A-MILLENNIALISM FAILS TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEN ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH
A-MILLENNIALISTS point out, and rightly too, that in Scripture the term “Israel” is employed in a twofold way of the chosen race which sprang from Abraham. Usually it is used in its wider sense and denotes his natural descendants through Jacob. As such, the great majority of the people were lacking in Abraham’s faith, and when the long promised Messiah came they rejected Him. All down the ages, however, there has been a small spiritual minority in the nation which believed God, and which welcomed Christ when He appeared, and the term “Israel” is also used of this remnant, in contradistinction from the nation as a whole. It is the true “Israel”, for as the Apostle says, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Romans 9. 6); and “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly” (Romans 2. 28, 29).
A-Millennialists teach, however, that this true, spiritual minority, and the Church of the New Testament, are one and the same body. The following lines from “The Momentous Event”, by W. J. Grier, B.A., will demonstrate this. “Let us here insist,” he says, “that there was a Church in Old Testament times; and that the Old Testament and New Testament believers form one Church—the same olive tree (Rom. 11) .. and that the Old Testament prophets point directly and definitely to the New Testament Church. The contention of most pre-millenarians is that the outcalling of the Church of the New Testament was hid from the Old Testament prophets . . . During the interval between the advents Christ established His Church, which is, they (the pre-millenarians) say, not a fulfilment in any sense of Old Testament promises and prophecies, but something new and unknown to the prophets—it is a ‘parenthesis’, now amounting to well nigh two thousand years, of which no word is clearly spoken by Old Testament prophecy. This is the view of Dr. H. A. Ironside. He says, ‘The prophetic clock stopped at Calvary. Not one tick has been heard since’.”
The writer further declares that “to say that the Old Testament prophets do not speak of the Christian Church is outrageous., in view of many New Testament passages such as Romans 9. 24, 26, where we have Paul’s statement that the calling out of Jew and Gentile in the Christian Church is the direct fulfilment of a prophecy of Hosea.” Two other passages to which Mr. Grier refers as confirmation of his assertion are Acts 2. 16-21; 26. 22. He then attempts to justify the headings of our Authorised Version at such chapters as Isaiah 30, 34, 43, 45, 50, 54 and 64, in each of which the “Church” is named; and concludes his paragraph by saying that “Stephen spoke of a Church in Moses’ time (Acts 7. 38), and Paul says that believers of Old Testament and New form one olive-tree.”
Enough has been quoted to make clear this position, which may be summarised as follows : A-Millennialism teaches :—
That there was a Church in the Old Testament.
That Acts 7. 38 proves that there was a Church in the Old Testament.
That Old Testament and New Testament believers form one Church.
That this Church is the Olive Tree of Romans 11.
That the chapter headings in the A.V. of the O.T. in which the Church is named are not “all wrong.”
That the outcalling of the Church of the N.T. was not hidden from the O.T. prophets.
That the O.T. prophets foretold the N.T. Church.
That the prophetic clock did not stop at Calvary but that it is still ticking.
We shall now examine this teaching in the light of God’s Word. In the first place, was there a Church in the O.T.? Our reply is that if there was it is never once mentioned there. We do read of Israel, an earthly nation, being planted as a testimony for God amongst the surrounding heathen. We read frequently of the “congregation of the Lord,” and many references are made to the faithful in Israel who in days of declension consorted together; but we never read of a Church in the O.T. As we shall see later, the essential features of a Church are there conspicuous by their absence.
What then of Stephen’s statement in Acts 7. 38 where he refers to “the church in the wilderness”? As is well known, the word “Church” means “a called out company.” It can be used of any body or group which for any purpose, secular or sacred, has been called together from the mass. Thus it is the word which in our A.V. is three times rendered “assembly” in Acts 19. In verses 32 and 41 it denotes an unruly mob, and in verse 39, a lawfully constituted assembly of citizens. The word “Church”, however, is used well over 100 times in the N.T. in a technical and theological sense to describe the saved of this age, either in their aggregate, or in a local aspect; but in Acts 7 and 19 the term is used in its original non-technical and non-theological sense. Hence the word “church” in chapter 7 should not be spelled with a capital “C”. Stephen’s reference does not prove that there was a Church in the O.T., and it would save from confusion of ideas if his expression were read as in the R.V. margin “congregation (note small “c”) in the wilderness.” The word “Church” would be just as much justified in chapter 19 as in chapter 7. Yet how utterly out of place and misleading it would be to substitute “Church” for “assembly” there! This illustrates that “the principle of always translating the same Greek word into the same English term is not practicable” (Wm. Hoste, B.A.).
