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))

BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY – JOHN F. WALVOORD

EVERY PROPHECY

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPHECY

In the history of the church, the eschatological or prophetic portions of Scripture have suffered more from inadequate interpretation than any other major theological subject. The reason for this is that the church turned aside from a normal and grammatical literal interpretation of prophecy to one that is nonliteral and subject to the caprice of the interpreter. This false approach to interpreting prophecy is contradicted beyond question by the fact that so many hundreds of prophecies have already been literally fulfilled.

In the first two centuries of the Christian era the church was predominantly premillennial, interpreting Scripture to teach that Christ would fulfill the prophecy of His second coming to bring a thousand-year reign on earth before the eternal state will begin. This was considered normal in orthodox theology.

The early interpretation of prophecy was not always cogent and sometimes fanciful, but for the most part, prophecy was treated the same way as other Scripture.

In the last ten years of the second century and in the third century, the heretical school of theology at Alexandria, Egypt, advanced the erroneous principle that the Bible should be interpreted in a nonliteral or allegorical sense.

In applying this principle to the Scriptures, they subverted all the major doctrines of the faith, including prophecy. The early church rose up and emphatically denied the Alexandrian system and to a large extent restored the interpretation of Scripture to its literal, grammatical, historical sense. The problem was that in prophecy there were predictions that had not yet been fulfilled. This made it more difficult to prove that literal fulfillment was true of prophecy. The result was somewhat catastrophic for the idea of a literal interpretation of prophecy, and the church floundered in the area of interpretation of the future.

Augustine (AD 354–430) rescued the church from uncertainty as far as nonprophetic Scripture is concerned, but continued to treat prophecy in a nonliteral way with the purpose of eliminating a millennial kingdom on earth. Strangely, Augustine held to a literal second coming, a literal heaven and a literal hell, but not to a literal millennium. This arbitrary distinction has never been explained.

Because amillennialism, which denies a literal millennial kingdom on earth following the second coming, is essentially negative and hinders intelligent literal interpretation of prophecy, there was little progress in this area. The church continued to believe in heaven and hell and purgatory, but neglected or explained away long passages having to deal with Israel in prophecy and the kingdom on earth as frequently revealed in the Old Testament. Even in the Protestant Reformation, prophecy was not rescued from this hindrance in its interpretation.

Though remnants of the church still advanced the premillennial view, it was not until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that a movement to restore the literal truth of prophecy began to take hold. The twentieth century was especially significant in the progress of prophetic interpretation in that many details of prophecy were debated and clarified in a way that was not possible before.

Though amillennialism continues to be the majority view of the church, among those who hold a high view of Scripture the premillennial interpretation has been given detailed exposition, serving to provide an intelligent view of the present and the future from the standpoint of biblical prophecy.

The importance of prophecy should be evident, even superficially, in examining the Christian faith, for about one-fourth of the Bible was written as prophecy. It is evident that God intended to draw aside the veil of the future and to give some indication of what His plans and purposes were for the human race and for the universe as a whole. The neglect and misinterpretation of Scriptures supporting the premillennial interpretation is now to some extent being corrected.

In the nature of Christian faith a solid hope for the future is essential. Christianity without a future would not be basic Christianity. In contrast to the eschatology of heathen religions, which often paint the future in a forbidding way, Christianity’s hope is bright and clear and offers a Christian the basic idea that the life to come is better than this present life. As Paul stated in 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” In the Christian faith the future is painted as one of bliss and happiness in the presence of the Lord without the ills that are common to this life.

The revelation of prophecy in Scripture serves as important evidence that the Scriptures are accurate in their interpretation of the future. Because approximately half of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled in a literal way, it gives a proper intellectual basis for assuming that prophecy yet to be fulfilled will likewise have a literal fulfillment. At the same time it justifies the conclusion that the Bible is inspired of the Holy Spirit and that prophecy, which goes far beyond any scheme of man, is instead a revelation by God of that which is certain to come to pass. The fact that prophecy has been literally fulfilled serves as a guide to interpret the prophecies that are yet ahead.

