AMILLENNIALISM – A MAN-MADE THEOLOGY (PART 3 OF 3)

AMILLENNIALISM

D. The Advocates of Amillennialism.

If the doctrine of Amillennialism is contrary to Scripture, as we believe it to be, we must ask the question, “How did it come about?” How did the teaching manage to gain such popularity? Thus, it will be interesting to briefly trace the history of Amillennialism, and we shall see that the evangelicals who hold it today are in a very “unholy alliance” with others both from history and the present day.

We previously looked at the scriptural evidence and did not find Amillennialism in Scripture. But what about those who lived shortly after the completion of Scripture, some of whom knew the apostles like Peter and John personally? Many of the writings of the so-called “church fathers” unequivocally show that they expected literal fulfilment of the prophecies concerning Christ’s return and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. They include Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Even many sympathisers of Amillennialism admit that for the first 3 centuries or so of the church’s history, the Pre-Millennial view was widespread.

The opponents of the literal interpretation in the very early years were the well-known heretical groups such as the gnostics, Platonists, and Montanists, for all of whom non-literal interpretation went far beyond future events. This is hardly illustrious company for the present-day evangelical Amillennialists, but at least they were consistent: they took their non-literalness to its logical conclusion, while present-day evangelicals prefer to pick and choose which parts of scripture they accept and which they try to explain away!

It is very widely accepted that the first advocate of Amillennialism to lay down a formal theory of interpretation was Origen (185-254 AD). He refused to accept Scripture references to the Millennium literally, instead propounding the allegorical method of interpretation. He and others at the “Alexandrian School” used his method of interpretation to explain away not only the doctrine of the Millennium, but also many other teachings of Scripture. Instead of bringing out the sense of Scripture, he introduced all sorts of fanciful ideas. He would, had he been alive today, not be regarded as a “sound” evangelical by any stretch of the imagination, and would be denounced as a heretic by many who accept his view of the Millennium, yet the growth of Amillennialism in those days perhaps owed more to him than to any other person. His work was carried on by men such as Dionysius and Augustine, and his allegorical methods of interpretation gradually gained the upper hand.

It is not difficult to see why it gained popularity in those days. Up until then the church had been a persecuted minority, and the hope of the Lord’s coming burned brightly. It was clear that the church was distinct from all the systems of the world. But with the so-called unification of the church and the state by Constantine, the distinction became blurred. Increasingly the Church of Rome saw itself as the fulfilment of the promises of the earthly kingdom and therefore, the hope of a future literal kingdom at Christ’s return was in a great measure lost. To teach that the present kingdom of Rome would be replaced by a future coming King, would not exactly please the Roman rulers! Thus, the Amillennial doctrine, (which did away with the teaching of a future earthly kingdom) flourished. The rise of Amillennialism is therefore indissolubly associated with the rise of ecclesiasticism and the papal system (again, not very good company for our evangelical Amillennialists of today!)

Amillennialism was the accepted doctrine of the Church of Rome throughout the Dark Ages and remains so to this day. With the Reformation much Scriptural truth was “rediscovered”, but most of the reformers continued to hold to the Amillennial doctrine. This was not necessarily because they had studied prophecy in great detail and came to the Amillennial conclusion, but rather because their major studies were not in the field of future events. It has thus been true that in Protestantism in general, the Amillennial view has continued to be held, not so much because it has been extensively studied, but by default, from Rome.

Throughout the ages the pre-Millennial truth was however never completely lost, but burned dimly for many years. During the last century and to the present day more Christians returned to the literal interpretation of Scripture and became the most faithful and consistent in teaching it.

