We saw, in the first installment, how a 'Focus on the Physical' was detrimental; in fact, I would venture to say; it was the biggest impediment ( physically speaking ), to the relationship between Israel and God.
We now come to the second, and final installment, wherein I will try to show how, as I hinted at in the first, it was, and is not, a problem associated only with national, physical Israel; but continued after the Biblical record was finished, and continues still today, not only among those of the dispensational camp, but in the Reformed ( including Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc. ), and even among the preterist camp!
First; I will try to show how those of the dispensational camp err, in much the same way, unfortunately, as those physical Israelites that are described in the Scriptures; in their own 'Focus on the Physical'!
I have not studied much in the way of 'A History of Dispensationalism', but from my dealing with those I know ( and love ) , I deduce that the main premise behind all, or most, of their theological 'wranglings' is the fact that, since the OT passages on the subject 'seem' to say that Christ would rule, on this earth, from a physical Jerusalem and this has not happened yet ( not that they can 'see' anyway ( II Kings 6:17 ), that those passages, including those in the New (er) Testament, must be speaking of a 'yet future' event, an event sometime in the near future, because we are now 'seeing' the events described in Matt. 24, and like passages, happening in our world today!
Let's take a look now, at some of these passages that 'seem' to say that Christ will rule from a future, physical Jerusalem ( which He is!-Rev. 11:15 ), or Zion.
Psalm 2 is the first of these that we'll look at; God says, in verse six, “Yet ( Hebrew-iteration or continuance ) have I set ( Hebrew-to pour out ( as a libation ), or to cast ( as metal ) My King on My holy hill of Zion”
I think that we can all agree that Christ is spoken of here, in the greatest sense ; but remember too that David, as a type of Christ, had already been set in the ( Holy ) city of Zion, in the primary, historical fulfillment of this prophecy ( II Samuel 5:7 ).
I don't want to get into a types and anti-types discussion here, but it seems to me that the physical types that were presented under the Old Covenant pointed toward, not only Christ, or, the Messiah; but to a spiritual anti-type ( I Cor. 15:45,46 ).
The second passage that we'll look at here, is Psalm 110, where David has recorded that famous portion of Scripture that Paul quotes in I Cor. 15:25, “The Lord ( God, the Father ) said unto my Lord ( God, the Son ), Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.” He goes on, in verse two, to say, “The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion: Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Now this, as above, I think can be applied, somewhat, to David's kingship, for he did indeed, rule from Zion, in the midst of his enemies ( he was beset on all sides, if memory serves me! ), but unlike the previous passage, it's a little harder to see that, and indeed, I would venture to say that this passage is primarily speaking of the coming reign of Messiah: but you also can get a hint of the continuity between David's reign, and the reign of the coming Messiah, or Christ!
Our next passage, probably equally as famous, comes from Isaiah 2; from which I must quote a lengthier portion. Beginning with verse two, Isaiah records a word from the Lord; “Now, it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord's house ( John 14:2 ) shall be established on the top ( Hebrew-to shake; the head (as, most easily shaken ) of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow ( Hebrew-to sparkle,ie, to be cheerful-assemble ) to it.”
“Many people ( Hebrew-a people ( as a congregated unit ); a tribe ( as of Israel ) ) shall come and say, 'Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord ( Psalm 48:1,2 ), to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.' “
“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”
“He shall judge between the nations ( Hebrew-( in the sense of a massing ), a foreign nation ), and rebuke many people; 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 anymore.”
“O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord.” ( Matt.5:14-16,
John 8:12, 9:5 )
Granted; in this passage, God does say that His house will be established on the top of the mountains ( which, in itself is interesting; because, how can you establish a house on the top ( singular ) of the mountains ( plural ), and that the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem; but it also says, in the last verse of this passage, 'let us walk in the light of the Lord'. This reminds me of passages like I Corinthians 15:34, Ephesians 5:1-8,I John 1:7, and Revelation 21:23. John 14:2, I Peter 2:5, and Revelation 21:3, which tell us 'what' this 'house' comprises, and where it is!
For sake of time, I'll move quickly through the next example that 'seems' to say that Christ will rule from an earthly Jerusalem, or Zion.
I almost do this passage injustice, to move through it so quickly, because it is so clearly linked to the prophecy in Matt. 24; but, Isaiah 24:23 says, “then the moon will be disgraced, and the sun ashamed; for the Lord of Hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before His elders, gloriously!”
