THE WAR WITH IRAQ: PREMILLENNIALISM RIDES AGAIN

William (Bill) Baker

"At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other." Matthew 24:30,31.

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the father." Mark 13:32.

"For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will be raised first. After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever." 1 Thess. 4:16-18.

As yet another military conflict draws to a conclusion in the Middle East arena, and casualty figures for both combatants are yet to be finalized, one would expect record sales of Bibles to American citizens in search of inner peace and assurance. But such is not the case, as record sales are indeed occurring, but rather than the Word of God, American citizens are purchasing the same old tired and time-worn books promoting a patently false explanation and rationalization for the recently concluded conflict. Premillennialism rides again!

Sales of such books as "The Late Great Planet Earth" by Hal Lindsey and "Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis" by John Walvoord, first published in 1974, have jumped 83 percent since the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait began August 3, of last year. Popular evangelists including Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, and Billy Graham are predicting everything from the imagined "battle of Armageddon", a multinational invasion of Israel, and the return of Christ. As with all man-made dogmas, especially those attempting to deal with biblical eschatology, no two teachings agree with one another, and an unbelieving world is once again presented a near comical portrait of self-pronounced "biblical teachers" each attempting to promote and profit from their own particular brand of "end time" scenarios. Dispensationalists vie with Pre, Post, and Ammillennialists over all the important details such as the final battle of Armageddon, the rebuilding of the Temple, the "rapture" of believers, and the return of Christ. The titles and slogans invented by men to distinguish their pet scenarios are so numerous that even sincere Christians have difficulty understanding them all. One can only imagine the bewilderment of the unbelievers of society.

The Prediction of Christ's return and attending events is not a new phenomena. In fact, I was in Florida where one of these self-styled "prophets" predicted the end of the world and the return of Christ September 12th, 1988. Many of the faithful sold their homes and personal belongings while still others took their families into caves, churches and fallout shelters to protect them from the awful events to accompany the second advent of our Lord. My wife and I enjoyed a sailing trip in the warm Florida waters with some dear Christian friends instead. As has happened on each of the thirty-six other predicted returns, life went on as usual, with the exception of the increased ridicule brought upon the Bible and true Christian faith due to the actions and "warnings" of the biblically ignorant followers of false teachers. Once again this ignorance provided the skeptics and God-haters with even more ammunition to attach the Scriptures and Christianity.

"Premillennialism: the view that Christ's return will precede and usher in a future millennium of Messianic rule envisioned in Revelation." (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, 1980).

"Premillennialism: belief of many fundamentalists that the return of Christ is eminent, to be followed by a thousand years of peace during which He reigns over the earth." (Dictionary of Religious Terms, 1967).

Most if not all of the fanciful yet popular teachings attempting to interpret past, present and future events in the Middle East and the world at large, find commonality under the general term "Premillennialism." Although there are many aspects of this dogma that I would like to dissect and expose to the reader by simple means of comparison with Bible passages and the utilization of biblical hermeneutical principles, I will only discuss those teachings I consider the more blatantly hostile to the Scriptures and New Testament Christianity. I am in the process of concluding a new book entitled "THY KINGDOM CAME" which will deal at length with all the tenets of Premillennialism.

WARS, BACKYARD FIG TREES, AND THE RETURN OF CHRIST

The first primary un0erplnning for the premillennialist is the claim to discern and pinpoint the second coming of Christ by analyzing current events such as the recent middle east war, tying in these events with some remote biblical passage, usually attempting to "make" Ezekiel or Daniel foretell these events. Regardless of the text cited as proof, it somehow means that the Lord is about to return, the battle of armageddon is about to be fought, the Zionist Israeli state is about to be attacked, and after an horrendous battle Christ will rule and reign on a rebuilt throne of David in a rebuilt "Temple."

