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Promise of the Future Hardcover – November 1, 2000
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About the Author
Venema is Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Doctrinal Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary, Dyer, Indiana. He gained his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary for work on the theology of John Calvin and has served as a pastor in the Christian Reformed Church in Ontario, California, and South Holland, Illinois.
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This book is easily the most comprehensive book on Christian eschatology I've ever read. It is so much more than a comparison of millennial views. It takes a scholarly look at all aspects of Christian eschatology. Dr. Venema, Professor of Doctrinal Studies and President of Mid-America Reformed Seminary in Dyer, IN, breaks down his investigation of eschatology into six sections. In section one (The Future is Now), Dr. Venema shows that Christianity is a religion of hope that is based in the word of God. The overall story of Scripture is one of Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, and the first advent of Christ marked the beginning of the last days.
Section two of the book (The Future Between Death and Resurrection) looks at the doctrine of the intermediate state. Dr. Venema looks first at un-Biblical views of the intermediate state before presenting the Biblical case for that doctrine. He closes that section with a look at purgatory. Section three (The Future of Christ) addresses the second coming of Jesus. This is by far the most important doctrine of the NT as it is the centerpiece of Biblical expectation. It is not only the doctrine which forms the Christian hope, but it also provides the motivation for holy living in the here and now. One of the best parts of this section is Dr. Venema's presentation of the return of Christ as a consummating event. This is an argument that is setting the stage for Dr. Venema's critique of Dispensationalism. Far from being just one stage of the end times, the return of Christ is the consummating event of the NT age. He concludes this section by reinforcing the fact that no one knows when Christ will return.
Section four (The Future Marked by the Signs of the Times) covers three chapters and goes into great detail regarding the signs that herald the return of Christ. These signs are found in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). Dr. Venema breaks these signs down into two categories: Signs of God's grace and signs of opposition and judgment. Examples of the former are the gospel being preached to all nations and what that means as well as the salvation of "all Israel." While the latter is evident in the tribulation, the apostasy, the antichrist and the judgment of God.
Section five (The Future of the Kingdom) forms the heart of the book. It encompasses five chapters and consumes nearly 200 pages. In this section, Dr. Venema discusses all of the major millennial views. He first does a dispassionate presentation of the different positions quoting primary sources for each, and then proceeds to evaluate these views based on a critical examination of the Scriptures. There is a whole chapter devoted to Revelation 20, the central text in the millennial debate. Dr. Venema conclude the book with a section discussing the future of all things, which goes over the events that occur at the return of Christ -- e.g., the general resurrection, the final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth.
If I were to critique the book, it would be in three areas. The book is long (about 490 pages in length of just text). While this isn't a problem for me, I can see how this might intimidate the casual reader. To the end, Dr. Venema has released an abridged version of this book for popular consumption titled "Christ and the Future: The Bible's Teaching About the Last Things." My second critique is that Dr. Venema doesn't really provide a clear exposition on Daniel 9:24-27, which is one of the key texts from a Dispensational perspective in support of their view. This omission doesn't weaken his argument, but it makes it less complete. Finally, I had a hard time with chapter 14 concerning the final judgment which goes into questions about the final judgment including degrees of reward in heaven. I had understood that believers do not undergo the final judgment and that we all receive the same reward. Dr. Venema challenged my thinking in this area. While that might not really qualify as a critique, it does serve as a reason for me to look into this matter further. If you were taught similarly to me, this might make you take notice too. I don't refute Dr. Venema's position because it may be more of my previous dispensationalism talking than clear, cogent reasoning.
As far as what this book has in its favor, the tops of the list is its comprehensiveness. As previously mentioned, this book weighs in at nearly 500 pages of text. If you want a clear and complete picture of eschatology, this is the book for you. This book contains a copious amount of footnotes too, which allow Dr. Venema to elaborate more on certain points. There is a lot of primary material cited as well; Dr. Venema wanted to make sure he was accurately portraying opposing views in their own words. The book is indexed by persons, Scripture and subjects. Finally there is an extensive bibliography. It's main strength is its readability. I was surprised at how quickly I read through it; for a theological book, it was a `page turner.'
If you want a comprehensive work on eschatology from a Reformed Amillennial perspective, look no further than "The Promise of the Future"
I would take issue with a few interpretive details, but these minor quibbles do not detract from my overall enthusiasm for the book. I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking a good single volume resource on eschatology.