From what has been said it follows that O.T. and N.T. believers DO NOT form one Church. It is true, of course, that they have much in common. There are many points of similarity between God’s people in the past and present ages. Thus they have all:—been loved by God— repented of sin— been saved through faith—been redeemed by blood—been quickened by the Spirit—been brought into covenant relationship with God—been made eternally secure—been described as Abraham’s seed—shared in many of the same promises—witnessed for God—enjoyed communion with Him—lived as strangers and pilgrims here below—had conflict with the same threefold foe—longed for Heaven’s eternal rest—and thus they will all one day be glorified.
Here are some fifteen similarities, to which doubtless others could be added. Does this, however, prove that believers in the O.T. and N.T. form one Church?—not for a moment. Two photographs may be extremely alike, but it would be silly to argue that they must therefore be pictures of the same original. We shall now proceed ta point out that though there are so many similarities, the Church of the N.T. possesses features which are quite peculiar to itself, which proves conclusively that Israel and the Church are not identical. Believers in this dispensation
Are baptized in the Spirit into the mystic Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12. 13). This was not true of any O.T. believer.
Are indwelt by the Holy Ghost (John 14. 17). In the O.T., He merely “came upon” men. See Judges 3. 10; 14. 6, etc.
Are all one, whether Jews or Gentiles (Gal. 3. 28). In the O.T. “the middle wall of partition” stood between them (Eph. 2. 14).
Are members of the Body of which the Head is in Heaven (Eph. 1. 22; 5. 23). This could not be said of any O.T. believer.
Were “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1. 4). No such thing is ever said of O.T. believers.
Are “made to sit with Him in heavenly places” (Eph 2.6). No O.T. believer is ever said to be in such exalted association.
Are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1. 3). No O.T. believer is ever said to have enjoyed such blessing.
“Are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood” (T Peter 2. 5). In the O.T. believers had a separate priesthood—that of Aaron, and worshipped in a material house.
Are to expect nothing in the world but tribulation as a reward for godly living (John 15. 19, 20; 16. 33; 1 Tim. 3.12). In the O.T. believers were promised material prosperity and earthly blessing as a reward for godly living.
Are to pray for blessing on their enemies (Matt. 5. 44). In the O.T. believers prayed for vengeance upon their enemies.
These ten vital differences prove once and for all that Israel and the Church are not identical. The Church is unique, possessing features which are peculiar to itself. There is no Church in the O.T. That this is incontrovertibly the case is confirmed by our Lord’s own words, “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH” (Matt. 16. 18). Note, He did not say, “I am building My Church”, but “1 WILL BUILD My Church.” So the Church was still future. He had not yet begun to erect it. Christ had to die, be raised, ascend to Heaven, and send down the Holy Spirit before the Church could come into being. How stupid and absurd it is therefore for men to talk of the Church of the O.T.! Why, it was only at Calvary that its foundation was laid, and as Wm. Hoste well asks, “How could the Church have existed before its foundation was laid?” No, no, the plain, simple words of our Lord forbid our believing that the Church existed in the O.T. His language is unequivocal—“I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH.”
The words of Peter in Acts 11. 15 are also corroborative and decisive : “The Holy Ghost fell on them as on us at the beginning.” The reference is to the day of Pentecost of chapter 2. What, pray, had its “beginning” there? There is only one answer—the Church period.
In the N.T. Israel is never called the Church, and the Church is never called Israel. Gal. 6. 16, where Paul addresses “the Israel of God”, is no exception. Even H. W. Ferrin, a Post-Tribulationist, in a paper, “Is the Church ever called Israel?” clearly and forcefully refutes such a contention. He proves that ‘Israel’ in Gal. 6. 16 speaks of believing Jews . . . and concludes, “the Church is not Israel” (G. B. Stanton in “Kept From The Hour”, p. 52. Ferrin’s own italics). Enough has been said to demonstrate that there was no Church in the O.T., and that therefore Israel and the Church are not identical. The teaching that they are identical is doctrinally and historically unsound, and must be viewed as serious error by those who value the truth.
