The seventh chapter in the book A Case For Historic Premillennialism is entitled Toward the Reformed and Covenantal Theology of Premillennialism, subtitled A Proposal, and is written by Sung Wook Chung, one of the editors of the book. This chapter was like a breath of fresh air to me, especially considering that very few people that I know of call themselves Historic Premillennialists. This essay brilliantly enters the covenant theology arena and beats the system at its own methods. There is no resort to dispensational extrapolation to prove premillennial tenets, but instead there is concession to the very covenant type assertions made by covenant theologians.
Chung starts the essay by examining the idea of a covenant of works and then a covenant of grace being established from the beginning of creation. He then expresses appreciation for the merits of covenant theology in the area of unity on soteriological issues particularly in the areas of spiritual life, salvation, and faith in God’s promises. But then he brings criticism for carrying the soteriological dimension too far by ignoring the kingdom dimension of God’s work throughout history. This leads to over-spiritualizing certain issues such as the kingdom of God, physical blessings to the nation of Israel, and the millennium.
An Alternate Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 and 2
Chung wants to help overcome the demerits (he just explained the merits, now he’s pointing out de-merits, hah!) of traditional Reformed Covenant Theology by starting at the beginning. He agrees that a covenant reading of Genesis 1 and 2 can be maintained. Next, he states that Genesis 1:26-28 can be described as a covenant of promise/blessing. This is in contrast to believing it should be viewed as a covenant of works. He cites the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12:2-3 as an example of a covenant of promise/blessing. In creating man, God has performed an act of grace. Then he establishes mankind as his viceroys. The man and woman are given lordship over all creation. Being created in God’s image, they are to be His representatives in physical form. God has been acting as King and is now bestowing upon His vice-regents a kingdom here on earth. Chung states that ‘we should take Genesis 1:28 as the “kingdom mandate” or the “statement of the covenant blessing,” which gives humankind dominion over the whole creation.’ I state that it is a brilliant concept.
Now Chung introduces Genesis 2:15-17 as a covenant of law. Basically God was instructing man on how to live in His presence. The Mosaic law would later reflect this type of “thou shalt not”. GK Beale is favorably cited here who argues that the Garden of Eden functioned as the first temple with Adam as [now quoting Chung] “priest who must demonstrate his faithfulness and loyalty to the great King as the representative of his progeny.” Note how Chung arranges it so grace predates the law. Covenant Theology has it the other way around. This really hits home with me especially in light of how Covenant Theologians are always emphasizing God’s grace. Chung is emphasizing it even more. Let’s get back to Adam, though. Adam’s rule as priest is not entirely spiritual; also as a king it is physical. This dominion was originally intended to extend beyond the borders of Eden to the ends of the earth. I hope you are following Chung’s reasoning here as it bears directly on the nature of the kingdom of God.
Adam’s fall resulted in the loss of his position as priest, king, and representative of God’s image. This has ushered in Satan’s rule which is not entirely spiritual as it also greatly impacts the physical realm. With these underlying principles in place, Chung proposes (and rightly so) that Genesis 3:15 is the promise to restore the lost dominion. This promise is not only to restore the spiritual rule, but also the physical rule on earth, in fact in the new heavens and new earth. We are clearly looking forward to a last Adam to fulfill these promises. Jesus Christ fulfills promises made at the beginning of time which relate to the two Edenic Covenants; the covenant of blessing and the covenant of law. He fulfills the roles of prophet, priest, and king. As such, while on earth, Jesus interacted with creation by healing the sick, calming storms, raising the dead, and basically “exercised dominion over the entire creation.”
After this brilliant foundation, Chung then addresses how Adamic and Abrahamic covenants relate to the millennium. Christ reigning here on earth will restore the physical dimension of Adam’s kingdom. Those who reign with Christ during the millennium will also be kings and priests here on earth after the pattern of the first Adam and fulfilled in the last Adam. God’s promises to Abraham were both spiritual and physical. A literal understanding of the covenants leads us to see history fulfilled in a physical way here on earth through the nation of Israel. Chung points out that the Apostle Paul saw that Abraham was to be heir of the world in Romans 4:13. Through Jesus Christ, the plan has begun, but ultimately He is heir of all things, including this world. A closing comment by Chung would be appropriate here. “The millennial kingdom will signify the completion of the Lord’s redemptive program on the earth. After that, we will have the new heavens and new earth, which will last eternally.”
This essay is the heart of Historic Premillennialism in my view. While I have been a bit critical of some of the other essays up to this point, there is no criticism from me on this one, only accolades. To see Genesis 1-2 as the beginning of the covenant plan of God is what I tried to communicate in my Back to the Beginning series (read about it here). I wish I had read this book before writing that series because I would have changed a couple of things. The book is worth if only for chapter seven.
Although Sung Wook Chung is directing his essay towards the Reformed Covenant Amillennialist views, I set forth that it also contains the reason why I still can’t call myself a dispensationalist (read about it here). Dispensationalists begin with dispensations, but the dispensations flow from the covenants. In order to understand the dispensations, we must first understand the covenants. With the establishment of a covenant, sometimes the dispensation would change, sometimes not. With the Abrahamic Covenant, there was only the hope of a future dispensation, but no change in the dispensation at that time.
Dispensationalists do not begin with Genesis 1-2 in their study of the Covenants. Most Dispensationalists begin with the Abrahamic Covenant, although Bock and Blaising went back to the Noahic Covenant as their beginning. The dispensationalists that I have read severely discount the seed promise of Genesis 3:15. If you don’t start at the beginning, you will have a faulty foundation. The covenant plan of God begins in Genesis, even as God was creating the world and mankind as His image bearer.
I will continue to call myself a Historic Premillennialist. Although somewhat nebulous at times, the position more accurately reflects my overall theology and eschatology than postmillennialism, amillennialism, or dispensational premillennialism. If dispensationalism takes another step in refining its position as it did with Progressive Dispensationalism, I will review it at that time. Until then, you don’t have to be a dispensationalist to be a premillennialist, and I am a solid premillennialist.
Seven essays down, one to go.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman