"The Essential Point In Premillennialism" - No. 4
In the Chattanooga address R. H. Boll declared "that if there is ever to be a time" for certain things mentioned in the Old Testament to occur "then Christ must and will come before that time." With that bold statement he lists seven passages of scripture, three from the Old Testament and four from the New Testament, and merely asserts that they constitute and prove "the essential point in premillennial teaching." Disposition has been made of some of his citations in previous articles. The passages cited have been turned completely against him. It has been shown that these passages not only do not teach any point of premillennialism but that what they do teach is just the opposite of premillennial teaching and can be used as arguments against the whole system of premillennialism.
Sectarian debaters sometimes assert a point of doctrine and cite a blackboard full of references and with a triumphant gesture roar out, "answer these!" One of Bogard's tricks has been to reserve a great array of passages on faith until the closing session. He has them listed on a chart, dozens of them. He does not make an argument on them separately at all--he asserts that they mean faith without baptism, and demands that his opponent answer each passage separately--though he does not introduce them separately nor make a separate argument on them. In that case he has not introduced a dozen arguments--he has introduced only one argument and merely asserted that certain passages prove it.
Let it be observed that Brother Boll employs the same tactics. He asserts that certain things must occur which he asserts have not occurred and then asserts that "Christ must and will come before that time! To prove his bald assertions he cites numerous passages without even quoting them and with a pious gesture says "and the word of God bears that out"! Until he makes an argument on the passage we could meet his bald assertion with a blank denial, but to expose his utter disregard for the right division of the word of God and the truth that is taught in the passages he cites, we are producing the texts and analyzing each item of the Boll document.
"WHEN THE OLD CURSE SHALL BE LIFTED AND THORNS AND THISTLES SHALL CEASE" (Isa. 55: 12-13.)
Now let us read the passage cited:
"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."
This passage is "the essential point in premillennial teaching," according to Brother Boll, and "if there is ever to be such a time as that," mentioned in these verses, "then Christ must and will come before that time." With him the passage is literal-the thorns are literal thorns, the thistles are literal thistles, the fir tree and the myrtle are literal fir and myrtle trees. Very well, then the mountains and hills, according to verse 12, will literally break forth into literal singing, and the trees of the field will have literal hands and will literally clap them. What a literal picture! When the thorn and thistle ceases, and the fir and the myrtle trees spring up to take their places, the other trees of the field will be there to "give them a hand"--the fir and the myrtle trees will be greeted with a great applause of hand-clapping as they come springing up. What a reception! A brass band parade is nothing to compare with it--when the fir and myrtle trees spontaneously spring up, the literal mountains and the literal hills will usher them in with a literal chorus of literal singing and the literal "trees of the field"--trees, all of the trees of all of the fields of the earth-will applaud them with the literal clapping of their literal hands! Brother Boll says it is literal and that it is "the essential point in premillennial teaching."
We simply insist that if Brother Boll makes the thorn and the brier, and the fir tree and the myrtle tree, of verse 13 literal, to be consistent he will have to say that in his millennium the trees of the field will have literal hands to clap. We cannot allow him to make verse 12 figurative and verse 13 literal in the very same imagery. This fact alone proves that Brother Boll has a distorted view of the passage and in his zeal for a millennium down here on the earth he resorts to perversions of God's word and misapplications of sacred scriptures never exceeded by any sectarian on earth.
What then does the passage teach--if it does not mean the millennium, what does it mean? A casual study of Isaiah 55 shows that it is a description of the gospel dispensation. Verse 3 says: "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." The "time" referred to in this passage is the time when God would make "an everlasting covenant" with them. We are asked if the gospel dispensation is "everlasting." Very well, we return the question: Is the millennium "everlasting"? I understood that it should be only a thousand years in duration. But the gospel dispensation has already been in progress longer than that, and certainly can be as "everlasting" as the lesser period of the millennium could be. Sauce for the goose--you know!
The passage says :"I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David"--even "the sure mercies of David." That proves that the "everlasting covenant" and the "sure mercies of David" are one and the same thing. To what then does it refer? We have but to read Acts 13:33-34, from Paul's address in Antioch of Pisidia: "God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David."
Here Paul, the apostle, says that the promise of God to give them "the sure mercies of David" was fulfilled when he "raised up Jesus again." Notice particularly the statement of verse 34 "and as concerning that he raised him up from the dead ... he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David." Therefore, as concerning "the sure mercies of David," Paul says the prophecy was fulfilled in the raising up of Jesus from the dead "now no more to return to corruption.'' R. H. Boll says "if there is ever to be such a time--then Christ must and will come before that time." But in Acts 13:33-34 Paul says: "God hath fulfilled the same."