Amillennialism is widely held, but for very different reasons:

For Roman Catholics, because their system views itself as the fulfilment of the kingdom prophecies and will not countenance the thought that it could be superseded or done away with.
For Protestant Denominations, by default from Rome. The bulk of Protestantism has never seriously questioned Roman teaching on future events.
For Reformed teachers, because “it’s what the early Reformers believed”. Constantly, reformed teachers will state that in holding their views, they are “standing foursquare with those who defended the faith in the days of the Reformation”. They claim that Amillennialism has been the historical view of the church for about 1700 years. But shouldn’t it rather be a matter of what Scripture teaches, rather than what the church of Rome taught? It is highly ironic that those who regard themselves as most opposed to Rome obtain their eschatology from Rome and still hang on to it.
For Liberals and Modernists, because they simply do not accept the full verbal inspiration of Scripture. They spiritualise all sorts of truths, or else flatly deny them, and so they have no compunction at denying the literal fulfilment of prophecy.
For Charismatics, because they come from all areas above, and have taken their own systems’ teaching on future events along with them. Moreover, the charismatic’s tendency to substitute supposed experience and fanciful interpretation of Scripture for sound exposition finds a ready ally in the allegorical view of future events.
It is an unholy alliance indeed: Roman Catholic, Protestant churchman, Reformed teacher, Modernist, and Charismatic, all united by very little, other than their allegiance to Amillennialism. May the Lord preserve us from such a group.

E. The Anomalies of Amillennialism.

It may be helpful to list some of the contradictions involved for an evangelical who holds to the teaching of Amillennialism. This section is really a drawing together of points already made in previous sections, so a detailed discussion will not be given.

For a true believer who is an Amillennialist, he is in an anomalous position for many reasons, including:

1. He claims to believe that every word in Scripture is inspired by God, and that Scripture is totally infallible. Yet in holding on to Amillennialism, he is accepting a system which effectively says that not every part of Scripture is to be accepted as literally true.

2. He claims to believe that Scripture is the only authority on all matters of doctrine and practice. But to introduce allegorical interpretation, is to leave the decision as to the meaning of Scripture open to the whims of men. Unless one accepts literal interpretation of prophecy, one can make it mean whatever one wants. There is nothing with which to control one’s whims. One is effectively introducing an authority outside God’s Word, and that “authority” is oneself, or whoever else one wants to believe!

3. He claims to believe that it is impossible for God to lie. Yet Amillennialism effectively teaches that when God made certain promises, He never had it in His mind to fulfil them in the way in which the hearers understood them.

4. He claims to believe that God is omnipotent, yet he effectively denies that God has the ability to perform what He has said. He raises all sorts of “practical difficulties” with literal fulfilment, forgetting that “with God nothing shall be impossible”.

5. He uses literal interpretation to study the Scriptures in general, but when it comes to prophecy, he changes his rules and uses allegorical interpretation. He thus abandons consistency of interpretation of Scripture.

6. Even within prophecy, he is not consistent in his interpretation. With some prophecies (e.g. those concerning the Lord’s birth) he is happy to adopt the literal method, but with others (e.g. the coming kingdom) he rejects the literal method.

7. In holding his view, he is holding doctrine which can be directly traced back, not to Scripture, but to heretics in the early days of the church age.

8. He is in alliance with all sorts of present-day groups with which he would disagree on other major doctrines, such as Roman Catholics and Liberals.

9. He is holding on to a system which, although it tries hard, fails, even by its own standards, to consistently explain away the prophetic passages. There are numerous examples of such inconsistencies, but we will confine ourselves to one:

Consider 3 facts taught in Revelation 20:
 Christ and His people reigning 1000 years (v.4,6).
 Satan being put in a bottomless pit for 1000 years and being able to deceive the nations no more (v.2,3).
 Satan being loosed after the 1000 years and deceiving the nations (v.7,8).

It is clear that the above 3 statements all refer to the same period of time. Even if the Amillennialist does not accept that it is literally 1000 years, he has to accept that it is the same period of time to which reference is made. He claims that the period of time is the present age, and the reigning being referred to is Christ at present reigning spiritually with His people. If this is true, then it must follow that:

• at present, Satan is bound, and is not deceiving the nations, and
• at the end of the age, Satan will be loosed again and will deceive the nations again.

