THE ARGUMENTS OF AMILLENNIALISM
We must consider the points which Amillennialists make in favour of their views. We will never be able to convince them that they are wrong if we cannot at least answer their points. Also, when they make their points, these often seem at first to be very plausible. It is sometimes only after looking a little closer that we see the error of them; so, we need to look a little closer now.
There are several main reasons that an Amillennialist will give in support of his position:
Argument 1 : The use of figurative language in prophecy.
It is argued that since so much of the prophetic writings use figurative or symbolic language, it was never meant to be taken literally, thus we are free to spiritualise prophetic passages.
However, while it is true that much of the prophetic writings are in figurative language, these figures are nonetheless used to represent actual things, people and events. The use of figures does not do away with their reality.
Scripture abounds with the use of figures. For example, in Ex. 19.4, God tells the people of Israel that He has borne them out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings”. This is clearly a figure. No-one is seriously going to suggest that they left Egypt on the wings of birds. God is using a figure to show the might and power with which He took them out. But God’s use of a figure in no way lessens the fact that it was a literal exodus from Egypt. Figurative language is used to describe it, but it is nonetheless a real event.
It was so in recording past events. It is so in prophecy too. Take for example Isa. 11.1: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’. No-one doubts that this refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the words “rod”, “stem”, “Branch,” and “roots” are figurative. Nonetheless this in no way negates the fact that the Lord Jesus is a literal descendant of Jesse. The use of figures does not nullify the literal fact.
Turning now to the Book of Revelation, which is so much attacked because it abounds in figures and symbols. Take chapter 1 for example. We read in v. 12 about 7 candlesticks (lampstands). These are figurative, but we are told in v. 20 that they represent 7 churches. And those 7 churches are actual churches, as we see in the following 2 chapters. The use of the figure of the candlesticks (lampstands) does not mean that they did not represent literal churches. Take ch. 5.6. The Lord Jesus is represented as “a Lamb as it had been slain.” This draws our attention to His great sacrifice. No-one would suggest that the One being worshipped is a literal Lamb, but this figure in no way lessens the reality of that great scene of worship. The use of figurative language does not remove literalness. Thus, while prophecy often have figurative language, this is used to describe literal people, things and events. The use of figures enriches the Scriptures and gives to the reader many insights which he would not obtain if figures were not employed. But to use these figures as an excuse for doing away with literal events, is not valid.
Argument 2: The claim that OT prophecies which on the face of it are literal, are given a spiritual interpretation in the NT.
This point is really the cornerstone of the Amillennialist’s argument. He will point to NT quotations from the OT, which would appear to interpret the OT passage non-literally, and thus say that this shows that the OT passage was never meant to have a literal fulfilment, and the spiritual fulfilment is all the fulfilment there will be, i.e in the present age for the church and not for Israel in the future.
However, in taking this line, the Amillennialist is making a very big assumption. He is assuming that when an OT passage is quoted in the NT, then the NT quote is giving the only, the full, and the final interpretation for the original passage. This is not a valid assumption, for many reasons :
(a) There can be two fulfilments for the same OT Scripture.
An example: Matthew 2.15: “Out of Egypt have I called my son”. This is stated by Matthew to be the fulfilment of the words of “the prophet”, that is, a fulfilment of Hosea 11.1, where the context shows beyond doubt that God is referring to the Exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, many years before. Thus this verse, while it clearly describes a past event, is said to be fulfilled in the events in the Lord Jesus’ life in Matt. 2. Hence, we see that the same Scripture refers to 2 distinct events. But the fact that it refers to 2 different events does not mean that one of the events could not have taken place. They both took place, but one Scripture referred to both.
The above example is not the only one, but has been chosen because there is little room for argument about the fact that it shows that one scripture can describe two different things. But the point is this— Matthew’s quotation of this passage did not in any way do away with the reality of the Exodus. By the same token, the quotation of an OT Scripture in the NT, in a context different from that given in the OT, does not nullify its OT meaning. One OT passage can refer to two different things, and the fact that one of these is given in the NT does not mean that the other is untrue.
