"The Essential Point In Premillennialism" -- No. 3
The fundamental mistake of all premillennialists is in a twofold misapplication of both the Old Testament and the New Testament scriptures. First, their utter disregard for the proper division of the Word regarding the gospel dispensation as related to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Second, their arbitrary interpretation of symbolic language in which they commit the unpardonable blunder of forcing a literal application of figurative expressions. These two mistakes are unwarranted on the part of any man who professes to know the Bible. Yet it is amazing to see the extent to which certain men in the church who have gone into premillennialism have themselves, men who ought to know the gospel, fallen into both of these egregious errors. A more outstanding example of it could not be found than the recent published address of R. H. Boll in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which document is now under review in these columns, and of which review this is the fourth installment. The editorial of the December BIBLE BANNER covered the scope of Boll's premillennial beliefs in a general summary of his teaching on sundry points which he has endeavored to evade. A survey of Point No. 1 in his category on "the essential point in premillennialism" was carried in the January issue, covering the subject of the Second Coming of Christ; and Point No. 2 on the "Times of Restoration" was discussed in detail in the February issue. We now come to other passages which he has listed in that category, as we examine them one by one.
"WHEN THE NATIONS SHALL LEARN WAR NO MORE" (Isaiah 2:1-5)
The characteristic deliverance of this leader of premillennialists in the churches, R. H. Boll, of Louisville, Kentucky, is as follows: "If there is ever to be a time ... when the nations shall learn war no more (Isa. 2:4) ... if there is ever to be such a time (and the Word of God bears that out)--then Christ must and will come before that time." Thus deposes R. H. Boll in putting on exhibition his own disregard for the inauguration of the gospel dispensation on the day of Pentecost. Now, let us take a look at this passage in full:
1. The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
2. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.
3. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
5. 0 house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.
When a New Testament writer quotes an Old Testament prophecy and says "this is that" it "must and will" settle the issue with all who are not so blinded by some theory as to be unable to see, but verily "there are none so blind as those who cannot see." But as the Lord said to His disciples, let us say to all whose minds are yet receptacles of truth, "Blessed are your eyes for they see: and your ears for they hear."
It is divinely fortunate that Isaiah 2:1-5 is among those Old Testament prophecies referred to in the New Testament as having been fulfilled. More than that, Jesus Christ is Him self the One who alluded to it in the record of one of his personal amanuenses, Luke, the writer of the gospel book that bears his name. Here it is: "Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Lk. 24:45-49.)
In this passage Jesus declares that two things are written: (1) That the Christ should suffer and rise again. (2) That in His name repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations beginning at Jerusalem. Now where was it written that preaching the remission of sins to all nations would begin at Jerusalem? There are two places only where such was written--Isaiah 2 and Micah 4, duplicate prophecies in the Old Testament. This quotation of the Lord's is therefore a direct allusion to Isaiah 2:1-5.
Scrutinize the passage: Verse 1 states that it was a vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Verse 2 declares that these events should occur in the "last days," and foretells that they would come to pass at the time the church would be established, and when "all nations" should flow into it. Verse 3 specifies that in this new dispensation, the Word of God would be the standard of judgment among the nations, both Jew and Gentile. The passage then heralds peace--that nation shall not lift up sword against nation in this new dispensation--that the Jew and the Gentile would not be at enmity in the new covenant, the two nations would be merged into one new nation in Christ; in the dispensation of the gospel they would be judged by the same law--the new covenant. The rivalry between the two nations having ceased, the one nation would not lift up sword against the other nation, they would learn war no more--that is, their enmity having been abolished they would no longer be spiritual belligerents; the state of war between them having ended, peace in Christ would exist. With the middle wall of partition which separated them, the law of Moses, having been broken down, their future spiritual state was expressed in the imagery of beating their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, and of learning war no more. This beautiful delineation is climaxed with the announcement that the two once rival nations would in the new covenant together "walls in the light of the Lord."
That this passage refers neither to some future millennium nor to the carnal wars of earthly nations, but rather to the spiritual relation of Jews and Gentiles in the gospel dispensation, the context clearly shows. And that fact becomes even more evident when it is compared with other passages. We proceed to make these comparisons.
