June 10, 2013

Persuasive eschatology

by Jesse Johnson

If I had to recommend one book on Premillennialism, one on pretribulationalism, and one on dispensationalism, here is my list. Think of it as my fantasy eschatology team. The point of this list is that these books not only reflect what I believe, but advocate the view in a way I find convincing and compelling. In other words, if you are not premillennial, pretribulational, and dispensational, then read these books (unless you don’t want to be won over—in that case, go back to reading Calvin’s commentary on Revelation):  

grudem stPremillennialism: Systematic Theology

Wayne Grudem defines premillennialism succinctly: “The premillennial position says that Christ will come back before the millennium…” Although Grudem goes on to separate the pre-tribulational rapture view from “historic premillennialism,” he makes a very strong argument for premillennialism. His presentation is so strong largely because of the amount of space he gives to amillennialism (in fact, he makes a stronger case for amillennialism than most books that end up advocating it!). After laying out the cases for both amillennialism and postmillennialism, he then explains why neither is ultimately compelling. What separates Grudem’s work from other similar books is that most other authors interact with amillennialism’s weak points. In other words, they find the weakest spot of the amillennial argument, and refute that. This is frustrating because that is exactly what amillennial authors often do to the premillennial view, and that approach is not winsome. Grudem avoids it, and instead interacts with the strong points of amillennialism, before ultimately explaining why he holds to premillennialism. The entire section is 30 pages, and ends with personal application questions as well as a hymn (Watts’ Jesus Shall Reign—take that amillennialists!)

3 views rapturePretribulationalism: Three Views on the Rapture

Paul Feinberg effectively lays out the case for the pretribulational rapture. There are lots of rapture books that are condescending and use Left Behind rhetoric instead of actual exegesis. This book avoids all of that. In fact, this is probably the best of Zondervan’s Counterpoints series simply because all three views represented (pre, mid, post) are advocated by authors who know each other. They all taught at Trinity, they all believe in some form of immanency, and they all interact with each other in a truly edifying way. All three grant that their view has weaknesses, and that this is a grey area. Yet they all strongly advocate their view, and they interact with the other author’s strong points. Also, the introduction by Reiter is phenomenal. It is the best historical survey of rapture views that I have read, and explains how/why this form of eschatology arrives so late on the scene, comparatively speaking. This is a very, very good book.

vlach bookDispensationalism: Dispensationalism

Michael Vlach realized that most books on dispensationalism practically traffic in misinformation. Books by non-dispensationalists tend to be border-line dishonest in their portrayal of dispensational beliefs, and this has not been helped by the fact that many books by dispensationalists make almost no effort to convince the uninformed, but instead seem to be written under the assumption that no non-dispensationalist would ever read them to begin with. Vlach takes a different approach. He lays out what he sees as the six essential beliefs of dispensationalism, and shows how those beliefs are biblical. He devotes a section to responding to the misunderstandings of dispensational theology, as well as to the history of it. It is concise, and very helpful.

There are other books on these topics as well. Continuity and Discontinuity is an exchange between the leading dispensationalist and covenantal theologians of the 1980’s, edited by John Feinberg. That was back when the two sides were actually talking to each other, and I doubt that a similar book could be written again anytime soon. This is not an entry level book, but as a follow up to any of the books above, it would be quite helpful. Also, MacArthur and Mayhue edited Christ’s Prophetic Plans, where several different authors argue for dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, and premillennialism. If you want to find one book that covers all three topics, then this is it.

Are there any specific areas/arguments of any of these (dispensationalism, pretribulationalism, or premillennialism) that you’d like to see covered on this blog?

Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Linda Rice

    Thans for the book recommendations.

    Related questions:

    1. Why will there be, according to Ezekiel, animal sacrifices in the Millennium with Christ right there reigning?

    2. If the Priestly covenant is perpetual, then there will forever be a segment of the glorified population (descendants of Phinehas through Zadok?) ministering as priests. What will this look like in heaven? How different from what the rest of us will be doing? Does this indicate that, as on our present earth, we will all have functions specific to ourselves as we fit into service to the Lord in a heavenly society?

    • Sharon Betters

      Linda, If you compare the sacrifices, they are not the same as those outlined in the Mosaic Covenant. The Old Testament sacrifices never removed sin, only covered sin. Salvation was always by faith.
      While in the Old Testament they point to the perfect sacrifice that was to come, in the Messianic Kingdom, they will be memorial in nature.

