The Inwardness of the Postponement Theory.
by W. Hoste
The object of the above pamphlet is to oppose what Mr. Philip Mauro calls the "Postponement Theory."
It is a pity our brother allows this to loom so big in his vision; he seems to 'see it in every bush'; if it is not fundamental error, at least it is for him a root of fundamental error, as this booklet is intended to show. What is shown is the writer's lack of the sense of proportion. He is a man with "a case"; it fills his horizon, but the horizon is a narrow one. We shall see later what this so-called 'theory' really is, and whether Mr. Mauro's reasons against it are valid or frivolous.
The pamphlet consists mainly of a criticism of the doctrinal vagaries on the Atonement of a certain well-known writer, Dr. S. D. Gordon, which we have for years considered unsound and dangerous. It is true that Dr. G. on p.116 of his "Quiet Talks About Jesus," writes that "Jesus, dying as he did, is the one means of salvation," but why should it be, if, as he asserts, "His dying was not God's own plan? It was conceived somewhere else and yielded to by God (my italics). God had a plan of atonement by which men who were willing, could be saved from sin and its effects" (p.114). He then proceeds to describe "God's way," which I have no hesitation in saying is an entire perversion.
It confounds the shadow and the substance and ascribes to the former a substantial role. It is the way of the Pharisee, of the Modernist, it is essentially man's way. But if it were God's, why did He abandon it for man's? Then man must be wiser than God; seeing his way is better. Or are there two ways for man to choose from? No, there is only one, and that is the way that Dr. S. D. G. calls "man's way," but which is in reality, God's only way—the Atonement, effected by Christ on the Cross. It is true, that man took Him and "by wicked hands, crucified and slew Him," but this was only when He was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2: 23). As far as men were concerned, it was the foulest murder that ever stained this earth; as for God, in permitting them to carry out their murderous designs, He fulfilled the purpose of the ages, and laid a solid ground on which He could in righteousness, save every repentant sinner. That which Dr. G. calls "God's way," is truly man's, for there is nothing of God in it. It is as though a convicted murderer were to offer to his judge a drop of blood from his own little finger, as an expiation for his crime. Then on p.118, Dr. G. writes "There is no cross in God's plan of atonement." The truth is, it was not only there, but it was revealed beforehand; it was latent in the curse attached to death by hanging on a tree (Deut. 21: 23; Gal. 3: 13); and in the lifting up of the Brazen Serpent (John 3:15), it was patent in the words of Psa. 22: 16: "they pierced my hands and my feet." (Of course, the Modernists try to throw suspicion on this passage, but there is nothing in the Hebrew to justify it. See Dr. Tregelles' Translation of the Psalms.) and in our Lord's own prophecy "signifying what death He should die" (John 12: 32). The Cross moreover was retrospective, for it was the only ground of acceptance in every age, and wherever God could in righteousness apply that blood to Jew or Gentile, no doubt He did and will. The Levitical sacrifices were so many finger-posts pointing on to the Cross.
But these serious errors of Dr. G. are not Mr. Mauro's discovery: they have long been known and combated. When Dr. G. came to England many years ago, soon after the publication of his "Quiet Talks About Jesus," he was definitely taken to task for this teaching. He pleaded, I was told at the time, a lack of instruction, and promised emendations, but I never heard of these taking shape. Since then, he has been challenged again and again, here and in the States, but in vain. Only two years ago when over here, he was brought to book twice at least, to my knowledge, but how could such action hope to succeed, when he was being welcomed as chief teacher on a big convention platform, where holiness does not seem to include either spiritual discernment or great jealousy for the doctrine of Christ.
But what is Mr. Mauro's real object in all this? Is it to defend the Atonement? or to expose Dr. Gordon? No doubt in part, but we cannot shake off the impression that the real objective is his great bug-bear—the "Postponement Theory," and that Dr. G. is only a stick wherewith to beat his fellow-saints who believe his views to be retrograde and unscriptural.
