Below is a review of a book that argues for an optimistic outlook on history from within an amillennial eschatology. One wonders why an amillennialist would be optimistic (against the virtually dominant pessimism in amillennialism) and why the optimistic amillennialist does not simply become postmillennial. What are your thoughts?
The Promise of the Future, by Cornelis P.Venema
For over 20 years, the standard amillennial textbook in Reformed colleges and seminaries has been Anthony Hoekema’s classic work The Bible and the Future. This state of affairs may soon change because of the recent publication of a new book by Cornelis Venema entitled The Promise of the Future. Dr. Venema, professor of doctrinal studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, has given the church a well-written and comprehensive textbook on eschatology from a Reformed and amillennial perspective.
The book is divided into six parts and sixteen chapters and covers all of the major topics of individual and cosmic eschatology. The two chapters in Part One set forth the author’s basic presuppositions and also outline some of the most important eschatological concepts found in Scripture: the Kingdom, the Covenant, the Day of the Lord, the “Already/Not Yet” nature of this present age. These chapters provide the reader with some very valuable hermeneutical principles.
In Part Two, Venema deals with the nature of death and the intermediate state. In his examination of these biblical doctrines he deals with several unbiblical views such as annihilationism, soul-sleep, and purgatory. Part Three sets forth one of the central elements of any orthodox Christian eschatology – the future Second Coming of Christ at the final consummation of this age.
The chapters in Part Four deal with various “signs of the times” such as the preaching of the Gospel to all the nations, the salvation of all Israel, tribulation, apostasy, and the rise of the Antichrist. Surprisingly, since it is uncommon for amillennialists to take this position, Venema concurs with the interpretation of Romans 11 held by Charles Hodge and John Murray among others. He agrees that Romans 11 refers to a future conversion of a large number of Jews to Christ. Not surprisingly, Venema argues that biblical references to apostasy, antichrist, and tribulation – while possibly having a first century fulfillment as their primary reference – refer also “to events that will characterize the present age until Christ’s second coming” (p. 145).