Scriptural prophecy, properly interpreted, also provides a guideline for establishing the value of human conduct and the things that pertain to this life.

For a Christian, the ultimate question is whether God considers what he is doing of value or not, in contrast to the world’s system of values, which is largely materialistic.

Prophecy is also a support for the scriptural revelation of the righteousness of God and a support for the assertion that the Christian faith has an integral relationship to morality. Obviously, the present life does not demonstrate fully the righteousness of God as many wicked situations are not actively judged.

Scripture that is prophetic in dealing with this indicates that every act will be brought into divine judgment according to the infinite standard of the holy God, and accordingly, prophecy provides a basis for morality based on the character of God Himself. Prophecy also provides a guide to the meaning of history. Though philosophers will continue to debate a philosophy of history, the Bible indicates that history is the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for revealing Himself and manifesting His love and grace and righteousness in a way that would be impossible without human history. In the Christian faith, history reaches its climax in God’s plan for the future in which the earth in its present situation will be destroyed, and a new earth will be created.

A proper interpretation of prophecy serves to support and enhance all others areas of theology, and without a proper interpretation of prophecy all other areas to some extent become incomplete revelation.

In attempting to communicate the meaning of Scripture relative to the prophetic past and future, prophecy serves to bring light and understanding to many aspects of our present life as well as our future hope. In an effort to understand and interpret prophecy correctly as a justifiable theological exercise, it is necessary to establish a proper base for interpretation.

THE INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY

General Assumptions in Biblical Interpretation

As in all sciences, theology is based on assumptions. Mankind finds itself living in an ordered world with observable natural laws and evidence of design. The nature of the ordered world in which we live reveals an evident interrelationship of purposes requiring the existence of a God who is infinite in power, rational, and has the basic elements of personality, intellect, sensibility, and will. The observable facts of nature as well as revelation through Scripture must be consistent with such a God. These facts, organized into a rational system, are the substance of theology, making it a science embracing revealed facts about God, creation, and history. To the observable facts in nature, Scripture reveals the additional truth that the God of history is gracious, holy, loving, patient, faithful, good, and has infinite attributes of knowledge, power, and rational purpose.

What is true of theology as a whole is especially true of biblical interpretation. In approaching the interpretation of the Bible, at least four assumptions are essential.

  1. In order to have a coherent and consistent interpretation of the Bible, it is necessary to assume that there is ample proof that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the human authors were guided in the writing of Scripture and in the selection of the very words that they used. Accordingly, the Bible is an inerrant revelation containing all the truth that God intended to be included and excluding all facts that were not intended to be included. As the inspired Word of God, it should be expected that, properly interpreted, the Bible does not contradict itself.
  2. The Bible was intended to communicate truth about God and the universe, to record historical facts, to reveal ethical principles, to provide wisdom for human judgments, to reveal moral and material values, and to provide prediction of future events.
  3. The Bible progressively reveals the truth of God in such a way that changes in the moral rule of life are recognized, such as the contrast between the Mosaic law and the present age of grace. Later revelation may replace earlier revelation as a standard of faith without contradicting it.
  4. Though the Bible is an unusual book, in many respects it is a normative piece of literature, using words to convey truth, and yet providing a great variety of literary forms, such as history, poetry, and prophecy, and sometimes using normal figures of speech. Though a supernatural book, the Bible nevertheless speaks in normative ways that can be illustrated in literature outside the Bible.

General Rules of Biblical Interpretation

Though the interpretation of the Bible is an exceedingly complex problem, if certain general rules are followed, they will keep the interpreter from misunderstanding Scripture.

