A FIGURATIVE 1000 YEARS
In short, Amillennialism is the theory or system of interpretation that says that there will be no literal, earthly kingdom following the Second Coming of Christ. Amillennialism teaches that when Christ returns, eternity begins with no prior thousand-year millennial reign occurring on planet earth.
Amillennialism is the most prominent view among Christians today. The use of the prefix “a” before a word comes from the practice of the Greek language and negates the word (nullifies or denies the word as being true) when placing this letter in front of it. Therefore, the word amillennial actually means no millennium. Of course, the Latin words “mille” (thousand) and “annus” (years) means 1,000 years. But when the letter “a” is placed before the Latin word it cancels out the millennium and literally means “no thousand years.”
Actually, the amillennialist does believe in a “millennium” but not a literal millennium. It is a spiritual millennium instead of a literal earthly millennium. They see the N.T. references to the 1,000 years and the kingdom as being allegorical or figurative in meaning and teach that these references point to Christ’s reign over the church in the time period between Christ’s first and second advent. The amillennial view holds that the kingdom promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled spiritually rather than literally in the New Testament church.
Jay Adams, who is amillennial, chooses to call his system of interpretation by the name “realized millennialism.” This simply means that the millennium is a present reality existing in the hearts of people. The millennium or kingdom becomes a present realization in the hearts of God’s saints.
NO PROMISES TO PHYSICAL ISRAEL
The promises to Israel about a land, nationality and throne (Gen. 12:2; 15:18-20; 2 Sam. 7:12-16) are now being fulfilled in a figurative or spiritual way among believers. They claim that these promises given to Israel have been cancelled out due to their past disobedience. This means that God is finished with Old Testament Israel or the Jewish nation as a whole. The promises of an earthly kingdom have taken on a spiritual dimension and have been transferred to the church where Christ becomes King as He reigns over believers today. In this way the church replaces Israel of old and becomes the new “spiritual” Israel that God is working with today. Thus, the term “replacement theology” is given to this scheme of interpretation.
Spiritualized interpretation therefore is a scheme of interpretation that changes the literal meaning of the O. T. covenant promises to a figurative meaning. By a process of figurative interpretation national Israel assumes the title of “spiritual Israel” and the earthly millennium becomes a “spiritual kingdom” (the present day church of saints).
SATAN ALREADY BOUND
In brief, amillennial theology also teaches that Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ through His death and resurrection. Hence, the kingdom of God began at the first advent and continues as a present spiritual reality with Christ reigning in the hearts of His saints or over the new spiritual Israel – the New Testament church.
MOST PROPHETIC EVENTS IN REVELATION ALREADY FULFILLED
The amillenarian views most of the book of Revelation as dealing with prophetic events already fulfilled before or during the actual time of the book being written (past fulfillment), or as present day events and conditions that are happening on earth right now.
This view spiritualizes the book and makes it fit into the present day conflict between evil and good and sees it as an apocalyptic dramatization of the continuous battle between God and evil. It is simply a picture of the continual struggle between right and wrong that goes on in the heart of man. This is often being referred to as the Idealistic view.
Then there is the Preterist view of the book of Revelation, which assigns a past meaning to the book. In other words, the events of this book were fulfilled in John’s day.
Others hold the Historicist view of the book of Revelation, which sees the book as giving a history of the church from apostolic times to the end. This view is shared borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church. This group is basically forced to also associate many of the judgments predicted in the book with events in the past.
Most amillennialists in some measure assign a past historical fulfillment to the book of Revelation but at the same time still hold that the book contains a present-day fulfillment of what is happening in the world in connection with the tribulation that the church faces today. In other words, there is a mixing or blending together of the idealistic, preterist and historicist views. This is the theory that the Roman Catholic, Augustine held.
Heavently Millennium View
The noted Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) taught this spiritualized concept of the 1,000 years in Revelation chapter 20 even though he was actually a postmillennialist believing in an earthly millennium. It can be observed that various segments of amillennial teaching overlap with postmillennial beliefs. For some amillennialists the millennium has nothing to do with any spiritual reign of Christ upon earth over believer’s lives but with the blessed condition of the saints in heaven where Christ is ruling over their disembodied spirits. This theory holds that there is some kind of “heavenly millennium.” In other words, the Old Testament promises are also being fulfilled in heaven right now.
This more contemporary view within amillennialism was only developed in the nineteenth century and has become a popular and acceptable idea of the millennium. Instead of the church being the millennium / kingdom on earth the millennium / kingdom is in heaven where Christ is seen ruling over His departed saints as the Davidic King.
There is thus, division in the ranks of amillennialism when it comes to interpreting and understanding what the millennium is and how it is being fulfilled today. We can see how spiritualization only breeds confusion.
To summarize, the millennium or the 1,000 years is not a literal and specific reference to time but a reference to Christ’s rule over the church today and finally in the splendor of heaven itself.
