The Chosen Stone

THE CHOSEN STONE
(1 Peter 2:4-8)
By Wayne S. Walker

Many figures of speech are used in the Scriptures to describe Jesus Christ. He is the Head of the body, the church. He is the Vine, and we are the branches. He is the Shepherd who guides the sheep. He is the Light of the World. He is the Bread of life which we eat. And He is the Water of life which we drink.

“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.’ Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,’ and ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.’ They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed’” (1 Peter 2:4-8).

Peter was writing to Christians in the first century who were suffering persecution. They needed something more than the material things of this life in which to place their trust and on which to build their lives. In these verses, the inspired apostle pictured Jesus as a stone which was rejected by men but chosen by God and could serve as a solid foundation for their faith and hope. What we can learn from this passage concerning Jesus Christ as the chosen stone?

He is a living stone, v. 4

We know that stone, as opposed to plants, animals, and humans, is non-living material, although some stone may contain material that once was alive. However, Jesus is called a living stone. Why? It is because though He was dead He is now alive. Jesus Himself said, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18).

The reference to Jesus as a living stone, then, is related to the fact that He was raised from the dead. The Bible, established by eyewitness testimony, records the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. When the women came to His tomb, they saw two angels. “Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again”’” (Luke 24:5-7).

Thus, Jesus Christ is not just a dead hero who was a martyr for a good cause, but a living Savior. And there is a special benefit to God’s people in the fact that Jesus lives. “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). We can ever come to God through Christ because He is a living stone.

He is a foundation stone, v. 5

Peter says that Christians are also living stones who are being built up a spiritual house. Just as a house needs a good foundation, so the foundation of God’s spiritual house, the church, is Jesus Christ. “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

This foundation was initially laid down by the apostles and prophets. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Paul goes on to explain that this laying the foundation was accomplished as they revealed the word. “How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5.

Thus, we build our lives upon this foundation as we hear and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ as revealed through His inspired messengers. “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27). For the church as a whole and for the lives of its individual members, Jesus Christ is the only sure foundation stone.

He is the cornerstone, v. 6

Peter quotes a prophecy from the Old Testament about the Messiah that would help identify Him when He came. “Therefore thus says the Lord God: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah 28:16). This passage and a similar statement from Psalm 118:22 about Christ as the chief cornerstone are quoted or cited several times in the New Testament as being fulfilled in Jesus Christ

A cornerstone is a stone, cut as perfectly as possible, from which the rest of the foundation is laid so as to make it as straight as it can be. To say that Jesus is the chief cornerstone means that He is the perfect standard by which our lives should be measured. Peter will go on to tell his readers, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

In laying the foundation, the builder must always look to the cornerstone and measure the placement of the other stones by it. In like manner, throughout our lives, we should always be looking to and measuring ourselves by this cornerstone to make sure that our lives are straight and true. The writer of Hebrews reminds us that in running the race of this life, we should be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Therefore, it is important to look to Jesus as our cornerstone.

He is a precious stone, v. 7

Certain kinds of stones are not your ordinary, everyday, run of the mill rocks but are gemstones and therefore considered precious. The word translated “precious” means valuable, even expensive, and hence honorable, and Peter calls Christ a precious stone. In his two epistles, Peter uses the word precious to describe several concepts that are related to Christ. For example, the blood of Christ by which we’re redeemed is precious. “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

The Bible teaches that in being redeemed by the blood of Christ we are justified by faith. “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Thus, Peter also says that the faith by which we are justified before God is precious. “Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).

And Peter tells us that the promises which God offers to those who are redeemed by the blood and justified by faith are precious. “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3-4). One of these precious promises is that of eternal life. “And this is the promise that He has promised us—eternal life” (1 John 2:25). All of these precious blessings which are provided for us in Jesus Christ truly make Him more valuable than a precious stone.