  1. In approaching Scripture, first of all there must be study of the words that are used, their general usages, variety of meaning, historical context, theological context, and any determination of the probable meaning of the word used in a particular context.
  2. Words in Scripture are used in a grammatical context that should be observed, including such matters as whether the word is used in a statement of fact, a command, a desired goal, or an application to a particular situation.
  3. In any interpretation it is most important to decipher to whom the Scripture is addressed, as this involves the application of the statement.
  4. Scripture should never be interpreted in isolation from its context. Careful thought should be given to the immediate context, the general context, and the context of the whole of Scripture. This will serve to relate the revelation contained to other divine revelations.
  5. The literary character of the Scripture interpreted should be taken into consideration as the Bible is written in a variety of literary styles—such as history, poetry, worship, prediction—and uses a variety of figures of speech. These factors determine the interpretation of a particular text.
  6. If the Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit and without error, it is important to compare any particular text to all other Scripture that might be relative. For instance, the book of Revelation may often be interpreted through a study of the book of Daniel. One Scripture will serve to cast light on other Scriptures.
  7. Though the Bible is largely written in factual style to be interpreted as a normal, factual presentation, the Bible, like all other literature, uses figures of speech, and they should be recognized for their intended meaning. All forms of biblical literature ultimately yield a factual truth.
  8. In interpreting the Bible, one must seek the guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit who casts light on the Scriptures and guides its interpretation.

Guidelines for Interpretation of Prophecy

The interpretation of prophecy has its own peculiar problems of interpretation when prophecy reveals some future event or is couched in figurative or apocalyptic form. In some instances it is difficult to determine the precise meaning of the text because there is no corroborative comparison with history. In general, however, prophecy is factual. Because so many prophecies have already been literally fulfilled, the nature of this fulfillment provides guidelines for the interpretation of prophecy which is yet unfulfilled. In addition to the general rules of interpreting the Bible, certain additional guidelines assist the interpretation of prophecy.

  1. As is true in the interpretation of all Scripture, it is most important to determine the meaning of significant words in the interpretation of prophecy. Often these words have a historical background that will help in understanding the reference.
  2. One of the important decisions necessary in the interpretation of prophecy is the determination of whether the prophecy concerns the present or the future, that is, whether it refers to a situation now past or present or is prophetic of future events. A biblical prophet, especially in the Old Testament, often delivered contemporary messages that dealt with current problems which were not necessarily futuristic in their revelation. This problem is compounded by the fact that many times prophecy was given in the past tense, where the writer of Scripture took a position of looking back on the prophecy as if it were already fulfilled. Normally, however, it is possible to determine quickly whether the prophecy deals with the past, present, or the future.
  3. Many prophecies of Scripture were fulfilled shortly after their revelation. At least half of the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled literally. Such fulfillment confirms the fact that unfulfilled prophecy will also be literally fulfilled. Fulfilled prophecy is an important guide in interpreting unfulfilled prophecy and generally confirms the concept of literal interpretation of a prophecy.
  4. Prophecies may be conditional or unconditional. This becomes an important aspect of the conclusion that may be reached from the revelation of the prophecy. If a prophecy is conditional, it is possible it will never be fulfilled. If it is unconditional, then it is certain to be fulfilled, regardless of human response. This is an area of confusion in the interpretation of prophecy, as some have assumed that prophecy is conditional when there is no supporting data that indicates this.
  5. Prophecies sometimes have more than one fulfillment. This is referred to as the law of double reference. It is not unusual in Scripture for a prophecy to be partially fulfilled early and then later have a complete fulfillment. Accordingly, what seems to be a partial fulfillment of a prophecy should not be assumed to be the final answer as the future may record a more complete fulfillment.
  6. One of the most important questions in the interpretation of prophecy is whether a prophecy is literal or figurative. As discussed earlier, early in the history of the church, especially in the third century, a school of prophetic interpretation arose in Alexandria that attempted to interpret all the Bible in an allegorical or a nonliteral sense. The influence of this school was one of the major reasons why premillennialism in the early church faded and a form of amillennialism became dominant.

Though the Alexandrian school of theology is labeled by all theologians as heretical, the effect of nonliteral interpretation on prophecy was rendered acceptable by the theological writings of Augustine who applied allegorical interpretation only to prophecy and not to other forms of Scripture revelation. This influence continued through the Protestant Reformation to the present day.

