I read Puritan Eschatology, edited by Peter Toon, over the course of a couple weeks while on vacation and found it enjoyable. Although I wouldn’t say that the book was “enlightening” or “valuable,” there were several insights worth reflection. The greatest was probably the degree to which the historical context of the Puritans bore upon their interpretation of prophecy and, specifically, Revelation. Toon notes this in his conclusion, but there are plenty of examples, such as Alsted and how the Thirty Year’s War impacted his thought or the Fifth Monarchy men and other less-extreme millenarians whose doctrines, and the popularity therof, rose and fell with political events like Cromwell’s victories and the Restoration to the degree that these events seem deterministic for their interpretation of Scripture.
“The Bible offered a multitude of possibilities as to the nature of the millenium, and the saints from the lowest strata naturally selected those teachings most in accord with their own aspirations” (p89).
The warning for us, in spite of the tendency to read events of the day in light of specific prophecies, is to be cautious in our interpretation. Events which loom large at present may be mere ripples historically. Although I remain open to some millenarian schemes, probably moreso to postmillenialism than to premillenialism, my (hopeful) amillenial views nicely align with seeing patterns, themes, symbols, and recapitulation in the book of Revelation and in history. I don’t deny that there will be a preeminent Beast-figure in the future, the man of lawlessness, but neither do I want to be quick to assume the present villain is that man. He may be a Beast-figure, but I will be very cautious in saying he is the Beast.
Puritans, The Millenium and the Future of Israel: Puritan Eschatology 1600 to 1660. Ed. Peter Toon. James Clarke & Co. Ltd. Cambridge & London, 1970.