Eschatology—The Old Testament

Concluding our discussion of the doctrine of Eschatology as taught in the Old Testament, we now would call attention to two other phases of this doctrine as held before us in the Scriptures of the Old Dispensation. First, the Word of God certainly comforted the Church of God in the Old Dispensation with the truth of the resurrection of the dead. The passages of Ps. 16:8-11 and Job 19:25-27 are very familiar. Ps. 16:8-11 reads as follows:

I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou will not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

It is true, we understand, that this passage refers specifically to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But, although it is true that the passage refers to our Lord Jesus Christ, it nevertheless speaks of the resurrection of the dead. And, secondly, the Word of God surely also teaches us that this resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the blessed pledge of our resurrection of the dead. 

And in Job 19:25-27 we read the following very beautiful passage:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Here the afflicted saint of the Old Dispensation gives expression to his faith in the resurrection of his body in the last day. He writes that he shall see God in his flesh. We understand that this does not mean that he will see God in his present earthy flesh. Does he not declare that the worms shall destroy this body? It is obvious, therefore, that Job refers to his body, that he is speaking here of the resurrection of his body, and that he with his eyes shall see God although his reins be consumed within him. This is the Old Testament believer’s faith in the resurrection of the body. 

Finally, the Old Testament Scriptures also call our attention to the truth of the final judgment. This, we know, is taught throughout the Word of God. We need not quote now from the New Testament Scriptures. We are undoubtedly familiar with such Scriptures as II Cor. 5:10 and II Pet. 2:4-9, where we read that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and also that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished. But we also have references to this truth in the Old Testament Scriptures. We read in Jude 1:14-15:

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.

Now it is true that we have no reference to this Word of God in the Old Testament account as held before us in the book of Genesis, in the days prior to the flood. We do read of these ungodly speeches, as expressed by the godless Lamech, contemporary with Enoch, the father of Jubal, Jabal and Tubal-Cain. However, this, of course, does not nullify that Enoch prophesied against the wicked of his day, as recorded here for us in the book of Jude. This saint of God, the seventh from Adam, certainly spoke here of the Judgment Day. 

And in Daniel 7:9-11 we read:

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, Whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened. I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.

Here we have a vivid, description of the final judgment. Daniel was given to see the development of the kingdom of God throughout the history and ages of the world, also the Day of Judgment. And in Ps. 62:12 we read: “Also unto Thee, OLord, belongeth mercy: for Thou renderest to every man according to his work.” And this is in harmony with the word of the apostle Paul in II Cor. 5:10 and with the word of Christ in Rev. 22:12

Turning our attention to the Scriptures of the New Testament, particularly the four gospel narratives, we cannot escape the conclusion that the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ, as prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the day of Pentecost, were premillenarian in their conception and expectation of the Messiah and His kingdom. There are those who are of the opinion that the apostles, also after the day of Pentecost, were of the opinion that Jesus was returning soon after His ascension to heaven, and that this opinion was generally held by the church of God during the early years of the New Dispensation. Now it is true that there are passages in Scripture to the effect that Jesus is coming soon. In Rev. 22:12 we read that our Lord Jesus Christ is coming quickly. In James 5:8we read that the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. And in the following verse, verse 9, we read that “the judge standeth before the door.” And in Rom. 13:12 we read that “the night is far spent, the day is at hand.” Upon these and similar passages the conclusion is based that it was generally believed in the church of God that Christ was coming soon. In answer to this, we may observe the following. In the first place, it may have been true that the people of God were generally of the opinion that the return of Christ upon the clouds of heaven could be expected momentarily. Perhaps they were of this opinion. In the second place, it is surely impossible to believe that this opinion was also held by the apostles. It is undoubtedly true that, prior to the day of Pentecost, they were premillenarian in their conception and expectation of the Messiah and His kingdom. But it is surely difficult to believe that they continued in this expectation after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Endowed with the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, Who led them into all the truth, they certainly knew that Christ could not return upon the clouds of heaven until ail things had been accomplished. They certainly knew that the gospel must be preached to all nations, that wars must come and rumors of wars, also pestilences and famines and earthquakes, and that the final return of Christ upon the clouds of heaven would be preceded by the antichrist, the son of perdition. Thirdly, however, it surely does not make a particle of difference what the opinion of the church may have been, and what the personal opinion of the apostles may have been. We believe in the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. It is not important, therefore, to know what their personal opinion may have been. The only question of importance is: what is the meaning of these Scriptures and of the Holy Spirit Who inspired them? It is certainly true that the language of the Word of God is adapted to the time and age when it was composed. But the Comforter of the weary, of Whom we read in Is. 50:4, surely speaks a word of comfort to the weary, also in season, and the Word of God is applicable to the people of God throughout the ages. And we certainly know that these various passages of Holy Writ do not speak of an early return of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the clouds of heaven, although this expectation may have lived in the consciousness of the people of God during the early years of the New Dispensation. 

That the disciples of our Lord were premillenarian in their conception of Christ and His kingdom can hardly be doubted. It was immediately before our Lord’s transfiguration upon the mount that He began to teach His disciples in regard to His approaching suffering and death. And we will recall that the apostle Peter took our Lord aside and said to Him that this would not happen unto Him. Is this not strange? Had not the Old Testament Scriptures spoken plainly of the Messiah’s suffering and death? Does not Isaiah speak of Him, as in Is. 53, as of the suffering Servant of Jehovah? And notice what we read in Is. 50:5-6: “The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” These passages are surely easy to read and understand. And yet the disciples resented this reference of their Lord to His suffering and death? Why? O, if Jesus had told them that He would die in a spectacular fashion, that He would miraculously lay down His life and just as miraculously take it up again, publicly and in the sight of all men, they probably would not have objected. Did not all the sacrifices of the Old Dispensation speak of a sacrifice that was to come? But, of course, the element of Jesus’ instruction which they resented was the reference to the manner in which He would die. They resented the element of suffering. They objected to the element of shame. They could not understand why their Lord; Who had power over all things, also His enemies, would be willing to subject Himself to such a shameful humiliation. And that they opposed Him was also due, undoubtedly, to their carnality. At least, Jesus rebukes them, as in Luke 24:25, in connection with His appearance as the risen Lord to the travelers to Emmaus, because they were fools, that is, slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken of Him. And that they were slow of heart surely indicates the factor of carnality for which they were responsible and for which they are rebuked by our risen Lord. They did not understand the way of suffering and shame because they were carnal and clung to the things that are below. 

These disciples were certainly earthly in their conception of the Messiah and His kingdom. They resented His teaching with respect to His falling into the hands of sinners. As often as He would speak of His approaching humiliation at the hands of sinners, they would be debating among themselves who would be the greatest in the kingdom. They were angry at two of the disciples when these two disciples, undoubtedly inspired by their mother, asked Him for a place in His kingdom, one at His right hand and the other at His left, cf. Mark 10:35-41. In fact, as late as when Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples ask Him, according to Acts 1:6: “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” And what these disciples meant we all understand. O, it is certainly true that the disciples were premillenarian in their conception of the coming kingdom of the Messiah. But we may certainly believe that they were relieved of this earthly and carnal conception when they received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.