Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Part 6 Introduction
Lesson 153 – God’s Sovereignty – Dispensational, Reformed, & Replacement Theologies
19 Oct 2000
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I’d like to start with a review of the faith-rest drill and some of the basic promises of the Word. One of the great problem solving approaches in the Christian life is claiming the promises from the Word of God. Turn to Philippians 4:6-7, let’s look at that promise. Step one would be to claim the promise, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” That’s the promise.
Step two is to look through that promise and begin to develop the rationale for why it’s true. If you look carefully in Philippians 4:6-7 you should be able, quite rapidly, to see what attribute of God that verse is structured on: omniscience. Notice it says “surpasses all comprehension,” that’s omniscience, and it’s that omniscience that gives peace. You say wait a minute, how do you go from omniscience to peace? It says “the peace of God that passes” or exceeds “all comprehension,” that, “shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” or stabilize your hearts and your minds, well how does God in His omniscience …. It gets back again to good theology, and that’s why these verses are not psychological panaceas. In the mentality of the spirit the way Scripture views it, it goes back to basics, the Creator/creature distinction. We distinguish between the knowledge we have as creatures and the knowledge God has as Creator. So there we are, back right smack-dab to Creator/creature distinction.
We’re a creature so we have our plans, and if we have our plans we have to submit them to Him because we can’t make a total plan because we don’t have total knowledge, so when we make a plan we submit it to Him and He can veto that if He wishes. We have to be open to that veto. Not to be open to the veto is to be in rebellion, and is to be unable to trust the Lord. That’s what happens. On the other hand, when everything falls apart, which is the other problem we have, there is the comfort, and that’s the verse here, “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Here is the thing that upsets, this is the thing that would undercut and upset the heart and upset the mind and they have to be protected or guarded against that upsetting. Use as a reference the fact that even though we can’t penetrate into His omniscience, we trust that His omniscience fits the pieces together. We can’t get all those pieces put together, but we trust that they fit together, and they fit together from His perspective.
That’s why verse 7 is written the way it is written. It says “the peace of God, that passes all comprehension,” now if the peace of God did not pass all comprehension then it might not guard our hearts and our minds because if we went back to the way the pagan unbeliever thinks, he goes from one extreme to the next. The mind of the flesh always does this, there’s always this pendulum swinging from one side to the other side. We all know this because we’ve all experienced it. But on one hand you develop, if you look at the left hand side of this diagram it says “demands unity and order,” so here’s the pendulum swing, everything’s going to be ordered, I will control, I can control, I’m so great that I’ve got it all together. The vocabulary of that is, “I can, and I will” - inflexible plans. And when this kind of thinking takes over an entire society or takes over the leadership of a group of people in history, every time it has done this it always produces the same thing, a kingdom of man of religious and political tyranny. It’s always the product of this branch of the flesh, the idea that I’m going to control everything and I’m going to do this and I’m going to do that because we know everything.
Contrast that again with the mentality of the Spirit. What is the mentality of the Spirit? When we have a plan what do we recognize, if we recognize the Creator/creature distinction? We take the plan to Him because we are unable to complete the graph, because the graph is always cut off by the limitations of our knowledge. So we can’t have a total plan. By keeping the Creator/creature distinction in mind and submitting our plans to Him, realizing and acknowledging our dependency at that point, it keeps us from going this way, and conversely we can go this way when everything is falling apart. If we keep the Creator/creature distinction in mind, then we understand that everything fits together in spite of the fact that it all appears to fall apart from our perspective. But if we don’t want to do that and we want to do our own thing, then what we usually wind up with is some form of depression, some form of demanding diversity and freedom, I can’t, I failed, or I’m out on my own and we won’t have unity, overwhelmed, and what happens when this sort of thinking gets going in any social group that also has a manifestation. Not totalitarianism but anarchy, religious and political anarchy. These are ways of thinking that have to be dealt with.
In the faith-rest drill we come to a verse like Philippians 4:6-7, we claim the promise and that gets us started. Then we have to work through so we really trust the promise and it’s just not rote memory, we’re just not blabbing words, we really mean it and we get to the point where we really mean it by going through a little exercise like we just did. It takes two or three minutes, sometimes it takes twenty minutes, sometimes you have to do it fifty times until we train ourselves that that’s the proper biblical way of handling the situation. There’s a little bit of the faith-rest drill.
On the notes, I summarized all the material we have covered in that little diagram of blocks. I did it that way because we need to realize when we come into the New Testament that we’re coming in in the last few chapters of the story. I don’t know how long it will be before it dawns on the leadership in evangelical circles that two-thirds of the Bible is Old Testament, and God wrote the Bible. Apparently they think that the first two-thirds is just a disposable section and we can sort of do away with that and get to the New Testament; we’re New Testament Christians. No you’re not, we’re Old Testament. The Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament. So the Old Testament is necessary and in this diagram, just count the number of things; we’ve been through eighteen different events over the last five years. We’ve gone through doctrine after doctrine, we’ve gone through all kinds of controversy because every one of these is debated and rejected by the world system in which we live, big fight about creation, big fight about the fall, big fight about the flood, big fight about natural law versus the Noahic Covenant and the origin of civilization. It didn’t happen that way, everybody evolved through bananas.