He is a stone of stumbling, v. 8

Peter cites another quotation from Old Testament prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. “He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Isaiah 8:14). The prophet foresees that the Messiah would be a sanctuary for some but a stone of stumbling and rock of offense for others, including both houses of Israel and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Picture a large piece of rock which has been chosen as the cornerstone for a foundation but is sitting out and waiting to be installed. The same stone which could be useful in a foundation might cause someone who walking nearby but is not paying attention to stumble and fall. Jesus was just such a stone to many in His day. “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:9-13). Even in Israel, some received Him, but others, rejecting Him, stumbled and fell.

Furthermore, in the first century and in every century since, Christ has been a stone of blessing to those who believe but a stone of stumbling to those who reject Him. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God….For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Each person would be wise not to let Christ become a stone of stumbling to him or her.

Conclusion

In the physical realm, stones can be put to both good and bad uses. If a large stone is used as a weapon against a person or falls on him, it could harm or even kill him. However, if someone would use that same stone wisely, it could become part of a building that is beneficial to folks. Those who are Christians need to make sure that their lives are built upon Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone. Those who are outside of Christ but want him to be a foundation stone rather than a stone of stumbling need to believe and obey Him.

—taken from Expository Files; Feb., 2014; Vol. 21, No. 2; pp.13-16

“Never Grow Old”

“NEVER GROW OLD”
By Wayne S. Walker

[Editor’s note: I wrote this article some twelve or thirteen years ago, around 2001 or so, when our younger son Jeremy was about five. It was posted on the Internet to some e-mail list, but then I lost it. After looking for it since then, I found it not long ago, posted on the website of the Jamestown Church of Christ in Jamestown, IN. Having recently turned sixty, I found the thought even more meaningful. WSW.]

The other day my five-year old son made an interesting comment while I was bending over and drying him off. He said, “Daddy, you have one black hair, but the rest are gray.” Alas, it is true. Even though I have not yet reached the half-century mark, almost all of my hair is gray. Even ten years ago, someone described my hair as “salt and pepper.” Of course, I have earned every one of my gray hairs with hard work, so I am not ashamed of them, but I simply responded by saying, “Well, that just means that I’m growing old.” Then he made an observation that amazed me. He just spoke up and said, “In heaven we won’t grow old.” So I hugged him and told him that this is true.

It is interesting that we spend most of our younger years wishing that we were older and then spend most of our older years wishing that we were younger. I would not for anything want to return to the days of youth because I would have to give up all the blessings that I enjoy now. But occasionally, I think that it would be nice to go back to my childhood even if only for a few moments. And I have an idea that most people, especially as they get older, must have the same feelings from time to time.

The poet [Elizabeth Akers Allen] wrote:
“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight;
Make me a child again, just for tonight.”
Of course, we know that in this life, it is an impossibility. Time always marches forward. However, as Christians, we do have the hope of this happening in the hereafter, in a place where there will be no death (Revelation 21:4).

Why do we die? Besides the fact that God decreed it in the beginning when Adam and Eve sinned, there are physical reasons why we die. For a good number of people, it is because they grow old. The body simply begins to wear out. Growing older is part of the natural process that ultimately leads to death. But if there will be no death in heaven, then there will be no growing old.

Eternally young! Ponce de Leon searched for the fountain of youth. Yet it is not here on earth. It is in heaven. After seeing the effects of aging on his beloved father, James C. Moore wrote:
“I have heard of a land on the far away strand,
‘Tis a beautiful home of the soul;
Built by Jesus on high, where we never shall die,
‘Tis a land where we never grow old.”

Yes, we look beyond this life to that place where we shall never experience all the things that come with aging–the aches and pains of the body, the dulling of the mind–and the (however well-deserved) gray hair. It is something to look forward to.

The Miracles of Jesus

THE MIRACLES OF JESUS
By Wayne S. Walker

“Miracles are a definite part of Biblical teaching in both Old and New Testaments. They are inextricably interwoven into God’s revelation of Himself. As the word of God, the Bible stands or falls at this very point. Either miracles occurred as actual happenings as recorded in the Bible, and the Bible is the word of God, or they did not occur and it is not the word of God, a special and divine revelation. The question will not [go] down, it is always here. There can be no compromise in the matter” (Homer Hailey; Internal Evidences of Christianity, p. 43).

