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A Return to Types and Shadows in the Millennial Age? -- A Problem for Dispensationalists

Third%20Temple.jpgIs the Millennium Characterized by a Return to Old Testament Types and Shadows?  The Problem with the Dispensational Interpretation of the Millennium

Dispensationists must not only face the problem of evil and apostasy during the millennial age associated with all forms of premillennialism, but as a distinct theological system in its own right with a distinct hermeneutic, dispensationalists also face a number of additional problems created by dispensational modifications of traditional premillennialism (
Click here: Riddleblog - The Latest Post - A Huge Problem for Premillennarians -- The Presence of Evil in the Millennial Age).

The problem with the dispensational interpretation of the millennium has to do with how we are to understand the general flow of redemptive history.  Throughout the Old Testament, Israel’s prophets foretell of the coming messianic age in terms of that prophet’s own particular time and place in the unfolding drama of redemptive history.  What is especially germane to our present question is the fact that Israel’s prophets speak of the glorious messianic age yet to come in terms of the types and shadows associated with Old Testament messianic anticipation.  

But Old Testament types and shadows are subsequently reinterpreted in the New Testament in the greater light of the dawn of the messianic age associated with Christ’s coming.  This is why one of the major aspects of the eschatology of the New Testament era is that what was promised in the Old Testament has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  The redemptive-historical pattern clearly moves from type and shadow to fulfillment and reality.  Because this is the case, the New Testament writers anticipate the final consummation at our Lord’s return and not a return to an earthly rule of Jesus Christ understood in terms of Old Testament types and shadows which were destined to pass away.

For example, when Israel’s prophets speak of the restoration of Israel, the New Testament contends that this promise of restoration is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the true Israel (
Click here: Riddleblog - The Latest Post - Amillennialism 101 -- Jesus Christ: The True Israel).  When Israel’s prophets speak of the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem and the mountain of the Lord, the authors of the New Testament, in turn, point out that these themes are fulfilled in Christ and his church.  In many instances, they do so as a polemic against Jews who did not accept Jesus as Israel’s Messiah, sent by God to redeem his people from their sins.  The literal interpretation of these Old Testament messianic passages is supplied by the New Testament.  Therefore, Old Testament prophetic expectation must not be the basis for understanding the eschatology of the New.  

In order to understand the biblical teaching about the millennium, we must determine how the various authors of the New Testament apply messianic typology to Jesus Christ, and how, in turn, Jesus Christ fulfills the Old Testament messianic expectation, thereby guaranteeing his Second Advent and the final consummation.

What is especially problematic about the dispensational understanding of the millennial age is that the millennium as conceived by dispensationalists amounts to a return to the types and shadows associated with the Old Testament prophets and the typological understanding of the messianic age which has now been realized in Jesus Christ.  Once Christ has come and fulfilled these particular prophetic expectations, how can the dispensationalist justify his belief that the future millennial age is characterized by a redemptive economy of type and shadow, when the reality to which these things pointed, has already come?  This pre-messianic Old Testament millennial expectation, complete with restored temple worship and the reinstitution of animal sacrifices, can only be justified by a redemptive historical U-turn (
Click here: Riddleblog - The Latest Post - Jesus, the True Temple).  

According to dispensationalists, type and shadow are fulfilled in Jesus Christ who, in the millennial age, supposedly re-institutes these same types and shadows which are inferior and have passed away.  This is highly problematic and does great violence to the overall thrust of biblical history.  This peculiar feature of dispensationalism explains the rise of progressive dispensationalism, which seeks to avoid this highly-problematic aspect of traditional dispensationalism.

This supposed return to type and shadow during the millennial age is seen in the dispensational interpretation of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.  When dispensationalists contend that the land promise of the Abrahamic covenant is not fulfilled until Israel is reborn as a nation and returned to her ancient homeland in Palestine in 1948, they run head-long into Paul’s assertion that the Abrahamic covenant has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, since even Gentiles who embrace the messianic promise through faith are Abraham’s children and members of this covenant (Galatians 3:15-29; Romans 4:1-25).  It is Paul who “spiritualizes” the promise of a land in Palestine which originally extended from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, (Genesis 15:18) to now include the whole world (Romans 4:13).

