Tuesday, September 18, 2007
'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 1.
Our views on eschatology are well known enough for readers to know that we are unikely to agree with Dr. John MacArthur. Nevertheless, we read this book expecting to find the strongest possible case made for Dr. MacArthur's own particular brand of Dispensationalism. We appreciate the fact that Dr. MacArthur avoids most of the extravanancies of older Dispensational writers. He understands the seven Churches to be seven literal Churches in Asia Minor, not symbols of seven sub-sets of the Church Age (we have remarked that some of the older Dispensationalists manage the remarkable feat of interpreting the most obviously literal part of the Revelation symbolically, and the most symbolic part of the Revelation literally!). We are aware that presently Dispensationalism is a theology in transition, as it attempts to correct the eccentricities of J. N. Darby and his followers, and we applaud those who seek to do this.
We are afraid that we found this the weakest of Dr. MacArthur's books that we have read. We applaud his work in the conflict against the antinomian so-called 'Free Grace' movement, and we find his writings on the state of the Church today timely and rewarding. 'Because the Time is Near' shows plainly that it comes out of theology in transition - some of the arguments are, like the earth, hung upon nothing because the original basis, being in bad exegesis, has thankfully been given up.
John MacArthur is always a joy to read, and we were hooked by this book. It is well written and easy to understand without oversimplifying.
HOWEVER, Dr. MacArthur at several points appears to mistake the meaning of the word 'Near'. We have always felt it to be one of the strongest arguments the Preterists have. They hold out for an early date for Revelation and insist that the time was indeed near in the first century. On Pages 12 and 13 Dr. MacArthur chides the Preterists for holding a position that "Views Rervelation not as future prophecy, but as a historical record of events in the first-century Roman Empire. The Preterist view ignores the book's own claim to be a prophecy." We beg your pardon, Dr. MacArthur, but it does not, for the preterist agrees that it was a prophecy when it was written, as Isaiah 53 was a prophecy when it was writtten. Now, if the Preterist's dating of Revelation is wrong and the traditional dating correct, THEN the Preterist must be wrong, but it is unfair to claim that he does not hold Revelation to be prophetic.
The Idealist interpretation of Revelation is accused of reducing the book to "a collection of myths designed to convey spiritual truth." Again, we would beg to differ. We see the book of Revelation rather as a series of symbolic visions conveying information about the time between the giving of the visions and Our Lord's Second Advent. We base this upon the Greek of Revelation 1.1, where we are told that Christ 'signified' (AV) the things which must soon take place to John. The Greek means to communicate by signs, as the best commentators have noted.
Now, it is a primary principle of Biblical interpretation that the reader of the Scriptures must always have in mind to whom what he is reading was addressed. Even the so-called Catholic Epistles were written to believers in specific situations. So the Revelation was not primarily written to us now in the 21st century, but to first-century Christians living in Asia Minor. Therefore the book has revelance to them, not just to a group of Christians living in the end times. It is profitable to us now just as it was profitable to them then. Profitable for doctrine, for instruction in righteousness, NOT for the writing of adventure novels, works of imaginative speculation, or for prophetic conferences!
God willing, next time we shall continue this review
Updated note: The wannabe cult-leader calling himself 'Secret Rapture' is warned not to post here again. Any future versions of his bizarre post advertising his insane ramblings will be deleted and will result in his being banned.