Take the text of Paul's address in Antioch and itemize it even more fully. Like Stephen in Acts 7 his approach to the gospel dispensation is through a brief running narrative of Old Testament history from the deliverance of Israel from Egypt to the coming of the Christ. Verse by verse he reaches the conclusions. In verse 26 he says "to you is the word of this salvation sent." Referring to the voices of the prophets which they read in their synagogues, verse 27 says, "they have fulfilled them in condemning him." Verse 29 says that when they took him down from the tree they had "fulfilled all that was written of him." Verse 30 says that "God raised him from the dead." Verses 32-33 says "and we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled unto us their children." Verse 34 says, "and as concerning that he raised him up from the dead ... he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David." That thought continues through verse 37, and verses 38-39 read, "be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses."
It surely must be plain to anyone not blinded by theory and prejudice that the promise of Isaiah 55:3 "1 will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David" is fulfilled in Acts 13:33-34 and refers to the gospel dispensation.
The remainder of Isaiah 55 is but a further portrayal of the blessings of the gospel dispensation: Verse 10 compares the gospel to rain and snow coming down from heaven and verse 11 applies it to "the word" that "goeth forth out of my mouth" declaring that it shall not "return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." It is then that the prophet exultantly describes the blessings of the gospel and the joys of salvation under the stirring symbols of verses 12 and 13, the mountains and the hills singing, the trees of the field clapping their hands, and the fir and myrtle trees springing up instead of the brier.
In the face of all of these plain facts compared with New Testament passages that affirm their fulfillment, it must be evident to all that, blinded as he is by his millennial theories and steeped in their prejudices, R. H. Boll cannot be trusted to correctly teach the word of God even in its first principles. A man who does not know the proper division of the word of God, and the passages that refer to it, does not know any more about the Bible than any ordinary sectarian.
When R. H. Boll applies Isaiah 55 to a millennial age and says "if there is ever to be such a time as that--then Christ must and will come before that time," he arrays himself against the inspired statement of the New Testament that "God hath fulfilled the same unto us" and "as concerning that ... he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David." We therefore simply put Paul's "hath fulfilled" squarely against R. H. Boll's "must and will."
"WHEN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE LORD SHALL COVER THE EARTH AS WATERS COVER THE SEA." (Isaiah 11:6-9.)
Again Brother Boll merely cites a passage and asserts that it is "the essential point in premillennial teaching." Let us look at the passage:
"And the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy--in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea,"
The document under review asserts that this prophecy of Isaiah has not been fulfilled. We are told that it points to the millennium and "if there is ever to be such a time as that--then Christ must and will come before that time." Let us compare Isaiah 11 as we did Isaiah 55 with Paul's address in Antioch of Pisidia, recorded in Acts 13, and with the Roman epistle, chapter 15.
The first verse of Isaiah reads as follows: "And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." Now read Paul's reference to it in Acts 13:22-24: "And when he had removed him (Saul] he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will. Of this man's seed hath God according to his promise raised unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus: when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel." Here Paul says that "his promise" referred to the first coming of Christ, and in the verses below, he declared "God hath -fulfilled the same unto you." Notwithstanding the fact that Paul plainly says that this "root" and "stock" of David of Isaiah 11:1 was fulfilled in the first coming of Christ in connection with John's preaching "the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel," Brother Boll says that it means the second coming of Christ and that "Christ must and will come before that time." He thereby puts his own pitiful ipse dixit squarely against what the New Testament says.
But compare Isaiah 11:10 with Paul's application of it in' Romans 15:12. Isaiah says: "And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious." Brother Boll says this has not been fulfilled, that Christ "must and will" come again before that time. But hear Paul in, Romans 15:12: "And again, Isaiah saith, "There shall be a root of Jesse, and he that shall rise to reign over the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles trust." Here Paul quotes directly from Isaiah 11 and declares that it is fulfilled in the dispensation of the gospel to the Gentiles. We ask Brother Boll: Do the Gentiles "trust" Christ now? Can the Gentiles "trust" Christ now? Paul says that is the "reign" the prophecy refers to the reign of Christ in the gospel dispensation. According to Brother Boll's theory that "Christ must and will come before that time," the Gentiles cannot trust Christ now, and his theory takes away all hope of present salvation for the Gentiles. But it is a mere harmless theory, we are told!
The fulfillment of this prophecy is strengthened by a comparison of Isaiah 49:5-6 with another declaration of Paul in that very significant address in Antioch of Pisidia, Acts 13:4647. The Isaiah passage reads: "And now saith the Lord that hath formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the ends of the earth." Who does it refer to, and what does it mean? Well, when the Jews would not have Paul's testimony in Antioch of Pisidia, Paul said to them: "It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."
Brethren, that is Paul speaking, quoting the very passages that R. H. Boll applies to the second coming of Christ and the future millennium. Paul said they were fulfilled then. He quoted these passages from Isaiah and said "God hath fulfilled the same unto you" and "they have fulfilled them in condemning him" and "be it known unto you therefore" and "for so hath the Lord commanded us" and other like expressions, applying these prophecies to the gospel dispensation. Yet Brother Boll persists in saying that they are not fulfilled and that Christ "must and will" come again "before that time." It is Paul versus Boll. As highly as some people seem to rate Boll as a prophet, I will stick to Paul.
