John 1:17 And Its Application to Classic Dispensationalism


Among all of the biblical dispensations, perhaps none are more widely debated or misunderstood than the dispensations of the law and grace. Likewise, the distinctions between the two economies are vital to understanding the storyline of the Bible. However, the words themselves have been controversial in relation to soteriology particularly, but are necessary to understand for a thorough understanding of biblical theology. Understanding the Mosaic law and grace are important not only for biblical knowledge, but also for the daily walk in a Christian’s life. Speaking of the law’s relationship to sanctification, John F. Hart writes, “To promote obedience to the Mosaic law – even the Ten Commandments (the old covenant) – is to promote sin and defeat in the Christian…Legalism for sanctification must be replaced by an inflexible emphasis on the New Testament freedom found in living by the Spirit.”[1] First, it will be important to recognize the context of John 1:17, which states, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” Secondly, it will be pertinent to analyze what the dispensation of the law constitutes and why it is important. Thirdly, an overview of the dispensation of grace will be considered. Fourthly, practical applications of the verse at hand will be brought forth. Upon conclusion, believers will be able to see both the necessity of the law and the sheer magnitude of God’s amazing grace. Altogether, the teachings of John 1:17 provide a powerful application to Dispensational theology.

Context of John

When it comes to authorship of the fourth book in the New Testament, the Bible Knowledge Commentary states, “[There is] a good case for the author of the Fourth Gospel having been John, one of the sons of a fisherman named Zebedee.”[2] Scholars, both liberal and conservative, have proposed a wide range for the possible date of John, though between A.D. 85 and 95 is most likely.[3] When it comes to the “purpose” or “purposes” of John’s Gospel, many commentators have proposed different possibilities, though it was almost undoubtedly at the very least an evangelistic appeal and perhaps even an apologetic of early Christianity.[4] While other possibilities could be added to the list of details pertaining to surrounding context of the entire book of John, what is for certain is that Jesus Christ is the main character, and what pertains to His personhood and work is vital to the audience both in the first century as well as the twenty-first.

While the surrounding context is indeed helpful for this research, it is also necessary to observe the immediate context of John chapter one. The chapter begins with the first five verses that speak of the Logos (“the Word”) who forever existed in eternity past and through Him all things were created. Next, the author informs his audience that John the Baptist was instrumental in paving the way to having His listeners behold the Word (verses 6-8). In verses nine through fifteen is a summary of the Incarnation of the Word and His reception by those who believe in Him. Near the end of this section (verse 14), the author states, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (italics added). It is interesting to notice that in the main passage up for analysis verse 17), the phrase “grace and truth” is repeated. In fact, just before verse seventeen, John states, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace [χάριν ἀντὶ χάριτος].” (verse 16, italics added). Therefore, two things can be concluded regarding the immediate context of John chapter one. First, John seems to have an awareness of chronology. Beginning with eternity past, he proceeds to referring to the ministry of John the Baptist, and finally Christ Himself. Secondly, it is clear from this passage that when Christ came as the Incarnate Son of God, He brought with Himself an overflowing amount of grace. Thus, the purpose of verse seventeen fits with the overall argument that the coming of the Logos is indeed good news, for by His coming, humanity becomes a recipient of a certain stewardship distinct from the dispensation of Moses’ lifetime. The implications of the various differences between the dispensation of the law and grace, however, call for further study in order to discover an even fuller picture of John 1:17.

Dispensation of the Law

            Charles Ryrie identifies the beginning of the dispensation of the law from the life of Moses in Exodus 19:1 until its conclusion at the death of Christ, though it could be carried over until about Acts 1:26.[5] It was during this period that the nation of Israel received the “great code” often called the “Mosaic Law.”[6] The Apostle Paul asks an intriguing question with a satisfying answer in relation to the Mosaic Law in Romans 7:7, “What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.” Again he writes, “So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Romans 7:12). Therefore, the Mosiac Law itself was a very good standard of righteousness, but unfortunately no one could keep all of its precepts. Paul states the crux of the matter in Galatians 3:24: “The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” So then, the law itself (613 commands) was indeed good and operated effectively in the dispensation of the law; however, now that Christ has stepped down into the human history, Christians are “not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). There is a new economy, a new rule of life for believers. That is, Christians operate under the dispensation of grace, a title reminiscent of the indication of change in John 1:17: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (italics added).

Dispensation of Grace

            The present dispensation, referred to as the dispensation of grace or the church, is usually marked with the beginning of the church in Acts 2, continuing on until the inauguration of the Millennial Kingdom.[7] Ryrie summarizes the changes between the dispensations of law and grace quite well: “To be sure, the dispensationalist does not say that there was no grace ever displayed before the coming of Christ (any more than he says there is no law after His coming), but the Scriptures do say that His coming displayed the grace of God in such brightness that all previous displays could be considered as nothing.”[8] The word “grace” is translated from the Greek word, χάρις, meaning, “To show kindness to someone, with the implication of graciousness on the part of the one showing such kindness.”[9] Certainly, then, the coming of Christ is an aspect of grace (John 3:16), but in His coming there was a provision of a special kind of grace through the Gospel – salvation grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Does this mean Dispensationalists teach that salvation was not always by grace through faith since the present dispensation is entitled the “dispensation of grace”? Absolutely not, for Lewis Sperry Chafer confirms, “There is, therefore, but one way to be saved and that is by the power of God made possible through the sacrifice of Christ.”[10] Likewise, Ryrie explains, “The giving of the law did not abrogate grace.”[11] Therefore, “John 1:17 does not mean that there was no grace before the coming of Christ, but it does mean that, in comparison with the grace of Christ, all previous revelations of grace were as nothing.”[12] Christ indeed has ushered in “grace upon grace,” and thus, the name “dispensation of grace” has been appropriately given (John 1:16).

Practical Implications of John 1:17

It seems to be that when John wrote his Gospel letter, his goal was not just for the audience to have mere knowledge about the Son of the God, but that such understanding would have a meaningful practical response for believers. Particularly in reference to John 1:17 can such a claim be made. Therefore, it is essential to carefully consider the implications pertaining to law and grace from this verse for even twenty first century Christians. First of all, then, it must be asked, “How does the law apply to a Christian’s sanctification?” Some Christians would say that believers are still under part of the Mosaic Law in some way, but the extent and specificity of that binding is usually a little unclear. Many Dispensationalists, however, approach this situation with relative ease. John F. Hart states, “If being ‘under law’ means obligation to the entire Mosaic code (1 Cor. 9:20; Gal 3:23; 4:4-5, 21), then not being ‘under law’ (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18) means release from obligations to the entire Mosaic code.”[13] Thus, the law fulfilled its purpose entirely by operating as a “guardian”(ESV)/“schoolmaster”(KJV)/“tutor”(NASB) to direct people to believing in Christ for justification. But does the Mosaic Law now operate as a means for sanctification? Scofield would say “no.” He once wrote, “Law neither justifies a sinner nor sanctifies a believer.”[14] Scofield’s words appear to be in perfect harmony with 2 Corinthians 3:6, which says, “[God] made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” So then, the law is not able to produce sanctification in a Christian’s life; that is the role of the Holy Spirit. Because “living by the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) will not produce anything less than Christlikeness in the believer.”[15]

Secondly, “How does grace apply to a Christian’s sanctification?” While the law cannot produce sanctification, there is much room for grace. In fact, Hart says, “Biblically speaking, then, a consistent theology of grace must not only be concerned about the role of grace as opposed to obedience to the law for justification. It must also be concerned about the role of grace over against obedience to the law for sanctification.”[16] Therefore, since “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4), the message of John 1:17 makes clear sense: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” This means that both justification and sanctification are available because of the grace of God, and through Him alone. Every ounce of a Christian’s sanctification is a result, not of obedience to the Mosaic Law, but of the Holy Spirit’s gracious power provided to the believer. That, indeed, is very good news.


