... for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of thy companions?—Canticles 1.7.
The Official Eschatology
Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland,
As it was stated in her
Public Testimony, 1911.
TrueCovenanter.com Editor’s Introduction.
The following summary of Reformed Presbyterian Eschatology, insofar as there are several points which have been recognized as the eschatological beliefs officially received by Reformed Presbyterians or Covenanters, is taken from the Testimony of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ireland which was first published in 1901, and again published in 1912 according to an order of Synod in the previous year. These statements are a revision of those previously adopted by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1837, and published in 1841 and 1866. The origin of all these may be found in a published draft of a new testimony, 1821, intended to replace of Scottish testimony of 1761.
SCRIPTURE PROPHECY AS AFFECTING THE CHURCH’S TESTIMONY AND PRACTICE.
1. It has pleased the Head of the Church to assign to prophecy, from the first revelation of grace, a prominent place in relation to the establishment and progress of His kingdom. The faith of the Church under the Old Testament took hold of God’s salvation as presented in promise and prediction. The sacrificial system was itself a prophecy concerning the coming Saviour; and God raised up His prophets and inspired them to make specific predictions of the coming Glory. As the predictions concerning a Saviour to come were the sustaining hope of the Old Testament church, so those concerning Christ’s second coming are a sustaining hope of the church now. But in addition, God has graciously foreshadowed many details of His providential operation in connection with both dispensations. In the Books of Daniel and Revelation there is a system of prediction in which the sufferings and progress of the church to the end of the world, together with the ultimate triumph of the church and the final overthrow of all wicked systems, are foretold.
: Isa. 46.10. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Rev 1.19. Write... the things which shall be hereafter. Gen. 3.15. ... it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen. 22.18. And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. Deut. 18.15. The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me. Amos 3.7. Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
: Heb. 9.1-14. Luke 24.44. ... all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Rev 19.10. ... the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
: John 8.56. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.
: 1 Thess. 4.17,18. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. Rev. 22.20. Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
: Gen. 15.13-16. Isa. 44.26 - 45.1; 45.13.
2. It is the duty of every Christian to study the prophecies, first, because they are all “given by inspiration of God” and are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”; secondly, because the observed providential fulfilment of divine predictions tends greatly to glorify God’s truth, power, and wisdom, to establish the authenticity of the Scriptures as a revelation from God, to increase the faith, hope, patience, and zeal of the church in times of trial, and to make God’s witnesses more intelligent, courageous, and efficient in maintaining a testimony for truth, and in extending Christ’s Kingdom throughout the world. It is requisite, however, that the student of prophecy should be on his guard against irreverent, rash, or dogmatic interpretations of prophecy. God has not given even to His church the right to know with perfect chronological precision beforehand the details of His working; nor has He designed that His predictions should be fully understood before the events, although He has invited His servants to apply themselves wisely and prayerfully to the study. That some have studied in a wrong spirit and have entertained foolish and ignorant expectations is no just ground of objection to the proper study of this important part of Holy Writ.
: Rev. 1.3. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. John 14.29. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that when it is come to pass, ye might believe.
: Dan. 12.10. ... but the wise shall understand. Dan. 12.12. Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.
3. In 2 Thess. 2.3-12 and 1 Tim. 4.1-3 there is a clear outline of a great apostasy, which is also symbolically represented in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. In the light of events at this advanced period of the world’s history there can be no doubt that this apostasy is the Church of Rome. The Waldenses and the Protestant reformers strenuously maintained “That the Church of Rome is the Babylon described in the book of the Revelation.” In the gradual development of a blasphemous ambition, the Romish apostasy has unspeakably corrupted the doctrines, worship, discipline, and government of the Christian church, denied to the people the Word of Life, enslaved and misled to their eternal ruin the souls of men, usurped an intolerable dominion over the civil power, tortured and murdered the saints of God from age to age, debauched morals, and degraded many nations to the dust.
