by Peter Ditzel
When Christ comes, He comes to deliver up the kingdom to His father: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming. Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:22-24). There is no gap of a thousand years between Jesus’ second coming and His delivering up the kingdom.
The saved of Israel and the church are not distinct: The Bible says that all, Jews and Greeks (representing Gentiles) are members of one body: “For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free; and were all given to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13; see also Colossians 3:11). Now notice Galatians 3:27-29: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to promise.” This not only tells us that there is no longer a distinction between Jews and Gentiles, but that Gentiles in Christ are as much the heirs of the promise as are saved Jews. Further, Paul tells us, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). If being a Jew is now a spiritual matter, not dependent upon nationality and circumcision of the flesh, then it is logically impossible for Jewish and Gentile Christians to be treated differently. They are both one and the same people, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession” (1 Peter 2:9).
All of God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled; not a word has failed: “And the lord gave to Israel all the land which he swore by an oath to give to their fathers; and they inherited it, and dwelt in it. And the lord rested them round about in so far as he swore by an oath to their fathers. Not one rose up before them of all their enemies; the lord delivered all their enemies into their hands. Not a word failed from all of the good words which the lord spoke to the sons of Israel; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45, Apostolic Bible Polyglot).
A return to animal sacrifices would be blasphemous: The writer of Hebrews says that “it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4), and that “now once at the end of the ages, he [Christ] has been revealed to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. Inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once, and after this, judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, without sin, to those who are eagerly waiting for him for salvation” (Hebrews 9:26-28). The animal sacrifices merely pictured the reality of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. They were repeated as reminders of sin until Jesus’ sacrifice took sin away. To return to the animal sacrifices would be to blasphemously deny what Jesus Christ accomplished with His death and put Him to open shame (see Hebrews 6:6).
The Bible tells us that, contrary to postmillennialism, in the last days, things will be bad, not good: “But know this, that in the last days, grievous times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, no lovers of good, traitors, headstrong, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:1-4, 13). Jesus commissioned us to preach the Gospel to the world, but He never said that this would result in the conversion of the whole world (see Matthew 28:19-20 and Mark 16:15-18).
The kingdom of God is not a carnal kingdom: In John 18:36, Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world. If my Kingdom were of this world, then my servants would fight, that I wouldn’t be delivered to the Jews. But now my Kingdom is not from here.” Jesus was clearly saying that His kingdom was not connected to the politics and nations of this world—not Israel, Rome, the United States, or the United Nations. It does not have and cannot have anything to do with them. (For more information, read “Why did Pilate find nothing with which to charge Jesus?“) Yet dispensationalists connect it with the nation of Israel, all premillennialists believe Christ will reign over a physical kingdom on the earth, and the postmillennialists envision Christians using politics, national governments, and laws to create what would really be a carnal, worldly “kingdom of God.” I think the principle of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians could well apply to these people: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh?” (Galatians 3:3). Maybe, since Jesus says we must be born again to see the kingdom of God (and this would not be the case if it were physical), historic premillennialists, dispensational premillennialists, and postmillennialists should take Jesus’ advice to the Laodiceans and anoint their eyes with “eye salve” that they may see.
The general resurrection is a bodily resurrection: The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection show that His body was gone from the tomb (see, for example, Luke 24:1-12 and John 20:1-15). Later, the resurrected Jesus appeared to His disciples. “But they were terrified and filled with fear, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is truly me. Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have'” (Luke 24:37-39). Jesus in His resurrected form was a flesh and bone body.
Speaking of the death and resurrection of the body, Paul said, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and there is also a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:44). The natural body’s life comes from nature; it is sustained by the oxygen we breath that is conveyed to the cells by our blood (Genesis 2:7; 9:4; Leviticus 17:11). The spiritual body’s life comes from the Spirit. That is why Paul calls it a spiritual body. It can do things the natural body cannot (Luke 24:31; John 20:19). But it is still a body with flesh and bone, and the absence of Jesus’ body from His tomb after His resurrection shows us that the change from the natural body to the spiritual body concerns an instantaneous change of the source of life, the giving of what we would consider to be supernatural powers, and a glorification (1 Corinthians 15:43). It is no longer corrupt flesh and blood. It is incorruptible, but it is still our resurrected body, a body that is recognizable as the one we had before death (John 20:27). Thus, the full preterist claim that the general resurrection is past and that it was a resurrection of the spirit that is later given a body is inconsistent with Scripture.