But what does Jesus Himself say about His own return? He is certainly more authoritative than Hal Lindsey or Billy Graham concerning the details of His own return. Sign seekers are not new to this age, nor were they pleasing to the Lord as evidenced in the following texts:

"An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah. And He left them and went away." (Matthew 16:4; NASV).

"And as the crowds were increasing, He began to say, 'This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah.' "(Luke 11:29; NASV).

These scriptures embody the teaching of Jesus with regard to those who would seek external "signs" which might precede His second coming or the ushering in of His Kingdom. His reference in these texts is, of course, to His forthcoming resurrection. But they well disclose His attitude towards those of any age or generation, including our own, who seek "signs" which might precede His final return. He categorically and unequivocally condemns sign seekers! So it is, in the first place, wrong for any believer in Christ to be among those today who would claim to know the "signs of the times."

NO ONE CAN KNOW WHEN CHRIST WILL RETURN!

Here again, we must take the words of Christ as the only authority concerning His return. And he clearly and consistently states THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF KNOWING WHEN HE IS COMING!

"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is." (Mark 13:32, 33; NASV).

"For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will." (Matthew 24:44; NASV).

First, Christ tells us clearly that He condemns those who seek after or follow others who would claim to interpret signs or events relative to His return. Secondly, in these texts He tells all humanity that NO ONE KNOWS THE DATE OR TIME OF HIS RETURN EXCEPT HIS HEAVENLY FATHER! And if anyone believes they have the time of His return pinpointed, THEY ARE WRONG! As He said, He will come "at an hour when you do not think He will ."Imagine all the current "prophetic books and pamphlets; the myriad of "bible ministries" and big name ministers who are absolutely, positively dead wrong in their eschatology!

A HEAVENLY KINGDOM OR "BACK TO THE TEMPLE" PART III

A second primary pillar of premillennialism is the demand that the Kingdom of God must be an earthly, physical Kingdom, ruled over by an earthly, and physical Christ. Once again, we consider that Jesus Christ knows more about His own Kingdom, and can speak more authoritatively concerning it than Jerry Falwell or the Dallas Theological Seminary.

And once again, the words of Jesus are clear and succinct. Jesus indicated the location of His Kingdom in response to a questioner named Pontius Pilate some two thousand years ago when He said:

"My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my Kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36; NIV)

Premillennialist's insist the Kingdom of God and Christ MUST be a physical, earthly one. But how much clearer can Christ be in expressing they are wrong? Remember, it is HIS Kingdom! As to the nature of the Kingdom, scriptures abound which clearly teach that the Kingdom is, in essence, the indwelling presence of Jesus Christ in the heart and soul of every obedient follower of Him. It was never intended to be understood as an earthly or fleshly Kingdom. During His brief three year ministry, Jesus was constantly asked about the nature of the kingdom, and how and when it was to come, and how does a man or woman enter the Kingdom when it does arrive? A typical response to these questions is presented when asked these very questions by inquiring Pharisees. His reply:

"The Kingdom of God does not come visibly, nor will people say, "Here it is," or "There it is," because the Kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:20, 21 ; NIV).

The apostle Paul clearly understood the spiritual nature of the kingdom as taught by Jesus. He so stated that premise in the text recorded in Romans 14:17:

"For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men." (NIV).

As if any further scripture is required to prove, once and for all, that the only Kingdom considered and discussed in the New Testament scriptures is a spiritual one as opposed to the pre-millennial "temple" reign, consider I Corinthians 15:50:

"I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable." (NIV).

Is it not somewhat odd that Paul the Apostle, co-laborer with Peter and most of the remaining twelve Apostles, was apparently "misinformed" concerning the teachings of Christ and the nature of the Kingdom and Christ's second coming? How could Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, completely fail to even mention or suggest the premillennial perspective? Are we to assume that he, along with the other writers of the New Testament documents, were "passed over" by God by not revealing to them the eschatological meanderings of the Pat Robertsons, Billy Grahams, and Jerry Falwells? What of Peter, perhaps the most prominent disciple of the twelve, when he stated in 2 Peter 1:10, 11 :

"Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you," (NASV)

James also understood the spiritual nature of the Kingdom when he contrasts the rich and poor by indicating that God's Kingdom will be populated by those the world considers poor:

"Listen, my dear brothers; Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him?" (NIV).