Since the antecedent declaration of the prophet Isaiah is that these events would occur "in the last days," it is expedient to settle that point first. What and when are the last days of Isaiah 2:2? Here we have a "this is that" of the New Testament. Forecasting these same things the prophet Joel said, "And it shall come to pass afterward (in the last days) that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." (Joel 2:28.) Quoting this prophecy on the Day of Pentecost, Peter said: "But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel: and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." (Acts 2:16-17.) The prophet Joel said that this event would be "in the last days." The apostle Peter said "this is that"--therefore the last days began on Pentecost in Acts 2. And the prophet Isaiah said that the events mentioned in Isaiah 2:1-5 would also occur "in the last days." But the prophet Joel and the apostle Peter combine to declare that this meant Pentecost--therefore, Joel 2, and Isaiah 2, merge in Acts 2. Having thus proved that these prophecies have been fulfilled in the gospel dispensation, Brother Boll was just as wrong as he was vindictive when he put on record the statement that "if there is ever to be such a time as that-then Christ must and will come, before that time." Jesus Christ and His apostle, Simon Peter, both declared that the Day of Pentecost was "such a time as that," R. H. Boll to the contrary notwithstanding.
But we are told that war has not ceased and that swords and spears have not been beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks, therefore this prophecy cannot have been fulfilled. To which we reply that the kind of war referred to in Isaiah 2 did cease, and the kind of swords and spears referred to in that passage were beaten, not literally but figuratively, into plowshares and pruning hooks.
For a comparison let us look at another passage from an Old Testament prophet. Deep in Babylon, with God's exiled nation, Ezekiel foresees the new dispensation and the new covenant in a similar array of metaphors. Read his graphic delineation.
20. Therefore thus saith the Lord God unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle.
21. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad;
22. Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.
23. And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.
24. And I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it.
25. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.
26. And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.
In the above description the "cattle" is translated "sheep" in the standard revised version. The reference to the "flock" also indicates that Ezekiel is using the figure of sheep to picture the people of God. With this in mind the passage falls into the following parts:
First: There would be a time when God would judge between "sheep and sheep." But why sheep and sheep? In the Old Testament the Jews only were God's sheep, but in the new dispensation there would be "other sheep." Jesus said, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold (the Jewish fold): them also I must bring (the Gentiles), and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold (the church) and one shepherd (Christ). That is what Ezekiel meant by "sheep and sheep" Jew and Gentile. But Isaiah 2:4 called them "nations"-Isaiah said God would "judge between the nations," while Ezekiel said that He would judge between "sheep and sheep." So whatever "sheep and sheep" means in Ezekiel, that is what "nations" means in Isaiah.
Second: In further comparison, Isaiah 2 states that "the law of the Lord," inaugurated at Jerusalem, would be the standard by which God would "judge between the nations;" and Ezekiel refers to the "covenant of peace" as the standard by which God would judge "between sheep and sheep." Thus far the passages are parallel.
Third: In this new dispensation, according to Ezekiel, God would "set up one shepherd" to rule over the "sheep and sheep" and "he shall feed them, even my servant David, he shall feed them and he shall be their shepherd." Will Brother Boll or any of his partisans, or any premillennialist, dare to assert that this David is the literal David? As much as they insist on the literal application of the prophets, not one of them will so assert. They boo at what they call "spiritualizing" the prophecies, but here they will be found spiritualizing, for the literal David was long dead when Ezekiel prophesied this, and everybody knows, even a rank premillennialist, that Christ is this David--the spiritual David--whom God would set over "sheep and sheep" to be their Ruler. Well, if that is figurative, why not see the figurative application all the way through?
But as Ezekiel refers to the rule of Christ which God would "set up" over the sheep and sheep, Isaiah calls it the "law of the Lord" to judge between the nations or decide between many peoples. Get it--"nations" and "many peoples" in Isaiah's language, but "sheep and sheep" in Ezekiel's language; the "law of the Lord" in one, the "covenant of peace" in the other. Again, the passages run parallel, so far, so good. Already the thoughtful reader must have begun to see the imagery of both prophets to be that of the gospel dispensation and of the new covenant.
Fourth: Continuing the comparison, Ezekiel says that under the new covenant God will cause "the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods," while the counterpart of the comparison in Isaiah 2 says that under the "law of the Lord," in the new dispensation, "they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks." One prophet uses the figure of animals and the other prophet uses the figure of weapons and implements. Is the beast that ceases out of the land a literal beast? Anybody who has a thinker and is using it, knows that it is not. Then why make the swords and spears, plowshares and pruning hooks literal weapons and implements? The "evil beast" referred to the character of men-under the new covenant the characters of men would be so changed by its influence that it would be like causing the wild beast to lose its ferocity. And in the same way, the peace was made between the Jew and the Gentile, when the "middle wall of partition" was broken down (Eph. 2:14) and the two old nations became one new nation in Christ. Out of Zion and from Jerusalem "the law of the Lord" did "go forth." It was then that the rivalry between Jew and Gentile was brought to an end. They learned war no more, because nation did not lift up sword against nation any longer in the figure of speech employed. In the same figure, their swords were represented as beaten into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks--the enmity was abolished, the two nations merged into one new spiritual nation in Jesus Christ, and became "one new man"--the one body, the church.
