Swords Into Plowshares
In Word and Work, November, 1959, there appears the following statement alluding to Isaiah 2:4:
"A great American statesman once had a number of swords recast into little paper weight plowshares and sent to diplomats of other nations as an indication that war was a thing of the past. But the day of replacing swords by plowshares will not come until the Lord Jesus Christ shall be reigning. It will be when the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the earth that swords can be dispensed with. May the day come soon!
Old issues are fought and re-fought in descending generations. The premillennial issue will always confront the church because of the prominence of the millennial contention and the evangelical nature of its advocate. Sectarian dogma finds its way into the church in every generation and the battle of one generation is often repeated in the next one.
Word and Work is a publication of premillennial people in the Lord's church. Our premillennial brethren have suffered severe defeats on the polemic platforms and they are continually afflicted by the onslaught of truth. But premillennialism in the Lord's body is still with us. Even though premillennial churches are something of a separate entity, almost constituting a separate body altogether, they are classified and recognized as part of the movement currently called "Churches of Christ." Thus we oppose the Word and Work people as erring brethren.
The selection which appears above serves as the occasion and opportunity for this exposure of the premillennial fallacy. The Word and Work selection denies the present reign of Jesus by referring to the reign of Christ as something yet to come. The passage about the swords and plowshares is considered a prophecy of an age yet to arrive and is used to bolster the premillennial theory of a reign of Christ on earth.
Isaiah said the events of which he spoke would occur in the "last days." The "last days" are clearly defined in the New Testament as that period of time in which members of the church were living. Peter applied the phrase "last days" to the events of the day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:17). The writer of Hebrews affirms that this age in which God speaks through Christ is the "last days" ( Hebrews 1:1 -3 ). The phrase "last days" means "in a later time" or "in the distant future" and was used in the Old Testament to refer to the messianic age in which the anointed one would reign. Isaiah 2 pictures the temple "as a center of pilgrimage and religious instruction for all peoples." The mountain of the Lord's house in the top of the mountains is the Jerusalem temple on its hill-a prophetic image of the church. The "swords-to-plowshares" and the "spears- to pruning hooks" utterances are pictures of the peaceful nature of the reign of Christ.
The New Testament very vividly sets forth the fulfillment of the passage. Jesus alluded to the prophecy when he stated, "Thus it is written ... repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:25-49.) Isaiah 2 and the duplicate prophecy of Micah 4 are the only places where such information "is written," thus it is to these utterances that Jesus refers. He applies the prophecy to what was about to take place at Jerusalem-the establishment of the church.
It is quite certain that Jesus began reigning when he was raised up to sit at the right hand of God on David's throne (Acts 2:30, 33, 36). Christ now reigns inasmuch as God has exalted him and given him a name at the sound of which every knee should bow (Philippians 2:9-10). Jesus reigns now (I Corinthians 15:25). This Christian or church dispensation is the "messianic age." The Messiah has occupied the throne of David (Acts 2:30-36). He serves as High Priest (Hebrews 3:1), and rules as king or head (Ephesians 1:22-23) over the institution pictured by the temple symbol of Isaiah 2:1-4.
This institution, the church, is not like the old Jewish commonwealth of the Old Testamerit which took up the sword and spear against the Gentiles, and which engaged in internal military pursuits. Jew and Gentile are reconciled in the church (Ephesians 2:11-22). This church is declared to be the holy temple (Ephesians 2:21 ). The Old Testament setup put both the civil and religious functions under the one system-Israel. Thus Israel performed the civil function of taking up arms against enemies, and when the great split in Israel took place following the death of Solomon, the opposing segments in Israel took up arms against each other. The material and civil nature of the Old Testament commonwealth required sword bearing and spear toting. But the messianic kingdom, the Lord's body, does not have the civil and military functions. The Lord's kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36), it is a spiritual, a moral institution. Thus in the kingdom of God swords are beat into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks-this is an imagery of the spiritual nature of the kingdom as opposed to the military characteristics of civil states. The weapons o f our warfare are not carnal (11 Corinthians 10:4). The "peace" prophecy of Isaiah 2:4 is fulfilled in the present universal reign of Jesus Christ over his spiritual body, the church.
In order for the premillennialists to attach a future application of this prophecy, to a supposed materialistic reign of Christ on earth, they must find another earthly age after these "last days," they must create another body other than the one bodv (Ephesians 4:4), and they must set aside the apostolic application of Old Testament prophecies (Acts 3:24). To do all this they will have to go to something other than the book we call the Bible.
Truth Magazine IV:3, pp. 16-17