Thus, for example, in Rom. 4.17, when Paul quotes God’s words to Abraham, “I have made thee a father of many nations”, it is clear from v.16 that he is saying that the OT quote is fulfilled in the spiritual children of Abraham. However that does not in any way nullify the literal fact that Abraham was the physical progenitor of many nations, which we know to be true. The fact that God’s word to Abraham can be taken in two ways does not make one or the other untrue. Both are true.
And so it is for many OT prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Their use in NT quotations, which appear to indicate their fulfilment already, does not in any way mitigate against their future fulfilment. A Scripture can be fulfilled in more than one way.
Malachi 4. 5,6 gives us a good example of two fulfilments for the same passage. These verses promise that Elijah will come before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. This prophecy relates to John the Baptist, as our Lord’s words in Matt. 17.12,13 show. However, it is equally clear from the same passage that this Malachi prophecy also awaits future fulfilment, as the Lord says in v. 11, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” That this cannot refer to John the Baptist is seen in the fact that the tense used is future (and John was already dead when the Lord spoke these words), and also by the fact that the Lord says Elijah will “restore all things” (John certainly did not do that). John’s being the final fulfilment of Malachi 4.5,6 depended on the nation accepting his message (Matt 11.14), but their rejection of it, and thus of the Messiah means that the prophecy will have a future fulfilment. The fact that John fulfilled, in a measure, this prophecy does not mean it will not be fulfilled again in a day to come.
(b) The issue of partial fulfilment.
A prophecy may have a partial fulfilment in the NT but may still await its full and final fulfilment. An example is from Luke 1.32, where the angel tells Mary that her Son “shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest”. This was fulfilled in large measure at His first coming. But, from the evidence of other prophecies, it awaits a fuller and final fulfilment. His greatness is yet to be fully manifest to all. His Sonship is yet to be acknowledged by all. The words of the angel have been partially fulfilled and will be fully fulfilled in a day to come.
Thus, it must always be kept in mind, when a prophecy is quoted in the NT, it may have been fulfilled only to an extent. The full fulfilment may be yet to come. The quotation in connection with its partial fulfilment does not remove the fact of its complete fulfilment in a day to come.
(c) The time gap between the fulfilment of different parts of the same prophecy.
Often a prophecy is given which on the face of it will all be fulfilled together, but then in the NT we see that only parts of it have been fulfilled and the other bits are still to be fulfilled. We will take one example each from the OT and the NT:
OT: Isa. 9.6-8. In this passage, no distinction is made between prophecies referring to the Lord’s first coming (such as “For unto us a child is born”) and His second coming (such as “upon the throne of David”). Some of these prophecies were fulfilled in the NT and others still await fulfilment. But the fact that only some were fulfilled does not mean that the rest cannot be literally fulfilled.
NT: Luke 1.31-33. Again no indication is given that there is a time gap between the fulfilment of statements such as “thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son” and “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David”. The fact that the latter has not yet been fulfilled literally does not mean that it will not be. We must allow for the time gap.
The Lord Jesus illustrated this Himself as no other could. In Luke 4.16-21 he read the prophecy from Isa. 61.1,2 and told that He is the fulfilment of it. But He read only the words from Isaiah which refer to His first coming, and left out the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God”, which refers to His second coming. Thus our Lord Himself makes clear to us that there may be a time interval between fulfilment of parts of a passage and other parts of the same passage.
Thus, when an OT passage is quoted in the NT, we must not assume that it has all been fulfilled. Take, for example, Peter’s quotation of Joel 2.28-32 in Acts 2.16-21. The events in Acts have fulfilled the predictions quoted in v.17 and 18, but the events quoted in v. 19,20 have still to take place. The fact that the whole passage is quoted in Acts 2 does not mean that it has all been fulfilled in Acts 2.
