Not The Signs Of The Times

Armageddon Now!, by Dwight Wilson (Baker, 1977, 258 pp., $4.95 pb), is reviewed by Timothy P. Weber, assistant professor of church history, Conservative Baptist Seminary, Denver, Colorado.

Dwight Wilson, professor of history at Bethany Bible College, has written an intriguing and often disturbing study of American premillennialism in the twentieth century. Unlike most books on prophetic themes, this one is about the history of a school of interpretation, rather than the results of an interpreter’s study.

Basically using a chronological approach, Armageddon Now! traces premillennialist responses to Russia and Israel from 1917 to the present. Wilson argues that during those years premillennialism was characterized by a loose literalism that repeatedly failed in its attempt to match biblical prophecy and current events, a fatalistic determinism that often expressed itself in racism and denials of basic Christian justice, and an opportunism that employed sensationalism and prophetic blunders because such approaches were thought to be useful in saving souls.

Although premillennialists claimed to be able to identify the signs of the approaching end of the age, their history “is strewn with a mass of erroneous speculations which have undermined their credibility.” For example, at least some prominent premillennialists have interpreted nearly every major international crisis of this century as the harbinger of Armageddon, including the Russo-Japanese War, the two world wars, the war for Israeli independence, the Suez crisis, and the Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973. They saw the rise of the revived Roman empire of the last days in the League of Nations, the expansion of Mussolini’s ...

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