THE KINGDOM (Concluded).
PRE-MILLENNIALISTS hold that the throne of David, spoken of in Old Testament prophecy, is distinctively our Lord’s throne. They claim that He is now sitting on His Father’s throne, at His right hand, and has not yet assumed rule in His own kingdom. It is only at His second coming that He steps down from this throne to take that of His earthly father David, and rule in His proper kingdom.
It is a reign of our Lord in person, from His throne in Jerusalem, over a subject world.
Bishop Nicholson, in the address from which I have already quoted, puts the view very eloquently: “In the Davidic sonship He takes the kingdom that has descended to Him, the earthly throne that He has inherited, reigning therefrom in all essential attributes of our manhood, yet robed in the majesty of His Godhood. Thus His Davidic heirship will have been made available by reason of His accomplished atonement, and as a priest as well as a king, He will sit on the throne of His glory. A theocracy, then, the kingdom of the Christ will be, a divine-human monarchy, wherein, as well as the Saviour and the supreme object of worship, the world’s supreme civil ruler He will be. Men shall see the king in His beauty, evangelist divine, society’s regenerator, creation’s master, glorious in holiness doing wonders.”
As we have already remarked, this interpretation of prophecies referring to the exaltation and reign of our Lord, as well as those describing the future exaltation of Israel, is identical with that of the Jews themselves. Let us see whether this interpretation can be adopted and not lead to impossible conclusions—conclusions which not only have no support in the New Testament, but which are in contradiction to its teaching.
In order to get a clear view of the question, we must go back to the covenant promises made to Abraham and David, and strive to learn whether their assurances, taken in a literal way all through, have been or can be fulfilled.
Let us turn first to Gen. 17:7, 8: “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee, and thy seed after thee throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee, the land of thy sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” In the renewal of the covenant (Gen. 22:18) there is added, “and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.”
This covenant was renewed to Isaac (Gen. 26:3-5), and to Jacob (Gen. 35:12). Do these promises that the descendants of Abraham shall possess the land of Canaan throughout their generation for an everlasting possession, assure that Israel shall again, as a nation, rule Palestine! If Dr. West’s statement, in “Prophetic Studies,” p. 126, is correct, and “God’s covenant with Abraham is all of grace, and therefore unconditional,” if it is taken literally, its promises have been broken. For nearly two thousand years the Israelites have not possessed the land of Canaan “in their generations.” They have not continued to hold it as an “everlasting” possession, even in any restricted sense in which this word may be used. These promises, therefore, which give no pledge of continued possession, in a literal way, can give no assurance of restored possession, when it is once lost. According to Leviticus, chap. 26, however, it appears that the covenant was conditioned upon obedience, and its blessings lost through disobedience. Repentance only could restore them when forfeited. How, and how far, the Israelites would repent and the blessings of the old covenants be theirs, is not declared. No safe argument for a restored kingdom of Israel in Canaan can possibly be urged from this covenant made with Abraham and renewed with Isaac and Jacob.
A flood of light, however, is thrown upon the whole question by New Testament teaching. So far as the “seed” of Abraham was to be the medium or channel of blessing to “all nations,” Paul declares Gen. 22:18, “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed,” to have received its fulfilment in Christ (Gal. 3:16): “Now to Abraham were the promises spoken. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many: but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” So far as the seed of Abraham are the objects of blessing, it is of blessing which must come through Christ, and as to these blessings, “There can be neither Jew nor Greek” (Gal. 3:28), “circumcision and uncircumcision” (Col. 3:11), but all are one in Christ; so that, “If ye be Christ’s then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29), because in the gospel dispensation, “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew which is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter” (Rom. 2:28, 29). They “are the circumcision”—the Jews in the gospel sense—“who worship God in the spirit,” etc. (Phil. 3:3). Therefore it is that the “middle wall of partition” is. broken down so that the Ephesian Gentiles who had been “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of the promise” might have the fullest participation in all their blessings through the common condition of accepting the Gospel (Eph. 2:11-19), and thus become “fellowheirs and fellow-members of the body and fellowpartakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). All the blessings of the covenants made to Abraham, therefore, instead of descending to his literal seed, are inherited by believers, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. On the other hand, none of these blessings shall descend to any because of mere fleshly descent, be they Jews or Gentiles. The fleshly line of natural descent issues in the spiritual line of those who are children of Abraham through having like faith (Rom. 4:16). If, therefore, these promises of the covenant made to Abraham assure to any the possession of the land of Canaan and a national rule, it will be to all believers and not to the Jews as a people. But if the New Testament interpretation of the promises of this covenant forbid that they be taken literally for the natural seed of Abraham, why are we required to hold that the inheritance is the literal and physical Canaan? The truth is, if the Jews are to be restored to their old land as a people, we must depend upon other Scriptures than the covenant promise to Abraham to assure us of it.
