Dispensationalism’s Millennial Memorial Sacrifices: A Regression To Types And Shadows

Given the contrast between Jews and (mostly Jewish) Christians in the first century, it is not surprising that the Protestant Reformers referred to the millenarian concept of a revived theocracy as”A Jewish error.” In our day, classic dispensationalism teaches that the millennium will consist of a renewed theocracy with a rebuilt Temple and sacrifices. According to Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord, “a millennial temple is described in Ezekiel 40–46.” ” In this temple sacrifices are offered which differ somewhat from the Mosaic sacrifices…. There is no solid reason for not accepting both the temple and the sacrificial system as literal prophecy. Although the death of Christ has brought to end and the Mosaic law and its system of sacrifices, the sacrifices mentioned by Ezekiel seem to be memorial in character, looking back to the cross even as the Old Testament sacrifices look forward to the cross.”77 However, the authors do not offer any passages that teach either a revival of the sacrificial system or the possibility of a merely memorial sacrifice.

Equating the role of sacrifices in the millennium with that of those in the old covenant only deepens the impression that this view stands in contradiction to the emphatic New Testament claim that Christ’s fulfillment has rendered the entire Levitical system obsolete (see especially Hebrews 8–10). It also deepens the impression among some amillennialists (at least the present writer) that classic dispensationalism’s pattern of two peoples and two programs requires two objects of fulfillment: Jesus Christ and the nation of Israel. However, if we recognize the basic unity of scripture and God’s covenant of grace (as progressive dispensationalism is more willing to acknowledge), the millennium as envisaged by classic dispensationalism represents a regression in redemptive history from fulfillment back to the types and shadows.

77. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Doctrines (rev. by John Walvoord; Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1974, 357–58.

—Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology For Pilgrims On The Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 948–49

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  1. Amen. When I was a dispie and really thinking through these issues in light of scripture it was like I was being taught an eschatological Groundhog Day, but Bill wasn’t there to cheer me up with his wit and charm. No, I kept seeing Jesus being usurped over and over again by his own types and shadows. It’s so nice to read the bible in context of Christ’s redemptive history.

  2. Yes, to me, the regression to an earthly building when Jesus said HE was the temple, and the re-offering there of animal’s blood, will be the final ‘abomination of desolation’ and terrible judgment will ensue.

    • Allan,

      Do you understand how unlikely that interpretation seems in light of “it is finished” and “once for all”? “Regression” in this context means “going back to types and shadows.” For Jesus to say “I am the temple” or for John the Baptist to say “Behold the Lamb of God” does not obviously seem like a signal that we should go backwards in redemptive history to types (illustrations) and shadows (anticipations of future realities).

      Why isn’t Jesus the fulfillment rather than just an interruption of the temple ministry? Doesn’t such a reading marginalize God the Son incarnate (think about that) in favor of types and shadows?

      • Yes it does. The entirety of dispensational thought really is a disavowal of his entire work of salvation. It’s not the motive surely but if nailed down to its scriptural implications it is.

  3. Yes, to offer animal’s blood AFTER Chrisy has offered HIS, is the greatest abomination I can think of.

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