This is a blog people. This will not be an exhaustive argument for Amillennialism. This post will merely be a small argument as to why I believe that Scriptures teach an Amillennial understanding of the Lord’s Return. Maybe I should do a post about what I actually believe because many Amillennials disagree on a number of different things… But, I’m not going to, if you want me to clarify something just ask me in the comment thread.
I am going to write a post after this one titled, “Problems with Premillennialism.” In that post I will deal with more passages and by default will be a further continuation of why I am Amillennial. This post will not deal with a lot of different texts, but rather principles that lead me to Amillennialism. The next post will deal more deeply with specific passages.
Also, some of my arguments are not completely restricted to Amillennials. In fact, some of them I learned from Grant Osborne who is a Historic Premillennialist. It is when I put all of these things together that force me to hold to an Amillennial position. Like Graeme Goldsworthy, I am not a big fan of the term “Amillennial,” but it is just easier to use it than to fight the system.
There is a simple hermeneutical principle that I have accepted to be true, mainly because it only makes logical sense and because it is what I see the Apostles doing. Here is the principle: Interpret the lesser revelation by the fuller revelation. What this means is that we should interpret the Old Testament according to what we see in the New Testament. Does it make more sense to describe a room when it is only dimly lit or when it is fully revealed (fully lit up!)? It makes more sense to interpret the Old Testament by the New Testament because many times the New Testament interprets the Old Testament for us. When it does this it also gives us an interpretive grid that we can and should use.
Two of the best books I have ever read have shaped my Eschatology as much as any, According to Plan(biblical theology) and Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, both by Graeme Goldsworthy. In these two books I saw the necessity of a truly gospel-centered hermeneutic. For instance, Galatians 3:16 says that the promises given to Abraham (you know, the ones Dispensationalists always ramble about) were not given to Abrahams offsprings, but rather his offspring (singular), that is, Jesus. Therefore, the promises given to Abraham were not given to all of Israel as Dispensationalists insist, according to the Apostle Paul, the promises were given to Jesus. In Jesus, those promises find their fulfillment. He is the True Israel, the True Temple, and when the New Heavens and the New Earth is established we will reign with him in the Promised Land.
Those who are still looking to Israel or the church for the fulfillment of the promises of Abraham need to stop wasting their time and just look to Jesus. Yes, it is that simple. People often say that Amillennials take “too much liberty” when it comes to Hermeneutics. I do not believe this to be true. Amillennials simply interpret the Old Testament the same way the Apostles did. Romans 4:13 is a good example. In Romans 4:13 Paul shows us that the promise given to Abraham includes not only Canaan, but the whole world. It will be given to all those who are in union with Jesus in the world to come.
2. Two Age Model
The New Testament speaks very often of “this age and the age to come.” In every instance the qualities associated with “this age” are temporary in nature. These texts describe the present course of history before teh Return of Christ and are things which pass away at his return. Text examples: Mt. 24:3, Luke 18:30, Luke 20:34, Mark 10:30, Titus 2:12, 1 Timothy 6:17, and on and on…
In great contrast with “this age” the qualities assigned to “the age to come” are always eternal in nature (non-temporal). These references are clearly describing the future eschatological state of believers (and non-believers when it speaks of judgment). Text examples: Luke 18:30, Mark 10:30, Luke 20:35, 1 Cor. 15:50, 1 Timothy 6:19, Ephesians 5:5, and on and on…
What is it that separates these two ages? The Millennium? The return of Christ? According to the Bible it is the return of Christ. The line of demarcation between these two ages is when Jesus returns. Matthew 13:39, 40, and 49 clearly show this. Matthew 13 is profoundly helpful in understanding the hermeneutical grid of “this age and the age to come.” Without understand the Bible’s use of these two ages it is impossible to properly understand the Eschaton.
3. Revelation 19-20
I was sitting in class with Dr. Grant Osborne and I heard him say something I was happy to hear. It made me think, “Yes, an honest intellectual.” For those of you who don’t know, Dr. Osborne is considered one of the greatest scholars on the book of Revelation and I must agree. His commentary on Revelation is absolutely incredible. He believes in Historic Premillennialism, but interprets most of Revelation the same way I and many Amillennials do. The difference comes at Revelation 19-20. But, this is what he said that caught me off guard. “The best argument for Amillennialism is that the battles in Revelation 19-20 are the same battle. He then continued to argue as to why Amillennials have such a good argument for that being the case. I was hoping he had just changed his mind and embraced Amillennialism, but he hadn’t.
