February 23, 2012

Christ’s Prophetic Plans

by Nathan Busenitz

Books, unlike blog articles, take a long time to produce. A book represents many months of thinking, studying, writing, editing, revising and rewriting. But when the process is finally complete, there’s nothing quite as thrilling as holding the finished product in your hands.

So you can appreciate how excited I was when, just yesterday, I received several copies of the newly released Christ’s Prophetic Plans by Moody Publishers (220 pp.) — a book to which I had the privilege of contributing. Other contributors include John MacArthur, Richard Mayhue, Michael Vlach, and Matthew Waymeyer (all of whom are on the faculty of The Master’s Seminary).

You can probably guess, from the title, that the book deals with eschatology (the doctrine of last things) — specifically with making the case for a future millennial kingdom.

Here are a list of the chapters:

* * * * *

Introduction: Why Study Prophecy? (by Richard Mayhue)

1. What Is Dispensationalism? (by Michael Vlach)

2. What Is Dispensationalism Not? (by Michael Vlach)

3. Why Futuristic Premillennialism? (by Richard Mayhue)

4. Why a Pretribulational Rapture? (by Richard Mayhue)

5. What about Israel? (by Michael Vlach)

6. What about Revelation 20? (by Matthew Waymeyer)

7. Does Calvinism Lead to Futuristic Premillennialism? (by John MacArthur)

8. Does the New Testament Reject Futuristic Premillennialism? (by John MacArthur)

9. Did the Early Church Believe in a Literal Millennial Kingdom? (by Nathan Busenitz)

10. How Certain Is Futuristic Premillennialism? (by John MacArthur)

* * * * *

For those interested in the study of last things, this book is one you’ll want to get. Even if you’re not a premillennialist, I think you’ll find plenty of food for thought in its pages.

Below are a few selected quotes (one from each contributor) to pique your interest:

John MacArthur: “The more I understand God’s sovereign, electing grace, the clearer the study of eschatology becomes. Moreover, the longer I study the Scriptures, the more convinced I become of the Futuristic Premillennial position.  … Thus, I am a Futuristic Premillennialist for the same reason that I embrace the doctrines of grace. God’s Word clearly teaches the sovereign election of the church. But equally clear is His sovereign election of the nation of Israel. Armed with a literal hermeneutic, and fully convinced that God’s election cannot be forfeited because His purposes cannot fail, I embrace a Futuristic Premillennial eschatology with the same confidence that I embrace a Reformed soteriology. After all, we are bound to believe what the Scriptures reveal. In this case, a straightforward reading of God’s Word leaves me with no other option.” (pp. 155-56)

Richard Mayhue: “Futuristic Premillennialism comes to the text with no other preunderstanding than a consistent grammatical-historical hermeneutic.  … [It] does not require new special rules of interpretation when it comes to prophetic texts. The biblical text is taken at normal face value, in its context, recognizing symbolic language and speech figures, plus the reality they represent. … Unless some clear, uncontested mandate from Scripture changes how one interprets second-coming prophecies (and there is none), then prophetic Scripture should be interpreted [in a face-value way] consistently throughout the Bible. Only Futuristic Premillennialism does so.” (p. 77)

Michael Vlach: “The salvation and restoration of the nation Israel is an explicit biblical doctrine. It is found from Genesis through Revelation. Israel’s future is linked with the ultimate Israelite, Jesus Christ, who restores the nation and brings blessings to the nations of the earth. May our response to the unbiblical idea that the nation Israel no longer has a place in God’s plans be that of the apostle Paul who declared, ‘God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!’ (Rom. 11:1).” (p. 121)

Matthew Waymeyer: “Is Satan currently bound in the abyss during the present age, or will his thousand-year imprisonment take place after the second coming of Christ? … Satan’s imprisonment cannot be considered a present reality because the events of Revelation 20:1-3 are incompatible with the New Testament’s portrayal of his influence during the present age. … If Satan is prevented from deceiving the nations during the millennial reign of Christ and yet he is currently deceiving the nations in the present age [cf. 2 Cor. 4:4], the thousand years of Revelation 20 cannot be taking place right now. The binding of Satan must be future” (pp. 125-128)