Then we have the call of Abraham; we have a fight about that because this represents discrimination against everybody that’s not a Jew; now we have the Gentile angry because God chose to call Abraham without consulting a committee of all people. God called Abraham because He wanted to call Abraham. That’s His right; that’s His privilege. God calls him, we have a big disruption in history; there’s constant warfare from the call of Abraham to the present day and this warfare has not stopped and with all due respect the President of the United States is not going to stop it. The only person that’s going to stop it is the Lord Jesus Christ and He will stop it in His due time.
The point is that all these events are background to the origin of the church, the destiny of the church. Why is the church existing? It is kind of an odd body when you look at all these events having to do with Israel, Israel, Israel, Israel, Israel—what’s this church business here? How did that get started? Those are the questions that we’re going to deal with as we go through these events and we’re going to add to these eighteen events four or five more. One of the first events we’re going to deal with is the origin of the church from Heaven, which deals with our first event which is going to be the ascension and session of the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t think I can remember when I have ever heard a sermon on the ascension and session of the Lord Jesus Christ and it’s one of the founding points of the church. Again, we’re dealing with neglected sections of Scripture but we’ve got to remember they all are based on these previous events. It doesn’t make sense to start in the New Testament. It doesn’t make any sense to start with the church. The church is the last one, not the first one.
Let’s deal with a problem. The problem that we have to deal with when we come to asking a question about the nature of the church, and by the way, this is not a theory, but we ask the question what is the nature of the church? We’re part of the church, we are the church, and we’re trying to find out what is our purpose in history. Why are we doing things in the Church Age differently than David did, than Solomon did? How come there’s this difference. Why is it that certain things that Jesus did …, remember when we were dealing with His life the observation we made, the fact that He said I don’t want you to go to the Gentiles, go to the house of Israel, the Gentiles are dogs. How is that going to come over today? That’s not the marching order to the church, different marching order, different gospel; that was the gospel to Israel, it wasn’t the gospel to the Gentiles, He said don’t go to the Gentiles, don’t go to the cities of the Gentiles, you stay in the Jewish section. Jesus said that, it’s in the Gospels and in several places in the Gospels.
So, something’s happened, something’s different. The picture then, what we’re driving at is where is our place in the grand scheme, where do we fit in? Up to now it’s always been past history, that’s what David did, that’s what Solomon did, that’s what Noah did. What are we doing? In this introduction section we’re going to start with a problem and this is the setup for where we’re going. Let’s get the problem in mind.
How was history left when the Lord Jesus Christ died? We have the birth, the life, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we have His resurrection. We finished studying those last year. Jesus Christ rose, He ascended, and He disappeared from history. So Jesus Christ’s career on earth appears to be ended. What’s puzzling about this is that if you look at His life and look at His birth, it was said that He would reign as the Son of David. It was said in the magnificat that He would be the One who would bring in the Kingdom. John the Baptist announced Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” and he said “the Kingdom is at hand,” meaning it’s imminent, the Kingdom is imminent. Well if the Kingdom is imminent why isn’t the King here? Where did the King go?
And how can you have a Kingdom without a King? Some people would explain it as when He got to the death, … what was the latest idiotic reference I heard explaining about the death of Christ, somebody told me recently that they had read somewhere or heard somebody, some theology professor said that Jesus Christ really didn’t die, He got poisoned or something and went somewhere, whatever. You know, it gets back to the same old thing, we don’t know much but we know one thing for absolutely certain, the Bible is wrong, the Bible can’t possibly be right. We don’t know much but we know the Bible can’t be true. And we also that there will never be evidence found to support the Scriptures, in a million years of digging around we’ll never find any evidence whatsoever that will support Scripture; that we know for sure.
The death of Christ was real, and it ended His career. The problem is that when Christ died what happened to the Kingdom program? It appeared in His early ministry that He kept preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. He said Israel, I am your Messiah, accept Me. What would have happened? If Israel had accepted her Messiah the Kingdom would have come. Israel did not accept her Messiah so the Kingdom didn’t come, and then He got crucified.
If you look at page 3 in the notes, “The King Himself warned His followers of His rejection by Israel and the ensuing historical age between His first and second advents.” When Jesus Christ walked the face of the earth people weren’t thinking in terms of two advents—one advent, the King has come, the Kingdom is here. So it was an offer to Israel to accept her King. But God doesn’t treat people like robots and God put the perfect leader into the nation and Israel had as much discernment as American voters seem to have today. We would vote for Satan as long as he kept the economy good and if the economy was bad Jesus couldn’t get elected. In that day the issue was, are we going to be free from Rome? I’ve got a business here, never mind this religious business, I’ve got business. So here’s this Jesus coming along and what does He do, He starts an agitation, He gets everybody upset, and the high priest said look, if this guy keeps this up, the Romans are going to come in here and we’re going to really have a problem, so let’s knock Him off and get rid of the problem. Shoot Him, get rid of Him, solve the problem, but let’s not let the Romans get involved with this thing, we’ve already got enough Romans around.
So the First Advent wasn’t a first advent, it was THE, singular, advent in most people’s minds. But Jesus, as you progress through the three synoptic Gospels, you can diagram Him this way: that Jesus builds a popular response to Himself, crowds gather around, they see the miracles, and then in the middle of this the Pharisees begin, in the name of the national leadership, begin to reject Him. That’s the passage in Matt. 12, the passage that says every sin shall be forgiven except the sin of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. At that point Jesus begins to announce strange new things and He begins to teach in parables, which He hasn’t taught before. He taught clearly before, now it’s like He’s teaching code, a secret code to His followers that I’m going to let you in on something here, and the whole tenor of all three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, starts changing if you read them. You’ve got to read the whole Gospel in one setting to see that, but you’ll see the tenor, all of a sudden now it’s downhill, He’s expecting to be crucified.