Pre-millennialists, however, believe that the covenant made with David not only confirms their interpretation that the one to Abraham assures the restoration of Canaan to Israel, but also makes it plain that our Lord shall reign over restored Israel in person, and involves their whole doctrine of His glorious and visible rule over all the earth. Let us examine the terms of this Davidic covenant, to see whether this conclusion is justified.
This covenant is first given in 2 Sam. 7:12-18, especially v. 16: “And thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure forever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.” It is referred to in Ps. 89:4: “Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations,” and repeated in vs. 29, 35, 36 in substantially the same terms. It is also of this covenant that Jeremiah speaks (Jer. 33:21): “Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne” (as specified in v. 17): “David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.” Similarly he declares of the Jewish worship, “Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to burn oblations, and to do sacrifice continually” (v. 18).
Now, no literal interpretation of these covenant promises which makes them refer to a rule over Israel as a people, or to the ancient priestly and Levitical offerings and sacrifices, can be carried through. They assure an unbroken rule of David’s seed, and an unbroken succession of priests and Levites offering gifts and sacrifices before the Lord. The rule is over Israel, and the priests and Levites performing their functions are in Israel. Any interpretation to serve the literalists in their claim that these passages assure the restoration of the Jews to their old land, to enjoy rule and glory under David’s greater Son, is an interpretation which proves these prophecies false. The unbroken rule of David’s line, and the unbroken succession of priests, Levites and sacrifices, are as clearly declared as the fact of the rule and priesthood, and sacrifices. But there has been neither king on the throne of Israel, nor sacrifices, for nearly two thousand years. Neither the one nor the other has been unbroken, if they must be taken literally. Unless these are to be held as false prophecies, they must be interpreted in some other way.
Not less do the terms of these prophecies, in other respects, as we have seen is true of other prophecies, render this interpretation impossible. The priests, Levites and sacrifices are declared to be perpetual in the same terms as is the rule. So long, therefore, as Christ shall sit on His throne, in the sense Pre-millennialists hold that He will, so long must priests, Levites and sacrifices continue, in the same sense. The priests and sacrifices must be as literal as the reign, and continue as long. How many of the Pre-millennialists of to-day are willing to accept this necessary outcome of their interpretation, and believe a restored Judaism to be the final issue of Christianity? But, if they say that we are not required to believe that priests, etc., are ever to continue the same literal priests and sacrifices as at the beginning, why then must the rule necessarily continue to be of the same visible and personal kind as was David’s?
