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This is part of a series of articles about premillennial teaching. To see a list of all the articles, please click here.
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1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - The primary facts of the gospel are Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. Jesus' death goes hand-in-hand with Jesus' gospel. Anything that denies or belittles one, denies and belittles the other.
Consider these quotes:
"Because the nation has rejected Him, the Lord ... (withdraws) the offer of the kingdom ..., and announces the inception of an entirely new, unheralded, and unexpected program - the church" - Things to Come, Pentecost, p. 463f (via Miller, p. 43f).
"...dispensationalists have regarded the present age as a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament..." -- The Millennial Kingdom, Walvoord, p. 227 (via Miller, p. 45). [Note that dispensationalists are the most common form of premillennialists.]
"Nothing should be plainer to one reading the Old Testament than that the foreview therein provided did not predict a period of time between the two advents" - Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, p. 228 (via McGuiggan & Jordan, slide #160).
"The premillennial view ... insists that the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennial kingdom" - Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, p. 210 (via McGuiggan & Jordan, slide #105).
Hence, many premillennialists claim that Jesus came to earth fully expecting to establish and rule over an earthly kingdom. The church was not expected nor predicted by God before Jesus came to earth, and the gospel we now preach is not the new covenant predicted in the Old Testament. But instead the Jews unexpectedly rejected Jesus and killed Him, so God gave the church until Jesus can return to establish His earthly kingdom. Hence, the period between Jesus' first and second coming - the period in which we have the church and the gospel - that whole period was unexpected and unpredicted.
Consider the conclusions that necessarily follow from the premillennial view (though some of them may not accept the conclusions):
The Jews killed Jesus because they rejected Him. If the Jews' rejection of Jesus was unexpected and unpredicted, then Jesus' death must have been unexpected and unpredicted.
Jesus died to purchased the church with His blood (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:22-26). If the church was unexpected and unpredicted, then Jesus' death must also have been unexpected and unpredicted.
The gospel is the message of salvation by the death of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1:18-25). If the gospel was not predicted, then Jesus' death was not predicted.
It is true that most premillennialists claim to believe that Jesus died to save us from our sins. But the consequences of their doctrine is that His death was unexpected and unpredicted. On the other hand, if Jesus' death was expected and predicted, then premillennialism must be wrong when it claims the Jewish rejection and the church and the gospel were not expected and predicted.
The result will uphold Jesus' death and the gospel as being fundamental parts of God's eternal plan. At the same time we will be refuting premillennialism. Note that, in an earlier lesson, we already studied that the church was predicted in the Old Testament.
Was Jesus' death known and predicted by God before it happened, or was it an unexpected change in God's plan because the Jews unexpectedly rejected Jesus?
Acts 2:23 - Peter told the Jews on Pentecost that they had crucified Jesus "by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God." God did know it ahead of time.
[1 Peter 1:18-20; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:4-9]
Luke 24:44-47 - According to Jesus, the law, prophets, and psalms predicted that Christ must suffer and rise from the dead. [cf. v25-27]
Acts 3:18 - Jesus fulfilled the things that God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer.
1 Corinthians 15:3 - Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
Premillennialism claims that the gospel and the death of Jesus were unpredicted. But the New Testament says the Old Testament did predict the death of Jesus. So if premillennialism is true, then the gospel is not just unpredicted; it is a lie! On the other hand, if the gospel is true, then premillennialism is false!
[Acts 26:22,23; 17:2,3; 13:26-33; Luke 18:31-33; 1 Peter 1:10,11]
Zechariah 12:10 - They shall look on him whom they have pierced. John 19:37 says this was fulfilled in Jesus' death.
Zechariah 13:7- Smite the shepherd and scatter the sheep. Matthew 26:31 says this was fulfilled in Jesus' death.
Isaiah 53:5-12 - He was cut off out of the land of the living (v8), his soul was made an offering for sin (v10), he poured out his soul unto death (v12). This was fulfilled in Jesus' death according to Acts 8:32-35; Luke 22:37.
