April 4, 2020

Recommendation and Review: Heaven Misplaced by Douglas Wilson

When you hear the term “postmillennialism,” what comes to your mind?

The church taking over society? Naive optimism? A failure to notice that the world is getting worse and worse, not better and better?

Discussions in print of postmillennialism are rare enough, but simple and understandable ones are nearly unheard of. The average student of Christianity or eschatology never gives postmillennialism much of a thought and given what one would encounter in a typical evangelical discussion of the future, the lack of attention to postmillennialism is no great loss.

Now, however, there is a well-wrtten, interesting exposition of postmillennialism from the pen of Douglas Wilson. Heaven Misplaced is a new release from Canon Press that is essential for anyone wanting to actually understand postmillennialism enough to expound and explain it to the average person.

What Wilson undertakes is not a scholarly survey of eschatology, but a pastoral survey of the overall Christian message, with a goal of making the optimism and victory of Christ in history that is at the heart of postmillennialsm. This is compelling and interesting Bible study, with short chapters, topical summaries and discussion questions.

Postmillennialism is the purpose of the project, but there is much good here about the Gospel, the Old Testament, hermeneutics, evangelism, the new and old creations, the law and especially interpreting difficult eschatological passages.

(I’ve been reading about eschatology for more than three decades, and this book was the first time I saw the obvious fact that “those who are taken” are taken away to judgment.)

This is a fine exposition of many important things in scripture, and it also happens to make a good argument for postmillennialism. Wilson isn’t trying to overwhelm anyone, and he doesn’t engage in any sort of comprehensive explanation or defense. This isn’t the last word on eschatology, but it is an exceptional first word for those wanting to gain more understanding.

The best reasons to read this book? To get a dose of Biblical optimism and to see the harm that’s done in overly spiritualizing what it means that Jesus is Lord.

The book includes a glossary for beginners that is a must-have resource for anyone teaching a beginning eschatology study. As always with Wilson, the book is readable, funny and pastoral.

I highly recommend this book for all IM readers interested in postmillennialism.

Comments

  1. I’m sure I didnt notice it on my own but I have been pointing out the “taken away to judgment” to folks for years. It always freaks them out.

  2. As a Post-mil leaning, arm-chair (at best) theologian, here is another book that I must put on my summer reading list. Can you imagine the impact an optomistic (earthly-optimistic rather than “it’s all going to burn” Heaven only-optimistic) church could have on this society?

    Hey Michael I do have life and am having a hard time keeping up with your great reads.

  3. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Can you imagine the impact an optimistic (earthly-optimistic rather than “it’s all going to burn” Heaven only-optimistic) church could have on this society? — JMJ

    It DID, until the aftermath of World War One.

    When it went from building the Kingdom of God to “Twinkle Twinkle Coming Christ; Beam ME Up To Paradise!” near-overnight.

    From a Social Gospel that neglected personal salvation to a Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation.

  4. I’m not particularly interested in eschatology, but would probably fall in the amill camp, but I will admit that is mostly because I got turned off by various pre-mill individuals’ explanations, and the only other person I’ve discussed eschatology with was amill and he made what I thought were good explanations.

    When it comes to post-mill position, I’m pretty much a blank, and I think I’ll grab this book for my education. Who knows, I may switch to post-mill.

    This may expose the depth of my non-interest in end-times, but I have to ask – where is the place that is talking about being taken to judgment?

  5. Cleanse your presuppositions of the rapture for a moment.

    Read all the parallels of the statement “one is taken; one is left.”

  6. I would love to see more people come to the Postmil position.

    I find myself very lonely being a partial-preterist (we all are in some way anyway) Postmil guy even in Presbyterian circles now that Amillenialism has taken hold in most Reformed seminaries.

    Postmillenialism was once the standard among Princeton Theologians like Hodge and Warfield. I believe the grandddady of much Reformed thought; John Owen, was Post-mill as well. I came to it by reading Marcellus J. Kik books from P&R Publishing in the 70’s. Peter Leithart has written a more recent book on Post-Mill view that’s worth checking out.

    Its a shame that Postmillinialism is often misunderstood, and in some cases attached to theonomy which turns many off.

  7. I believe Jesus said “just as in the days of Noah”…

    Well in the days of Noah, it was the wicked who were judged and “taken” and the righteous that were left.

    Left Behind theology has it backwards.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy (can I call you HUC for short?)

    Yes I agree IT DID. I was standing on the campus of Harvad U. back in June and rubbing the foot of the bronze work of John Harvard. He seemed like a postmil, a man with a vision for redeeming society . . . thus his huge library and his endowment that started Harvard.

  9. While I see decent arguments in favor of pre or post( same for Calvin and Armin), I can’t help but agree with Webmonk’s comment of smugness of having everything figured out in sequence by the pre’s.

    Unusual quotes like this: “If he is to remain alive till I return, what is that to you?” go unexplained.

    And then the disciples ask about the destruction of the temple combine that with the question about His coming. Why combine two events totally unrelated?

    This isn’t theological nitpicking. What results from believing in pre or post?

  10. Bob Sacamento says

    Cleanse your presuppositions of the rapture for a moment.

    Read all the parallels of the statement “one is taken; one is left.”

    Michael,

    It occurred to me several years ago that it was not obvious exactly who the ones were who were being taken. But despite trying to cleanse myself of presuppositions, I wasn’t able to see it as “obvious” that the ones taken were taken to judgement. If you care to elaborate, it might be helpful.

  11. Thanks for the review. Yeah, give posties a chance! Posties have feelings too! I’m pretty content wading in the waters of the “optimistic” amillennialism myself but need a challenge and this book maybe can help me fully consider postmillennialism.

    On the other end about traditional amillennials – Is there a pretty good consensus out there that the 21st century believer has a right to tell me that Matt 24 will have a second, third and even possibly more future fulfillments? What is the strongest argument for it? I would listen to an apostle tell me this, but it’s hard to hear it from a Christian of today.

    I attended Kim Riddlebarger’s (White Horse Inn) 2007 eschatology conference at his church with the express purpose of learning more about the traditional amillennialist view and pull me away from my persuasions. The master, Dr. Beale, who wrote the massive commentary on Revelation was also there (and was quite delightful I might add). I thoroughly enjoyed the conference; however, I still left wading in the middle right between the postie and traditional amil view.

    Yes, postmodern puritan, I feel your pain – I get lonely in my SBC quarters here – many in my parts of the world have the “end times makes no difference to me, so why study it” view. Sigh!

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Read all the parallels of the statement “one is taken; one is left.”

    Just to throw everyone a curve, the Dakes Annotated Bible claims the passage refers to “the mobilization for the Battle of Armageddon”.

    (I got mixed up with a splinter church in the Seventies that claimed the Dake’s was the Only True Bible, sort of the KJV1611 for the era of flare pants & big hair. Remembering those marginal notes with thirty years of hindsight, I now call that edition “The Flaky Dakes”.)

  13. “from the pen of”Just one example of what I really like about your writing style– icing on the cake (the cake being the thought-provoking content). Many blessings. Press on.