It is comforting to see someone who disagrees, yet still acknowledges the validity of the argument the “other side” makes. In my mind, Osborne is right, Amillennialism has a great case to make in saying the battles seen in Rev. 19 and 20 are the same battle. While he is not fully convinced of it being true, I am. When I read Revelation 19 is certainly appears that Jesus just brought the thunder and out the hurtin’ on everyone who opposes him(the lost). You see the exact same thing at the end of Revelation 20. Now, if Jesus just “struck down the nations” and “tread the winepress of the fury and wrath of God the Almighty” it seems like nonsense to me to say after that just happened, “well, he did, but some people came out okay.” And what, Jesus thought, “Crap, I missed a few”? In Revelation 19 we get a clear picture of Jesus coming and bringing judgment with him. Listen to the severity of the words, “tread the winepress of the fury and wrath of God the Almighty.” Those are severe words and when Jesus returns it will be a severe day for all who do not call on his name.
Revelation 20 is describing the present age, but from a different angle. Jesus is reigning in heaven with the saints, Satan is bound, and at the end of the present age there will be a great tribulation (when Satan is released). I hate it when Premillennials mock, “Satan bound? ROFL!” Usually when they say this they respond with, “Do you not see all the sin in the world?” I will point out two things:
- Even in the Premillennial understanding of the Millennium sin will still exist.
- Read the passage again- it specifies what exactly Satan is bound from doing, “deceiving the nations.” People come to Christ in great numbers because through the cross and resurrection Satan was bound from deceiving the nations and the gospel is in fact the power of God unto salvation for all who believe!
4. Schools of Interpretation
As you all know there are a number of different schools of interpretation when it comes to the book of Revelation.
There is the Historicist, Futurist, Preterist, and Idealist schools. IMHO, in order to interpret Revelation correctly (how it was meant to be interpreted) you must have a mix of Futurist, Idealist, and a little bit of Preterist interpretation. I was surprised to see that Dr. Osborne (Hist. Premil) and Dr. Beale (Amil) agree wholeheartedly on that point. It is foolish to interpret Revelation as if it has no Futurist aspects. It is apocalyptic, of course it is Futuristic! It is equally foolish to not interpret Revelation with Idealistic aspects. Apocalytic literature, biblical and non-biblical, always has a symbolic undertone. To deny this is simply to deny a major feature in one of the major genres seen in Revelation. Revelation is a letter, narrative, and is prophetic. These all must be taken into account. We have to answer the question, “How would the 1st century church understand this?” I promise you, they would not have understood an apocalyptic/prophetic book to not have a serious symbolic undertone.
Amillennials do not interpret Revelation in a way that “let’s them make it say whatever they want it to say.” This is a false argument that many use. Amillennials, at least this one, interprets Revelation in a way that appropriately takes all of the literary genres and the culture of that day into account. As I said before, this is one of the points that is not restricted to Amillennials, I think Dr. Grant Osborne does this very, very well.
5. Biblical Theology
IMHO, Amillennialism best lines up with the meta-narrative we see in Scripture. Every Eschatological view has “tough verses.” We need to come to the viewpoint that we feel best answers the most texts and handles the “tough verses” best. For me, Amillennialism does this.
Another major point for me is the fact that someone could come to an Amillennial understanding of Eschatology even if Revelation was never written. Thankfully, God did have it written in order to encourage and exhort believers…. Not to mention fill in some details! Every time the Second Coming is mentioned in the New Testament it is coupled with either- our great hope(restoration of all things, our resurrection(resurrection of the dead), or our reward/judgment (reward for the saved, judgment for the lost). Now, with that, it seems to be that all of these things take place right around the same time after Christ returns. The entire New Testament paints a picture of- Jesus coming back, dead rising, judgment-blessing, and then the ushering in of
the new heavens and the new earth. Well, as the entire New Testament, outside of a Premill understanding of one text, that is the way I see it going down.
I know, calm down, you Premillennials can stop screaming, “Harmonize, Harmonize, Harmonize!” at the computer screen. In my next post- “Problems with Premillennialism” I am going to argue that at least in one passage a Premil reading of Revelation 20 simply cannot be harmonized. I get that Rev. 20 can be harmonized with Matthew 25 and other passages. I can accept, “Matthew and every other person in the NT just never mentioned the literal 1,000 year reign when they were talking about the subject.” I think it is weak, but not weak enough to dismiss by that alone. So, in my next post I will argue from a passage that Rev. 20 is in no way “harmonizable [word?]” with at least that particular passage.
Well, I was going to continue, I have a couple more points, but this has gotten long… Maybe we will get to them in the comment thread. About that, I will interact happily as long as you all don’t become jerks. This is an issue we should be able to disagree and still get along very easily with one another. It is okay to simply agree to disagree.
I just want to give you all the books and resources that God used to help me understand truth and come to an Amillennial understanding of Eschatology. (Yes, that was a sarcastic jab. Enjoy!)
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible– Graeme Goldsworthy
Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics: Foundations and Principles of Evangelical Biblical Interpretation– Graeme Goldsworthy
Case for Amillennialism, A: Understanding the End Times– Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (His blog has a TON of resources, lectures and sermons)
The Bible and the Future– Anthony Hoekema
Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation– Dennis E. Johnson