[Genesis 12:3 fulfilled per Acts 3:25,26; cf. Genesis 3:15]
So, whereas premillennialism implies that Jesus' death was unexpected and unpredicted, the word of God says that Jesus' death was expected and was predicted.
The Jews killed Jesus because they rejected Him. We have seen that Jesus' death was expected and predicted, so it follows that the Jews' rejection of Jesus was expected and predicted. Note some specific passages that confirm this is correct.
Isaiah 53:1-3 - Men would not believe in Christ (v1), but would despise and reject Him (v3). This is followed by the prophecy of His death. This is cited as being fulfilled in Israel's rejection of Him (John 12:37,38; Romans 10:16-21).
Psalm 118:22,23 - The stone which the builders rejected became the head of the corner. This is the Lord's doing. This was fulfilled when the Jews rejected Jesus (Acts 4:10,11). Hence, God knew and predicted ahead of time that the Jews would reject Jesus.
Psalm 2:1-6 - The nations, people, and rulers oppose God and His anointed (Christ), but God laughs at them (v4) and still sets His king in Zion (v6). This was fulfilled when the Gentiles, the people of Israel, and the rulers opposed Jesus. Yet all this fulfilled what God's counsel had determined beforehand would happen (Acts 4:24-28). [Cf. Matthew 21:33-46; 1 Peter 2:3-10]
Premillennialism says God did not know ahead of time that the Jewish people would reject Jesus; when they unexpectedly rejected Him, God could not make Him King. But according to the Scriptures, the God foreknew, predicted, and foreordained all of this. When people opposed His Son, instead of having to change His plan, God just laughed and made Christ King anyway!
Premillennialism makes God so weak that He did not know what would happen, and mere men were able to defeat His eternal purpose. If so, how do we know God can make Jesus King the second time He comes? God says He can do what He wants despite opposition by people, and this is exactly what He did the first time Jesus came!
[Cf. Psalm 22:6-8 to Matthew 27:41-43; cf. Isaiah 6:1-3,9f to Matthew 13:10-15; Acts 28:23-27; John 12:37-41.]
John 2:19-22 - At the very beginning of His public ministry, shortly after His first miracle (v11), Jesus predicted His rejection and death. But premillennialists say that He never predicted this till after He had preached awhile and it became obvious the Jews would reject Him.
Galatians 4:4,5 - Jesus came to earth "when the fullness of time had come" to redeem men. So God sent Jesus at the right time. Premillennialism says He sent Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom, but He couldn't because the Jews unexpectedly rejected Him; this would mean it was not the right time.
If the intent was to establish an earthly kingdom, it would not have been the right time. But if the intent was for Jesus to be rejected and die to redeem mankind, then it was the right time.
John 17:4 - Jesus said He had finished ("accomplished" - ASV) the work the Father gave Him to do. Premillennialism says He came to establish an earthly kingdom but could not so He postponed it - i.e., He did not accomplish the work. But if being rejected and dying was the intended work, He did accomplish it.
Hebrews 2:14,15 - Through death, Jesus defeated the devil. But if premillennialism is true, the death of Jesus was a victory for the devil: he kept Jesus from establishing the earthly kingdom He came to establish. Premillennialism would turn Jesus' victory into a defeat! [Matthew 12:29; Colossians 2:14,15; Luke 10:18; 1 John 3:8]
Acts 2:22,23 - Peter said that the Jews' rejection of Jesus occurred by the foreknowledge of God. Was Peter wrong, or is premillennialism wrong? [Acts 13:27-33]
The Jews always rejected God's prophets. The amazing thing would have been if they had accepted Jesus! (Acts 7:38-41,51-53; Matthew 23:29-37) If God had sent Jesus to earth thinking the Jews would accept Him, He must have been ignorant of all Jewish history!
Premillennialists say Jesus came expecting to set up an earthly kingdom as prophesied in the Old Testament, but instead the Jews unexpectedly rejected Jesus so He could not set it up. Yet the Old Testament clearly prophesied the Jews would reject Jesus.
Jesus died because the Jews rejected Him. He died to purchase the church, and the gospel is the message of salvation by His death. Allegedly this was all unexpected and unplanned by God. Suppose God's plan had gone as premillennialism alleges He expected it would, so Jesus had not died. What then?
Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 26:28 - Redemption and forgiveness and remission are made available through the blood of Jesus. If this was unexpected, as implied by premillennialism, how could men have been saved? [1 Peter 2:24; Romans 5:6-10; 3:23-26; 1 Peter 1:18,19; 3:18; Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 9:11-15]
Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:23-26 - Specifically, Jesus died to purchase and save the church. Salvation is found only in the church (cf. Acts 2:47). If this was not planned by God, how could we have been saved?
Matthew 16:21-23 - When Jesus predicted His death, Peter rebuked Him saying it would never happen. But why did Peter reject the idea of Jesus' death? Because Peter, like Jews and premillennialists, thought Jesus had come to reign over an earthly kingdom. Death did not fit his plan for Jesus.
Jesus rebuked Peter saying he was working for Satan and was thinking of man's things, not God's. He was emphasizing physical benefits, not spiritual salvation. How do premillennialists differ from Peter? How would men have been saved if Jesus had fulfilled the expectations of Peter and the premillennialists?
Luke 24:47 - Because Jesus suffered and arose from the dead, repentance and remission are preached to all nations (including Gentiles). How could Gentiles have been saved if Jews had not rejected Jesus?
Romans 11:11 - Because the Jews fell by rejecting Jesus, salvation came to the Gentiles. What if, as premillennialists claim God originally expected, the Jews had not rejected Jesus? Where would that leave the Gentiles?
As much as premillennial doctrine emphasizes the Jews, presumably provision would somehow have been made for the Jews to be saved. But what about the Gentiles, including most of us and most premillennialists?
Ephesians 2:11-19 - Gentiles were strangers from the covenants, having no hope and without God. Under the gospel they have been made near by the blood of Christ (v13), and reconciled in one body in the cross (v16). So they are no longer strangers, but fellow-citizens and members of the household (church) of God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15). Without the church, Gentiles would still be without hope.
Acts 15:15-18 quotes Amos 9:11,12 showing that the tabernacle of David (his house or dynasty) would be rebuilt so Gentiles might be called by God's name. James showed this had been fulfilled at the time he cited this, as God anticipated from all from eternity. It follows that the tabernacle must have been rebuilt. This was fulfilled in the church and in the gospel, both of which premillennialists say were unexpected.
Gentiles have an opportunity for salvation only because of the present church/gospel period, which premillennialists say was unexpected. How could God not have had a plan for the salvation of Gentiles? How could that salvation be the result of something unexpected? If things had gone as God originally expected, how could we have been saved?
Premillennialists must face the fact that their concept of God's original plan makes no provision for the salvation of Gentiles. If Jesus had not been rejected by the Jews and had succeeded in establishing His earthly kingdom, the special favored status of Jews would have continued uninterrupted. Gentiles would have continued to be aliens, separated from the covenant.
The church and the death of Christ are fundamental aspects of the gospel, but premillennialists say all these were unpredicted in the Old Testament and were offered only because the Jews unexpectedly rejected Jesus. In particular they say that the gospel is not the new covenant promised in the Old Testament.
Was the gospel unplanned and unpredicted? Does the gospel fulfill the Old Testament predictions of a new covenant?
Christ would be a priest on His throne, after the order of Melchizedek (both a king and a priest at the same time). But kings under the Old Testament were of the tribe of Judah, and priests could only be of the tribe of Levi.
Hebrews 7:11-14 - In order for Christ to fulfill the prophecy of a priest after the order of Melchizedek, He would have to be a priest of a tribe other than Levi. Since the law did not allow this, the prediction necessarily implied the law would be changed.
