There are some dire consequences for holding to a Covenant view of prophecy.
What is your theological position? What is your belief in the area of prophecy? What is your belief about salvation in the Old Testament? What is your believe about the Trinity? What is your believe about the Holy Spirit? What is your belief about salvation? What is your belief about creation? And about another 50 topics? And over the last 13 years in specific I have tried to come to an understanding of these doctrines.
The first attempt is to figure out what I believe about prophecy. Where you start is usually where you will end up. I thought maybe I was in the Covenant camp, but in the area of prophecy I am not at all in that camp and here is why:
First, a covenant-theology view of prophecy tends to lead the Church into militant attempts to reconstruct the secular order into a Christian state. The transferal of O.T. predictions of a Kingdom Age from future Israel to the present Church encourages those who hold this view to seek to bring about the Kingdom right now. After all, if the Kingdom is happening right now, in and through the Church despite the absence of the visible Christ, then the Church must be God’s agent for bringing in the Kingdom. This will be accomplished through a two-pronged action: evangelism on one hand, and political force on the other.
This is a fools goal. The New Testament speaks of a preserving and ameliorating effect which the Word of God should have upon the social order. The idea that the law of Moses can, will, or should become the rule of law prior to Christ’s return is Biblically unfounded. Totally depraved souls have no more ability to surrender to the Law culturally than they can do so soteriologically. Covenant theology’s understanding of prophecy invariably leads to the errors of Theonomy/Reconstructionism. It enmeshes the Church into power politics, and leads her to think that God has given her the power of the sword. This is an undesirable regression to “Christian” Europeanism.
Second, a covenant-theology view of prophecy encourages a superficial, double-standard hermeneutic. It is necessary to gloss over the details of prophetic texts in order to sustain Amillennialism. My own substantial exposure to Reformed literature over the years has given me the impression that Reformed writers (with notable exceptions) are strong on philosophy, creeds, and history, but very shallow on ordinary inductive exegesis. The very depths of exegetical oceans may be probed in a commentary on Romans, but prophetic passages such as the latter chapters in Isaiah are handled very lightly and superficially.
Doctrinal generalizations are spun out like web-strands from superficially examined texts. The rules and intensity of exegesis applied to II Corinthians are almost never applied to The Book of Zechariah. I say that the reason for this is that the standard rules for grammatical-historical exegesis, when applied to Old Testamental prophetic literature produces pre-millennialism. Since most Reformed writers have an a priori, creedal, and institutional commitment to Amillennialism, they will not exegetically “permit” a pre-millennial interpretive result to happen.
Third, a covenant-theology view of prophecy leads to an unscriptural view of Satan’s current power. On one extreme we see the “power evangelist” literature, which is almost Zoroastrian in the formidable powers it attributes to the Devil. In the Reformed camp we see not a naturalistic world view (the silly, glib slander which the Vineyard and other Third Wavers use to characterize their critics), but a theological underestimation of Satan’s contemporary abilities. Covenant theology teaches that Satan is “bound” right now – this is their allegorical interpretation of Rev. 20:1-3. Imagine the implications which that assumption would have upon your views of sanctification. Christian counseling? Missions in pagan nations?
Pre-millennialism is important because of the interpretive approach it signifies, and its interrelatedness with one’s doctrine of the Church. Dispensationalism is correct in its belief that God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.
(Rev. Jack Brooks can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org)