THE final stage of Christendom’s rejection of our Lord Jesus Christ has not yet been reached. It will be seen in the welcome that will be accorded to Satan’s Masterpiece of deceit, the false Christ. He steps forth in Revelation 13. 11 to complete the Satanic trinity. The Beast of 13. 1 is the great political administrator executing the designs of “the great red dragon” of 12. 3, but a religious representative is needed to fill out the picture. This second Beast is spoken of as “the false Prophet” (19. 20; 20. 10). Unlike the first he emerges from the earth, not the sea, and this leads to the conclusion that he will make his appearance after things have become stabilised in the new Empire. It is extremely likely that his co-operation with the Roman Prince will be resultant from protection given and favours bestowed from that source.
In description this great personality reveals a dual character—he is both Lamb-like and Dragon-like. The Lamb-like qualities are calculated to deceive and give him a place amongst the religiously inclined. The Dragon-like voice indicates the real character behind the mask. His pronouncements will have all the strength and wickedness that are native to “that old serpent the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole habitable world” (12. 9). Since this second leader is undoubtedly Anti-Christ, it can be seen that his realm of power will not be confined to Palestine, although exercised from there, but will strongly influence the whole of the Roman Empire (v. 12). The two horns of the Lamb-like beast may well represent his Royal and Prophetic authority.
“The Jews require a sign” (1 Cor. 1. 22) is a truth which will have a strange fulfilment in that time of almost universal deception. When our Lord Jesus was rejected by this people, He called attention to the unmistakable credentials the Father had given Him. These were : the witness of John, that of the Father Himself, the Holy Scriptures, and THE WORKS which the Father gave Him to do (John 5. 31-43). Thus we can understand Christ’s strong condemnation of the hypocrites of Matthew 16. 1-4, who in spite of this substantiating testimony asked “a sign.” Attested by many signs they would have none of Him. Had He come in His own name, that is, in a self-assertive spirit they would have received Him, but it was that very attitude of meek dependence upon the Father, always present in Him, that seemed most to stir their bitter animosity. Christ’s finding on this reveals their base inconsistency. Jesus said, “I am come in My Father’s Name and ye receive Me not, if another shall come in his own name him ye will receive.” Their fleshly-worldly-wisdom blinded them to the qualifications of the Christ they rejected, and the very same spirit will blind them to the real character of the pseudo Messiah whom they will embrace. This archdeceiver will produce all the proofs that natural reasoning demands, for his coming will be according to the energy of the Adversary, with power and signs and wonders of falsehood (2 Thess. 2. 9). His ability to bring fire from Heaven, and chiefly his success in making an image to the first beast and giving breath to it, and causing it to speak (Rev. 13.15) will be tremendous aids in establishing him as ‘Christ’ in the minds of the people.
The climax of the blasphemous deceit will be reached when, in the newly built Temple in Jerusalem, ‘the man of sin’ sits in the holy place, requiring recognition of Deity and demanding worship as God. This will bring in the final fulfilment of Daniel’s prediction of “the abomination of desolation” (Dan. 9. 27; Matt. 24. 15; 2 Thess. 2. 4).
It becomes increasingly easy to see in our day how this great religious Leader will create a “commercial curtain” behind which alone business will be transacted. What is obscure is that the religious and not the political Leader should be the one to initiate such “a market.” I suggest that this has an ecclesiastical connection and that “the mark of the Beast,” that shall be required for purposes of commerce, will have a definite relation to the ruling of the “Church-union” that will direct the religion of the Empire. While not joining the ranks of those who have made foolish conjectures as to the meaning of “the number,” I would say that six in spiritual arithmetic is recognised as the highest in man’s attainment, c/f 1 .Samuel 17. 5-7. It falls short of the perfection shown in the number seven and is therefore doomed to failure and finally to judgment.
The programme of preparation for this great feat of mass-deception has been a long and intensive one dating from earliest Church-history. The presence of error and lawlessness then were regarded by the inspired Apostle as the working of “the mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thess. 2. 7), and as preparing for the revelation of Satan’s masterpiece. John the Apostle, a little later declared that the denial by false teachers of the Father and the Son was the spirit of Anti-Christ. That is, the denial of the true relation of Christ with His Father as the co-existent, co-equal and co-eternal One. He points out in line with that, that there was the denial of the actual embodiment in human form of the Eternal Son (1 John 2.22-23; 4.l-3). Remember, child of God, that every clear presentation of the proper Deity and perfect Humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ is an assault on the ever present spirit of Anti-Christ. The removal of this Spirit-inspired testimony to Christ at the coming of Christ to the air will permit Satan to display his masterpiece. This is no doubt the fulness of the thought of 2 Thess. 2 where ‘the Hinderer’ is the Holy Spirit present in the corporate testimony of the Body of Christ on earth.
