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))

AMILLENNIALISM – A MAN-MADE THEOLOGY (PART 2 OF 3)

AMILLENNIALISM

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))

A BASIC OVERVIEW OF AMILLENNIALISM

A FIGURATIVE 1000 YEARS

In short, Amillennialism is the theory or system of interpretation that says that there will be no literal, earthly kingdom following the Second Coming of Christ. Amillennialism teaches that when Christ returns, eternity begins with no prior thousand-year millennial reign occurring on planet earth.

Amillennialism is the most prominent view among Christians today. The use of the prefix “a” before a word comes from the practice of the Greek language and negates the word (nullifies or denies the word as being true) when placing this letter in front of it. Therefore, the word amillennial actually means no millennium. Of course, the Latin words “mille” (thousand) and “annus” (years) means 1,000 years. But when the letter “a” is placed before the Latin word it cancels out the millennium and literally means “no thousand years.”

Actually, the amillennialist does believe in a “millennium” but not a literal millennium. It is a spiritual millennium instead of a literal earthly millennium. They see the N.T. references to the 1,000 years and the kingdom as being allegorical or figurative in meaning and teach that these references point to Christ’s reign over the church in the time period between Christ’s first and second advent. The amillennial view holds that the kingdom promises in the Old Testament are fulfilled spiritually rather than literally in the New Testament church.

Jay Adams, who is amillennial, chooses to call his system of interpretation by the name “realized millennialism.” This simply means that the millennium is a present reality existing in the hearts of people. The millennium or kingdom becomes a present realization in the hearts of God’s saints.

NO PROMISES TO PHYSICAL ISRAEL

The promises to Israel about a land, nationality and throne (Gen. 12:2; 15:18-20; 2 Sam. 7:12-16) are now being fulfilled in a figurative or spiritual way among believers. They claim that these promises given to Israel have been cancelled out due to their past disobedience. This means that God is finished with Old Testament Israel or the Jewish nation as a whole. The promises of an earthly kingdom have taken on a spiritual dimension and have been transferred to the church where Christ becomes King as He reigns over believers today. In this way the church replaces Israel of old and becomes the new “spiritual” Israel that God is working with today. Thus, the term “replacement theology” is given to this scheme of interpretation.  

 Spiritualized interpretation therefore is a scheme of interpretation that changes the literal meaning of the O. T. covenant promises to a figurative meaning. By a process of figurative interpretation national Israel assumes the title of “spiritual Israel” and the earthly millennium becomes a “spiritual kingdom” (the present day church of saints).

SATAN ALREADY BOUND

In brief, amillennial theology also teaches that Satan was bound at the first coming of Christ through His death and resurrection. Hence, the kingdom of God began at the first advent and continues as a present spiritual reality with Christ reigning in the hearts of His saints or over the new spiritual Israel – the New Testament church.

MOST PROPHETIC EVENTS IN REVELATION ALREADY FULFILLED

The amillenarian views most of the book of Revelation as dealing with prophetic events already fulfilled before or during the actual time of the book being written (past fulfillment), or as present day events and conditions that are happening on earth right now.

Idealistic View

This view spiritualizes the book and makes it fit into the present day conflict between evil and good and sees it as an apocalyptic dramatization of the continuous battle between God and evil. It is simply a picture of the continual struggle between right and wrong that goes on in the heart of man. This is often being referred to as the Idealistic view.

Preterist View

Then there is the Preterist view of the book of Revelation, which assigns a past meaning to the book. In other words, the events of this book were fulfilled in John’s day.

Historicist View

Others hold the Historicist view of the book of Revelation, which sees the book as giving a history of the church from apostolic times to the end. This view is shared borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church. This group is basically forced to also associate many of the judgments predicted in the book with events in the past.

Most amillennialists in some measure assign a past historical fulfillment to the book of Revelation but at the same time still hold that the book contains a present-day fulfillment of what is happening in the world in connection with the tribulation that the church faces today. In other words, there is a mixing or blending together of the idealistic, preterist and historicist views. This is the theory that the Roman Catholic, Augustine held.

Heavently Millennium View

The noted Benjamin Warfield (1851-1921) taught this spiritualized concept of the 1,000 years in Revelation chapter 20 even though he was actually a postmillennialist believing in an earthly millennium. It can be observed that various segments of amillennial teaching overlap with postmillennial beliefs. For some amillennialists the millennium has nothing to do with any spiritual reign of Christ upon earth over believer’s lives but with the blessed condition of the saints in heaven where Christ is ruling over their disembodied spirits. This theory holds that there is some kind of “heavenly millennium.” In other words, the Old Testament promises are also being fulfilled in heaven right now.

This more contemporary view within amillennialism was only developed in the nineteenth century and has become a popular and acceptable idea of the millennium. Instead of the church being the millennium / kingdom on earth the millennium / kingdom is in heaven where Christ is seen ruling over His departed saints as the Davidic King.

There is thus, division in the ranks of amillennialism when it comes to interpreting and understanding what the millennium is and how it is being fulfilled today. We can see how spiritualization only breeds confusion.

To summarize, the millennium or the 1,000 years is not a literal and specific reference to time but a reference to Christ’s rule over the church today and finally in the splendor of heaven itself.

