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Determinism and Postponement
by Don Preston
The millennial doctrine is so full of self contradictions, logical fallacies, and violations of scripture that it is a confusing maze. Having studied millennialism extensively for almost 30 years, and engaged in numerous private and public debates on the issue has given me insights into this doctrine that deeply trouble me. Being aware of these fallacies often makes me wonder why sincere, God-fearing people could possibly believe in this paradigm. Yet, millions do. Thankfully, millennialism is in trouble, as more and more people awake to these fallacies.The millennial doctrine is so full of self contradictions, logical fallacies, and violations of scripture that it is a confusing maze. Having studied millennialism extensively for almost 30 years, and engaged in numerous private and public debates on the issue has given me insights into this doctrine that deeply trouble me. Being aware of these fallacies often makes me wonder why sincere, God-fearing people could possibly believe in this paradigm. Yet, millions do. Thankfully, millennialism is in trouble, as more and more people awake to these fallacies.The purpose of this short article is to expose a few of the more glaring inconsistencies in the modern millennial doctrine as taught by some of its leading popular advocates. There are two separate and distinct, yet vitally important doctrines held by these leading teachers. Those doctrines are, 1.) Determinism, i.e. predestination. The idea that God controls what happens, when it happens, etc., and, 2.) The idea that Jesus came to establish the Messianic kingdom, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but could not do so because due to the Jewish unbelief. Let’s take a brief look at each of these tenets from the millennial writings.
Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice say this about the world we live in: “God’s plan for the future is definite, well planned and exciting. We do not live in a world of chance. Prophecy means that certain things will definitely happen, while other possibilities are eliminated. We live in God’s world, under His control, heading down a path preordained by Him. We have a framework teaching us what to expect from the future.” He continues: “The Lord determines what will happen in history, and then brings it to pass.” (11) Mark Hitchcock concurs, “One of the great comforts of studying Bible prophecy is that we see the mighty, sovereign hand of God in control of all things. He controls what happens, how it happens, when it happens, and where it happens.”
From these two quotes, and more could be given, it is clear that the millennialists believe that God controls history. They believe that prophecy is history written before it happens, that prophecy, when it predicted certain things to happen, automatically eliminated the possibility of other things happening, and that God controls when things will happen. Now, let’s take a look at another fundamental tenet of modern millennialism, and that is the doctrine of the postponement of the kingdom.
Ice said this in his written debate with Gentry: “I believe the scriptures teach that Israel could have obtained her much sought after messianic kingdom by recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. We all know the sad reality, the Jews rejected Jesus. As a result the kingdom is no longer near but postponed, awaiting Jewish belief, which will occur at the end of the Tribulation.” Spargimino says: “At his first advent, the Lord Jesus Christ came to offer Israel the Kingdom promised in the Old Testament. When Israel rejected her Messiah, the Old Testament Kingdom program was held in abeyance.” In his latest diatribe against preterism, Ice says: “The Lord made no error and clearly had ‘the coming’ for judgment in mind (in Matthew 10:22-23, DKP). However, the coming is contingent upon Israel’s acceptance of its King. Because even after His resurrection, that nation refused Him, it became impossible to establish the kingdom (cf. Acts 3:18-26). Let’s take a closer look.
Was the establishment of the kingdom a matter of prophecy? Undeniably. Okay, if the Old Testament prophets foretold the establishment of the kingdom, and they foretold when it was to be established, i.e. in the first century, then their predictions were “history written in advance.” But if this is true, then, patently, if the kingdom was postponed from the time when the prophets said it would be established, then that “history” was altered and falsified!
Does Jehovah determine what will happen and then bring it to pass? Was God’s plan for the future, as predicted by the Old Testament prophets, “definite, and well planned” by Jehovah? Did His predictions through the prophets eliminate the possibility of other things happening? Well, unfortunately, if the doctrine of the postponement is true, God’s prophetic plan was not very well planned, not very definite, and most assuredly did not eliminate other things, i.e. the establishment of the church!, from happening. If one accepts the doctrine of the postponement, he is forced to admit that God sent His Son at the time appointed and designated by the prophets, but that, unbeknownst to Jehovah and His Son, the Jews would not accept their overtures of the kingdom, and so, God had to bring His Son back home, establish the church as an emergency interim measure, and then make another plan to send His Son, again, at another later date.
How “well planned” does that strike you?
How “definite” was God’s first century kingdom plan?
How much “in control” does that suggest of Jehovah?
Did God’s “framework for the future” lead the Jews to expect the establishment of the church? Not if we are to believe the millennial view of things!
