Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Multiple Resurrections and Judgments of Dispensational Premillennialism (Part 2)

The General Resurrection and Final Judgment in Scripture

The doctrine of the resurrection is found not only in the New Testament, but also in the writings of the Prophets. Daniel prophesied:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.  But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased (Dan. 12:1-4).

Daniel apparently sees a general resurrection of the dead, “some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2).” Our Lord Jesus reiterates the teaching of a general resurrection prophesied by Daniel in the Gospel of John, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the 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 (John 5:28-29).” According to Jesus, there is no mention of an interjectory gap of one millennium within “the hour.” At that hour, “all that are in the graves shall hear his voice.” The “resurrection of life” and “the resurrection of damnation” occur at “the hour.”

Some dispensationalists might object to this point, claiming that in John 5:25, the same word “hour” is used to describe the entire gospel age, a time span which has since lasted for more than two millennia. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live (John 5:25).” They might argue that since the “hour” in verse 25 has lasted for more than two thousand years, a series of two resurrections separated by one millennium can easily fit into the “hour” of verse 28.

In response to this argument, we must first note that the Apostle John uses the word “hour” (ὥρα) to mean various periods of time, the duration of which depends upon the context of the passage in consideration. For example, John uses the word “hour” in the same sense as verse 25 in John 4:23. “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him (John 4:23).” In both instances, the word “hour” denotes the entire gospel age, whereby the elect hear the inward calling of the Holy Spirit, as well as the outward call of the gospel, and becomes regenerated. In other cases, the Apostle uses the word “hour” to indicate a specific point in time which has either arrived (John 12:23; 13:1; 16:21; 19:14, 27), or which has yet to arrive (John 7:30; 8:20).

If dispensationalists insist that verse 28 should parallel verse 25, they must consider the fact that the regeneration of sinners is occurring throughout the gospel period. In which case, the resurrection of the just and the unjust should likewise be taking place all through the earthly millennium; but according to dispensationalism, the resurrection of the just occurs only prior to the millennium, while the resurrection of the wicked takes place at the end of the one thousand years reign of Christ. To interpret verse 28 as a parallel of verse 25 would be too much for even the hidebound dispensationalist.

If the exegete must understand “hour” in verse 28 to mean a very long period of time – a period of no less than a millennium – he must contend with the hermeneutical absurdity of having the voice of the Lord resounding throughout the one thousand years. For the Apostle John wrote,

“Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the 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 (John 5:28-29).”

So, is John saying that “a long, long period of time is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice resounding all through the millennium?” According to the context of this passage, it is obvious the Apostle John is indicating that, at a particular point of time in the future, the Lord’s voice will be heard once, and all who are in the graves shall resurrect. The just shall be awarded the resurrection of life, while the wicked will be given the resurrection of damnation. John is, of course, not suggesting that Jesus’ voice will be sounded more than one time, or worse, multiple times. John 5:28-29, therefore, inevitably teaches a general resurrection of the dead that occurs contemporaneously.

In four instances in the Gospel of John alone, Jesus taught that the resurrection of the just shall occur at the last day, not one thousand years before the resurrection of the wicked. Our Lord elucidated, “And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:39-40).” Again in John 6:44 and John 6:54, Christ taught, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. . . . Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Loraine Boettner concurs,

“The notion that the resurrection of the righteous is to occur a thousand years before the end of the world is contradicted by Jesus who, on four different occasions, said that He would raise up those who believe in Him at the last day (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54). Clearly there can be no other days after the last day.”[1]

The Apostle Paul, when he was brought before the Roman procurator Felix in Caesarea, proclaimed, “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust (Acts 24:14-15).” In verse 15, the Greek word αναστασιν (anastasin), which is translated “a resurrection,” is singular. If Paul had in his mind at least two separate resurrections, the Holy Spirit could have used the plural form of this word.

The burden of proof is, at the very least, upon the Bible Presbyterians and Dispensationalists. Unless they produce conclusive and incontrovertible evidence that Scripture teaches otherwise, there is no reason why we must reject the eschatology of the Reformed Confessions: that there will be one general resurrection of the dead and one final judgment for both the just and the unjust.

The General Resurrection and Final Judgment in the Parables of Jesus

The parables of Jesus, likewise, contradict the dispensational notion that a one thousand year gap separates the Second Coming and the final judgment. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, both wheat and tares are to grow together until the end of the world. Jesus recounts, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn (Matthew 13:30).”

In fact, the tares are gathered first in the parable. But according to dispensational premillennialism, the wheat is gathered before the tares. If there is any gap between the resurrection of the just and the unjust – but of course, there is none – dispensationalists have got the sequence of resurrections reversed. Worse, Bible Presbyterians insist that the wheat be gathered first, leaving only the tares for the Great Tribulation. In keeping with dispensational premillennialism, a second harvest is mandatory, as there will be wheat growing out of the tares during the Great Tribulation. Yet a third harvest is needed for those converted during the millennium. But Jesus is adamant that the harvesting occurs only at the end of the world, and only once.