The same can be said for miracles in their relation to Jesus. His claim to being deity is confirmed by His ability to perform miracles. Even the people of His day understood this. “And many of the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than these which this man hath done?” (John 7:31). Jesus claims to have done miracles, invites us to investigate the record, and asks us to believe on Him because of His works. We would do well to give serious consideration to the miracles of Jesus.

I. The Definition of “Miracles.” There are five terms used in Scripture to describe these events. “Miracle” means “strength, ability, power,” and refers to “specifically the power of performing miracles.” It denotes the energy to which they are due (Acts 6:8). “Wonder” means “a prodigy, portent, miracle (A.V. wonder) performed by anyone,” and thus “something so strange as to cause it to be ‘watched’ or ‘observed.’” It identifies the astonishment which is produced (Acts 2:43). “Sign” means “a sign, mark, token,” and is used “of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by him, or by which men prove that the cause they are pleading is God’s.” It indicates a token of God’s presence and sanction (Acts 4:30).

These three words are found in Hebrews 2:4. Another word in that passage is “gift.” There it means “a distribution,” and in 1 Corinthians 12:4-9 it means “a gift of grace; a favor which one receives without any merit of his own…in the technical Pauline sense [gifts] denote extraordinary powers, distinguishing certain Christians and enabling them to serve the church of Christ, the reception of which is due to the power of divine grace operating in their souls by the Holy Spirit.” One other word is “work” which means “an act, deed, thing done…of sundry signal acts of Christ, to rouse men to believe in him and accomplish their salvation” (John 5:36; all definitions are taken from Joseph Henry Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament).

Christ’s miracles were not natural phenomena, occurrences, exotic though they might be, of nature. Christopher Columbus amazed the Caribbean natives by “taking away their moon” via an eclipse, but that was according to natural law (Genesis 1:14-19). Nor were they merely acts of God’s providence. God promises to take care of His people and mankind in general, but such does not require a miracle (Matthew 6:33, Acts 14:17). Neither did they involve magic and trickery as did the deeds of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9-11). Miracles were amazing, but not everything amazing is a miracle.

What, then, is a miracle? It is an event that seems opposed to natural law as we understand it because either natural law has been set aside (i.e., transcended) by a higher power or else a new force has directly intervened in natural law producing an effect otherwise not natural. “A miracle is any deed in an order which is impossible to the forces ordinarily working in that order. Crystallization—at least perfect crystallization—is not a miracle in quartz; but it is a miracle in sandstone. Vegetable life is a miracle in minerals, but not in its own order, except in the sense in which all life is a miracle. Animal life is a miracle to both. There are no forces in lower realm which can produce the higher, therefore these events are to the lower order miracles” (John Alfred Faulkner in Modernism and the Christian Faith, quoted by Hailey). Such events bring about wonder and amazement upon the part of the viewers so as to cause them to attribute the power to a supernatural being (Matthew 8:27, 9:8).

II. The Nature of Miracles. One of the greatest conflicts in the past 300 years is that between man’s concept of science and the Biblical record of the miraculous. A greater part of this argument is philosophical and does not fall within the purpose of this article. However, there are a few points to be noted. Miracles do not come within the realm of science. Science deals with events related to natural law, those things which are observable and repeatable. By very definition of the miraculous, science has nothing in common with miracles. It is not for “science” to assert that forces outside its province cannot be at work. That is “scientism.”

“Science treats of things that can be known; the miracle, on the other hand, according to its name and nature, is that which is inexplicable and cannot be known. Therefore science and the miracle have nothing in common with each other. A miracle scientifically explained is a contradiction….To deny miracles is equivalent to the assertion, ‘We, who have dwelt upon this earth only since yesterday already know all laws, all forces, all possibilities of the universe’….Human knowledge will never be competent to decide what is possible. The possibility of miracles is therefore established” (F. Bettex in The Miracle, quoted by Hailey).

