I usually appreciate the articles in Zion’s Fire. This past month, however, contained an article by Dr. Gary Cohen which left me a bit miffed. The article is entitle Back to School: 34 Theological Terms. It is an attempt to simply define many terms that are commonly used in theological circles that many laymen might not be familiar with. To give you an idea of what is covered, some of the terms included are Sola Scriptura, the Virgin Birth, Deity of Christ, Calvinism, and then some eschatological terms. Two of these have left me just shaking my head.
The first was Amillennialism. The way Cohen has this worded, it’s obvious that he doesn’t want anyone to even consider the position. Not only does he unfavorably define the position, he gives a rebuttal after defining it. No other definition does he represent so unfavorably and then proceed to give a statement as to why the view is not a good one. If I were an Amillennialist reading this article, I would seriously consider whether Dr. Cohen even understands the position.
The second, which hits closer to home, is Historic Premillennialism. This is the definition that Dr. Cohen gives: A view, ideally originating historically with early church fathers such as Irenaeus, whose influence flourished around A.D. 200, which stated that while the Second Coming of Christ will indeed occur before the Millennium of Revelation, Chapter 20, its end-time events will not primarily involve Israel nor the detailed scenario of events held today by pre-wrath advocates, or pre-, mid-, and post-tribulationalists. It is a premillennial view that has chosen to divorce itself, and often even denies, such end-time details.
Wow. Here is your choice. According to Dr. Cohen, if you believe in a rapture at all, you can’t be a historical premillennialist. If you believe in a future for the nation of Israel, you can’t be a historical premillennialist. If you believe in any end-times details, you would be seriously dissuaded from being a historical premillennialist after reading this article. There’s a problem with what Dr. Cohen is doing though; it’s called mislabelling. He did it with amillennialism, and now he’s doing it with historical premillennialism.
If Dr. Cohen had studied any authors on the subject, he would understand the position quite differently. The way the position evolved was that in the early 1800s, premillennialism was united in its focus. Then came the rise of a dispensational scheme which hyper-distinguished between the church and the nation of Israel, separated the Bible into seven dispensations, and created a position called the pre-tribulational rapture which occurred seven years before the end of the age. Those who did not buy into this new scheme (which was being promoted by J. N. Darby) held to the traditional premillennial view, from this point known as Historic Premillennialism. Among the more prolific authors were B. W. Newton (whom I have read extensively), S. P. Tregelles, Nathaniel West, and guess what, Spurgeon was also a Historic Premillennialism. Another author who would come on the scene in the mid 1900s was George Eldon Ladd.
The early Historic Premillennialists all held to a future for the nation of Israel, a literal rapture for the church, albeit post-trib, and God’s wrath being poured out at the end of the age as Christ returns. Ladd is often put into his own category, but his position is not altogether different in terms of eschatology. He wrote The Blessed Hope which outline his post-trib rapture position. His position on the future of Israel is what many misunderstand. Ladd never used the term “new Israel” for the church, but instead the “true Israel” to distinguish himself from Covenant Theology. His commentary on the book of Revelation shows a blend of sorts in interpreting some passages to be the church, such as the reference to the twelve apostles in Revelation 21, and some to be the believing remnant of Israelites, such as those who worship within the inner courts of the temple in Revelation 11.
This is not the first time I have seen Historic Premillennialism mislabeled. But what is a non-dispensational premillennialist supposed to do? Here’s my plan. I will continue to call myself a Historic Premillennialist, continue to provide an accurate description, and point out the error of those who mislabel the position. In fact, I just may write a letter to Dr. Cohen. I know the mail is still running. Well, not today, but in general. Today we honor one of the greatest Christians our nation has known, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman