Posts Tagged ‘George Ladd’

Premillenialism: Not A One-Text Revelation 20 Doctrine

September 27, 2012 Comments off

A common claim of amillennialists is that the millennial kingdom is only mentioned in one passage, and a highly symbolic one at that—therefore we can disregard it.  In my early years in a Reformed church (when I knew nothing about any kind of millennialism) I specifically heard that claim from the teachers there.  At a friend’s church, the amillennial pastor apparently reasons thus in his rejection of premillennialism, even as he claimed that “many premillennial people” now admit that Revelation is not sequential—a claim neither I nor any of my premillennial friends is aware of; I don’t know where he got that idea—as though the idea of Revelation being non-sequential disproves premillennialism. George Ladd, mentioned in this recent post, was a one-text premillennialist.  His approach was similar to amillennialism, interpreting and spiritualizing the Old Testament prophecies as about the church; yet he felt compelled to acknowledge the literal meaning of Revelation 20.

But those who are honest (and more familiar with the word of God) recognize that the idea of a future kingdom of God upon the Earth is taught throughout the Old Testament.  Revelation 20 is the only passage to tell us the length of that kingdom, but many other passages convey the fact of that kingdom.  Even noted amillennialists and postmillennialists have admitted as much, as for instance in these quotes from Floyd Hamilton, O.T. Allis, and Loraine Boettner:

Hamilton:  “Now we must frankly admit that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies gives us just such a picture of an early reign of the Messiah as the pre-millennists pictures. That was the kind of Messianic kingdom that the Jews of the time of Christ were looking for, on the basis of a literal interpretation of the Old Testament promises.”

Allis: the Old Testament prophecies if literally interpreted cannot be regarded as having been yet fulfilled or as being capable of fulfillment in this present age.

 Boettner:  “It’s generally agreed that if the prophesies are to be taken literally they do foretell a restoration of the nation of Israel with Palestine with the Jews having a prominent place in the kingdom and ruling over the other nations.”

A quick perusal of the Old Testament brings to mind many passages (including, though not an exhaustive list, Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 60; Isaiah 65; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:21-27; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel 2:44; Micah 4:1-8; Haggai 2:6-9; Zechariah 14; plus many of the Psalms) which describe the Lord God ruling over the people, reigning from Jerusalem, the nations coming to worship and bringing their treasures to Jerusalem, and Israel having a prominent position.  Old Testament passages describe conditions that do not exist in this age – a renewed Earth which is characterized by unusual life spans only previously found in the antediluvian age, animals at peace (the Edenic curse reversed), and yet people who still sin and thus are in need of government, including the rod of iron mentioned in Psalm 2; “with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth” (Isaiah 11:4).

The New Testament also references such a kingdom, as for example in Luke 1:31-33, Acts 3:19-21, and Matthew 25:31-46.  Matthew 19:28 and 2 Timothy 2:12 mention the apostles and the saints sharing in that reign with the Lord.

S. Lewis Johnson often summed up the truth of the matter, as for instance in this lesson:

the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth does not depend upon one text of Scripture.  The length of the kingdom as one thousand years does depend upon that statement made in Revelation chapter 20.  But I also commented upon the fact that there were six references to the term “one thousand years” in that one chapter.  So it is not fair, not correct to say, that there is only one mention of the length of the time of the kingdom.  And it is gross ignorance to claim that the doctrine of the kingdom of God upon the earth depends upon one passage, Revelation chapter 20.  That passage has to do with the length of the kingdom, but it’s not the only passage that has to do with the fact of the kingdom.  There are many passages throughout the Old Testament that let us know that there is going to be a kingdom of God upon the earth… the idea of a kingdom of God upon the earth is taught from the book of Genesis all the way through the Old Testament, and then is picked up by our Lord in the New Testament.

And finally, from Charles Feinberg in his Millennialism:

“To claim that the ‘strongest’ objection to millennialism is that it is found in a single passage of Scripture is incredible. How many passages of Scripture are required before a doctrine can claim biblical ground? What Ladd, and all amillennialists, try to say is that the duration of the Millennium is stated in one passage. What of the crucial passage in 1 Corinthians 15:23-26, which demolishes completely their contention? Would they say Armageddon is found only in Revelation 16:12-16, because it is the only place where the war is named? Then what of Revelation 19:17-19?”

The True Historical Premillennial View: Not George Ladd’s Version

September 14, 2012 19 comments

From the material available online today, many would conclude that “historic premillennialism” refers to the teaching of 20th century theologian George Elton Ladd—and no other view.  See, for example, Michael Vlach’s article “How Does Historic Premillennialism Differ from Dispensational Premillennialism?”,  this “Eschatology Comparison” chart, and this article “An Historical Premillennialist Takes Issue With Pretribulational Dispensationalism.”