Continuing on page 3, “This teaching was something new and not clearly foreseen in Old Testament prophecy. Jesus filled in details not covered by the ancient prophets who saw only the broad features of both advents but were not clear on their distinction.” Turn to 1 Peter 1:11, this is a classic passage that tells you the frustration that Old Testament saints felt, and that in fact the disciples were confused. They got kind of irritated by this vagueness, this apparent vagueness in the Word of God. Verse 10, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry,  seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them,” what does that tell you about the Old Testament? Who empowered Old Testament prophets? The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. So by saying the Spirit of Christ, meaning it’s the Holy Spirit testifying of Christ to the Old Testament prophets, which means the Old Testament fits with the New Testament, it’s not something different. “Seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.” Notice this carefully, look at the verb; let’s take the sentence apart. The verb is “predict.” The object, the predicate: the predicate with the object of the verb are two nouns, “the sufferings” and “the glories.” So what Peter is saying is that in the Old Testament there were two themes connected with Messianic prophecy, suffering and glory.
Let me show you examples of both. Turn to Isaiah 53. This is the most famous version, it’s not the only one but it’s a clear one. Here’s an example of what Peter is talking about. Here’s the suffering; we’ve gone through this before. Verse 3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” So there’s an Old Testament text, Isaiah was a prophet, the Spirit of Christ was in Isaiah, the Spirit of Christ in Isaiah led him to write verse 3, led him to write verse 4. There’s the sufferings prophesied in the Old Testament.
But the glories were also given to Isaiah, Isaiah 40, same prophet, same Spirit of Christ, here are the glories that should follow, “Comfort, O comfort My people, says your God.  Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended,” excuse me, when has the warfare ended? “… her iniquity has been removed,” really? This is the glories which shall follow, these are glories which shall come in the future, “… that she has received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.” It goes on. We could go into hundreds of cases of this but back to Peter’s problem.
The prophets who were led by the Spirit of Christ themselves couldn’t make it out. In other words, if we could take a time machine and go back and sit down with Isaiah and say, Isaiah, I’m a little confused, I read in chapter 40 all this about this glorious future, and then I turn over to chapter 53 and I read all about this suffering; how do you put it together? And Isaiah would probably look up at us and say I don’t, I write as I am empowered by the Spirit, as He gives me vision I write it down, I’m not authorized to change it; a message comes in today I write it down, a message comes in tomorrow I write it down, it’s not my job to re-edit the work of the Holy Spirit. So there’s this roughness, this unfinished-ness to Old Testament prophecy, this incompleteness, and that’s the point that we want to make on page 3, that Old Testament prophecy is not totally fitting together stuff.
So in walks the Lord Jesus Christ; now turn to Matthew 13, in the middle of that peak, remember I said all three Gospels have that peak, all four do but I’m thinking mostly of the synoptics. Just to get the flavor of where we are in Matthew, if you look at the previous chapter, Matthew 12:31, what do you read? “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men; but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.  And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.”
Then in verse 34 He gets really nasty with these people, oh gee, is Jesus living the Christ-like life? Verse 34, “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” In verse 37, “For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.” The point is that previously in verses 24-25 the Pharisees, who represent religious leadership of the nation, these were the guys who would correspond in our society to the lawyers, and these guys are the ones who thought they had it all together, they could argue anything on any part of the Old Testament. That’s all they did, they spent their whole day arguing technicalities, and the technicality was Jesus healed people in the wrong place, the wrong time, it’s kind of sloppy the way He went about healing. We’ve got to be very, very careful about how we heal people, and it was very, very important that regulation 2814 be fulfilled, no problem with this guy, He just miraculously gave the guy back his life, but He violated regulation 2814, He can’t do that, that’s important stuff.
[Matthew 12:24, “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.’  And knowing their thoughts He said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand.  And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself how then shall his kingdom stand?  And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judged.  But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.”]
So here are the Pharisees, the legalists of their time, totally missing the picture. At that point, the Pharisees become a historical decision-making voice. That’s the point where the nation, as a nation, articulates its rejection of this Messiah and that sets up the Kingdom problem. That’s why in Matthew 13 things begin to change. We want to look at some of the things that begin to change. Verse 10, “And the disciples came to and said to Him, ‘Why do You speak to them in parables?’” Jesus hadn’t done it quite like this before. Remember the Sermon on the Mount? There are no real parables there, there are some illustrations but you wouldn’t say the Sermon on the Mount had parables in it. But now all of a sudden it’s parables. So they said, “Why are you doing this?”
In verse 11 He begins to tell why He changed His teaching methodology half-way through His career. “And He answered and said to them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” Verse 13, “Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” Then He quotes Isaiah’s prophecy which we can’t get into now. [Verse 14, “And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;  for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn again, and I should heal them.’  But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.  For truly I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it; and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”]
The point we’re making in this section of Scripture is that Jesus begins to discuss something called “the mysteries of the kingdom.” These “mysteries of the kingdom” mean something is changing here. This is a red flag to get everybody’s attention. There some previously unrevealed truths about this Old Testament kingdom that Jesus is now going to deal with. And that’s when He gets into the parable of the sowers and the seed, etc.