Indeed, the very definition of true science provides the basic condition for miracles to happen. If the universe were not an ordered sphere and governed by fixed natural law, a miracle would be impossible. When Christians postulate the existence of Biblical miracles, they are not asserting a disordered, chaotic universe where anything goes, but an orderly and balanced system where an omnipotent Creator God may interpolate His divine power when it reasonably serves His purpose. But for one identified as a “scientist” to allege that miracles never happened or could not have happened falls into the category of what Paul refers to as “science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20-21).

Thus, miracles are possible. If one admits of God and His power, he admits the possibility of the miraculous. Having accepted the existence of God with belief in His word that man is a sinner in need of redemption and by his nature cannot of himself save himself, we then conclude that miracles are probable, yea even necessary for man to know God, His will, and His salvation. And miracles are reasonable. God never performed or allowed a miracle that appealed solely to curiosity. Each one had a definite purpose in His plan. If the Bible writers were given to making up stories about miraculous activity, why did they not mention them in Jesus’s childhood or ascribe them to John the Baptist? The reasonableness of Biblical miracles attests to their truthfulness and accuracy.

Jesus used miracles to reveal God to us. The miracles of Jesus were never silly, whimsical, curious, ridiculous, irrational, or purposeless (John 10:37-38). They were never performed for selfish reasons such as anger or self-glory (Matthew 4:5-7). Neither were they done for purely social reasons, i.e., solely for the purpose of showing compassion (John 9:1-3). Nor were they credited to Christ until after His baptism and the beginning of His earthly ministry (John 4:54).

Without miracles, revelation is impossible. Christianity is the only religion which is absolutely based on miraculous activity. Take away miracles, and Christianity falls flat on its face. The earth was created by a series of miracles (Genesis 1:1ff). To deny miracles is to deny the existence and power of God in the first place. If there is no God, there is no need of a revelation from God.

The deity of Christ was validated by His resurrection from the dead, the greatest miracle ever performed in history (Romans 1:1-4). If one denies miracles, He denies the deity of Christ and destroys the only hope of mankind for a better life here and for life after death. If Christ is not God’s Son, His death has no effectiveness nor relevance for us, and thus revelation about the work of Christ is useless. Furthermore, the Bible is full of miracles. When the miraculous is denied, the truthfulness of the Biblical record is denied. In addition, the Bible makes no sense, even as a historical book, for much of its historical record concerns events and persons in connection with miracles (Matthew 11:2-6).

Jesus’s miracles have not only evidential importance but also moral significance. He claimed to be the vine, through whom all supply is given (John 15:1). He illustrated this by turning the water into wine in John 2:1-11. In John 6:35 He claimed to be the bread of life who gives us our spiritual food, having demonstrated His power already by feeding the 5,000 in vs. 5-14. He claimed in John 8:12 to be the light of the world. He manifested His ability by restoring sight to a blind man in John 9:6-7. And He claimed to be the resurrection and the life in John 11:25, proceeding immediately to display Himself as such in the raising of Lazarus from the dead (vs. 38-45).

III. The Purpose of Miracles. The miracles of Jesus had three major goals. The first was to produce faith in Him as the Messiah, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). The second was to confirm His message as true, the word of God (John 14:9-11). And the third was to identify His source of power as one sent from God the Father (John 3:1-2). Since the purpose of miracles has been fulfilled, they are no longer being performed. Should God choose to work a miracle today, no one would deny Him that right. Yet, we must not tempt God by expecting miracles where God has promised none.

IV. The Historicalness of Miracles. Jesus said that He did miracles. He even appealed to them as evidence of His being who He claimed to be. When the Jews asked Him to tell them plainly if He were the Christ, “Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me” (John 10:25). The apostles believed that He did miracles. In Acts 2:22 Peter said, “Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.” No one stood up to contradict.

Even His enemies admitted that He did miracles. In Matthew 12:22-24, the Pharisees could not deny that Jesus had performed a miracle, though they undoubtedly wished that they could have done so. All they could do was to ascribe His miraculous power to Satan rather than God. Moreover, we have eyewitness records of the events. The apostle John speaks of that “which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon…which we have seen and heard” (1 John 1:1-4). This was apparently accepted at the time. Josephus, a Jewish historian, described the man Jesus as a “doer of wonderful works,” and no one has ever arisen to disprove the veracity of Christ’s miracles, as Peter said “he went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:36-39).