Similar to how many people associate the specific teachings of classic dispensationalism with any reference to dispensationalism, here too is a real point of confusion: the failure to recognize the different beliefs within the label of “historic premillennialism”–or any form of premillennialism other than “dispensational premillennialism.” Occasionally people mention “covenant premillennialism” to highlight the view of some, such as Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, who believed premillennialism yet who held to the theological covenants of Covenant Theology (as contrasted with the Calvinist disp-premill emphasis on the biblical covenants).   “Historic premillennialism” is the more common term, though, and yet George Ladd’s version of premillennialism could more accurately be called “contemporary (non-dispensational) premillennialism.”  As a commenter at the last link above pointed out, “Ladd’s overall position appears to be of more recent vintage than Classic Dispensationalism. Thus I find it ironic that he’s now considered to be the standard bearer for Historic Premillenialism. He departed significantly from the historic premillenialism of men like Horatius Bonar, J.C. Ryle and C.H. Spurgeon, just to name a few. None of the above men were pretrib, but they all believed in a physical restoration of the Jews to the land, which today is generally regarded as a dispensational distinctive.”

In recent years Barry Horner has done much in researching and publishing the history of millennial views, as in his “Future Israel” book and related website, as well as this work available online: “Judeo-Centric Eschatology: An Ethical Challenge to Reformed Theology.”  In this publication, Horner suggests another term to describe the truly historical premillennial view:  Judeo-Centric Premillennialism.  Chapter Five especially looks at the views of many premillennialists from centuries past, sketching out the details concerning “Israel and Judeo-centric Premillennialism beyond the Reformation” followed by “Israel and the Contemporary Historic Premillennialism of George Eldon Ladd.”

As Barry Horner explains regarding true historic premillennialism as opposed to the current day George Ladd version:

“… (then) explanation is made that one believes in a glorious future time when the redeemed people of God, distinctively comprising national Israel and the Gentile nations, will enjoy the consummation of their salvation on an earth of renovated spiritual materiality where the glorious, spiritually tangible and substantial Jesus Christ will reign from Jerusalem in the midst of Israel. At this juncture, the common response is that such a belief identifies one as a dispensationalist, especially since Ladd is said to have not incorporated such particularity concerning Israel within his premillennialism. In other words, if a person was an historic premillennialist, he would not retain any clear-cut distinction between Israel and the church, but especially within the one redeemed people of God in their future manifestation. When one then points out and specifically names a number of notable Christians who were not dispensationalists, such as Horatius Bonar, J. C. Ryle, and C. H. Spurgeon, even postmillennialist Jonathan Edwards, who nevertheless believed in the aforementioned scenario, that is, Israel and the Gentile nations retaining their distinctive identity under the earthly reign of Christ, the frequent response is that of a blank stare.”

…we will most definitely maintain that, in general, both historic premillennialism and progressive dispensationalism have upheld a diversity involving Israel and the Gentile nations within the redeemed people of God. Reluctance on Ladd’s part to bring Judeo-centric clarity and definition into his eschatology at this point places him outside the overwhelming emphasis of historic premillennialism. Hence, in this most important aspect of premillennialism, his perspective is decidedly not historic or normative.

The outline of this chapter further explains:

1. The two peoples of dispensational premillennialism:

… earlier belief in two new covenants was eventually abandoned by Walvoord, Ryrie, and presumably Fruchtenbaum, in favor of the one new covenant revealed in Jeremiah 31. … further development … has more willingly accepted the implications of this one new covenant for the redeemed, whatever distinctions they might incorporate…. Israel and the church are in fact one people of God, who together share in the forgiveness of sins through Christ and partake of his indwelling Spirit with its power for covenant faithfulness, while they are nonetheless distinguishable covenant participants comprising what is one unified people.

2. The one people of classic historic premillennialism: classic historic premillennialism, with exceptions acknowledged, nevertheless has specifically upheld the place of national Israel within the people of God of the church of Jesus Christ.

3. The one people of Jesus Christ’s assembly/church according to Scripture.

In a world where Gentile Christianity predominates, there is a necessity to offer some considerations here concerning the “Church” which name has, over the centuries, been “Gentilized” so that its mention is commonly identified with Gentile congregations, indeed a Gentile kingdom of God…. Hence the New Jerusalem shall not only acknowledge the twelve gates named after the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel, but also the twelve foundation stones named after the twelve apostle, all twenty-four names being Jewish.