Of all the theological disciplines and areas of study, eschatology (the study of end things) has to be the most interesting to study while at the same time the most difficult to understand. This truth can be seen in the popularity of end-times prophecy books, movies, and lectures. It’s not too hard to draw a crowd around a prophecy conference or course. I can understand the interest. Who doesn’t want to know what is going to happen in the future? Who doesn’t want to know how the events along God’s prophetic timetable will unfold here on Earth? This is natural. Despite the intense interest, confusion swirls. An honest study of eschatology will entail dealing with matters such as rapture, millennium, tribulation, dispensation, prophecy types, and the proper placement of Israel. As you peel this eschatology onion, layers such as pretribulation rapture, posttribulation rapture, premillennial reign of Christ, amillennial reign of Christ, replacement theology, and dispensationalism become exposed. It doesn’t take long for the average person to get lost and abandon their study, despite their intense interest in the subject matter.
In his latest work, author, pastor, and president of The Master’s Seminary John MacArthur, along with faculty members Richard Mayhue, Michael Vlach, Nathan Busenitz, and Matthew Waymeyer have contributed to Christ’s Prophetic Plans; A Futuristic Premillennial Primer. This primer, a work that provides basic elements to a given subject, zeroes in on very specific eschatological elements. Christ’s Prophetic Plans is an explanation and apologetic of futuristic premillennialism, the pretribulational rapture, and classical dispensationalism. On the surface these sound daunting and frightening. Futuristic premillennialism is the teaching that Jesus Christ will come back to earth in the future and will rule the world for one thousand years. Prior to Christ’s second coming, futuristic premillennialism teaches that there will be a Great Tribulation that the world will experience. The pretribulational rapture is the belief that Christians will be removed, “raptured” from this world before this Tribulation occurs. Classical dispensationalism states that God is still committed to the nation of Israel, interprets the Old Testament promises to Israel literally rather than spiritualizing them, and rejects the notion that the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people (also known as replacement theology). For classical dispensationalists, Israel continues to be God’s chosen nation.
MacArthur begins stating the intended purpose of this book. He writes that this primer “intends to provide a clear and convincing biblical explanation for the interpretive approach to Scripture that results in knowable futuristic view of Christ’s millennial reign on earth, the certain validity of God’s promises to future Israel, and the crucial differences between Israel (as a people and a nation) and the NT church. With this primer dealing with three specific areas of eschatology, this book breaks apart into the same three sections. Futuristic Premillennialism holds to four main tenets: A normal interpretation of scripture used for prophesy, God’s promises to Israel in the Old and New Testament are future, God’s promises in Revelation are future, and the church is not Israel.
In his introduction, Richard Mayhue tells why we studying prophecy should matter to – the Biblical message of the end times is abundantly clear throughout Scripture. We can be certain about Biblical prophecy because God’s Word has clearly spoken on the matter. This book is not a glamorous “interpret the headlines” kind of book like those written by John Hagee or Tim LaHaye. These sensationalist authors have muddied the eschatological waters as to the true teaching of dispensationalism. Michael Vlach takes a few chapters to educate the reader on what dispensationalism is and what it is not. MacArthur believes there has to be a clear line drawn between eschatology and soteriology. He writes, “Dispensationalism shapes one’s eschatology and ecclesiology. That is the extent of it. Pure dispensationalism has no ramifications for the doctrines of God, man, sin, or sanctification. More significantly, true dispensationalism makes no relevant contribution to soteriology or the doctrine of salvation.”
This book’s strength is what other books of the same subject fail to do – it starts at the beginning with the interpretation of scripture. The differences in eschatology can be boiled down to one question: “How do we interpret the Scriptures?” Macarthur writes “Futuristic Premillennialism is the result of an understanding and application of the prophetic texts in a way that is consistent with the normal, literal approach to interpreting Scripture.” This is how the authors come to their Futuristic Premillennial view. Later chapters such as “What About Israel?”, “Does Calvinism Lead to Futuristic Premillennialism?”, and “Does the New Testament Reject Futuristic Premillennialism?” deal with the inconsistencies that form when literal and allegorical interpretation methods are used interchangeably. This book is not simply about hermeneutics. Instead, it establishes that the Futuristic Premillennial view is the natural conclusion after a literal interpretation of scripture is applied to prophesy.
Christ’s Prophetic Plans, a collection of essays on the subject of Futuristic Premillennialism is a good primer. I found the information offered to be well-researched and simply presented. It was not overly-scholarly. It provides a great starting point for your own personal end-times study. There are places where I wish the authors had gone a little more in-depth. Overall, a good work.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”