So also the reign of David’s line was to be over Israel. Not only is there no mention made of any other than Israelites as under this rule, but all others than Israelites and their proselytes are expressly ruled out in other passages. Not only the uncircumcised in heart, but the uncircumcised in flesh, are excluded from the sanctuary (Ezek. 44:9, which is held to be a description of the millennial kingdom). The Davidic line is as plainly declared to rule over Israel exclusively, meaning by Israel the Jews, their proselytes and subjects, as it is promised rule at all. If the rule, therefore, must continue to be of the same personal and visible kind as was David’s at the beginning, so must it be over the same Israel exclusively as that which David ruled. This, then, is one aspect of the state of things to which the pre-millennial interpretation commits us as the final outcome of the religious growth of the ages. A triumphant Jewish nation, and an everlasting Judaism. In Christ there is to be Jew and Gentile. The middle wall of partition is to be restored. The Jews, notwithstanding their long rejection of Christ, are not only to be saved, but are to be exalted to supreme dignity over those who have accepted Him centuries before. The descendants of the Jews who have been accepting Him from the first age, and, from intermarriage with Gentiles, have lost their connection with their own ancient people, will have to take lower rank than those who have persistently opposed Him until His second coming. All Christians, Gentiles as well as Jews, as a reward for their earlier submission to Christ, will be required to accept the Jewish ritual, and take inferior rank under those who have resisted Him till the end.
No, our pre-millennial brethren cannot accept this outcome of their literal interpretation. But if they admit these prophecies do not shut us in to Christ’s personal and visible reign over Israel exclusively, why should they shut us in to a personal reign at all, seeing that both the reign itself and the fact that it is over Israel, are declared with equal explicitness to be literal forever, if literal at all or for either?
But is there an interpretation which is less open to objection? We believe there is, and that it is given by the New Testament writers, especially the apostle Paul.
Our Lord was the antitype of David. Peter declares this at Pentecost. It was not of himself that David said, “My flesh shall rest in hope because thou wilt not leave my soul in Hades, neither wilt thou give thy Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:26-28; comp. Ps. 16:10), but of “the resurrection of the Christ” (v. 31). Peter also declares David “being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him,” in that very covenant promise of 2 Sam. 7:16, from which Pre-millennialists derive their chief argument for a reign of Christ on earth, “that of the fruit of his loins he would set one upon his throne; he foreseeing this spake of the resurrection of the Christ” (vs. 30, 31). “Being therefore,” Peter further explains, “by the right hand of God exalted,” through the resurrection, and, most certainly, to this promised throne of David, “and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath poured forth,” in the exercise of His kingly function on this throne, “this which ye see and hear.” Peter further declares that Ps. 110: 1 is an express prediction of Christ’s exaltation to the throne promised to David’s seed in 2 Sam. 7: 16, and from which he has poured out the Holy Ghost (vs. 34, 35). “Let all the house of Israel, therefore,” in view of the argument he has just concluded—this house of Israel that has crucified Christ and is expecting Messiah to come as a national ruler, as do Pre-millennialists—let Israel know assuredly the truth which runs counter to their bitterest prejudices “that God hath made him both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). He is now, as Messiah, seated on the throne of the Messiah promised to David and to his seed. Can this language and this argument be forced to mean that our Lord was not to ascend this promised throne, and to exercise His authority as the antitype of David, until thousands of years should pass 2 Peter virtually says, Israel is looking for a Messiah who is to reign from an earthly throne. He is to reign, but from the throne in heaven, whither He went when He was raised from the dead and ascended on high. Do not reject Him as though He were not a king. He is a king, and is now ruling from the throne promised to His father David.
In Acts 5:29-31, Peter, in a similar way, associates our Lord’s resurrection with His exaltation to regal authority: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom ye slew, hanging him on a tree, him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.” This rule, as a prince, is doubtless that which he had already spoken of at Pentecost, which fulfilled the covenant promised to David, that he should not want a man to sit on his throne, and the only rule of Christ of which Peter gives any hint anywhere.
Similarly James (in Acts 15:15 sq.) interprets the prophecy of Amos (9:11 sq.), “And I will build again the tabernacle of David which is fallen, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up, that the residue of men may seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles,” as affording proof that the Gentiles are to share in the promises to Israel, and as already in process of fulfilment in the conversion of the Gentiles as represented by the case of Cornelius.