One of the most helpful aspects of Dispensationalism is its ability to identify legitimate changes that have occurred in biblical history. Such a verse as John 1:17 makes it impossible to ignore the fact that certain features of a particular time in history are distinguishable from other eras. While one option would be to ignore these distinctions, a much better solution is to analyze the features (“law” and “grace”) and conclude with a balanced resolution. Based on the testimony of Scripture, the traditional explanations of Dispensationalists offer a satisfying exegesis to what John 1:17 teaches. Both the realities of the Mosaic Law and grace are inherently good, but each also serves a particular purpose. It is easy to see, then, why it is vital to understand the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the treasures of the God’s grace in the present dispensation. For without grace, the Christian walk would be absent of all life whatsoever, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

[1] John F. Hart, Dispensationalism: Tomorrow & Beyond, gen. ed., Christopher Cone (Ft. Worth, TX: Tyndale Seminary Press, 2008), 417.

[2] John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 2:266.

[3] Ibid.

[4] See Ibid. and Robert James Utley, The Beloved Disciple’s Memoirs and Letters: The Gospel of John, I, II, and III John. Study Guide Commentary Series. (Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International, 1999), 4.

[5] Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism: Revised and Expanded, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2007), 63.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 64. And just to be clear, a majority of Dispensationalists teach that while the dispensation of grace started with the birth of the church, the rapture will take place well before the end of the dispensation in order to fulfill the prophecies of the 7-year Tribulation period.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1996), 748.

[10] Lewis Sperry Chafer, “Inventing Heretics Through Misunderstanding,” Bibliotecha Sacra 102 (January 1945): 1.

[11] Charles Ryrie, Dispensationalism, 128.

[12] Ibid., 135.

[13] John F. Hart, Dispensationalism: Tomorrow & Beyond, 399-400.

[14] C.I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible Notes (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1945), 1245.

[15] See Hart, Dispensationalism: Tomorrow & Beyond, 417.

[16] Ibid.


Debate: Dispensational Premillennialism vs. Covenant Amillennialism (w/ Robert Morgan) – Part 3/3

  • Conclusion (John Wiley)

Well, I don’t know about you, but that was pretty intense! I don’t know if either of us (Robert or John) convinced you, the reader, of a certain view. Whatever the case, I hope that this has helped in understanding the differences between the two views. To conclude this discussion, I’d like to include 5 final points, each are related to Robert’s section. I will try to respond progressively through his section in my concluding responses.

(1) Spiritual Jews – I absolutely believe that Romans 2 teaches that Jews can only be saved through faith in Christ. What I would like to comment on is this conclusion: “if gentiles have joined Jews as heirs to Abraham’s promise, as children of Abraham and as Real (spiritual Israel/Jews) [then] scripture concerning the effects of the Abrahamic covenant must be applied to gentiles.” The rest of what you said in the paragraph might be some intermingling between Gentiles and BOTH spiritual and natural Jewish promises. That might sound fuzzy at first, but I think the Bible Knowledge Commentary explains it well:

“Any discussion of the seed of Abraham must first take into account his natural seed, the descendants of Jacob in the 12 tribes. Within this natural seed there is a believing remnant of Jews who will one day inherit the Abrahamic promises directed specifically to them (cf. Rom. 9:6, 8). But there is also the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not Jews. These are the Gentiles who believe and become Abraham’s spiritual seed. They inherit the promise of justification by faith as Paul explained earlier (cf. Gal. 3:6-9). To suggest, as amillenarians do, that Gentile believers inherit the national promises given to the believing Jewish remnant—that the church thus supplants Israel or is the “new Israel”—is to read into these verses what is not there.”

(2) 70 A.D. – While there contain a few similarities between Matthew 24-25 with what Jesus said then with the events of 70 A.D., I still find a lot of what Jesus said to be missing in history – i.e. I am convinced that these are still future happenings. For example, where are the Matthew 24:29-30 events in all of history? A darkened sun, no light from the moon, Stars falling? With phrases such as “immediately after the tribulation” and in vs. 30, “then will appear” – seem to imply Christ’s 2nd coming as being right after the Tribulation…I know there are Amillennial responses, but that’s just a personal observation I felt inclined to say.

(3) 69-70 Week of Daniel Time Gap – 2 passages that would be helpful in this: Daniel 9:24-27 and Romans 11:25-27. Since much has already been said on this,  won’t take time to further comment other than to bring into question, “have we experienced what the 70th week is described as saying?” Likewise, how does this work with the concept of the “fullness of the Gentiles?”I wish I could write more, but due to a busy schedule I’ll have to withhold from continuing. Just keep in mind that the Messiah was said to be “cut off” in Daniel 9…perhaps that relates to the time gap.

(4) Christocentricity – I hear Luke 24:27 to be interpreted as: “Every single minute detail in the Old Testament is about Jesus” RATHER than interpreting this verse to mean “Jesus taught all of what was said about Him in the Old Testament.” Let me clarify: Jesus is spoken of all throughout the Old Testament. BUT, wasn’t Jesus taking the individual texts “specifically” pertaining to Him? When capitalizing this verse for emphasis, we are also being true to the text to capitalize “THE THINGS concerning himself.” What are the “things”? …just something to think about.

(5) Kingdom in NT – actually the New Testament is filled with examples of Christ coming back to establish His earthly kingdom. If we are to go through the progress of Matthew 24-25, the logic goes: Tribulation, 2nd Coming Judgment, Kingdom. In 25:31 talks about Jesus who “will” (future, active, indicative) sit on the throne. In verse 34, there’s that special word: “kingdom.” When Christ is about to ascend to heaven in Acts 1, the text says that Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God. If you look a few verses down, to vs. 6, the question is whether Jesus will restore the kingdom of Israel. This is the common interpretation of covenantalists: they often (I’ve heard it preached!) say that Jesus was probably shaking his head at them, thinking that they still didn’t understand…How about looking at verse 7, “It is not for you to know  times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” That doesn’t sound like a rebuke or frustration on Jesus’ part. To me, it sounds like the kingdom is still in the future…I’ll leave that part of the discussion where it stands for the reader.

I would love to write more and respond to what else was said, but due to a lack of time and the already large conversation, I will leave the rest up to the reader to research and study. I hope this debate was helpful, as it helped me to better consider my interpretations of Scripture as well as considering what others think. Check out the bibliography on section 1 for some good overviews of eschatology and theological systems. I recommend Paul Enns’ “Moody Handbook of Theology” and Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” for a general comparison of the different views. They do a pretty good job of collecting the various views, representing them accurately, while presenting their own views as well.

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment in order to add to this discussion!

Debate: Dispensational Premillennialism vs. Covenant Amillennialism (w/ Robert Morgan) – Part 2/3

  • Section II (Robert Morgan)

Hello John and all readers of this paper. I give thanks to God my savior who has benefitted me with knowledge of him and his gospel. I thank you John for giving me space to critique your paper; I am honored to be considered knowledgeable in theology. My purpose is to challenge John to understand and defend his eschatological belief that his study might be glorifying to God. I understand that he has adopted dispensational pre-millennialism as his belief. If I had to define my eschatology concerning the millennium I would be classified as a covenant Amillenilist. To define my view I believe Revelation 20 refers to our current situation as God’s elect with a focus on heaven. I have adopted a hermeneutic system called the historical-grammatical system; I also have accepted a minor form of typological interpretation which is very Christocentric.  Now that you have been introduced to me let us examine comments John made in his report. I will mostly refer to the millennium as the messianic kingdom during this report, so let us begin!