When parts of a prophecy have been fulfilled, the Pre-Millennialist takes the “wait and see” view. He trusts that God will fulfil all that has been promised. But the Amillennialist is not prepared to wait. He demands that it must all have been fulfilled already, and so anything for which he does not yet see the literal fulfilment he spiritualises away.
(d) The quotation of an OT passage in the NT is not necessarily a fulfilment at all.
We cannot assume that a quotation means fulfilment. Examples:-
i) Acts 15.14-17, quoting Amos 9.11,12. Many assume that this means that Acts 15 is fulfilling Amos 9. But it is never said to be fulfilling it. What is said is that what is happening in Acts is in agreement with what is said in Amos. James is not saying that the one is fulfilling the other, but that they agree together; they are in perfect harmony with each other. Much of the NT is not fulfilment of OT Scriptures, but it is not in disagreement with them.
ii) Hebrews 8.8-12 and 10.15-17 refer to the New Covenant, quoting Jer. 31.31-34. Because the provisions of the New Covenant are quoted to believers in this age, many take it that the New Covenant is with the church, and so that there is no future for Israel as far as the New Covenant is concerned. However, nowhere in Hebrews does God say that this New Covenant is completely fulfilled by the church. In fact, He re-iterates (Heb. 8.8) that it is with “the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”. He quotes it to us as the Spirit’s “witness” (Heb. 10.15). Witness and fulfilment are not the same thing. The main benefit of the New Covenant to Israel will be that their sins will be remembered no more (Jer. 31.34).
We bless God that this same benefit is true for the people of God today, and thus we can say that it is true that we do come into some of the blessings of the New Covenant. But that is not to say that we are the fulfilment of Jeremiah 31. The fact that present-day believers are said to come into of some of the blessings promised to the nation of Israel does not mean that we have replaced Israel in the purpose of God. That some of its blessings have been made good to us does not in any way mean that it will not be made good to Israel in a day to come. Here we have a case of amplification of an OT promise, to include us. The fact that it is amplified to include us does not in any way nullify its future fulfilment for Israel.
iii) Romans 9.26, quoting Hosea 1.10,11 and 2.23. The whole context of Hosea chapters 1 and 2 show that these verses in Hosea refer to Israel being set aside and subsequently restored. However, in Rom. 9 Paul is using this verse to refer to Gentiles being brought into blessing. Amillennialists seize on this as a proof that the church fulfils Hosea’s promise to Israel. But Rom. 9.26 says nothing of the sort. Paul is simply quoting Hosea out of its original context, and is not suggesting for a moment that Gentile blessing is the fulfilment of Hosea’s words. He is simply borrowing the quote and applying it in a different context. He is not denying or changing the original meaning of Hosea’s words. They will be fulfilled. We must always remember that the Holy Spirit is free to quote a Scripture in a different context from its original OT reference. That does not in turn free us to dispose of the OT context altogether.
Example (i) above is a case of agreement between OT and NT.
Example (ii) is a case of amplification of the OT context.
Example (iii) is a case of application of an OT passage in the NT.
But none of them is fulfilment. Thus, we see that NT quotation does not mean the same as fulfilment, and does not preclude future fulfilment for the passages quoted.
(e) The equation of things that are mentioned in the same passage but which are not equated in the passage.
For example, the Amillennialist will use Acts 2.25-36, in which we read of the Lord sitting on David’s throne (v. 30) and we also read of His present exaltation in Heaven (v. 33), and put these two things together and say it proves that His present exaltation is Him sitting on David’s throne. But Peter simply does not say that they are one and the same thing. The two statements are a couple of verses apart and are connected only to the extent that His resurrection is the reason why He is exalted in Heaven and also the reason why He will be able to sit on David’s throne. They are two separate things. The fact that they are mentioned in the same passage does not make them the same thing.
(f) When believers in the NT are said to fulfil parts of an OT prophecy, that does not mean they fulfil all of it.