      • MarkO


        In the Millennium why would I want to cut the throat of a poor little lamb when Christ Himself will be present? If I can see Christ and if I can hear him speak – IN PERSON – in the Millennium, then I surely will see no need or even have no desire or see no value in killing a helpless sheep so I can “remember” who Jesus is. He will be there right in front of me.

        I won’t need those awful morning and evening killings to remember him or memorialize him. I can just go to Jerusalem to see him. Or if I happen to be in Bejing on a business trip I can celebrate the Lord’s Table with fellow Millennium believers knowing that a few thousand miles away is the same Savior we worship in that moment. Then, maybe Jesus will visit Bejing.

        No need to memorialize Christ when he is physically in our midst on earth. Seeing him in person is worth looking forward to (not the blood of a young lamb oozing out on to the pavement of the Temple floor).

        • Sharon Betters

          Mark, Simply put… that is what it says. If we are to take the the prophecies concerning Jesus’ first coming as literal, there is no reason to invalidate the prophecies concerning His second coming or the future Messianic Kingdom.

          • MarkO

            Hi Sharon,

            Thanks for the reply. My problem with that view is that nowhere in the Scripture is there any explicit or LITERAL mention that there will be sacrifices in the Millennium. I’ve looked for a text which LITERALLY says in plain speech that there will be sacrifices in the Millennium. I find none.

            Yes, you and I share the belief in that wonderful truth that Jesus is indeed coming again. However, my struggle is that if his Coming again is personal, bodily, visible (praise God it will be), then it seems quite pointless to have sacrifices for any reason (well-intentioned though they may be) when I have Jesus personally, bodily and visibly there before me.

            In the Millennium I would rather worship Jesus DIRECTLY rather than indirectly through a bloody ritual.

            Hope that helps,

          • Sharon Betters

            Mark, If you believe that Ezekiel is teaching that there will be a literal temple in the Messianic Kingdom, then it follows that there will also be literal sacrifices. A great amount of detail is given in Ezekiel to both the Temple and the sacrifices made at that time. You have to remember that even in the Old Testament, sacrifices NEVER removed sin, they only covered sin. Salvation was always by faith.
            It is not up to me to decided whether it is pointless or not, we are called as believers just to believe what is written there in God’s Word. 🙂

          • elainebitt

            “It is not up to me to decided whether it is pointless or not, we are called as believers just to believe what is written there in God’s Word.”

            Good word!

          • MarkO

            Sharon, I appreciate you engaging your view with mine. The exchange is helpful. My struggle as I said before is that I just can’t find ANY literal statement, mention or even a word regarding the Millennium or 1,000 years in Ezekiel.

            What specific and explicit mention of the Millennium in Ezekiel (for example in Ezk 40 thru 48) do you find? I’ve looked and looked and still can’t find any mention of the Millennium therein. I tend to want important things in Scripture to be from a literal perspective.

            It would make it easier for me to understand the POV you defend if I could see a literal statement in Ezekiel about the 1,000 years. Can you at least see my mental barrier on this question?

          • Sharon Betters

            The duration of the Messianic Kingdom is not mentioned in Ezekiel, it is stated in the book of Revelation six times. If repetition means anything, it certainly endeavors to make a point! The basis for belief in the Messianic Kingdom (Millennial Reign of Christ on earth for a literal 1000 years),
            is not based on Revelation 20 alone, or just the description of the Temple and sacrifices in Ezekiel.
            It is based on two things:
            1. Unfulfilled promises of the Jewish covenants
            2. Unfulfilled prophecies of the Jewish prophets

            But looking at just one passage in Ezekiel 20:40-42:
            “For on my holy mountain, the mountain height of Israel, declares the Lord God, there all the house of Israel, all of them, shall serve me in the land. There I will accept them, and there I will require your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your sacred offerings. 41 As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest my holiness among you in the sight of the nations. 42 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the country that I swore to give to your fathers.”

            This is just one of many passages that deal with the future Messianic Kingdom, when Israel is regathered in belief, and they are serving the Lord, and returned to the land that the Lord had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

        • Fred Butler


          You are not cutting the throat of a lamb to cover your sin. The sacrifices in the millennial temple have nothing to do with making an atonement for personal sin or our separation from God, what Jesus has accomplished on the cross on the behalf of his people. They have to do with purifying the temple itself from impurities brought into the sanctuary from those who come to Jerusalem to worship, ala Zechariah 14:16ff.

          • MarkO

            Hi Fred,

            I know we don’t see this the same way, but when Jesus cleansed the Temple we find no mention of him killing anything to make it clean. Maybe Jesus will have to cleanse the Temple many times in the Millennium

          • Fred Butler

            The instance of Jesus cleansing the temple is unrelated to the ritual on the Day of Atonement and other offerings given by the priests to purify the worshiper and the temple proper. Two different things.

