THE THEOLOGY OF THE SO-CALLED PLYMOUTH BRETHREN EXAMINED AND REFUTED.
A Diagram was included in this chapter. It will be added at a future date. -- Ed.
Church -- Mystical body of Christ (Eph. i. 22, 23; iii. 3-6; Rom xii. 4, 5; Col. i. 24-27; 1 Cor. xii. 12-27) and the Bride of Christ. Eph. v. 21-23.
De -- Descent of the Lord (1 Thess. iv. 14) to receive His Bride. John xiv. 3.
R -- Resurrection of the just. Luke xiv. 14; Acts xxiv. 15; 1 Thess. iv. 15, 16; and change of living believers. 1 Cor. xv. 23, 51, 52.
Rapture -- Translation of the saints who (like Enoch) are caught up to meet Christ in the air. 1 Thess. iv. 17.
M -- The meeting of Christ and His Bride. 1 Thess. iv. 17; Eph. v. 21-32; 2 Cor. xi. 2. Thus the Church escapes the tribulation. Luke xxi. 36; 2 Peter ii. 9; Rev. iii. 10.
T -- Period of unequalled tribulation to the world (Dan. xii. 1; Matt. xxiv. 21; Luke xxi. 25, 26) during which - -the Church having been taken out -- God begins to deal with Israel again (Acts xv. 16, 17; Psa. li. 18; cii. 16,) and will restore them to their own land. Isa. xi. 11-16; Jer. xxx. 3; xxxi; xxxii. 36-44; Amos ix. 15; Zech. viii. 3-8; Rom. xi. Anti-Christ will be revealed. 2 Thess. ii. 8. The vials of God's wrath poured out. Psa. ii. 1-5; Rev. vi. 16, 17; Rev. xiv. 10; xvi. But men only blaspheme God. Rev. xvi. 11, 21. Israel accepts Christ (Zech. xii. 10-14; xiii. 6,) and are brought through the fire. Zech. xiii. 9. They pass not away. Matt. xxiv. 34; Psa. xxii. 30.
Rev -- The revelation of Christ and His saints (Col. iii. 4; 1 Thess iii. 13) in flaming fire (2 Thess. i. 7-10) to execute judgment on the earth. Jude 14, 15. This is Christ's second coming to the earth. Acts i. 11; Deut. xxxiii. 2; Zech xiv. 4, 5; Matt. xvi. 27; xxiv. 29, 30.
J -- Judgment of the nations, or the quick. Matt. xxv. 32-46; xix. 28; Acts x. 42; 1 Peter iv. 5. Anti-Christ is destroyed. 2 Thess. ii. 8. The Beast and the False Prophet are taken. Rev. xix. 20. Gog and His allies are smitten. Ezek. xxxviii.; xxxix. Satan is bound. Rev. xx. 1-3; Rom. xvi. 20.
R. L. -- Resurrection of the Tribulation Saints, which completes the First Resurrection. Rev. xx. 4-6.
Mill'm -- The Millennium. Christ's glorious reign on earth for 1,000 years (Rev. xx. 4) with His bride. 2 Tim. ii. 12; Rev. v. 10; Isa. ii. 2-5; iv.;xi. 1-12; xxv. 6-9; Isa. lxv. 18-25; Mic. iv. 1-4; Zeph. iii. 14-20; Zech. viii. 3-8, 20-23; xiv. 16-21.
S -- Satan loosed for a little season, and destroyed with Gog and Magog. Rev. xx. 7-10; Heb. ii. 14.
Res .-- The Resurrection of Judgment. Rev. xx. 12 -15; John v. 29; Dan. xii. 2.
J. W. T. -- Judgment at the Great White Throne of all the remaining dead. Rev. xx. 11-15. Death and Hell destroyed. Rev. xx. 14; 1 Cor. xv. 26.
E.E. - -Eternity. Isa. lvii. 15.
[The above diagram is taken from a pamphlet circulated at the Conference with the endorsement of its president. It is also found in a book entitled "Maranatha," by Roy. J. H. Brooks, one of the speakers in the Conference, and the first signer of the call. It is the basis of most of the papers as reported in the Tribune.]
The most vulnerable point of this pre-millenarian theory is found in the exegesis of Matt. xxv. 31-46. The necessities of the theory require its advocates to do violence to this most solemn utterance of the Son of God while on the earth. It is indisputable that He discloses four facts in this passage: (1) The judgment will be general, including the whole human race. (2) The righteous and the wicked will be simultaneously judged and sentenced. (3) The judgment will be individual, and not national; each person will be rewarded or condemned according to his treatment of Jesus Christ in the persons of His brethren, either believers or human beings generally. (4) This day of judgment is a finality, a winding-up of the history of man on the earth. Henceforth mankind will be found in only two conditions - -in everlasting punishment or in life eternal -- with the intimation that the former is a place prepared for the devil and his angels. The pre-millenarian finding it impossible to wedge in an earthly reign of Christ, called the millennium, between the coming of the Son of Man in His Glory and His final sentence, "Come, ye blessed!" and "Depart, ye cursed!" deliberately goes to work to pervert these awful words by whittling them down to a review of living nations, ending in the infliction of certain temporal punishments which do not sweep them from the earth, but leave them still living, to be converted or held in check, by millennial agencies.