Among conservative interpreters of the Bible, the issue of literal versus figurative or allegorical interpretation is a major issue because on it hangs the question as to whether the Bible teaches a future millennial kingdom following the second advent, or whether it does not. Because the church is divided on this issue, full attention should be given to the interpretation of prophecy as this unfolds in the Bible to see what the Scriptures themselves indicate concerning literal versus nonliteral interpretation.

Confusion also reigns in terminology that sometimes contrasts the literal to the spiritual or the literal to the typical. The nonliteral interpretation of the Bible is not necessarily more spiritual than the literal. The consideration of types in this connection is another confusing aspect. Types, however, depend on the historical fact which is then used as an illustration of a later truth, but it is not prophetic in the ordinary sense. Though it may be demonstrated that most prophecy should be interpreted literally, this does not rule out figurative revelation, allegories, apocalyptic Scriptures, or other forms of nonliteral prophecy. Though it is difficult to deal with these things in the abstract, when studying a particular Scripture, it is not too difficult to determine to what extent it is literal.

  1. Apocalyptic literature is in a place all by itself because all agree that this is not, strictly speaking, literal in its revelation. Outstanding examples, of course, are the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation. The fact that such revelation is not literal, however, does not deny it reveals specific facts. Here, skill in interpretation is most necessary, and careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture is essential in determining the actual meaning. This will be illustrated as prophecies of Scripture are interpreted.

As in reading all other types of literature, it may be presumed in studying prophecy that a statement predicting a future event is factual and literal unless there are good reasons for taking it in another sense. Here, the good judgment of the interpreter and avoidance of prejudice and preconceived concepts are most important to let the passage speak for itself.

MAJOR THEOLOGICAL INTERPRETATIONS OF PROPHECY

Amillennial Interpretations

Within orthodox interpretations of the Bible the most prominent theological interpretation of prophecy since the fourth century of the Christian era has been amillennial or non-millennial. Beginning with Augustine, the amillennial interpretation held that there would be no literal future thousand-year reign of Christ on earth, but that the millennium referred to the present age or possibly the last thousand years of the present age. Because this did not provide a literal interpretation of millennial passages, it has been designated as amillennial since the nineteenth century.

The amillennial interpretation within the limits of orthodox theology has had various explanations of fulfillment of the millennial prophecies. The most popular, the Augustinian interpretation, relates the millennium in the present age as a spiritual kingdom ruling in the hearts of Christians or embodied in the progress of the gospel in the church.

Amillenarians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have offered varied interpretations, some holding that the millennium is fulfilled in the time between the death and resurrection of a Christian. Some in the twentieth century hold that the millennium will be fulfilled in the new heaven and the new earth as described in Revelation 21–22. Some amillenarians have also suggested that the millennial passages are conditional and will not be fulfilled due to the departure of Israel from the faith. Still others suggest that the kingdom of earth was fulfilled in the reign of Solomon who controlled the land promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18).

Within twentieth-century amillennialism the neo-orthodox interpretation of Scripture may also be considered. This view considers the kingdom being fulfilled now in the experience of individual Christians. Generally speaking, neo-orthodox scholars hold that God directly communicates to Christians supernaturally, but the Bible is not considered in itself an infallible record of revelation.

Liberal theologians also are amillennial in the sense that they do not believe any future millennium will ever take place.

Postmillennial Interpretation

Beginning with Daniel Whitby in the eighteenth century, an interpretation of prophecy became popular that held specifically that the millennium would be the last one thousand years of the present age. Adherents of this view believed the gospel would triumph to such an extent in the world that the whole world would be Christianized, bringing in a golden age that would correspond to the millennial kingdom. Like amillennialism, it places the second coming of Christ at the end of the millennium. Postmillennialism in its original form attempted a more literal interpretation of the millennium than was followed by the later postmillenarians of the twentieth century.