          • MarkO

            I thot Jesus was my Final and All Sufficient Atonement?
            So are you saying the Day of Atonement will be re-instituted for the Christian – – – me, a Gentile, will have to celebrate the Day of Atonement in the Millennium? Can I pay someone else to do it for me?

          • Fred Butler

            Jesus is your final and all sufficient atonement. Like I said, the sacrifices in Ezekiel have nothing to do with people or salvation. The Day of Atonement was fulfilled in Jesus per Hebrews 9, 10. Note that in Ezekiel’s temple there is no Day of Atonement present. Simply because it was fulfilled in Christ.

            You can mock my position all you want, but until you honestly evaluate and account for what Ezekiel is saying in 9 chapters of detailed revelation, the easy and lazy way out is to spiritualize it away as some type.

          • MarkO


            But there is the Passover in Ezekiel so if your theory is right then there will be 1,000 Passovers in the Millennium. Paul said Jesus was our Passover. Jesus cried, “It is finished.” Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover because he was the final Passover Lamb.

            Let’s suppose there are Passovers in the Millennium – Do you believe I will able to opt out? Will I have a choice in the matter? I hope so. Can I choose to instead have communion with other like minded bros in the Millennium? I would like think so.

          • Hey MarkO. Hope it’s OK if I jump in to ask a quick question.

            What do you make of Jesus’ word to His disciples in Luke 22:15ff, where He says that He won’t eat the Passover again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God? The most natural way that reads to me seems to imply that He will eat it again when it finds its ultimate fulfillment in Him in His millennial kingdom.

            And that would be consistent with God telling Israel that though He is giving them up to judgment in the Babylonian exile, He will one day re-gather them to their land where He will receive their sacrifices offered in holiness and righteousness (Ezek 20:33-44).

            If that’s not what Jesus is saying in Luke 22, could you help me understand what you think He’s saying?

          • Fred Butler

            The author of Hebrews identifies Christ’s death for sinners with the Day of Atonement in Hebrews 9 and 10, not passover. Mike raises an excellent point in that Jesus says he will not eat the passover again UNTIL it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God. When exactly did that happen in your scheme?

  • Dan Phillips

    There is such need for a thorough, weighty, in-depth systematic theology written from the perspective of 5-point Calvinistic dispensationalism. I think the way forward is along the lines of Paul Henebury’s (http://drreluctant.wordpress.com/) emphasis on the Biblical covenants, coupled with the Reformed view of the unity of Scripture and the plan of redemption and sovereign, monergistic grace.

    If I were 20, 30 years younger, that would be my goal: to write such a book. Hope someone does, soon, something that would be that perspective’s equivalent of Grudem, Reymond, Horton.

    • Kofi Adu-Boahen

      Who knows – maybe one of us young upstarts will learn enough to write one some day, Pastor Dan?

      • Dan Phillips

        I’d love that. Do it before I die, mmkay?

        • Kofi Adu-Boahen

          Haha! I’ll be sure to get the memo out 😉

    • Scott C

      What about R. D. Culver’s Systematic Theology? I haven’t read it, but does he not treat the subject?

      • Fred Butler

        Yes he does and well. Culver’s treatment on the book of Daniel, which is a stand alone book entitled, Daniel and the Latter-Days, is one of the better treatments of premillennialism I have read. A lot of it is reproduced for his theology, which also has a lot of excellent insights.

  • Fred Butler

    Linda Rice,

    I am no super scholar like the folks listed above, but regarding the purpose of animal sacrifices, I did give a shot at answering that question here,


    Scroll down to the last article (the first) and work your way back up to get the full thrust of my argument.


  • gerald

    It is amazing how definitively convinced people can be about so many different things n the Bible. But then considering how one lawyer with 8 years of college can be completely convinced his client is innocent and another looking at the same evidence can becompletely convinced he is guilty, we shouldn’t be surprised too much. None of us are Perry Mason’s.

  • Will

    Jesse Lee,
    Thanks for leading us to the feed trough and telling why these are on offer. I agree with your choices and would plug Cont & Discont heavily. I do have an aspect of eschatology for you and your stable of able students and writers living in the Cripplegate. It flows from point #6 from Vlach’s Chpt in Mayhue and MacArthur’s most recent book. In what way does ‘Dispensationalism’ demand one to understand the reconstitution of the Nation Israel? Or said another way, ‘how must dispensationalist put together the future redemptive socio-political entity called Israel?’

