Previous article in this series: September 15, 2018, p. 494.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).
There is yet one fundamental error of premillennialism concerning the end of all things—eschatology—that the Reformed faith strongly condemns and that plainly exposes premillennialism as gross error concerning the end. This error pervades dispensational premillennialism. Criticism of the error likewise, therefore, has pervaded this critical examination of premillennialism.
But it is necessary to isolate the error, expose it, and bring down upon it the heavy condemnation of the Reformed, indeed, Christian, creeds and of the Bible.
The error is premillennialism’s dividing of the people of God into two, separate groups: national Israel, composed of racial Jews, and the church, made up mainly of believing Gentiles.
This division of the people of God into two distinct and separated groups is basic premillennial doctrine.
It is also rank heresy.
The error divides the people of God and the body of Christ. Since division of the body of Christ and people of God is schism, premillennialism is schismatic. In premillennialism, ugly schism parades as lovely orthodoxy.
The error makes God a polygamist, contrary to His own will for marriage. According to premillennialism, God is married to two wives. One is national Israel, wife of Jehovah (Ezek. 16). The other is the church, bride of Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah in the flesh (Eph. 5).
The error teaches, not only two ways of salvation, but also two salvations: an earthly, carnal salvation for the Jews as the restored (earthly) nation of Israel, and a spiritual salvation for the church.
This heresy of dividing the people of God bears on, indeed, demands, the eschatological error of premillennialism. Because the Jews are and remain a distinct, separate people of God, there must be a millennium for them in the future, which millennium is the main feature of the last days for premillennialism. The Jews must yet enjoy the prophesied earthly power, earthly benefits, and earthly glory. Since this “golden age” for the Jews requires the removal of the church from the scene, lest the church intrude on the carnal prosperity and power of the Jews (as if the church, having begun to enjoy the spiritual and heavenly blessings of perfected salvation, the things which God has prepared for them who love Him [I Cor. 2:9], would have the slightest interest in the carnal bounties that premillennialism lavishes upon the Jews), there must be the secret rapture of the church into the air at any moment.
Contemporary premillennial theologian Barry E. Horner rightly describes premillennial theology as a “Judeo-centric Eschatology.”1 The description is itself the exposure and condemnation of premillennialism.
Dispensationalism’s division of the people of God
The original dispensational premillennialists emphatically taught the separation of the people of God into two, different, and eternally separated groups. That is, they taught two distinct and everlastingly different peoples of God. One people is the Jewish nation of Israel, restored as an earthly kingdom. The other is the largely Gentile church of New Testament believers. The former is the kingdom of God. The latter is the church of Jesus Christ.
Indicating the intrinsic importance and necessity of this division of the two peoples of God, the fathers of premillennialism taught that the division would forever have a physical and local expression. The Jews would inhabit the new earth; the Gentile church would dwell in the new heavens.
Such is the inherent, far-reaching divisiveness of premillennialism that the error implied a division of creation itself. Creation itself—the new creation—would have a deep and wide fault-line, if not chasm, between earth and heaven, between the territory of the kingdom and the home of the church.
Salvation itself for the two peoples would be different. For the Jewish nation, salvation during the millennial dispensation would be earthly—earthly power, earthly riches, earthly glory. For the church, salvation would be heavenly and spiritual—spiritual riches and spiritual honor.
- I. Scofield, one of the fathers of dispensational premillennialism, wrote that the Israelites have a “very distinct place in the dealings and counsels of God…. All the communications of Jehovah to Israel as a nation relate to the Earth…. The nation is promised earthly greatness, riches and power.”
Alongside Israel is “another distinct body, which is called the Church.” Between Israel and the church is a fundamental difference: “Just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the Church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things.”
This difference between the two peoples of God extends into the future—the last things, eschatology.
In the predictions concerning the future of Israel and the Church, the distinction is still more startling. The Church will be taken away from the earth entirely, but restored Israel is yet to have her greatest earthly splendor and power.2
L. S. Chafer, an early, influential advocate of traditional premillennialism in the United States, wrote:
The dispensationalist believes that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved, which is Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.3
Contemporary dispensationalist Craig A. Blaising accurately describes the traditional premillennial teaching:
In the present dispensation, God is forming a heavenly people, the church, for a heavenly (spiritual) mode of life in a heavenly destiny. In the future dispensation [the millennium of a literal, one-thousand years of continuing earthly history—DJE], when the heavenly people will fill the heavens [having been raptured off the earth to make way for the realization of God’s main purpose with history—the restoration of the earthly nation of Israel as His kingdom—DJE], God will resume his purpose for an earthly people, Israel and Gentiles [but mainly Israel—DJE], who have an earthly mode of life and an earthly destiny in the kingdom of Christ.4
Although Charles Ryrie now presents himself, and is widely regarded, as moderating some of the theology of the fathers of dispensationalism, thus showing himself open to ecumenical dialogue with covenant theology, Ryrie agrees that the everlasting difference between Israel and the church is fundamental to premillennialism. Having quoted Chafer concerning God’s “two distinct purposes” in history, Ryrie comments:
This is probably the most basic theological test of whether or not a man is a dispensationalist, and it is undoubtedly the most practical and conclusive. A man who fails to distinguish Israel and the Church will inevitably not hold to dispensational distinctions; and one who does, will.5
A little earlier in the book, Ryrie had affirmed that “the sine qua non [that which is essential—DJE] of dispensationalism…[ is that] a dispensationalist keeps Israel and the Church distinct.”6
John F. Walvoord, at the time president of Dallas Theological Seminary, expressed what has been fundamental to premillennialism from the very beginning of that false doctrine, and pronounced that fundamental teaching “essential”: “[the] doctrine of the church as a body distinct from Israel…is essential to premillennialism.” 7
Implied is that biblical evidence that Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church are one, in that the church is the fulfillment and spiritual reality of Old Testament Israel, exposes dispensational premillennialism as false doctrine. If Old Testament Israel, as the kingdom and covenant people of God, is essentially one with the New Testament church, as the kingdom and covenant people of God, because the New Testament church is the fulfillment and spiritual reality of Old Testament Israel, dispensational premillennialism is total, utter, and grievous false doctrine.8
And this is precisely the truth.
(to be continued)
1 Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007), xvi. Horner goes on to affirm “a distinct national and territorial destiny for Israel” (315). Any dissent from this affirmation marks one as guilty of “anti-Judaism,” a slightly, but only slightly, less obnoxious evil, evidently, than “anti-Semitism.”
2 C. I. Scofield, Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (New York/ Chicago: Fleming H. Revell, n.d.), 7-17.
3 L. S. Chafer, quoted in Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press, 1965), 45.
4 Craig A. Blaising, “Dispensationalism: The Search for Definition,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 20.
5 Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 45.
6 Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, 44.
7 John F. Walvoord, The Rapture Question (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 21.
8 This biblical evidence will be forthcoming in a subsequent article in this series.