Why amillennialism or why no mill?
Any thought of a millennium confirms God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Taking away the millennium takes away God’s promise to the Jew. The protestant reformers (along with the Catholics) were amilllennial. They called the hope of a millennium a “Jewish dream” and “Jewish opinions” (see Wikipedia article on amillennialism) because the Jewish people were looking for the fulfillment of the promises of Jeremiah 31 and the promises given to David. The reformers were saying that the millennium is the church age and that Christ’s return is spiritual. This seems to nullify those promises given to Israel.
We can’t accept this theory especially if we are of the opinion that there really is no church age or “church” as a separately beloved people apart from the Jews. We are thinking the reformers are mistaken in this distinction. There seems to be from the reading of the scriptures to be only one holy people, Jews. There seems to be no mention of any other beloved people. All gentiles that come to Christ the Messiah are really entering into the holy covenant God made with Israel.
What you state is really well put. There are some, however, that see a millennium, but see no special significance for Jews in the millennium. They see a millennium that is simply populated by Christians who inherit the earth in general. But I take your view that the primary purpose of the millennium is to give space for the literal fulfillment of all God promised to Israel.
I’m glad to see you reject the view that the church starts at Pentecost. This is NOT properly called the “church age”. Even though the term has been serviceable to describe the present age, it is not used in scripture. It is a misnomer, because it assumes the church did not exist in the OT, which is patently false. This is a unique dispensation of divine purpose, but it is not the “church age”. Rather, it is the dispensation of the grace of God to the gentiles through the revelation of the mystery of the gospel, whereby gentiles are given an equal standing in the covenants of promise with the saints of Israel.
It is a mistake to assume that because something is newly revealed that it has come newly into existence. It is true that the mystery of Christ reveals the church as the body of Christ, but this does not mean that OT believers born of the Word and the Spirit of Christ (1Pet 1:11, 23) were any less members of Christ than believers of today.
Just as greater revelation of the mystery of the incarnation and the Trinity does not imply new existence, it is incorrect to suppose that new light and new language concerning the body of Christ should necessarily imply a new entity, separate and apart from Israel. This is a fallacy of both dispensationalism and replacement theology that has given rise to much confusion and loss of crucial perspective.
There has always been a true “Israel of God” (the righteous remnant) within the larger nation. The early Jewish disciples did not cease to belong to the elect nation when they became believers in Jesus. There is no thought at all of a new entity called the church. There is no thought of a new Israel that displaces the old. On the contrary, Paul shows that it is the present nation under judgment that is predestined for future grace (Ro 11:25-26), on the basis of a covenant (Isa 59:21; Ro 11:27) that is based on an irrevocable calling and election (Ro 11:29).
Ultimately, there is only one Seed that inherits the promises (Gal 3:16). “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen” (2 Cor 1:20). The children of the Spirit are counted for the seed (Ro 9:8), because to be born of “the Word and Spirit of Christ” (Ro 8:9; 1Pet 1:11, 23) is to be “in Him”. Even before the advent of Christ, those who were indwelt by “the Spirit of Christ” (1Pet 1:11) were certainly just as much “in Him,” as any living since the revelation of the of the mystery (Ro 8:8-9; Col 1:27).
According to Paul, the covenant was already confirmed “in Christ”, even before the law was given (Gal 3:17). There is no other with whom it could have been confirmed, because there is only one righteousness that could stand as surety for “all the seed” (Ro 4:16). From the beginning, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) stood as surety of a better covenant (Isa 55:3; Heb 7:22).
It is theological error of the first order to suppose that only since Christ’s historical appearance in the first century have persons been made alive by the Spirit of Christ (Jn 3:6; 6:63; Ro 8:9; Eph 2:1), or that the Spirit of Christ did not indwell believers before Pentecost (1Pet 1:11).
The new birth is a self evident necessity for all spiritual life in any age. Jesus reproved the learned Nicodemus for not recognizing this (Jn 3:10). He should have known that if a nation is dead apart from spiritual resurrection and re-birth (Isa 66:8; Ezek 36:25-27; 37:5 ), it cannot be otherwise for an individual (Jn 3:3). This reproof would make no sense if the new birth was something that would not begin until Pentecost.
It is impossible to be “in Christ” and not be “in Israel”. To belong to Christ is to belong to Israel. To be born into Christ is to be grafted into the Israel of God, the Israel of the new creation.
En-grafted gentiles are equal heirs of Israel’s covenants of promise, since the covenants and promises were not made with any other people. The seed of faith, the children of Abraham, the circumcision of the Spirit etc. are one regenerate people of God, whom Paul calls, “the election” (Ro 11:7).
