Chapter five: Premillennialism (19): Fundamental Reformed critique of premillennialism

Previous article in this series: March 1, 2018, p. 255.

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Galatians 3:16

“For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel…. In Isaac shall thy seed be called…. The children of the promise are counted for the seed…. That the purpose of God according to election might stand…. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Romans 9:6-13


Dispensational premillennialism is false doctrine concerning the truth of the last days, or end. It is false doctrine in its fantasy of a rapture of the church off the earth and out of history at any moment, importantly before the rise and raging of Antichrist.

It is false doctrine in its assurance of members of the church that they will escape the great tribulation of the last days under the Antichrist.

It is false doctrine in positing a distinct age of history following the present age—a literal millennium of a thousand years—during which age the Jews will be an earthly kingdom of God, ruling over all nations with physical power and steeped in material bounties.

This false eschatology is no minor matter. It not only fails to prepare the members of the church for the coming conflict with the beasts of Revelation 13, but it also blinds the churches to the signs of the rising of the beast out of the sea and the establishing of his antichristian kingdom as this rising takes place before our very eyes at the present hour.

Dispensational premillennialism makes the kingdom of Christ an earthly, physical, carnal entity—a restored nation of Israel, whose citizens are racial Jews. Thus, premillennialism obscures the reality of the Messianic kingdom as spiritual and heavenly. Premillennialism ignores the gospel truth that all believers have been “translated into the kingdom of his [God’s] dear Son” (Col. 1:13). This truth clearly implies that the Messianic kingdom is a present reality in the world, indeed, was a reality on earth in the apostle’s day. It implies as well that the kingdom is spiritual, not carnal, heavenly, not earthly, for there was no physical, earthly kingdom of God in the world when the apostle wrote these words. Nor is there such a carnal kingdom of Christ on earth today, when the elect of God are still being translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Colossians 1:13 does not only imply, but also expressly declares that the citizenry of the Messianic kingdom are mainly Gentile believers, not racial Jews, for those of whom he spoke in the text were Gentile Christians.

Ignorant of the truth of the kingdom of Christ, premillennialists do not live in the awareness that the life of the New Testament Christian is kingdom-life, that he is called to battle on behalf of the kingdom of Christ against the kingdom of Satan, and that his high office and honorable position is that he is a citizen of the Messianic kingdom of God.

Dispensational premillennialists deny the confession of the Heidelberg Catechism that the Gentile Christian today is the citizen of the Messianic kingdom and that he mainly lives the life of the kingdom, not by exercising physical dominion over the ungodly and by enjoying to the full the material goods of an earthly kingdom, but by fighting against sin and Satan. Premillennialists also deny the teaching of the Catechism that the reign of all believers, not only racial Jews, will be “hereafter,” that is, after history ends, and that this reign of Christians over all creatures will be eternal, not merely for a thousand years.

Why art thou called a Christian?

Because by faith I am a member of Christ, and thus a partaker of his anointing; in order that I also may confess his name, may present myself a living sacrifice of thankfulness to him, and may with free conscience fight against sin and the devil in this life, and hereafter, in eternity, reign with him over all creatures.1

Even more reprehensible is premillennialism’s disparagement of God’s beloved, honored, glorious church and of God’s grand work of gathering the church. Premillennialism disparages the church and her gathering in favor of the fictitious, supposedly future kingdom of Jews and of the imaginary work of God of restoring earthly Israel as the kingdom of God in the world.

These are elements of premillennialism’s false doctrine of the last things—its eschatology.

How radically different this view of the end is from that of the Reformed faith and how seriously in error is this view are evident on the very surface of the premillennial doctrine of the last things.

Two heresies

Involved in this popular false doctrine of the last days, and basic to it, are especially two heresies. A “heresy,” as I use the word here, is worse than a false doctrine, evil and dangerous as a false doctrine is. A heresy is a corruption of the gospel at its very heart.

The two heresies of premillennialism are the denial of Jesus Christ and the rejection of divine election.

Denial of Jesus Christ

Dispensational premillennialism denies Jesus Christ.

It denies Jesus Christ in its own peculiar way.

But the denial of Jesus Christ is real, and culpable.

Dispensational premillennialism does not deny the person and work of Jesus Christ outrightly, as do the modernists. Premillennial theologians confess that Jesus is both God and man; that He died to atone for sin; that He rose bodily; and that He will come again in the body, indeed, will come again a couple of times.

Nevertheless, premillennialism denies Jesus Christ by its rejection of the gospel truth that salvation in the age of the Old Testament was by faith in Jesus Christ, that is, faith that had the coming Messiah as its content. Salvation in the Old Testament, according to dispensational premillennialism, was by faith in God, apart from the coming Messiah, who is Jesus. The coming Christ was not the “object” and “content” of the faith of the Old Testament saints. Dispensationalism is shut up to this monstrous heresy by its insistence on the essential difference between the Old Testament dispensation of law and the New Testament dispensation of grace. The covenant with Israel was not the “covenant of grace,” the content of which was the promised Messiah, who is Jesus. It was not substantially the same covenant in Jesus Christ that embraces elect believers and their children in the New Testament.

Charles Ryrie, who now presents himself as a more “moderate” proponent of premillennialism, denies that the “conscious object of the faith of Old Testament saints [was] Christ.” The object and content of the faith of the Old Testament saints was God—God apart from the Mediator between God and man, the Messiah, who is Jesus. Ryrie quotes with approval the quasi-creedal statement of Dallas Seminary:

We believe that it was historically impossible that they [Old Testament believers] should have had as the conscious object of their faith the incarnate, crucified Son, the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and that it is evident that they did not comprehend as we do that the sacrifices depicted the person and work of Christ.2

Ryrie charges that the Reformed faith is “guilty of superimposing Him [Jesus Christ] arbitrarily on the Old Testament.” The same guilt attaches to the “concept of salvation through faith in Christ” as the only way of salvation in the Old Testament.3

Jesus, an arbitrary superimposition!

So also, the truth of salvation by faith in Christ!

The Reformed faith condemns this denial of Jesus Christ as Mediator of the one covenant of grace for Old Testament believers. Exactly with regard to Jesus Christ as the necessary Mediator of all salvation and exactly with regard to one’s knowledge of this Mediator and trust in Him as the object, content, and way of gracious salvation, the Heidelberg Catechism confesses that believers, in all ages, “know” the Mediator

from the Holy Gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise, afterwards proclaimed by the holy Patriarchs and Prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law, and finally fulfilled by his well-beloved Son.4

There has never been gracious salvation apart from the Mediator, Jesus the Christ. There has never been knowledge and confidence of salvation by a God of grace apart from knowledge of and trust in the Mediator, Jesus the Christ.

To affirm salvation apart from the Messiah is blatant denial of Jesus Christ. This alone ought to cause the premillennialist to regard his theology with horror, to drive him to his knees in repentance for his gross, doctrinal sin, and to renounce his Christ-denying theology root and branch.

In addition, premillennialism denies Jesus Christ by denying that Jesus Christ has such preeminence, such honor, such centrality in history, according to the eternal counsel of God, that He determines what the kingdom of God is and who the citizens of the kingdom are.

This, I will demonstrate in the next article in this series.

(to be continued)

1 Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 32, in P. Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3:318 (emphasis added).

2 Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 122-125.

3 Ryrie, 187. 4 Q&A 19, in Schaff, Creeds, 3:313.