We are glad that Dr. G. is right so far that he does see that the kingdom of God is destined to be set up under Christ, including the earthly Kingdom, of which Israel will be the centre and Jerusalem the metropolis. We refuse to give up the plain teachings of the prophets, e.g., "of the increase of His government and peace, there shall be no end upon the throne of David" (Isa. 9: 71); "Behold a King shall reign in righteousness" (Isa. 32: 1); "Behold the days come, saith the Lord that I shall raise unto David a righteous Branch and a King shall reign and prosper" (Jer. 23: 3); "Unto thee shall it come even the first dominion, the kingdom shall come to the daughters of Jerusalem" (Micah 4: 8). "The Kingdom shall not be left to other people" (Dan. 2: 44). "The Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His Kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1: 32, 33). All such prophecies Mr. M. "spiritualizes" away, though the context in every case refers to the literal Israel and Jerusalem. However, even above this little bit of sound teaching on Dr. G's. part, couched in his own—what is to many exaggerated and paradoxical style, which makes what is even true in matter, false in expression—is nailed to the counter as "the Postponement Theory"; the inference drawn being that this was the root of the doctor's errors on the Atonement and that we are all tarred with the same brush and, if we had to admit it, really share the Doctor's views all through.
Now Mr. Mauro in his calmer moments knows this is quite untrue. Proof is lacking that Dr. G. ever heard of "the Postponement Theory" as such, and our brother is perfectly aware that his opponents glory in the Atonement; that they accept its absolute necessity; its divine reality; its uniqueness; its infinite value; and believe that when our Lord died on the Cross, an eternal purpose was fulfilled even in the offering up of "the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world." To try to poison the Lord's people against the "Postponement Theory," by suggesting that inwardly it sympathizes with Dr. G., may be good lawyer-business; but it is poor Christian controversy.
Suppose we treated Mr. Mauro in the same way. He has, we may believe, certain affinities with the sect known as the 'Seventh-Day Adventists' in that both are opposed to dispensational teaching. So we bring out a pamphlet—"The inwardness of Mr. Mauro's theories," and then proceed to expose the multiple errors of this denomination; their denial that the blood of Christ "removes sins from the books of record"; (See "The Great Controversy" by Mrs. White. For further information see "Heresies Exposed" by W. Irvine (p. 115) or "Seventh-day Adventism" by A. J. Pollock.) the assertion of Satan's vicarious sin-bearing, and the consequent denial of Christ's; the insistence on the possession by Christ of a sinful nature; and of course the denial, along with every other evil sect of Christendom, of the solemn truth of eternal punishment which Mrs. White, the high-priestess of the sect, calls "one of the false doctrines, that constitutes the wine of the abominations of Babylon." Would it not be unfair to infer Mr. M's. connivance in such evil teaching? Had Dr. G. written a favorable review on "the Postponement Theory", with what triumph would this have been seized upon as a positive demonstration of the truth of the thesis of this tract? But, as I say, proof is lacking that Dr. G. ever even heard of the theory. On the back of Mr. Mauro's pamphlet is a long extract from a laudatory review of one of his Kingdom books from perhaps the best known S. D. Adventist in the world: Prof. McCready Price, who is full of gratitude to Mr. Mauro for his exposure of what he calls "the crudities and unscriptural nonsense" and "heretical teachings" of his opponents, the dispensationalists.
If we must be called heretics for disagreeing with this teacher, we gladly accept the title. One would suppose there must be some close affinities between Mr. M. and the S. D. Adventists, otherwise his publishers would know better than to accept their testimonial.
Now, what is this "postponement theory'' of which Mr. Mauro gives such a bad report? I warn the readers not to accept the definition given in his pamphlet which is grossly misleading and unfair, because quite defective. According to Mr. Mauro: "Its basic premise is that Jesus Christ came into the world for the purpose of offering to the Jewish people, the earthly kingdom of their nationalistic dreams, (my italics) that the offer was refused and that God thereupon withdrew it temporarily and 'postponed' the kingdom to a future dispensation." This conveys the impression that we limit the purpose of Christ's coming to one object, the Kingdom, whereas the objects were multiple: "to redeem Israel;'' "to seek and to save the lost;'' ''to give His life a ransom for many." To bear witness of the truth and also among several more reasons "to offer Himself to Israel as their King," but not as our writer insidiously suggests, ''a kingdom of their nationalistic dreams.'' It was just because He would not accept that, that He refused the crown they would have forced upon Him, and it was just because He offered them quite another, that they crucified their King. He would never reign over an unrepentant people, and they would never receive a King bringing redemption unto His people, on which alone the kingdom could be based. A certain type of mind finds great interest in such speculative questions as, 'What would have resulted had Adam not fallen,' or 'had Herod's sword reached the infant Jesus, or again, 'had Israel received the Lord as their rightful king?’ The reply to all such idle suppositions is, such contingencies did not happen. "But even had Israel repented, that would not have taken away their sins. Only Atonement could do that, and He alone could offer it. But would it be impossible for God to use the Roman power to this end? However, I hasten to say that I am not putting forward any hypothesis.
So alongside of the Kingdom testimony, there was the Redemption side of things. This does not exclude the other, nor is it excluded by the other. One has indeed to shut one's eyes hard not to be aware of the offer to Israel of the Kingdom on certain conditions. Is it for nothing that the Lord is introduced in the Gospels as not only the son of Abraham, heir to the promises, but as the Son of David, heir to the throne of Israel? Moreover, He comes before us historically as the babe of Bethlehem "born, King of the Jews, and the opening testimony of the forerunner is ''Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'' (Mr. Mauro used to contend, I remember, that "is at hand" 'engiken' must mean inevitably to happen at once. But this ls not necessarily the meaning of the phrase. cf. "the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" eengiken, James 5: 8; "the end of all things is at hand" eengiken, 1 Pet. 4: 7; also "the day is at hand" eengiken, Rom. 13:12. These contingencies were at hand 1800 years ago but have not come yet. Perhaps he has given up this plea, as wisdom has increased.)
What kingdom would any pious Jew understand by this but the fifth kingdom of Daniel 2? The first three Gentile powers had passed away (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and the fourth was running its course. Prophetically the next event on the Divine programme was that Divine Kingdom, destined to fill all the earth: "a kingdom that would never be destroyed" and of which, on its earthly side, the true but literal Israel would be the possessors.
In spite of all Mr. M's disclaimers, our Lord's mission was primarily to Israel as He declared Himself: "I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This testimony was carried on by our Lord Himself, the Twelve and the Seventy. These were expressly forbidden to go into the way of the Gentiles, nor even to the Samaritans, but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10: 5-11). But this was countermanded later when the Lord directs them to "make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28: 19) and also to "take their purse and scrip and if they had no sword, to sell their garment and buy one" (Luke 22: 35, 36). And yet, in spite of such plain instructions, these exegetes fail to see any dispensational changes in the Gospels, nor yet the special dispensational bearing of the Sermon on the Mount, where, for one thing, swords would be quite out of place. But, in spite of the testimony, confirmed by miracles, that the King was present, and the kingdom brought very near, they ascribed all to Beelzebub, the prince of the devils, and rejected both King and Kingdom. This was consummated at the entry into Jerusalem, when, in spite of the enthusiastic welcome of His disciples, along with the hysterical cries of the populace, the rulers of the nation remained obdurate. The reality of this rejection of course, did not take the Lord by surprise, who, in predicting His rejection, just before this incident, described His return to His Father pursued by the rebellious message, "We will not have this man to reign over us."
It is difficult for the unsophisticated believer to understand why they should send such a message, if, according to Mr. Mauro's theory, He had never proposed to be their King.
Matt. 13 is very important, for therein are revealed the mysteries of the kingdom, describing the condition of things produced in the world by the preaching of the Gospel in the absence of the rejected King, and the setting up of the Kingdom in the hearts of the true children of the Kingdom—"righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." There was nothing wrong in substance in the question of the disciples to their risen Lord, "Wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" But it was not for them to know at that time. Even after the Cross and the resurrection, had Israel given heed to the apostolic testimony and repented nationally, their sins would have been blotted out and times of refreshing and of the restitution of all things would have been ushered in (Acts 3: 19-21).
See Matt. 21: 4, 5, where the Spirit of God expressly states: "All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet saying, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek and sitting upon an ass," etc. How can it be denied by the most careless reader that our Lord did certainly on this occasion definitely offer Himself to Israel as their King, and it was thus that the whole multitude of the disciples understood it. Witness their cry "Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord." Why King, if He was not coming as King?
If repentance without atonement could not avail, neither could atonement without repentance. The question was, would Israel repent? Of course, it is a travesty of the truth to describe this as Dr. Gordon does so flippantly, "God proposes, man disposes." God offers, man refuses, would be nearer the mark; "Ye will not come unto Me that ye might have life;" "He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief." Israel was offered the restoration of the kingdom, but they refused the condition and so its establishment was postponed to a future day, which is dawning on us as these lines are being penned.