But this reveals big flaws in the Amillennialist’s argument:
• If Satan is bound, in what sense is he bound at present? The Amillennialist simply has no satisfactory answer to this question. Revelation states that during his binding he will deceive the nations no more. Has this been the case, in any sense, during the past 2000 years? On the contrary, the whole course of the history of this age is a catalogue of Satan’s deception of the nations. The Amillennial line here is self-contradictory.
• If Satan is bound now, what is the meaning of the statement that he will be released again and deceive the nations again? This, no matter how it is taken, cannot be satisfactorily explained. The Amillennialist believes that the present age will continue as at present right to the end of the world, when Christ will return, raise the dead, judge everyone, consign some to glory and others to damnation, and then the eternal state will begin. Thus, in his own scheme, there is no place for anything corresponding to the releasing of Satan.

This is only one of numerous examples of the self-contradictions found in the Amillennial system. The Amillennialist is therefore really in a very anomalous position. For a true believer to hold on to Amillennialism is to put him in an inconsistent position.

F. The Attacks of Amillennialism.

From what we considered in these articles it should be clear that Amillennialism is an attack on many things that we hold dear, and so in this final section we will look at some of the attacks that it makes. As previously, this section will be doing little more than summarising material in previous sections, so points made will not be enlarged.
Some of the objects of the attack of Amillennialism are:

(a) God’s character:
Amillennialism implies that God says certain things that He does not really mean; that He makes promises that He does not intend to fully fulfil; that He uses language which He knows people will take in a different way to what He intends, yet He chooses to keep them in the dark about it; and that He does not have the ability to deliver that which He has promised. Such a view of God must be rejected in its entirety.

(b) Scripture:
Amillennialism states that there are many passages of Scripture which do not really mean what they say; and that we can either spiritualise these away, or else ignore them altogether.

(c) Sound interpretation:
Amillennialism teaches that sound interpretation of Scripture, taking into account the grammar, context, literal meaning of the words, and comparing Scripture with Scripture, can in certain circumstances be set aside; thus leaving us without any yardstick with which to test interpretation, leaving it open to whatever ideas we wish to introduce. The logical conclusion of Amillennialism is to lead to Liberalism. Once we introduce the possibility of allegorical interpretation, there is no telling where it can lead. Why stop with prophecy? Why not go all the way? Amillennialism and Modernism are natural allies; pre-millennialism and Modernism are incompatible.

(d) The created world:
It follows from the teaching of Amillennialism that there is no hope for the present creation, which is “groaning and travailing” in pain at present, to have fulfilled the promises given in Scripture to be delivered and restored to its former glory.

(e) Israel:
Amillennialism categorically states that the nation has been permanently set aside; that there is no future for it; that the myriad promises made to the nation have no hope of fulfilment Amillennialists is a form of being anti-Semitic. Taken to its extreme, we see the persecution of Jews by the Roman Church during the Inquisition and by Hitler (who was also a Roman Catholic) this century. Of course, it would be going too far to blame this totally on Amillennialism. However, had the belief of the Roman Church been Pre-Millennial, with its promise of the restoration of Israel, it is certain that they would never have carried out these atrocities. Amillennialism was undoubtedly a major factor in the build-up of anti-Semitic forces which have been released with such satanic ferocity at various times in the history of Christendom.

(f) The Church, Christ’s Body:
Amillennialism teaches that many promises which God made in the OT will never be literally fulfilled. If this is true, then what right have we to assume that what He has promised to us as the Church will be literally fulfilled either? If Israel is not to be given all that it was promised, are we likely to fare any better? If Amillennialism is true, then we have difficulty in taking any of the promises to us at face value.

(Source: Amillennialism Examined – by David McAllister (Zambia))

THE NATION OF ISRAEL – FOR THE SAKE OF GOD’S NAME

God has chosen Israel as His physical nation, in the same way He has chosen individuals from the gentile nations as His elect. Prophecies are clear that God will be faithful to keep the promises given to their Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) even though the nation of Israel has disobeyed Him. Ezekiel 36:16-28 describes that they sinned and would therefore be scattered among the nations (which started in 70AD). But it continues by saying that God will bring them back to their land (which started when they became a nation again in 1948). God is not doing this, based on their obedience, but because of His name’s sake. Lastly the passage states that God will cleanse them and pour out His Spirit upon them and they will be His people, forever.

