faith shall be blessed with faithful Abraham, and these are the children of Abraham.  Now God made promise of the earth to Abraham and his seed; yet neither Abraham nor his seed, that is, those who are justified by faith, do now receive inheritance in it; but they shall receive it at the resurrection of the just.  For God is true and faithful; and on this account He said, Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Against Heresies, V. xxxii, 2).

   Consider also the promises which Isaac made to his sons Esau and Jacob.  To Jacob, he said, “Therefore, God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine.  Let people serve thee, and nations bow down to thee; be lord over thy brethren, and let thy mother’s sons bow down to thee: cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth thee” (Gen. 27: 28-29).  And yet these promises were never fulfilled in Jacob’s own lifetime.  For the nations did not serve him; rather, he fled from his brother Esau and served Laban the Syrian for twenty years.  And upon his return, he bowed down to Esau his brother (Gen. 33: 3).  Then, too, he never received any abundance of corn and wine, for he emigrated to Egypt because of the great famine that then prevailed in the land; and upon coming thither, he became subject to Pharaoh.  Once again, Irenaeus writes: “The predicted blessing, therefore, belongs unquestionably to the times of the kingdom, when the righteous shall bear rule upon their rising from the dead; when also the creation, having been renovated and set free, shall fructify with and abundance of all kinds of food, from the dew of heaven, and from the fertility of the earth.”  (Ibid., V. xxxiii. 3). 

   Then, to Esau Jacob says: “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother: and it shalt come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Gen. 27: 39-40).  Now, Esau never served Jacob in his own lifetime.  Rather, it was the other way around.  The fulfillment, then, is future.  But, we grant that these things also denote the two dispensations.  For in the promises made to Jacob may be seen the blessings bestowed upon the church, which receives, first, the spiritual promises (the dew of heaven) and the earthly promises (the fatness of the earth) in the Millennium; while those made to Esau denote the blessings bestowed on the children of Israel, who received the earthly promises first, and will later be grafted back in through the Gospel.  But, there is one people, one elect church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles. And these shall rule and reign together with Christ.

   To this Ezekiel alludes when he writes: “Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in my hand” (Ezek. 37: 19); the “tribes of Israel his fellows” referring, no doubt, to the Gentiles, who lie beyond the portion of Ephraim, as it is written: “The land of Zebulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles” (Matt. 4: 14).  When Christ comes to reign, He will rule over one elect nation composed of Jews and Gentiles alike.  “And David my servant shall be King over them, and they shall all have one Shepherd; they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them” (Ezek. 37: 24).  Judging from the context of Ezekiel’s vision, we learn that fulfillment will take place upon the raising of the dry bones; that is, the First Resurrection.

   And the prophet continues thus: “And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt, and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever: and my servant David shall be their Prince for ever.  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 shall also 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 shall be in the midst of them for evermore” (Ezek. 37: 25-28).  No one who compares this prophecy with John’s vision of Rev. 21: 2-3 ff., will doubt that both speak of the same blessed state of God’s people during the times of the Millennium.  And we look forward to these times with “exceeding great joy.”

   Therefore, our conclusion is, that the fulfillment of the earthly blessings are not now, nor can they attained in the celestial realms, for they relate to the things of this world. But they have regard to a time in the near future.  It is true that the world must first be renewed and refreshed, that blessings may indeed be conferred, and that the promises be not frustrated by the presence and power of evil.   For, where the wicked prevail, righteousness must suffer.  But where the righteous prevail, the wicked must be driven out.  So, then, as the present age is that of the dominion of the wicked, the Millennium shall be that of the dominion of the righteous.  And then shall the land promises be fulfilled.  And all Israel will dwell in peace and safety, for they shall stand in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, King of all the earth.

To be continued…

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