John says the “…deciding factor is due to the Dispensational distinction of Israel and the Church while covenant Theologians mesh Israel and the church into one covenant…” I agree that this is the major issue separating our two views; so who is right? John says distinct, I say joined in one covenant. Obviously I believe I am right and let us turn to scripture to see why! Romans 2:28-29 “for no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the spirit, not by the letter…” Here Paul allows us to see that to be a real Jew it must be by the spirit. Some of physical Israel was not a part of spiritual Israel because they were not real Jews. A real Jew is the real child of Abraham and of promise. Romans 4:11“… the purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised. “A real Jew, whether circumcised or uncircumcised, must have faith in Jesus after the manner of Abraham the father of faith. True Israel is messianic Jews and messianic gentiles joined together as one people according to Romans chapter eleven. One day many fake Jews will put their faith in the messiah Jesus. My Point is that Israel is filled with real Jews only, whether they are Jew or gentile. Romans 15:8-13 shows how Jews’ and gentiles’ hope rest in Jesus and this unifies us as the children of Abraham (Romans 4:13-17; 9:6-8, 23-29; 1 Peter 1:2;2:5-10). Only those who have faith in Jesus are heirs to the promises of Abraham (Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 26-28); Galatians 3:29 “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”  I have two reasons for sharing this doctrine, first: if gentiles have joined Jews as heirs to Abraham’s promise, as children of Abraham and as Real (spiritual Israel/Jews) than scripture concerning the effects of the Abrahamic covenant must be applied to gentiles. If there is a 7 year tribulation for Israel well you have joined Israel and will be a part of the tribulation too, if there is a kingdom, gentiles must share a part of that too. Secondly: many of the Romans verses written by Paul that quote the Old Testament (O.T) to prove gentile salvation originally referred to exiled Israel. Example Romans 9:24-26 quotes Hosea 2:23 which originally meant physical Israel but Paul uses typology to expand not change the meaning to spiritual Israel which is the inclusion of gentiles not the exclusion of Jews. Its typology because it’s original meaning “hid” some of God’s actual intention. We must understand that sometimes an O.T passage hides the complete idea; it is often a small glimpse of God’s complete picture. So I believe gentiles have joined Israel by being real or spiritual Jews, thus these truths force us to expand the prophecies concerning Israel’s eternal messianic Kingdom; The Kingdom is for the church/congregation/spiritual Israel which is Jews (remnant of Israel) and gentiles who follow the messiah.

I will now keep my attention on differences between John and I; a major difference is that I believe he has ignored history. We will both agree that after Israel’s great tribulation the messianic kingdom shall begin. So I will take a cry to you, John that the tribulation has occurred already for Israel in 70AD. Jesus said in Matthew 24 that the tribulation would happen in the apostles’ life-time. The temple was destroyed, abominations desolated the temple, men tried to make themselves a god over God’s people and places, the Jews were even scattered and suffered for nearly 1900 years. They still feel the effects of the tribulation even till this day. If the 70AD experience was the great tribulation than we must conclude that the messianic kingdom has begun!

The last major difference is despite the fact that we both claim to use historical-grammatical interpretation he ignores the context of the entire book of Revelation to the 1st century church. If written before 70AD, 85AD or 95AD the book is relevant historically to the 1st century church. He also ignores the literary style of the book. He says harsh words because I will employ a use of figurative interpretation to interpret a figurative book! Robertson Mcquilkin wrote a book called “Understanding and Applying the Bible.” In chapter 12 page 189 he writes a chapter concerning figurative language. He says “the bible was written by human beings, it must be treated as any other human communication in determining the meaning intended by the author.” He interprets literally and acknowledges that figurative language is in the bible and must be identified. He says “all speech about supersensible(s) is, and must be, metaphorical in the highest degree. Anyone who talks about things that cannot be seen, or touched, or heard, or the like, must inevitably talk as if they could be seen or touched or heard…” So John must use figurative language to interpret literally just as I do, if he keeps ignoring the context and literary style of Revelation he will force wrong meanings upon figurative words. I do not have the time to teach how to identify figurative language nor will I, because Revelation is mostly figurative and thus identifying literal statements is the challenge in that book.

Now if we turn our attention to Dear John we will see that he breaks a rule of hermeneutics that can’t be defined as allegory or literal interpretation. He employs the usage of random gaps of time in biblical prophecy; even when the language of the text does not allow gaps of time. Daniel 9 speaks of 69th and 70th week which he puts a gap between for theological presumptions not exegetical reasons. Also I’m sure he puts a gap of time in Matthew 24 dividing the destruction of temple from tribulation. Again in Revelation 4 there is a gap of 2000 years before the tribulation. He must put these gaps of time to save his theological systems presumptions. I was taught by many teachers both in church and now in school the dispensation view so I am very familiar although I reject it now.

Now since we have seen the major differences between John and I, we can see that our hermeneutic is the same and my use of typology or figurative interpretation is reconcilable with proper hermeneutics, while various gaps of time are not reconcilable having NO exegetical basis but only a theological bias. Let us turn our attention to the things said by John concerning eschatology. John said that just because the a-millennial view is simple does not make it true. Well of course John is correct but the fact that it is simple echoes its attempt to deal with the plain meaning of a text. Often in history heresies have occurred when people say too much or weigh to heavily about something not clearly outlined in scripture! Where the bible is silent remain silent and where the bible speaks we ought to speak. Turning our attention to Jesus person, heresy has always happened by trying to explain that Jesus is one with God the father and yet still 100% human! Monophysitism says the eternal logos joined the human Jesus. This concludes Jesus to be the human part, and Christ to be the divine joined in one body. We know that scripture does not teach this, but it is a nice logical guess trying to explain how one man can be both God and man! Apollonarianism suggest that Jesus was a man taken over by the divine Logos; this view is not even an incarnation of God so it denies a plain reading of John 1:14. But again we see a nice attempt to explain something unexplained in scripture. Next my personal favorite if I was going to believe heresy Docetism from the Greek word dokesis meaning to seem. This view attempts to say Jesus was God and only seemed to be a human, having a body and all. Docetism is a view about the person of Jesus that comes from an idea that is more concerned with the nature of the trinity. In fact it is called Sabellianism and it is alive today.  This view says the persons of the trinity are modes/functions of the one God so denying distinct personalities of God. Finally I restate that these heresies come from many factors but one important one is attempting to explain things unexplained in scripture. They go beyond scripture and use philosophy to dictate their interpretation of scripture. My understanding differs from John’s because I do not impose my theological distictives on scripture. Dispensations have man made rules, definitions, divisions and ect. Gaps are placed at will of theologians, and description of Jesus messianic kingdom in Revelation chapter 20 is never simply what the text says.

John says that Christian history speaks volumes for my view with big names, yet he discredits me for trusting previous generations. I do not allow any man to dictate my belief whether dead or alive; but I do recognize the testimony of a doctrine. The history of a view does not prove nor disprove but it speaks about the testimony of the view. On the most important doctrine of Christianity Paul speaks in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 “Now brothers I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you…you are saved by it…that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, the to the 12. The he appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive…then to James…he also appeared to me.”  I chopped the verse up (but you can read it for yourself) so you can see that Paul assures them of the truth of the gospel first by saying it is affirmed by the scriptures, but even secondly by men who are eye witnesses. So although the scriptures are our one rule of faith and practice let us not so easily dismiss the testimony of witnesses from our Christian history! If the gospel truth can be confirmed by a man’s testimony (1 John 1:1-4) how much more, should we test an eschatological doctrine by its history? I say this just for information, without others testimony the scriptures are sufficient on their own to grant you faith in Jesus resurrection and any eschatological doctrine. Testimony is only a witness but should not be taken lightly at all!