The conclusion is that the old covenant was predicting that it would be replaced by a new covenant when Christ reigns as priest. But He is a priest under the covenant now in effect and will continue forever with an unchangeable priesthood (7:24; 8:1,6; 9:11). Hence, the old covenant clearly implied there would be a new covenant, and it would take effect when the Old Testament was removed and Jesus began to reign as priest. All this is fulfilled in the gospel, so the gospel was predicted in these Old Testament prophecies.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 - God promised a new covenant not like the covenant made at Mt. Sinai. Note: This new covenant would come when the old one was removed, and under the new covenant sins would be remembered no more.
Hebrews 8:6-12 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 and clearly implies it is fulfilled in the New Testament we have now. This new covenant is the one for which Christ is the Mediator (v6) (present tense). He has obtained this ministry, so he is Mediator of this new covenant. It is something now accomplished, not something yet to come.
Hebrews 9:15-17 - He is the Mediator of the covenant (present tense). To be Mediator he had to die to redeem men from sin. This new testament could not take effect till the testator (Jesus) died. Hence, the old one would be removed and the new one instituted after Jesus died. Note that this is another prediction that Jesus must die, and it was necessary to give us the New Testament! [Colossians 2:14; Ephesians 2:11-16]
Hebrews 10:1-4,9,10,14-18 - Old Testament sacrifices could not take away sins (they were remembered every year). But Jesus removed the first will (testament) and established the second, by which we are sanctified through His own sacrifice. Now the prophecy of Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled that our sins are remembered no more!
The New Testament, prophesied by Jeremiah, would take effect when the Old was removed and when there was a sacrifice that could remove sins so they would be remembered no more. This all occurred as a result of Jesus' death. Conclusion: both the new covenant and Jesus' death were known ahead of time, and the New Testament predicted by the Old Testament is now in effect.
Isaiah 2:2-4 - When the Lord's house would be established on the top of the mountains, the law (the word of the Lord) would go forth from Jerusalem (Zion). In an earlier study we showed this was fulfilled at the establishment of the church.
Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15,16 - When the church began, the gospel (the message of repentance and remission of sins) should be preached to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. This fulfills the prediction of Isaiah 2:2-4.
Premillennial folks object to this explanation because nation still wars against nation, swords have not been beaten into plowshares, etc. Again, they take this physically, not spiritually, so they conclude it has not yet been fulfilled. But consider a similar passage.
Isaiah 11:1,6-10 - A rod or branch would grow from the root (stem) of Jesse. This is agreed to be the Messiah. This would result in peace among wild animals. This clearly has the same significance as chap. 2. [cf. Hebrews 12:22,23; Ezekiel 34:25]
Note v10 - In that day Gentiles would seek this root. If we can determine when this would happen, we will know when the prophecies of peace would be fulfilled.
Romans 15:12-16 quotes Isaiah 11:10 as proof that the gospel was for all men including Gentiles as well as Jews (Romans 1:16). So inspiration proves that the peace predicted in Isaiah 11 (and Isaiah 2) was fulfilled at Jesus' first coming, because it gave salvation through the gospel to the Gentiles.
John 14:27 - Jesus' first coming gave peace, not as the world gives (not physical peace). It gave peace so the heart would not be troubled nor fearful: spiritual peace, not physical. [Philippians 4:6,7]
Ephesians 2:14-16 - The gospel produced peace between Jew and Gentile because it removed the Old Law, which was a wall of partition between the two (cf. vv 11-13). This is the sense in which the word of the Lord (gospel) made peace between nations. It is fulfilled in the church through the gospel.
Romans 5:1 - Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. [Zech. 6:12,13; Colossians 1:20-22; 3:15; Micah 5:2-5]
The peace predicted in Isaiah 2 and 11 is spiritual peace in the spiritual kingdom, the church: peace with God and peace between Jew and Gentile in Christ. Isaiah 2 predicted this would happen when the word of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem. This is fulfilled in the gospel. Hence, the gospel was predicted in the Old Testament.