Although premillennialism, dispensationalism, and the remainder of the "ism's" teach a host of other events and activities in their apocalypticism including a "secret" return of Jesus and the "rapture" of the "church", I believe it is not necessary to cite even more scriptural evidence that squarely contradicts and refutes such teachings. We have considered a few of the specific tenets of the premillennial advocates, but now let us take a broader view of the truly damaging effect upon the principle teachings of the New Testament wrought by the man-made teaching of premillennialism.

PREMILLENNIALISM IGNORES THE NEW AND BETTER COVENANT

Premillennialism directs attention to a preoccupation with the older covenant, the old dispensation governed by old law. The original covenant made between God and Abraham was never intended to be permanent, for it was imperfect and transitory by its very nature. The blood of animals could not totally cleanse from sin, and the old covenant was given only until a new and better covenant, with a better and lasting sacrifice could be instituted. All of the Old Testament Prophets looked forward to this new and better covenant, and directed their prophecies towards the coming of the one within whom all the promises and blessings of that new and better covenant would be found, namely Jesus Christ.

"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was cursed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." (Isaiah 53:5-7; NIV).

Compare this prophecy of Isaiah with the statement of John the Immerser in John 1:29:

"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'" (NIV)

Paul the Apostle understood that Christ was the new and better sacrificial lamb who once and for all became the perfect sacrifice for all men for all time.

"Get rid of the old yeast [law] that you may be a new batch without yeast ... as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed." (I Corinthians 5:7; NIV).

Paul understood what premillennialists do not: the old law and its institutions for sacrifice were temporary and could not complete the total cleansing of sin required by a just and living God. Listen to Paul in Hebrews 10:1-4:

"The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming ... not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they have not stopped being offered.? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE BLOOD OF BULLS AND GOATS TO TAKE AWAY SINS." (NIV).

I added the emphasis in the last line of this text to illustrate how foolish and seriously anti-scriptural the premillennial teaching of the re-building of the temple and the reinstitution of the Levitical Priesthood and the resumption of animal sacrifices truly is in the light of the New Testament. I fail to understand how any honest reader of the Bible can believe in pre-millennialism. I recommend to all who truly seek to know the truth concerning the Covenants and the Christ, and who seek to free themselves from the shackles of premillennialism, to study the book of Hebrews. It is Jesus who has superseded the old covenant to become our one and only great high priest in a spiritual temple not made by human hands. It is our Lord who became the one and perfect, sinless high priest who will forever make intercession for all who believe in Him and call Him Lord. Even if it WERE possible to resurrect or re-create the old tribe of Levites, they simply could not equal the absolute perfection of our Great High Priest Jesus Christ!

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are ... yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14, 15; NIV).

PREMILLENNIALISM MAKES BIBLICAL DISTINCTIONS WHERE NONE EXIST!

Premillennialism demands that God will save the so-called "returning Jews" to the new Jewish state apart from acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord! Even Peter, the zealous Jew who opposed the taking of the gospel to any of the Gentiles or those he considered "heathen", which meant all people who were not Jews, realized that God never intended to save any individual, much less an entire "nation", by one method and the rest of mankind by another. Consider Acts 10:34, 35:

"Then Peter began to speak: 'I know how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'" (NIV).

