Saturday, April 18, 2009

John MacArthur on "Why Every Calvinist Should Be A Pre-Millenialist"

John MacArthur on "Why Every Calvinist Should Be A Pre-Millenialist"

Audio and Transcript


Did not God fill Scripture with end time prophecies? Some say that nearly one-fourth of Scripture relates to the prophecies of the end. Did God in this significant volume of revelation somehow muddle His words so hopelessly that the high ground for theologians is simply to recognize the muddle and abandon any thought of the perspicuity of Scripture with regard to eschatology? Is in fact working hard to understand prophetic passages needless and impossible because they require a spiritualized or allegorized set of interpretations that says the truth is somehow hidden behind the normal meaning of the words so any idea of what it might mean is as good as any other idea of what it might mean since it doesn’t mean what it says?

O. T. Allis, writing in Prophecy and the Church, a well-known Amillennialist writes, “The Old Testament prophecies, if literally interpreted, cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or being capable of fulfillment in the present age.” That was a problem for him.

Floyd Hamilton in The Basis of the Millennial Faith said, “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an earthly reign of the Messiah as the Premillennialist pictures.”

So to protect some kind of preconception it is necessary to change the rules of interpretation. Now if we’re going to change those rules, I think we need a word from God. We better have a word from God because He cares that we get it right.

I don’t think God wants us to change the rules of interpretation when we go to Genesis 1 to 3. I don’t think God is pleased when we come up with progressive creationism, theistic evolution or any kind of day-age view of Genesis 1 to 3. I think God is exalted as the Creator in the full glory of His creative power when we take Genesis 1 to 3 at face value. There is no other way to take it because there is nothing in the text that gives you any kind of mandate to indicate that this is something other than specific, literal, normal, factual language. Really you can’t even justify calling it poetry because that doesn’t work.

We don’t want anybody tampering with the beginning. Why are we so tolerant of people tampering with the end? And why, when we don’t want to arbitrarily allow somebody to introduce their own hermeneutics to Genesis 1 to 3, are we content to allow people to introduce their own hermeneutics into prophetic passages throughout the Bible and particularly in the Book of Revelation? Where is the divine mandate on the pages of the Bible to do this? What passage is it in? What verse? Where is it? And who decides then the new rules for engagement?

.... The irony is that those who most celebrate the sovereign grace of election regarding the Church and its inviolable place in God’s purpose from predestination to glorification and those who most aggressively and militantly defend the truth of promise and fulfillment, those who are the advocates of election being divine, unilateral, unconditional and irrevocable by nature for the Church, unashamedly deny the same for elect Israel. That is a strange division. As it does, the perpetuity of the elect Church to salvation glory so the Scripture in similar language and by promises from the same God, affirms the perpetuity of ethnic Israel to a future salvation of a generation of Jews that will fulfill all divine promises given to them by God. In both cases this is the work of and the result of divine, sovereign election.

Let’s leave Amillennialism for the Arminians. It’s perfect. It’s ideal. It’s a no-brainer. God elects nobody and preserves nobody. Perfect. Arminians make great Amillennialists. It’s consistent....

Let’s leave Amillennialism to the Charismatics and the semi-Pelagians and other sorts who go in and out of salvation willy-nilly; it makes sense for their theology. Sure, Israel sinned, became apostate, killed the Son of God. That’s it. You’re out. Forfeits everything. Church gets it all if they can do better than Israel. So far doesn’t look real hopeful.

But for those who get it, for those of us who get it, that God is sovereign and listen, and He is the only one who can determine who will be saved and when they will be saved, and He is the only one who can save them, Amillennialism makes no sense because it basically says Israel, on their own, forfeited all the promises. Do you think, on their own, they could’ve done something to guarantee they’d receive them? What kind of theology is that? That’s Arminian theology. You think Israel lost their place in God’s economy because they didn’t, on their own, do what they were supposed to? When you look at the idea of election in the Bible, the great reality, you only have four specifics-- specific persons that are mentioned in regard to being elect. The Holy angels are elect.

1 Timothy 5:21, “the elect angels.” Christ is elect, Psalm--Isaiah 42, I should say, and 1 Peter 2:6. Christ is elect and those elections are forever, are they not? And there are only two people elections in Scripture; Israel an eschatological group of ethnic Israelites that will constitute the future nation who will receive the promises of God, and the Church. There’s no reason in the Bible to mingle the two; or because the Church is elect, therefore, cancel Israel’s election. Isaiah 45:4 calls Israel “My elect.” God says, “For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called thee by thy name.” Isaiah 65:9 again, speaking of Israel, “My elect” and that they will inherit the promise. Isaiah 65:22, the same thing, “My elect.” God has repeated it a number of times--those are just a few--that Israel is God’s elect.