Heb. 10:12, 13 seems absolutely conclusive that Christ’s present rule is the rule He will exercise till the end. “But he, when he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God: from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made the footstool of his feet.” If this does not declare that He is to sit on the seat at the right hand of God to which He was exalted from the cross and grave, until all His enemies are vanquished, what does it mean? His present rule will, then, continue to the end. How any can, in view of this passage, hold that our Lord must leave this very seat at God’s right hand, from which “he expects till his enemies shall be made the footstool of his feet” and assume another throne, which they assume to be His own (or David’s), in distinction to this, which they say is His Father’s, before His enemies can be subdued, is passing strange. Nay, more; how they can believe that the world is to grow worse and worse, and men become more and more rebellious and hardened against His rule so long as He sits on His throne at the Father’s right hand, is stranger still, when it is declared that His enemies are to be made the footstool of His feet before He leaves it. Similarly conclusive is that much-abused passage (1 Cor. 15:23-26): “But each in his own order, Christ the firstfruits: then they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father: when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.” When it is said here “he must reign till,” etc., does this mean He shall continue to reign as now, or He shall only begin to reign in the reign which shall “put all his enemies under his feet,” at some distant future time? The latter meaning is impossible. When, also, is the time of the end, “when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to the Father”? It is not to be “until he has put all his enemies under his feet.” The last of these is death, and death is put beneath His feet in the resurrection. Now, what was the resurrection that Paul could have supposed vanquished death and gave the limit to our Lord’s mediatorial rule, at which He surrendered it into the hands of the Father, but the resurrection about which he was treating at length?
Now, this, as our pre-millennial friends generally hold, was the resurrection of the righteous. It is then that all enemies, even to the last of them, have been put beneath His feet. It is then that He completes His work on earth.
Instead of beginning to reign in His kingdom, when He comes and raises the righteous dead, it is then He surrenders His rule. Instead of coming to lift a sinking cause up into triumph, His enemies are all subdued when He comes to destroy the last enemy, death, in the resurrection of the righteous he is describing.
Is it too much to affirm that the pre-millennial interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies of the throne of David and the perpetual reign of his seed is dashed to pieces by the teaching of the New Testament? Christ as the Son of David has already taken up into himself all the kingly authority promised to his seed, and is already ruling on the prophetic throne of David. The rule He is now exercising from heaven is the only kind of rule He shall ever wield over the earth. Old Testament prophecy interpreted in the light of New Testament teaching gives no support to the idea of a visible reign of Christ on earth. Thus interpreted, the promises that David should never want a man to sit on his throne is fulfilled. Up to the time of our Lord’s first coming, the descendants of David continued to have a kind of rule over the Jews. Since He came and ascended on high, He has been exercising a higher form of kingly authority, adapted to the advance in spirituality of the new dispensation as compared with the old, over the antitype of Israel, and this is never to end.
Now, this being established, all things else must adjust themselves around this more spiritual conception of Christ’s rule. There is no need of a national Israel for Him to govern. Nay, a rule, including all the functions of civil government, as Dr. Nicholson holds, would be inconsistent altogether with a spiritual rule over the hearts of men, such as our Lord now wields, and is to wield perpetually. So we find that the true Israelites, in the New Testament sense—those who are the children of the promise made to Abraham and his seed—are those who receive life from Christ, the seed in whom all nations should be blessed, and who have the same faith that made Abraham the object of blessing. The Jews, through their unbelief, were broken off from this believing stock (Rom. 11:17 sq.), and the believing Gentiles are grafted in and partake of all the root and fatness of the olive tree. Just as David and his natural descendants ruled over natural Israel, so there is a spiritual Israel in which “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creature,” and over which our Lord sways His spiritual sceptre, and both sway and people are the only sway and people, until the end.
