Previous article in this series: January 1, 2019, p. 161.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9
Because dispensational premillennialism refuses to recognize the church as the fulfillment and reality of Old Testament Israel, this premillennialism has concocted its heretical and absurd eschatology, that is, doctrine of the last things.
There must be a future, national conversion of the Jews in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecy concerning the peace, prosperity, and power of Israel. There must be a millennium for the Jewish people in order to fulfill the promises to Israel, in the earthly forms in which Old Testament prophecy typically couched the promises. There must be a rapture of the church out of the world and out of the way in order that the Jews may enjoy their carnal power, peace, and privileges.
At the root of the false and foolish eschatology of premillennialism is the un-Reformed, unchristian, and unbiblical division of Israel from the church.
The Reformed confessions against premillennialism
The Reformed confessions condemn premillennial theology.
There is in all of history, that of the Old Testament and that of the New Testament, as well as in eternity, one people of God—the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of Jesus Christ—which the Son of God gathers to Himself out of the whole human race “from the beginning to the end of the world” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 54). The organizational form of the church in much of the time of the old covenant was the kingdom, first of Israel, then of Judah. In the time of the new covenant, the institution and citizens of the kingdom of God are the church. Therefore, in the time of the new covenant the keys of the kingdom—the keys of the kingdom—are the preaching of the holy gospel and the exercise of Christian discipline by the church (Heid. Cat., Q&A 83).
Question 123 of the Heidelberg Catechism identifies the kingdom of God as the church. The content of the petition in the model prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” is: “preserve and increase Thy church.”
Article 27 of the Belgic Confession confesses Jesus Christ as “eternal King,” not of the national Israel of racial Jews, but of the “catholic Christian church.”
With regard to the creedal exposure of dispensationalism as false doctrine, there is also the glaring fact that none of the Reformed, or even Christian, creeds confess premillennialism. In view of the huge importance of the theology of dispensational premillennialism, according to its advocates, how strange, how significant, that the Spirit of truth did not lead the Christian church, especially the Protestant church after the Reformation, into any knowledge of premillennialism, much less into a creedal statement of the doctrine.
Dispensational premillennialism is, in fact, the very recent invention of Darby, Scofield, and others even less reputable than they.
Scripture against premillennialism
Holy Scripture exposes dispensational premillennialism as false doctrine. Earlier in this series, I have shown that the passages appealed to by premillennialism as the main sources of their theory—Revelation 20, Daniel 9, and Romans 11—do not, in fact, teach or support that doctrine of the last days.
On the contrary, the Bible condemns premillennialism as false doctrine, particularly with regard to premillennialism’s teaching of Israel and the church as two different peoples of God.
God has made elect, believing Gentiles and Israel “one new man.” They are “one body” in the one Savior, Jesus the Messiah (Eph. 2:11-23).
Contrary to the basic assumption of dispensational premillennialism, “there is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Abraham’s seed is not determined by physical descent from the father of believers, thus forever distinguishing a Jewish people of God from the Gentile people of God. But Abraham’s seed is Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:16). Belonging to Abraham’s seed, therefore, is determined solely by being “Christ’s,” by a true faith, according to eternal election (Gal. 3:29). It is a spiritual reality, not a physical, racial matter.
That this radical oneness of Jewish and Gentilic elect believers holds only for the present dispensation, prior to a rapture of the church and to God’s returning to the Jews on behalf of a distinctively Jewish kingdom-people, when Israel and the church will again become two divided peoples of God, is sheer premillennial invention and a bold, wicked denial of the biblical doctrine of the unity of the church of God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek” now, and forever! “Ye [are] all one in Christ Jesus” now, and forever! “Ye [are] Abraham’s seed if ye be Christ’s” (not, if ye be physical offspring of Abraham) now, and forever!
The oneness of Jewish and Gentile believers, contrary to dispensational premillennialism’s dividing of them into two distinct and separated peoples, is taught by Scripture in the very passage to which premillennialism appeals on behalf of its schismatic theology, Romans 11. When God saves elect Jews throughout the ages, He does not save them as a separate people. But He incorporates (“graffs”) them into one and the same olive tree with Gentile converts. “For if thou [Gentile believer] wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these [Jewish converts to Christ], which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?” (Rom. 11:24) There is, and ever shall be, one olive tree of Jewish and Gentile believers who are one in their union in the one tree.
Perfectly clear, and absolutely decisive, against the dispensational premillennial denial that the New Testament church of largely Gentile elect believers is the fulfillment and reality of Old Testament, largely Jewish Israel is I Peter 2:9, which is quoted at the head of this article. Here, the apostle applies to the New Testament church of elect believers, who are mostly Gentiles, words that were originally spoken of Old Testament Israel, in Exodus 19:5, 6:
If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:
And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
Thus, the Holy Spirit identifies the New Testament church of mainly Gentile believers and their children as the true, spiritual “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
Specifically, the passage identifies the “holy nation,” not as a future, earthly, restored kingdom of Jews, but as the believing, largely Gentile church.
The New Testament church is the “holy nation” and kingdom of God.
The Gentiles, “which in time past were not a people…are now the people of God” (I Pet 2:10).
Not “replacement,” but fulfillment
In this connection, I call attention to an important aspect of the controversy between premillennialism and amillennialism that is often overlooked. Premillennialists invariably, and undoubtedly deliberately, misrepresent the amillennial, Reformed doctrine of the relation between Old Testament Israel and the New Testament church. Premillennialists state the Reformed position as holding that the church “replaces,” “supplants,” “supersedes,” or otherwise takes the place of Israel.
