Brian Collins's Reviews > Christ's Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer

Christ's Prophetic Plans by John MacArthur
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Apr 12, 12

Read in April, 2012

As with most books of collected essays the quality varies by the contributor. The best essays in this volume are the three by Michael Vlach that deal with the topics of Dispensationalism and Israel. Mirroring his work in Dispensationalism: Essential Beliefs and Common Myths, Vlach defines Dispensationalism and clarifies misunderstandings. He demonstrates that Dispensationalism does not demand a particular soteriology (Calvinist or Arminian, progressive sanctification or Keswick, etc.). It certainly does not teach two ways of salvation, and it is not antinomian (though it does not hold that the Mosaic code directly applies to the believer). He defines Dispensationalism in terms of "six essential beliefs." First, the NT does not reinterpret the OT in such a way that the OT authorial intent is canceled out. Second, Israel is not a type of the church. Third, "Israel and the church are distinct, thus the church cannot be identified as the new or true Israel" (29). Fourth, the salvific unity of Jew and Gentile does not remove a future national purpose of Israel. Fifth, Dispensationalists believe in the future salvation, national restoration of Israel during the Millennium. Sixth, Dispensationalists affirm that "seed of Abraham" has multiple senses. It can refer to national descent or to Gentiles connected to Abraham in Christ. In defining Dispensationalism, Vlach is also careful to correct Dispensational errors in self-definition. For instance, Ryrie asserted that the glory of God as God's purpose in the world was a Dispensational distinctive. Vlach notes that it would be better to say that Dispensationalists have a greater tendency to understand God's purposes in a holistic manner that incorporates "social, economic, and political issues" in God's plan for glorifying himself along with soteriological and spiritual issues (21-22). He also highlights the problem of Dispensationalists defining themselves in terms of consistently literal hermeneutics. He quotes Feinberg, "The difference is not literalism v. non-literalism, but different understandings of what constitutes literal hermeneutics" (22). Vlach is correct that the hermeneutical discussion must go deeper to wrestle with the reasons for different approaches to prophetic material. Vlach's essays on dispensationalism along with his essay arguing for the future restoration of Israel are highly recommended.

Church historians of many different persuasions have long recognized the earliest Christians were premillennial in orientation. Nathan Busenitz's essay helpfully provides for lay readers the quotations from the church fathers that underlie this consensus. He also provides a historical argument for why Amillennialism became the dominant view in the church from Augustine through the middle ages and beyond.

Matthew Waymeyer presents a standard defense of the premillennial reading of Revelation 20. He argues from Scripture passages about Satan's current activity for the impossibility that Satan is currently bound and unable to deceive the nations. He argues against the idea that the first resurrection in Revelation 20 refers to regeneration. He argues in favor of a 1,000 year millennium. And he argues in favor of a chronological reading of Revelation 19 and 20.

John MacArthur contributed three essays to this volume, including a version of his controversial address about why Calvinists should be Premillennialists. His other essays address the timing of the last things. He opposes both preterism and date-setting, but he affirms the general dispensational sequence. In another essay he argues that no New Testament passage precludes the premillinnial position.

Richard Mayhue's contributions were the weakest. At several points his chapters read like speaking notes in which greater explanation would have been provided in the course of the lecture. These parts were written in a bullet point fashion that succinctly stated his position, but greater development and argumentation for the assertions would have been desirable. MacArthur and Mayhue also repeatedly make the error of appealing to literal interpretation as if it settled the debate. This was especially disappointing because Vlach demonstrated this line of argumentation to be erroneous in the books's first chapter.

This book is for a lay reader who wishes to have a basic orientation to dispensational premillennialism (the authors have coined the term futuristic premillennailism, which is an odd choice since historic premillennialists also believe that the millennium is future). Those who wish to dig deeper into this perspective of eschatology would want to track down the sources listed in the endnotes.
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