Short Response to Dr. MacArthur's statement. "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Pre-Millennialist."
For those of you who don't know, this was a statement, among others, that John MacArthur was recorded as making at the recent Shepherd's Conference 2007 at Grace Community Church, Sun Valley California.
Let me start off by saying that I deeply respect and have been edified by the ministry of John MacArthur. I simply wish to respond here briefly over my differences on eschatology with him. I respect persons who interpret the end times differently, but it concerns me if statements get divisive on this important but secondary issue and the above quote might come off that way, whether MacArthur intended it or not.
At the conference, according to Challies live blog, MacArthur said something like this: "For those who "get it" that God is sovereign and the only one who can determine who will be saved and when they will be saved and is the only one who can save them, A-millennialism makes no sense because it says that Israel, on their own, forfeited the promises."
First of all, I respect and previously held the historic premillennial position though I myself do not hold it. I have changed my position on exegetical grounds.
My comments to the above statements from MacArthur:
To assert that in Amillennialism affirms that Israel has no place in the kindgom or that Israel "forfeited the promises" is really quite a misrepresentation of Amillennialism. Amillennnialists affirm, rather, that Israel is actually part of the body of Christ; we are co-heirs with them. I could just as easily turn it around and say that Dispensationalists, (who say Israel and the church are separate), affirm that Israel is not part of the body of Christ since this separation would make Christ have two brides, rather than one. The land promises are expanded and we all, who are the seed of Abraham (see Gal 3), partake of the same promises, Jews and Gentiles alike. Because in Jesus Christ, who is the True Israel, we all partake of the same promises.
To say that any "self-respecting Calvinist" must believe premill, I would argue, is divisive - and to claim that it somehow points to some intrinsic Arminianism is beyond the bounds of acceptability as a statement and frankly, makes no sense. Not only has Amillennialism been misunderstood, but misrepresented. The Jews and the Gentiles are all part of the same body of Christ. No one has replaced anyone. Promise and fulfillment.
Amillennialism simply says that Jews and Gentiles will inherit the promises together, not that Jews have no part. Where do these erroneous ideas about Amillennialism come from I wonder?
Earlier I posted a comment like the one above to Tim Challies blog and saw someone respond by saying:
"Actually, separating Israel from the Church does not make Christ have two brides. Israel is the wife of YHVH (God the Father) as depicted in the book of Hosea. The Church is the Bride of Christ (God the Son)."
I seriously hope this is not the answer of most Dispensationalists. But this is a fancy dance if I ever saw one. Even Phil Johnson, MacArthur's right hand man, has an essay, I believe, which shows how the YHWH of the Old testament is one and the same as Jesus Christ. To somehow say that God the Father has one bride and Jesus has a different bride makes for a breaking up of the Trinity in, what I would argue is, a radical biblical departure. So this answer truly makes no sense and can only make one wonder. Amillennialists would affirm that Chris has one bride, the Church, which comprises both Jews and Gentiles of all time. So we must conclude therefore that Gentiles did not replace Israel but God was simply expanding upon it, fulfilling His promise to Abraham.
As for land promises, Dispensationalists will often say something like the following,
"Israel was promised land with specific borders and has never occupied all of the land they were promised. The Church has not been promised any specific parcel of land. In fact, the promise for the Church is that we will sit together with Christ in heavenly places."
This is a rather confusing interpretation since the Book of Revelation clearly says that the New Jerusalem will come down and heaven and earth will be one. the above Dispensational assertion would be a claim that Israel will, therefore, not be seated with Christ, will have separate blessings and and many believe that they will continue the animal sacrifices on the millennium. This is to go backwards in redemptive history and fail to see God's organically expanding purpose in saving both Jew and Gentile through the same man. Those OT types and promises all pointed to Christ as the fulfillment of these things. Jews and gentiles are the same bride of Christ (since the Jews were also saved by Jesus' blood) and we will inherit blessings together, both in Christ. To say that the Church was never promised a parcel of land is to make an unbiblical and unnecessary bifurcation of church and Israel. Jesus said "the meek will inherit the earth." This was a promise to all who are in him, not just Jews. Read John 5 where the righteous and the wicked are shown to resurrect at the same time. There is no 1000 year time between resurrections.
To further demonstrate the point, Ephesians says,
"remember that you [Gentiles] were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.(Eph 2:12)
Brought near to what, I ask? Clearly, brought near to the covenants of promise belonging to the Jews. We also now partake of them, according to the passage. Read on:
"...For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
One new man, no longer strangers and aliens to the covenants of promise, all now part of the same household of God.
"Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."
This above passage includes both Jews and Gentiles. God's promise too Abraham comprised the blessing of all, not just Jews.
You don't have to agree with my conclusions but, as you can see, someone can be "self-respecting", not an Arminian and yet believe in Amillennialism.
Read this article
Problems with Premillennialism by Sam Storms
here is some recommended reading for those who want to investigate further.
"A Case for Amillennialism" by Kim Riddlebarger
A popular treatment by Sam Waldron "The End Times Made Simple"
Anthony Hoekema "The Bible and the Future"