Sunday, March 9, 2008

Reformed Chiliasm (Part 7)

Let us now ask, what is the true significance of these "living waters" which shall break forth over all the earth? Do they simply mean the blessings of the Spirit, or something more substantial? Commentators are at variance, however the Chiliast view tends to look at the waters in a dual sense: for man is composed of both body and soul, and Christ saves and heals both. Ambrose of Milan takes the spiritual view, when he writes: "There is certainly the River proceeding from the Throne of God, that is, the Holy Spirit, Whom he drinks who believes in Christ, as He Himself says: 'If any man thirst, let him come to Me and drink. He that believeth on me, as saith the Scriptures, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.' But this spoke He of the Spirit. Therefore, the River is the Spirit." (On the Holy Spirit, III. xx).

This view is tenable, only if we restrict ourselves to an allegorical interpretation. But, say we, the waters must have a more substantial significance-- spiritual blessings in this age, we agree, but fuller blessings in the age to come. For the Spirit is the "earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph. 1: 14).

It is recommended that we go back to that phrase, "restitution of all things." Remember once more, that Adam was in his natural body when he was placed in Paradise. Remember, too, that a river went out from Eden to water the garden (Gen. 2: 10). A true restitution of Paradise must include real, and not allegorical waters. If restoration simply involves men having access to heaven, then why didn't God create man and place him in heaven at the very first? But He made him of the clay of the earth, and placed him in Paradise, on earth. Restitution, then, can only be fulfilled when man is restored to Paradise on earth. This is the redemption. Hence the term, "new heavens and new earth." Because the earth was cursed on account of sin, it too must be restored and redeemed.

And once again, we believe that the Millennium forms the beginning of this "new heavens and new earth." As regeneration is the commencement of the eternal life of the believer, so Christ speaks of a regeneration of the world (Matt. 19: 28), which shall form the beginning of the permanent and eternal heavens and earth, where Christ shall rule and reign with His saints forever. And thus we find that when Christ returns to reign, living waters rush forth from Jerusalem to fill the entire earth. That is, when He comes, He shall return to exactly the same place whence He left--the Mount of Olives. And this may be easily inferred from Acts 1: 11, where, after Christ's ascension, the angels tell His disciples: "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven." As a cloud received Him (Acts 1: 9), so He shall come with clouds (Rev. 1: 7). And, as He ascended from the Mount of Olives, so He shall return thither.

And this is corroborated in Zechariah 14: 4, where the prophet writes: "And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south." And then he writes: "And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and winter shall it be" (Zech. 14: 8). This passage will be fulfilled when the Lord is "King over all the earth" (Zech. 14: 9; cf. Rev. 11: 15). And so the prophet's vision, which corresponds with the message of the angels, precludes any kind of allegorizing. For Christ has never appeared "in like manner," with His feet on the Mount of Olives. And if these events, then, be perceived as future, the living waters must also be seen as future. Hence they have a deeper significance than what pertains to the soul alone.

Of course, all these verses of Christ's 'coming back' to reign can only be understood as pertaining to the earth. For if He were already here, what need would there be for His coming back? But since He left, it is obvious that He must return. And as He lived and walked among us once, it is a sure hope that we have of His coming back to dwell among us again. And, indeed, we cannot argue with anyone who claims that Christ is ruling from Zion now, for His city is where He is. "The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all" (Ps. 103: 19). Nevertheless, because all things in heaven and earth are placed under His authority (Matt. 28: 18), this does not mean that His will is being effected on earth. That is far from the case, as the wicked still persecute the righteous, and the tabernacles of robbers prosper (Job 12: 6). However, we are taught to pray for a time when His will shall be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven (Matt. 6: 10). And when He comes, He will execute His will, destroy the transgressors, and establish His everlasting city among us. At that time the living waters shall break forth over all the earth.

Once again, John sees the New Jerusalem descending to earth (Rev. 21: 2-3), and being placed in the midst of all mankind. If there will be a real city, then there shall also be real living waters. But some people doubt that there will be a real and tangible city. Well, if they think so, they must be prepared to refute John's vision. Nevertheless, there are other passages in Scripture which prove that Christ will reign on earth from a visible city.

(Psalm 48: 1-5) "Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of His holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the Great King."

(Psalm 48: 12-13) "Walk about Zion, and go around about her: tell the towers thereof. Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her palaces; that ye may tell it to the generation following."

