In his talk, "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Ought to Be a Premillennialist,"* MacArthur argued that unconditional election-preaching Calvinists, more than anyone, ought to hold fast to the reality that God keeps his promises. Amillennialists, he said, believe that God breaks his promises to ethnic Israel when he replaces ethnic Israel with a spiritual Israel, the Church. As an unabashed Premillennialist myself, I was quite disappointed by the talk, even though MacArthur made some pretty persuasive points from Scripture (at least to me). Here's why:
I have yet to cross paths with an Amillennialist who found MacArthur to have fairly represented his position. I have met dozens of Amillennialists, both Baptists and Presbyterians, who believe that all the promises made to ethnic Israelites will be fulfilled in one ethnic Israelite, Jesus Christ. Now, all people, Jew or Gentile, have access to the inheritance of those promises by their position "in Christ," which comes by grace through faith in him. Every single one of those Amillennialists I've met wholeheartedly affirms that Jesus Christ is literally, personally, going to return to this earth and destroy his enemies before he establishes the quite literal New Heavens and New Earth and casts the devil, his angels, and all who have rebelled against him into a quite literal eternal torment where they will drink all the dregs of the wrath of God. Not one of them thinks that God is going to break his promises to ethnic Israel by replacing ethnic Israel with the Church, because God keeps his promises to the True (literal, ethnic) Israelite.
Yesterday, in a letter that was sent to friends of Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Maranatha President Chuck Phelps wrote:
We are living in uniquely precarious times. Today there is a radical resurgence of Calvinistic, Reformed thought. A simple visit to a Christian bookseller or a careful listen to Christian radio reveals that dispensational, Baptist positions are becoming increasingly rare. Along with the Conference on Baptist Fundamentalism and the emergence of our seminary, we are doing all that we can in our classrooms and on the chapel platform to keep the students informed and challenged to stand ready for the coming of Christ. I’ve recently completed a brief series of messages for the chapel hour on prophetic themes (Chapel Sermons). I’d like to invite you to listen in as our student body is challenged to pray with John of old – “Even so come Lord Jesus!”The clear implication of this paragraph is that Reformed theology needs to be opposed and repudiated because it undermines the preparation of believers for the coming of Christ. That's just one of the problems of the statement. Bob Bixby draws our attention to others.
As a Premillennialist myself (as well as a disappointed Maranatha alumnus), I would be quite happy to hear more sound historical and theological critiques of Amillennialism and positive constructions of Premillennialism. Unfortunately, this sort of rhetoric gives me no reason to expect any sort of credible assessment. For a Premillennialist to suggest that Amillennialists don't believe we should be prepared for Jesus' return is an indefensible and irresponsible canard. I'm increasingly convinced that the greatest threat to the perpetuation of Premillennialism is not a persuasively-articulated Amillennialism, but an incompetent Premillennialism that misrepresents its opponents.
I'll close with the final paragraph from that classic Reformed statement of faith, the Westminster Confession:
III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin, and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will he have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly. Amen.Amen. Maranatha!
*A direct link is not available without login. The session is available for download for free after registration here.