Barry E. Horner contends against “supersessionism (or, replacement theology, the view that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan of redemption).”1
W. Edward Glenny would have his readers believe that Reformed amillennialism presents “the church as a new Israel replacing ethnic Israel in God’s program.”
Kenneth L. Barker fights with a straw man when he argues that “the church does not supplant Israel.”
Emphatically, the Reformed, Christian faith does not now teach, and never has taught, that the church supercedes, replaces, or supplants Israel. If Reformed theologians used such words to describe the relation between Israel and the church, they were careless, and did not express, or represent, by these words the Reformed understanding. The calculated use of such words by the dispensationalists to describe the Reformed confession of the relation between Israel and the church indicates that the dispensationalists are well aware of the importance of this relation in the controversy. To criticize as mildly as possible the evil of the dispensationalists in thus describing the Reformed view of the relation between Israel and the church, it is, at the very least, a poisoning of the wells.
The Reformed theology is not that the church replaces, much less supplants, Israel. Rather, the Reformed doctrine is that the church is the New Testament reality of Old Testament Israel. The church is the spiritual fulfillment of Old Testament Israel. Thus, the New Testament church is God’s Israel today, even as Old Testament Israel, in its elect kernel, was the church of the old covenant.
Let every dispensationalist, and every confessing Christian considering dispensationalism, give heed.
The church does not replace Israel!
The church is Israel, even as Israel was the church!
I Peter 2:9 says so: “Ye are a chosen [elect] generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” that is, people of God’s possession. Speaking to the largely Gentile church of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit identifies her as the Israel to whom these words were originally spoken in Exodus 19:5, 6. In past time, the time of the old covenant, we Gentile believers “were not a people, but are now the people of God,” that is, His Israel (I Pet. 2:10). On this passage—I Peter 2:9, 10—indeed, on this passage by itself alone, dispensational premillennialism breaks its neck.
Contrary to the foolish thinking of many evangelicals, and even Reformed church members, the blessed nation today, “whose God is the Lord, and the people, today, “whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance,” are not the United States and its citizens. (I began conceiving this article on July 5, at the time of the year when Christians lustily sing “God Bless America” as though the United States were the God-blessed nation of the psalms.)
Contrary to the theology of dispensational premillennialism, neither are this nation and people Israel and the Jews. The blessed nation is the New Testament church of Christ, the spiritual kingdom whose king is the risen and exalted Christ Jesus. And the “people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance” are exactly those whom God “hath chosen,” that is, the elect out of all nations, who show and know their election by a true faith in Jesus Christ.
Likewise, the New Testament church is the reality and fulfillment of the Old Testament temple. Contrary to the foolish premillennial expectation of a rebuilt, material temple of God in Palestine in the future (for which American premillennialists, we hear, are presently taking collections, so that Israel in it may again offer animal sacrifices, to the denying of the one sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross), the New Testament church is “a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (I Pet. 2:5).
Premillennialism’s blindness regarding Christ
Ultimately, the reason why dispensational premillennialists cannot see this spiritual fulfillment of Old Testament Israel, of the Old Testament temple, and of the Old Testament sacrifices, indeed refuse to see it, despite the clear witness and powerful testimony of the amillennial Reformed faith, is premillennialism’s blindness with regard to Jesus Christ.
For the entire, glorious word of God in I Peter 2 concerning the church as the New Testament reality of Old Testament Israel centers on the truth of Jesus Christ. Because He is the “chief corner stone, elect, precious” (I Pet. 2:6), those who believe on Him are the true, real temple of God and the genuine reality of the Old Testament priesthood, offering up “spiritual sacrifices” (I Pet. 2:5). Because Jesus is the chief corner stone, whom God Himself has laid in Sion (I Pet. 2:6), God’s Israel is the people distinguished by believing on this Jesus, not a people distinguished by mere physical descent from Abraham (I Pet. 2:6-8).
The reality of Israel, the temple of God, acceptable sacrifices, and indeed all the truth of salvation—power, peace, and prosperity—are determined by Jesus Christ and by faith in Him.
For the Protestant, Reformed faith to compromise with the dispensational premillennial heresy would be abandonment of Reformed covenant theology, denial of the unity of the church, and disparagement, if not denial, of Jesus Christ.
Against premillennialism, therefore, as against postmillennialism, the Reformed faith rejects the notion of a future millennium prior to the end of all things at the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Reformed faith abjures the popular prophecy of a future establishment of a carnal kingdom of Christ on earth, whether this imaginary kingdom is erected by Christ Himself (premillennialism) or by His aggressively this-worldly disciples (postmillennialism).
The expectation of such a worldly kingdom of Christ before the end is delusion—a false hope.
The one hope of the church is the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Then, and only then, the now militant church/kingdom of Jesus Christ, the members and citizens of which are elect believers and their children, will become the church/kingdom triumphant.
“Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly,” is the urgent petition of the Reformed church and of every Reformed believer.
To which comes back the reply, “Behold, I come quickly.”
1 Barry E. Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007), xvi.
2 W. Edward Glenny, “The Israelite Imagery of I Peter 2,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, ed. Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L. Bock (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 186.
3 Kenneth L. Barker, “The Scope and Center of Old and New Testament Theology and Hope,” in Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church, 322.