This is the teaching of the Prophetic Conference. We call this the willful perversion of the plain words of Jesus Christ, the Judge eternal. If the reader will look at the above diagram, he will find the letter J descriptive of the place which the judgment in Matt. xxv. 31-46, occupies in the Chiliast's eschatology. Instead of being the end of man on the earth, it is about the middle point of his earthly history, and he will be found, after the sentence of eternal doom, begetting children (Isa. xi. 6, 8; lxv. 23), black-smithlng (Isa. ii. 4), house-building and vine-planting (Isa. lxv. 21), the old man with his staff in hand for very age, and the boys and girls playing in the streets (Zech. viii. 4, 5); while others shall suffer from plagues inflicted on them and their cattle, and still others will go to battle and gather great spoil (Zech. xiv. 13-15). The references are those which accompany the diagram.
One of the essayists, Dr. J. T. Cooper, argued that only the Gentiles are judged in Matt. xxv. 31-46, and that the Jews were exempt. According to this writer, and the Plymouth teachers generally, this judgment turns upon the question how each nation has treated Christ's brethren, the Jews. Let the reader peruse this whole passage, putting nations, or Gentiles, after the pronouns "ye" and "you," and in place of "them," and substitute Jews for "my brethren," and he will get some idea of the monstrous misinterpretation which Chiliasm is forced to put upon this plain passage, in defiance of common sense.
By making two last (?) days, or judgment days -- one for the living and one for the dead (Rev. xx. 11-15) -- a space is gained for the millennium after the Second Advent. It is nothing to these expositors that the words, the "quick" and the "dead," in Acts x. 42; 2 Tim. iv. 1; 1 Peter iv. 5, are thus violently riven asunder by thrusting in a thousand years between them. Jesus says: "For the hour is coming in the which all that are in their graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation." Here Dr. Gordon finds no difficulty, by stretching "the hour," to make two resurrections, a thousand years apart! The millenarians find no difficulty in splitting the judgment day into fragments, locating one in the air before the Epiphany, or appearing of Christ, another on the earth after that event, and still another after a thousand years. The Plymouth Brethren add a fourth judgment day, when the sins of believers were judged on the Cross -- the only judgment of their persons as distinguished from their works. But since the resurrection is always intimately connected with the judgment, this theory easily invents as many resurrections as are requisite to its demands. Hence we have a resurrection of the saints, to meet Christ before He descends to the earth;--then the resurrection of the martyrs, who by some unaccountable agency have been converted and beheaded while Christ was reviewing the saints in the air, and not a holy soul was left on the earth, but Antichrist was for years, and perhaps centuries, riding rough-shod over the God-forsaken earth, and all the woes and vials of the Apocalypse were being poured upon the human race, amid the crash of all the regular governments and the horrors of anarchy. Then we have a third resurrection -- that of the wicked -- after a thousand years plus the period in which Satan is loosed, which may be ten thousand years more. For all these resurrections and judgments Scripture proofs are quoted with great profusion and perfect confidence, although the Church from the beginning till the present day has believed in one resurrection and one judgment of the whole human family.
But still greater difficulties, not to say absurdities, are encountered when we examine the mixed state of things on the earth after the judgment of the living nations, or "the quick." Here we find living side by side in the millennium the remnant who have survived the judgment, and are still flesh and blood; the saints who were changed when the Judge reached the air; and the righteous dead who have been raised and endowed with spiritual bodies. How these three sorts of folks are to have intercourse -- mortals and immortals thus mixed together - -is inconceivable. But as children are to be born, still more difficult social problems arise. There will be a class capable of marriage, because they are still in the flesh; a class incapable of that estate, because they are "in the resurrection;" and a class of whom we are doubtful, namely, the changed saints. This exceeding complex state of society is entirely out of analogy with the constitution and course of nature, and is en tirely abnormal and incongruous.
The moral government of such a world by the second Person of the Trinity in person will be one continued reign of supernaturalism, wholly unadapted to the purposes of probation. The change will be so great that there will be need of a new Bible, for the new state of things will render the Holy Scriptures as obsolete as Noah's almanac. This is admitted by distinguished pre-millenarians. One of them is quoted by Bickersteth as saying that "the Scriptures of the New Testament, written for a tempted and suffering Church, are unapplicable to this state of things." Dr. McNeile says: "It is obvious that, in the passage from our present state to a state of universal holiness, these characteristic sayings of the New Testament must cease to have any application, and become obsolete, not to say false."
If the human race is to be continually propagated through a thousand, or, as some assert, through three hundred and sixty-five thousand years, and none die, the world would soon be so uncomfortably crowded that there would not be standing room. But if death does his work of depletion then as now, only after a longer average longevity -- the child dying an hundred years old -- there must be another resurrection distinct from that of the wicked for the accommodation of these deceased miilennial saints. This will make four resurrections in all. Thus the difficulties thicken as we dwell on this theory of the personal reign of Christ on earth before the last day, which is certainly "another gospel" from that which Paul preached.
To the people of the United States this judgment of nations by the test of our national treatment of the Jews, is one which we may approach with greater boldness than any other nation of modern civilization, for we have never discriminated against the Hebrews, "these my brethren," in our legislation, though we have abused the African, the Indian, and the China man, who are not supposed to be so closely related to Jesus Christ. Hence the great American Republic stands a good chance to be the dominant nation in the regeneration, or millennial age, which begins immediately after the award to the nations of eternal life or ever-lasting punishment.
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