Ties of Fundamentalism and Premillennialism

Thomas Ice

Republished from Voice, Jan/Feb 2020.

While all fundamentalists have not been premillennial, the overwhelming majority have been. Premillennialism has been a historic staple of fundamentalism. It is often the case that when one abandons the fundamentals of the faith, they also abandon the premillennial hope. Why has that been the case in the past and why should it continue into the future, especially within the IFCA?

Post-Civil War Rise of Fundamentalism

Postmillennialism in America arose as the dominant eschatology in the 1720s as a result of the influence of theologians like Jonathan Edwards and dominated evangelicalism until a decade or two after the Civil War. Higher critical liberal scholarship began to cross the Atlantic and make progress in America by the 1880s, which lead to the rise of fundamentalism as a response by conservative evangelicals. “Dispensationalism, or dispensational premillennialism, was the fruit of renewed interest in the detail of biblical prophecy which developed after the Civil War,” observes George Marsden. “Rejecting the prevailing postmillennialism… dispensational premillennialists said that the churches and culture were declining and that Christians would see Christ’s kingdom only after he personally returned to rule in Jerusalem.”1

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Review: New Creation Eschatology and the Land, by Steven L. James

This book provides an informative introduction and critique of the recent trend among scholars to stress earth-centeredness of the eschatological passages of Scripture rather than heaven-focused scenarios. The trend is most noticeable among amillennialists, especially since the publication in 1979 of Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future. That book called upon believers (especially Hoekema’s fellow amillennialists) not to spiritualize the OT passages that speak of a coming era of peace and righteousness on the earth. This planet, in its restored state, is the venue for the enactment of God’s eschatological promises.

The author, who serves as a Professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX, examines the works of several prominent teachers of the “New Creation” eschatology; namely, N. T. Wright, J. Richard Middleton, Russell Moore, Douglas Moo, and Howard Snyder. Not all of these writers were directly influenced by Hoekema’s work. He notes that although they correctly stress the earth’s central role in our future, he argues (again correctly) that they ignore the specificity of the land promises to Israel and thus contain a major contradiction. The contradiction is this: how can the OT promises of restoration and renewal be taken literally and every mention of Israel or Jerusalem be treated as metaphorical? It is a very good question.

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9/11 and the Rapture

Most likely you remember where you were when you first learned of the terror that came to America’s shores on the morning of September 11, 2001.

It is not at all difficult for me to remember, as I first heard of the attacks after teaching a class on the book of Daniel at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, where I was serving as an adjunct professor.1

As I got in my car after class, I remember turning on the radio. First, I tried to listen to the news, but I could not truly comprehend what I was hearing. I remember switching to Dr. David Jeremiah on Turning Point. Ironically, his scheduled message for that day, from his series on the book of Revelation, was entitled—so appropriately—“When All Hell Breaks Loose.”

My wife Lynnette was on her way to Indianapolis, where her mother would have open heart surgery the next day. She had thought of flying, but drove instead. As she saw people lined up around the block to purchase gasoline that evening, her mind immediately raced to the events of the future tribulation.

Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day, with thousands more suffering injuries.

And all of our lives were changed.

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Some Thoughts About the End-Times

Several months ago, the teens at church asked three questions during Sunday School as the teacher covered 2 Thessalonians 2, and I wrote up a brief response to augment the teacher’s answers. These were their questions:

  1. Was Old Testament salvation by faith, or by works?
  2. Did the Holy Spirit indwell believers in the Old Testament?
  3. Will the Holy Spirit indwell believers during the Tribulation?

I love both letters to the Thessalonians. I especially love 2 Thessalonians 2, because it gives such a clear skeleton outline of eschatology. Here’s what I wrote to them …

In order to answer these, and to understand why these questions even came up in 2 Thessalonians 2:6, you need to read the passage. It’s probably the clearest chronological account of what will happen in the end-times. Read it and see for yourself!

Paul was reassuring the Christians in Thessalonica that they shouldn’t pay attention to silly and ridiculous teachings about the end-times. Even back then, people were running around concocting all kinds of weird speculations about the end of days! So, Paul wanted to set them straight (2 Thess 2:1-2). Here is the order of events the passage gives us:

1: Jesus won’t come back and judge the world until the great rebellion against God comes first (2 Thess 2:4).

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Practical Eschatology

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York: Harper Collins, 2001], 134.)

“Eschatology” is the study of last things, or end times. For many, that term sounds like little more than an academic label, fit only for theology textbooks and doctrinal debates.

But whether we use the term “eschatology” or not, the study of the future is of vital imporance for believers. Biblical eschatology is far more than an academic topic to be debated. In His Word, God has revealed truth about the end of the age, and that truth is intended to do more than merely generate colorful charts or provide fodder for bestselling novels.

Why has God revealed so much about the future to His people?

At least three answers to that question might be considered, demonstrating that the future is meant to edify and encourage believers in the present. Our understanding of future events ought to impact our present reality in substantive ways.

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Alvah Hovey on the Intermediate State

Alvah Hovey was, at various times, both a Professor and President at the Newton Theological Institution for fifty-four years in the latter half of the 19th century. His systematic theology, entitled Manual of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics, was published in 1877. In this excerpt, Hovey explains his understanding of the intermediate state.1

By this is meant the state of men between their bodily death and resurrection. That there is such a state must be assumed for the present; but we shall soon have occasion to exhibit the proof of it, by showing that there will be a simultaneous resurrection of the dead. Almost all Christians feel a particular solicitude about the condition of human souls immediately after death. The proximity of that state to this invests it with double interest. Friends accompany their friends to the very borders of it, and know that, when the latter close their eyes here, they open them at once there — know that in a moment their loved ones are in the state that lies between time and eternity —between existence in a natural body and existence in a spiritual body.

Besides, that is a profoundly mysterious life which connects the one before death with the one beyond the judgment, —a life of waiting for the Lord, with how much of blessed service on the part of the righteous, no one knows; for the teaching of Scripture concerning the middle state is neither full nor explicit, but it assures us of these facts :—

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The Cosmic Temple & Spiritualized Eschatology, Part 4

Read the series.

Block’s Challenge

Recently the Old Testament scholar Daniel Block has vigorously challenged the whole Cosmic Temple thesis.1 Even if his counter-arguments are somewhat provisional,2 and he retains certain questionable positions on some matters (e.g. the presence of a covenant in Eden,3 violence beyond Eden,4 Jesus replacing the Jerusalem temple5), I think he has banged more than a couple of nails into the coffin. Allow me to set out several of his major criticisms:6

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