Last and most definitely least…

Nathan Busenitz: “If the New Testament upholds a future, earthly millennial kingdom, then we would expect Premillennialism to be the predominant view in the writings of the early church fathers. And that is exactly what we find. … Premillennialism, then, is not a recent development. Rather, it is the oldest eschatological viewpoint in church history. That reality adds tremendous credibility to the Futuristic Premillennial position.” (pp. 177, 192)

There’s obviously a whole lot more to the book than these five citations. Moreover, each of the selected quotations above exists in its own well-developed context. (I would ask everyone to keep that in mind before heated debates erupt over these short snippets in the comments section.)

Nonetheless, I hope this brief glimpse will suffice as an adequate teaser.

Those interested in acquiring a copy of Christ’s Prophetic Plans, which will be officially released next week, can visit GBI’s website here.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Johnny Schlaack

    Are you aware of an article/blog posting that addresses how people twist Scripture and apply it wrongly when it comes to prophecy or applying Old Testament passages made to Israel and apply it to America? In particular, The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn takes Is. 9:10 along with other passages in the OT and tries applying it to America and how God is going to judge us. Just looking for some help I can pass on to others who misuse the Scriptures in this way. THANKS! http://goo.gl/Brqqo

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Johnny,
      I have had three different people recently tell me that I have to read that book. My flight attendant on my out to DC actually sat next to me and spent about ten minutes telling me how amazing that book is, and how it will change m pastoral ministry. Anyway, thanks for the link. Very helpful.

  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    Nate,

    Thanks for your work on this. I can’t wait to read it. Is it a shep con gift, or do I need to throw down and buy it?

  • http://twitter.com/SpencerDeBurgh Spencer DeBurgh

    Thanks for providing us this resource Nate.
    I look forward to getting it to church members here in WI who will really benefit from it.
    Do you think it would it be suitable as a textbook for our Sunday evening equipping class?

    • Nbusenitz

      Hi Spencer,

      Thanks for your comment. I do think this book is useful for lay-training, though it depends on what you are hoping to accomplish with the equipping class. This book focuses on the exegetical, hermeneutical, theological, and historical rationale for premillennialism — and in that way, serves as an apologetic for it. It’s not really intended to be a chronological explanation of end-times events, though it does include some of that. (For a chronological explantion of future events, I would recommend either of John MacArthur’s books, ‘Because the Time Is Near’ or ‘The Second Coming.’)

      But, if there are people in your church who are unsure of their eschatological position, this is definitely a book they should read.

  • Michael Delahunt

    Going to have to get this! Really looking forward to reading your chapter, Nate! I always had the notion that premil was a relatively young position to take; really encouraged to hear it is something with early church support!

    • Jeff Somerville

      Yeah, I have heard Nate I think at the Shepard’s Conference two years ago, or maybe it was one of the other speakers, quote some early church support.

  • http://www.reformedstudy.com Danny Gudzen

    Quick! Write about something else. I’m an Amil. This doesn’t apply to me.

    • http://twitter.com/Shinar_Squirrel Gene Clyatt

      Okay, Danny. That’s funny. :-)

    • http://twitter.com/Shinar_Squirrel Gene Clyatt

      Danny’s comment does point out something. The “I love John MacArthur, but…” crowd that reacted so negatively to the “Why Every Calvinist is a Premillennialist” message back in 2007 are not going to like this book, either. I don’t know of any committed amill who became premill because of that message, while committed premills, such as myself, where standing in the bleachers cheering.

      • http://www.reformedstudy.com Danny Gudzen

        Thanks Gene. Right on. :)

        • http://twitter.com/Shinar_Squirrel Gene Clyatt

          But, of course, just because you reject MacArthur’s premillennialism doesn’t mean that you’re not wrong :-)

          • http://www.reformedstudy.com Danny Gudzen

            Take that back Gene.