All this is further confirmed by the fact that there is no hint in the New Testament of a restored Jewish nation, much less of a restored Jewish nation with priests and sacrifices and supremacy. The heart of Paul was consumed with longing for the welfare of his people, especially as he was penning the outline of their future in Romans, chaps 9-11. Surely if the glory of a national restoration under Christ as visible king was to be theirs, mention would be made of it here. But the great hope which comforted Paul and was to comfort his fellow-countrymen who had believed, and which also exhausted the fulness of the promises and vindicated the divine faithfulness, was the preservation of a faithful remnant before Christ came, who were the real “children of the promise” which are “reckoned for a seed” (9: 6-10, 27), the preservation of a believing remnant after He had appeared (11:1-8), and the salvation of “all Israel,” after “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” through the taking away of their sins (11:25-27). It is the reception of the Jews to the blessings of the Gospel, which are common to Jews and Gentiles alike, on the common condition of faith. They are to be grafted in as a shoot among the Gentile branches which have long been growing on the old root of promised spiritual blessings. They are to be saved in the same sense as, and in no other sense than, the fulness of the Gentiles. All Israel is to be saved because all Israel, one by one, is to believe. Both Alford and Meyer, though favoring the pre-millennial view in some things, declare that the prophetic expression, “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer” (v. 26), means merely that the Redeemer should spring from Israel, and gives no hint of His coming to reign over the Jews on earth.
Neither is it so difficult to conceive why the language of Old Testament prophecy of spiritual blessing in the new dispensation should be in terms of national blessing to national Israel. Is it strange, for instance, that the rule of David’s greater Son should be spoken of as still located in Jerusalem, the seat of David’s line, and that its power and blessing should be represented as continuing to go forth from this place, which had for long ages been the centre of God’s manifestations to Israel? Is it strange that the highest religious service and worship in the glorious and spiritual gospel era, should be in terms of the priesthood, sacrifices and feasts, which represented the highest conception that prophet or people had of them? The descriptions of the triumphs of the gospel dispensation of peace and grace, as couched in the language of victories on fields of blood, may be understood, when we remember that this is the only kind of victory for God which the Israelites knew. These prophecies were all addressed to Israelites. In any other language than that which to them most nearly represented the truth to be communicated, the prophecies would have been unintelligible.
They were yet unprepared for the conception of a spiritual rule of Christ from heaven. His reign must be represented in terms of the rule which to them was most glorious, and most like His rule which was to be. Equally unable were they to conceive of religion without priests and sacrifices. The religion of the gospel age was, therefore, represented in the terms of their own, lifted up and purified to the utmost. And so of all the rest. Even in the New Testament—in the book of Revelation—we have the peaceful conquests of the Gospel, and the struggles of the Church, represented in some passages in the language of battle and of blood.
In confirmation of all this, as we have seen, so much of Old Testament prophecy respecting Israel, the kingdom and reign of Messiah, etc., as is explained by New Testament writers, is referred by them to the spiritual Israel of which the nation was the type, and to the present kingdom and reign of Christ on earth. Not one of these prophecies is referred by them to a natural and national Israel. Must we not, therefore, interpret the prophecies to which New Testament writers make no reference, in the one and only way they explain those they do explain? To do otherwise would be the height of presumption.
We also call special attention to another point. Many pre-millennial writers admit that, literally interpreted, Old Testament prophecy is almost, if not altogether, silent about the Church and the history of God’s people in the whole gospel age, from Pentecost until the second advent. The exigencies of their theory seem to demand this position. For instance, Blackstone says, “The church came in mystery and was but rarely, if at all, spoken of in Old Testament prophecies.
McIntosh declares: “There is not so much as a single syllable about the church of God, the body of Christ, from cover to cover of the Old Testament.”
Dr. Brookes: “The church as now existing, forming the mystical body and bride of Christ, was not known to the Old Testament prophets.”
For statements so positive and involving so much that is well-nigh incredible, they depend for proof chiefly upon Eph. 3:5-9, which merely declares that the mystery spoken of had not been so clearly made known, in the other generations, as it was now revealed to the apostles and prophets of the new dispensation.