John also cast doubt on us by quoting John Calvin concerning hermeneutics. I will admit covenant theology is very Christocentric. Luke 24:27 “and beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in ALL the SCRIPTURES the things concerning himself.” According to John how dare Jesus use typology in his interpretation, this is a bad hermeneutic John claims but surely God in the flesh would have known never to interpret in that way; unless it was God’s intent all that time to speak of Jesus in ALL the SCRIPTURES. Jesus the messiah is the finale to Jewish and ought to be the finale to Christian eschatology and all theology; without this understanding we interpret contrary to the way Jesus intended for us to interpret.

John also says that my view never offers a satisfying explanation of Revelation 20.  Interpretation is not to satisfy people; my view has been explained and maintained for centuries. It’s not our duty to teach something fancy: peace treaties, nuclear wars, anti-Christ, demon powers, anti-Semitism, animal slaughter, evil babies for Gog and Ma Gog or huge geographical disaster. These detailed accounts of our future sound the best, are the most popular, but contain the most chance of error. Every little detail we add to our “certain” view gives it more chance of error and if a little leaven leavens a whole lump, dispensational pre-millennialism should be very careful. I will take some time near the conclusion of this paper to brief speak on Revelation 20!

Let us turn our attention to John statements about his view. He says he holds a heavily consistent hermeneutic, “the foremost conviction is that Jesus is coming back…prior to a millennial kingdom”, a rapture, and 7 year tribulation. I call this heavy hermeneutic a BIG presupposition. Ask John for just one verse from the N.T that says “Jesus is coming back before his kingdom” he does not have one. He must interpret these ideas into scripture rather than starting with what scripture says concerning the kingdom. He defends his view by calling you to pay attention to the difference between God’s kingdom on earth and kingdom over the earth. This barely is a defense because yes there is a universal kingdom and a theocratic kingdom but neither is bound by a definition of location, nor the timing! Jews were expecting the messianic kingdom at the 1st arrival of the messiah. This is consistent with all covenant theology because we believe his messianic kingdom begun. The Davidic throne is in heaven, Acts 2:34-36 “David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, the Lord said to my Lord Sit at my right hand, sit until I make your enemies your footstool. Let all the house of Israel therefore know, for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the messianic king and priest, the salvation of his people both Jew and gentile and he was glorified to this status at his ascension. He is not waiting to rule he is ruling, it seems uncompleted because it is UNTIL he makes enemies footstools. It is a progressive kingdom that conquers all its enemies, the last enemy being death. (1 Corinthians 15:26) Second Samuel 7 says an eternal Kingdom or throne of David. Let’s just speak of time. Eternal is forever! It cannot be fulfilled in a moment of time, say 1000 years. John you run into many crazy conclusions with your view because everything said about his kingdom is thrown into one temporal time period according to you guys. Example you speak so heavily about Ezekiel’s temple and animal sacrifices. Yet the prophets speak of the peace of nature even the new Testament does in Romans 8:22. Isaiah 11:6;65:25 describe the peace of creation but you disturb this peace and end of death with animal slaughter and bloodshed not because the bible says these two prophecies happen at the same time but because your theology says they happen at the same time. You attempt to fulfill eternal promises in a temporal time period which is impossible. Every promise of the O.T does not need to be pushed into Revelation 20, into a distant future 1000 years. I hold that his kingdom began with tribulation in 70AD and has been battling its enemies ever since. Prophecies are not fulfilled all at once but there is progress and purpose in his kingdom until its enemies are destroyed. Jesus kingdom is eternal and is not only in Revelation 20, but 21 and 22!

Lastly you say your view answers the tough question. What are these tough questions, ridiculous questions about babies’ sin nature causing Gog and Ma Gog or is David going to have a chair next to Jesus? So far your paper has shown that you have great skill in understanding systems but failed to lay a person’s interpretation next to an exegesis. Let us ask question about great tribulation and messianic kingdom. Matthew 24 says over and over again “you” to the disciples. Verses: 4, 6, 7,9,15,20,23,25 all speak to the disciples as his audience. Luke 21:32, Mark 13:30, Matthew 24:34 all say “this generation will not pass away until all has happened.” These great scriptures concerning the great tribulation are held within the context of 30-70AD; after the tribulation is the messianic Kingdom followed by the eternal state. If Jesus wanted to talk about a future generation he would have said so; Strong’s #1074 “genea” translated generation can only mean the people of a specific time. Strong’s #3778 haute is only used for something near in the scriptures, that is why it is translated THIS! Jesus could have said “that generation” or even “the generation” but he says “this generation” because it was going to happen to the apostles. The words are faithfully translated throughout the entire New Testament when it says: near, quickly, soon, at hand, upon you, and even this generation. For John to answer tough questions he ignores the definitions of simple, child-like words to even think the tribulation is 2000 years after Jesus said and even still yet future. This issue is often explained by asserting reasons for placing gaps. Like I have said their gaps are theologically needed, not energetically found. They would hate if it I said Genesis one must have time gaps because it is scientifically needed. How dare we impose on the text? I say dispensationalist have not yet answered the simplest questions.

Let me now turn to the “least important” text concerning the messianic kingdom but most controversial. Revelation chapter 20; backed by Revelation 1, 21 & 22! Chapter 2 and 3 is agreed upon as 1st century churches, representing truths of (let’s say) church age, and chapter 4-19 is the great tribulation, I propose it represents truths of all tribulations. Again I state the great tribulation already happened in 66-70 AD. It affected Jewish and Christian history more than any exile; you see its power in the 80’s & 90’s AD even until the 20th century! I believe ever since 1st century we have been living in Revelation 20; the kingdom has been conquering the nations of the world ever since. As I have stated Jesus our messianic king and high priest is enthroned in heaven over the nations. Revelation 1:5 “and from Jesus Messiah the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the RULER of the kings on earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood…” the apostle John opens with acknowledging the messiah’s kingdom as a current reality located in the heavens. Its authority reigns/rules on the earth, even over every king! Verse 6 says “and made us a KINGDOM, PRIESTS to his God and Father, to him is glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Jesus has a messianic kingdom that John and all 1st century saints saw themselves as current priest of, we too today serve his kingdom when living and when dead. He is the Lord of both living and dead! We could say we act as his vice-regents (images) or ambassadors here on earth, but ultimately he reigns supreme, we are simply a part of his kingdom. Every nation, king, person, and spirit is subject to his rule for he rose with all power in his hands. Chapter 1 of Revelation helps us understand the context of Chapter 20. Revelation 1:9 “ I, John, your brother and partner in THE TRIBULATION and THE KINGDOM and THE PATIENT ENDURANCE that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” Many things in, what I think, is the most important verse in the whole book contextually. John is brothers and partners with the saints in 3 things for a reason. First he is in the tribulation which refers to no doubt the last time periods of his own personal life; the death of his fellow apostles, the slaughter of many Jews, the destruction of his beloved city, even its great temple. The 2nd temple at that, John saw nothing but desolations before him. He is truthfully in tribulation greatly. Secondly he is also in the kingdom, he is a Jew so for him to say he is in the kingdom is the most glorious thing to be experiencing. The messiah’s kingdom was the hope of the Jewish nation, although many rejected Jesus many accepted him, and became priest of his messianic kingdom. John saw it as a current reality, begun by his messiah, ruled by his messiah, with a guaranteed victory at its summation. Lastly John was in patient endurance, suffering but still working faithfully in the kingdom. These 3 things: tribulation, kingdom, endurance are the emphasis and context of the book. John wants saints to understand the time they live in, how to overcome with faithful endurance and the future hopes of the messiah’s kingdom being victorious. These are all current situations of the 1st century church, we too live in these things but we are further ahead in its developments. They were coming through the great tribulation which is far behind us; we are triumphing in the kingdom although tribulation will always exist, and endurance will always be needed. Our brothers in other countries still suffer, even death for the faith today but the gospel is propelling thru kingdoms. Amen. John says that he is exiled because of the “word of God” and the “testimony of Jesus”. In short he shares and stands for the gospel. The gospel is our kingdoms greatest power. The gospel of Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; which destroys wickedness, lies and death; the tools of the kingdom of darkness. The gospel calls sinner out of darkness into the light, it also will always be what calls darkness to wage war! In summary Revelation is teaching concerning 3 current realities: the tribulation, the Kingdom, and patient endurance of the saints. We can learn from Revelation when we see that our current realities are the same.