To say that these predictions are not fulfilled is to belittle the gospel and to say that physical peace is of greater importance than spiritual peace. This is the basic error of premillennialism. It emphasizes physical things as more important than spiritual.
The gospel was a mystery kept secret since the world began but now manifest and made known by prophetic Scriptures.
Ephesians 3:3-6 - The mystery of the gospel is that the Gentiles can partake of the promise in Christ through the gospel [Romans 1:16]. If this was unplanned but happened only because the Jews unexpectedly rejected Jesus, what would have happened to the Gentiles if God's plan had not unexpectedly been changed?
A mystery is something which, for a long time, is known only to a certain few who were personally involved in what happened. It is not fully revealed or understood by people in general, but finally is later revealed or made known.
So God knew His plan in the gospel since the world began. He gave hints and clues through the Old Testament (like those we have studied), but it was in His mind all along. It was expected and predicted by God. But it was made known and fully revealed to men only after Jesus died and the message went forth beginning at Pentecost.
[Cf. to Ephesians 3:3-11; 1 Peter 1:9-12.]
If the gospel is not what God originally expected, what did He plan? If He will enact His original plan when Jesus returns, what will that plan be like? Consider these quotes:
Regarding Ezekiel's description of the temple, Walvoord says: "...it would be most reasonable to assume that a future temple would be built in the millennium as the center of worship" - Millennial Kingdom, p. 310 (via McGuiggan & Jordan, slide #46).
He further says: "It is significant, however, that most thoroughgoing students of premillennialism who evince understanding of literal interpretation of premillennial doctrine usually embrace the concept of a literal temple and literal sacrifices" - Millennial Kingdom, p. 315 (via McGuiggan & Jordan, slide #146).
"Ezekiel's temple is a literal future sanctuary to be constructed in Palestine as outlined during the Millennium" - Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 514 (via Miller, p. 208).
"Jerusalem will be the center of the worship of the age" - Pentecost, Things to Come, p. ? (via Miller, p. 208).
"The literal interpretation of the Old Testament presentation of the millennium is the problem surrounding the interpretation of such passages as Ezekiel 43:18-46:24; Zechariah 14:16; Isaiah 56:6-8; 66:21; Jeremiah 33:15-18; and Ezekiel 20:40-41, all of which teach the restoration of a priesthood and the reinstitution of a bloody sacrificial system" - Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 517 (via Miller, p. 208).
The premillennial concepts we have described follow from their physical, literal interpretation of prophecy.
Deuteronomy 30:1-10 - Premillennialists claim passages like this have never been fulfilled. But they predict that, in the millennium, physical Israel will return to Palestine and will keep the law of Moses (vv 2,8), the statues written in "this Book of the Law" (v10).
Other passages they rely on teach the temple will be rebuilt, and bloody fleshly sacrifices will be offered by the Levitical priesthood, etc. Since they argue all this will be physically fulfilled, consistency requires them to argue for a physical reinstitution of the whole Mosaic system. [Ezekiel 40:38-43; 42:13; 43:27; 45:17; 46:20; Zech. 14:16,17]
Actually, many of the prophecies they cite were fulfilled in Israel's return from Babylonian captivity, but they were conditional and were fulfilled only to the extent Israel met the conditions. Other prophecies were fulfilled in the New Testament kingdom, but are spiritual not physical.
But consider the consequences of their view regarding the gospel.
Galatians 5:3 - Whoever keeps part of the law is a debtor to do the whole law. When premillennialists claim that the priesthood, sacrifices, etc., will be literally observed in the millennium, they are obligated to argue that the whole Mosaic system (the "Book of the Law") will be reinstituted (whether or not they accept that conclusion).
Hebrews 7:11-14 - The change from Levitical priesthood to Christ's priesthood required a change of the law. But the gospel does not provide for a Levitical priesthood with animal sacrifices. So by the same reasoning, returning to the Levitical priesthood and animal sacrifices will require the removal of the gospel!
