Against the Dispensationalists

St. Gregory of Nyssa ca. 335-395

Now if we loudly preach all this, and testify to all this, namely that Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God, always changeless, always imperishable, though He comes in the changeable and the perishable; never stained Himself, but making clean that which is stained; what is the crime that we commit, and wherefore are we hated? And what means this opposing array of new Altars? Do we announce another Jesus? Do we hint at another? Do we produce other Scriptures? Have any of ourselves dared to say Mother of Man of the Holy Virgin, the Mother of God: which is what we hear that some of them say without restraint? Do we romance about three Resurrections? Do we promise the gluttony of the Millennium? Do we declare that the Jewish animal-sacrifices shall be restored? Do we lower men’s hopes again to the Jerusalem below, imagining its rebuilding with stones of a more brilliant material? (Letter 17)

Comments

  1. St. Gregory’s words are powerful reminders of how far the eschatological schemes of the Dispensationalist Evangelicals are from the truths of Classical Christianity. However, it is interesting to note that we Orthodox Christians do affirm in the Bridegroom Services of Holy Week that the foolish virgins of our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 25:1-13 will indeed be left behind.

    Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no deceit, for they are without fault before the throne of God (Rev. 14:1-5).

    With the completion of the resurrection of the dead in Christ, the resurrection of the living in Christ begins. We see the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with one hundred and forty-four thousand virgins with God’s name written on their foreheads. The Lamb is Jesus Christ, Mount Zion is the New Jerusalem, and the one hundred and forty-four thousand virgins with God’s name written on their foreheads are the faithful living members of God’s Church on earth judged worthy to rise in the resurrection. The number of the faithful living is symbolic of fullness (ten times ten times ten) and of God’s Church, (times twelve times twelve). “And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven (Mark 13:27).” The physical resurrection of all of the faithful and worthy members of God’s Church, both living and dead, will be accomplished in an instant: Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed (I Corinthians 15:51-53). That the resurrected living faithful are identified as the first fruits to God and the Lamb, reveals to us that there will be others who will become faithful and be judged worthy to follow in the resurrection; as the harvest of the 1,335 judgement days of the Day of the Lord continues (see Daniel 12:12).

    After these things I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed: of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand were sealed; of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand were sealed (Revelation 7:1-8).

    Before any other angels are allowed to trumpet the judgments that will befall the inhabitants of the earth, an angel having the seal of the living God is sent to seal the servants of God on their foreheads. This sealing is the Holy Spirit’s illumination and spiritual protection for those who will be joined to God’s Church on the earth during the Day of the Lord. That the number of those sealed is one hundred and forty-four thousand is again symbolic of fullness (ten times ten times ten) and the Church, (times twelve times twelve). That the total number is further defined by the names of the tribes of Israel is symbolic of the grafting back into the Church of those who had broken themselves off from the vine of Jesus Christ in the past; the Jews being first among them (see Romans 11:1-36).

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