This is the “holy nation” to whom Jesus said the kingdom would be given (Mt 21:43; 1Pet 2:9). It is the Israel of the new creation, which must extend to an elect number of the natural branches at the coming day of the Lord in fulfillment of the demands of the covenant (Ro 11:26-27). That number is the prophesied “third” that survives the great tribulation (Zech 13:8-9). This is the penitent remnant that will make up the beginnings of a new regenerate nation born in one day (Isa 66:8; Ezek 39:22; Zech 3:9).
Regardless of how many gentiles are added to the church, its essential character is not changed. The church remains an internal phenomenon within the nation of abiding election and calling (Ro 11:29). Christ is the true Israel of God, and to be in Him is to be in the line of divine election that does not stop short of the salvation of ‘all Israel’ at Christ’s return (Ro 11:26).
The Jewish disciples saw themselves as still belonging to Israel in essential continuity with the godly Jewish remnant, “the election of grace” (Ro 11:5). Through the gospel, believing gentiles are grafted into the nation to which the Jewish disciples already belonged. Therefore, the one new man of the Spirit is the Israel within Israel, travailing in hope of the salvation of the nation presently under judgment.
As the people of the Spirit and the revealed secret (Ro 16:25-26), the church never conceived of itself as separate from the nation of abiding election and calling (Ro 11:29). They understood that despite its momentary condition of blindness and unbelief, the covenant cannot rest short of the salvation of “all Israel” (i.e., “the natural branches”).
For Paul, this meant the existence on earth of an entirely saved “Jewish” nation (Ro 11:26; Jer 31:34). Paul desired for believing gentiles to see their part in moving the Jew to jealousy (Ro 11:11, 14) in the knowledge that “their fullness” would mean “life from the dead,” bringing exponential increase of blessing to the nations (Ro 11:12, 15).
The present “Israel after the flesh” will become the Israel of the Spirit in the time that Jesus calls, “the regeneration” (Mt 19:28). This does not mean that Israel supersedes the church, but that the unbelieving nation is renewed to become the church.
As it is false to say that the church replaces Israel, it is equally false to say that Israel replaces the church. Millennial believers will be no less the body of Christ than believers of today. Contrary to dispensational teaching, it is impossible to be born of the Spirit of Christ and not be part of His body (Ro 8:9; 12:5; 1Cor 6:17; 10:17; 12:13; Eph 2:16, 18; 4:4, 7; Col 1:27).
[Note: You may know that dispensationalism teaches a “reversal of Pentecost” at the rapture (John F. Walvoord). In this view, the Holy Spirit did NOT indwell believers in the Old Testament. He was only “with” or “upon”” them, but never permanently “in” them. Since the indwelling is believed to only apply to church saints in this age, it is believed that the Spirit will NOT indwell tribulation believers or any that come to faith during the millennium. Only the body of Christ (a term that dispensationalists limit to believers living between Pentecost and the pre-tribulational rapture) can experience the indwelling of Christ’s Spirit. But according to Jn 7:39, the Spirit would be given on the basis of Christ’s glorification. Therefore, the gift of the Spirit is no more capable of being retracted than the glory of Christ is capable of being reversed. Such alleged reversal of Pentecost is a theological absurdity. On the contrary, the mystery of the incarnation reveals that the same “Spirit of Christ” that now indwells the church (Col 1:27) also indwelt (and filled) the saints of old (Gen 41:38; Ex 28:3; 31:3; Num 14:24; 27:18; Deut 34:9; Neh 9:30; Ps 51:19-11; Isa 63:11; Dan 4:8, 18; 5:11, 14; Mic 3:8; Mt 22:23; Jn 3:6; 6:63; Ro 8:14; 1Cor 2:12, 14; Gal 4:29; compare especially Ro 8:9 with 1Pet 1:11).]
Hence, the “new spirit” that will be given to Israel “in that day” is the same Spirit that now indwells the church (Ro 8:9; 2Cor 3:17). It is the same Spirit of Christ who indwelt all the righteous of past ages (1Pet 1:11). Only by His Spirit are the dead made to live in any age or dispensation (Mt:12:27; Jn 3:6; 6:6:3; 1Cor 2:14; Gal 4:29). [Note: The righteous remnant of the OT were not strangers to the Spirit and the law written in the heart (Ps 37:31; 40:8; 51:10; 51:10; Isa 51:17), but because they knew that a mere remnant could never establish an abiding inheritance in the Land, the prophets looked on to the day of the Lord when ‘all’ the people would be righteous with an ‘everlasting righteousness’ (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Dan 9:24).]
