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D.A. Carson's Millennial Position

Dear John, I am chair of a study committee for our denomination seeking to grant greater eschatological liberty. We are seeking to amend our doctrinal statement to allow amills to associate with us. Can you tell me if DA Carson has any sermon on Rev. 20. From what I have read of him, I think he sounds Amill, but he is with the E-Free which is premill. Any help you can send my way would be helpful. Thanks,_________

Grace and peace to you. D.A. Carson is Amill, but when he took the position at Trinity, he appears to have decided not to talk about it much. You may not find an exposition Rev 20 in his writings, but if you read the rest of what he writes he definitely has an Amillennial hermeneutic in most everything he affirms. However, (I just thought of this) if you read his commentary on John 5:16-30 (specifically verse 25 & 28, which speaks of the two resurrections) Carson says,

"The tension inherent in Christian eschatology between what belongs to the 'already' and what belongs to the 'not yet' is teased out in this and the following verses. For the expression a time is coming and has now come, cf. notes on 4:23. By v 28, where the eschatology is oriented entirely toward the future, the 'time' or 'hour' is coming; John does not say it 'now is'. Here however, the coming hour already is: the resurrection life for the physically dead in the end time is already being manifest for the spiritual dead. It is the voice of the Son of God ...that calls for the dead, and those who hear, will live. Such a voice, such a life-giving word, is nothing other than the voice of God whose vivifying power mediates the life-giving Spirit even to dry bones." (ezk 37)

vs. 28 "...Jesus insistence that it is his voice that will call forth all who are in their graves on the last day. The words for a time (lit. 'hour' hora) is coming are no longer qualified by "and now is" (cf. notes on v. 25): the future final apocalyptic resurrection is in view. The voice of the Son is powerful enough to generate spiritual life now, it will be powerful enough to call forth the dead then."


As you can see from this passage Carson 's Amillennialism reveals itself because he interprets Jesus to be saying that "the time is come and now is" refers to spiritual regeneration now, while "the time is coming" he believes refers to the future physical resurrection where believers and unbelievers alike will both be simultaneously resurrected. An Amillennialist would argue that this disproves all forms of premillennialism because the Text explicitly affirms that the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked occur simultaneously on the last day while premillennialism (due to Rev 20 ) believes these resurrections to be 1000 years apart. The apostle John having written both Revelation and the Gospel of John would make it appear to be more than sufficient to interpret Revelation 20 in light of John's description of the two resurrections in John 5, one illuminating the meaning of the other ( a spiritual regeneration and a physical resurrection).

Hope this helps
John Hendryx

The Gospel According to John: The Pillar New Testament Commentary by D.A. Carson

Posted by John on June 8, 2007 03:00 PM

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In the fall of 2005 I sat in oa rom during a dissertation defense in which Carson called himself "Premill of sorts".

David

I am pretty sure, through other channels, that he is not premillennial, though there is a small chance I could be proven wrong. The exegesis above does not allow for it. It implicitly denies all forms of premillennialism since he asserts one physical resurrection for ALL meaning the simultaneous resurrection of the righteous and wicked, an position that cannot be held by any premillenialist. All premillennialists believe in at least two physical resurrections.

To work at Trinity Seminiary, I believe, one must be premillennial, so he may have has toned it down quite a bit. In fact, I know several professors in this same boat, whose official theology on some issue is different than the Seminary, but does not openly speak of it due to their job security. Amillennialism seems to be an issue for some seminaries, enough to not hire you of you hold to it openly.

John,

I concur with your assessment, I know of at least two closet Amillennial professors at Trinity, who have learned to do the doctrinal slalom quite well.

I have not studied it myself, but I read in an article by Crawford Gribben on the eschatology of John Gill that he was Premillennial but held to a single return of Christ at the end of the millennium. Although I wonder how that would substantively differ from Postmillennialism per se. I would like to see Gill's point from which Gribben drew this, but as I am supposed to be writting my dissertation, I will have to wait to track down that rabbit trail.

Blessings,
Dave

PS I want to thank you for the ministry of Monergism it has been a great blessing to me and many at my church.

My understanding is that Carson is premillennial but that he agrees with amillennialists on much, including how to interpret most of Revelation and most of the Olivet Discourse. Every time I've seen eschatological positions attached to people's names, he is listed as premillennial. I found three online references to him (here, here, here), but these are assertions with no support.

