If like me, you’re familiar with many Spurgeon quotes: Go to almost any Christian blog, website, or board/forum, and you’re almost guaranteed to find one..or a link to a daily word from Spurgeon. But you don’t find too many instances of links to his beliefs or thoughts on Eschatology. At least I haven’t.
This week while doing my research on Covenant and Dispensational theology I came across a page devoted to Spurgeon’s Eschatological writings and beliefs. For me, it was like finding a small treasure!
According to the report on this page, Spurgeon had problems with many of the teachings by Darby at the time on classic dispensationalism. Though Spurgeon was a Premillennialist he refuted some of the other points of dispensationalism. The points he disputed are interesting for me, for they were the same points which bothered me, causing my recent ‘digging’ into the belief.
Spurgeon and Dispensational Premillennialism
Although “there has been a decided tendency to equate Spurgeon with the whole premillennial, dispensational system of Darby, Scofield, and others;”306 this position is also untenable on several counts. While affirming that Spurgeon was in fact premillennial, the evidence is also clear that “not all premillennialists are dispensational.”….
John Nelson Darby presented his system of Dispensationalism roughly at the same time Spurgeon was ministering. As has already been shown Spurgeon was certainly familiar with dispensational thought. Darby taught that the church should be “looking for His coming.”307 Darby’s presentation of the Dispensational scheme for the millennium:
(1) a pretribulational rapture of the church,
(2) Seven years of tribulation with the earth under the control of Antichrist,
(3) the Second Coming at the end of the tribulation,
(4) the establishment of the Millennial kingdom —for Israel, not the Church— with Christ personally reigning as Messiah, were all items widely distributed and well known in Victorian England.
These distinctive features of dispensational premillennialism have remained somewhat consistent in the teachings of those identified as “Classic Dispensationalists.”
Ryrie, representing the “classic” position, points this out by presenting what he called the sine qua non of dispensationalism. Those points are:
(1) maintenance of a clear distinction between Israel and the Church,
(2) a normal or literal hermeneutic,
(3) the underlying purpose of God in human history, namely, His glory.308
He sums it up by stating:
The essence of dispensationalism, then, is the distinction of Israel and the Church. This grows out of the dispensationalists consistent employment of normal or plain interpretation, and it reflects an understanding of the basic purpose of God in all His dealings with mankind as that of glorifying Himself thought salvation and other purposes as well.309
The issues of a “normal hermeneutic” and the “purpose of God in human history” are beyond the scope of this thesis; but the key issue of the distinction of Israel and the Church is not, and it is on this issue that Spurgeon distances himself from Dispensational Premillennialism.
Spurgeon rejected any notion which separated the people of God into separate camps, as taught by Darby and dispensational teaching.
In a clear reference to the teaching of Dispensationalists on this point, he clearly rejected this notion in a sermon when he said:
“Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ do not belong to the church of God!
We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about.
These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body.
Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way —they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall” 310
That Spurgeon sees the Church and Israel united “spiritually”, there can be no mistake. The same point is made in a Sword and Trowel article of 1866 entitled, “Jerusalem which is Above.”311
While there are many features relating to dispensationalism on which Spurgeon is either silent or says very little; those features are not central to the issue.312 On the central feature of dispensational premillennialism, Spurgeon does not hold to the distinction of Israel and the Church that would be common to a “classic dispensational” approach.
For Spurgeon the millennial kingdom was the culmination of God’s program for the Church.