“To even claim such miraculous power would have been disastrous for a Jew trying to usurp authority and establish a new religion. He would know that in those multitudes, and certainly among His followers, would be those who could disprove His claim. To say that He succeeded by fakery and deceit to convince everybody, friends and foes alike, would make Him the greatest sleight of hand artist the world has ever known (as well the biggest cheat). And even if you granted the inconceivable possibility of His fooling everybody by stupendous acts of legerdemain, how do you account for His failing to capitalize on the publicity? Why would He tell those who saw His magic to keep it quiet?” (Peter J. Wilson; Indestructible Foundations, p. 27).

“None of us has ever seen a miracle. But as one beholds Jesus in the midst of a moral world, as one sees His works, all of which have a moral significance, He Himself becomes the miracle of the age. As one beholds Him: His claims, His works, His power over the heart, one asks for no greater miracle” (Hailey; op. cit., p. 48). As we investigate the record of the miracles, we come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And through faith, we can have life through His name.

—taken from Gospel Anchor, April, 1984 (Vol. X, No. 8), pp. 23-25, 31

The Doctrine of Premillennialism

THE DOCTRINE OF PREMILLENNIALISM
By Wayne S. Walker

There is a popular religious doctrine which teaches that Bible prophecy contains signs predicting that the world will come to the brink of a great cataclysm, but then the second coming of Christ will occur, when the righteous dead will be raised and the righteous living raptured for seven years in the air while the great tribulation occurs on earth, after which the battle of Armageddon will be fought, all the Jews will be converted to Christ, and return to Palestine, and the Lord will reign with them on earth from His throne in Jerusalem for a literal thousand years. This doctrine is known as Premillennialism. There are several variations of Premillennial doctrine, but certain items are common to most of them. The purpose of this article is to examine a few such items and determine what the Scriptures actually teach about them. Does the Bible really teach these things, or are they simply the products of an overactive imagination?

The Land Promise to Abraham

One of the arguments made by Premillennialists is that the promise made by God to Abraham of a land for his descendants to inhabit was never completely fulfilled, so it will have to be fulfilled when Jesus comes again. To begin, let us notice when this land promise was made. It was first revealed to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-7. The boundaries were later defined in great detail—from the River of Egypt, also known as the Wadi el Arish, to the Euphrates River (Genesis 15:7-21). This same promise was then repeated to Isaac and Jacob (Genesis 26:1-4, 28:10-14).

Next, let us notice if the Bible says whether this promise was fulfilled or not. Joshua led the people of Israel in the conquest of the very land promised to Abraham (Joshua 21:43-45). In fact, Joshua himself said that the Lord had now fulfilled all His promise to Israel (Joshua 23:14). So the inspired history of the conquest of Canaan by Israel in the book of Joshua ends with statements to the effect that the promise made to Abraham regarding a land for his descendants was completely fulfilled (Joshua 24:8-32).

In addition, we can notice where David and Solomon ruled over the entire territory that was promised. David conquered the land all the way up to the Euphrates River (2 Samuel 8:3). Solomon then reigned over all the area from there down to the River of Egypt (Wadi el Arish) which is the border between Canaan and Egypt (1 Kings 4:21). So, again, it is affirmed that the people of Israel did indeed control all of the land from the River Euphrates to the border of Egypt, just exactly as God had promised to Abraham (2 Chronicles 9:26).

Finally, we must notice that while inheriting the land was unconditional, keeping it was conditional. Israel was brought into Canaan not because of their own goodness but because of God’s promise to Abraham. Then He told them that if they were faithful, they would keep the land (Deuteronomy 28:1-10). However, if they were unfaithful, they would lose the land (Deuteronomy 29:15-63). As we know from plain Bible history, they did not remain faithful, so they lost the land (Daniel 9:10-14).