I don't see him as the type to masquerade as premill so he can teach at a premill institution. Unless Trinity made a special exception with him, I doubt very much that he'd be there if he isn't premill. He's not that kind of guy. He also contributed to the EBC series, which insists that its contributors not say anything that's inconsistent with a general premill viewpoint. I'd expect him not to want to be constrained by that unless he was sure that nothing in Matthew that he'd want to comment on is inconsistent with premill views.

I don't see how what you quote him as saying in the post leads to what you say it says. All he says is that in the future the elect and damned will both be resurrected, but I see nothing in the quote above that takes these two events to be simultaneous. I'd hope he (and you) wouldn't think that anyway, since Paul says there will be two resurrections. You don't need to be a premillennialist to acknowledge that.

I haven't listened to his lectures on Revelation available at Christway Media. That would be a way to get a definite statement. Has anyone heard those who can comment?

Jeremy

Yes, the series on Revelation from Christway Media Carson skips over Revelaiton 20 and does not exegete the passage. Don't you find this curious?

Again, in order to teach at Trinity he must sign off a premillennialism of sorts, which ends up being very loose. Those who know him personally would tell you the real story of his eschatological position.

"Not that kind of a guy" you say. I know MANY seminary teachers who must do a dance with their millennial positions. They neither confirm nor deny anything. School deans often know the real story of their positions but remain quiet about it, realizing that it is not a primary issue and would liketo have this professor.

Also I would be interested in an assertion you made. Where "Paul says there will be two resurrections" that are 1000 years apart? The whole tenure of the New Testament is that the righteous & the wicked will be resurrected when Christ returns at his second coming, as does this passage.

You deny Carson make the point here but he does say it is simultaneous. ""...Jesus insistence that it is his voice that will call forth all who are in their graves on the last day.

The word "all" is a universal positive, excluding no one.

I'm curious where you think I said that Paul puts the two resurrections 1000 years apart.

The premillenial view holds that the second coming is a two-stage process, so it's consistent with thinking that the just and unjust are resurrected before and after the millenium to think that both resurrected in the second comming, since the millenium's beginning is only the beginning of the second coming on that view.

As for the "all" quote, premillenialists can mean that the same way. All will come forth on the last day, but how long is the last day? On the chiliast view, it lasts quite a long time.

Jeremy

Thanks for your input.

In your post you said, "Paul says there will be two resurrections."

May I ask, where does Paul in the Bible teach this? I haven't seen any Scripture backing up this assertion... Especially in a way that would affirm premillennial affirmations of seperate times.

you further said>>> As for the "all" quote, premillenialists can mean that the same way. All will come forth on the last day

Do you mean to affim that all the persons spoken of in John 5:29 will be "resurrected" physically on the last day? This Text includes the righteous and wicked. Amillennialists read it as it is plainly stated. By definition a premillennialist denies this, since, in their view the righteous will have already been resurrected prior to the millennium. Jeremy, you say the chiliast sees this "Day" lasting quite a long time. Well, for a view that historically prides itself on literal interpretation, it sure seems to me to be jump to non-literal approaches when it is convenient for them. The fact is that the New Testmement overall treatment of the topic, I believe, does not leave room for seperate resurrections or premillennialism in any form. John has already interpreted Rev 20 with John 5 showing the nature of the two resurrections, so it does not leave you with anything in the rest of the NT to affirm the view.

Here is the text:

28Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

Carson's "all" is referring to verse 29. The point is that in John 5:29 on the last day both wicked and righteous will be resurrected from their graves at the same time. Again he says "...Jesus insistence that it is his voice that will call forth all who are in their graves on the last day." This is an impossible supposition for a premillennialist, unless he chooses to break his own rule about literalist interpretation and then speculate that this is what jesus means. That is QUITE a stretch ... in order to fit it into your system

There is more than a little extra-biblical speculation in premillennialism, imho. Oh well, thankfully the topic is not a too critical an issue. Making up extrabiblical doctrines liek the rapture is odd to say the least, but glad that most premillennialists take the Bible seriously on topics that matter. But why they are willing to deviate so far from the Text on this issue is honestly a mystery to me.