All that is needed to put the finishing touch to this argument is the statement of Paul to the Ephesian Gentiles. Read it:
"Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the--world: but now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and he came and preached peace to you who were afar off and peace to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father." (Eph. 2:11-18.)
In this pemmican passage the vision of Isaiah is absorbed by the argument of Paul-peace between the Jew and the Gentile. With Isaiah they were "the nations" and "peoples," with Paul they were Circumcision and Uncircumcision, Jew and Gentile. In the imagery of Isaiah it was swords and spears, plowshares and pruninghooks--weapons of war and implements of peace. But in the argument of Paul it is "the middle wall of partition" broken down. In the vision of Isaiah the influence that would smelter their weapons of war into implements of peace was "the law of the Lord." In the syllogisms of Paul the thing that breaks down the wall of partition between them is the gospel of Christ.
Does anyone think that the wall that Paul mentions is a literal partition of brick and mortar, or lathe and plaster, or stucco and sheetrock? Oh, no. Then it is a figure of speech. Well, if "walls" and "partitions" are not literal in Paul's argument, why contend that "swords" and "spears" and "war" in Isaiah's vision of precisely the same thing are literal? If the language of the one is figurative, why not the language of the other?
That these comparisons from Isaiah, Ezekiel and Paul may be summed up by the reader, and in order to settle the argument, so far as these passages are concerned, forever, I submit them now in parallel arrangement, side by side. Look them over.
1. It shall come to pass in the last days.
2. The Lord's house, the church, shall be established.
3. Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
4. By the new law he shall judge and rebuke the nations and the peoples (plural).
5. In the new dispensation, under the new law, they shall beat swords into plowshares, spears into pruninghooks, shall not lift nation against nation, and learn war no more.
6. All are invited to come to the house of the Lord, to be taught of his ways, to walk in paths and in the light of the Lord.
1. When Christ the new David shall be their Shepherd.
2. One fold and one shepherd shall be "set up" over them.
3. And I will make with them a covenant of peace.
4. By the new covenant he will judge between sheep and sheep (plural).
5. Under the new covenant there will be peace, evil beasts to cease out of the land, no more a prey, they shall dwell safely in wilderness, and sleep in the woods.
6. God will make them and the places round about the Lord's hill a blessing, there shall be showers of blessing.
1. Not as they were in "time past" but now in a new dispensation.
2. In Christ Jesus, one new man, reconciled in one body, the church.
3. He came and preached peace to you that were afar off and peace to them that were nigh.
4. Abolished the law, made both one, the Circumcision and the Uncircumcision no longer exist.
5. Middle wall of partition has been broken down, they are no longer aliens, and strangers, but have been reconciled to God, and the enmity between them has been slain.
6. Through Christ both Jew and Gentile, in the church, have access alike unto the Father.
As the above comparisons stand, this is the sum: When Peter quoted Joel 2, it proved that its fulfillment had occurred in Acts 2. And when Jesus quoted Isaiah 2, it just as definitely proved that its fulfillment would occur in Acts 2. And when Paul pointed out so plainly to the Ephesians how and when the "peace" between the Jews and the Gentiles was made and thus the "war" or enmity between them had ceased, it results in blending them all together into one fulfillment--namely, that Joel 2, Isaiah 2 and Ephesians 2 merge in Acts 2! And the two premillennialists who published their perversions of these, and other passages, in Chattanooga, should add "two and two," and seeing what the sum of it is, they should be convinced that they are wrong.
In the light of these passages, thinking reader, what do you think of that Boll edict now: "If there is ever to be a time when the nations shall learn war no more (Isa. 2:4) ... if there is ever to be such a time as that (and the Word of God bears that out)--then Christ must and will come before that time." Methinks the brother has his "ifs" and his "musts" all mixed up with his "will" and is trying to bind God down to his own imaginary scheme of things.
It must be evident to all whose hearts are open to the truth that the passage in Isaiah refers neither to "the millennium" nor to "carnal warfare," and that settles several questions in one.
In the succeeding issues we shall continue the review of this Bollistic document, examining one by one those passages referred to by R. H. Boll himself as being "the essential point in premillennial teaching," until they have every one been taken from him, and until they have been set forth in their proper teaching--for they do not belong to him. We shall not leave him a single "point" in his premillennial teaching--not one.