Three Views on the Millennium

Bock, Darrell. Ed. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999.

I suppose this book is as good as you would expect it to be.  No side delivers “the knockout punch.” Every author admits that much more could be written and so he will have to be brief. I don’t have much of an axe to grind in the debate. My own view at this point is that the revealing of Antichrist will begin the Great Tribulation. Blaising makes it clear, which sometimes the other authors don’t want to acknowledge, that the word “millennium” is irrelevant to his position.  

Gentry.  Argues his case on postmillennialism by structuring it around biblical covenants.  That’s probably the strongest angle of his case. He notes God must be faithful to his promises within space and time.  Even if true, the premillennialist makes the same argument. Strimple’s response seals the deal: when it comes to his theological case about the effective preaching of the Gospel, Gentry offers nothing that any Evangelical would reject.  Moreover, his survey of covenant history at no point establishes “the specifics of the postmillennial vision.”

Responding to preterism: both Strimple and Blaising give good critiques of Gentry’s preterism.  Blaising notes that “The Day of the Lord” functions typologically throughout biblical history. It manifests the final judgment.  (Strimple’s argument is similar: the language Jesus uses in the Olivet Discourse has angels gathering the elect, and if Matthew 25 is read in conjunction with 24, the dead appearing before the throne.  This can hardly be the destruction of Jerusalem).

Strimple’s rebuttal needs to be developed, but it promises some fascinating conclusions.  If Nero is the Antichrist as Gentry claims, then he must be destroyed at the Battle of Armageddon.  This means Jeruselm in 70 AD is the Battle of Armageddon. This can hardly suffice.

Strimple.  He gives the standard covenantal amillennial view.  His argument has two hinges: there is no future conversion of the Jews in Romans 11; and Revelation 20 denies a golden age.  I do like how he points out that Christ, and not the church simpliciter, is the true Israel. It’s tempting for covenant theologians to simply assert “The Church Replaced Israel,” whereas biblical theology is far more nuanced.

In his take on Revelation 20 and the binding of Satan, he asks if such a binding contradicts what Jude says that the fallen angels are bound until the Judgment.  Strimple’s worries are misplaced. That is not what Jude said. Jude said those angels (or Watchers) who fornicated in the manner of Sodom and left their own estate, are bound.  That’s all. Jude doesn’t say anything about the nature of demons or whether they are bound or not.

My own response is that Strimple completely ignored “Isaiah’s Little Apocalypse” (24-26).

In response Blaising notes that “The Day of the Lord” is not always an instantaneous event.  Further, while Strimple argues that the New Testament leaves no place for a future millennium in its “Two Age scheme,” Blaising points out that numerous epochs in biblical history are divided up:

  • God says “on the day I brought you out of Egypt and into the promised land…”  That is not an instantaneous event. It took at least 40 years (Ex. 3:17).
  • Take Messiah’s birth.  Part of Isaiah 11 refers to the Incarnation, but the rest of it, the ruling forever, is taking two thousand years.  It’s not an instantaneous event.
  • Isaiah 24 speaks of “split punishments.”
  • 1 Corinthians 15’s eita….epeita construction could read both ways, but Paul specifically emphasizes the “stages” of the Resurrection.

Blaising.  Blaising begins with a survey of premillennialism.  While not an exegetical argument, it should help amils and postmils to stop identifying premillennialism with Scofieldism.

He gives the standard premillennial take, though.  He notes that the OT speaks of conditions of an exalted creation which still retains sin and death.  Isaiah 65 is the most notable. This can’t simply be “Isaiah’s just trying to show us the heavenly state.”  Isaiah knows how to communicate that people die. In chapter 25 he gives us a picture where there is no death. He didn’t just forget when he got to chapter 65.  Ezekiel 14 has the descended Messiah judging those nations who refuse to submit to him.

Gentry’s response to Blaising falls short.  Partly, Gentry critiques Blaising for not being a preterist.  Secondly, Gentry imputes the problems of pre-tribulationism to all of premillennialism.  Third, Gentry completely ignores the fact that Blaising has said that his millennial view isn’t isolated to Revelation 20. I will give Gentry credit on this: he faults Blaising for not dealing with Daniel 9 within the premillennial scheme.  Fair enough. That would have been helpful.

Strimple’s response is worth noting.  Strimple complains about the allegation that amillennialism is born out of a Platonic dualism.  He points, rather, to the fine works by Bavinck, Hoekema, and Vos. I recommend all of them. That’s precisely Blaising’s argument.  Modern day amillennialism is New Creation eschatology. Praise God. Medieval amillennialism is not. It is Platonic. The point was to float in eternity and think about the divine essence all day (well, maybe not day, since day is an indicator of time).

Strimple then complains that Blaising “considers the Bible apart from Revelation 20.”  This is really bizarre. Usually, premillennialists are accused of ignoring the rest of the Bible.  Now they are at fault for considering the rest of the bible.


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