I am reminded, when I read this passage, of Joseph's dream, in Genesis 37:9,10. When Joseph told his dream to his father and brothers, his father knew exactly what he was talking about; “Shall your mother and I, and your brothers indeed come and bow down before you?” The latter part of verse 23; “He shall reign .......... before His elders.......”, immediately brings Revelation 4:10 and 5:6-10 to mind.
We'll just take a quick look at the next passage, Micah 4; because it's identical, up to verse 4, with a passage that I've already quoted, Isaiah 2: ; the difference being, of course, that verses 4 and 5 are reminiscent of Isa 65:20-23, Matt. 10:28, and Rev. 22:15, while 6 and 7 bring to mind the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, and the parable of the wedding feast, in Matt. 22:1-14 and His remonstrances to His would-be disciples in Luke 14:12-14.
I don't want to go into too much detail here, but I think His point in these passages is just the same as His point all throughout Scripture, but especially in Deuteronomy 7:7,8. My purpose here is not to go into a lengthy exegesis on any certain subject, or passage in the Scriptures; but rather to simply show how these 'seemingly' physical sounding verses, all find their fulfillment in the reign ( present tense ) of Jesus Christ, in and through His Church, or, the New Jerusalem!
A quick look at Zephaniah 3:15-17, tells us that God ( Christ ) is in our midst, a fact that is echoed in Rev.7:15 and 21:3, and remember too, that Paul tells us, in Acts 17:24, that 'God ............. .does not dwell in temples made with hands', and that he prayed, in Ephesians 3:14-19, Paul told them that he prayed that God would grant that Christ may dwell in their hearts. Does Christ actually dwell in our hearts, or is it just something we 'say'?
Zechariah 2:10, and 11, speak to the same effect, when God says, in verse 10, “behold, I am coming, and I will dwell in your midst”. He reiterates this in verse 11, by saying ( and I must quote the whole verse here ), “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people; And I will dwell in your midst” This reminds me, instantly, of passages like Hosea 2:23, Isaiah 49:6, 60:3, and Gen. 12:2,3.
We now come to our final portion of Old Covenant Scripture here, Matt.24.
Whoah; you say; Matt. 24 is in the New Testament! That's true, but I think, that in the greatest sense, this passage is in the same genre as the passages that I quoted above, and the many that I didn't! I will spend a bit more time on this passaage, for, in my view, this is where our dispensational, and even our Reformed, brethren make their greatest ( some might even say, 'gravest' ) mistake! I'm going to quote just a few of the more key verses.
“Now, as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, 'Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?
Jesus begins His answer to their query by telling ( warning ) them of many 'portents' that will precede His coming; one of which is that 'this gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all the world ( Gen 12:3 ), as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come',
Jesus goes on to tell them that 'they' will undergo much tribulation from the 'world', but also reminds them, in John 16:33, to 'be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.'!
Then, in verse 27, Jesus begins to describe His coming, and in verse 29, when that coming would happen; “Immediately after the tribulation of those days ( mentioned in the previous paragraph and verses 15 through 22 ), the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give it's light ( remember Joseph's dream in Genesis 37? Also see Rev. 21:23 and I Cor. 15:36 ); the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken”
“Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heave ............... and they will see the Son of Man, coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory!”
Verses 22 and 23 are two of their ( Dispesationalists ) favorite verses to show that Christ must indeed , be coming soon, and that this is, what some term, the 'terminal generation' ( more on that in a bit ) .
Jesus told His disciples that when they saw the fig tree ( taken to represent the 'physical' nation of Israel ) putting forth leaves, then they knew that summer was close at hand; and that, when they see all these things ( 'gospel ..........preached in all the world', sun and moon failing, etc. ), know that it ( He ) is near-at the doors '!
( James 5:9 ) We now come, I think, to the hardest verse, if they're honest with themselves, to answer; 34!
'Assuredly I say to you; this generation ( Greek-a generation ( by implication ) an age-the period or the persons ) will by no means pass away till all these things take place.'
To make the Coming of Jesus future, the dispensationalist must 'wrangle' this passage, so that Jesus either said that the race ( Greek-genos ) of the 'physical' Jew would not die out till then, or that the generation that 'sees' these things will not pass away till Christ comes!
Ok, now a little commentary on 'the terminal generation': I think that I have clarified fairly well why I believe that the language of Mathew 24 ( in particular, verses 27-30 ) is not meant to be taken literally, in a scientifically precise way, but that Jesus was merely using the 'colorful' and hyperbolic poetry of the Old Testament prophets ( there are many more examples of this ) to show what was going to happen to Jerusalem, and 'all these', as would also be witnessed by 'some standing here' ( or there ).