There is no doubt that believers in this age do fulfil some OT prophecies, but we must not take that to mean that they fulfil all of them.
We get a good example of this in the use of the term “seed of Abraham” in Gal. 3 and Rom. 4 to refer to present-day believers. Amillennialists seize on this and take it to mean that all the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed in the OT are ours, spiritually. But if we look carefully at these 2 passages we will see which of the promises to Abraham are said to be ours:
Gal. 3.8: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Thus, we see that in us is fulfilled the promise that in Abraham all nations would be blessed.
Rom. 4.13: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world”. This phrase is not found in God’s words to Abraham in Genesis, but it clearly must refer to some promise that was made to him regarding the whole world. The only blessing promised to Abraham which was of a universal nature was that above, i.e. that in his seed would all nations of the earth be blessed. This therefore must be what is meant by his being “heir of the world”.
Thus, in both these passages it is made clear that the promise, in Abraham would all nations of the earth be blessed, is fulfilled in salvation through Christ for all nations. But nowhere in these two passages or elsewhere are present-day believers said to fulfil any of the promises relative to the nation and the land. These await literal fulfilment to literal Israel. The blessings for us spoken of in Gal. 3 and Rom. 4 were promised to Abraham. They do not go beyond God’s original promise, and no spiritualisation is necessary in order to bring them in. But we do not fulfil all God’s promises to Abraham. The promises to his physical seed will not be fulfilled in us.
Thus, when we take all the above points into consideration, we are not left with a single NT passage which nullifies or invalidates the original meaning and interpretation of an OT prophecy. In the NT we may get repetition, application, partial fulfilment, agreement, amplification, or broadening of the context of the original prophecy, but never does it entitle us to do away with the full sense and fulfilment of the original passage.
Argument 3: Alleged difficulties in the Pre-Millennial position.
One of the major ways the Amillennialist will try to discredit the Pre-Millennial position is by putting up difficulties. Before looking at some of the difficulties he brings up, however, two points are pertinent:
Firstly, the existence of difficulties does not make the thing wrong. It is admitted that there are many things about which we are not 100% sure, such as what exactly is being described in Revelation 21 and 22 (the Millennial city, or the eternal state, or both). But whichever is right, it does not in any way weaken the Premillennial argument. If we were working on the basis of difficulties, we would see that the Amillennialist himself has very many difficulties to try to explain. The existence of difficulties does not nullify the truth.
Secondly, many of the so-called difficulties are due to the Amillennialist doubting the power of God. Things that seem impossible to our finite minds are possible with God.
Some examples of difficulties which the Amillennialist mentions are:
1. The reinstatement of a priestly order. It is argued that this is impossible, as the records of the different tribes have been destroyed.
It is true that the records have been destroyed, and that perhaps no Jew alive today knows his tribe. But does God not still know it? And will God not be able to tell everyone which tribe they are from? And will anyone dare to disagree with Him? This is no difficulty when we are dealing with an infinite God.
2. The ritual of animal sacrifices. They argue that this would contradict the teaching of the Book of Hebrews, which says that animal sacrifices have given place to the final sacrifice of Christ. But it must be remembered that the Book of Hebrews is dealing with Christians of this church dispensation, and the point being made is that animal sacrifices could never take away sin, and are totally inappropriate in this age. But in a future day, when Israel is restored, in the land, with priests, and a temple, then sacrifices will be in order; not to take away sin, any more than the OT ones did. The OT sacrifices were effective only because they pointed forwards to Christ, and the Millennial sacrifices will point back to Christ. God will not allow Israel to forget the sacrifice of Christ and the system of sacrifices will continually be a memorial to them of what the death of God’s Son has done for them. Thus, as a commemoration, they will not be inappropriate at all.
3. They claim that a temple of the dimensions of that given in Ezekiel could not fit in the present temple site.
This is true, but they forget that Zechariah (14.4) tells us that at the Lord’s return to earth there will be massive geographical changes in the Jerusalem area, which will make room for the larger temple.