Revelation 20 says very few things as statements that concern modern eschatology. Eschatology is to teach us how to model our lives, keep faith, grow in hope, and be patient for our eternity with Jesus. Nevertheless modern eschatology focuses on charts and predictions. For the sake of this report I will approach our modern eschatology and ask the following questions: what does Revelation not say about the messianic kingdom? When is the kingdom? What does say about Jesus messianic kingdom?

First, what is not said in Revelation 20 that’s unique to the dispensational theological system? The most important is it does not say the temple shall be rebuilt a 3rd time. All prophecies concerning the temples rebuilding or reconstruction were fulfilled in the book of Ezra/Nehemiah; also in 19BC Herod the Great fixed it up again. The 2nd temple was there during Jesus day and it was the very temple he said would be destroyed not rebuilt. Secondly the reinstitution of animal sacrifice is not mentioned. Priests are mentioned but when John used priest in the 1st chapter he did not intend to say he slaughtered animals for any purpose.  Ezekiel’s temple is not spoken of nor is any purpose for it implied in the text. King David is not spoken of as being the king neither is his throne, kingdom, or his dynasty mentioned. Israel (entirety of physical Jews) is not mentioned as present let alone participant; their restoration to nationhood not even hinted in the text. Animal peace is not spoken of, nor nature being restored. Lastly no verse can even be interpreted as evil babies to wage Gog and Ma Gog, which is a ridiculous doctrine; although it is logically needed within the dispensational theological system. In Conclusion all the distinctive doctrines of dispensationalist find no plain appearance in Revelation 20. These ideas are not enforced exegetically with hermeneutics but only by their own theological insertions.

Well! Let us turn to ideas concerning the time of the messianic kingdom. The O.T declares eternality to promises concerning the messiah’s kingdom. When it begins it will last forever 2 Samuel 7:16! The messianic or Davidic kingdom is not 1000 years; the 1000 years is simply a period of time within the eternity of the messianic kingdom. Revelation makes it clear that it begins after the great tribulation. Christianity can all agree about this but the question should be when the tribulation was? Again I state history speaks here concerning 66-70 AD which agrees with Revelation 11:1-2 “Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, rise and measure the Temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for 42 months.” I believe the great tribulation has been fulfilled on Israel, just study the Jews history from 70AD till 20th century. If so the messianic kingdom began already as well, and it shall last for eternity. This means we must be living in Jesus messianic kingdom now; so what about the 1000 years? Well it could be a literal 1000 year time period of the messianic kingdom. Which I do not believe but this would mean we must ask has it ended, or are we now in it, or is it still yet future, the future view would deny context of Revelation; the now view, cannot be held by a literal understanding of 1000 because we are well past 1000 years since the great tribulation. So past would be the best conclusion which suggest the time of power for the Roman Catholic Church and Holy Roman Empire, up until around the year 1070-1100. I do not believe this either, for theological reasons, concluding that the Catholic Church was a good thing at almost any time in its history does not settle with me. Moving on to other ideas, it could have a biblical usage such as “faithful love to a 1000 generations” (Deuteronomy 5:10; Exodus 20:6; Psalm 105:8); the idea here is 1000 is pointing to a never ending existence. I take a Roman usage of the number 1000 when applied to kingdoms concerning Jesus messianic kingdom! In the Roman Empire 1000 years for a kingdom brought fear and dread upon people. For at the end of 1000 years a terrible event was surely thought to occur. We experienced something similar when the year 2000AD came. According to Earle E. Cairns author of “Christianity through the Centuries”, on page 90, he says “the year 250, when persecution became general and violent instead of local and spasmodic, was, according to the reckoning of the Romans about one thousand years after the founding of Rome. Since plague, famine, and civic unrest plagued the empire at this time, popular opinion ascribed these troubles to the presence of Christianity within the empire and to the consequent forsaking of other gods. There is always a good deal of superstition concerning the end of a millennium, and the Romans were no better in this regard than people in the middle ages just before 1000.” The Apostle John could have easily made his point, due to popular belief of the day, that the messiah’s kingdom will reign for some time but as all kingdoms will face an apocalyptic event; but unlike earthly kingdoms, God will rescue the kingdom from its enemies. Combining the biblical usage concerning never ending, and the roman superstition of devastating disaster we are able to see more of what John says about the first part of the messiah’s rule.

Now we have determined that the dispensational belief is not clearly seen in Revelation 20; that the 1st 1000 years of the messianic kingdom began after the tribulation; and that the kingdom’s 1000 year period is not literal, we may move to my beliefs concerning this text.

Verses 1-3: We see here that the clear picture of the text is that Satan is bound from deceiving the nations. For the majority of human history the world has worshiped idols. They ignored the truth of the one creator, created idols, and devised their own sinful standards of morality. (Romans 1) God first reveals himself to the nation Israel and for years, these people had the truth exclusively, in a way. Now since Jesus has come the truth of the gospel has been becoming global and the “grip” idolatry had on this world is destroyed. 1 Corinthians 10:20 “…they sacrifice to demons and not to God…” the world has worshiped Satan for years, and has built his kingdom; but now the kingdom of darkness is being destroyed and robbed. Jesus said his ability to cast out demons was because he had bound Satan in Matthew 12:29. Matthew 12:28 “ If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then The Kingdom of God has come to you.” These Jews would have known he speaks of the messiah’s kingdom which is greater than the kingdom of Satan! This part of the messianic kingdom during its 1000 year period is most important for us who labor here on the earth, warring against the kingdom of darkness, we know it is defeated. We know its deception hinders not the gospel because its leader is bound and his demons are cast out without him!

Verses 4-6: My favorite part of this text screams of the kingdom’s glory; even in death we reign victoriously. We see thrones, which like the rest of the book must be heavenly, with judges on them. The saints are the judges; just as 1 Corinthians 6:3 says “don’t you know that we will judge angels…”!  We also see the “souls” of the killed witnesses of the gospel. Jesus told the apostles they would suffer for his name sake. John in chapter one already revealed that he and other saints are those who suffer for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God, therefore these in heaven are those who have already died. We see dead Christians rest, rule and reign with Jesus in heaven right now. They come to life and reign with Christ; they don’t soul sleep or skip over all time immediately. The question about this text is what does the first resurrection mean? I believe that it is paralleled with the 2nd death. Verse 6 “blessed and holy is the one who shares in the 1st resurrection! Over such the 2nd death has no power…” the text in Revelation 20:14 & 21:8 tell us the 2nd death is the lake of fire; it’s not a literal death but a description of the literal torments of sinner’s eternity. So is the 1st resurrection a description of our real life in heaven. Many verses speak of being awake in heaven but listen to this unique statement in 2 Corinthians 5:1 “ for we know that If the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” John can call it a physical resurrection because you gain a heavenly tent or body. Our existence in heaven is spectacular and remarkable; we will be bodily before his throne awaiting our complete glorification and resurrection. Many theologians call these interim bodies, but I simply call it the 1st resurrection. In this part of the messianic kingdom it is most important for those dead; they will be priest of God in heaven. The saints already there, and we who shall go one day offer sacrifice to God; I do not think it’s animals but is what Hebrews 13:15 says “ therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.”  The end of verse 6 says “will reign with him for a thousand years…” the literary style of a revelation demands that we not attached literal meanings to this number 1000, and understand its reiteration not as declaring its literal numeric value but it is screaming its figurative meaning. 1000 years for a kingdom and then the end, this is common idea back than and best compliments the biblical usage of 1000.