Back to page 3, “As the nation began to reject His ministry, Jesus spoke a series of parables about the “mysteries of the Kingdom” (Matthew 13:11). Briefly, these parables teach that the judgment of evil and subsequent establishment of the Kingdom will occur at the end of the inter-advent age, (Matthew 13:39-42, 49, cf., 7:21-23; 25:34).” Look at Matthew 13:19-42, because what Jesus is saying is I started something but I’m not finishing it right now. It’s like Jesus’ career is cut off, there’s going to be something else intervene and then there’s the Kingdom. So now He’s starting to put a gap between what He’s starting as He’s going out to the disciples and what He will one day finish.
He’s talking about the parables of the sowers and the seed, verse 37, “And He answered and said, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,  and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one.” Verse 39, “and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is” when? “…the harvest is at the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.  Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,  and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” etc. [49, “So it will be at the end of the age; the angels shall come forth, and take out the wicked from among the righteous,  and will cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”]
So you can see that the Lord Jesus looked down the corridors of time and He said that in order for the Kingdom to come, evil must be dealt with. That should remind you of our graph for evil; remember it splits. You can’t have the Kingdom until you deal seriously with institutional and personal evil, the evil is in Matt. 12, and Jesus is not going to do away with the nation. So if He’s not going to deal with doing away with the nation, and He can’t get rid of the evil without getting rid of the nation, what happens? That’s the setup for this age that we’re now living in. This age in which we find ourselves actually came into existence as a result of decisions that were made in the land of Palestine 2000 years ago. History could have gone differently in the sense of various hypothetical options. Obviously in the sovereignty of God, God has a plan, etc. But I’m talking about from the creature perspective history could have gone differently, a lot differently. We might never have had an opportunity to become Christians. History could have gone right into the Kingdom at this point. But it didn’t because the nation rejected the Lord Jesus Christ.
Back to page 3, “Briefly, these parables teach that the judgment of evil and sequential establishment” note “sequential establishment,” underline the words “sequential establishment” meaning the Kingdom must be following the judgment of evil that “will occur at the end of the inter-advent age. Professor Alva McClain puts it well: ‘The present age, viewed from the standpoint of the Kingdom, is a time of preparation. During this period the Son of Man is sowing seed, generating and developing a spiritual nucleus for the future Kingdom, a group called ‘sons of the kingdom. At the same time His is permitting a parallel development of evil in the world under the leadership of Satan. It is the purpose of God to bring both” emphasize both, “to bring both to a ‘harvest,’ when the good and the bad will be separated, and then to establish the Kingdom in power and righteousness.’”
So the issue then is what happens with the rejection of Christ. The rejection of Christ determines history from that point on. Something is going to change. Let’s diagram this as a line; this represents the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ during His incarnation. That ministry ends, and we’ll draw a little parenthesis, and then the Kingdom is established. Labeling this as “K” for the Kingdom, this is fulfillment of the Old Testament prophesied Kingdom. Nothing has changed here; the nature of the Kingdom has not changed. This is critical because we’re going to be fighting something tonight on through the rest of this year in this section of the church. This is where there’s a division inside our evangelical camp, and we’re going to talk about it, I want to show you where this sets up. This Kingdom is as prophesied in the Old Testament. It is not a modified Kingdom, it is not a spiritual version of the Old Testament Kingdom, it is the Old Testament Kingdom. The word “Kingdom” still means Kingdom, because if the Jews are sitting there listening to the Lord Jesus Christ and He’s talking about Kingdom, what Kingdom do you suppose they had in their minds? The Kingdom that they had read about. So the vocabulary controls our understanding of the Kingdom.
On page 3, “This view of the present age,” that is, as a parenthesis, “is fiercely opposed by amillennialists and postmillennialists who fear that it relegates the church to a secondary role and detracts from the central purpose of the First Advent of Christ.” Let me go through that, there’s a lot in that sentence. The view of the age as something that was pried open, something that was injected, as it were, and inside here we have the church, this view is argued against vehemently by amillennialists and postmillennialists. To define terms, at the top of page 3, I review what we did when we had a whole section on amillennialism, premillennialism and postmillennialism. Here’s the premil position, and by the way, because I always hear this I’m going to address it, when you start talking about this people say oh, we can’t bother with all those prophetic details. Well you’d better bother with it because this sets up the nature of what you’re supposed to be doing in the church. If you are premil or amil, that determines what the mission and priorities are of the church. So this is not a peripheral thing, “oh it’s just a detail of prophecy.” No, it sets up priorities for obedience in the Church Age. Let me show you how.
In the premil position, what does the “pre” mean? What does the “mil” mean? “Mil” means Millennium. What does premil mean? Jesus comes pre—before—the Millennium. So in this case we have the Second Advent and we have the Kingdom over here, Jesus is going to come, judge and we have the Kingdom. That’s premillennialism. In premillennialism that Kingdom is a supernatural Kingdom. Premillennialists are literal interpreters of Old Testament vocabulary about the Kingdom, they don’t change it. When you don’t change the vocabulary and hold it constant and keep Old Testament meanings in those words, you wind up as a premillennialist; you have to. You always will wind up that way.
Later in the Church Age, 3rd or 4th century, the church went basically amillennial. Roman Catholicism is amillennial theology. What is also amillennial theology is most of Protestantism as it existed in the time of the Reformers. You say why didn’t John Calvin and Martin Luther become premil? Because Martin Luther and John Calvin were just trying to get the gospel straight, they didn’t have time to go messing around with all the details of eschatology because they had all they could do with soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Blessed be their souls that they got that right; so we rejoice in the Reform Theology, because Reform Theology which is the 2nd and 3rd generation after Luther and Calvin has emphasized soteriology and a clear gospel. And we’re indebted to Reform Theology for doing that.