Matt. 24:9 refers foremost to our future here. Yet Matt. 24:9 is a parallel to Luke 21:12: "But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues". By starting off with a proviso that Matt. 24:9 refers to Christ's coming in our future, yet various other parts of Matt. 24 refer to AD 70 on account of historical relation Venema's method of categorization agrees that Luke says Matthew 24:1-14 is fulfilled in AD 70 creating a contradiction. Cornelis P Venema has only asserted by the natural flow of consistency that Full-Preterism has the answer, if we will believe there is one Gospel in Matthew and Luke and by his method of interpretation.
Matthew 24:1-14 refers foremost to our future here. However the scenario of Matthew 24:1-14 is included with all of Matthew 24:4-28 in other places in the Bible that deal with the dichotomy of the apocalypse. The Bible itself reaches past Venema's verse ending in Matthew 24:14 to show that 24:1-14 is included with what example Cornelis P Venema outlines as the historical type of coming for AD 70. Matthew 24:4-28, Mark 13:7-23, Luke 21:9-24 and Revelation 6:1-11 all parallel, so to say that part of Matt. 24 has to do only with AD 70 is in the end only to affirm that a consistent view of 24:1-14 refers only to AD 70.
Cornelis P Venema separates the soul and the body, realizing its heretical gravity again and again. Yet he goes on to assert it admitting there is no solid foundation for it. Cornelis P Venema writes of the two eschatons for the two parts of man: ". . . divide the Bible's teaching about the future into two parts . . . individual . . . and . . . creation. . . . Though this division of the Bible's teaching is somewhat artificial, it is nonetheless unavoidable . . ." pg. 35. It is not "somewhat artificial", it is entirely artificial and does not exist in the Bible. Cornelis P Venema admits our resurrection into the presence of Christ is focused on the "body" alone in Scripture (page 40-41). Ignoring this bar he asserts only the old unrelated arguments again providing only confusion for those morning the loss of their loved ones leaving us to believe they are in some kind of state of limbo waiting.
When Peter sought to divert Christ from the thinking of the cross as an exit from this world he was sternly rebuked by the Lord and referred to as the enemy of Christendom. Cornelis P Venema writes on Page 225: "This golden age, the period of the millennium . . . will be a period marked by moral righteousness, universal peace among the nations . . . and unprecedented economic prosperity. " The millennium is marked by believers and their families who have their heads cut off their bodies as they take a stand for Jesus against Satan. These martyrdoms demonstrate who are the righteous and and proceed to show the reason for the second coming, this is one of the most elementary truths of Scripture, note Mark 13:20 with Rev. 6:11. Note that Cornelis P Venema uses Rev. 6:11 elsewhere on page 50 to refer to our present state, creating another contradiction with his view of the millennium. If there are two comings (one in AD 70 and one in our future) they are radically identical not radically different. The separation of the wheat and the tares happens according to this view along with ever increasing prosperity rather then ever increasing solidarity with the cross of Christ. This view is in fact the anti-Christian view, not unlike the expectations which were held by Judas the son of perdition and those who crucified Christ. That which is spiritual is replaced for that which is natural and a counterfeit peace with the kingdom of Satan is acquired.
Cornelis P Venema sets out to show that Matt. 24:36 is set apart to refer to a prosperous world in the future. He seeks to set it apart for his view of the millennium that radically stands apart from AD 70. However in context Matt. 24:36 refers to Jerusalem as the days of Noah as seen in the next verse 24:37, and the days where the kingdom is taken from Jerusalem in Matt. 21:43-43. The last hour concept is repeated in Matthew 24:44, 24:44, 25:13, covering a much broader section. Matt. 24:36 is not an isolated truth that is taken apart by itself for two distinct comings. If there is a logical way to divide Matt. 25 here, this Cornelis P Venema has yet to provide, other then to say that there is a rule that when we cannot understand God's word we can divide it into irrelevant a truths until what is to be presently understood completely disappears.
The Promise Of The Future is founded on a partial coming, partial resurrection and therefore answers nothing we are presently at odds with today, especially in light of the new questions that have come to light through Full-Preterism, it is a hopelessly banal work. For more information see redirectionalism.com
Please understand that my arguments here are not configured to portray any PERSONS as heretical, but only to show why I disagree with any VIEW in the most clearest way I can use. I consider Partial Preterists to be my Christian brothers in the Lord. I only disagree with their form of eschatology and wish to make it clear why.