The literal and pre-millennial interpretation, then, requires us to believe that the prophets whose visions were clear and explicit regarding our Lord’s first coming, His life, death, resurrection, ascension and the pouring out of the Spirit, see nothing of the long ages which were to follow, as the Church arose and His disciples, in the power of the Spirit, sought to fulfil the parting instructions of their Lord, by preaching the Gospel to the whole creation. After this centuries long blank in prophetic vision, when only obscure hints rise up out of the dense darkness of the unrevealed; then, away beyond the second coming of the Lord, the far horizon is all aglow with light, as seer after seer gives enraptured descriptions of a kingdom, a rule and a restored Israel, in a glory which is to be perpetual. There lies against the forcing of the literal interpretation through Old Testament prophecy, with all that it involves, the tremendous presumption against the belief that there should be this great hiatus in prophecy covering all the dispensation of the Spirit—the very time, we might well suppose, that would fill to the full the prophetic vision of the future—that the second coming, in prophecy, succeeds the first with next to nothing between.
If our argument has force, and the collective body of believers is the antitype of prophetic Israel, then this extravagant assumption is without foundation. Perhaps it may be well to refer to a few more passages which support our position, and some also which are in direct conflict with this idea that prophecy did not have the present dispensation in its visions of the future. Peter writing to the elect of the dispensation, “in sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ,” declares (1 Pet. 2:5): “Ye also as living stones are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” He continues in v. 9: “But ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” Whether Peter is writing to Jewish Christians alone, or to mixed churches of Jewish and Gentile converts, the teaching is the same. Gathering up all that the Israelites had been, and still claimed to be, to God, Peter turns away from natural Israel to these scattered believers, and declares them to be the antitype of God’s ancient people: “Ye are an elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” Ye do not possess a material temple, as did Israel, but ye constitute a temple, as ye “as living stones are built up a spiritual house.” Ye, as “a holy priesthood,” “offer up spiritual sacrifices,” of which the old offerings will be but the material type. For Peter, the Jewish “race,” “nation,” “priesthood,” “people,” “sacrifices,” “temple” had their higher and antitypical realization in believers. The natural and material had issued in the spiritual. So far as we can judge from his writings, all the promises to prophetic Israel had their fulfilment in believers. Of a retrogression from the spiritual antitype to the fleshly and material type Peter seems to have known nothing.
Paul in Rom. 9:24-27 quotes Hos. 2:23 and 1:10, which was spoken by the prophet concerning a restoration of Israel to favor, as covering the reception of Gentiles as well as Jews under the Gospel, to be the Lord’s people. This prophecy, which referred primarily to the restoration from the captivity, Paul declares to have its antitypical fulfilment in the gospel day.
In Gal. 4:21-31 Paul declares that two sons of Abraham, Ishmael by a handmaid, and Isaac by a freewoman, furnish an allegory. The former was born after the flesh, the latter by promise. Ishmael born of Hagar, corresponded to the old covenant from Sinai, and was represented by Jerusalem as it then was in bondage with her children; Isaac corresponded to the Jerusalem that is above and free, of whom all believers are children. In the reception of believers into the church was fulfilled, in its grandest and final sense, Isa. 54:1, which referred directly to Israel. Hence, Paul concludes, “We brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.” We believers are the real Israelites, the real children of promise with Isaac.
In Heb. 8: 6 sq., the two covenants are compared. The first was that made with the Israelites, when God delivered them from Egypt. The second, or new covenant, is that of the new dispensation of the Gospel, as is seen in the succeeding elaboration of the author’s thought. Yet this new covenant—of the gospel dispensation as explained in Hebrews—is said, in the prophecy in Jer. 31:31-34, as quoted, to be made “with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Heb. 8:8). The promise of a new covenant to Israel and Judah is fulfilled, under the Gospel, to all who accept Christ by faith and are regenerated. If promises made explicitly to Israel are interpreted by New Testament writers as fulfilled in the new dispensation in believers, whether of Jew or Gentile, they must have identified the Israel of these prophecies with believers.