The problem with it is you don’t fossilize theology, like the Holy Spirit has nobody, since 1650 the Holy Spirit has never taught anybody anything. The Holy Spirit teaches throughout the church Age. That’s going to be one of the events we’re going to deal with. I’ll show you how doctrine has been revealed to the church in sequence, in proper sequence century after century after century. You don’t just come up to the 16th and 17th century and say stop, okay, we’ve learned it all, close the books and move on. That’s what Reform Theology does.
What does amillennialism say? There isn’t going to be a millennium. What does the “a” prefix mean on a word? Atheist—no theology, no God. So amillennial means no millennium. How can you not have a millennium? By changing the meaning of the words, by interpreting them in a spiritual way, or another device is well, the nation rejected Jesus, the nation rejected the Messiah so the Messianic Kingdom is gone, tough row, that’s what happens so the Millennial Kingdom is never brought into existence historically, it’s gone; throw out the baby with the bathwater. That’s the amillennial.
The postmil is actually a version of amillennialism that has progress in it. Postmillennialism doesn’t really believe in the Millennium. What does “post” mean? After, Christ comes after the Millennium. After the what? After the Millennium. When does the Millennium come? The church brings it in. Oh really, you’ve been in a church more than five years and you haven’t seen a real juicy church split and that’s a picture of the Kingdom of God? I don’t think so! The church isn’t a witness to the Kingdom; if it is God help us. Postmillennialism argues the church is such a wonderful thing and so powerful, so righteous and so holy that it’s going to conquer the world and then when it conquers the world it’ll call Jesus down, “come on down,” here’s the Kingdom for You. The church gives the Kingdom to Jesus. Of course, I’m being a little sarcastic. Postmillennialists believe that God works through the church to bring that about but the point still is chronologically Jesus Christ comes after the church as conquered the world.
Let me say what happens politically and ecclesiologically. Where do you think premillennialism goes politically? If you’re a premil how does that affect your politics? How does that affect your belief about the church? If you believe that the Kingdom can’t come until Christ returns is your focus going to be on Christ or the Kingdom? It’s going to be on Christ. So in this view the church is not in a conquistador role; the church is to be faithful to whatever Christ has told it to do and stick with that. If you are an amillennialist you don’t know what the Millennium is about so you kind of discard all that and the church kind of becomes a surrogate for all that Old Testament prophecy.
These two positions are therefore what we call Replacement Theology. I’ll explain that term because I’m going to use it again and again. By Replacement Theology we mean that the church is going to replace Israel in the plan of God, that when Israel turned against her Messiah that was it, from that point on Israel has no national purpose whatsoever, the present state of Israel is not the early foreshocks of a future Israel at all, it’s just a bunch of Jews that are causing trouble in the Middle East. In this view everything that was given to Israel has now been transferred over to the church, minus all the discipline of course. You never hear them talk about the plagues and the judgments, oh no, we don’t transfer those to the church, we just transfer the blessings [blank spot]
… Israel in the plan. What was Israel, a nation, a family or a voluntary association? It was a nation. What is the church? It’s a voluntary association. If the church replaces Israel do you see what it sets up in the mind of people? That the church is a nation, and the church has kind of a political identity of some sort. And that’s why this theology has traditionally led to national churches. Lutheranism, The Church of England, the Presbyterian Church in Scotland kind of, the Congregational Church in New England under the Puritans, these were political institutions. We can talk about the Pope but the Protestant national churches had just as much political influence as the Roman Catholic Church. They dominated their countries, and woe be to you if you ever crossed that whole thing, you got in trouble real fast.
So this theology is not just a little fine point; this theology breeds certain attitudes. In Germany, if you went through and did a survey in the 1930s of Germany do you know where the Germans who opposed Hitler came from, largely? Brethren premil groups. Why do you think so? “Fine point of theology?” I don’t think so; ask some of the evangelical Brethren who opposed Hitler in the 30s. Why were the rest of the Germans, yei, yei, yei the Kingdom has come? The theologians of the Lutheran Church said, many of them, not some like Bonhoeffer, but there were theologians who went around Germany in the 30s that said the Kingdom has come in the person of the Fuhrer because they couldn’t distinguish the church politically as an entity because it was an entity, the church was Germany. I mean, every German is proud of Luther, Luther wrote the Bible, he translated the Bible, he created the German language. So it was very difficult to distinguish German politics from Christianity. Thank God they didn’t have the internet or the talking heads on TV. But this replacement theology spawns this.
It also has another fruit that we’ve noticed in history. Not only does it tend to spawn national churches but it tends to spawn anti-Semitism. This shouldn’t be hard to see. Why does it spawn anti-Semitism? What is the name of the theology? Replacement Theology. Do Jews have any more purpose in history? What was the Jew’s last act in history in Replacement Theology? Rejected Christ, bad people, so anti-Semitism and national churches are spawned out of this eschatology. Don’t think they’re not, ideas have consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. So it behooves us to get our eschatology straight and that’s what we’re going to do this year; we’re going to work with the details of eschatology.
On page 3, top paragraph, “In short, was the triumphant Kingdom to be inside mortal history or was it essentially the eternal state? After Christ came and was rejected, the controversy became more complex because of the rise of the church and its relationship with the Kingdom and Israel. Was the church a “spiritualized” version of Israel and the Kingdom (amillennialism)? Or was it actually a nation-like entity replacing Israel that was to conquer the world and bring into existence a physical-political kingdom to hand over to the Messiah (postmillennialism)? Or was the church a “new body” distinct from Israel which somehow prepared the way for the yet-to-be-realized Kingdom (premillennialism)?”