In the twentieth century, however, postmillennialism, influenced by evolution, became less biblical and adopted the concept of spiritual progress over a long period of time as in a general way bringing in a golden age. These postmillenarians, however, are not considered orthodox. As a theological movement, postmillennialism largely died in the first part of the twentieth century, but small groups have attempted to revive it in current theological discussion.

Premillennial Interpretation

From the first century, Bible scholars have held that the second coming of Christ will be premillennial, that is, the second coming will be followed by a thousand years of Christ’s literal reign on earth. This was a predominant view of the early church as witnessed by the early church fathers. By the third century, however, the Alexandria school of theology, bringing in sweeping allegorical interpretation of Scripture, succeeded in displacing the premillennial view.

In the last few centuries, however, premillennialism has been revived by biblical scholars and now is held by many who are orthodox in other respects.

Unlike amillennialism and postmillennialism, the premillennial interpretation has no liberal adherents as it builds on the concept that the Bible is the Word of God and that prophecies are to be interpreted in their normal literal sense.

The premillennial view has much to commend it, as it has the same principles of interpretation regarding prophecy as is normal in other areas of theological interpretation. The premillennial view is generally adopted in the interpretation of prophecy in this work. The fact that so many prophecies have already been literally fulfilled lends support for the expectation that prophecies yet to be fulfilled will have the same literal fulfillment.

(Source: Every Prophecy In The Bible – John F. Walvoort)

THE CATHOLIC HERESY OF AUGUSTINE – AMILLENNIALISM

AMILLENNIALISM 1

Amillennialism do not believe in the future one-thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Sadly, it is the predominant concept of end time events in Christendom today. It is the official view of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the doctrine held by most mainline Protestant denominations.

They believe that the current Church Age will end abruptly with the appearance of Jesus for the redeemed. At that point the redeemed will be resurrected in spiritual bodies, the unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the material universe will cease to exist, and the redeemed will take up residence eternally with God in Heaven.

The amillennial view was invented in 400 A.D. by St. Augustine and adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in 431 A.D. at the Council of Ephesus. When this view was originally presented by St. Augustine, it caused a considerable stir because it differed so drastically from the premillennial view that had been the orthodox doctrine up to that time.

THE MILLENNIUM

Instead of denying outright that there would ever be a Millennium, Augustine argued that the Millennium began at the Cross and would continue for a thousand years until the return of Jesus. Later, when the Lord failed to return after a thousand years, amillennialists simply spiritualized the thousand years to mean an indefinite period of time from the Cross to the Second Coming. This serves as a good example on how Scripture is being twisted to fit their man-made eschatology, irrespective of the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 (ESV);

“I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

Note carefully that Augustine did not deny the Millennium; he simply redefined it to mean the spiritual reign of Christ through the Church during the Church Age.

That means we have been living in the Millennium for almost 2,000 years, although there is no correspondence between the Bible’s prophecies about the Millennium and the reality of the world in which we live.

We live in a world that is rotten to the core. The Bible says that during the Millennium, “the earth will be flooded with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9; Habakkuk 2:14). The nations of the world today are all in rebellion against God and His Anointed One. The prophecies say that during the Millennium the nations will all be in subjection to the Lord and will glorify His name (Psalm 22:27-31). If the Lord is reigning over the nations of the world today, He is doing a very poor job of it. Isaiah says that when the Lord reigns, the world will be characterized by peace, righteousness, and justice (Isaiah 9:7).

The amillennial response to this is usually to argue that we are in the Millennium because the Holy Spirit is in the world restraining evil. If the Holy Spirit were not here, things would be much worse. But the Bible doesn’t speak in relative terms about the Millennium. It states that there will be absolute international peace, justice, righteousness and lovingkindness (Hosea 2:18-20).

THE TRIBULATION

Augustine said that we are simultaneously in both the Millennium and the Tribulation! We are in the Millennium because the Holy Spirit is restraining evil, but we are also in the Tribulation because the Church will suffer persecution until the Lord returns. He simply denied the fact that the Bible says that the Tribulation will last only seven years, by saying that the number is symbolic. He argued that the number seven represents a complete period of time, and therefore it represents the period from the Cross to the Second Coming. Both the books of Daniel and Revelation specifically mention the two halves of the tribulation in years, months and even days.

