The Calling of the Church

                                                     and Historic Premillennialism


                                                               Robert C. Newman

                                                      Biblical Theological Seminary




            In one sense, our Millennial position doesn't matter:

            God initiates the Millennium (whenever it is) and doesn't need our advice on when or how to go about it!


            But there are some important aspects, one of which we have been asked to address tonight: what are we Christians individ­ually and collectively supposed to be doing right now?  i.e., what is the calling of the church?


            Two other items that are less important, but by no means trivial:

                        -- what is the status of Israel today?

                        -- how do we go about deciding on a hermeneutic for the interpretation of OT (and NT) prophecy?


Overview of Historic Premillennialism


Historic: shows up as early as Papias (dc 130-155; acc Eusebius, CH 3:39), Justin Martyr (dc 165; DT 80-81; ANF 1:236-40) and Irena­eus (dc 200; AH 5:33-36; ANF 1:563-65).


Premillennial: The Pre-Mill view sees the Millen­nium as a "silver age" to follow the return of Christ, distin­guished from "this pres­ent evil age" and also from the "golden age" (for believ­ers) of the eternal state.



Distinguished from A-Mill and Post-Mill positions:

            Unlike both, the Mill is viewed as following the 2nd coming of X rather than preceding it, and a long time-span is viewed as intervening between the 2nd coming and the last judgment. (OT passages on silver age; Rev 19-20)

            Like A-Mill but unlke Post-Mill, the 2nd coming could be very soon (no long period needs to intervene)

            Unlike the A-Mill but like the Post-Mill, the Mill will be an age of unprecedented peace, righteousness and prosperity (OT passages re/ such)

            Like both, Hist Pre-Mills see that the kingdom is al­ready present in some restricted sense, but not yet present in its fullest sense (sketch some of Ridderbos' points)


Distinguished from Dispensational Pre-Mill position:

            Apparently an older view than Disp PM, so "historic"

            The kingdom has already begun at Jesus' 1st com­ing, rather than being refused and postponed entirely as is common in DPM position ("already but not yet")

            Does not make such a hard distinction between Israel and the church as DPM  does:

                        Paul's olive tree (Rom 11)

                        The New Jerusalem (Rev 21:12-14) combines apos­tles and the tribes of Israel

            Sees more continuity between Israel and the church, between OT and NT than DPM does, though perhaps less than some AM and PostM do.


View of the Kingdom

            Biblical pictures of the relations between God and humans:

                        potter/clay; farmer/plant; shepherd/sheep; king/subject; master/slave; father/child; husband/wife

            Danger of overemphasis on one picture                     

            King/subject implies kingdom

            Some more collective aspects pictured:

                        kingdom: subjects, rebels, armies, conquest

                        body: head, parts

                        temple: chief corner stone, other stones


The Calling of the Church - the collective aspects of the pic­tures above suggest that the church has some purpose(s) as a whole; what might this/these be?


            Passages on our calling:

                        Matt 28:19-20 and other Gospel commissions

                                    Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing, teaching

                        Acts 1:6-8, not for you to know time, but you will be my witnesses


            Various characterizations of church

                        Jesus to Pilate (Jn 18) - if my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight

                        Paul (Eph 6) - wrestle not against flesh and blood

                        Parable of pounds (Lk 19) - servants given cities after master returns

                        Parables of kingdom (Mt 13) - structure of para­bles seems to indicate growth of mustard seed/leaven is good/bad rather than (AM & PostM) good/good or (DPM) bad/bad

                        Parable of sheep/goats (Mt 25) - what were people supposed to have been doing before Xs return?


Given at Wallace Presbyterian Church, Hyattsville, MD, 9 May 1997