Millennial Series: Part 19: Premillennialism and the Church -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 110:440 (Oct 1953)
Article: Millennial Series: Part 19: Premillennialism and the Church
Author: John F. Walvoord

Millennial Series:
Part 19: Premillennialism and the Church

John F. Walvoord

The doctrine of the church has always rightly been considered an important part of theology. Embraced within its revelation are the principal items of the present divine program as well as the ultimate purpose of God. According to Lewis Sperry Chafer, the truth concerning the church is one of the two major Pauline revelations given in the New Testament, the other being the gospel of salvation by faith.1

It is strange that more attention has not been paid to the relation of ecclesiology to premillennialism. Various views on the millennium have their corresponding concepts of the church in the present age. Amillennialism identifies the present church age with the predicted millennial kingdom on earth. Premillennialism places the millennium after the second advent and therefore divorces it from the present church age. It is not too much to say that ecclesiology may be characterized as being either amillennial or premillennial.2 Premillennialism has, then, an important bearing on the doctrine of the church, and vice versa. Many of the important aspects of premillennialism are determined in ecclesiology rather than in eschatology. The doctrine of the church must, therefore, be carefully examined before eschatology can be understood.

Major Types of Ecclesiology

Various points of view of the doctrine of the church are afforded respectively in the Roman, Greek, and Protestant

churches. Again distinctions are raised in regard to the church as an institution and as an organism, and the church as visible and invisible.3 The church can also be considered in regard to its form of church government, officers, and sacraments. There are few doctrines which have as many facets as ecclesiology. As bearing on premillennialism, however, ecclesiology can be classified into three types: covenant theology, kingdom theology, and dispensational theology.

Covenant theology in relation to premillennialism. As indicated in earlier studies of the Biblical covenants, covenant theology characteristically belongs to amillennial and postmillennial theology, but there have always been adherents of covenant theology who could be classified as premillennial. Covenant theology, in a word, conceives the purpose of God as essentially soteriological, or concerned with the salvation of the elect. The unfolding of the successive ages of God’s dealings with men is, then, the fulfillment of the divine purpose supposedly embraced in an eternal covenant wi...

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