Romans 7:2-6 - Paul used the illustration of marriage to prove that we cannot be under the law and the gospel both. To be under both systems at once would be spiritual adultery, like a woman married to two men at once. So likewise to go back to the Mosaic law in the millennium would require us to leave the gospel or else to commit spiritual adultery.
Further, the gospel system is primarily about the church, including baptism to enter the church, the Lord's supper in the church, etc. Premillennialism says all this was a temporary arrangement added till Jesus returns, never part of God's original plan. Hence, again their position requires that the gospel will be replaced by a different system, including Mosaic practices.
Further the millennium is, to them, the ideal goal for which they wait and hope. Obviously it will be superior to what we have now. The consequence is that the millennial system, including animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood, earthly temple, etc. will be superior to what we have now in the gospel!
So, having implied that Jesus' death occurred because the Jews unexpectedly rejected Him, many premillennialists boldly proceed to proclaim that His sacrifice was not the all-sufficient sacrifice for all time and that the gospel will be replaced with a better system that includes a physical temple, earthly priesthood, Jewish supremacy, and fleshly animal sacrifices!
Acts 15:9,10 - Judaizers wanted to bind the Old Testament on Gentiles (v5). Peter said that law was a yoke that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear, so God replaced it with the system of faith (the gospel). To put this yoke again on disciples would be to test God. Why go back to it?
2 Corinthians 3:6-11 - The law was the ministry of death and condemnation, written and engraved on stones. This is the law given by Moses when people could not look upon his face because it shone (v13). How can it be superior to the system that is "more glorious"?
Colossians 2:14 - Jesus removed the handwriting of requirements because they were against us and contrary to us. Why go back to them?
Ephesians 2:14-16 - The Old Testament was the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile, because it gave a favored status to Jews that was not available to Gentiles. To go back to that system would be to place Jews again in a favored position above Gentiles. This is exactly what premillennialism says will happen, but to do so would build again the barrier that Jesus died to remove!
Hebrews 7:11-14; 8:4 - Jesus could not be priest under the Mosaic system, because He was not of the tribe of Levi. If that system is re-imposed, He will not be priest for the same reason! They say He is priest now, but not king (over the kingdom prophesied in the Old Testament). In the millennium He would be King but not priest. Hence, He never will be "a priest on His throne" after the order of Melchizedek (Zech. 6:12,13; Psalm 110:4).
Hebrews 8:6; 7:22 - The new covenant (the gospel) is better than the Mosaic system. But Premillennialism says the Mosaic system is better than the gospel! [9:11-15,23; 7:18,19]
Hebrews 10:1-4,9-18 - The main reason the gospel is better is that it has the sacrifice of Jesus. Animal sacrifices under the Mosaic law could never take away sins, but by Jesus' sacrifice under the gospel sins are remembered no more. Premillennialism says God never expected the death of Jesus, but did plan to give us a system in which we return to animal sacrifices, which cannot take away sins! That is a better system?! [9:6-10]
Galatians 5:1-4 - Christ set us free from the old law. We must not again be entangled in it. If we do, Christ becomes of no effect to us, and we fall from grace. That is exactly the consequence of premillennialism.
Premillennialists unknowingly belittle and deny the significance of Jesus' death. They make it an unplanned and unexpected patchwork that God added because He could not do what He really wanted to do. They do the same thing with the church that Jesus died to purchase and with the gospel which is the message of His death.
Jesus died to remove the Old Testament and establish the New Testament (the gospel), but they deny the prophesied New Testament has even come! They say that the Mosaic practices, which Jesus died to remove, will some day be reinstituted. All this amazingly belittles the death of Jesus.
Like Judaizers of the first century, Premillennialists seek a favored status for Jews and seek to bind many aspects of the Mosaic code. Paul said the first-century Judaizers were "false brethren" ... "to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Galatians 2:4,5). So we ought to view modern Judaizing premillennialism.
This is part of a series of articles about premillennial teaching. To see a list of all the articles, please click here.
Copyright 2003, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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