We’re talking about Reform Theology and we’re going to deal with that this year increasingly so let me point out what we’re doing so you can build your vocabulary because you can’t think without vocabulary. So we’re going to build a little theological vocabulary. Over here I’m going to put the word “Reformed.” Here I’m going to put the word “Dispensation.” This is not quite accurate because Dispensational theology, which I’ll get into, actually came out of the Reformed camp. The early dispensationalists were all Reformed people. Today, he’s 90 years old, but Dr. John Walvoord, who was Chancellor at Dallas Seminary, is a Presbyterian and he is a Reformed theologian. I always like to remind people about that when I discuss this with my Reformed friends and they always make a distinction and say you can’t be a dispensationalist and a Reformed. Yes you can, John Walvoord is.
Reformed Theology spawned dispensationalism. Reformed Theology tends to be amil and postmil, there are sometimes premils but the premillennialism isn’t the literal kind of premillennialism, it’s the idea that Israel has no national future but somehow the Jews will come into the church finally and that will be sort of the end Kingdom type thing. Dispensationalists are always premil. So as you walk around Christian circles and go into Christian book stores and discuss with Christian friends you’ll see these things. You’ll see this in some of your Christian acquaintances; I’m just showing you where people are coming from.
On page 4, here’s why the Reformed people don’t like dispensationalism, don’t like it for a number of reasons. But if you identify yourself as believing in a literal prophecy don’t be surprised if someone doesn’t say oh, you’re one of those dispensational people, and you wonder are they calling me names or what are they doing. Is that a bad name, a good name or what? Here’s their view of what’s going on here. Always understand people.
“Such advocates of Reformed Theology insist that divine cause-effect must be explained as though we can totally comprehend it.” They’re not quite so brash but the idea is that … here’s the argument: did Jesus come to die on the cross? Yes, you can’t say that was a peripheral act and if He hadn’t died on the cross where wouldn’t we be? Understand that, they are right there, because Reformed Theology is correct soteriologically. When they say you’ve got to make the cross of Christ the center of Jesus’ ministry, they’re right. So their idea of us is that when we argue that when Jesus was actually inviting Israel into the Kingdom prior to the cross, getting rejected, and then the cross comes in because of the rejection, they think that we’re saying that’s plan B. They’re thinking the cross is sort of an after effect of this rejection, that if Messiah had walked into Israel and said accept Me as your King and you can have your kingdom, there would never have been a cross. They’re right, so what’s going on here.
“Such advocates of Reformed Theology insist that divine cause-effect must be explained as though we totally comprehend it. Therefore, they demand that Christ died for only the elect,” we went through that, the limited atonement issue, etc. that’s Reformed Theology. Reformed Theology is always limited atonement, and they reason they say that is “(lest the atonement be ‘wasted’ and God’s purpose ‘for naught’).” What bothers the Reform’s mentality is the fear that God has decreed something and it goes to waste. So in their mind, Jesus could never have died for unbelievers, because unbelievers who die as unbelievers go to hell, they never receive the benefits of the cross, the soteriological benefits of the cross so in the Reformed mind they’re thinking wait a minute, that makes Jesus’ cross of no effect. It’s like He did all these [can’t understand word] and it’s just kind of thrown in the toilet. That’s because they come to this whole thing with this way of seeing God’s sovereignty work out; that gets them into these positions.
“Therefore, they demand that Christ died for only the elect …. The relationship of the atonement to the non-elect tends to be downgraded or ignored in this view. Likewise, they demand that Israel’s rejection of Christ (which is so central to the Cross),” He could never have been crucified unless He was rejected, so “they demand that Israel’s rejection of Christ … marked the end of that nation’s position in God’s plan and hence the Kingdom promises to it.” That was fundamental, it was part of the decree to go to the cross, and that decree to go to the cross meant that Christ had to be rejected. If Christ had to be rejected the nation had to be ended; that was it, it’s over, period. “The idea that Jesus made a genuine offer to bring the Kingdom to Israel prior to the Cross and that Israel rejected this offer but will one day still receive the Kingdom is anathema to this kind of Reformed Theology. Proponents of this theology believe that this approach makes the Cross a mere ‘plan B’ in history because it results from the negative side of a choice.”
A negative side of a choice; let’s draw that on a diagram. Here’s the Reformed position. You go through history and people are faced with choices. Israel encountered the Lord Jesus Christ. When Israel encountered the Lord Jesus Christ Israel went negative volition and rejected. As a result of that there was the cross. The Reformed mind doesn’t like to see that kind of diagram; they would rather see this kind of a diagram, that God sovereignly worked everything out, etc. and got to this, and He cast aside Israel. They’d rather draw it that way; He cast aside Israel and brought about the cross. Israel was sort of sacrificed in order to get Christ sacrificed. They don’t like the idea that Christ at this point was offering Himself to the nation as the national Messiah and could have, in one sense, they could have gone positive and didn’t; they went negative and the cross resulted from the negative side of the choice. And they say boy, that’s not honoring the Lord.
