Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist

Posted on April 11, 2011

If you want to get the future right, you’ve got to get Israel right and you’ve got to get God’s sovereign electing purpose right. – John MacArthur

I am currently going through a series from John MacArthur titled, Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, and wanted to go ahead and share it with you (HT: Defending. Contending). I am halfway through Part 4 and am finding the material to be richly informative of the amillennial view that the Church has replaced Israel to receive her promises from God as Israel has forfeited her rights to those promises through apostasy. Parts 1 and 2 provide great introductions to the series, and Parts 3 and 4 have been rich in Scripture giving key evidence that God’s promises to Israel are eternal and not dependent upon her faithfulness to God.

MacArthur poses 5 questions to be answered in this series:

1.  Is the Old Testament amillennial? 

2.  Were the Jews of Jesus’ day amillennial? 

3.  Was Jesus amillennial? 

4.  Were the Apostles who wrote the New Testament and those associates of the Apostles amillennial? 

5.  Were the early church fathers amillennial?

Leading up to these questions, MacArthur gives the following brief explanation and quotes Horatius Bonar, a 19th Century Scottish-reformed theologian, in his work titled, Prophetic Landscapes. Keep in mind Bonar penned this is 1847:

So to say it simply, to hold the view of amillennialists, called replacement theology, that the church replaces Israel in the promises of God, Israel as God’s Elect is no longer God’s Elect, cancelled out, to come up with this idea that there therefore is no real earthly Kingdom to fulfill those promises and that they are fulfilled in the spiritual life of the church both now and in heaven, you have to deny the nature of divine sovereign election. You have to basically say that when God called Israel His Elect, and when God gave them unconditional, unilateral, irrevokable promises, He didn’t keep them, or He doesn’t keep them, so that election doesn’t mean permanent election, it might be temporary as in the case of Israel.

I don’t know anybody who believes in the doctrine of election who thinks its temporary with the elect angels, or temporary with the elect Son or temporary with the elect church, so this has to be a category invented to accommodate replacement theology. The second thing that has to happen is, you cannot interpret Scripture in the normal meaning, the normal sense in which it is written both in the Old Testament and the New Testament because clearly in both testaments promises are made to Israel. Therefore Israel doesn’t mean Israel, a thousand years doesn’t mean a thousand years, reigning in Jerusalem doesn’t mean reigning in Jerusalem, it means something else…something not apparent in any normal interpretation of the language. So you can see there are some extremes here in trying to make this work theologically when you have to reinvent the doctrine of election which is so sacred to us and when you have to change the normal meaning of the language.

Now, I want to having said that, say this, that throughout history there have been some in Reformed circles of great note who didn’t buy this. I am particularly, as you probably known, drawn more to Scottish Reformed theology than I am to Dutch Reformed theology. And one of my favorite Scots in the area of theology is Horatius Bonar. He’s a nineteenth century preacher, Scottish preacher and theological writer. In 1847 he wrote prophetic landmarks and he took a position very different from his Reformed friends, very different. He was always a strong advocate of the doctrines of sovereign grace. He was always a strong advocate of the doctrine of election. He affirmed as well that election was forever and therefore affirmed the primacy of the destiny of the Jews in the scheme of eschatology. So he was going against the grain of his day and his compatriots. This is what Bonar wrote in 1847: “The prophecies concerning Israel are the key to all the rest. True principles of interpretation in regard to them will aid us in disentangling and illustrating all prophecy. False principles as to them…that is Israel…will most thoroughly perplex and overcloud the whole Word of God,” end quote. And that’s right back to what I said and when I said it I hadn’t yet found Bonar’s comment. He says you can’t get eschatology right if you don’t get Israel right.


He further wrote of his conviction as to biblical clarity on this matter. And his language is so magnificent that it needs to be thoughtfully repeated. So let me read to you what Bonar wrote in 1847. “I am one of those who believe in Israel’s restoration and conversion, who receive it as a future certainty, that all Israel shall be gathered and that all Israel shall be saved. As I believe in Israel’s present degradation, so do I believe in Israel’s coming glory and preeminence. I believe that God’s purpose regarding our world can only be understood by understanding God’s purpose as to Israel.” Now remember, this is a time long before they had ever been gathered back into their land.

He went on to say, “I believe that all human calculations as to the earth’s future, whether political or scientific, or philosophical, or religious, must be failures if not taking for their data or basis God’s great purpose regarding the latter day standing of Israel. I believe that it is not possible to enter God’s mind regarding the destiny of man without taking as our key or our guide His mind regarding that ancient nation, that nation whose history so far from being ended or nearly ended is only about to begin.” He went on to say this, “He only to whom the future belongs can reveal it. He only can announce the principles on which that future is to be developed. And if He set Israel as the great nation of the future and Jerusalem as the great metropolis of earth, who are we that without philosophy of science we should set aside the divine arrangements and substitute for them a theory of man? Human guesses concerning the future are the most uncertain of all uncertainties and human hopes built upon these guesses are sure to turn out the most disappointing if not the most disastrous of all failures. I believe that the sons of Abraham are to re-inherit Palestine and that the forfeited fertility will yet return to that land, that the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. I believe that meanwhile Israel shall not only be wanderers, but that everywhere only a remnant, a small remnant shall be saved. And that it is for the gathering in of this remnant that our missionaries go forth. I believe that these times of ours are the times of the Gentiles and that Jerusalem and Israel shall be trodden down of the Gentiles till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. I believe that the completion of what the Apostle calls the fullness of the Gentiles will be the signal for the judgments which are to usher in the crisis of earth’s history and the salvation of Israel and the long-expected Kingdom.

Why did he believe that? Because that’s exactly what the Bible says.

Indeed. You can download each message below or go to the original link here: Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 1

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 2

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 3

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 4

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 5

Why Every Calvinist Should Be a Premillennialist, Part 6