This same tendency to ignore the way in which the New Testament writers apply Old Testament messianic expectations to Christ can be seen in the dispensational insistence that Christ has not yet fulfilled the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 since, supposedly, this will not occur until the millennial age, when Jesus rules the earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem.  But the writers of the New Testament could not be any clearer when they teach that this prophecy was fulfilled at the time of our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him on high by seating him at his right hand in heaven.  This event, Peter says, fulfills God’s messianic promise to David that one of his own descendants would sit on his throne (Acts 2: 30-35).  In fact, it is because Jesus fulfilled this promise that Peter urges his fellow Jews in the temple that first Pentecost Sunday to “repent and be baptized.”

Finally, the dispensationalist interpretation of redemptive history hinges upon a distinctive reading of the great messianic prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27, which supposedly places the seventieth week of Daniel in the future.  As I have argued elsewhere, Daniel’s prophecy is gloriously fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who in his active and passive obedience has finished transgression, put an end to sin, atoned for wickedness, brought in everlasting righteousness, sealed up vision and prophecy and anointed the most Holy place (v. 24).  Since Messiah was cut-off in the middle of the seventieth week and has made a covenant with his people (vv. 26-27), the seventy weeks prophecy has been fulfilled by Jesus Christ at the time of his first advent.  Therefore, there is no future seven-year tribulation period as taught by dispensationalists, nor does the Bible anticipate a peace treaty to be made between the Antichrist and the nation of Israel.  These are both essential features of the dispensationalist’s expectation for the future (
Click here: Riddleblog - The Latest Post - Eschatology Q & A -- What About the Remaining 3 1/2 Years in Daniel's Prophecy of t).

Because of these factors, amillennarians believe that the dispensational understanding of  redemptive history in general and of the millennial age in particular is seriously flawed.  The millennial age is not depicted in the Bible as a return to the types and shadows of the Old Testament, complete with temple worship and animal sacrifice, while Jesus rules the earth from David’s throne in Jerusalem.  Instead, the biblical data demonstrates that the millennium is this present age, where Jesus Christ rules the earth from heaven, and where his saints who do not worship the beast or his image, triumph in death, when they come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years.  The millennial reign of Christ is a present reality.

This is an edited excerpt  from my book, A Case for Amillennialism.  For more information,  Click here: Riddleblog - A Case for Amillennialism - Understanding the End

Reader Comments (27)

But Kirk Cameron is a dispy. He couldn't be wrong.
June 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMatt
According to Dan Phillips, the predicted re-building of the Temple is a "legitimate tension with Hebrews". If Jesus is the true Temple (and he is!) then it's more like blasphemy and a repeat of the abomination that caused desolation.
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhil Walker
If you have not seen this, you have to check it out-

"You'" You set up messages for your left behind friends and family and they are automatically sent via a "Rapture trigger." If 3 of their 5 team members don't log in for 3 days straight, they assume the rapture has happened and the messages are sent out (too bad for the other two!). Only $40 a year!

As David Wells said in "The Courage to Be Protestant": "I pity the satirists who might be tempted to tweak these segments of the evangelical world. Theirs is mission impossible. It can no longer be done....Nothing seems improbable. none of it seems exaggerated and none of it seems improper."
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug
Dr. Riddlebarger,

I was wondering if I could get some clarification on your last statement, just confused on what you are saying:

"Instead, the biblical data demonstrates that the millennium is this present age, where Jesus Christ rules the earth from heaven, and where his saints who do not worship the beast or his image, triumph in death, when they come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years. The millennial reign of Christ is a present reality."

