The eleventh chapter in The Coming Millennial Kingdom is entitled Evidence from Romans 9-11 and is authored by S. Lewis Johnson, Jr. There were some good points in this essay, but overall I was disappointed. I kept thinking to myself as I trudged through it, that writing like this is the reason why so many would rather read an end-times novel than actually study the Word of God and the positions that are held on eschatology. There were a couple of times where the author stated something like, “Dr. X holds this position, Dr. Y holds this position, and Dr. Z holds this position. So obviously Dr. Y has the correct viewpoint.” Let me try to be upbeat about presenting how the chapter is laid out.
The author states upfront that there is no mention of the millennial kingdom in Romans 9-11. However, these three chapters bear great weight on the issue of premillennialism. The reason being is in order to reach an A-Millennial point of view, one has to hold a position whereby the LORD is done with the physical nation of Israel. Johnson begins by easily proving that the use of the term “Israel” in these chapters is the ethnic nation of Israel, not a spiritualized nation including both Jews and Gentiles. Then there is a lengthy discussion as to exactly why Paul quotes Hosea 1:10, 2:23. It seems that if Gentile inclusion is mentioned here, that the author feels Pre-Millennialism has lost ground.
As a Historic Premillennialist, I wonder what the big concern is. If Paul quotes Hosea and states that Hosea wrote of Gentile salvation, is premillennialism undermined? That’s the assumption of Johnson who wants at all costs to avoid Paul stating that Hosea was writing about the Gentiles in Romans 9:24-26. Instead Johnson suggests that Paul was using an analogy. Hosea is stating that the northern kingdom would one day be restored to being the people of God, so Israelites disowned and brought back is the original subject matter. Paul is saying that Gentiles are saved just like those Israelites because of God’s sovereign purposes. Perhaps with more acuity, Johnson further suggests that Paul’s main point is why the mass of Israelites are currently missing from God’s current plan of salvation, meaning the mention of Gentiles is only incidental. The problem is that all of this takes eight pages of discussion as he probes differing theories amongst leading theologians.
In the discussion, Ladd is quoted and interacted with to some extent. I point out that while Ladd is also a Historic Premillennialist, I disagree that the new testament scriptures reinterpreted the old testament scriptures. This is one point that many mistake that I hold when I mention my position since they know that Ladd held the same position.
The next section focuses on Romans 11:25-27 which concerns Israel’s future. His question is a good one. “If ethnic Israel has a future in biblical teaching, then how is it possible to deny to her a certain preeminence in the kingdom of God?” Remember that question carefully. He points out that Israel’s failure (that’s ethnic Israel) is not total or final. He turns to the language of “all Israel shall be saved.” Again, Johnson downplays the significance of Gentile inclusion into the people of God when examining the identity of Israel, as if that would undermine the identity of Israel as ethnic Israel instead of the church. He examines the view of John Calvin who believed that the Israel of God is both Jew and Gentile, with the Jews having a place of prominence in the family of God. But notice Johnson’s above question. How does Calvin’s view depart from what he sets out to prove? The only departure is that Gentiles are a part of Israel in some way, which Romans 11 clearly indicates. Johnson wants to distance himself from Calvin’s view, even though they are not far apart.
The main view that he adequately addresses is that of Anthony Hoekema, who believes that “all Israel” is simply the Jewish remnant saved by Gentile provocation throughout the centuries until the coming of the Lord. So Johnson seeks to disprove that no conversion of ethnic Israel is necessary in the passage, which he does by showing that the context has consistently shown that Israel as a people group have fallen away and therefore the restoration will be a collective one, that of Israel as a people group. This section is good and to the point, even though it is only one page out of twenty-five.
Overall, I feel that Johnson specifically downplays the significance of current Gentile salvation. He so focuses on the term Israel as exclusively for ethnic Israelites, that he fails to see the plan of God to bless the Gentiles through Israel, although this is mentioned briefly. If only we could concede the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s sovereign plan as being visible from the OT, then we could more clearly see how Gentile and Israelite continue together in God’s covenant plan into the age to come. Romans 15:8-12 would have a much fuller, richer meaning for all of us. There are other points that could be addressed, but I leave this review as it is to show how I disagree with amillennialists, but I am dissatisfied with the way most premillennialists handle certain texts.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman