Why I am a premillennialist (and you should be, too)

Why I am a premillennialist (and you should be, too) September 14, 2010

Okay, I admit it.  The “you should be, too” part was just to get you to read this.  I don’t have any axe to grind about this and I’m not on a crusade to convert amils or postmils (are there any?) to historic premillennialism.  I admit that I would like to persuade dispensationalist premils to consider historic premillennialism as an alternative to “Left Behind” eschatology.

Recently a book about historic premillennialism was published entitled The Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to “Left Behind” Eschatology.  One of the editors is highly respected evangelical New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg (Denver Seminary).  I recommend it highly.

I was raised on the footnotes in the Scofield Reference Bible and on Clarence Larkin’s eschatology charts.  (I know; those references make me “old school!”)  Then, while in Bible College, I took courses on “Daniel and Revelation” and other books of the Bible and subjects that, according to my professors, pointed directly to a pretrib rapture of the church.  But I had trouble finding that in my Bible!

When I was first considering theology as a career I asked one of my beloved professors to recommend a good theology book for me to read.  He recommended and I bought Dwight Pentecost’s (Dallas Theological Seminary) Things to Come.  I read it thoroughly and couldn’t understand it.  The words were clear; it was the argument that I found murky at best.  (Pentecost was, of course, a champion of dispensationalism and pre-trib rapture eschatology.)  I agreed with the premillennialism as I found that solidly grounded in Scripture and early Christian history.  But the arguments for a pretrib rapture just no longer convinced me.

I have never given up on the premillennialism of my youth, however.  Under the influence of theologians and New Testament scholars such as George Eldon Ladd and Robert Gundry I discarded pretrib rapturism but kept premillennialism because it seems the only view that can make sense of all the OT references to a Kingdom of God on earth before the new heaven and new earth.  I won’t go into all of that here but only recommend that doubters read the new book or Ladd’s or Gundry’s excellent books on the subject.

Also, read the early church fathers Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian–all premillennialists without any idea of a secret rapture.  It seems to me that IF premillennialism was not the teaching of the apostles Ireneaus, for example, would have known that.  (He studied Christianity under Polycarp who was a disciple of John’s.)  It was the Alexandrians (known for their allegorical approach to interpretation) and Augustine (known for his neo-Platonism) who changed to amillennialism.

While in seminary I encountered the argument that premillennialism undermines social ethics–concern for this world.  People alleged that it is inherently otherworldy.  That never made sense to me.  If I envision a Kingdom of God on earth, ruled over by Jesus Christ himself, in which poverty, sickness, injustice, violence, etc., will be abolished, how can I be comfortable with those things now?  A vision of the earthly millennium (incomplete as it may be) propels me to protest against those things now that stand in stark contrast to that.

German theologian Juergen Moltmann is this kind of premillennialist.  (I have talked with him about it.  He affirmed to me that he is a premillennialist.)  He argues for Christians being in the forefront of social transformation and environmentalism because of the revelation of the coming Kingdom on earth.  I recommend his book The Coming of God.

I continually run into people, especially in the South, who think that fundamentalists have a monopoly on premillennialism.  They are ignorant of historic premillennialists such as Ladd.  They need to read the new book The Case for Historic Premillenialism.

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