Verse 7-10: first I must say I am a historicist not a preterist. I see prophecy being fulfilled literally once but its fulfillment serves as a picture of God’s plans for history. I will admit this is the most difficult part for me to interpret. I think both I, a historicist, and futurists have the most work to do on this passage. I will say this because I still believe this is pictured in history but mostly is still a future event from now. From these verse until the end of the book of Revelation, I believe is all still yet future. Simply Gog and Ma Gog represent the final enemies of God gathered by Satan himself to bring about an end to the kingdom of God. I do not think this is one event but may take time. We will see enemies over and over again against the gospel, and righteousness but they fail over and over again. Because they are weak but one day, which I think we are preparing for now, Satan will get his time again and that history has taught us will be at its greatest evil but the kingdom will be unified, both Jew and gentile. The beloved city and the camp of the saints are under attack; I am not a replacement theologian and I believe the Jews will convert as a majority to faith in the messiah which will bring the messiah’s kingdom to its greatest height and inevitably make it a target! Satan will try to destroy messianic Jews and gentiles but God shall rescue his kingdom.

Verse 11-15: I can shortly say this is the Judgment; one resurrection and judgment of the righteous and the wicked. If you interpret Revelation by cycles overlapping all the 7’s of judgments as one, and the 42 months as one this section of scripture would follow the various Jesus comings like in Revelation 19.

Lastly Revelation 21:2 “the holy city new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” After judgment Jews get Israel again, gentiles get the rest of the new heaven and Earth. Revelation 21:22 “and I saw NO temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” Ezekiel’s temple is huge but was only to picture the glory of God before man which shall really come one day; the sacrifices represent his lamb who shall forever be before us as savior and messiah king.

In summary many Christians differ in eschatology but as we can see the consummation of history is all about Jesus. Jesus will bring the end, and if we are wrong on details, oh well, because we have his gospel. I think I may be right about many things, first that we are united with Jews in the promises of Abraham. Secondly that Christianity needs to stand together because we have a war to wage, our weapons are not swords because we wrestle not against flesh and blood but spiritual wickedness in high places. Thirdly Jesus shall bring a glorious end to history with his messianic kingdom bringing mercy to those of faith and justice to those of evil!


Debate: Dispensational Premillennialism vs. Covenant Amillennialism (w/ Robert Morgan) – Part 1/3

The following post includes a theological discussion between two major biblical interpretation systems: Dispensational Premillennialism and Covenant Amillennialism. Robert Morgan is a great brother-in-Christ whom I’ve known for several years. He’s currently studying at Arlington Bible College in Baltimore, Maryland and started a church this Spring, United Christian Community Church ( Robert favors the Covenant Amillennial view while I (John) hold to the Dispensational Premillennial view.

The purpose of this debate was to help both Robert and I engage some of the facts and falsities of both views and to help those around the world better understand what each view is advocating. The progression of the debate will be: (1) Pro-Dispensational Premillennialism (2) Covenant Amillennialism (3) Clarifications/Conclusion. For the reader’s information, my (John Wiley’s) section (1) was originally a research paper for a class, Robert Morgan’s section was a response to my paper [done in more of a debate fashion than a formal paper], and section 3 will just be a final response by me (John) [also informal]- it’s my blog, I have that privilege 🙂 Before you look into the research done by both, please know that both Robert and I are fully united on the major doctrines of the Christian faith, we are passionate for the Gospel, we both love ministry…this debate is just a way to fine-tune what we teach. Enjoy!!

  • Section I (John Wiley)

Identifying the Millennial Kingdom

            When Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God,” what did He actually mean? Some scholars would generalize this statement by concluding that the “kingdom of God” is simply “Celestial” or “Heavenly” (McClain 9). Perhaps Jesus was talking about the Church as Augustine noted, or even a “Spiritual” kingdom as believed by A.B. Bruce (9-10). Moving further and further away from Scriptural teachings, some have proposed a “Moral Kingdom Idea” or a “Liberal Social-Kingdom Idea” (10-11). On the contrary, Dispensationalists hold to a “Millennial Kingdom” belief that “Christ will return before the Millennium to establish His earthly reign of one thousand years” (Enns 386). With multiple interpretations of what the “kingdom of God” could possibly mean, it is understandable why this doctrine would be incredibly vague, misconstrued, and misapplied to the average Christian. Beyond an explanation of what the kingdom is, it is also necessary to observe the eschatological views of the millennium. The four most common views are Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, Covenant Premillennialism, and Dispensational Premillennialism. For some theologians, the kingdom and the millennium are essentially identical, while others take different approaches at attempting to differentiate two. Upon studying the various suppositions of “the kingdom,” as well as observing the major views concerning the millennium, the least figurative and consequentially the most literal interpretation of understanding God’s kingdom points to Dispensational Premillennialism.

Before observing the more conservative views on the kingdom, it is important to take into consideration the ideas of the kingdom from the viewpoint of a liberal theologian. Though the definition of this movement varies, Paul Enns defines Liberal Theology in The Moody Handbook of Theology as “that facet of theology that arose as a result of the rationalism and experimentalism of the philosophers and scientists” (549). The twenty-first century progressive reality of Liberal Theology is found in the “Emergent Church” movement. A relevant example would be Rob Bell of “Mars Hill Bible Church.” Just taking a look at the church’s website, it is easy to see that they are greatly involved with community service ( Their acts of service are not problematic, it is their theology. The doctrinal statement from the church’s website upholds a lot of key doctrines such as the deity of Christ, God being a Triune God, Jesus being born of a virgin, and more ( However, after examining the doctrinal statement and then observing Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, it is obvious that Bell does not foresee God to punish men for their sin, especially not in hell. Above all, the Gospel is perverted into being a way for God to “transform culture” rather than to save sinners for God’s glory (Gilbert 109). Another example of an Emergent Church man of influence is Brian McLaren. To the orthodox Christian’s disgust, McLaren stated in an interview, “Orthodoxy itself is practice…So ethics comes first, then doctrine comes second, and witness flows out of that” ( Therefore, due to a lack of doctrinal care, the Emergent Church movement will likewise misinterpret much of Scripture. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck clarify that the Emergent Church movement believes “Jesus’ message of the kingdom is a manifesto about God’s plan for humanity here and now” (183). Additionally, “Joining the kingdom is not a move in status (i.e., from unsaved to saved), but a move in practice” (184). According to this movement, Jesus’ teachings on the kingdom of God are about “restoring our fractured world” ( Alva McClain remarks that the “Social-Kingdom Idea” concludes the kingdom of God to be “the progressive social organization and improvement of mankind, in which society rather than the individual is given first place” (11). Despite McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom being written in 1959, it goes to show that the Emergent Church movement is nothing more than a repackaged concept of following suit in how man horribly misinterprets the Scriptures to formulate a liberal theological system that exalts the potential goodness of men rather than the Gospel.