For the moment, we must distinguish between the Israel of the new creation and ‘Israel after the flesh,” but that distinction is only temporary, since the church that has not lost its true identity is a church that groans and travails for the time when every Jewish survivor of the last tribulation will become members of the body of Christ on earth, as an entirely regenerate nation.
The church should know that until the Jewish people are ‘all righteous’ in their appointed place (the Land), Satan will continue, unbound, to ravage the earth. Therefore, to have God’s heart for the nations is to long for the salvation of “all Israel”, since “their fullness” will mean “life from the dead” and unparalleled blessing for the nations (Ro 11:12, 15).
Simply put, all who are born into Christ are born into Israel, but this new creation must extend to include an entirely regenerate Jewish nation. That’s why Paul insists that the covenant cannot rest short of “their fullness”, when “all Israel” shall be saved, meaning the existence on earth of an entirely saved Jewish population (see Isa 4:3; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; Jer 31:34; Ezek 39:29 etc.)
I see the church as a kind of corporate Jeremiah or Daniel, who, though distinct by reason of regeneration, is no less bound to the fate and fortunes of the beloved nation, even in its “temporary” blindness and apostasy (the righteous remnant always suffered with the nation). Regardless of its apparent numbers, the church is contemplated as belonging to, and remaining within, the elect nation of eschatological destiny, so that what touches that nation touches (or ‘should’ touch) the church in a profound way, as in the case of the prophets (the tears of Jeremiah, Nehemiah etc.).
In this sense, the church is distinct, but NOT separate. Its relationship to Israel is like that of the prophets and the righteous remnant that did not stand apart (boasting in the difference), but regarded themselves as standing in priestly solidarity and identification with the nation, even in its pollution and apostasy. They recognized, as the church has failed to recognize, that the covenant cannot be finally fulfilled, and the world have rest, UNTIL “all Israel” is saved (Ro 11:25-26).
For the prophets this meant the time when every living Jewish survivor of the great tribulation would all “know the Lord from that day and forward” (Ezek 39:22). There would be no exception, since “all” would be uniformly righteous by the Spirit (Isa 60:21; Jer 31:34). Not only at the beginning of the millennium, but all throughout the generations that follow, every child born to Jewish parents is promised the same blessing of everlasting preservation in righteousness (see Isa 44:3; 45:25; 54:13; 59:21; 61:9; 65:9, 23; 66:22). It is the open spectacle of an entirely saved “Jewish” nation.
It is therefore not surprising that non-millennial covenant theologians put the fulfillment of Jer 31:34 in heaven. By applying this promise to the church rather than the to the Jewish survivors of the last tribulation, it is impossible to conceive of a time when there would be no occasion to teach or evangelize within the visible church.
But the promise is even more radical, because it specifies evangelism among the Jews in particular. It does not say that there will be no further need of evangelism during the millennium. On the contrary, many scriptures show that evangelism will abound to the nations in that day (Isa 2:3; 11:9; 25:7; 27:6; 49:12, 22; 55:5; 60:3, 5, 9: 61:9, 11; 62:2; 66:19; Jer 3:17; Mic 4:2; Hab 2:14; Zech 2:11; 8:22-23, etc.). Rather, the promise predicts a circumstance when evangelism among the Jewish people will no longer be needed.
Non-millennial presuppositions discount such a scenario, because it would require not only a millennium but an unthinkable Jewish preeminence that God will require the nations to acknowledge (Zech 8:23; 14:16-17). But it shall be so! Because this is the vindication of the covenant, whereby God will be sanctified “in them” (Ezek 28:25; 39:27) in the sight of all nations.
This is the people of the long exile of suffering that have born such hatred and shame among all nations, “for your sakes” (Ro 11:28). To begrudge them of their special calling and election is a great violence to the Spirit of grace. It the ultimate form of “boasting against the branches” (Ro 11:18, 25).
As we see in Num 14, and a host of other scriptures, God will never settle for anything less than the final bringing in of the very same people that He first led out. That is the terms of what the prophets call the “everlasting covenant of peace”. Anything less falls unthinkably short of the glory that will fill the whole earth (Num 14:22).
That the church can conceive otherwise is precisely due to its ignorance of the mystery (Ro 11:25), which has shown itself in the tendency to boast against the branches. Lack of priestly identification with Israel’s tragic plight in history has kept the church from its strategic role towards Israel in God’s purpose to bring the age to its appointed conclusion, particularly in view of the judgments through which the church and Israel must pass toward the fulfillment of the covenant in their return.
Yours in the Beloved, Reggie