This morning John MacArthur opened the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference with a loud blast that will no doubt be heard around the Reformed world in the coming weeks. His message in General Session 1 was entitled “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is Premillennial”.
I am not going to try to quote him here, because frankly I did not take notes, I just sat there and listened. MacArthur pulled no punches in his messages saying things like Jesus, Peter, the writer of Hebrews, and James were all premillenial. He also said that it is too late for Calvin but it is not too late for you [to join the Reformed Premillennial movement]! I just want to note that he neither proposed nor answered the types of objections that are oftentimes levied against premillennialists (like some I have heard lately). Instead, MacArthur systematically unpacked the biblical theology that leads one to an unabashed Calvinistic eschatology.
He made an interesting connection between Genesis and Revelation. Basically he said that when people spiritualize or allegorize the first three chapters of Genesis we call them Liberals, but when they do the same with the prophetic Scriptures we call them amillennialists. MacArthur insisted that we should be able to preach the whole Bible without changing the original meaning of the text or abrogating promises.
In a really interesting illustration MacArthur envisioned an amillennialist evangelizing a Jew. He asked what the amillennialist would say if the Jew asked about the kingdom and the blessings. The amil guy, MacArthur said, would have to say that things have changed, those promises no longer apply to you, we have them now and this is the kingdom. In a shocking conclusion to the illustration, MacArthur said, “if this is the kingdom, then Jesus is not the messiah”. His point being that Jesus literally fulfilled promises of God just as they would have been literally taken, how in the world can we now redefine the kingdom in a different way than it was described in and through the prophets?
This message clears up any questions as to where MacArthur stands on the eschatology issue. His presentation was not an attempt to harmonize Calvinism with a premillennial view but rather to show the inconsistency of the contrary. He also spoke briefly about dispensationalism, but I am not going to cover that here, I got to run.
So check out Tim Challies’ summary on this once it is posted and if you are able to get your mitts on the audio for this it is highly recommended.
I couldn’t help but wonder what the other guest speakers might have been thinking as they sat in the front row. Ligon Duncan and CJ Maheney (preaching tonight in the place of John Piper) both are Amil; Al Mohler and Mark Dever are both Historic Premil (I believe, correct me if I am wrong).
Btw, LA is beautiful and the conference is great, I hope to post some reflections as the week goes on. This year they upgraded some snacks and are handing out Zone protein bars, a major enhancement…however, I am really missing my family…