Pre-Millennialism and America
Pre-millennialism is the idea that Messiah will return at the Second Coming, and then set up his visible kingdom on earth and rule all the nations from Jerusalem with the resurrected faithful. It is the logical result of a literal interpretation of God’s promises to Israel. During this kingdom the Tōrah will go forth from Zion, and the nations will come from new moon to new moon, and Sabbath to Sabbath to worship the King. The nations will also observe the feast of Tabernacles and will join themselves to Israel.
The first serious challenge to this idea came from the Gnostic Marcion. Marcion rejected the Law and the Prophets entirely. They were not in his canon of Scripture. He also accepted only the writings of Paul, which he edited, and an edited copy of the book of Luke. Marcion’s goal was to remove all Jewish connection from the good news of Messiah. He succeeded, but only by changing the good news into a false gospel that rejected the God of Israel. Along with his false gospel he introduced lawlessness into the Church.
The first of the church fathers, who had adopted the idea that water baptism saves a person from sin in place of the death of Messiah, a heresy equivalent to the belief that circumcision saves a person, still believed in the millennial teaching. These were Irenaeus and Justin Martyr. Later church fathers realized that belief in a literal restored kingdom of Israel, over which Messiah would rule, was inconsistent with their rejection of the Law and Prophets, namely the seventh day Sabbath, and feast days.
The later fathers rejected a literal kingdom and began to interpret the literal promises to Israel allegorically. This reached its pinnacle in Origin of Alexandria. Later this evolved into amillennial teaching due to the influence of Augustine. This is the idea that the millennium was purely symbolical of the Church’s influence on earth. This viewpoint led to the Inquisition.
At the time of the Reformation, Luther continued in the belief that baptism saves and in the real presence doctrine of the Eucharist, a minimal retreat from transubstantiation. This was the idea that the communion was the literal body and blood of Christ. Meanwhile, Lutheranism continued to deny any literal interpretation of the promises to Israel. They were joined in this amillennial viewpoint by John Calvin and his followers. Also at first the Church of England taught amillennialism, but later dropped the teaching. All of this was a result in continuing the amillennial teaching of the later church fathers.
But then something happened. Starting in 1880, and increasing rapidly from 1910 onward Jews began to return to the Holy Land. In 1917 the British granted the Jews the right of return and the right to re-establish their homeland. In 1947 the State of Israel was re-born. Really this is the state of Judah. These events got other Christians thinking. Firstly, the Church had been saying that there would never again be a future for the Jews. But history proved them wrong. Then other Christians started to pay attention to the literal promises to Israel, and began to think that allegorical interpretation and amillennialism was a mistake.
But there was a problem. Acknowledging the promises to Israel also meant taking a new position on the validity of the Torah. If they were not too careful, then Christians would end up observing the Sabbath and feast days, the very thing that John Chrysostom harangued “Judaizing” Christians over in eight sermons after Christianity took over the Roman Empire. The non-Jewish response to this was to unite their pre-millennial teaching with pre-tribulation rapturism and strict dispensationalism, and a strict separation between Jews and Gentiles in the kingdom of Messiah. This way they could say that the literal promises applied prophetically to Israel while the spiritual promises applied the the Christians, who then therefore, need not have anything to do with obeying the commandments of God.
Now, therefore the amillennial Christians accused the pre-millennial Christians of lawlessness, and of being no earthly good because they were expecting to be raptured away at any moment. And the dispensational rapturists indeed did much to foster a gospel of easy belief with no obligations (and therefore no transforming power in culture), and the expectation that they would be saved from any suffering for the sake of the kingdom by the rapture. Much of this is true. But before we blame it on the teaching of a visible Second Coming of Messiah followed by a 1000 year reign from Jerusalem, we must realize that the price paid by the Church for adopting a literal interpretation was also rejecting the implications of that interpretation for the application of the Torah and Prophets to their own lives. Dispensationalism was used to excuse themselves from observing the divine Law.
The result is exactly the same as the amillennial view. This view rejected a literal interpretation because it upheld the promises to Israel, and because the Church wanted no involvement in Israel’s covenant. Likewise, dispensationalism was added to pre-millennialism in order to excuse the Christian from inquiry into how more of the Torah should be observed that they were not observing.
England and America more so were the very places where Christians were allowed the freedom to interpret the Scripture more literally. And therefore England and America became great. But Christians have turned back or been turned back from returning to the faith once delivered to the Saints. The reformation was incomplete, and therefore lawlessness has taken over.
Soon again, the theology of the Church is going to be upset by developing historical events. As promised the Almighty will restore the kingdom to Israel, and this means Christians as well as Jews, and it means in Israel. And it will be before the Day of Yahweh, and before the Second Coming.
And by all means the true good news of Messiah must be taught, and will be widely taught, that anyone who affirms faithfulness to him will be saved on the basis of his death paying the penalty for our sins. For all the faithful will have their penalty paid by the faithfulness of Messiah. This is the true good news that neither Martin Luther nor John Calvin understood. And this is because they do not understand the Messiah came to renew the covenant with Israel, and not to do away with it.
And this salvation is not for anyone who truly will not repent and will not mean it because they are deceived thinking that only belief is necessary. Messiah requires a real live commitment from the heart to follow him. He requires us to affirm faithfulness to Him and to mean it. This is where the Church has fallen flat on their face, in the quest to justify a lawless grace, because they love Sin, or have not been delivered from it. They have given up the ability of the good news to transform people’s lives, and therefore the culture around them.
The true good news delivers people from Sin. I did not say it makes them sinless. There is a Sin that leads to death, and sin that does not. The Torah makes the difference plain, and provides the solution for those who fall into iniquity: repentance and turning to Messiah Yĕshūa̒.