Friday, March 7, 2008

Reformed Chiliasm (Part 6)

So, it is necessary to see that the resurrection is none other than the restoration of the privileges which Adam lost. As God created man from the dust of the ground and placed him in Eden, so God shall renew man from the dust of the ground, and place him in the city of Jerusalem, which then will be established on earth, inasmuch as it is the palace of the Great King. And really, all these things were predicted by the ancient prophets. They are not really as obscure as many suppose; though admittedly, some make them obscure with their allegorical and subjective interpretations. But let us simply look at the Scriptures, and we'll see a correspondence between John's vision and those of the Hebrew prophets on all the essential points.

For Ezekiel speaks of the same tabernacle of God being placed in the midst of His people. He writes: "Moreover, I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary will be in the midst of them for evermore" (Ezek. 37: 26-28).

This vision is described as being fulfilled at the resurrection of the just. For the prophet says: "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And I shall put my Spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord" (Ezek: 37: 12-14).

Granted, these visions, and prophecies relating to Israel in general, may be applied to the church. For indeed there is an "Jerusalem, which is above" and which is "the mother of us all" (Gal. 4: 26). But the prophecies shall have a more complete fulfillment in the times of the Millennium. For John sees the same city descending from heaven to earth, and being placed amongst the nations. Moreover, he sees these same nations walking in the light of this city, and kings bringing their glory and honor into it. This corresponds with the Messianic prophecies that all nations (not only a few) will do homage to Jesus Christ, the King of all the earth, once Satan's kingdom has been brought to desolation. It is crucial that we recognize this distinction between the present age and the age to come. In the present age, Jesus Christ is absent from earth. He is sitting at the right hand of the Father, and "waiting" until His enemies be made His footstool (Ps. 110: 1). The heavenly city is above, not on earth. Thus the church represents Jerusalem during the present dispensation.

But when Christ returns to execute justice in the earth, and the resurrection of the just takes place, the city of Jerusalem will come down to earth. Notice that our Lord brings His house with Him, and places those who have been accounted worthy within it. Within the walls of the city is located the Paradise of Eden. This is a state of things which can only happen on earth. And anyone who reads the prophecies will see that it is so. For if John's visions are only accomplished in heaven, why did he affirm that the leaves of the Tree of Life (Rev. 22: 1) are for the healing of the nations? For when one has attained to heaven, there is no longer any need for healing. But John mentions the medicinal properties of the Tree of Life to show that it will bring healing on earth. And the city must first be placed in the midst of the earth, for the Tree is located within the city.

Now unbelievers will scoff at this view, and say that the Tree represents something spiritual. And as I've already mentioned, it is true that all of these visions may be applied to spiritual things. But if you agree with me that the Tree of Life from which our first parents were prohibited from eating was a real tree, you must also admit that the Tree of Life in John's vision is of a like nature. For in the "regeneration," or Millennium, the heavenly things will come down to earth.

If his predictions involved spiritual realities alone, John would never have described Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, and being placed among men. This is a real and substantial city he is talking about. And everyone knows that Jerusalem can not be at the same time both in heaven and on earth. At the present time it is in heaven truly, and if the nations require healing they must go to the pure fountains of the Gospel, and draw life therefrom. But when Jesus Christ returns to take up His abode on earth, such a state of things will no longer be necessary, for the nations shall come to Christ personally to be healed--just as they did when He first dwelt among us.

For Ezekiel prophesies the same thing as John, when he describes the Third Temple. It is known that his predictions have puzzled and perplexed expositors for centuries. For it is hardly possible to interpret his visions as relating solely to the present dispensation. But he sees the great city planted on earth, and the living waters rushing forth the east to replenish and heal the earth (Ezek. 47: 1-10). Moreover, he says that, "by the river, upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine" (Ezek. 47: 12).

Now, since man is a compound being, formed both of body and soul, it is apparent that these blessings cannot be restricted to the soul alone, but must also pertain to the body. For when Christ was among us He healed both spiritual and bodily infirmities. Now that He is absent we must be content with spiritual things, while our outward man languishes. But when He returns, His saints shall be refashioned after His image, and enabled to enjoy communion with Him in the outward man. For there is a distinct reason why in the present time we must be willing to abnegate the desires of the flesh. Since we are "carnal, sold under sin" (Rom. 7: 14), we cannot righteously pursue a life in the body: but when we attempt to do so, we become immersed and immured in sin.