Almost all of Hebrews is to explain how the nation and religion of Israel have their highest realization in Christ and Christianity. The author gives us not the remotest hint that there was any promise or covenant to Israel which was to be fulfilled in any other way than in their partaking of the common salvation, and sharing in its blessings, which are for all alike. His whole argument goes to show that all the prophetic promises to Israel, so far as he knew them, were to be fulfilled in this way, and in this way only.
Again in Rom. 10:18-21 Paul quotes prophecies which he interprets as fulfilled in the conversion of the Gentiles which was then in progress, and in Rom. 15:9-13 he refers the reader to several others which he interprets as being fulfilled in the same way. It is especially noticeable that he quotes the theocratic passage, “There shall be the root of Jesse, and he that ariseth to rule over the Gentiles, on him shall the Gentiles hope” (v. 12), where the Messiah is referred to in His kingly dignity, and in the exercise of His royal rule as a prophetic description of the spiritual subjection of the Gentiles to Christ through their conversion, and having no reference to a future personal rule of our Lord on earth.
In this connection we refer again to Rom. 11:25-32, but especially to vs. 25-29: “For I would not have you ignorant of this mystery, lest ye be wise in your own conceits, that a hardening in part hath befallen Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in: and so, all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer: he shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob; and this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sin.”
Just as certainly as Paul in the passages before referred to interprets the prophets as foretelling the conversion of the Gentiles, and their reception into the Church, so in this passage just as surely does he interpret another prophecy as declaring the conversion of the Jews, and their gathering into the Church. Sanday, the last and one of the best commentators on Romans, explains v. 26: “So the words of Paul mean simply that the people of Israel as a nation, and no longer in part, shall be united with the Christian Church.” Alford: “I have not mixed with the consideration of this prophecy the question of the restoration of the Jews to Palestine, as being clearly irrelevant to it: the matter here treated being their reception into the Church of God.” So, substantially, Godet, Meyer, Moule, Philippi, “Biblical Commentary,” etc.
We cannot do better than quote from Meyer’s note on this passage, concurred in by Philippi. As these both sympathize with some phases of the pre-millennial view, the testimony has all the more force.
He says: “Observe further how the present passage is in diametrical opposition to the opinion now received in many quarters of an actual restoration of Israel to its theocratic royalty in Canaan, Israel does not take in the church, but the church takes in Israel, and whenever this takes place, Israel has its royalty and its Canaan in the true sense.”
Paul gives us in this eleventh chapter of Romans his furthest and final word as to Israel’s earthly destiny. It is its salvation from sin, and its reception, as a whole, among the Lord’s people, which have been gathered into the Church from Gentiles and from Jews “in part.” All this is to be completed before our Lord’s second coming. “There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer” refers to his first coming, as Alford suggests. “‘Out of Zion’ summed up the prophecies which declare that the Redeemer should spring out of Israel.” As Meyer well says, at His second coming Christ comes as judge, not as deliverer. All Paul seems to see, as the fulfilment of prophecy in case of Israel, was, therefore, Israel’s conversion before the second coming of Christ. Can we think him less fully acquainted with the prophecies which Pre-millennialists believe assure a national life in Canaan to Israel, then are they ; or was he less fitted to interpret them correctly Can we believe that here, if he gave the pre-millennial interpretation to any of them, and he really saw that as a nation they were to be raised to supreme glory, he would have been silent, where he seems to give his last word as to their earthly history? Nay, it is much more rational to believe that he interpreted the glowing prophecies as to Israel’s future, as Meyer says he did, according to analogy with his identification of believers with the true sons of Abraham, and that “where the church takes in Israel, Israel has its royalty and its Canaan in its true sense.”
