Millennial Series: Part 10: The Historical Context of Premillennialism -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 108:430 (Apr 1951)
Article: Millennial Series: Part 10: The Historical Context of Premillennialism
Author: John F. Walvoord


Millennial Series:
Part 10: The Historical Context of Premillennialism

John F. Walvoord

While modern premillennialism depends upon Scriptural foundations for its apologetic and theological statement, it has nevertheless a significant historical context. It is regrettable that some historians have held low views of premillennialism, with the result that premillennialism has seldom had fair consideration in historical treatments of Christian doctrine. Liberals and skeptics surveying the evidence with theological indifference have often arrived at a fairer view of the evidence for premillennialism in history than those endeavoring to defend another millennial position.

It is hardly within the province of a theological study of premillennialism to include an adequate history of the doctrine. An exhaustive modern study of the subject remains for someone to undertake. Fortunately, the main issues are clear in even a casual study, and the significant evidence in relation to premillennialism can hardly be disputed by any scholarly sources produced to date. The evidence for premillennialism in the Old and New Testaments and in the literature and theology of the early church at least in its main elements is commonly recognized. It needs here only to be restated as forming the historical context of modern premillennialism. This testimony unites in one river of evidence that the theology of the Old and New Testament and the theology of the early church was not only prellennial, but that its premillennialism was practically undisputed except by heretics and skeptics until the time of Augustine. The coming of Christ as the prelude for the establishment of a kingdom of righteousness on earth in fulfillment of the Old Testament kingdom prophecies was the almost uniform expectation, both of the Jews at the time of the incarnation and of the early church. This is essential premillennialism however it may differ in its details from its modern advanced counterpart.

Premillennialism in the Old Testament

Premillennialism is founded principally on the interpretation of the Old Testament. If interpreted literally, the Old Testament gives a clear picture of the prophetic expectation of Israel. They confidently anticipated the coming of a Savior and Deliverer, a Messiah who would be Prophet, Priest, and King. They expected that He would deliver them from their enemies and usher in a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and prosperity upon a redeemed earth. It is hardly subject to dispute that the Old Testament presents such a picture, not in isolated texts, but in the constantly repeated declaration of most of the prophets. All the major prophets and practically all the minor prophets have Messianic sections picturing the ...

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