Wherefore Christ, knowing that the outward man must be put to death, after purging our sins in His own blood through the sacrifice of Himself, sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we might live after the things of the Spirit, keeping our focus on the things above (Col. 3: 2), until the body of death be destroyed. Then, when Christ restores all things, our bodies shall be remade in glory and splendor, and able to enjoy life according to the laws of righteousness. For it was not, as some contend, Christ's purpose to do away forever with life in the body. For when those sent by John the Baptist asked Him why His disciples never fasted, He replied: "Can the children of the bride-chamber mourn, as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then they shall fast" (Matt. 9: 15). Christ tells us in plain words, that His disciples will indeed feast with Him, but not according to a carnal conception. The body of sin must first be subdued and put down, that the true feast may be kept in holiness.

And elsewhere He says: "But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until the day that I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26: 29). Once again our Lord had no intention of doing away with life in the body. For there can be no drinking of the fruit of the vine except in our bodies. But until our bodies be restored to their original sinless condition, there can be neither eating nor drinking in righteousness. And thus in the present economy, while our sins are being atoned for, we must abjure the things of the flesh.

Irenaeus writes: "He promised to drink of the fruit of the vine with His disciples, thus indicating both these points: the inheritance of the earth in which the new fruit of the vine is drunk, and the resurrection of His disciples in the flesh. For the new flesh which rises again is the same also which received the new cup. And He cannoy by any means be understood as drinking of the fruit of the vine when settled down with His disciples above in a super-celestial place; nor, again, are they who drink it devoid of flesh, for to drink of that which flows from the vine pertains to the flesh, and not spirit." (Against Heresies, V. xxxiii. 1).

So, inasmuch as the Lord saves the entire man, we shall certainly see a re-institution of life in the body when He returns. And the nations shall enjoy this privilege as well, although not in any carnal manner. Ezekiel's vision, then, as well as John's, may certainly have a spiritual application. However, we believe that it more truly pertains to the times of the Kingdom. And nobody will deny that the "trees" in Ezekiel's vision may relate to Gospel ministers of the present dispensation. For their teachings, when faithfully administered, constitute the true spiritual meat and medicine of the world. But when the heavenly Jerusalem comes down to earth, the prophecies will also be fulfilled to the very letter; as Christ came to save not only the soul, but body as well. And then the Gospel ministry, as we now know it, will be changed. For Christ's laws will go out from Jerusalem directly, in a more complete and perfect manner than they've ever done.

Otherwise, what does Jeremiah mean when he writes: "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jer. 31: 34). This prophecy cannot relate entirely to the present dispensation, for the church's business is just that--to teach all men to "Know the Lord." But when Christ dwells among us personally, all will know Him, and all will have access to Him in a way equivalent to when He first lived and walked among us. What need for doctrinal teaching when Christ returns? His saints will spread knowledge of Him to every quarter, bringing all nations in subjection to Christ. And all the kings of the earth will come to Jerusalem to do homage to Christ.

Moreover, the church, long worried and harassed by false teachers, will be freed from all enemies when Christ comes back.

(Zechariah 13: 1-2) "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land."

If these prophecies involve the present age alone, then it is remarkable that we should find so many false teachers and prophets functioning and flourishing among us. And honestly, can anyone really claim with a straight face that idolatry has been abolished? For although these things are described as taking place "in the land," Isaiah gives us a "sure word of prophecy" that there will be a universal abolition of idolatry. When speaking of Christ's personal and visible reign on earth, he writes: "And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols He shall utterly abolish" (Isaiah 2: 17-18).

Unless you believe in extremely hypothetical and limited views of fulfillment, you'll have to concede that no such state of things has ever been fulfilled on earth. Since Christ ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, man has retained his loftiness, and we have been living in a world ruled by Satan. The church has suffered greatly at the hands of evil and wicked men, idolatry has become general throughout the world, and if it weren't for the comforts of the Holy Spirit, the hearts of the meek would have failed. Christ spoke truly when He said: "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10: 34). This state of turmoil has existed ever since He left, and shall continue for the sake of refining the righteous, until He comes back. Peace and righteousness shall only be restored, when Christ establishes His reign on earth. And He will reign from a visible and substantial city.

To be continued...

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