The Case for Historic Premillennialism (Review)

historic

Borrow this book; don’t buy it. I write this as someone sympathetic with historic premillennialism, but the essays are woefully uneven. The first few dealing with its Hebraic background are quite good. The essay on Ezekiel notes how prophetic language is to be interpreted (e.g., we can only spiritualize it when the author gives us the key to spiritualize it, like in Ezekiel 37). Suggests, even with all of its problems, that Ez 40-48 was meant to be read literally since it chiastically parallels the physical, literal temple in chapters 8-9. This does suggest problems in the New Testament teachings on the Temple. The author admits that, but doesn’t worry about it. The same God wrote both testaments.

There is an interesting essay on modern-day Jewish life-after-death thought.

The central essay is Blomberg’s one on post-tribulationism. While he does offer several point-by-point critiques of pretribulationism, his argument mainly focuses on the central New Testament theme that God’s children must suffer tribulation. Further, he quickly dispenses with dispensationalism’s semi-pathetic claim that we must be raptured before the tribulation because God’s children will never have to face his “wrath.” Blomberg ends his essay with a few interesting comments on the nature of postrib premillennialism. Responding to critics that post-trib precludes an “any-moment” return of Christ, Blomberg responds that 1) the events per Antichrist and tribulatin can happen rather quickly or simultaneously and thus make possible an any-moment return.

Fairbairn’s essay on the early church’s eschatology is quite good. He demonstrates that most (but not all) ante-Nicene fathers held to a form of postribulationism and the millennial reign. This position would fall out of favor with the gnostic tendencies of Origen and the hyper-Platonism of Augustine. While the early church was largely premillennial, it really doesn’t fit into any modern categories of premillennialism, so any comparison must stop here.

The two weakest essays are on Reformed Covenantalism (Chung) and Premillennial Method (Payne). The former rightly suggests that Reformed amillennialism “spiritualizes” away most of the promises of an earthly restoration. Chung argues that this is so because of the Reformed insistence on the Covenant of Works. I remain unconvinced and Chung offers little more than assertions. Payne’s essay had more promise, but does little more than explain why premillennialists interpret Scripture “literally.” He mentioned Thomas Reid’s Scottish Common Sense realism, but failed to demonstrate how this affects hermeneutics. He should have argued that our cognitive faculties are reliable and when information is presented in a straight-forward way, we are to understand it in a straight-forward way. Second premise: the eschatological promises in the Old Testament are presented in a straight-forward way. Ergo, premillennialism. Payne doesn’t do this (I have done in three sentences what his entire essay failed to do).

Conclusion:

Because this book is focused against dispensationalism, it is of limited use to those who are not dispensationalists. There are a number of valuable exegetical insights that are helpful to those of all persuasions, and the historical overviews are quite good. The book as a whole is uneven and its lasting importance will demonstrate it to be quite limited.

Given the rise of the pre-wrath position, many of the essays could be modified to accommodate that.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in American Evangelicalism, Book Review, Eschatology, theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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