Tuesday, October 16, 2007
'Because the Time is Near' by John MacArthur. Part 7.
Dr John MacArthur's new book 'Because the Time is Near' is definitely the weakest of his books that we have read. In our opinion it ought not to have been written. To put it bluntly, the book is a mess, bending Biblical interpretation with a tradition for which Dr. MacArthur has no exegetical defence. Most glaringly, he assumes a pre-tribulation rapture and then brings in irrelevant passages to 'prove' it. So, on P. 287, Dr. MacArthur accuses those who hold a Biblical position (and we have already demonstrated in parts 2 and 3 of this series that his position is not Biblical) of 'Trivializing' the rapture. No, sir, we 'trivialize' a mere human tradition. We refuse to be bound by such things. We are Baptists, and our consciences are captive to the Word of God.
It is a Dispensational tradition that every Dispensation ends in failure, even the Millenium, when Christ is ruling personally in Jerusalem, and glorified saints are walking the earth. We would venture to say that there is no Biblical basis whatsoever for this teaching. It reduces all of God's dealings with men to some form of law that must be obeyed, although the content of the law changes.
We have a number of notable objections, beyond this, to the Dispensational view of the Millenium, which are also applicable to all Premillenial views. First of all, it defeats the argument of Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Thessalonians that all the saints will be equal, and that none of Christ's people will lose out in the second coming. Unless you take the position that no-one will be converted in the Millenium, and that Christ will reign over a kingdom made up entirely of hypocrites (!!!), then you must teach that saints in mortal, 'natural' bodies will co-exist with saints in glorified bodies for centuries! That there will indeed be two classes of believers after the Second Advent (here no doubt the Dispensationalist will point to his unbiblical teaching of an earthly people and a heavenly. We will simply point him to Romans 11 and the ONE olive tree).
Second, we are expected to believe that Our Lord Jesus, in a glorified body, with His deity shining through, will come down from His heavenly throne and take a demotion to rule on the earth! He is reigning NOW, all power is His NOW!
Thirdly, Dr. MacArthur says: "Amazingly, a vast part of the population, born of the believers who alone entered the kingdom, will in that perfect environment love their sin and reject the King" (P. 298). WHICH believers? Answer, the second-class citizens still in natural bodies, still fighting with sin, still groaning for the redemption of their bodies! And the righteousness of the millenial age, Dr. MacArthur tells us, will be for the most part a hypocritical, feigned righteousness. 'Every Dispensation ends in failure', the Dispensationalist will say. Yes, but whose failure? Surely Christ's, in this case!
His description of the future age is even more confusing. MacArthur continues his bewildering mixture of wooden literalism and recognition of symbolic language. 'And there was no more sea' (21.1) is understood as describing future geography (P. 315), but 'and the kings of the earth do bring their glory into it,' is taken symbolically, not as implying that there will be kings on earth in the new creation. Dispensationalism's last gasps are heard when MacArthur writes of the Bride of Christ: "[The occupants of the New Jerusalem] consist of the bride of the Lamb, a title originally given to the church (19.7) but now enlarged to encompass all the redeemed of all ages" (P.320). We are glad Dr. MacArthur has grasped this much, but wish that he would cast this hermeneutic backwards over the rest of the Bible and see that God's people are one in EVERY age.
We cannot recommend this book. Despite the Dispensational claim to be consistently literal, Dr. MacArthur is neither consistent nor literal in this book. It is, we repeat, a book that ought not to have been written. We can only think that Dr. MacArthur wrote it to show his Dispensational critics that he is one of them. He ought not to be! Every view of Revelation has its problems. It is time the Dispensationalists admitted this, rather than accusing the rest of us of being 'replacement theologians', 'spiritualizers', 'inconsistent Calvinists', etc.
John MacArthur has said that every self-respecting Calvinist ought to be a premillenialist, and that the reason for this is that the same hermeneutic that gives us Calvinism gives us Premillenialism. Well, if this book is a worked example of Dr. MacArthur's hermeneutic, I would have to disagree! Not that Dr. MacArthur's hermeneutic in Revelation would, if applied to the rest of the Bible, cause a man to go astray. No, since it is 'interpret literally except where that would conflict with an already-held tradition', it would leave a man exactly where he was before. But actually the problem is that Dr. MacArthur seems to equate Premillenialism with some sort of Dispensational theology, the tatters of which he is trying desperately to hang on to. Dr. MacArthur, let them go, and THEN you will be a consistent Calvinist!!!
So no, Dr. MacArthur, because we are self-respecting Calvinists and committed to seeking to interpret Scripture with Scripture, we are NOT Pre-mil.
('Because the Time is Near' is published by Moody Publishers, and costs $15.99 direct from them, or $11.00 from Grace to You. In the UK it can be purchased for £ 6.59 from Amazon.co.uk. We obtained our copy direct from Grace to You's mailing list, which usually sends out very worthwhile products.)