THE BINDING OF SATAN

The Bible says that Satan will be bound at the beginning of the Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3). Augustine argued that Satan was bound at the Cross. Let’s admit that there is a sense in which Satan has always been bound, as he is not omnipotent and not free to do anything he desires. The book of Job reveals that Satan could not touch Job without God’s permission.

It is also true that Satan was further bound by the Cross. Since that time believers in Jesus have received the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, enabling them to be overcomers in their combat with Satan. The Word says that “He who is within us is greater than he who is in the world” (I John 4:4).

But the limitations which the Cross placed on Satan do not constitute the binding of Satan that the Scriptures say will take place at the beginning of the Millennium. Revelation says Satan will be bound so that he can no longer “deceive the nations” (Revelation 20:3). How can anyone argue that the nations are not deceived today? Satan is without a doubt still the “ruler of this world” (John 16:11).

THE TWO RESURRECTIONS

The Bible says there will be two resurrections, one of the just and another of the unjust (Acts 24:15). It further states that these two resurrections will be separated by a thousand years (Revelation 20:5-6). The amillennial view has only one resurrection, occurring at the end of the Church Age.

Augustine “solved” this problem by spiritualizing the first resurrection. He said the first resurrection is a spiritual one that occurs when a person accepts Jesus as Lord and is born again. The second resurrection is the one that will occur when the Lord returns and everyone, both the just and the unjust, will be resurrected from the dead.

This exercise in imaginative interpretation shows what happens when you start spiritualizing. Scripture starts meaning whatever you want it to mean.

REPLACEMENT / FULFILLMENT THEOLOGY

Amillennialists claim that “God washed His hands of the Jews” because of their unbelief, and He therefore has no purpose left for them. This doctrine has led to much anti-Semitism in the Church. The fact of the matter is that the Jews are still the Chosen People of God, and the Lord intends to fulfill every promise He has ever made to them as a nation.

The book of Romans makes all this very clear. In Romans 3:1-4 Paul asks a rhetorical question: “Has the unfaithfulness of the Jews nullified God’s faithfulness to them?” For almost 1,700 years the Church has said “Yes!” What does Paul say? His answer is, “May it never be!”

Likewise, in Romans 11:1 Paul asks, “Has God rejected His people?” Again, for almost two thousand years the Church has answered, “Yes!” But what does Paul say in response to his question? He says, “May it never be!” And then he adds, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2). He then proceeds to explain that a great remnant of the Jews will be saved in the end times (Romans 9:27; 11:25-32).

The Jewish people have been set aside as a result of God’s discipline. But He has not forgotten them. In Isaiah 49:16 the Lord says He could never forget the Jewish people because He has them tattooed on the palms of His hands! In Jeremiah 31:35-37 the Lord asks, “When will the offspring of Israel cease to be a nation before Me?” His answer is that they will continue to be special in His eyes until the fixed order of the universe departs or until the day all the heavens and all the oceans have been fully explored. In Romans 11:29 Paul says that the “gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” And in Romans 9:1-5 he speaks of promises to the Jews that God fully intends to fulfill.

That’s the reason the Jews are being regathered from the four corners of the world right now. It is one of the greatest miracles of history. The Lord intends to provoke them to repentance by bringing all the nations of the world against them (Zechariah 12:1-3). When they become totally desperate, they will look to the Lord for their salvation. That is when they will repent. They will “look on Him whom they have pierced, and they will mourn” (Zechariah 12: 10). And on that glorious day, a fountain of salvation will be opened for the house of David (Zechariah 13:1).

God will then establish these believing Jews as the prime nation of the world during the Millennium, and through them He will once again bless all the nations on earth (Isaiah 60-62).

Due to this evil doctrine, amillennials are also blinded to understanding one of the key purposes of the millennial reign and the reason for the rapture.