The Boll assertion that Isaiah 11:6-9 refers to the millennium enforces a literal theory that would have wild beasts filled with the knowledge of God and literal animals dwelling in God's holy mountain. He makes no allowance whatever for figurative language and spiritual imagery. But the entire prophecy is evidently fulfilled in the gospel dispensation, in the church. The first five verses point to the coming of the Messiah into the world. In verses 6-9 the characters of men are represented in figures of wide extreme and contrast. Under the transforming influence of the gospel the characters of men are changed from such as were represented by carnivorous animals like the wolf, the bear, the leopard and the lion into characters represented by the harmless nature of the ox and the lamb. Under the same figure God's people and Christ's disciples are called sheep. The literal interpretation of such metaphors is not even rational, much less scriptural.
"AND THE RANSOMED OF THE LORD SHALL RETURN AND COME TO ZION." (Isaiah 35:8-10.)
A fitting climax to Isaiah's visions of the coming of the Redeemer and the opening of the gospel dispensation is found in chapter 35:
"And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein. No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isaiah 35:8-10.)
The whole chapter is a picture of Christ and his church. The world without Christ was a desert. When the Christ should come there would be a highway where there had been only a trackless desert. Who should travel that highway? Not the unclean "but it shall be for those" and "the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein." The wayfarer is one who is not a permanent dweller, he is a traveler, faring on the way. The fool is not an idiot, but men who are aware that they do not know the way and need guidance. Men who are wise in their own conceits (I Cor. 3:18) and devise their own ways cannot travel this highway, neither those who are morally unclean. But the Lord's highway would be such that a "wayfarer" though he was not acquainted with the territory, and men who, knowing their own ignorance, would accept guidance, need not err, or fail to travel in this highway. This way should be plain to all of such character and disposition.
When the text says "no lion shall be there" nor any "ravenous beast" shall "be found there," it immediately states the point of comparison--"but the redeemed shall walk there." The contrast shows that the "lion" and the "ravenous beast" were used to denote the opposite of the "redeemed"--hence, denoted men of wicked character who had not been redeemed. But we are told that it must not be spiritualized, that it is literal, and "if there is ever to be such a time as that-then Christ must and will come before that time." Of all the consummated folly and sublimated nonsense from anybody who knows enough about the Bible to make a prayer-meeting talk, that takes the cake.
The picture closes with this grand utterance: "And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." What a glorious picture of the joys of salvation, the comfort of faith, and the blessedness of hope that we have in Jesus Christ and his church. Premillennialism takes it away. It is a system of rank materialism. It is demoralizing to spirituality and stultifying to the finer sentiments of the soul. It is a degrading anti-climax to the hope of the gospel, a flareback to the weak and beggarly elements. It is incompatible with Christianity, with the ideals of the life of Christ, the essence of his teaching, the purpose of his death, the power of his resurrection and the nature of his kingdom. It is the embodiment of sectarianism and is as false as sectarianism can be--it is a deadly system of error.
This completes the Old Testament citations of the Chattanooga Bollistic document. In the next installment we shall in like manner review the New Testament passages one by one. We shall not allow him a single "point" in his "premillennial teaching"--not one.
"A BROTHER (FROM TENNESSEE) WHOSE NAME NEED NOT BE MENTIONED IN THIS CONNECTION."
For gallantry and forthrightness I have never seen a stronger statement than yours in the February number of the BIBLE BANNER relative to your 1936 and 1942 teaching. It is the very, essence of consistency, whose "jewel" is consistency with truth rather than with one's past. It is comparable to the praiseworthy statement of that able and popular Washington commentator, Raymond Clapper, who, in substance said of himself, that he was an isolationist till he was convinced that he was wrong and then he changed. When both human experience and inspired revelation fail to change one's convictions from error to truth, it is indeed most unfortunate.
Also, your editorial in the same number on "The Essential Point In Premillennialism-No. 2" is the most comprehensive and instructive analysis of the subject that I have seen. You thus ably expose the very points that Brother Boll's outline conceals. And Brother McGarvey, as you quote from him, speaks exactly to the point.
I notice Brother H. Leo Boles has opened up on the subject in this week's Advocate. And that we have anticipated them correctly, I notice he says, "sin is sin, evil is evil," thus making no distinction between the different forms or classes of evil. Also, he says: "Furthermore, for the country to be at war does not add a single new duty to Christian conduct," etc. I wonder if the new "Victory tax," to say nothing of other added duties, does not add a new duty on him? Or perhaps he means that a Christian does not exemplify "Christian conduct" in meeting all such obligations! His teaching on that subject is untenable; and his assumed antithesis between that which is essential to civilization on the one hand, and that which is essential to spiritual life here and hereafter on the other, to the extent that it is believed, will contribute to the plea of infidels.--Tennessee