May the peace of God be with you and your family
J

I didn't say that anything Paul says entails premillennialism. I wouldn't be an amillennialist if I thought that.

I was wrong that it was Paul. The "first resurrection" language is actually right there in Rev 20. It's been quite a while since I've spent much time on this stuff.

I never said there aren't good arguments against premillennialistm. Not many amillennialists would think the arguments are completely inconclusive. But I thought it was fairly obvious that all the views take some things more literally than others, and the question is which you take more literally than others.

The day of YHWH is a concept in the prophets that always refers to the judgment and salvation of God, but it occurs with respect to, among other things, the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, the first coming of Christ, and the second coming of Christ. Premillennialists already have to believe that the concept is recurring and that the day of YHWH divides into different manifestations. They typically accept that something that seems to be one coming (i.e. the advent of Messiah) turns out to be a first coming and a second coming, and then they add that what other eschatological views see as one second coming may in fact be two events that fall under the same name the way we've already seen happen with the day of YHWH in general. It's not as if we take Christ's entire first coming to be one day as it is, and it's not as if the entire events leading up to the second coming are supposed to be one literal day. No one thinks that.

As for the rapture, I have no idea why you're bringing that in. We're discussing premillennialism, not dispensationalism. It's dispensationalism that drives people to the pre-tribulational rapture view, and Carson has very clearly and publicly denied that view. Even bringing it in suggests that premillennialism standardly holds to such a view, which is not the case. The premillennial view of G.E. Ladd is closer to amillennialism than it is to dispensationalism.

Thanks Jeremy:

Now I understand. You were not referring to Paul, but the apostle John in Revelation 20. Well yes, aside from Carson's position, this is the main point of the original post .. that the apostle John in John 5 is interpreting his own meaning of the two resurrections in Revelation 20. The first resurrection in John 5, which most all scholars agree, is a spiritual resurrection (regeneration). The time is come and now is, Jesus says, that the dead who hear the voice of the Son of God will live. The language differs in the two resurrection of John 5. The first says "the time is coming and now is" and the second says "a time is coming" and does not have the addition of "..and now is"

Out of interest, I did actually find a passage in Acts where the Apostle Paul speaks of the resurrections of the righteous and the unrighteous.

14But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. - Acts 24:14-16 (English Standard Version)

I would like to point out that Paul speaks of this event in the same way as others in the Bible do. Notice Paul, in the Greek, uses "resurrection" in the singular. "There will be a resurrection..." Not resurrections. You would think that if these events were to take place at seperate times that at least one of the authors in the NT would make a point of it. The language here again is that of a one-time event that takes place upon Christ's return. He gives no inkling of something that strings out over time. When Jesus returns it is the judgment of the just and unjust, of course, based on whether they are in Christ.

The NT pattern of this iappears to be pervasive throughout. There is even evidence for this in the OT Book of Daniel

there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. 2And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Anyone reading this and other NT passages plainly, without trying to read Rev 20 into it, would conclude that the resurrection of both the just and unjust will occur at the moment Christ returns.

JWH

"Dear John, I am chair of a study committee for our denomination seeking to grant greater eschatological liberty. We are seeking to amend our doctrinal statement to allow amills to associate with us."

That sounds like EFCA (of which I am a member). There is a move afoot at the denominational level to revise the homegrown CoF. One thing they want to do (which bothers certain parties) is remove "premillennial and imminent" language about the second coming. This would be a good thing, in my opinion.

To the point at hand. I've listened to Dr. Carson's series on the Apocalypse. He certainly doesn't come across as a "charts and graphs" dispensationalist. He also doesn't come across as a scary man. Perhaps someone could call him and ask.

Carson's Amil position is actually a fairly well-known reality among his seminary colleagues and friends. Perhaps, like this visitor's denomination is doing, heads of all seminaries that hire these men should take up the idea of giving greater eschatological liberty openly rather than not talking about it.

Good post and discussion. If anyone is interested, Sam Storms has some great articles on amillennialism, specifically dealing with Rev. 20. The first article below deals with the overall NT teaching on the kingdom/millennium and just blows the premil view out of the water, in my opinion.

Problems with Premillennialism

Revelation 20:1-15 - Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks again.

Blessings in Christ,

Bob Hayton

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