Just exactly what “other possibilities” were “eliminated” by the Old Testament prophecies of the establishment of the kingdom in the first century? Patently, the “other possibility” of the church was not eliminated by the kingdom prophecies! (You just have to understand how vital an issue this is. Had the kingdom been established, the church would never have existed! Jesus would never have had to die, had the Jews accepted him. He would have ruled on earth in peace and bliss. The fulfillment of the prophecies of the establishment of kingdom would have eliminated other things –the Atoning Death, the Age of Grace, and the blood bought body of Christ—from taking place! Per Ice, it was the “sad reality” of the rejection of Jesus that the prophecies of the kingdom were put on hold, and we have in its place, the Atoning work of Jesus, the Age of Grace, and the body of Christ! There is something that is sad, very sad indeed here, but it is not that which was established by the Cross work of Jesus Christ! It is the doctrine that impugns his Cross.
We are told that God determines “what will happen, and when it will happen.” But this cannot be true if the Jewish unbelief made it “impossible to establish the kingdom.” If the doctrine of determinism elucidated in the citations above is correct, should not just the opposite be true? If, “God determines what will happen and when it will happen,” this should mean it would have been impossible for the Jewish rejection to prevent the establishment of the kingdom. On this thought read Psalms 2. In that great prophecy, Jehovah not only knew of the rejection of His Son, He foretold it, and said He would laugh at man’s efforts to defeat Him. He said that in spite of man’s unbelief, “Yet have I sat my king on My holy hill Zion!” Key in on that word “Yet,” because it means that in spite of Jewish rebellion God would accomplish His purpose. God did not have to postpone the kingdom to fulfill His promises! That rebellion was part of God’s determination to enthrone His Messiah.
Very clearly, there is a huge disparity between the two tenets of millennialism. It is totally inconsistent on the one hand to say that God is in control and determines what will happen and when it will happen, and that God determines what will happen and brings it to pass, and then to affirm that God determined when the kingdom would be established, but could not accomplish His task. Those are two different positions, 180 degrees opposite to one another! How does the millennialist respond to this problem? He comes up with another idea that contradicts his idea about Jesus’ mission!
You will notice above that Ice says Jesus came to establish the kingdom, and that if the Jews would have accepted him, the kingdom would have been established. However, perhaps feeling the heat of a doctrine that impugns the wisdom, veracity, and reliability of God, Ice, and others, claim that, in reality, Jesus did not come to establish the kingdom after all!
Ice says the reason the Jews rejected Jesus is because he did not conquer the Romans. As a result the Jews were disillusioned. They, “did not realize the prophecies related to his future kingdom would be fulfilled at his second coming, and not his first. He came instead to suffer for their sins, die on the cross, and rise again without which there would be no forgiveness of sins, or eternal life.” (Charting, 26). On page 30 of the same work he says, “The purpose of his first coming was to announce the period of grace and salvation we are living in, not the time of judgment that is yet to come.” Do you catch what he has done? Ice says that Jesus did not actually come to establish the kingdom at all! He actually came to die and announce the period of grace we are living in now.” What does that mean, though?
Well, to grasp the significance of this little bit of information, you have to understand that the millennialists claim that not one Old Testament prophet ever foretold the establishment of the church. Spargimino (195) says the Old Testament prophets, “knew nothing about this phase” of God’s plan. They knew only of God’s kingdom. Ice says that the church “was an unrevealed mystery in the Old Testament.”
Okay, with this in mind consider what Ice said about Jesus “coming to announce the period of grace and salvation we are living in,” and not to establish the kingdom. If Jesus came to announce the period of grace we are living in now (i.e. the church age), then Jesus came to establish the church! However, what did Jesus say in Matthew 4:17 and Mark 1:15? He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” and Thomas Ice says that this was the kingdom foretold by the Old Testament prophets!
If Jesus came to die to establish the period of grace we are living in now, and the time of grace we are living in now is the church age, then patently, Jesus came to establish the Church. However, Jesus came to offer the kingdom! Thus, in coming to establish the Church, and by offering the kingdom, Jesus was offering to establish the Church as the kingdom.
The millennialists cannot have it both ways. Jesus either did come to establish the Messianic kingdom or he did not. They try to say that he did, but, then again, he didn’t, not really. Which is it? If he came to die and establish the church, then he was wrong to offer the kingdom, and get Israel’s hopes up about something he did not intend to do for 2000+ years. On the other hand, if he came to establish an earthly kingdom, then patently, his rejection and death were a horrible failure and defeat. The establishment of the church was in fact, a sad reality after all. The contradiction here is very real and very substantive. It cannot be lightly dismissed. So, how does the millennialist respond? He offers yet another contradiction.
To explain why Jesus could not establish the kingdom—but hey, did he really come to establish it anyway??--in the first century, we are told that the Second Coming—when the kingdom was to be established—was, or at least is now, a conditional promise. Actually, Ice goes so far as to say that the Second Coming was supposed to happen in the first century but was postponed! So, the kingdom was supposed to be established in the first century, but it was conditional, dependent on Jewish acceptance, and since they rejected it, it was postponed.
However, on page 24 of Charting, these same men say that the Second Coming is an unconditional promise: “Before our Lord left the world, he gave an unconditional promise to his followers; ‘I will come again’” (John 14:3)! Thus, out of the same keyboards comes the doctrine that the Second Coming is unconditional, and that it is conditional!
So, which is it? There are only so many choices in regard to whether the kingdom and Second Coming were conditional or not. Let’s take a quick look at the choices and the implications.
Conditional then and now. The establishment of the kingdom at the parousia was or could have been, conditional when promised in the Old Testament prophets, and could still be conditional now. However, if the kingdom and parousia was and is conditional, then if the Jewish rejection in the first century delayed the kingdom then, it can most assuredly postpone it in the future!
Further, if the kingdom was conditional then and now, then the millennial doctrine of determinism and God’s sovereignty is seriously called into question. How can it be claimed that “God determines what will happen, and brings it to pass,” or, “God controls what will happen and when it will happen” if in fact, the conditionality of the promise is dependent on man’s obedience?
Unconditional then and now. If it is affirmed that God’s promise of the kingdom was an unconditional promise when made by the Old Testament prophets, and it is unconditional now as well, there is a major problem. That is, there is no need for the promise to be unconditional now, because if it was unconditional when given in the Old Testament, then it was going to be fulfilled in the first century just as the prophets foretold! There would be no need for a postponement, because God’s unconditional promise would be fulfilled in spite of, and even because of, man’s rebellion. See again Psalms 2. In other words, if the Second Coming was unconditional when the Old Testament prophets predicted it, then Israel’s rejection of the kingdom could not affect God’s promise. The moment a person suggests that the Old Covenant promises of the kingdom were unconditional, that is the death knell to dispensationalism, for if an unconditional promise failed, God failed, His Son failed, and the prophets were wrong.
Conditional then, unconditional now. If it were to be suggested that God gave conditional Old Covenant promises of the kingdom, but since those promises were rejected, He has now made them unconditional (per LaHaye, on John 14), then this means that we should be able to find in the Old Testament prophecies a contingency clause. Where does the Old Testament ever hint that the establishment of the kingdom in the last days was conditional. Where do any of the prophets say that God would try to establish the kingdom in the days of Rome, but if that didn’t work out He would try again later? The fact is, the Old Testament prophecies said Jesus would not fail in his mission (Isaiah 42:4), God would not alter His promises (Psalms 89:34), and He would laugh at man’s efforts to defeat His kingdom purpose (Psalms 2).
If, of course, the Old Covenant prophecies were conditional, we are back to the problem of “prophecy is history written beforehand.” What kind of history is conditional? If God does in fact control the world, and determines when a thing is to happen, and if His predictions of events eliminates other things from happening, then the contingency of the kingdom lies outside the parameters of that. God’s Old Testament predictions of the kingdom being established in the first century, should have eliminated the possibility of its postponement! However, according to the millennial view of things, God allowed man to determine whether His promises would be fulfilled on time. Man eliminated the possibility of God fulfilling His Word! (There are conditional promises in scripture see Jeremiah 18. The millennialists must demonstrate that the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament fall into that category. In fact, the Old Testament promises were not conditional.) If in fact the promise of the kingdom was a conditional promise, this means that the world was “a world of chance” and all sorts of possibilities were not eliminated.
Unconditional then, conditional now. This suggestion is entirely implausible. To suggest that the promise of the kingdom (at the parousia), was an unconditional prophecy in the Old Testament demands that those prophecies failed. In other words, Jesus came to fulfill the unconditional Old Testament predictions of the establishment of the kingdom. However, he could not fulfill those unconditional promises! Therefore, God altered the nature of the promise and said He would send His Son again, at some future time, if only Israel will repent. But, if the promise was unconditional the first time (i.e. in the Old Testament), and God could not fulfill that unconditional promise, then to make the promise conditional, dependent on Israel’s faith in the future, is surely a tenuous thing. To reiterate the point just above, if the promise of the kingdom is now a conditional promise, this means that the world is in fact, “a world of chance.” If Israel did not believe the first time, and this prevented the fulfillment of an unconditional prophecy, then most assuredly the chance exists for the kingdom to be postponed again, if Israel is not obedient this time around! If no chance exists for Israel to be disobedient and postpone the kingdom, again, then the promise is not now conditional.
Further, to affirm that the parousia is a conditional promise now, most assuredly does not eliminate the possibility of other things (i.e. Israel’s continued rebellion), from happening. If the promise is conditional, then it is conditional, and allows, not eliminates, contingencies.