The Bible calls God “The God of Israel” over 200 times. The God of Israel. There are over 2000 references to Israel in Scripture. Not one of them means anything but Israel. Not one of them, including Romans 9:6 and Galatians 6:16, which are the only two passages that Amillennialists go to, to try to convince us that that cancels out the other 2000. There is no difficulty in interpreting those as simply meaning Jews who were believers, the Israel of God. Israel always means Israel; it never means anything but Israel. Seventy-three New Testament uses of Israel always mean Israel. It should be noted that Jews still exist today. That’s interesting, isn’t it? You ever met a Hittite? How ‘bout an Amorite, a Hivite, or a Jebusite? Anybody know any of those folks? How ‘bout an Agagite? Do you know that the Israeli Immigrant Bureau in the land of Israel requires DNA tests where Jewish ancestry is questioned, and they know what Jewish DNA looks like?

I’m confident that God did not reveal prophetic truth is such detail to hide or obscure the truth, but to reveal it for our blessing, our motivation and ultimately His glory. Return the sovereignty of God in election to its rightful place and, therefore, return the nation Israel to its rightful place in God’s purpose, and all eschatology will unfold with magnificent beauty and with the normal hermeneutic, and you can take every passage and when it’s saying something that’s very clear like “the desert will blossom like a rose,” that’s exactly what it means. And if you tell me it doesn’t mean that, then I’m done talking to you because you don’t have any further revelation.

Is the Old Testament Amillennial? Is that a fair question? Is the Old Testament Amillennial? Now a note here please. It is not legitimate to interpret the Old Testament as secondary to the New Testament as primary. Okay? That’s not legitimate. Otherwise, the Old Testament was literally darkness, not light. If you say that the Old Testament cannot be rightly interpreted apart from the New Testament, then you have denied the perspicuity of the Old Testament, and as Walt Kaiser puts it, “Now you have a canon within a canon”. The question must be answered: Does the Old Testament itself propound an Amillennial view? You cannot remove the Old Testament from having a true interpretation on its own and make Old Testament promises relate to the Church, which is by Paul’s own statement, a mystery unknown in the past. You cannot, therefore, make the Old Testament unintelligible and irrelevant to the reader. But the idea that the New Testament is the starting point for understanding the Old Testament is exactly where Amillennialism comes from, reading it back into the Old Testament; and, of course, you damage the perspicuity or the clarity of the sensibility of the Old Testament in and of itself; and it leads, I think, to an even more grand kind of spiritualizing that goes beyond just prophetic texts and gives license to spiritualize all kinds of things and read New Testament Christianity and New Testament Christian principles back into those texts in the Old Testament where they do not belong.

All the curses promised to Israel for disobedience to God came true literally on Israel, and now all of a sudden we are supposed to split all those passages that give blessing and cursing and say all the blessings that were promised to Israel aren’t coming to Israel; they are coming to the Church instead? Where is the textual justification for such a split interpretation? And wouldn’t you think that whatever way the curses were fulfilled would set the standard for whatever way the blessings would be fulfilled?

So when God gave unilateral, unconditional, as primary cause, sovereign, gracious promises to an elect people guaranteed by divine faithfulness to be fulfilled like all His salvation work by divine power, and when God says such covenant promises are irrevocable, we cannot without impunity and guilt for any seemingly convenient idea or assumption say these are void. Why? You say, well, what about Israel’s apostasy? Doesn’t that cancel the promises? Doesn’t Israel’s apostasy cancel the promises? Do you understand that the New Covenant promises given in Jeremiah and Ezekiel were given to Israel at the time when they were under divine judgment for apostasy? They weren’t given to them when all was well and they were living and flourishing in obedience to God. They were so apostate they were out of their land, and then the covenant was given to them and God was saying, “Don’t get the idea that what’s going on by way of apostasy changes my promises.”

