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Horatius Bonar on the Millennial Question

March 11, 2010

From Horatius Bonar, Prophetical Landmarks:

There is no argument now used to show the absurdity or impossibility of the premillennial Advent, which might not have been urged with tenfold force by a Jew in his day, against Messiah’s first coming. What is the sum of these arguments? Just this: “We cannot reconcile a personal Advent and reign with the intercession of Christ in heaven. We do not see how Christ can be said to come with all His saints, if there are to be men converted after He comes. We cannot conceive how there can be an incongruous mixture upon earth as the risen saints, with their glorified bodies, and others still in mortal flesh. We cannot think of so degrading Christ as to bring Him down to earth to reign.”

This is the substance of anti-millennarian arguments. These are conceived to be such insuperable difficulties that, on account of them, we ought to give up the idea of a personal Advent and reign. But what are these in comparison with those which the Jews had to encounter? Absolutely nothing.

We deny that these difficulties are insuperable. We can see much further towards a solution of them than the Jew could towards a solution of his. Nay, we think we can explain them satisfactorily. But even though we could not, are we prepared to make these our reasons for not taking the Word of God in its plain and obvious sense? Are we prepared to say to an opponent, “No doubt, your view of the passage seems the more natural so far as the words and context go; but then it is irreconcilable with my ideas of the intercession of Christ, and of the dignity of Christ; and therefore I am forced to seek another meaning, even though that does not appear so natural.”
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Upon anti-millennarian principles, I do not see how a Jew could have believed in a suffering Messiah. He must either spiritualize the passages which relate to His first coming, or be content to admit a difficulty which nothing but the event could fully solve.

We address an unbelieving Jew, and say to him, “Why do you not believe that Jesus of Nazareth is your Messiah? Do not all your prophets bear testimony to Him?” “Which of our prophets?” he might ask. We answer, “Isaiah, for instance, tells us that He was to be born a virgin; and Jesus was so born.” “But you know (he would reply) that is an impossibility, and therefore you must not take the text literally; it must mean something else.” Or, we point to the passage which speaks of His being marred more than any man; he still answers, that to take that literally is to contradict other passages, and therefore it must be explained in some other sense. Should we not, in such a case, take our stand upon the plain meaning of the words, and tell him that he was misinterpreting Scripture, and refusing to receive it because it was inconsistent with his ideas of the Messiah? We say, “May not your ideas be wrong? Are you not interposing your theory between Scripture and its natural meaning? May not your system of truth, by which you are measuring every passage, be inaccurate in some respects, or, at least, are you not overstretching it? May not these other texts, apparently contradictory, turn out after all to be quite in harmony with the others?” No. He will admit none of these suppositions. His system of truth, his theory of doctrine, is the rule he goes by, and in this balance he weighs each text that you adduce.

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