The bottom line is that if the Old Testament prophecies of the kingdom and parousia were unconditional, then there is no way that the Jewish unbelief would have had any affect on God’s ability, intent, or success in establishing the kingdom. And of course, this is precisely what Psalms 2 conveys. Man would attempt to thwart God’s kingdom purpose, rejecting His Son. But God would laugh at them and enthrone His Messiah anyway!
Incidentally, Psalms 2 demands that the Messiah be enthroned over the objections of his subjects, not at the time when the subjects were hailing him as king! This is critical, for the millennialists insist that the Jews will turn in belief to Jesus when he descends physically and visibly. In other words, the millennial view of things demands that Israel be humble, submissive, and full of faith and acceptance for Jesus to be king. However, the vision of Psalms is that Israel would be in a state of denial, rebellion, and even violence. Yet, in spite of that condition the king would be enthroned, and as Psalms 110:1f says, he would “rule in the midst of thine enemies.” But you see, according to the millennialists, Israel would no longer be the enemy. They are supposedly converted! This is a violation of the inspired text.
So, what have we seen? We have seen that the millennial paradigm is full of contradictions. On the one hand, they speak of God’ sovereign control of what happens and when it happens. They tell us that God determines what will happen and brings it to pass. They tell us that prophecy is history is written in advance. They tell us that prophecy means certain things will definitely happen while other possibilities are eliminated.
On the other hand, they tell us that God sent His Son at what was supposed to be, and was predicted to be, the right time, to do what He had foretold. However, the Jews rebelled and made it “impossible” for God to fulfill the prophecies. God did not control what happened, and He did not control when it happened. The pre-written “history” was falsified, and God did not bring to pass what He said He would.
To cover up this glaring contradiction, the millennialists do a two-step and claim that Jesus did not actually come to establish the kingdom after all. He came to die, and establish the period of grace and mercy we now live in. However, this is a huge contradiction because Jesus said he came to be king and he offered to establish the kingdom. Further, Jesus came to confirm the promises made to the Old Testament fathers (Romans 15:8), and that means he came to fulfill the promises made to Israel. The problem for the millennialists is that they claim that the Old Testament never predicted, in any way whatsoever, the establishment of the current age of grace!
So, on the one hand the millennialists say Jesus did come to establish the kingdom, but then they claim he did not come to establish the kingdom. They say he came to die and establish the church. But, if Jesus came to die and establish the church, he did so in fulfillment of Old Testament promises to Israel. If Jesus came to establish the church in fulfillment of Old Testament promises made to Israel, one of the most critical foundations of millennialism crumbles.
To cover up that embarrassment, the millennialists then claim that the kingdom promise was, or is, a conditional promise, therefore Jewish rejection of that promise does not impugn God’s sovereignty. However, this flies in the face of scripture testimony that God’s kingdom promise was not conditional at all. Further, to suggest that the establishment of the kingdom was or is conditional demands that the possibility exists that it can be postponed again in the future. Of course, we have shown how the millennialists contradict each other, because in their own writings, they say that the Second Coming is both conditional and unconditional. Just exactly how the same event can be both conditional and unconditional we are never told. And of course we will not be told, because it is not possible.
The self-contradictions in millennialism are super-abundant and they are serious. The wonderful thing is that more and more Bible students are awakening to those contradictions and abandoning that doctrine. May God hasten the day that more and more will see the Truth!
1. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, Charting the End Times, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 2001)75
2. Mark Hitchcock, The Second Coming of Babylon, (Sisters, Ore, Multnomah, 2003)97
3. Thomas Ice and Kenneth Gentry, The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 1999)115
4. Larry Spargimino, The Anti-Prophets: The Challenge of Preterism, (Oklahoma City, Hearthstone Publishing, 2000)194
5. To say that the Old Testament prophets never foretold the church is an egregious error. Jesus came to die, in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (cf. Isaiah 53). Yet, his death was for the purpose of purchasing the church (Acts 20:28). Therefore, the Old Testament, in predicting the death of Jesus, foretold the establishment of the church.
6. Thomas Ice and Timothy Demy, Fast Facts on Bible Prophecy, (Eugene, Ore, Harvest House, 1997)43
7. Tim LaHaye and Thomas Ice, End Times Controversy: The Second Coming Under Attack, (Eugene, Or., 2003) 85.
8. In an article carried in the publication Midnight Call, in a series of articles entitled, “Prophetic Issues, The Age To Come,” ( p. 3), Ice actually says the Second Coming was postponed. The implications of saying the kingdom was postponed are astounding. In the millennial paradigm, the kingdom comes after the Rapture, the rebuilt Temple, the Apostasy, the Great Tribulation, the Man of Sin, the world wide preaching by the 144,000, the coming of the Two Witnesses, etc. etc.. Well, if the kingdom was actually near when Jesus here on earth, then this all of these things were near or already present when he said “The Kingdom of heaven has drawn near!” So, if the kingdom was postponed, this means that those things which were present and near were postponed as well!!