Dictionary of Premillennial Theology

By Mal Cough, gen. ed.
Grand Rapids : Kregel (1996). 442 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
8.2 (Fall 1997) : 230-232

Fifty-five scholars contribute more than 280 alphabetical entries. Couch is founder and president of Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute in Fort Worth, Texas. The dictionary attempts to show major tenets of premillennial belief, more particularly dispensationalism. Seminary administrators, seminary faculty, pastors, and other speakers and writers articulate much about leading figures in premillennialism, key concepts, crucial Bible chapters, main views of certain systems that disagree, etc. The format of 2 columns has very readable print, with bold-faced subject headings. An index appears at the end (437-42).

Subjects range from the Abrahamic Covenant (6 pp.) and Acts 2 and Pentecost (1 page), to Zechariah, Eschatology of (7 1/2), and Zephaniah (2). The New Covenant receives 5 pp. The work sketches many key leaders in premillennial teaching, such as David Baron, James Brookes, L. S. Chafer, Arno Gaebelein, James Gray, H. A. Ironside, Samuel Kellogg, J. D. Pentecost, George N. H. Peters, C. C. Ryrie, C. I. Scofield, John F. Walvoord, and Nathaniel West. The work also devotes entries to certain key writers for other views related to the debate, such as Augustine for the amillennial perspective.

Robert L. Thomas, Professor of New Testament, The Master’s Seminary, contributes articles, for example, “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” and “Progressive Dispensationalism.”

 One feature is a sketch of the eschatology in every book of the Bible; another is articles on certain facets of hermeneutics. Key Bible books are Genesis, Daniel, Isaiah, Gospels, Romans, Hebrews, and Revelation. The entries on the Psalms include such key psalms as 2, 8, 16, 22, 89 and 110. On the book of Revelation, the study delves into topics like the Two Witnesses, Dating the Book around A.D. 95, the False Prophet, Interpretive Views of the Book, Structure, 24 Elders, etc. “Rapture” draws about 28 pp., including various views of the same (Partial, Pre-tribulational, Pre-wrath, and Post-tribulational). “Reconstruction” theology receives 3 pp.

The Dictionary tries to correct a common misrepresentation of dispensationalism as teaching opposing ways of salvation in different ages, saying that the system teaches salvation to be by grace through faith in every age (388).

On Daniel’s Seventy Weeks, features deal helpfully with amillennial interpretation, dispensational logic, and rabbinic thought. Throughout the dictionary, entries conclude with a bibliography listing further readings. These offer some of the best books, journal literature, doctoral studies, and the like.

 Key texts and their issues naturally invest much reasoning for a premillennial-dispensational view—e.g., Genesis 12 and 15; Psalm 89; Isaiah 11; Daniel 2, 7, 9; Zechariah 1–6 and 14; Matthew 13 and 24–25; 2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 4–5 (elders), 6–9 (judgments), 11 (two witnesses), 17 (Babylon), 19 (Bride). In Genesis 12–15, six reasons argue for the unconditional nature of the covenant God made with Abraham (30).

 One can be a firm premillennial dispensationalist and yet differ from several interpretations favored on passages here. For example, in contrast to seeing no fulfillment of Joel 2 in Acts 2, he can see at least a partial fulfillment of certain details in Joel 2:28 ff.; he can say that the 24 elders in the Revelation are celestial beings, not humans; he can reason that the Treasure and Pearl (Matthew 13) do not distinguish Israel (Treasure) and the Church (Pearl), yet both emphasize the value of believers to God; he can view as finally artificial the dictionary’s view that Revelation 2–3 (the seven church sections) develop blocks of particular years spanning church history, and can think contrived a supposed similarity of Matthew 13 with Revelation 2–3, viewed as giving blocks of history (at least p. 313 acknowledges that “not all dispensationalists hold to this view”).

One interesting section, on H. A. Ironside, offers several arguments defending against the theory that Ironside in later years gave up loyalty to his premillennial dispensational conviction.

 In the midst of much that offers valuable benefit, the dictionary does have some drawbacks. One is the lack of a scriptural index that would help in locating certain discussions. Another is that some statements are more speculative opinion than necessary even to a premillennial view (an example is a list of claimed “types” of the Antichrist, even the serpent in Eden, Amalek, Balaam, and Sennacherib, 43- 44). A still further one is the problem of careless proofreading at times, permitting needless errors. And the value of articles differs greatly, some done with apparently great carefulness that offers much help, others generalized as if written “off the cuff” to meet a deadline.

All in all, though, the work will be a welcome tool for teachers, church staff, and students seeking handy reference. Those of a premillennial persuasion or other viewpoints on matters of the prophetic word can find value here, varying between the entries.