          • http://twitter.com/Shinar_Squirrel Gene Clyatt

            No! Nanananana! Pffft! :o)

    • elainebitt

      As a matter of fact, it does apply to you. I can see at least 3 chapters from which you would benefit immensely:

      1. What Is Dispensationalism? (by Michael Vlach)

      2. What Is Dispensationalism Not? (by Michael Vlach)

      5. What about Israel? (by Michael Vlach)

  • elainebitt

    Thank you Nathan! I already placed my order the other day. I can’t wait to read it!

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  • michael Henry

    How long before kindle edition I wonder. (please, please)

    • MarkO

      It’s not imminent.

  • MarkO

    To my knowledge there is no creed or confession of the Protestant church before 1830 (the Advent of Darbyism) which affirms a Secret-Pretrib Rapture. Have you found any?

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      Hey MarkO,

      What do you mean when you use the word “secret”? I’ve heard a lot of critics of Dispensationalism use that word to describe the rapture, but I don’t know what they mean by it.

      Thanks.

      • MarkO

        I think it has something to do with a heavenly dog whistle – seriously, I guess it’s idea that Jesus won’t come to earth all the way.

        • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

          Gotcha. So it doesn’t really have anything to do with it actually being an event that goes unnoticed (i.e., a secret), then? What, with the shouts and trumpet blasts, and believers meeting Christ in the air and all (1Th 4:16-17).

          • MarkO

            Well, Jesus is unnoticed (thus ‘secret’) in the Pretrib Rapture since He will be hiding behind the clouds and His feet won’t touch the earth as in His 3rd Coming at the end of the Trib. As I understand it the unbelievers won’t hear the shouts, trumpets, etc. at the Pretrib Rapture – right?

          • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

            As I understand it the unbelievers won’t hear the shouts, trumpets, etc. at the Pretrib Rapture – right?

            Actually, I’m not sure that actually represents the dispensational position. I can’t imagine why unbelievers wouldn’t hear those things. I personally see nothing in the text that would suggest they wouldn’t.

            So I guess this little interaction has been helpful; it seems the idea of a “secret” rapture (unless “secret” simply means no one knows when it will happen) is based on false assumptions from critics of dispensationalism. There’s one baseless criticism we can put to rest.

            Next, this 3rd coming thing… :-)

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for your comment. This book deals more with the millennium than the rapture, though there is one chapter devoted to that subject.

      In answer to your question: to my knowledge, there is no ancient creed or confession that affirms any particular rapture position. However, if you are asking if there is evidence for the pretribulational rapture view in church history before 1830, the answer is certainly yes. Along those lines, I would recommend to you the following article: http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj13e.pdf.

      Here is a helpful quote from the church father, Ephraem of Nisibis (306-373):

      “All the saints and elect of God are gathered together before the tribulation, which is to come and are taken to the Lord, in order that they may not see at any time the confusion which overwhelms the world because of our sins.” On the Last Times, 2.

      Hope that helps,
      Nathan

      • MarkO

        Nathan,
        Thanks for the info. I always enjoy more sources. I believe the quote you mention actually comes from Psuedo-Ephraem. And as I understand it Mr. Psuedo-E is actually referring to a 3 1/2 year Trib rather than a 7 Year Trib as Darbyism proposes.

  • MarkO

    The above title, outline and excerpts keep using the word “futuristic” – That seems redundant since anyone familiar with the Premil position knows it’s a given that the Premil position is in the future. Also, doesn’t it seem quite likely that the contributors all colluded to use the word “futuristic” as a code word for Dispensational? Do we have transcripts of the meeting where they decided to do this? – would be interesting.

    • http://mriccardi.blogspot.com Mike Riccardi

      LoL. Conspiracy theories don’t become you, MarkO.

      I’ve heard Dr. Mayhue remark, at least as early as 2006, that he coined the term as a way to distinguish (and as a friendly jab to) those who call their position “historic” premillennialism. Given (a) the contributors have heard him use and define the term in lectures and sermons for at least 5 years, and (b) he’s one of the editors of the book, it’s not surprising that the other contributors use the same terminology.

      • MarkO

        ah, not conspiracy, but bandwagon I see. Interestingly though the Historic Premil position is also futuristic (or at least in the future).

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