THE KINGDOM ON EARTH

There is no doubt that the Church is God’s current kingdom on the earth today. Since Pentecost, the kingdom has been expressed in the institution of the Church (Colossians 1:13). But the Bible promises different expressions of the kingdom in the future first, in the form of a thousand year rule of Jesus upon this earth (Revelation 2:26-27), and second, in the form of an eternal rule of God upon a new earth (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

The kingdom is past, present, and future. It is currently expressed in the Church, but it is like a rose in the bud, yet to bloom in its full glory. Even during the Millennial reign of Jesus, the kingdom will be coming, for the Bible teaches that rebellion will be lurking in the hearts of men (Revelation 20:7-10). The consummation of the kingdom will not come until all enemies of God have been subdued. That will occur at the end of the Millennial reign of Jesus, at which time He will surrender the kingdom to His Father, and God Himself will reign forever over a redeemed creation (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

INTERPRETATION OF REVELATION

Amillennialism believe that Revelation 20:1-6 describes what takes place during the entire history of the church, beginning with the first coming of Christ. The various sections in Revelation are parallel to each other and they also reveal a certain amount of eschatological progress. The last section, for example, takes us further into the future than the other sections. Although the final judgment has already been announced in 1:7 and has been briefly described in 6:12-17, it is not set forth in full detail until we come to 20:11-15. Though the final joy of the redeemed in the life to come has been hinted at in 7:15-17, it is not until we reach chapter 21 that we find a detailed and elaborate description of the blessedness of life on the new earth (21:1-22:5). Hence this method of interpretation is called progressive parallelism.

In essence, they believe that the book of Revelation depicts the struggle between Christ and his church on the one hand and the enemies of Christ and the church on the other. Some say that the first half of the book (chapters 1-11) describes the struggle on earth, picturing the church as it is persecuted by the world. The second half of the book, however (chapters 12-22), gives us the deeper spiritual background of this struggle, describing the persecution of the church by the dragon (Satan) and his helpers. In the light of this analysis we see how the last section of the book (chapters 20-22) falls into place. This last section describes the judgment which falls on Satan, and his final doom. Since Satan is the supreme opponent of Christ, it stands to reason that his doom should be narrated last. Ironically, this seems to contradicts their view that Satan is already bound!

CONCLUSION

The amillennial view is based on a spiritualizing approach to Scripture which contends that the Bible does not mean what it says. Even worse, they take the position that the Bible always means what it says unless it is talking about Israel and the Second Coming of Jesus!

The amillennial view does not stand the test of either the Scriptures or reality. Society is disintegrating before our eyes, and the Bible says it will get worse the closer we come to the Lord’s return (2 Timothy 1-5). How can anyone truly believe that Satan is bound today? The Bible says “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

How can anyone truly believe that the Church is reigning with Christ over the nations? Try telling that to persecuted and suffering Christians all over the world.

How could anyone truly believe God has no purpose left for the Jews? After 2,000 years of dispersion all over the world, they are being regathered to Israel in what Jeremiah calls a miracle greater than the deliverance from Egyptian captivity (Jeremiah 16:14-15).

Let’s stop playing games with God’s Word. Let’s allow it to mean what it says. Bible prophecy is really not hard to understand. It is just hard to believe if you choose to blindly follow heretic teachings of church fathers such as Augustine rather than studying the true Word of God.

It reflects the attitude of a person who is too lazy to search the Scriptures to see what God has promised in the future.

Certainly it matters what you believe about Bible prophecy. It matters what you believe about anything, because your beliefs determine the way you live. The amillennial church lives with little hope and excitement about the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Still wonder why these churches are dying?

Bible prophecy surge our hope while we are still in this evil world, and motivates us live a holy life. Although your perception of Bible prophecy it is not related to your justification, it has an immediate impact upon your sanctification, upon how you walk before the Lord in this life. As the apostle John put it: “Everyone who has his hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John3:3).

Main Sources:

The article “Amillennial problems” by Lamb & Lion Ministries

And

The article “Amillennialism: Introduction and The Book of Revelation” by Anthony Hoekema