I guess my question for those of the dispensational camp would be, "If Jesus, when referring to 'this generation'; was speaking of a generation thousands of years in the future, why would He give false hope to those in the first century, thus leading them to believe that they were, indeed, 'the terminal generation'?
Ok, enough 'picking on' the dispensationalists's: now; on to the Reformed Protestants!
The Reformed faith, for the most part, I believe, agrees with what we've discussed concerning the Old Testament passages; it's when we come to Matt. 24 that we must part ways, I fear!
One of the most popular views that I've heard, is that the disciples asked Jesus two separate questions in verse 3. ( I've heard that they might have asked three )
The only two possible questions that I could reasonably see, are; 'When will these things be?', and 'What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'
Even if these were two separate questions, which I don't believe; Jesus answers any and all questions that they might have had, again, in verse 34!
“Assuredly ( no doubt whatsoever! ) I say to you, this ( present ) generation shall not pass away, till ALL these things ( verse 3 ) take place”.
It just boggles the mind, how some people can get past this verse!
Another argument that I've heard from the Reformed camp, is that Matt. 24 is split at verse 36, with the previous 35, in answer to the supposed first and third ( or maybe just the first ) question ( s? ) of the disciples, referring to 'these things' ( verse 2 ), and verse 36 through 51, speaking of the second (and possibly the third ) question. The problem that I see with this argument, is that verse 30, in the latter part, says that, 'immediately after the tribulation of those days ...........................they will see the Son of Man, coming on the clouds of heaven.'
However; it not being my purpose in this paper to present an apology for 'Fulfilled Eschatology, but rather to prove that the “Focus on the Physical” is back of most, if not all, error in the Church, up to the present time; I will stop there, for now, and 'focus' on why, I believe, that some 'preterist' brethren are wrong in their 'focus'.
At the time of this writing, there is a debate going on, within the ranks of 'preterism', about whether there was a 'physical', literal rapture of pre-AD70 saints, some of whom were still alive (John 21:22, I Thess 4:17, or whether the 'rapture' was, more or less, a 'merely' spiritual 'change' ( I Cor. 15:52, John 5:24-29 ).
I will acknowledge that there are 'some' passages that 'seem' to say that the saints who had 'fallen asleep' would be raise physically at Christ's coming; the most famous of these being I Thess. 4:15-17. which we will quickly review here;
“For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede ( go before ) those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead ( Greek-a corpse ) in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”
You could 'see' where this passage, along with some others, admittedly, could be taken to say that those first-century saints were physically taken up to be with our Lord; but there's where the problem comes in! It seems to me, that if we would make “we ............... will be caught up” to be speaking in a physical sense, then we must take Jesus' language in Matt. 24, et al, in a physical sense.
Jesus said, in John 5:24, “Most assuredly ( really, emphatically, no doubt at all! ), I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me HAS everlasting life, and shall not come into ( the ) judgment, but HAS PASSED from death into life.”
Interesting language here; “has passed from death into life', for the first-century believers had, at the moment of conversion, especially those who converted from the Jewish faith, went from being under 'the ministration of death' ( II Cor. 3:7 ) to being 'in' Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life!
I will not deny that something out of the ordinary DID happen, concerning a 'rapture' in AD70 though, because; where Jesus said in the next verse that 'the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.'( speaking, I believe of the Light, or Life that He brought to the world! ), He says, three verses later, that, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth, those who have done good, to a resurrection of Life, and those who have done evil, to a resurrection of condemnation ( Matt. 13:24-30 ), thereby making a distinction between what was going on at that time ( a 'spiritual' resurrection- this could also be taken as referring to Lazarus, 'whom Jesus ( physically ) raised from the dead' ), and something that would happen at the culmination of His Parousia, so that they 'would always be with the Lord'!
I think that Paul was reminding them, in other words, of our Lord's promise to Martha that 'he who lives and believes in Me, shall never die' ( John 11:26 )
What's interesting in the story of Lazarus' being raised from the dead, is that neither Jesus or John ever refers to Lazarus' 'dead' body as as 'a corpse', even though Jesus admitted to the disciples that 'Lazarus is dead'. while the apostle Paul, in Romans 8:10, says that our body is a 'corpse' because of sin!
More could be written on this subject, but I think that I will end by reminding all of my readers, that, whether they be dispensational, Reformed, or preterist with “A Focus on the Physical'; that I consider you all my brothers ( and sisters ) in Christ, or the Kingdom!