The USA Is Not Old Testament Israel (2)

When a vision of the future dominates the story historical details tend to get trampled.

The Reformed response to Dispsensationalism has been to remind us all that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1:36; Rev 5:6; 7:17; 14:10; 15:3; 19:9; 22:1–3). He is the temple (John 2:19). He is our only high priest (Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11–17). His sacrifice on the cross was the final sacrifice. There can be no more. On this basis Reformed confessing Christians object both to the Romanist doctrine of ongoing memorial (propitiatory) sacrifices and the Dispensational doctrine of the restoration of Levitical sacrifices.

 

Christian Reconstructionism (including theonomy) and Marxism are both powered by a vision of the future. Too often neither are always encumbered by the facts or by the particulars of history. This makes them both attractive to another movement also powered by eschatology (a vision of the future): American evangelical theology, piety, and practice. Most American evangelicals are premillennialists of some kind. There are essentially two kinds of premillennialists: historic and Dispensational. Historic premillennialism is also known as “chiliasm,” the belief that in Revelation 20 the Lord promised to return to set up an earthly 1,000 year kingdom on the earth which would fulfill the Old Testament promises about a time of earthly blessedness and prosperity. The word chiliasm is drawn from the Greek for 1,000 (χῑλιάς). Some of the early fathers were chiliasts and some were what Charles Hill calls “orthodox non-chiliasts.” For more on this see Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2001). Hill successfully refuted the older notion advanced by Harnack et al that all the orthodox fathers were chiliasts.

Dispensational premillennialism adds some wrinkles, e.g., the secret rapture and variations as to how to relate that rapture to the coming tribulation (in their scheme). Dispensationalism is also built on a “two-people” reading of redemptive history, which distinguishes it from historic premillennialism and from the broad sweep of Christian teaching generally. It is one thing (an error, in my view) to propose a future earthly golden age but it is quite another to teach that there are two peoples, an earthly and a heavenly people, that the real focus of redemptive history is an earthly Jewish kingdom, that the temple will be re-built in Jerusalem, and that our Savior, the Lamb of God, will sit on a throne in that temple and watch a renewed Levitical priesthood offer ritual, memorial sacrifices for 1,000 years.

The Reformed response to Dispsensationalism has been to remind us all that Jesus is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29; 1:36; Rev 5:6; 7:17; 14:10; 15:3; 19:9; 22:1–3). He is the temple (John 2:19). He is our only high priest (Heb 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:11–17). His sacrifice on the cross was the final sacrifice. There can be no more. On this basis Reformed confessing Christians object both to the Romanist doctrine of ongoing memorial (propitiatory) sacrifices and the Dispensational doctrine of the restoration of Levitical sacrifices.

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