THE RETURN OF CHRIST AND A GENERAL JUDGEMENT

Amillennialism believe that Christ will literally return. This return will result in a literal, physical and universal resurrection of all the people from Adam to the last person who has died. The remainder of people living on earth will be translated to this scene of judgment so that all the people born throughout time will stand together in a time of general judgment. All the unsaved of earth’s history will be judged and cast into the Lake of Fire and the saved will enter into the eternal state.

Amillennialists will normally use a passage such as Matthew 25:1-46 to teach their theory of a general judgment on the last day (John 5:29). But in their attempt to push this theory of a general judgment they fail to realize that the judgment in Matthew 25 does not picture any resurrection but only a judgment of those gathered nations living upon the earth when the Messiah returns.

In addition, the differences between the judgments of the church at the Bema Seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10), the judgment of the surviving nations following the tribulation period (Matthew 25:31-46), the judgment of Israel (Ezekiel 2:33-38), the judgment of fallen angels (2 Peter 2:4; Rev. 20:10) and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11-15) are glossed over and these separate events are lumped together and looked upon as one single event. This creates serious mistreatments of Bible texts and confusion.

ETENAL STATE

What the eternal state will be to the amillennialist varies since some take the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22) as only a spiritual description of what Paul calls the “new creation” of the church (2 Cor. 5:17). Some apply the vision of the new heavens and earth to a nonmaterial state of existence in heaven. Other more conservative amillennialists and postmillennialists seem to stress the idea of people living on a brand new planet after the Second Coming.

QUESTIONS AMILLENNIALISTS CANNOT ANSWER

The idea of only one general resurrection, one combined judgment, one people of God, and one return of Christ seems much easier for the amillennialist to grasp. But we must ask ourselves these questions: Why can’t there be a Rapture and Second Coming of Christ to earth? Why can’t there be three resurrections instead of just one? Why can’t there be three different judgments? Why can’t there be two classes of people on earth? The answer of the amillennialist to these questions is that it conflicts with his amillennial theology. But on the contrary, these findings do not contradict the Bible when it is literally interpreted.

Prophetic parables and other portions of Scripture that deal with the tribulation and kingdom are seen to be already fulfilled historically and/or in respect to Christ reigning over the church today as King. The great prophetic portions of the Word of God are spiritualized as presenting contemporary events that the church faces today in the world while Christ reigns within the hearts of His redeemed saints.

CHURCHES APPLYING AMILLENNIALISM

This amillennial concept is the view of the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the major view among the large segment of Protestantism – both conservative and liberal. The Roman Catholic Church, Greek Orthodox Church, major sections of the Presbyterian and Reformed churches, certain branches of the Lutheran Church, Methodist Church, Southern Baptists and even various segments in the Church of God, embrace this kind of spiritualized theology. Of course, this does not make it the correct view of Scripture in regards to the interpretation about the kingdom, church and other prophetic truth.

THE DANGER OF SPIRITUALIZING OR ALLEGORIZING SCRIPTURE

It is very interesting to remember how the liberals also embraced this amillennial position because it fit into their way of viewing the Scriptures. If Christ’s millennium or kingdom could be spiritualized then Christ’s resurrection, miracles and His Second Coming and judgment of people in hell could also be spiritualized to mean something else. Modern liberals can justify whatever they want by the use of the same hermeneutical rules of interpretation that the amillennialist follows. This mishandling of Scripture opens the door for liberalism to treat the Scriptures in the same way – in an unbelieving and spiritual\allegorical way – instead of a literal way. The history of higher criticism of the Bible lends itself to the amillennial interpretation of Scripture.

The danger of this type of figurative interpretation of Scripture should be apparent to everyone who respects the inspiration of Scripture and the plain, normal and literal meaning of the Bible. This method regards nonfigurative language as figurative and its only limitation is the mind of the interpreter. This type of “spiritual hermeneutic” has robbed the Bible of its legitimate meaning. If words mean something then the words of Scripture in their grammatical, normal and literal understanding can adequately express truth without the process of spiritualization.

I’m reminded of how Paul reprimanded Hymenaeus and Philetus for spiritualizing that the physical resurrection was something already past. These men were affected by Greek philosophy and like Origen and Augustine they tried to harmonize the two together – both Greek philosophy and Scripture. They were the “spiritualizers” and “allegorizers” of the early church. Like the Sadducees, they rejected the literal concept of the resurrection (Acts 23:8).

2 Timothy 2:17-18 says:

“And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.”

Amillennial teaching is like gangrene eating away at the foundational truth of the prophetic Word and God’s clear mind about the meaning of words and His literal covenant promises to Israel. When one abandons the literal interpretation of the Bible and reduces literal words to mean figurative truth they reduce the Bible to nothing more than a book of symbols in the whimsical or fanciful hands of man’s own creativity. It can only discredit God’s Word and lead to unbelief and error in connection with God’s eschatological program.

Kenneth Kantzer has said:

“The only way to appropriate biblical authority and to refrain from reducing the Bible to a book of mere suggestions and optional opinions is to understand the Bible in the plain, normal sense intended by the authors.”

(Source: Pastor Kelly Sensenig)