Was Jesus an Amillennialist? This matters. Right? Was Jesus an Amillennialist? Turn to Acts 1. Acts 1...For forty days He talked about the kingdom of God. This is His moment. If Jesus is an Amill, this is where He has to tell them. Their apostasy--that’s a given. Their rejection of the Messiah--that’s a given. The execution of the Messiah--that’s a given. This is the perfect place for Jesus to launch Amillennialism. Go down to verse 6, “So when they had come together, they were asking Him saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’” Now, what do you think He said? “Where did you get such a stupid idea? Where did you ever come up with that concept? Haven’t you been listening for forty days?” “I’m an Amillennialist.” “What a bizarre thought--that I am going to restore the kingdom to Israel!” “You don’t listen.” This is it. If Jesus is Amill, this is His moment! He’s got to say, “No, the Church is the new Israel.” Forty days of instruction on the kingdom, and they knew one thing for sure, the kingdom for Israel was still coming. And all they wanted to know was, what’s the question? WHEN? That’s all. And He said to them, “It’s not for you to know the times or seasons.” You can’t know timing. He didn’t say “Wait, wait, wait, there isn’t going to be a kingdom.” He said, “It’s not for you to know times and seasons”. By the way, “…which the Father has”—what?—“fixed by His own authority.There’s that sovereign election again. It’s sovereign. They knew that. “Lord, is it at this time you are restoring the kingdom?” They knew that it was a divine work to do it. This is a perfect opportunity for Jesus to straighten things out. Dig a little into the text, verse 7, “which the Father has fixed.” Tithemi: set, appointed. I love this. “Fixed” is in the aorist middle—“fixed for Himself.” Fixed for Himself. It’s about His glory. Right? It’s about His exaltation. It’s about the whole world finally seeing paradise regained....It’s about the glory of God and the honor of Jesus Christ. And God the Father has fixed for Himself that time by His own authority. It is singular, unilateral. There is no other way to understand it. There’s no replacement theology in the theology of Jesus! There’s no supercessionism. This is a movement to establish that there is no earthly kingdom for Israel. That is absolutely foreign to the Old Testament and completely foreign to the New Testament.

Does Peter cancel the covenant? What does he say? “You are the sons of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘In your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed,’ For you first, God raised up His servant, Christ, sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” And He will do that; you’re still the sons of the covenant. Perfect opportunity to cancel those promises. ...

Look at Romans 3, verse 1, “…what advantage has the Jew? Or what benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all…they were entrusted with the oracles of God. What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?! May it never be!” And this is where Paul should have said, “Absolutely! Absolutely it nullifies the promise of God! Unquestionably it nullifies the promise of God!” Doesn’t say that....

And then, perhaps most notably ... Romans 11. And I don’t need to go into this—you know it very, very well. Romans 11:26, “…all Israel will be saved.” How can you interpret that? One way! You tell me that’s not Israel?! Where in the text does it say it’s not Israel? I would understand if it said, “And God has cancelled His promises to Israel.” But it says all Israel will be saved just as it is written “The Deliverer will come from Zion, will remove ungodliness from Jacob. This is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Yes, they are enemies at the present time, but that is for the sake of the Gentiles. Verse 29, “…the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” And now we’re back to where we started, right? Look, if it depended on them to obey on their own, was it was impossible from the start. Only the one who made the promise can enable the obedience that is connected to the fulfillment of the promise. ...

I suggest for your reading Israel and the Church by Ronald Diprose. We should have some in the bookstore. It first appeared in Italian. It was a Ph.D. dissertation. It has no connection to traditional Dispensationalism. It’s a really, really fine work on replacement theology. It shows the effect of this idea as forming the Church of the Dark Ages, explaining how the Church went from the New Testament concept of the Church to the sacerdotal, sacramental institutional system of the Dark Ages that we know as Roman Catholicism. Diprose lays much of that at the feet of replacement theology that rises out of Augustine and the few before him, Origen and Justin. Where did the Church ever come up with altars? There is no altar in the New Testament.... Replacement theology justifies bringing in all the trappings of Judaism.


Katharine said...


Thank you for posting this from Pastor MacArthur. After reading some things earlier today that were critical of premillenialism, I am grateful for your stand for Biblical truth. It is incredible that so many people believe this is the kingdom age here and now. I cannot help but think that it may be a way that people will be deceived into believing in a false christ.

Denise said...


Thank you for stopping by and for your encouragement. I'm thankful for John MacArthur's bold, biblical preaching too. Most of all I'm thankful for Scripture, of course. =) Its disheartening to see how deception is growing, yet it sure makes God's Word and those who love it shine even brighter. May the Lord bless you as you continue to look to Him and His Word! =)