    • That’s a great question, Will. As I’m thinking about how I would even begin to answer that, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. I think the question covers a broad range of issues. Maybe it’ll help me if you could give some possible options for the answer to your question. Could you maybe summarize what you see as the general categories of views on this issue?

  • Sharon Betters

    I cannot recommend highly enough, ‘Footsteps of the Messiah’ by Arnold Fruchtenbaum. 🙂

  • gerald

    Did my post get deleted? Why? It was on topic.

    • No, it wasn’t. It added nothing of substance and didn’t engage the post at all.

      • gerald

        It raised a question about multiple, contradictory views. That was not pertinent to the conversation?

        • You did nothing more than state that multiple views exist. Like I said, added nothing of substance.

          Now, on to the post.

          • gerald

            i.e. you didn’t understand the point. Not my issue.

      • gerald

        It did not speak to this? .”All three grant that their view has weaknesses, and that this is a grey area. Yet they all strongly advocate their view, and they interact with the other author’s strong points. ”

        Evidently you did not understand the question I raised and the point I was trying to make.

  • Steve

    I would love for your guys to cover some of the common issues/arguments regarding the pretribulationalism. Although I hold to a pretribulational rapture, I find it hard to defend sometimes. A few weaknesses would include the fact that it’s a relatively new doctrine (1820’s by Darby), that it’s not mentioned in Jesus’ largest end times discourse (Matthew 24), and that it’s best arguments are based off of inferences (for example, John MacArthur in his sermon on Luke 21 said that it’s implicit, not explicit). Any attention given to these “weaknesses” would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sweet. And that’s really where that Feinberg book is gold. It goes through the history of the view, and then all three authors interact with each other’s weaknesses. If you are looking for something along those lines, I’d really recommend that book for you.

      • Steve

        Why read Feinberg when I could read the fine folks over at The Cripplegate?!!

  • johntjeff

    Excellent recommendations! Thank you very much for posting them!

  • Jon Speed

    On the Calvin quip, I think I’ll read the “Origins of the Dispensational Rapture” by any dispensationalist instead.

  • Jennifer Rector

    Thanks for the recommendations! We have a lot of these kinds of books, but I’m not sure if we have these in particular.

  • I think another book that hasn’t gotten enough PR, and is quite outstanding on the issues concerning dispensationalism, is Robert Saucy’s The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism. Saucy is so thorough in the careful way he treats the pertinent issues that it’s almost overwhelming. There are certain issues that I understand differently than he presents in the book, but he’s so even-handed in presenting the different views that it doesn’t take away from the value.

    Right alongside Continuity and Discontinuity, and probably even above it, I would recommend this book for anyone who wants to seriously engage with dispensationalism, whether one agrees or disagrees with its conclusions.

  • gerald

    Can I recommend “The Rapture Trap” by Paul Thigpen. I always find that it balances me to read the detractors of a theology as well as the proponents. This one does a pretty good job of slicing and dicing pre-trib rapture theories.

  • gerald

    So who has the authority to resolve all of this. In the early church they called a council to resolve issues where there was wide disagreement.

    • Our blog. Plus my church’s elders. We have a pretty good statement of faith, and it should be binding to all.

      • gerald

        Truly you are dillusional. Not binding to me. Not binding to anyone who is not a part of your church. If a brother in the baptist church next door has a beef with your church he should submit to you?

        • That was an attempt at humor Gerald. Apparently it failed.

          My serious answer would be that on things like eschatology, there is liberty to have divergent views. All doctrinal issues will not be resolved this side of glory. Now we see in a mirror dimly, and some of Scripture’s teaching are difficult, but the fact remains that the only ones with authority over the universal church are Triune in nature. But elders and local churches seek to give clarity to those whom they shepherd. That isn’t binding an a universal kind of way, but is just an expression of wisdom at the local church level. Does that non-snarky response help? Thanks Gerald.

          • gerald

            There were too posibilities, one was that it was a snarky response, of which I did see the humor. The other was that you are like many that I run in to out here who actually think things very similar to that. Glad you are the sense of humor variety. Thanks for the clarification and in part I agree, though my question is not without foundation in light of Mt. 18 and disputes between brothers. But that is maybe a different thread.

  • gerald

    Luther said it well after realizing the pandora’s box he had opened. “there are more theologies than there are heads”.

  • Jesse, have you read Millennialism – The Two Major Views by Charles Feinberg? I found that book was most helpful in contrasting pre vs. amil systems (post being an inconsistent sub-set of amil).