Jesus’ return will be personal, bodily, and visible: “When he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. While they were looking steadfastly into the sky as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white clothing, who also said, ‘You men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who was received up from you into the sky will come back in the same way as you saw him going into the sky'” (Acts 1:9-11). “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, including those who pierced him. All the tribes of the earth will mourn over him. Even so, Amen” (Revelation 1:7). Revelation is largely written in symbolic language, but this statement is introductory and appears to be in plain language. Everyone will see Him, and the people of all races, clans, nations, and so forth will mourn. But in the full preterist account of the return of Christ, He did not return bodily and visibly. And He returned only to Jerusalem. Certainly, the people of all tribes would not have mourned because they would not have even known about it.
Surely, the period between AD 30 and AD 70 was the last days for Israel. With the culmination of those days in the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple and the fearful signs that witnesses recorded that accompanied this, God showed outwardly that He had already ended the Old Covenant. He showed that He had previously terminated His special relationship with Israel as a nation. This period was a coming of Christ in wrath against the unbelieving, disobedient Jews who had rejected the Messiah. But the full preterist position—that this was the final coming of Christ in glory during which the resurrection will occur and the saints meet Him in the air—does not fit Scripture.
What Eschatological Position Is Left?
I could have given many more arguments against premillennialism, postmillennialism, and full preterism. But these Scriptures are enough to refute these systems. What is left is amillennialism and some forms of partial preterism that agree with it.
Certainly, Jesus is right now “seated at the right hand of the power of God” (read Luke 22:69; Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56; Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). After His resurrection, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Speaking of the authority the Father gave Christ, Paul wrote, “For, ‘He put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when he says, ‘All things are put in subjection,’ it is evident that he is excepted who subjected all things to him. When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:27-28).
Jesus Christ is now reigning in heaven. We are living in the kingdom of God (see “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God“). You will not see this with your physical eyes. You must perceive it by faith, and you will have that faith only if you are born again: “Most certainly, I tell you, unless one is born anew, he can’t see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
The fact that, since Jesus’ resurrection, the Gospel has successfully reached people around the globe shows that the nations are no longer, as they were under the Old Covenant, in total darkness. Satan is bound so that he cannot deceive the nations. He is bound and his house is being plundered as the Gospel is preached to all nations. Jesus is saving His people and Satan can do nothing to stop it. This does not mean he can do nothing at all. Satan is very active in this world. He snatches the Gospel away from the non-elect (Matthew 13:4, 19), but he is now unable to keep the world in complete spiritual darkness.
We must understand that the picture of Satan being bound in Revelation 20 is figurative language. Satan’s hands are not literally bound; he has not literally been thrown into a bottomless pit. We are meant to understand that God is limiting Satan’s powers. Second Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 tell us of the sinning angels—the demons—whom God in ancient times cast into Tartarus and put under chains. Yet, in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry, demons are very active. Apparently, if they had not been limited, they could have been even more active. Similarly, Satan their chief is now also bound. He cannot stop Christ’s kingdom. His efforts at blinding the elect will fail. His attempts to turn them from the faith will not succeed. His strivings to accuse the brethren are in vain because they overcome him through the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:10-11). The saints will always ultimately persevere. Satan is furious: “Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil has gone down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has but a short time” (verse 12). But he is bound and cannot do all that he would.
In the future, he will be released for a short time (Revelation 20:7-10). He will again deceive the nations. It may be that no one will be saved at that time, but this does not mean that God is thwarted. It would only mean that all of the elect will have already been saved. Satan will also persecute the saints. I personally believe that this may come about through a reversal of the separation of church and state, freedom of religion, and religious toleration. Only state-sanctioned, false religions will be tolerated, and those who believe the truth will be persecuted. That is my opinion. But the Bible tells us that God will defeat Satan, and he will be thrown into the lake of fire.
For reasons I have given above, it is foolish to believe that Jesus’ return for His saints and the general resurrection have already occurred. The return of Jesus followed by the resurrection of the just and the unjust, the final judgment, and the coming of the new heavens and new earth are yet to happen. But we are living in the kingdom of God and the “millennium” right now.
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