Sometimes Premillennialists argue that following the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans, the Jews never did live in Canaan as an independent state again, so this will occur when Jesus comes and establishes a physical kingdom on earth. However, this thinking overlooks the clear and emphatic Bible teaching that God completely fulfilled the land promise made to Abraham when Israel conquered and ruled over all the land that was described in great detail in that promise. It also ignores the simple fact that Israel forfeited their right to remain there by their disobedience, and that while God promised that a remnant would return, as we shall shortly see, He also said that they would never again regain their former strength and glory.

The Restoration Promise to Israel

In the previous section of this article we discussed whether the land promise that God made to Abraham was fulfilled. The Scriptures answer yes. Yet, Premillennialists still affirm that the Jews must return to Palestine to fulfill prophecy and receive the land promise by God because the restoration promise has not yet been completely fulfilled. Certainly God did promise Israel that after they were destroyed and taken captive, if they would return to Him, a remnant would be restored (Deuteronomy 30:1-3). Thus, we are told, God’s promise of a restoration is still to be fulfilled and so will occur when Jesus comes again. However, we must ask, do the Scriptures teach this idea?

There can be no doubt that a promise was made of a restoration of the Jews to Palestine. Isaiah said that it would occur following their punishment by Assyria, but that only a remnant would return (Isaiah 10:20-22). Jeremiah said that it would be after seventy years (Jeremiah 25:8-10, 29:10). Jerusalem was first conquered by Babylon in 606 B.C. Seventy years would be 536 B.C., and that is exactly when Cyrus issued the decree to return (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). So a restoration promise was made. The question is, has it been fulfilled? The Premillennialist says no.

However, the Bible says that it has been fulfilled. And it was fulfilled at precisely the time when Jeremiah had predicted (Daniel 9:1-19). We have the divinely-inspired record of its fulfillment by Ezra (Ezra 1:1-5). And Nehemiah understood that God had fulfilled His promise to redeem His captive people and restore them to Canaan (Nehemiah 1:8-10). In fact, notice that Nehemiah uses the past tense, “have redeemed.”

Yet, the question is often asked about the “second restoration” (Isaiah 11:11). It is claimed that this passage is talking about what will occur at Jesus’s return and thus is still to be fulfilled. However, the context tells us exactly when this was to happen. Verses 1-5 talk about the coming of Christ, and this was fulfilled at His first coming, as Paul preached in Acts 13:22-23. Verses 6-10 speak of the character of Christ’s kingdom. This is not to be understood literally, but is a figurative description of the peace and prosperity of the King and His rule (cf. Isaiah 2:2-4, Matthew 18:3, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Hebrews 12:18-28).

Thus, we see that this “second restoration” is actually a prophecy of the church. In fact, Isaiah 11:10 is quoted in Romans 15:8-12 as being fulfilled in the church. The second restoration of verse 11 takes place in that same day as the promise of verse 10. These things are fulfilled in Christ and His spiritual kingdom, the church (Romans 11:5). So, Isaiah’s prophecy refers to salvation through Christ (Romans 9:27-29). This second remnant is those of Israel and all others who call upon the name of the Lord and are saved according to His election of grace.

In contrast to plain Bible teaching, Premillennialism alleges that Israel will still return to Palestine and reign with Christ on earth for 1000 years. However, the Bible clearly says that all of God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled, so there is nothing left for God to fulfill in the future. All that God has for the Jews today is what He has for all mankind, which is to hear and obey the gospel of Christ, receive salvation by Jesus’s blood, and gain the hope of heaven.

The Status of the People of Israel

The previous section of this article discussed whether the restoration promise made to Israel has been fulfilled or not, and the Bible answers this question with a clear yes. However, one reason the Premillennialism teaches that the Jews must still return to Palestine is the belief that the Hebrews or people of Israel are still God’s chosen nation. Hence, it is said that when Jesus comes again, all the Israelites will be saved, go back to Palestine, and reign with Christ over the whole world for a thousand years. Is this true?

