This review appeared in the Apr-Jun 2013 vol. 170 no. 2 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
Christ’s Prophetic PlansMoody Publishers, Chicago February 21, 2012
Five faculty members of The Master’s Seminary have written an excellent primer on what they call “futuristic premillennialism.” This is a strong defense of pretribulational dispensational premillennialism. Richard Mayhue, executive vice president and dean of the seminary, begins with an introductory chapter “Why Study Prophecy?” Then Michael Vlach presents two chapters on dispensationalism. He presents what he calls “six essential beliefs of dispensationalism.” They are these: (1) “Progressive revelation from the New Testament does not interpret Old Testament passages in a way that cancels the original authorial intent of the Old Testament writers as determined by historical-grammatical hermeneutics.” (2) “Types exist, but national Israel is not a type that is superseded by the church.” (3) “Israel and the church are distinct, thus the church cannot be identified as the new or true Israel.” (4) “There is both spiritual unity in salvation between Jews and Gentiles and a future role for Israel as a nation.” (5) “The nation Israel will be saved, restored with a unique identity, and function in a future millennial kingdom upon the earth.” (6) “There are multiple senses of ‘seeds of Abraham’ thus the church’s identification as ‘seed of Abraham’ does not cancel God’s promises to the believing Jewish ‘seed of Abraham’ ” (pp. 24–36).
Then in chapter 2 Vlach discusses what he calls five myths of dispensationalism: (1) “Dispensationalism teaches multiple ways of salvation.” (2) “Dispensationalism is inherently Arminian.” (3) “Dispensatioanlism is inherently antinomian.” (4) Dispensationalism leads to non-lordship salvation.” (5) “Dispensationalism is primarily about believing in seven dispensations” (pp. 42–54). Regarding point 4 Vlach admits that dispensationalism does not necessarily lead to lordship salvation either. As he says, “Since dispensationalism is primarily about ecclesiology and eschatology, it does not have a necessary connection to the lordship issue, which is a soteriological matter” (p. 51).
In chapter 3, “Why Futuristic Premillenialism?” Mayhue argues that dispensational premillennialism follows “a consistent grammatical-historical approach to both the Old and New Testament Scriptures by which the Bible is interpreted normally throughout” (p. 61). Premillennialism builds on a consistent hermeneutic, God’s unconditional covenants (Abrahamic, Davidic, New), and God’s promises that Israel will be a nation in the millennium under her Messiah, a promise made repeatedly in several Old Testament books of prophecy.
In chapter 4, “Why a Pretribulation Rapture?” Mayhue discusses the significance of the rapture and its relationship to the coming tribulation. Then he raises and answers thirteen questions sometimes raised against a pretribulational rapture (pp. 96–102).
In chapter 5, “What about Israel?” Vlach discusses what the Bible teaches about the restoration of Israel to her land, as presented in the Gospels, Acts, Romans, and Revelation. Chapter 6, “What about Revelation 20?” by Matthew Waymeyer, presents a thorough exposition of Revelation 20 to show that the proper interpretation of this passage presents futuristic premillennialism and not amillennialism or postmillennialism.
In discussing the relevance of Calvinism to premillennialism MacArthur in chapter 7 argues that Reformed theologians need to reform their view of eschatology. He points out the weaknesses of replacement theology (the view that the church has replaced or superseded the nation Israel). He says, “Calvinists should affirm that God’s sovereign election [of Israel] cannot be forfeited” (p. 155).
In chapter 8, “Does the New Testament Reject Futuristic Premillennialism?” MacArthur calls attention to verses in the Gospels, Acts, Romans, and Revelation that affirm the yet-future reign of Christ. He comments on the fact the term “Israel” always means the people of ethnic Israel. Also he discusses Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16, two verses that are widely debated. Nathan Busenitz writes in chapter 9 that the early church fathers believed in a literal millennial kingdom. He cites the views of Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Lactantius. Then he discusses the factors that gave rise to amillennialism.
In the concluding chapter MacArthur briefly discusses the certainty of futuristic premillennialism. A glossary, which explains a number of relevant terms (pp. 207–10), is followed by a lengthy Scripture index (pp. 211–20). This book will help readers see the significance of premillennialism and how it is clearly the position presented throughout the Old and New Testaments.
—Roy B. Zuck