Such corrupt teaching not only distorts the entire plan of redemption for mankind found in both the Old and New Testaments, but it also portrays God as an unjust parent, preferring one child over another, allowing one child to do as he pleases while insisting the other adhere to every word and precise instruction. The Premillennialist has yet to understand, or perhaps it is more of a question of accepting the clear biblical teaching that Biblical Israel is long gone, and that God does not "prefer" those calling themselves Jews or living in a militarist state choosing to call it "Israel." It was this precise false teaching which prompted me to write "Theft of a Nation" which is available from THE EXAMINER. This false teaching, equating the current zionist state of Israel with the old Israel of the Older Testament, is perhaps the primary propaganda which serves to encourage American citizens to support a purely secular and racist state with billions of tax dollars each year. Premillennialism has also helped to alienate Christians from the Arabic and Islamic countries of the world. It has caused many Christians to incorrectly believe that the Great Commission of Christ found in Matthew 28:18-20 somehow excludes Arabs! Yet Christians must get busy building bridges of evangelism to the world of Islam, for it is the fastest growing religion in the entire world, already comprising one fifth of the world's population.

"It was not through law (flesh) that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." (Romans 4:13, NIV).

"Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all of Abraham's offspring ... not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all." (Romans 4:16; NIV).

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed your selves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal. 3:26-29).

CONCLUSION

Premillennialism and the numerous offshoots associated with it, remain foreign and contrary to the Word of God. The return of Christ cannot be discerned from current world events, nor can one "get a jump" on other Christians prior to Christ's coming by subscribing to some fanciful, far out eschatological gobble-de-gook. Only God, our heavenly Father, knows the hour He will send His Son from the realm of eternity to complete the final act of receiving those faithful and obedient to Him, and to render Judgment for all mankind.

The Kingdom of God has always been a spiritual Kingdom; a Kingdom unable to be entered by flesh and blood and mortal men. The Kingdom is not to be another "repeat" of failed humanity as was the age of Solomon and his great temple. The real Kingdom of God is not something we await to arrive, but every believer is even now, entering into it through continued spiritual growth and learned obedience to Christ and His Word.

"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Colossians I :13, 14; NIV).

God's Kingdom is an eternal one, and will not be affected by age, death, human will or ideologies. God along will rule and reign, with His dear Son enthroned at His right hand, once again assuming the position He held from before the beginning of time.

Jesus has no "unfinished business" to attend to on this earth. As he hung upon the cross and lifted His eyes towards heaven He was heard to declare: "IT IS FINISHED!" No ifs, ands, or buts! Even a convicted criminal executed with Him knew more than those who promote premillennialism, as he acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah and about to enter the Kingdom:

"Then he said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, 'I tell you the truth; today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:42, 43; NIV). "i have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." (John 17:4).

Perhaps the most serious and damaging effect of premillennialism upon its supporters is the emphasis placed upon the constant attention upon worldly events and happenings in the vain attempts to "decipher" their meaning relative to God's eternal plan for mankind and the establishment of His Kingdom. While millions spend billions for books, pamphlets and charts in order to be one of the "in" crowd concerning Christ's return, they are ignoring the more important commandment and commission to:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19,20; NIV).

For two thousand years, the Christian's sole responsibility was not to scan the heavens or Time magazine, or to grow fig trees in the back yard, all in the attempt to foretell the return of Christ to our planet.

Rather, the Christian was to serve as salt to an unsavory world of unbelief; to challenge the philosophical strongholds and ivory towers of the pseudo-intellectual pied pipers of humanism and existential self-salvation; to aggressively work to take the gospel message of salvation to the entire world. Never were Christians to take their eyes off the lost, the lonely, the unlovely, and the unsaved. ANYTHING which detracts a believer's attention away from this single mission of telling others about Jesus as Lord, is NOT OF THE LORD, BUT OF SATAN HIMSELF! May every sincere follower of Christ utilize his time and attention in the pursuit of witnessing and winning others to Jesus Christ before He returns! May every believer who has been sidetracked by premillennialism put aside those prophetic wall charts and books of mystical prognostication, and give heed to the words of Jesus Christ who admonished us all:

"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (Jn. 9:4; NIV).

"Do you not say, 'Four months more and then the harvest? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now, the reaper draws his wages, even now he harvests the crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together." (John 4:35, 36; NIV).