God had said that He would reject Israel as a nation with regard to their being His chosen people. This was true even in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 19:1-11, God’s point in the sign of the broken flask was, “Even so I will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot be made whole again…” (emphasis added). It is also true in the New Testament. In Matthew 21:33-43, Jesus tells the parable of the wicked vinedressers and concludes, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” So the Scriptures frankly teach that national Israel is no longer God’s chosen people.

Well, someone might ask, what about the present-day nation of Israel? Why are they in Palestine if they are not God’s chosen people. The modern state of Israel cannot be God’s chosen nation because they have no covenant—God’s covenant with Israel has been taken away (Colossians 2:14-16). They have no priest, because the Aaronic priesthood is no longer in existence and cannot even be traced (Hebrews 7:11-15). And they have no king, because no son of the last king, Jeconiah, can ever sit on an earthly throne and prosper (Jeremiah 22:28-30). This is why Jesus can never reign on earth (Matthew 1:12-16). But it also explains why the kingdom was taken away from Isreal so that they are not God’s chosen people any longer.

Then, if physical Israel is not God’s kingdom today, what is His kingdom and when was it established? It was prophesied that a descendant of David would sit on His throne (2 Samuel 7:12-14). This prophecy is cited as being fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ, as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:22-36). Thus, the throne of Christ is in heaven, not on earth. What is His kingdom? It is identified as the church that He built, made up of saints (Matthew 16:18-19, Colossians 1:13-14).

Therefore, the church is called spiritual Israel, God’s chosen people today (note Romans 2:28-29, 9:6; Galatians 6:16). The church has the new covenant which God had promised to establish (Hebrews 8:8-13). The church has the priesthood of Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). And the church has Christ, a descendant of David, as its King (1 Timothy 6:15-16).

Thus, the New Testament definitely shows that the nation of Israel, or the Jewish people, today are not God’s chosen people and as such have no reason to expect anything special from God in supposed fulfillment of prophecy. Such a statement is not intended to be anti-Semitic. If those who are Jewish will accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the New Testament as God’s revelation of His will for mankind today, they can be part of God’s chosen people, the church, just as well as anyone else.

The Battle of Armageddon

The previous section of this article examined the idea that the Jews are still God’s chosen people. Premillennialism teaches that when Jesus comes, all the Jews will be converted to Him, return to Palestine, fight the battle of Armageddon, be victorious, and rule with Christ on earth from Jerusalem for a literal 1,000 years. The phrase “battle of Armageddon” is not mentioned a single time in God’s word, and the term “Armageddon” is found only once, in Revelation 16:16. So, this portion of the article discusses whether Armageddon is to be a literal, future battle or not.

First, we must understand that the concept of Armageddon, as well as of the book of Revelation in general, was intended to be symbolic. The word “Armageddon” means the mountain of Megiddo, a real place mentioned in the Old Testament (cf. 2 Kings 23:29-30). However, Revelation 1:1 says that the message of the book was “signified” or communicated by signs and symbols. The mount of Megiddo is thus being used as a symbol for a great battle. There is an actual place named Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated. But whenever we say that someone “met his Waterloo,” we do not mean that he went to that actual place; rather, we are using the term as a symbol of a great defeat.

To see how Armageddon fits into the symbolic picture of Revelation, we need to look at the overall drama of the book. Chapters 1-11 set the stage by proclaiming Christ’s victory. Chapters 12-22 describe in figurative language the achievement of that victory. In Revelation 12:3 the devil is called a great red dragon. Is this to be understood as literal? After he failed to devour the man-child, Christ, he turned his fury against the radiant woman who represents God’s people. In this persecution, the dragon is then joined by three allies.

The sea beast represents the civil power of the Roman government (Revelation 13:1). The land beast, later called the false prophet, represents the false religion of the Roman empire which involved emperor worship (Revelation 13:11-13). And the great harlot or scarlet woman, called Babylon, represents the city of Rome with all its worldliness (Romans 17:1-6). This leads up to the beginning of the battle symbolized as Armageddon. The battle is not actually fought in Revelation 16; the way is simply being prepared. The armies are led by three frogs. Again, is this literal?