How fast the day approaches, as we see the drift to error become a tidal wave of Christ-dishonouring doctrine! Vast religious movements that started off evangelically have been engulfed in modernism and rationalism. The authority of the Scriptures, the Deity of Christ and the finality of His sacrifice are openly denied. Lovers of that peerless Lord and 1 Toly Book must set themselves apart from all that in any way detracts from Christ’s Person, work or authority. The child of God cannot be identified with aught that savours of Anti-Christ or prepares the way for his coming.
“Wanted a Man!” Yes, and Satan has the answer. He will give men what their evil hearts desire; the very embodiment of wickedness, “The Wicked One,” or Lawless One— the Arch-rebel against God, the very personification of sin, “The man of sin”, the very essence of deceit, “the Lie.” Behold the Devil’s finished article! (see 2 Thess. 2. 3, 8, 11). He stands out in utter contrast to God’s Man in whom we see the embodiment of perfect obedience, purity and truth (John 3.34; 8.46; 14.6).
IN the Spring of the year A.D. 30 there occurred, in and around the city of Jerusalem, the most important series of events that this world has ever seen.
On Sunday, April 2nd, A.D. 30, the Lord Jesus rode in triumph into Jerusalem, seated on an ass, and was acclaimed by the throngs of pilgrims who had come for the Passover festival as the Messiah, the Son of David, the One coming in the name of the Lord. The following day, Monday, April 3rd, He cleansed the temple by driving out the money changers and other merchants. On Tuesday, April 4th, He preached in the morning in the temple, and in the evening He sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, and talked with them about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and His return in glory at the end of the age. Two days later, on Thursday, April 6th, the Lord Jesus partook of the Passover meal with His disciples, and immediately after instituted a new ordinance, the Lord’s Supper, which He commanded His disciples to observe for a remembrance of Him. He then talked with His disciples for a long time about His return to take them to be with Himself, about the coming of the Holy Spirit and about fruit-bearing, love, and other topics. He prayed to His Father for Himself, for the immediate circle of His disciples, and then for the wider circle of those who would believe in Him through their witness. Late that night He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested by the temple guard, acting on the orders of the High Priest, and brought before the Jewish court for judgment. On Friday, April 7th, very early in the morning, He was tried before Pilate, the Roman Governor, and, at the insistence of the people, urged on by the religious leaders, sentenced to death by crucifixion. About 9 a.m. He was nailed to the cross. From 12 noon until 3 p.m. the whole land was covered with a supernatural darkness. Soon after 3 p.m. He gave up His spirit, and died. The fact of His death was shown by one of the soldiers, who pierced His side with a spear. Before sunset His body was buried in a new tomb by two secret disciples, and a great stone was rolled on the mouth of the grave. On Saturday, April 8th, while the disciples and others observed the weekly Sabbath rest, the body of the Lord Jesus rested in the tomb.
On Sunday, April 9th, He arose from the dead, and appeared to His disciples on several occasions during the following forty days. We are not told a great deal as to what was said on those occasions, but we know that several times He gave His disciples what we know as the Great Commission, each time in a slightly different form (Matthew 28. lb-20; Mark 16. 14, 15; Luke 24. 44-49; John 20. 19-23). If we draw together all of these statements of His commission, we find that He gave them a five-fold commandment:—
Go into all the world.
Preach the good news.
Baptize those disciples, and
Teach them to observe all the Lord’s commandments.
Apart from this general commission, the Lord had a special word for Peter, the one who had denied Him (John 21. 15-23). He also told them that they were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them for this task.
On Thursday, May 18th, He ascended into Heaven, and was seen no more by the disciples. But 10 days later, on
Sunday, May 28th, A.D. 30, the Holy Spirit came to empower and indwell the disciples, and they preached the message of the crucified and risen Christ with such power that 3,000 people became believers. The first church thus came into being.
“He had done good, both toward God and toward His House” 2 Chronicles 24. 15, 16.
