What view did John Calvin and the other Reformers take on eschatology?

Derek Thomas & R.C. Sproul
1 Min Read

THOMAS: To immediately apply our current eschatological categories to the Reformers would be anachronistic. Some of the definitions—postmillennial, premillennial, amillennial—belong after the sixteenth century.

Let me just address John Calvin for a second. Calvin showed some reluctance, for example, in writing a commentary on the book of Revelation. Dominant in Calvin’s thought is the view that Christ is king and that He triumphs. The concept within Matthew 16, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” is dominant within Calvin’s thought. When Calvin talks in the Institutes of the Christian Religion about what God has in store for the church, it’s always triumphant. All the elect will be saved.

Calvin does not have a view of Romans 11:26, “And all Israel shall be saved,” that allows for a great ingathering before Jesus returns. I think he would be more in line with a very optimistic amillennial position. I think that is where Calvin would come down, but it is an anachronistic question as far as Calvin is concerned.

SPROUL: I think so too. There are so many different views on eschatology, and the Reformed camp today is divided among at least three. There is postmillennialism of a sort, amillennialism of a sort, and a particular kind of premillennialism that has been around, not the radical chiliasm of the early church, nor what we would call today “dispensationalism.” There is room for various views of eschatology, even as there was among the Westminster Divines. So, there is no monolithic view for either Luther, Calvin, or even later theologians like Edwards and so on.

This is a transcript of Derek Thomas’ and R.C. Sproul’s answers from our Theology in Dialogue event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, email ask@ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.