Dan. 11.36-38; Rev. 12, 13, 14, &c.; Luke 11.52. Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. Dan. 7.25. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High. Rev. 18.12,13. The merchandise of... souls of men. Rev. 18.4. ... Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. Rev. 11.3. ... They shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. Rev. 11.10. ... these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
4. Prophecy shows that a time is coming when the Kingdom of Christ shall triumph over all opposition and prevail in all the world. The Romish antichrist shall be utterly destroyed. The Jews shall be converted to Christianity. The fulness of the Gentiles shall be brought in, and all mankind shall possess the knowledge of the Lord. The truth in its illuminating, regenerating, and sanctifying efficacy shall be felt everywhere, so that the multitudes of all nations shall serve the Lord. Knowledge, love, holiness, and peace shall reign through the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Arts, sciences, literature, and property shall be consecrated to the advancement of the Kingdom of Christ. The social institutions of men shall be regulated by gospel principles, and the nations as such shall consecrate their strength to the Lord. Oppression and tyranny shall come to an end. The nations, instead of being distracted by wars, shall be united in peace. The inhabitants of the world shall be exceedingly multiplied, and pure and undefiled religion shall exert supreme dominion over their hearts and lives so that happiness shall abound. This blessed period shall be of long duration. It will be succeeded by a time of general defection from truth and holiness, and of the prevalence of irreligion and crime. This will immediately precede the second coming of the Son of man from heaven.
: Dan. 7.14. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. Dan. 7.27. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him. Isa. 9.7. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Psalm 72; Isa. 60; Rev. 11.15. ... The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
: Dan. 7.11. ... I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame. Dan. 7.26. But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 2 Thess. 2.8. And then shall that Wicked the [lawless one—R.V.] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Rev. 19.20. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him. .... These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. Rev. 18.2. ... Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen.
: Rom. 9.26,27. And so all Israel shall be saved: ... for this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
: Rom. 11.15. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? Rom. 11.25. ... until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Hab. 2.14. For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
: Isa. 2.4. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. Isa. 11.6-9. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; ... They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. Zech. 14.9. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. Rev. 20.4. ... and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
: Rev. 20.7,8,11. And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations. ... And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away.
L. Cat[echism, Question] 191.
5. Holding the foregoing beliefs as to the nature, design, and scope of Scripture prophecy, we testify against:—
Neglecting to read and study inspired predictions, as if nothing certain or profitable could be learned from them.
The failure on the part of many professing Christians to utter a pointed testimony against the Romish antichrist.
The omission of prayer for the speedy and final overthrow of antichrist.
The admission or retention of Popish principles or practices in either church or state.
The legislative establishment or authoritative toleration of Popery.
Contributing funds, or forming alliances, for the support of Popery.
Entering into diplomatic relations with the Pope.
Consultation with the Pope or the Romish hierarchy with a view to civil legislation.
Any interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies which is inconsistent with the exposition given of them in the New Testament.
Any interpretation of Scripture prophecies which is inconsistent with the established doctrines of revelation.
The view that the prediction of Christ’s second coming to reign for a thousand years means that He will come in the flesh to reign over a literal kingdom.
6. The Predictive element in the prophetical parts of Scripture has been, and is, of the highest evidential value in establishing the authority of Scripture itself, and the divine origin of the true religion. Those who reject the doctrine of inspiration and the supernatural origin of Scripture naturally refuse to admit that there is in Scripture any predictive element at all. Hence they labour to show, either that the predictions of the Bible were mere guesses of sagacious men as to what was likely to take place under certain conditions, or that the predictions were written after the events! But Scripture contains many absolutely unconditional predictions that have been already fulfilled, and that could have issued only from Omniscience. Moreover, there is no historic reason for supposing that all or any of the predictions were written after the events. The only reason for coming to this conclusion is the desire to have it so. Take, for example, Jeremiah’s prediction of the seventy years’ captivity. Rationalistic critics labour in the very fire to pervert history in order to get rid of that powerful testimony for God. Recently it has become fashionable to give the “higher criticism” credit for having done good service in insisting on the practical value of the prophetic books to the men of the generations in which these books first appeared. This insistence, however, arises from, and is closely connected with, the desire to make as little as possible of the predictive element in these books. But no Christian ever denied their practical value as books of religious instruction; and no intelligent being ever regarded them as containing a mere series of predictions. It is in no sense a discovery of the “higher criticism” that the prophetic books have, and always had, a practical religious value. “Critics” must not be allowed to minimise or ignore the predictive element in the prophetic books under the pretence of a higher appreciation of their practical religious value than was reached by God’s church in the past. It may be safely assumed that Luther, Calvin, Knox, and the Westminster Divines knew as much, at least, about the practical value of the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel as the “higher critics” do to-day. It must be remembered that the prophetic books, like all other Scriptures, whether preceptive, historic, hortatory, or predictive, were given by inspiration of God.