This city is so substantial, that kings who pass by it are troubled, and haste away (Ps. 48: 4-5). Is it likely that one would run away from an invisible and ethereal city located in heaven? Certainly not. Also, how does one count the towers and bulwarks of an invisible city? Obviously, the Psalmist is talking of a real city. Besides, the heavenly city during the present administration is described as being built; and it is impossible to count the bulwarks and towers under its construction is complete. Nevertheless, "When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory" (Ps. 102: 16); that is, when the city is completed, and the full number of saints have been gathered into Christ, the Lord shall return in glory and establish His heavenly city for all the saints to dwell in. As this will be a visible and glorious event (Ps. 97: 4; cf. Matt. 24: 27), all the kings of the nations will tremble when they see it fulfilled. For "The Lord hath hath made known His salvation: His righteousness hath He openly showed in the sight of the heathen" (Ps. 98: 2).

At Christ's glorious advent, we believe there will be a destruction of the nations that gathered together to prevent His return, a general resurrection of the saints, and a permanent establishment of the New Jerusalem in the midst of the earth, that the remnant of men may come and see the glory of the Lord, and to do homage to Christ the Everlasting King. Then will commence a one thousand year period of renewed grace wherein all nations will be given a chance of everlasting salvation. Our Lord's reign will result in a universal period of peace, when all wars will cease upon the earth. "Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations He hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; He breaketh he bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariot in the fire" (Ps. 46: 8-9). The prophet Micah also confirms this period of worldwide peace. "And He shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Micah 4: 3; cf. Isaiah 2: 4). Nations will no longer lift their hands against Christ, but will meekly come to Jerusalem, bringing Him presents (Ps. 68: 29).

This is the era which all God's saints long and hope for. And we long, also, to see the living waters break forth upon the whole earth. But I have said that the living waters must represent something real, pertaining to the earth. And anyone who simply looks at Ezekiel's vision will concede that this is so (Ezek. 47: 1-10). For if the temple is located on earth, then the living waters must be of an earthly nature. And that the temple is located on earth is clearly seen in that sacrifices are administered, as well as statutes kept. When is this temple established? Well, certainly when Christ leaves the Holy Place, after He has consummated atonement (Heb. 9: 24-28).

For Ezekiel sees Christ enter the temple by the east gate (Ezek. 43: 2-4), after which the Lord tells him, "Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places" (Ezek. 43: 7). This cannot refer to Herod's temple, for Christ Himself drove defilers forth from it. And as that temple was later destroyed by the Romans, and has never since been re-built, it is plain that Ezekiel's vision relates to a future temple--the same, in fact, that John describes in the Apocalypse. The place will be holy, because in the resurrection of the just, we shall be "holy, and without blemish" (Eph. 5: 27) and conformed to the image of Christ. I would imagine that the glorified saints are the "priests" who will minister before God (Ezek. 44: 15-16). For John says that in the first resurrection, "They shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him for a thousand years" (Rev. 20: 6).

To sum things up, then: there will be a personal and visible reign of Christ; a real resurrection; a real reign of peace; and a tangible and visible city, the New Jerusalem, from which living waters shall flow. Ezekiel sees these living waters issuing from under the threshold of the house eastward (Ezekiel 47: 1). And as the waters proceed on their way, they get deeper and deeper, until they become a river that cannot be passed over. This river "will issue out toward the east country, and go down into the desert, and into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every thing that liveth, which moveth, withersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed: and every thing shall live wither the river cometh (Ezek. 47: 8).

Isaiah also refers to the same city with its living waters. For he writes: "Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle which shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. But there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby" (Isaiah 33: 20-21). He says, 'thine eyes shall see this city.' Thus, we cannot agree with those who allegorize these prophecies. Their views may constitute spiritual application, but not true interpretation.

It is clear to me that these "living waters" are the restoration of the river of Eden. And the Psalmist, seeing this in vision, writes: "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the Holy Place of the tabernacles of the Most High" (Ps. 46: 4). As the original river of Eden parted into four heads to water all the land round about (Gen. 2: 10-14), so the river which John describes as issuing from the throne of God in the New Jerusalem (Rev. 22: 1-2), and which Ezekiel sees issuing from the east gate of the Third Temple, waters all the lands wither it comes. These waters shall bring health and healing to the sin-accursed earth; and the curse and defilement of the world (Isaiah 24: 5) shall be washed away. And thus will be the renewal, or regeneration, of the world. Of course, these waters will be vastly superior to anything that man can conceive of. They will contain spiritual properties of health and healing; wherefore Ezekiel speaks of the great number of fishes. For wherever the waters shall come, life will flourish.

To be continued...

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