Herman Hanko, commenting on this parable, explains,

“The harvest in the parable is the end of the world. This is the end of the world in the absolute sense. Jesus knows only of this one end, not the many “ends” of which premillennialism speaks. It is that moment when God’s purpose, according to his counsel, is realized, for all that he has determined to do has been accomplished. Creation and history are brought to their telos (their purpose, their goal). Then all things are ready. The wicked have filled the cup of iniquity, and the filling of this cup has made them ripe for judgment. The church is ripe for her final salvation, and all things are ready for Christ to return.”[2]

In the parable of the dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50), the separation of the good fish and the bad fish shall be performed “at the end of the world.” The wicked are separated from the just. Both the just and the unjust shall be judged, and the wicked will be cast into the furnace of fire. Once again, the just will not be separated from the wicked in a rapture one thousand years – or one thousand and seven years according to pretribulationism – prior to the final judgment. The final judgment will be a general judgment of both the saints and the reprobates. The general resurrection and the final judgment occur “at the end of the world.”

Hanko writes,

“The final separation of the good and bad fish takes place at the “end of the world.” This is not an arbitrary end, nor an end among many ends. It is the final and absolute end of the age from the viewpoint of God’s purpose. God’s purpose is fully accomplished as he determined that purpose from before the foundation of the world. . . . From God’s point of view, there is no possibility of history continuing. It cannot go on for another moment.”[3]

Furthermore, the final judgment is clearly depicted in the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. “When the Son of man shall come in his glory (Matt. 25:31),” the separation of the wicked and the just shall occur at the same time. The linchpin of premillennialism, that is, a thousand year gap between the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment, is absent from this parable.

The eschatological schema presented in this parable, as well as the others, is consistent with amillennialism. Even staunch premillennialist, George Eldon Ladd, had to concede that the scheme of prophecy presented in this parable is essentially amillennial:

“A final question remains to be asked. If this is the final judgment, what do we do about the millennium? There seems to be no room for it. The author is frank to admit that if we had to follow this passage as our program of prophecy, there would be no room for a millennium. I would have to be an amillennialist.”[4]

Indeed, Professor Ladd would be more consistent with Scripture if he was an amillennialist. How, then, did he escape the inescapable conclusion that Jesus did not teach a millennium in this parable? He concluded that this parable has nothing to do with the “program of prophecy.” “It is a dramatic parable,” he said,[5] and it merely conveyed instructions to Jesus’ disciples concerning the Great Commission.

In the following words, Ladd attempted to dissipate the eschatological thrust of the entire parable:

“Jesus knows that he is about to leave his disciples in the world with a commission to take the gospel to all nations. He is in effect saying to them, “I am entrusting the destiny of the Gentiles into your hands. Those who welcome and receive you welcome and receive me, and they will be blessed in the day of judgment. Those who reject and exclude and punish you do so to me, and it will go ill with them in the day of judgment.’”[6]

By denying the obvious conclusions taught in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Ladd contradicted his own principle of hermeneutics - that the exegete must never avoid the “clear and unambiguous” meaning of language in Scripture.[7]

Marcellus Kik, a postmillennialist, explains that “in Matthew 25:31-46, a universal judgment is depicted and all people who have lived upon the earth are judged according to their works. The average Christian reader of the Matthew passage believes that the final judgment is set forth. And he is right. The premillennialist has to explain this passage away because it does not fit in with his eschatological views. Actually he has to forsake his “literal” interpretation which he so stoutly maintains is the only proper way of interpretation.”[8]

In my perusal of Dr Jeffrey Khoo’s writings, I am absolutely perplexed as to why he has avoided a discussion of Matthew 25:31-46 in both his book The Gospels in Unison, and his lectures notes The Life of Christ.[9] Is it true that he, too, has found it difficult to reconcile the parable with dispensational premillennialism?


[1] Loraine Boettner, The Millennium, rev. ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1957), 169.
[2] Herman Hanko, The Mysteries of the Kingdom: An Exposition of Jesus’ Parables, 2nd ed. (Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1975), 54.
[3] Ibid., 93.
[4] George Eldon Ladd, The Last Things (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1978), 101.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] George Eldon Ladd, A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1972), 266.
[8] J. Marcellus Kik, An Eschatology of Victory (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co, 1971), 169.
[9] See Jeffrey Khoo, The Gospels in Unison: A Synthetic Harmony of the Four Gospels in the KJV (Singapore: Far Eastern Bible College Press, 1996). Also see Jeffrey Khoo, The Life of Christ (Singapore: Far Eastern Bible College, n.d.). These are printed course notes used in Far Eastern Bible College. Available from; Internet; accessed 10 May 2006.

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