Dr. Couch, why is it that there are such divergent views about the Bible, such as between premillennialists and amillennialists? Both camps seem to have pretty smart people in them.
The answer is easy. For the most part, the amillennial/allegorical Covenant Reformed guys come to the text with a preconceived systematic theology. I believe my systematic theology must come from my exegesis and my careful observations of what the text says. I do not give you a biblical answer as a “dispensational” answer (though the Bible is dispensational). I give you an answer to the text from a literal, normal system of interpretation—starting from Genesis all the way through Revelation. The Covenant guys foist an interpretative system (preconceived Covenant allegorical) over and upon the Bible. For example, often in their OT interpretation, Israel is the church. And the kingdom is allegorized to mean the church. I don’t have to do that! Israel means Israel, and the church means the church!
Of course the allegorical guys have the right to be wrong! And indeed, they are! I appreciate much that Reformed allegorist Hendriksen writes in his commentary series, but on the rapture of the church in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 he says, “Premillennialists, according to which Christ comes first for his saints, and seven years later with his saints. The coming is one; but it is a coming both with and for his saints” (p. 94). This is a cop out! It cannot be both. The two prepositions carry different thoughts. Hendriksen is determined to get rid of the rapture that is so plainly taught in this passage.
Amillennialist and allegorist A. T. Robertson does a “both and”. He calls this Thessalonian passage a rapture passage but then says that Paul is not clear on his meaning. He writes, “This rapture of the saints (both risen and changed) is a glorious climax to Paul’s argument of consolation. This is the outcome, to be forever with the Lord, whether with a return to earth or with an immediate departure for heaven Paul does not say” (pp. 32-33).
How can Robertson say that? Paul does not address the issue of Christ’s return to earth here to judge. The catching up to heaven is something unique for those “in Jesus,” or those “in Christ.”
On 1 Thessalonians 5:9, when Paul says church saints are not destined “for wrath,” Hendriksen makes this wrath the wrath of the final judgment. But the context is about the “destruction which will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs” (v. 3). This is a quote from Jeremiah 30 where the prophet is writing about the wrath of the tribulation that will come upon Israel and the world. The “birth pangs” are not about the final judgment of the lost! Hendriksen cops out and violates the context and the discussion that is under way in the passage.
I stay with the context! Most of the allegorical guys do not because they have a preconceived agenda. They are Replacement in their eschatology. They replace the church with Israel. In their view God is finished with the Jewish people!
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch