“The Church-Age” In Premillennialism

It is important that a few words be written in this series on the positive teaching of the prophetic Scriptures concerning the church of Jesus Christ. In doing so we are defending the faith of the Fathers; we are contending for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

The church is the pillar and ground of the truth; we are, therefore, set for a defense of the Gospel. The sword of the Spirit we are called to wield in Christ’s Name. Our weapons are not fleshly but they are spiritual, in order to bring every thought unto the obedience of Christ (II Cor. 10:4).

It is imperative that in this study our hearing be mingled with faith, as well as our writing and reading.

We are engaged in defending an Article of our undoubted Christian Faith: I believe an holy catholic church! And this is inclusive of the article, “The communion of saints.” And we must, we repeat it knowingly, we must be good workmen toward God, rightly dividing the word of truth; we must not be put to shame by the Lord Who is the God of truth by Whom we swear.

Admittedly, the truth of the Scripture concerning the church, Biblical and Reformed Ecclesiology, stands in the focal-point of this study concerning the so-called church-age of Premillennialism. John F. Walvoord in his The Rapture Question admits this explicitly. He writes a chapter on “The Promise Of His Coming” in which he treats such questions as the doctrine of the “Tribulation.” He also treats the “doctrine of the church” in relation to the “Rapture Question.”

The definition “that the church is an all-inclusive term that is synonym with the term elect and saints” premillennialism rejects. The confessional truth that the “saints of the past, present and future ages are included in the church” is categorically denied by dispensationalism of every hue and color.

There is a certain logic of error in the denial that all the elect are the church of all ages, past, present, and future. The true confession concerning the holy Catholic Church stands as a bulwark of defense against the teaching of the Premillennially conceived “rapture”; particularly against those who call themselves Pre-Tribulationist confessors of the “rapture”, that is, those who argue for the “rapture” to take place before the great “Tribulation” of the seven years, holding the position that the raptured saints will not need to pass through that tribulation.

This is somewhat of a shibboleth with Pre-Tribulationists in contrast with the Post-Tribulation Premillennialists.

Be this all as it may, the fact is that the Confession concerning the Holy Catholic Church is sacrificed on the altar of a rapture theory, an unBiblical teaching concerning a Jewish Millennium.

This we hope to show conclusively in this study.

It is the contention (!) of dispensationalism that the concept church, as confessed in all churches, must give way for the view and the structures of Premillennial thought. According to this latter view there is no “church” in the Old Testament Dispensation. In the Old Testament we find only the “kingdom of Israel,” that is, of the “Jews,” while in the New Testament we are dealing with a certain church in a church-age, which is somehow simply a period of time, when the kingdom must wait to be given to the Jewish nation, and the promises to them as proclaimed by the prophets to be fulfilled to them.

Those who speak of a “church” within a church-age deny the Catholicity of the church, that is, they deny that “the Son of God gathers a church elect unto everlasting life” from the beginning of the world to the end of time!

After a period of two years of study and exegesis I am profoundly convinced that the teaching of Premillennialism is to be denominated as being heresy! It is false teaching. It is a leaven which eats as a canker into the fabric of the structural truths of Scriptural teaching, and it is not really conducive to godliness, but genders many word-battles. But edification is not achieved.

Furthermore, we are convinced, and we intend to show this from good, sound exegesis, that a mere study of the etymology of terms such as the Hebrew Qahal (assembly = congregation) and other related Hebrew verbs and nouns is not decisive for the implication of their meaning. And the translation of the Hebrew noun with the Greek ecclesia too needs some careful study of this term in its immediate and broader contexts in Scripture. What we need is solid exegesis and interpretation of the Scriptures in the light of Scripture, and we must be certain that our teaching is according to the sound words of the evangelical doctrine, the pattern of sound words to which we have been delivered (Rom. 6:17). The Greek in Romans 6:17 requires that we translate not as does the KJV “delivered to us,” but “to which we have been delivered.” This is correct in the Holland Version, as well as other English translations. The great covenant word of God is and was, “I am the Lord thy God,” and also “ye are My people.” Such is the framework of all the words of God to Israel in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament.

It is interesting to notice the studied way in which the term ecclesia in both the Old and New Testament is made to signify merely an “assembly.” That the church is the “body” of Christ is then not mentioned at all. Even in Ephesians 1:22, 23 the term ecclesia is translated simply by the term “assembly.” We shall come back to this later and show exegetically that this is selling the term ecclesia short of the meaning which Paul had in mind in this grand section of the Epistle to the Ephesians. A year ago I purchased an “Interlinear Greek-English New Testament” with Lexica and Synonyms, authored by G.R. Berry. I have received great benefit from the use of this book; however, I am not deceived by the Dispensational flavor and bias of the book as to the translation of certain keywords. There is an avowed purpose to render the Greek ecclesia by the English term “assembly.” The KJV translates this noun some 112 times by “church” and 3 times it is rendered “assembly.” These latter times are used in Acts 19:32, 39, 41 of the gathering, the mob against Paul in Ephesus, and of the legal town counsel. This shows that the Westminster and Anglican fathers knew now to distinguish the linguistic usage of ecclesia. Never do they translate ecclesia by any other term than church! In contrast with this, the aforesaid Interlinear translation never uses the word church but only assembly!

In this madness there is method!

This is a denial of an Article of our Christian Faith.

It is a repudiation of what we so beautifully confess with all the saints of the ages, and which the Heidelberg Catechism so clearly and succinctly states in the following words:

“Ques. What believest thou concerning the ‘holy catholic church’ of Christ?

“Answer: That the Son of God from the beginning to the end of world, gathers, defends and preserves to himself by His Spirit and word, out of the whole human race, a church chosen to everlasting life, agreeing in true faith; and of which I am and always shall remain a living member.” (Question and Answer 54)

Of what should this be a warning to us? Are we here dealing merely with a quibbling about words, some shadow-boxing and fencing?

Not at all!

It as a matter of the greatest importance, both theologically and spiritually. It is the question of our glad assurance that we are not merely members of some local assembly of a given group of people, but whether we are living members of those ingrafted into Christ as the true Vine, the planting of the heavenly husbandman, our Father in heaven (John 15:1-15), and whether we are abiding in Him and bear much fruit to the glory of God’s everlasting and sovereign grace.

Hence, we insist that also this truth of the “Church of Christ” is necessary for a Christian to believe as an integral part of the revealed promise of God to the fathers and which was fulfilled by the resurrection of Jesus Christ for us the children of these fathers (Acts 13:32, 33). The very truth of the Gospel is at stake. The Locus of Ecclesiology is not a mere appendage of the body of Christian truth. It is the building which Christ builds upon the chief cornerstone. In truth, the doctrine of the church is the very “rock of offense”‘ for Premillennialism in all of its Dispensational ramifications.

Those who deny the “church” in the Old Testament deny the one “promise” of God fulfilled in Christ. Consequently they also deny that there is but one Gospel of God, as this is defined in Question 19 of the Heidelberg Catechism. (Read from your own Psalter until you have memorized it!)

Which are the four elements pointed out by our Reformed fathers? They are the following:

a. First of all revealed by God Himself in paradise (Gen. 3:15).

b. Afterwards published by the patriarchs and prophets (Gen. 22:17, 18; Gen. 28:14; Rom. 1:2; John 4:46).

c. Represented by sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Heb. 10:7, 8).

d. Lastly, fulfilled by God’s only begotten Son (Rom. 10:4; Heb. 13:8).

It is Scofield who rather speaks of “four forms” of the Gospel in the pattern of Dispensation-error. Attend to the following which may be found verbatim in notes under Revelation 14:6, page 1343 of the Scofieldian “Bible.”

As might be expected Scofield, first of all, singles out what he calls the gospel of the Kingdom. And according to Scofield this “gospel” is the “good news that God purposes to set up on earth, in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (II Sam. 7:16ff) a kingdom political, spiritual, Israelitish, universal, over which God’s Son, David’s heir, shall be king for one thousand years, the manifestation of the righteousness of God in human affairs.”

Of this gospel Scofield posits two different teachings, preachings.

The first is during the time of John the Baptist, Jesus, the Apostles. This preaching ended when the Jews rejected their King. And this means that the gospel of the kingdom of heaven is not being preached at all during the entire time which is erroneously called the “church-age.”

The second time of preaching of this “kingdom” is after the church-age has ended, and, therefore, during the time of the “seven years.” It will be immediately before the coming of the King of glory to establish His earthly reign with natural Israel, in which establishment the saints of the church-age shall not share.

(will be continued)