Let’s see if it’s honoring the Lord or not. Next paragraph: “Such theology, however, forgets that very similar ‘offers’, ‘rejections’, and ‘plan B’s’ occurred in past history. In Eden the offer to man to dominate and subdue the earth was rejected and brought about our present fallen mortal history with the need for the Cross (the result of a negative choice).” What if Adam and Eve hadn’t have disobeyed? Would Jesus have had to go to the cross? Then didn’t Jesus go to the cross because of a negative decision on Adam and Eve’s part? So there’s a clear cut case, right there. Next case: “In the centuries after the flood the offer to build a new civilization was rejected and resulted in the calling out of a counter-culture in Abraham (result of a negative choice).” Nimrod, all the people apostatized in Noah’s family, destroyed civilization, paganized it, as a result of a negative choice God had to call Abraham. Couldn’t you also argue and say well, why do you view history that way, God had to bring about the Jews to bring about Jesus. You’re making it sound like after Noah there could have been a real genuine civilization. Yeah, that’s what the offer was all about.
The next one, after Mt. Sinai what did God offer Israel? Entrée to the land. Did they take the entrée to the land or did they wait forty years and try it again? They waited forty years and tried it again, so there was an offer and there was a negative choice involved and it resulted in God’s plan. “Immediately after Mt. Sinai the offer of Canaan to Israel was rejected and resulted in a second miraculous invasion under Joshua (result of a negative choice). In the days of Samuel the offer of a politically simple theocracy was rejected and resulted in the rise of the monarchy, the monarchy, which defined the role of Messiah (result of a negative choice).” Remember Samuel’s day, it was very reluctantly created as a result of the Judges period, every man did that which was right in his own eyes, so you had the rise of the monarchy. The monarchy was necessary to define the nature of the Messiah, but that was the result of the negative decision, the end of the book of Judges.
“During the fall of the kingdom and exile, the offer of an end-time restoration of the nation was made impossible by the depth of apostasy and resulted in a partial restoration and postponement of the final restoration as announced to Daniel (Daniel 9:20-27) (result of negative choices).” Remember Daniel’s prayer at the end of seventy years. Daniel read in Jeremiah hey, in seventy years we’re supposed to have the Kingdom back again, and God said no Daniel, seventy times seven. Oh-oh, it got postponed and of course it’s in the postponement period that Christ dies. “Each of these situations could be similarly criticized as bringing about ‘plan Bs’, but that is the clear pattern of God’s working in history.”
So when we dispensationalists talk about Christ offering Himself, offering the opportunity of the nation to inherit the Kingdom we’re doing nothing else than anybody would have done in any of the other passages, it’s the same argument.
Having said all that we want to go to the ascension. That’s the introduction. Tonight we’ve gone through the introductory phase of setting up for the events we’re now going to study, the inter-advent age brought into existence by the rejection of Jesus Christ.
Question asked, something about what you said about not letting anything go to waste, the priests will drink all the wine, not letting Christ’s work go to waste …: Clough replies: A parallel, transubstantiation and the priests drinking the wine so that it isn’t thrown out after it’s consecrated, after it’s part of God’s work. [same guy says something else] Clough says: Well, I have to be careful there, I should have qualified myself, there’s Reformed thought and then there’s Reformed thought! The point is, and what I was trying to say was that the first dispensationalists were all Calvinists, Reformed people. It didn’t start in Arminian circles, it started in Calvinist circles. Darby was an Anglican and he was Anglican in theology as Calvinistic, so there’s no question that dispensationalism arose in a Calvinist environment, in a Reformed environment. It’s just that after it arose and made this distinction, basically in eschatology, it really upset the Reformed camp. They’re still upset and angry about it. The Reformed guys on the radio have written books that basically label dispensationalism as a cult. It’s just foolish.
Same guy says it seems like Covenant Theology is one camp: Clough says: Yes, even then you can be a Covenant theologian and still be a dispensationalist, as long as you didn’t push it too far. It’s sort of a greasy area. All I’m trying to do here by making this distinction is just to introduce the words because you’ll hear them and you’ll hear them tossed around. So all I’m trying to do is just kind of give you some understanding of the vocabulary of people, because sooner or later you’re going to be sitting next to somebody in a Christian conference somewhere or at work or something else and you’ll be talking about the prophecies of Israel and you’ll get this kind of cross-eyed stare, and you mean you don’t believe that? Well no, and then you’re going to be in the middle of it, the discussion will unfold and you’re going to be wondering what the heck did I get into here. So I’m telling you what you’re getting into. It’s just that to make a nice smooth, closed, theological system that makes sense soteriologically, the eschatological questions, i.e., questions of prophecy, questions of the destiny of the church, the destiny of Israel, have largely been neglected. So there are just those two patterns, those two molds that exist, and you walk around and have fellowship with people you just want to be aware that you’ll encounter people like that.
Question asked: Clough replies: Good question, how could Christ be accepted and wouldn’t that negate the cross had He been accepted. Yeah, in the same way that if Noah, when he preached, had actually had a revival they wouldn’t have fit in the boat. In the same way that had Adam and Eve originally just obeyed the Lord, there wouldn’t have been a need for Christ to be crucified. So in each one of those cases what I see that as being, I think if you think about it, what it does it enlarges your view of the sovereignty of God in that He is so sovereign in such a mysterious way that evil accomplishes His purpose. We have to think about that in the sense that, not that evil is rewarded, but the fall of Satan, what if Satan hadn’t fallen? Do you remember the last supper …, here’s a good passage of Scripture to think about. In the last supper when Judas was about to betray Jesus, remember the strange words He said, He looked down the table and He table and He said, This must come to pass but woe through whom it comes to pass. So in that one statement the Lord basically said there has to be an unbeliever, there has to be someone to betray Me, there has to be treason among the disciples, but woe to the disciple who is the traitor. These are very sobering words.