With the conclusions of liberal theology’s view of God’s kingdom having been observed, it is now important to take into consideration legitimate Biblical interpretations, the first of which will be Covenant Amillennialism. Perhaps one of the clearest definitions of Covenant Amillennialism is found in Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. He says it is “the view that there will be no literal thousand-year bodily reign of Christ on earth prior to the final judgment and the eternal state; on this view, scriptural references to the millennium in Revelation 20 actually describe the present church age” (1235). Charles Ryrie adds to this view by stating a second possible view of Amillennialism, in which the kingdom promises find “fulfillment by the saints in heaven now” (516). Amillennialist advocate Kim Riddlebarger says, “Dutch statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) may have been the first to use the term ‘amillennial’” (31). However, since this name quite often gives a negative connotation, perhaps assuming that the Amillennialist ignores Revelation chapter twenty altogether, Jay E. Adams prefers the term “Amillennialism” to be replaced with the term “realized millennialism” (7-11). Therefore, in its most basic sense, Covenant Amillennialism insists that “there will be no future earthly kingdom…the church fulfills the promises, and the new heaven and new earth that immediately follow the Church Age consummate history” (Ryrie 516-517).

Amillennialism has compiled both intriguing arguments as well as some questionable assumptions needing a thorough critique. An obvious distinction between Amillennialism and Dispensational Premillennialism is the presupposed doctrinal position of either Covenant Theology or a form of Dispensationalism: Classic or Progressive. However, adopting the Covenant theological system provides for a few possible views of the millennial kingdom. The reason for this deciding factor is due to the Dispensational distinction of Israel and the Church while Covenant theologians mesh Israel and the Church into one covenant or elect people who enter into a restored relationship with God by means of the “covenant of grace” of which Christ is the “ultimate mediator” (Enns 503, 513). The first argument in favor of Covenant Amillennialism is that it is very simple in comparison to Postmillennialism and Premillennialism. Wayne Grudem says, “This scheme is quite simple because all of the end time events happen at once, immediately after Christ’s return” (1110). Secondly, many famous and highly-influential theologians in Christian history have held to some form of Amillennialism. Kim Riddlebarger includes men such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin in this group (32).  Thirdly, Amillennialists will be quick to include in their arguments that there is only one passage in the entire Bible that specifies the phrase of a one thousand year reign (Grudem 1114). Finally, in its relation to a lot of theologically Reformed distinctions, Covenant Amillennialism is highly Christocentric, finding fulfillments with much of the Old Testament’s prophecies in Christ. John Calvin once said, “We ought to read the Scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them” (218). That is not to say that those who do not hold to Amillennialism forsake the enormous amount of material presented in the Old Testament that are clearly fulfilled in Christ, but it is clear that much of the prophetic passages that are critical with interpreting the millennium are arguably related to the person of Christ, rather than simply an aspect of a one-thousand year earthly reign. A good example of disagreement would be Ezekiel’s temple vision in Ezekiel 40-48 which typifies the person of Christ according to the Amillennialist, but is viewed as a literal and future temple in the eyes of the Dispensationalist. Overall, Covenant Amillennialism is supported with reasonable explanations yet fails to reconcile some key issues in multiple passages.

After observing some strengths of Covenant Amillennialism, it is now crucial to further analyze the presented arguments with necessary rebuttals. First of all, just because the Covenant Amillennial view is a simple eschatological view, that does not simply validate that it must be a correct view. In fact, Wayne Grudem criticizes that Amillennialism “can propose no really satisfying explanation of Revelation 20,” perhaps the most crucial passage in determining one’s millennial view (1122). So on the one hand, Amillennialism is simple in the order of end-time events but vague in explaining the clearest passage on a “one thousand year” millennium. Amillennialist Robert Strimple even admits the meaning of the one thousand years is “impossible to be dogmatic on such a matter,” so as an effort to solidify his views he quotes fellow Amillennialist Geerhardus Vos who proposes simply an “interesting” view (127-128). Vos regards the one thousand years to contrast “the glorious state of the martyrs on the one hand with the brief season of the tribulation passed here on earth, and on the other hand with the eternal life of the consummation” (987). Upon hearing this explanation, it seems that Strimple and Vos are making logical and educated guesses rather than equating this text with relevant Scripture, thus hindering this argument’s success. Secondly, it is inescapably clear that many respectable, intelligent, scholarly, and influential theologians have held to the main tenets of Amillennialism such as the men listed by Riddlebarger. While it is absolutely true that all evangelical Amillennialists certainly hold primarily to a literal interpretation of most Scriptures, when it comes to prophecy, plenty of figurative and allegorical interpretations are enforced. To this, Ryrie questions “how does one know whether to interpret a passage literally or figuratively” (518)? Doing a brief survey of Church history will help one to recognize the recipients of those who adopted an allegorical method. Some men have allegorized a large amount of Scripture while others have limited themselves to only prophecies. For example, Origen’s hermeneutics were an influence to Augustine’s eschatology and ecclesiology, Augustine’s eschatology and ecclesiology was a strong influence to the reformers, and likewise many with a Reformed theology will have some tendencies to allegorize interpretations of prophecy (Ryrie 520). This is not to say that Reformed theology is close to the allegorization of Origen but to simply identify a visible connection and how it has influenced eschatological interpretations. Thirdly, though it is true that only one chapter in the Bible includes the specification of “one thousand years” it is inconclusive to deny the literal interpretation of length based on the lack of other authors identifying the time span, nor is it clear to what John could have meant supposing this was a mere symbol (Walvoord and Zuck 980). Additionally, if the “one thousand years” is during the age of the Church, it would have been crucial for John to mention something about the Gospel of Christ or the Church in relation to Revelation 20. Instead, verse four says, “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands.” Depending on one’s theology, this would likely be related to Jesus’ prophecies in Matthew 24-25 for a Dispensationalist, or would simply be symbolical for the Amillennialist. To relate this to the “kingdom,” Jesus even says to the sheep on His right at the Second Coming, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). This does not appear to be as Covenant theologian Mark Driscoll states, “the kingdom has come and is coming,” but is a significant future event in complete agreement with the millennial kingdom found in Revelation 20 (412). Finally, while it has already been noted that Amillennialism is Christocentric in Old Testament fulfillments, that is not to say Dispensational theology ignores Christ. Rather, with Dispensational theology it is how, when, where, and why those prophecies are fulfilled instead of equating difficult Old Testament passages with the person of Jesus alone. To continue with the previously listed example, Ezekiel’s temple is not a prophetic description of the person of Jesus, but rather is meant to be used for ceremonial cleansing of the future millennial temple in order for the “divine presence” to be “dwelling in the land” during the one thousand years prior to the eternal state (Hullinger 289). In conclusion, Ezekiel 40-48 does without question relate to Jesus Christ. Not in the idea that the Ezekiel temple is the person of Jesus, but rather that it will be a significant aspect of Christ’s future kingdom. Covenant Amillennialism is a popular belief by many well-known and respectable Christians. However, with the Scriptures and arguments presented, evidence still leads toward Dispensational Premillennialism as being the most preferred interpretation of Christ’s kingdom.