This will occur during the second coming of Christ. In Romans 11, Paul assured us that the nation of Israel will be saved after the fullness of the gentiles has come in.

Eze 36:16 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying:

Eze 36:17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own ways and deeds; to Me their way was like the uncleanness of a woman in her customary impurity.

Eze 36:18 Therefore I poured out My fury on them for the blood they had shed on the land, and for their idols with which they had defiled it.

Eze 36:19 So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds.

Eze 36:20 When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name–when they said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land.’

Eze 36:21 But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went.

Eze 36:22 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.

Eze 36:23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.

Eze 36:24 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.

Eze 36:25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

Eze 36:26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Eze 36:27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Eze 36:28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.

Hebrew scholar Arnold Fructembaum says:

“The re-establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 has not only thrown a wrench in amillennial thinking, but it has also thrown a chink in much of premillennial thinking. Amazingly, some premillennialists have concluded that the present state of Israel has nothing to do with the fulfilment of prophecy. For some reason the present state somehow does not fit their scheme of things, and so the present state becomes merely an accident of history. On what grounds is the present state of Israel so dismissed? The issue that bothers so many premillennialists is the fact that not only have the Jews returned in unbelief with regard to the person of Jesus, but the majority of the ones who have returned are not even Orthodox Jews. In fact the majority are atheists or agnostics. Certainly, then, Israel does not fit in with all those biblical passages dealing with the return. For it is a regenerated nation that the Bible speaks of, and the present state of Israel hardly fits that picture. So on these grounds, the present state is dismissed as not being a fulfilment of prophecy. However, the real problem is the failure to see that the prophets spoke of two international returns. First, there was to be a regathering in unbelief in preparation for judgment, namely the judgment of the tribulation. This was to be followed by a second world-wide regathering in faith in preparation for blessing, namely the blessings of the messianic age. Once it is recognized that the Bible speaks of two such regatherings, it is easy to see how the present state of Israel fits into prophecy.”

The first worldwide return (fulfilled in the establishment of the nation of Israel in 1948 and the subsequent return of its people) is in unbelief, in preparation for judgement, and is in fulfilment of such verses as Ezek. 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-24; 37:1–14; Isa. 11:11-12; Zeph. 2:1-2 and Ezek. 38–39

The second worldwide regathering is in belief and is a fulfilment of verses such as Deut. 4:29-31; 30:1-10; Isa. 27:12-13; 43:5-7; Jer. 16:14-15; 31:7-10; Ezek. 11:14-18; Amos 9:14-15; Zech. 10:8-12; Matt. 24:31

The return from Babylon does not fulfil these scriptures as many amillennials and preterists believe:

  1. Isaiah 11 (above) speaks of a 2nd gathering from a world wide (the four corners of the earth) dispersal. The Babylonian captivity was not a worldwide captivity. The worldwide dispersal started in 70AD. The first regathering, as mentioned above, from the world wide dispersal was in unbelief following the formation of Israel as a nation again in 1948. The second one mentioned is in belief at that end of the tribulation.
  2. The return from the Babylonian captivity was a return from the east. The return from the worldwide dispersal is from all directions such as stated in Isa 43:5-6.
  3. The prophets foretold of a regathering of the Jews to Israel from which they would never be uprooted from again. Seeing that they were uprooted in 70Ad and dispersed among the nations, these prophecies can only apply to a regathering after 70AD – and it says they will never be uprooted again.

‘I will plant them, and not uproot them.’ (Jeremiah 24:6). ‘I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted from the land I have given them.’ (Amos 9:15). Jerusalem ‘shall never again be uprooted or overthrown.’ (Jeremiah 31:40).

(MAIN SOURCE: JESUSPLUSNOTHING)