Eschatology suffers from two unfortunate quagmires: one is the struggle for relevance, the other is the issue of suffering violence due to straw men arguments. Often, eschatological positions are misrepresented so poorly, and ad hominem attacks levied so fiercely, that many in the church simply step aside and refuse to engage, citing a lack of love or practicality. Unfortunately, eschatology is seen as a discipline for eggheads and enthusiasts. However, in his new book, Premillennialism: Why There Must Be a Future Earthly Kingdom of Jesus, Dr. Michael J. Vlach smashes both quagmires with a golden lampstand!
Right out of the gate, Vlach states that the aim of his book “is to present a positive, biblical case and rationale for premillennialism” (p. 7). He then proceeds very quickly through an 8-page overview of the three main views, and jumps right into presenting his case in chapter 2. So often, eschatological works labor so cautiously through each view, in an altruistic attempt to appear fair and balanced, but Vlach goes right in for the win! As a biblical scholar, he assumes his position and does not apologize for not treating the other views with kid gloves.
Starting with chapter 2, he presents a case for a future earthly kingdom as presented in the Old Testament. He quickly dispatches with the myth that Premillennialism is drawn only from one text—Revelation 20. He begins his work in Gen. 1:26-28, noting the mandate for Adam’s rule over an earthly kingdom—a reign that was rendered incomplete by the Fall, and will one day be fulfilled in the Last Adam. Vlach then presents more evidence from Isaiah 24-25, Daniel 12:1-3, Zechariah 14, and Matthew 24-25 in chapter 3.
In chapter 4, he argues convincingly for the Isaiah 24-27 backdrop to Revelation 20:1-10, supported by other texts such as Isa. 65:20, and Zech. 8 and 14. Chapter 5 provides us with argumentation for the necessity of a future earthly reign, rooted in the need for Jesus Christ to reign from David’s throne at the Second Coming.
It is in chapter 6 that Vlach deals directly with the Revelation 19-20 texts, noting the sequence of events from the return of Christ (Rev 19) to the Eternal State (Rev 21). All along, Vlach has been interacting with the opposing positions, but he kicks it into high gear here. He notes the contentions from the other positions and deals with them patiently and masterfully.
Chapter 7 was my favorite chapter: “Why Premillennialism Must Be True”. Again, Vlach does not apologize for his own position, rather, he boldly asserts that Premillennialism simply must be true. He carefully lays out four lines of argument as to why this is the case:
First, that “there must be a successful reign of man and the Last Adam (Jesus) from and over the realm—earth—where God tasked the first Adam to rule” (p. 69). Vlach boldly declares that “premillennialism is the only millennial view that has Jesus succeeding in the realm where the first Adam failed.” (p. 71)
Second, he asserts that “Jesus must have a sustained and visible reign in the realm where He was rejected” (p. 71). This is a colossal point! If we understand the love and justice of God, certainly we see that God will not allow His Son to go unglorified throughout all the earth. He argues, “If the premillennial view is not correct… It would mean that there will be no significant period in human history where Jesus is recognized as King by this world before the Eternal State.” (p. 76). The issues raised in this statement must be dealt with for sure.
Third, “there must be a vindication and reign of the saints in the realm where they were persecuted” (p. 76). Vlach rightly identifies the future promises given to the seven churches in Rev 2-3, as well as the fulfillment in Rev. 20:4.
Fourth, “there needs to be a time in history when all aspects of the covenants and promises are fulfilled” (p. 83). This is an issue we simply do not hear much about in many works of eschatology. What of the unconditional covenants made by God to Israel? Jesus promises that all will be fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-20), and Vlach argues that this must and will be completed during an earthly millennium.
Chapter 8 brings us through the issues of creation care, and deals with the old issues of Gnostism as impacted by Platonic philosophy. Vlach is keen to note the early church fathers, Irenaeus and Tertullian, and their use of premillennialism to fight against Gnosticism. Vlach cites the birth of Amillennialism through Augustine, himself influenced by neo-Platonic philosophy. In chapter 9, Vlach deals with issues raised by Sam Storms regarding with 1 Corinthians 15. He then answers common objections in chapter 10 and provides a conclusion.
In the end, I greatly enjoyed Premillennialism. At only 120 pages, it scales down the arguments enough to be concise, yet sufficient. While aspiring eschatologains would do well to read Alva J. McClain’s The Greatness of the Kingdom, J. Dwight Pentecost’s Things to Come, or even George N. Peters’ 3-volume masterpiece The Theocratic Kingdom, Vlach’s Premillennialism will no doubt do for futuristic premillennialism what George Ladd’s The Gospel of the Kingdom has done for historical premillennialism—provide a responsible, accessible defense of the position.
I humbly submit three options to you for consideration. One, if you are a premillennialist, this resource will only enhance your understanding and bless your soul. Two, if you are decidedly not premillennial, yet desire an accurate representation of the position, this book will serve you well. Three, if you’re unsure of where you stand, this book will help you navigate the terrain and plead with you to consider why there must be a future earthly kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Disclaimer: While united in all other essential matters of doctrine, not all contributors to EntreatingFavor.com share the same eschatology.
Author: Michael J. Vlach
Publisher: Theological Studies Press (August 13, 2015)