So we're in the millennial reign now, I get that part. So when you say, "his saints who do not worship the beast or his image, triumph in death, when they come to life and reign with Christ for a thousand years," what do you mean by "[the saints] reign for a thousand years," and then state right after that "The millennial reign of Christ is a present reality"? I know it's not and that I'm just not understanding what you are saying, but it sounds contradictory. I'm sure I'm just over-complicating it. Are you saying that after we die, we come to life (i.e. will be raised from the dead) and we will reign with Christ for a thousand years at that point and at the same time now we reign with Christ? Just confused on that statement. Thanks.

June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Westerfield
"If Jesus is the true Temple (and he is!) then it's more like blasphemy and a repeat of the abomination that caused desolation."

I sense an tad of ad homnim it your words friend I am a Dispensainalist and belive there wioll be a literal temple but the sacrafices will beno diffrent then the Lord's Supper ( A memmoral ordnance. Dr. J Dwight Pentecost does a good job explaining The Millinial Sacrficial system in things To Come there is a god starting point
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAaron
You've gotta love the way preterists and dispensationalists spell...

I just wish a little sense would spell the end of both...
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
BTW, y-all, it looks like Sam Waldron has a book coming out RSN in response to last year's Shepherd's Conf. on premil-ism.

Great, more stuff to read....
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlee n. field

Your comment was rude.
June 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
While, being a pre-mil, I do not accept the interpretation by dispy's of the Mill.

The book of Hebrews is very, very clear- no more sacrifices, sorry folks.

And as for Israel's land- be very careful as you read those text- there is only one place they can be seen in their fulfillment (and if you read Hebrews carefully- you will see that’s what we are being told)- that is the eternal Kingdom not the Mill, yes Israel gets a Land- but its the Land all believers inherit. This would fit perfectly well with Paul’s teaching in Romans and Ephesians, when discussing the relationship of Jews and Gentiles. Especially in Romans- what are the Jews grafted back into- Israel? Or Believer’s of Christ?

Another point of contention is there naming everything a category: church age, etc.,- the bible does not name the time we are in now as the church age- also we came up with the word ‘church’- the Nt uses assembly, basically a gathering of God’s people, or believers- in Jesus Christ, Jew or Gentile.

Thirdly, we are not in the Mill now- the circumstances of history- would bare that out- so Riddleberger doesn’t have it right either- sorry, Doc.

But back to the major point- there is nothing that tells us that the sacrifices will be re-established in the Mill- I know many Disy’s try to use Ezk and Zep, to say this but read their surrounding context, I would disagree with their- assumptions- not facts- to which the text speaks.

As for the Left behind Series, I wonder what they will do with 2 Thess 2.11 “For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false”?

We all need to be careful of letting “religious” superstition (in some cases) and theological training color our understanding, whetherpost, pre or amill 

June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterW. Grizzard
No Aaron, ad hominem would be if I attacked dispensationalists instead of the dispensational position. You may believe that my statement was an exaggeration, but I challenge you to prove it.

By contrast, I can point out that there is excellent exegetical and theological evidence to suppose that the continued offering of sacrifices after the one oblation of Christ is blasphemous, throwing back in the face of God his Son's finished work.

You say that the sacrifices will replace the Lord's Supper. But the Lord's Supper was celebrated, at the outset, by Jewish Christians! So why should Jewish Christians look forward to something different from the experience of the apostles?
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Walker
The key word is "jewish Christians" the jews that are in the church age. Will be raptured with the rest of the church. The Jews that are saved durring The Tribulatioun. Will be the ones to reinstate the sacrficial system in The Millinium not to mention that this reastblishment will fufill God's Covenanat and calling made with Phinas in Numbers 25. As to The Millinial Sacrafices there is absoultelly no relation to Expiation in the sacrafices it would only be an offense to Christ if it somehow forgave sin the sacrfices never did it was always faith in Christ ALONE that saved that was true in Mosaic Times and will be true in The Millinum. At the end of the dya we can all agree Christ is comeing again let's not let eschatologcal issues drive a wedge between brothers.
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAaron
I appreciate amillennialism because it was determined by allowing all Scripture to agree - from an exegeses of Scripture. Also, I have found that amillennialists, in my experience, do not argue with one another. The only difference that I know among various amillennialists is whether the first resurrection depicts saints that have died and go directly into the presence of Jesus, or it describes the saints' resurrection of the spirit as Paul relates in Ephesians 2:6 and Colossians 2:12 - that is the regeneration by Christ in a person, conversion, new birth, resurrection from being dead in sins and trespasses. It also leaves me looking forward to the return of Christ at the last trumpet, and it gives me encouragement to preach the Gospel now because Satan's power is bound such that all nations can hear the Gospel. For me, it leaves no unanswered questions concerning the fulfillment of prophecy in Jesus Christ - exactly as the New Testament writers have said.