THE RETURN OF CHRIST AND A GENERAL JUDGEMENT
Amillennialism believe that Christ will literally return. This return will result in a literal, physical and universal resurrection of all the people from Adam to the last person who has died. The remainder of people living on earth will be translated to this scene of judgment so that all the people born throughout time will stand together in a time of general judgment. All the unsaved of earth’s history will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire and the saved will enter into the eternal state.
Amillennialists will normally use a passage such as Matthew 25:1-46 to teach their theory of a general judgment on the last day (John 5:29). But in their attempt to push this theory of a general judgment they fail to realize that the judgment in Matthew 25 does not picture any resurrection but only a judgment of those gathered nations living upon the earth when the Messiah returns.
In addition, the differences between the judgments of the church at the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), the judgment of the surviving nations following the tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), the judgment of Israel (Ezekiel 2:33-38), the judgment of fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Rev. 20:10) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are glossed over and these separate events are lumped together and looked upon as one single event. This creates serious mistreatments of Bible texts and confusion.
What the eternal state will be to the amillennialist varies since some take the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22) as only a spiritual description of what Paul calls the “new creation” of the church (2 Cor. 5:17). Some apply the vision of the new heavens and earth to a nonmaterial state of existence in heaven. Other more conservative amillennialists and postmillennialists seem to stress the idea of people living on a brand new planet after the Second Coming.
QUESTIONS AMILLENNIALISTS CANNOT ANSWER
The idea of only one general resurrection, one combined judgment, one people of God, and one return of Christ seems much easier for the amillennialist to grasp. But we must ask ourselves these questions: Why can’t there be a Rapture and Second Coming of Christ to earth? Why can’t there be three resurrections instead of just one? Why can’t there be three different judgments? Why can’t there be two classes of people on earth? The answer of the amillennialist to these questions is that it conflicts with his amillennial theology. But on the contrary, these findings do not contradict the Bible when it is literally interpreted.
Prophetic parables and other portions of Scripture that deal with the tribulation and kingdom are seen to be already fulfilled historically and/or in respect to Christ reigning over the church today as King. The great prophetic portions of the Word of God are spiritualized as presenting contemporary events that the church faces today in the world while Christ reigns within the hearts of His redeemed saints.
CHURCHES APPLYING AMILLENNIALISM
This amillennial concept is the view of the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the major view among the large segment of Protestantism – both conservative and liberal. The Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, major sections of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, certain branches of the Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, Southern Baptists and even various segments in the Church of God, embrace this kind of spiritualized theology. Of course, this does not make it the correct view of Scripture in regards to the interpretation about the kingdom, church and other prophetic truth.
THE DANGER OF SPIRITUALIZING OR ALLEGORIZING SCRIPTURE
It is very interesting to remember how the liberals also embraced this amillennial position because it fit into their way of viewing the Scriptures. If Christ’s millennium or kingdom could be spiritualized then Christ’s resurrection, miracles and His Second Coming and judgment of people in hell could also be spiritualized to mean something else. Modern liberals can justify whatever they want by the use of the same hermeneutical rules of interpretation that the amillennialist follows. This mishandling of Scripture opens the door for liberalism to treat the Scriptures in the same way – in an unbelieving and spiritual\allegorical way – instead of a literal way. The history of higher criticism of the Bible lends itself to the amillennial interpretation of Scripture.
The danger of this type of figurative interpretation of Scripture should be apparent to everyone who respects the inspiration of Scripture and the plain, normal and literal meaning of the Bible. This method regards nonfigurative language as figurative and its only limitation is the mind of the interpreter. This type of “spiritual hermeneutic” has robbed the Bible of its legitimate meaning. If words mean something then the words of Scripture in their grammatical, normal and literal understanding can adequately express truth without the process of spiritualization.
I’m reminded of how Paul reprimanded Hymenaeus and Philetus for spiritualizing that the physical resurrection was something already past. These men were affected by Greek philosophy and like Origen and Augustine they tried to harmonize the two together – both Greek philosophy and Scripture. They were the “spiritualizers” and “allegorizers” of the early church. Like the Sadducees, they rejected the literal concept of the resurrection (Acts 23:8).
2 Timothy 2:17-18 says:
“And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”
Amillennial teaching is like gangrene eating away at the foundational truth of the prophetic Word and God’s clear mind about the meaning of words and His literal covenant promises to Israel. When one abandons the literal interpretation of the Bible and reduces literal words to mean figurative truth they reduce the Bible to nothing more than a book of symbols in the whimsical or fanciful hands of man’s own creativity. It can only discredit God’s Word and lead to unbelief and error in connection with God’s eschatological program.
Kenneth Kantzer has said:
“The only way to appropriate biblical authority and to refrain from reducing the Bible to a book of mere suggestions and optional opinions is to understand the Bible in the plain, normal sense intended by the authors.”
(Source: Pastor Kelly Sensenig)