Similar to Amillennialism, Postmillennialism is a recognizable view that must be evaluated for a proper comparison of eschatological beliefs. This is how Postmillennialist Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. defines his view: “Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of people and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with the general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind” (13-14). Overall, the two major characteristic of this view that are foundational to whether or not one adopts this position is the self-proclaimed optimism and the powerful focus on the Gospel. Christians do not want to tear down the optimism of other believers and neither do they enjoy taking attention away from the Gospel. That is why criticizing the view of Postmillennialism can be frowned upon by proponents of this view. Instead of attacking their interpretation, it can appear that Premillennialists or Amillennialists are diminishing the power of God in the Church. That, however, is not the case. To refute the view of Amillennialism, a simple observation of Revelation 20 will be quite sufficient. Revelation 20:2-3 discusses how Satan will be bound for one thousand years, but following that time period he will be released to deceive the nations. Yet, in the view of the Postmillennialism, there is a gradual progression of Christianity and righteous living until the return of Christ. Quite clearly, Postmillennialism and Revelation 20 do not match up with each other. Aside from this Biblical refutation, an observation from history also deems relevancy. Paul Enns has shown that “Postmillennialism declined considerably following the world wars because the conflagrations militated against the optimism of the doctrine” (384). In other words, the doctrinal teaching flourished during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries during a time of “progress in science, culture, and the standard of living,” which of course was “optimistic” in the eyes of many believers. Still, a doctrinal position should never be recognized as authoritative simply because of or an absence of popularity. In summary, Postmillennialism has much to say in the fields of social progression and ideologies, but without question their Biblical analysis is not on par with what the Scriptures indicate the millennium to be.

Progressing closer to Dispensational Premillennialism, there is still one more major view of interpretation to consider analyzing: “Covenant Premillennialism,” sometimes also called “Historic Premillennialism.” What sets apart Covenant Premillennialism from Dispensational Premillennialism would be how Covenantalists do not maintain a constant, distinctive difference between Israel and the Church (Enns 386-387). However, contrary to Postmillennialism and Amillennialism, Covenant Premillennialism often maintains the belief that there will be a “literal future for national Israel,” but only the point of the “church” being equated with “spiritual Israel” (387). The reason for such confusion is a result of the strongest proponents of this view, particularly George Ladd, are frequently unclear and uncertain about the prophetic fulfillments in relation to Israel. While there is a push for being somewhat more literal than other Covenant views of prophecy, two significant problems remain that advocates cannot reconcile and thus are not convincing. First, Ladd makes this somewhat startling statement to conclude his views on Premillennialism: “There are admittedly serious theological problems with the doctrine of the millennium. However, even if theology cannot find an answer for all its questions, evangelical theology must build upon the clear teaching of Scripture. Therefore I am a premillennialist” (40). Though Ladd gives the impression of honesty and humility, his argument is in no way helpful. The problem Ladd observes is that Scripture says there will be a millennium and in trying to preserve what Revelation 20 teaches with his covenant theological beliefs, Covenant Premillennialists make the mistake of translating certain passages “spiritually” and others “literally,” even in the area of prophecy. All for the sake of maintaining the belief that Israel and the Church are part of God’s elect people and no distinction exists between the two entities. Consequently, Covenant Premillennialism fails to maintain a healthy hermeneutic. Secondly, the purposes for Christ’s earthly reign in this view are incredibly unclear. Paul Enns has observed that this view is “not even clear if Israel’s future conversion is in relation to the Millennium” (387). Also, with a Covenant theology perspective, there really is no use for the Millennium except for God’s promises to be fulfilled to “national Israel.” This, of course, again brings up the important matter of the distinction between Israel and the Church, which is a problematic area of Covenant Premillennialism. Ryrie points out in a chart of Basic Theology that this view makes Israel equal with the Church during the Old and New Testament eras, but both entities are distinguished from one another during the Millennial kingdom (523). Overall, Covenant Premillennialism is both hermeneutically inconsistent and vague in relation to God’s future plans. Thus, it causes one to look elsewhere for a more consistent hermeneutic and thoroughly explained system of theology.

Though Covenant Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Premillennialism are related to one another yet individually different, the view of Dispensational Premillennialism is a final and most distinct view of God’s kingdom which answers some of the toughest questions while maintaining a heavily consistent hermeneutic throughout prophecy. Craig A. Blaising gives two main convictions of Dispensational Premillennialism. Blaising says, “The foremost conviction is that Jesus is coming back…prior to a millennial kingdom” (157). Dispensational Premillennialism indicates that this “coming back” will be the result of a “rapture” of the Church, either before a seven-year tribulation period, during, or at the end, depending on which view one accepts (Grudem 1132-1134). Secondly, after the tribulation period, Jesus will return and “establish and rule over a kingdom on this earth for a millennium, that is, for a thousand years” (Blaising 157). In order to defend this view, two important areas must be addressed. First, the distinction between God’s universal kingdom and a promised theocratic kingdom for the Messiah is absolutely crucial and will never be understood apart from it. Secondly, a brief overview of Scriptural passages that suggest a millennial kingdom will then be necessary. Upon observing these two areas of theological relevance, concluding the argument with a brief observation of the view of Dispensational Premillennialism should be quite clear and powerful.

In the words of Alva McClain, “I can find nothing better than the adjectives ‘universal’ and ‘mediatorial’” in relation to the “two aspects or phases of the one rule of our sovereign God” (21). In unity with the same belief, E.R. Craven once said, “We must distinguish between a Kingdom on earth, and a Kingdom over the earth” (95). Both theologians made important remarks about the Scriptures that deal with God’s reign. Some passages deal with the “universal” kingdom “over the earth,” while other passages speak of a “mediatorial” kingdom “on the earth.” It is of utmost importance to distinguish between the two for a proper millennial kingdom interpretation. To give an example, Psalm 93:1-2, the Psalmist proclaims, “The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.” This Psalm is a song of praise to God who has always reigned over the universe. Dispensationalists would agree with Covenant theologians that God is reigning, has always, and will always rule over His creation. The difference, of course, is when passages arise which indicate a “mediatorial” reign on earth.  Second Samuel 7 is quite relevant to this discussion. In this text, God promises to David, “Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Commentators of all evangelical backgrounds will not have problems with equating this looking forward to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. It is of the Dispensational Premillennialist interpretation that this prophecy has not been fully fulfilled yet, though it will be during the millennial reign of Christ. Furthermore, the prophets also spoke of this Messiah who would reign as King (Isaiah 9:1-7, 11:1-5; Jeremiah 30:4-11; Ezekiel 34:23-24, 37:24-25; Amos 9:11-15). Naturally, then, when Jesus began His ministry and proclaimed His message of the kingdom, His audience was His people, the Jews. At this point, it was Israel’s chance to accept the Messiah’s teachings, repent of their sins, and welcome in the Messiah. By doing so, they would receive all that is mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 along with all that is promised in the Old Testament millennial prophecies such as Isaiah 11 (Walvoord and Zuck 28). Instead of adhering to the teachings of Jesus, Israel rejected the Messiah (Matthew 23:13, John 1:11). To respond to this rejection, Jesus did assure his listeners that Zechariah 12:10 would be fulfilled and indeed Israel would finally repent and welcome their Messiah by proclaiming “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). Keep in mind, that Jesus was speaking about the future in Matthew 23, for the same quotation already appeared in Matthew 21:9. However, this would come nearing the end of the events mentioned in the following two chapters of Matthew. Finally, in Matthew 25:34 which is what Dispensationalists interpret to be the very entrance into the Millennium, Jesus makes a very important and prophetic statement: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  Surely, Jesus was not talking about the universal rule of God. Certainly, Jesus was not referring to a spiritual reign during the Church Age, for that would be completely ignoring the context of Matthew. On the contrary, the Bible very clearly indicates that Jesus is speaking about His millennial kingdom reign. To conclude E.R. Craven’s statement, this is the “Kingdom on earth” (93). All of which has yet to be fulfilled.

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