Revelation then concludes with the defeat of each of these enemies of the church. Babylon falls in Revelation 18:1-2. Then there is war in Revelation 19:19. Here is the actual depiction of the battle symbolized as Armageddon. The result is that the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. Finally, there is the fall of the dragon, which will be described in more detail in the next section. If Satan is not a literal dragon and the leaders of his forces are not three literal frogs, why would anyone think that Revelation is depicting a literal, future battle with Armageddon?

While the idea of a literal, future battle of Armageddon is integral to Premillennialism, the Bible teaches no such thing. It is simply symbolic of the great spiritual battle between good and evil, especially as demonstrated in the persecution of the early church by the Roman empire, culminating in the final victory of Christ and His forces. Every generation has had some historical event which speculators thought at the time was Armageddon, or at least the beginning of it. However, when Jesus does come, the earth will be destroyed (2 Peter 3:9-11). Therefore, there will be no place for such a battle to occur.

The Thousand Year Reign

Premillennialism is the doctrine that Jesus will return before His supposed thousand-year reign over the earth from Jerusalem. There are many different forms of Premillennialism, but by definition all forms include a belief in this literal thousand-year reign of Christ after His second coming. The only passage of Scripture which says anything about a thousand-year reign, and hence is the main proof-text which Premillennialists use to try to substantiate their doctrine, is Revelation 20:1-10. What does this passage actually teach?

First, we must continue to keep in mind that the whole book of Revelation was “signified” or communicated in signs and symbols. Rather than looking at the passage as a literal description of what will happen, we must recognize the figurative nature of the language and seek to let other Scriptures help us to determine what the signs and symbols represent. In verses 1-3 we have the triumph of God and the binding of Satan where an angel who has the key to the bottomless pit comes and binds the dragon with a chain and casts him into the abyss for a thousand years. Again, is Satan a literal dragon? Can he really be bound with a literal chain? The binding of Satan simply represents the fact that he has no power over the faithful Christian (1 Corinthians 10:13, James 4:7). Therefore, the thousand years must also be symbolic. Numbers are often used as symbols (e.g., “ten days” in Revelation 2:10). The thousand years simply refers to an undetermined but long and full period of time (2 Peter 3:8).

In verses 4-6 we have the reign of the saints. They live and reign with Christ. This reign must be in heaven, rather than on earth, because that is where Christ is now reigning (Acts 2:29-33). Also, they are “souls,” nor resurrected bodies. This is called the “first resurrection.” It does not imply two bodily resurrections, because Jesus said that all the dead would be raised at the same hour when He returns (John 5:28-29). In fact, Revelation chapter 20 does not even mention the second coming of Christ. Rather, drawing from Ezekiel 37:1-14, it would most likely represent the resurrection of the cause espoused by the martyred saints (Revelation 6:9-12). And the duration of this reign is a thousand years, the same as the binding of Satan. So, now we have further identification of this undetermined but long and full period of time when Satan will be bound. It will also be the time when the martyred saints reign with Christ.

In verses 7-10 we have the destruction of Satan. First, Satan is loosed from his prison. This should not be understood as some kind of chronological progression, but as a symbol like the other things. Satan is bound so far as faithful Christians are concerned, but he still goes around seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). He deceives the nations, Gog and Magog, which from Ezekiel 38:2 symbolize the enemies of God, and gathers them to battle, symbolizing the constant warfare that always has gone on between the people and those dominated by Satan, and always will so long as this earth stands (Ephesians 6:10-12). This will continue until that time when Satan himself will be destroyed and be cast into the place of eternal punishment (Matthew 25:41). There follows the final judgment scene, along with a figurative picture of the new heavens and new earth. Revelation is not intended as a roadmap of signs leading up to the second coming and some literal, thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, but as a symbolic portrayal of the victory of Christ and His people over evil, especially as it pertained to the saints persecuted by Rome in the first few centuries.

—taken from Faith and Facts Quarterly; Jan., 2014; Vol. 41, No. 1; pp. 2-11