Part 2 Does the Church Fulfill Israel’s Program? -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 137:546 (Apr 1980)
Article: Part 2 Does the Church Fulfill Israel’s Program?
Author: John F. Walvoord

Part 2
Does the Church Fulfill Israel’s Program?

John F. Walvoord

[John F. Walvoord, President and Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

If the Old Testament is allowed to stand alone in its prophecies of a future for Israel, most scholars agree that it would be normal to expect precisely what the premillenarians anticipate, that is, that Israel would return to the land, possess it, and enjoy it while being ruled by their coming Messiah. Premillennialism is based on such a literal interpretation in contrast to amillennialism which interprets these prophecies in a nonliteral sense. Many amillenarians admit that the issue is literal interpretation.

Allis, for instance, states, “The Old Testament prophecies, if literally interpreted, cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or as being capable of fulfilment in this present age.”1 In a similar way, Hamilton states, “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the premillennialist pictures. That was the kind of a Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament.”2

Having admitted that the Old Testament, if interpreted literally, teaches just such a fulfillment of prophecy as premillenarians anticipate, amillenarians counter with two possible explanations. The most common, following Augustine, is that the prophecies are not to be interpreted literally. Hamilton, for instance, states, “Jesus Himself, in speaking of the whole idea said, ‘the kingdom of God is within (or, in the midst of) you’

(Luke 17:21), thus contradicting the idea that it was an earthly, literal Jewish kingdom.”3 Accordingly the majority of amillenarians believe that it is an error to interpret prophecy literally, especially as it relates to the future of Israel or a millennial kingdom on earth. They do not object necessarily to a literal second coming, a literal heaven, and a literal hell, but they object to a literal millennium and a literal fulfillment of Israel’s earthly promises.

Another route followed by amillenarians is to state that while the promises are to be interpreted literally, they are conditional promises based on obedience. Allis states,

It is true that, in the express terms of the covenant with Abraham, obedience is not stated as a condition. But that...

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