Question asked or statement made: Clough replies: Oh yeah, absolutely, Jesus would still have to lay His life down in order for what we now know to be the plan of God to have been executed. Just like it was necessary for all those choices that I made, Christ was crucified from when? From before the foundation of the world. Well didn’t Adam and Eve … are we going to say the offer to Adam and Eve to obey was not genuine. I don’t think so, I think you have to say that Christ created Adam and Eve sinless and He made a genuine offer for them to live sinless lives and obey Him. But had they lived the obedient lives, then what about Christ being slain from before the foundation of the world? Do you see? It’s difficult stuff because you get into this but the point is that God’s way always comes to pass, and it seems to involve the agency, the secondary agency of negative choices. The negative choices set up the very situation that fulfills prophecy.
Think about the most eloquent example of this, why did Satan want to kill Christ? Why was there hatred against Jesus Christ? Knock Him off and get Him out of here, get rid of this guy, He’s messing around in my world system, very dangerous. And the very act of killing Him, of trying to murder Jesus Christ undid his whole kingdom. That’s the thing to get is that God is so magnificently sovereign that he decrees where He’s going and He makes these offers but He also knows how things will work out, He also decrees and sets up history so that it comes out that way.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s not true of some in the Reform camp, but it’s generally, if you had to have a set of priorities the highest priority is a consistent theology, after that we’ll deal with the text. I’ll tell you why you want to watch this is because Reform Theology is coming in with great appeal today. Lots of people are getting involved in it. I’ll tell you why they’re getting involved in it, because there’s a powerful strength in it, there’s a consistency in it and we live in a very chaotic age, we live in an age of mysticism, we live in an age of total neglect of Bible doctrine, we live in an age where there’s irrationalism, irrationality all over the board, in the church, out of the church, all over the place, people can hold utterly contradictory positions and never even feel the tension. And into this all of a sudden, this chaos and caldron steps the people with a triumphant theology. It’s very, very appealing.
And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a consistent theology. It’s just that how about recognizing the fact that since 1650 we’ve had 350 years of church history and the Holy Spirit just might have extended our awareness of doctrine. And He has. So the point is that yes, we want a consistency in our theology but we want to learn more and more about the Word of God and as a result of the lessons learned in the Word of God we’ve realized that the church is not a national institution; the church has not replaced Israel in God’s plan. The reason we know this is because in dispensationalism if Abraham is promised the land, what would the land have meant to Abraham? Palestine. Was that a contract God made with Abraham? He made a contract with him. If He made a contract with Abraham, and then 2000 years later now the land doesn’t really mean the land, it kind of means eternal state, what does that do to the hermeneutics of the contract originally made?
Think about it, if you had an insurance contract on your house, your homeowner’s policy. And let’s suppose you live in the mid-west and your homeowner’s policy; it’s right there in the policy it says it insured your home. A tornado comes one night, destroys your home, but you and your family got into a tornado cellar and were saved, your family survived. So you go down and apply for the [benefits]; the policy says home insurance, and the clever lawyer at the insurance company says home, h-o-m-e meant your family, you’ve got your family, it doesn’t mean house, it means family. Now doesn’t that smack a contract fraud to you? It does to me. Somebody is playing loose with the words in the contract.
That’s the argument between Reform Theology and dispensationalism, dad-gum-it, when God says land, He’s going to give you the land, to Abraham, He must mean the land, not something else. So if you take a stubborn attitude toward the terms of these contracts, the Abrahamic Covenant, what were some other contracts? The Palestinian Covenant inside Deuteronomy 31; the Davidic Covenant, these are all contracts. How do you change contract language just because five centuries have elapsed? It doesn’t make any difference, a contract is a contract. So contract language forces you to say well, I don’t know, Israel rejected Christ but the contract says that Israel will exist forever and have these promises. They haven’t got the promises yet, so either the contract is bad, the parties have changed or something’s gone on, or going back to the obvious, the contract is still in force and Israel is still going to get it. So that’s where the hang-up is, it’s more a hang-up over contractual hermeneutics and how you interpret contract language, whenever God promises something in the Bible God promises it in a language that you can understand. Otherwise all the promises go out the window. It’s a slippery slope you get on when you start abandoning this. But the problem why people in Reform Theology don’t like this is because it gets messy, it gives you a lot more details to have to worry about.
Question asked: Clough replies: These are what I call surprise effects in history and I think we have to acknowledge God can give surprise effects or otherwise we negate the Creator/creature distinction. For example, if you were Eve and the promise came to you that you would bear the son, and apparently this is what she did, she believed that her first-born was the Messiah. What was missing? Was God wrong in what He said to her? No, it’s just that in the course of time there was a longer time involved than Eve thought. And if you think about those two passages, Isaiah 40 and 53, can you imagine the struggle those Old Testament people had trying to put these two pictures of Messiah together? They came up with all kinds of schemes, they even came up with two Messiahs, a suffering Messiah and a glorious Messiah because they couldn’t get it together.
And there are areas of prophecy where we haven’t got it together. For example, there’s no reason that says that the tribulation has to begin after the Rapture of the church. There’s space in there and God can inject something. It doesn’t concern us because you rest, the Rapture is the end of the Church Age, and that’s all … I mean, if the Rapture is the Rapture you’re not going to worry about what goes on after the Rapture.