Other passages might be adduced to prove that Old Testament prophecies respecting Israel, as interpreted by New Testament writers, are fulfilled in the gospel day in believers whether Jewish or Gentile, and, also, that in some of them, as thus interpreted, direct reference is made to the gospel age, its progress, and its final triumphant consummation. The following will repay study: 1 Pet 1:10-12; 2 Cor. 6:14-18; Col. 2:16 sq., etc. We shall not pursue the subject further. We call the reader’s attention again to a very significant fact. The New Testament writers interpret no Old Testament prophecy to which they allude as remaining to be fulfilled after our Lord is to come again, or under any other than the present gospel conditions. Had they regarded the great mass of Old Testament prophecy respecting the future glories of the Messiah’s kingdom as to be fulfilled only after His second advent, and under conditions vastly different, would they have abstained so absolutely from all reference to them and interpretation of them? Those who hold they did both so believe and so abstain, ought, at least, to favor us with some rational explanation of so strange a silence.
A final point needs to be noticed in this discussion of the nature of the kingdom. Our Lord speaks of the Church but twice: Matt, 16:18: “Upon this rock will I build my church,” and Matt 18:17: “Tell it unto the church,” etc. In Matthew alone He speaks of the kingdom nearly fifty times, and upon that His thoughts seem fixed. This was not only the subject of the preaching of John the Baptist (Matt. 3:1), but also of our Lord from the beginning to the end of His public ministry (Matt. 4:17; 9:35, etc.). It was the kingdom. He commissioned the twelve to preach (Matt. 10:7), and also the seventy (Luke 10:11). It was the Gospel of the kingdom. He foresaw was to be preached among all the nations (Matt. 24:14). It was about the kingdom that His chief teachings were gathered.
Thus it was with the Sermon on the Mount, as generally interpreted, the prayer He taught His disciples, the most of His parables (see Matt. 13), and a large part of the balance of His instructions.
Now, if the kingdom is not to be established until after the second coming, as our pre-millennial friends declare, we are compelled to believe that all the preaching of John, of our Lord, of the twelve, of the seventy, the principles laid down in the Sermon on the Mount, all the teaching of the most of the parables—the great body of the teaching and preaching of our Lord and His disciples—had little direct and prominent reference to all the ages which were to crowd each other between His ascension and His second coming. They all had direct and chief reference to a period in the dim distance, beyond centuries on centuries of permeating principles and deepening conflicts. Does it seem probable that our Lord, speaking to His disciples whom He was about to send forth to disciple all the nations, gave almost exclusive attention, in His own preaching and teaching, to a kingdom which was not to exist until all the work He was thus to commission them to do had been done? Why should He take such pains to speak to the men of His own generation of a kingdom which was not to appear until ages on ages after they were to be in their graves? In speaking to those who were living with Him He would surely refer chiefly to what was immediately impending or already present, so far as the earthly life of His people was concerned. Our pre-millennial friends may well be asked to explain how our Lord could have such scant thought for the period just at hand, and which was to impose such tremendous burdens and responsibilities upon those to whom He spoke?
We have thus endeavored to consider, with care and candor, the evidence from the New Testament, and from the Old Testament in the light of the New, as to the kingdom and reign of Christ. It has been profitable to ourselves; we hope the result may be of some service to the reader.
 In discussion, prominent Pre-millennialists sometimes deny that their view of the millennial kingdom involves the personal and continued presence of Christ on earth, or the presence here of saints in resurrection bodies. But how can Christ reign personally, and how can saints share in the blessings of this earthly kingdom, unless they are present in person on the earth? The anomalies involved in the pre-millennial conception of the millennial kingdom cannot be avoided by any denials of this sort.
 “Prophetic Studies,” p. 143.
 Dr. Gordon regards Acts 15: 14-18 as the “programme of Redemption.” He makes v. 14 refer to the gathering out of the Gentiles—the first act; v. 16, the conversion and restoration of Israel at Christ’s personal coming—the second act; v. 17, the conversion of the world in the millennium—the third act. This is eisegesis surely.
 “Jesus is Coming.” p. 59.
 “Papers on the Lord’s Coming,” p. 22.
 “Maranatha,” p. 438.