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Well we weren’t expecting John MacArthur to begin the conference this way. He decided to forego his usual opening sermon and speak instead on a touchy topic. His lecture was titled (and I’m not sure how much this is tongue-in-cheek) “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Pre-Millennialist.” A couple of weeks ago, at the Resolved Conference, he mentioned this topic so it was interesting to hear him fill it out.

Now I am going to be both cautious and forthright with this one. I am not as familiar as perhaps I should be with the end times. Rather than stick my neck out, I will give my best understanding of the most important points of Dr. MacArthur’s speech and recommend that if you want a fuller understanding, you should wait for the CD or MP3. I did not feel adequate to the task of really giving a full and definite summary.

The session concerned itself with sovereign election, Israel, and eschatology. Dr. MacArthur sought to answer questions such as does the end matter? Does it matter to God? Should it matter to us? The answer is that of course it matters to God and thus should matter to us. History is heading to a divinely designed and revealed end, and if it matters enough to God to reveal it, it should matter enough for us to study it. And yet we often seem to think that God somehow muddled the biblical discussion of the end times so badly that it is best to just concede the muddle and move on. Yet MacArthur believes that the hard work involved in understanding the prophetic passages is neither needless nor impossible. The tried and true rules of interpretation should not be set aside every time a person encounters a passage on prophecy.

MacArthur made the point that those who most celebrate the sovereign grace of election regarding the church and its place in God’s purpose and those who defend the truth of promise and fulfillment and believe in election being divine, unashamedly deny the same for elect Israel. This is a strange division. “It’s too late for Calvin,” he said,” but it’s not too late for the rest of you. If Calvin were here he would join our movement.”

The thrust of the message was simple: Of all people to be pre-millennialist it should be the Calvinist–those who believe in sovereign election. A-millennialism is ideal for Arminians because according to their theology God elects nobody and preserves nobody. A-millennialism is consistent with Arminianism. Yet it is inconsistent with Reformed theology and its emphasis on God’s electing grace.

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. The central argument went like this: If you get Israel right, you will get eschatology right. If you don’t get Israel right, you will never get eschatology right and you’ll drift forever from view-to-view. You get Israel right when you get the Old Testament promises and covenants right and you get these when you get the interpretation right which you get right when you use a proper hermeneutic (Did you get all that?). Essentially, you move from a proper hermeneutic to a proper interpretation to a proper view of the covenant and Old Testament promises and then you get Israel right. And then, of course, your eschatology is right. If you go wrong at the base, and set aside proper methods of hermeneutics, you have no chance to get anything else right.

MacArthur shared that over the course of his ministry his views on eschatology have not changed despite constant exposure to the Word of God. Eschatology has had to stand the test of every New Testament verse and his conviction has been strengthened. The fair test of a cohesive eschatology is to drag it through every text. He has done this and feels that premillennialism has stood the test.

He then asked and answered four questions. Is the Old Testament A-Millennial? Were the Jews in Jesus’ day amil? Was Jesus a-mil? Were the Apostles a-mil? In all he cases he believes the clear answer is no. And this is especially the point where I am going to recommend you purchase the audio and listen in yourself. He offered plenty of Scriptural proof, but moved quickly enough that I was unable to capture it adequately enough that I would be comfortable posting it here.

He then suggested two effects of this improper eschatology. The first is that it leads to the trappings of Judaism infiltrating the church. This includes many of the battles the Reformers had to fight: a priesthood, infant baptism replacing circumcision, altars, and so on. The second is that evangelism to Jews is damaged because it is we cannot properly explain to Jews why their interpretation of the Old Testament Scriptures is wrong. We end up having to say “you’re not God’s people anymore…” Unless you can tell a Jew that God will keep every promise and Jesus will fulfill every promise, your witness to them is damaged.

The long and short is this: Now that the Spirit of God is moving the church to recover the high ground in sovereign grace in election it is time to recover the high ground of God’s sovereignty in eschatology. If you get eschatology right, you can just open the Bible and preach what it says without having to go hunting for other interpretations. Get it right and Christ is exalted and God is glorified.

As I said, if this topic interests you, hold out for the audio. Whether or not you agree with the premise, you will be glad that MacArthur has planted a flag, so to speak. If he is right about the damaging effects of poor eschatology, this is an issue that should concern all Reformed believers.

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