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Spring 2000 · Vol. 29 No. 1 · pp. 76–78 

Book Review

Armageddon and the Peaceable Kingdom

Walter Klaassen. Scottdale, PA and Waterloo, ON: Herald, 1999. 298 pages.

Reviewed by Richard Kyle

As we approached the year 2000 we were inundated by many end of the world predictions, largely from the pens of the premillennial popularizers. In this volume Walter Klaassen offers us an alternative view of the kingdom of God. Now retired, Klaassen is a well-recognized Anabaptist scholar. His perspective arises out of the convictions which have developed over a lifetime and thus represent a personal confession of faith.

Armageddon and the Peaceable Kingdom is divided into two sections. Part one examines and critiques the end time ideas from the early {77} church to the present. The author next distinguishes between prophecy and prediction. Chapters three to six analyze and evaluate premillennial dispensationalism. Klaassen’s chapters focus on common premillennial themes: the new world order, the rapture, the tribulation, and end time judgments.

In these chapters the author shows how the dispensationalists have misused Scripture, utilizing a “cut-and-paste” approach to the prophetic passages. In doing so they have produced end time ideas which Klaassen regards as “Fundamentalist science fiction.” He comes down hard on these modern forecasters but he still regards them as Christians.

In part two, beginning with chapter seven, Klaassen presents what he regards as a biblical view of end time events. He does not focus on Daniel and Revelation as do most premillennialists. Rather, he bases his ideas on a balanced view of the New Testament, giving considerable weight to the Gospels and epistles.

Klaassen does not use the words preterist or amillennial. But his ideas are akin to those positions and he links them to Anabaptist teachings. The kingdom of God began with Christ’s first coming, not with a future millennium. The kingdom is not a literal physical kingdom but a spiritual one which people can now enter. Christ’s rule is here and now and it concerns peace and justice, not power and materialism. The book of Revelation does not address future events, especially those in our day. Rather Revelation speaks to developments in the first century.

Klaassen must be commended for this book. He provides an antidote to the widely popular premillennial eschatological position. He rightly castigates the forecasters who are making wild and irresponsible predictions regarding the end of the world. Moreover, he correctly labels the end time scenarios as set forth by many dispensationalists as “Fundamentalist fiction.”

Still, I have several questions/objections. In his brief survey of Christian eschatology, Klaassen fails to mention the Millerites—perhaps the most famous millennial movement in American history. Also, in criticizing premillennialism, the author seems to focus on the views of Peter Lalonde. Admittedly, dispensationalists espouse similar views. But why does he put the spotlight on a lesser known figure?

Yet more problematic, Klaassen lumps all premillennialists together. To be sure, the premillennial dispensationalists are the driving force behind the current end time mania. But not all premillennialists are dispensationalists. Not all defer the kingdom of God. Some see it as both a present and future reality. There are also premillennialists who do not engage in irresponsible end time speculations. {78}

Having said this, Armageddon and the Peaceable Kingdom provides a valuable service to the kingdom of God as we enter the year 2000. It brings some sanity to an increasingly irrational situation. Hopefully, it will be widely read in Mennonite circles.

Richard Kyle
Professor of History and Religion
Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas

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