One is reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22.29). In the light of Scriptures and God’s power, these and other “difficulties” will vanish.
Argument 4: Objection to the view of the church as a parenthesis.
The Amillennialist claims that the OT makes no room for the setting aside of Israel, the introduction of the church, and then taking up Israel again. He claims that to believe this is to introduce an unwarranted break in the continuity of God’s dealings with His people.
It is interesting that this objection by the Amillennialist is tantamount to an admission that the church is not in the OT! As we have already tried to show, the church is not the subject of OT prophecy; it is a “mystery” not revealed until the NT. Revelation was progressive: God did not reveal everything at once, but different things in stages. The fact that the church was not revealed in the OT is not an argument against its existence in the NT.
But although it is true that the church is not in the OT, the Amillennialist is not right when he states that the OT makes no provision for it. Many times in the OT God speaks of the setting aside of Israel and their subsequent restoration at a later date. There are so many references to this that it would be difficult to know where to start with examples, but Hosea 1.10,11 is one of many. This setting aside and subsequent restoration leaves room for the church period.
Allowance is made time-wise for the church period in passages such as Daniel 9.24-27, which give the “Seventy weeks” prophecy. That 69 literal weeks of years passed up to the Lord’s death has been well-established (“The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson), leaving one week (7 years) to be fulfilled. That more than 7 years have passed since the Lord’s death is obvious, thus there must be a gap before the 70th week is fulfilled. Therefore, provision is made for the church age.
We see similar allowance in the NT, in the Lord’s reading of Isa. 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4.16-21). The gap between His first and second comings leaves room for the church age.
In Acts this is made clear too, e.g. Acts 15.14-17, which speaks of this time when God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for his name”, and then Israel’s subsequent restoration.
As we have already seen in the epistles also, notably in Romans 11, the setting aside of Israel, a time of Gentile blessing, and future restoration for Israel.
Thus, the claim that there is no provision in Scripture for the church period is unfounded.
Argument 5: The claim that the only Scripture for the Millennium is Revelation 20.1-7.
The Amillennialist claims that the only time we read of the Millennium is in Revelation 20, and that without it there would be no case for the doctrine of the Millennium.
It is true that Revelation 20 is the only place where we are told the duration of the Millennium, but it is stated no fewer than 6 times that it is “one thousand years”. However, if it is the Word of God, one reference is all that we need. To say that something only occurs once in Scripture is an argument against it is to imply that something needs to be said several times before we are expected to believe it. If God says it once, that is enough.
The claim that Revelation 20 is the only Scripture for the Millennium is untrue. In these articles we have had many Scriptural references and this is the first time reference has been made to Revelation 20.
There is much Scripture for the Millennium, from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 20 gives us the duration.
Argument 6: Argument based on 2 Peter 3.8
The Amillennialist says that since Peter tells us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”, then when the Lord tells us in Revelation 20 of a thousand-year period, we have no reason to take it literally.
But to argue this is to do violence to Peter’s words. Peter is talking about scoffers who are denying that the Lord will come again, because, in their view, He is taking such a long time (v4). In response Peter reminds his readers that God is outside time, and what can seem a very long time to man is not so with God. The scoffers have no concept of how God sees world history and the passage of time.
However, to say that God is outside time, is not the same as saying that when God specifies a time to us, that He does not mean what He says. He does mean what He says, and when He gives us information, He gives it accurately. Peter is not implying for one moment that we can make specified time intervals in Scripture to mean whatever we want them to mean. On the contrary, in this passage He is emphasising the accuracy of Scripture. Amillennialists try to make it mean that he is teaching that Scripture is inaccurate. This is not so.
The Amillennialist’s arguments are clever and at first sight plausible but are unsound. May God give us help to know His Word, so that we will not be swayed by such erroneous teaching.
(Source: Amillennialism Examined – by David McAllister (Zambia))