If any raise the question, "How then would the Church have been formed?" The answer is as before; we can leave that to God. It did not happen. The nation rejected the reprieve offered and missed their opportunity. "Now we turn to the Gentiles" might serve as a keynote to the subsequent history. Romans 11 explains the present administration of God's ways with Jew and Gentile. Israel is not cast away (i.e., permanently), as even the existence of a remnant according to the election of grace shows (see v.5), but are nationally blinded (v.7). Their fall brings in the opportunity of the Gentiles, but their condition of fulness will occur again in God's time and will mean an increase of riches to the Gentiles (vs.12-15). The position is summed up in verse 25, "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," that is, I take it, until the last Gentile is added to the Church; then the eyes of the remnant of Israel will be gradually opened and all Israel (i.e., all these survivors) will be saved. "They shall look on Him whom they pierced" and mourn for their sin in rejecting Him (Zech. 12: 10). Then their sins and uncleanness will be cleansed away in the fountain opened for that very purpose; the Fountain, which, as has been well said, sprang up at Calvary, but which will till then have been flowing as an underground river for the nation.
But why then should Mr. Mauro make such an outcry against "the Postponement Theory"? For one thing, because it casts a slur, as he affirms, on the sovereignty of God, and denies that "He worketh all things after the counsel of His own will." This is a mistake. God does, but His purposes are not fatalistic decrees, for though they may be postponed by His permission, they cannot be frustrated. We have a case in point in the failure of the children of Israel to enter the land; they ought to have done so, but refused and so were condemned to wander forty years in the wilderness, "And ye shall know my breach of promise" (marg., change of purpose) in other words, the postponement of what might and ought to have occurred then and there. Another example may be cited in Joel, where the judgment of the Day of the Lord definitely threatened as at hand (ch. 1: 15; 2: 1), and yet is postponed to a future date by their repentance, and so with God's judgment on Nineveh which was timed for a certain date, but was postponed owing to the city's repentance. In the same way, the rejection of the Lord Jesus as their King-Messiah—"We have no king but Caesar," though it did necessarily postpone the kingdom for a time, only opened the door to the revelation of the Mystery hid in God in past ages; the Church which is His body. When that is fulfilled, then the Kingdom will be set up by power.
There is another reason which appeals to some minds, namely the longevity of their views. Alas, how many hoary systems of misbelief linger on in the world, which would do well to demise. Thus we are told by their defenders that clericalism, sacerdotalism, etc., have been the rule in the church all down the ages, that the fanciful system of prophetical interpretation known as "historicism" was held all down the ages, till the Jesuits quite lately invented "futurism" (!) and so in this case, Mr. Mauro affirms that "all evangelical Christians down to the latter part of the 19th century (p.1) held "the sound and scriptural views" he himself holds. But how can he prove this? It entails universal research. One of the best known quotations from the eminent doctor Augustine of Hippo, and it cannot be denied that he was evangelical in many ways, is: "Distinguish the dispensations and the Scriptures will agree," so he must have been an exception to this universal rule of Mr. Mauro.
But even were all these past ages in agreement with our brother, they might be "times of ignorance which God winked at." The Reformers were indeed giants, as far as they went, but they did not seem to travel far beyond justification by faith. No doubt, God had many aspects of truth to reveal to His saints, never in contradiction to well-established truth, but supplementary to it. And if, as in the case of dispensational truth, the key fits the lock of the Scriptures, then the key must be God-given. We do not accept truth because it is new, nor cling to it because it is antique, but because it is in accord with the general tenor of Scripture. In face of the plain teaching of Romans 11, and whole areas of Prophecy, some of which are being fulfilled under our very eyes, to deny the literal and future restoration of the kingdom to Israel is a serious misinterpretation of Scripture, and a bold system of denial that jeopardizes all sane exegesis, robs the Lord Jesus of His earthly people, inheritance and throne, and Israel of their future restoration and share in the Millennial Kingdom under their Messiah, Redeemer, and King, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Mr. Mauro objects to the fact of the temporary postponement of the kingdom, to be fully realized however in the day of God's power (Psa.110: 3), but what are we to say of this audacious scheme of his which postpones forever the clearly revealed purposes of God to Israel? To deny any distinctly national future to Israel, and spiritualize (carnalize would be a better word) the myriad promises to her, the earthly people, and apply them to the Church or the whole body of the redeemed, is the most fantastic system of prophetical misinterpretation ever foisted on a long suffering Church. We need not fear for well-established Christians; Mr. Mauro's "Postponement Theory" is too crude to affect such; but the weak and ill-balanced, always ready to listen to the latest will-o'-the-whisp doctrine, may be attracted. May the Lord deliver such from this snare.
"Light and Liberty" January - March 1934