Why would a Christian - Jew or Gentile - even want Israel to return to animal sacrifices after knowing that Jesus Christ Himself was offered once and for all,and completely accepted by God the Father? Why would a spiritual minded Christian - Jew or Gentile - want to obtain earthly land when access to heaven through faith in Christ has already been guaranteed?
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
But Aaron, *Jesus* is the Numbers 25 priest par excellence--of whom else can it truly be said, "He was filled with zeal for the name of Jehovah, turning away his wrath from the people"? There's your perpetual priest according to the eternal covenant! Why do you need to think that there'll be another priest to fulfill that? Doesn't Jesus do it perfectly already?
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Walker
Aaron, Brian, et al...

I'm sorry for being rude.

Although my comments were written in a light-hearted moment (for a variety of reasons), and not intended to hurt, the very fact that such comments made by me caused any harm to anyone means I was wrong.

I'm sorry for what I said.

It's good to know that we can rejoice in our common bond in Christ.

Best wishes to you both,
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Rohde
Would somebody please publish the key to the secret code that seems to be used on this blog?
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Thank you to Joe and Philip Walker for stating in words what I know to be true.

I met and got to know a dispy 3 years ago. Having never heard of her convoluted, error-ridden belief system, I searched the Scriptures day and night, trying to make sense of what she professed, to no avail. I finally had to cease contact with her, as she attempted to argue and protest every passage of Scripture I quoted straight from the Word of God. She was and still is deluded and deceived.

Growing up under the law of Judaism was difficult for me. I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ less than 6 years ago, and the veil has been lifted from my eyes.
June 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie Jean
Bonnie Jean,

Thanks for your words. Immediately after my wife's and my spiritual births, dispensationalists and Arminians "helped" us to understand the Scriptures. After many years of having difficulty understanding the plain Scriptures, God rescued us from the confusing principles. Last night we discussed how the reformed perspective seems to represent what we read that Christ said we should have - agreement. The Scriptures are really all about Jesus first. His peace resides in His people.

June 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
We have to order your book again Kim. Remember us asking you about the pastor that held to the historical premill view and you sent us Klines article?? Well we sent him Klines article and loaned him your book to read. The pastor has since then moved and he took your book with him! Good for him, bad for us to having access to your book on hand. So I guess Amazon here we come.......
June 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterplw

Glad to know you and your wife have been set free from dispensationalism's false, man-made teachings. You are correct about Scripture being about Jesus first, all having agreement, which leads to the peace which passes all understanding. His sheep know Him, and Him alone! He also gives us the gift of discernment, so that we may be ever ready to defend the Gospel of Christ at all times.

Bonnie Jean
June 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBonnie Jean
Ever since i was born again, i have been a convinced amill, even before i knew what a amill was. I think this is probably because i spend my time reading the Bible, not blockbuster fiction novels. I am so greatful for Kim's series and books on the subject. they have really been a great help to me.

the main thing that i have found while witnessing is that usually, and i mean usually, the more Christ centered people tend to be amill and the more man centered people tend to be pre-mill. But then again i praise God and scratch my head for people like John MacArthur who God has used tremendously to clarify gospel of Christ and yet curiously remain pre-mill.

In Christ,

June 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

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