THE Divine record given of a faithful servant known by Jehovah—Jehoida—may well be applied to our departed but well remembered brother in the Lord. Our brother was saved in the year 1900 at the age of 18 years, and was received into fellowship by the Gt. Yarmouth Assembly in 1904. It may be said of him that “he was full of days when he died”. He had faithfully served his God, by serving the assembly, for 58 full years. He who knows doth value the amount of the good done, because it was first toward Him and toward His House. In New Testament words, it was “To the Lord and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8. 5).
After a few months of physical weakness our brother departed to be “with Christ” on Thursday, March 8, 1962.
He will receive according to the good done.
May all who knew him become his imitators (Heb. 6. 11, 12).
P.S. It was with deep regret that we learned of the Home-call of our dear brother, Mr. Copeman. He was a reader of this magazine since it began, and his letters which came regularly were ever of a most spiritual character.
We do not as a rule publish obituary notices, but gladly accede to the request of our Gt. Yarmouth brethren to insert the above.
And now let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my mother and of my beloved sister, for my conversion.
One day I can never forget . . . my dear mother being absent from home, I had a holiday and in the afternoon looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a basket of pamphlets and selected from amongst them a Gospel tract that looked interesting, saying to myself : “There will be a story at the commencement and a sermon or moral at the close. I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.”
I sat down to read the book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed at the time that if there was any salvation it was not for me, and with a distinct intention to put away the tract as soon as it should seem prosy. I may say that it was not uncommon in those days to call conversion ‘becoming serious’; and judging by the face of some of its professors it appeared to be a very serious matter indeed. Would it not be well if the people of God had always telltale faces, evincing the blessings and gladness of salvation so clearly that unconverted people might have to call conversion ‘becoming joyful’, instead of ‘becoming serious’?
Little did I know at the time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away. She rose from dinner table that afternoon with an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy . . . She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave the spot until her prayers were answered. Hour after hour that dear mother pleaded, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished, the conversion of her only son.
I in the meantime had been led in the way I have mentioned to take up this little tract, and while reading it was struck by the phrase : ‘The finished work of Christ.’ Why does the author use this expression? I questioned. ‘Why not say the atoning or propitiatory work of Christ’? Immediately the words ‘It is finished’, suggested themselves to my mind. ‘What was finished’ ? And I at once replied, ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin. The debt was paid for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.’ Then came the further thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’ And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Ghost, that there was nothing in the world to be done, but to fall down on one’s knees and accepting this Saviour and His salvation praise Him for evermore.
Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read at my leisure this little book.
When mother returned a fortnight later I was the first to meet her at the door and to tell her I had such glad news to give. I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms round my neck as she pressed me to her heart and said : “I know, my boy. I have been rejoicing a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell.”
HOW we are plagued by fears—fears in regard to living, and fears in regard to dying! Think of three in each case.
In living, CHANGE produces fear. We must take a new DIRECTION, and we suffer from the fear of the UNCHARTED. We must go in some new direction and we fear the path. But the Lord says, “Fear not—I am the first”— ‘I have been that way before you’ “He knoweth the way that I take.”
Then CHOICE produces fear. We must make new DECISIONS, and we suffer the fear of the UNFORESEEN. We fear the consequences of the choice—the end—what will it be? The Lord says, “I am the last.” He knows the end from the beginning.
Also CHALLENGE produces fear. There are new DEMANDS upon us, and we suffer the fear of being UNABLE to cope with the situation. Then the Lord says, “Fear not, I am He that liveth,” and He has all power to enable.
Fears in regard to dying, too, beset us. Thoughts of the END often give us strange fears—it is so utterly final. It is the end of this life that I have only known, and we suffer the fear of the UNKNOWN, for we do not know the feeling of death. But He is the experienced One. He knows every shadow in the valley, and though I do not know, I can say with the sweet singer : “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
The thought of death as an ENEMY may strike fear to the heart—the fear of the UNCONQUERED—for we cannot slay that last enemy. We must bow to its chilling touch, if Jesus comes not by then. But He says, “Fear not, I am alive.” He is the victorious One, who “death by dying slew.” “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?”
Further, the thought of entering ETERNITY, that “place” of “vastness extensible and incomprehensible”—ever and ever and ever to be, sometimes touches our time-bound thoughts with an awesome fear—the fear of the UNENDING. But the Lord says, “Fear not, I am alive for evermore/’ and where He is ’tis heaven, peace and joy.