Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda

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.

1. Hermeneutics

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:

  1. Even in the Premillennial understanding of the Millennium sin will still exist.
  2. 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.

Resources

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

Sponsored Message

Get new content delivered to your inbox

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Why I Believe Amillennialism by Matthew Svoboda « Blogging Theologically -- Topsy.com()

  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    As one who is still trying to figure out my position on eschatology (and yes I know really need to) this series has been really helpful to ne so far.

    I particularly appreciate the interpretation of Rev 19 & 20 as being basically two sides of the same coin. It seems to me that that fits with our understanding of Genesis 1 & 2 (that 2 is an additional look at certain aspects of 1).

  • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

    Aaron,

    Nothing will serve you better than reading Riddlebargers “A Case for Amillennialism.” He deals fairly with the different views and adresses hermeneutical and textual issues. It is also an easy read!

  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    Excellent- consider it added to my to read pile (it keeps getting larger!)

  • Alen

    Great post. I just finished my Hermeneutics class a couple weeks ago and our textbook “Grasping God’s Word” by Duvall and Hays takes the same approach to Revelations as those people you mentioned in that they combine all views so to speak. They are also Premillennial. I haven’t solidified my view yet but I must admit I’m skeptical of Amillennialism but I think your presentation so far is intriguing and look forward to more of what you have to say.

    • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

      Alen,

      I used to go back and forth between Historic Premill and Amillennialism as they both use the same principles in hermeneutics. They even have more in common than H. Premill and Dispensationalism.

      While I hope I can change your mind and convince you of Amillennialism I understand the skepticism. My next post will show you the skepticisms I have with premillennialism as I look at a few different passages that I really believe kill the case for Premillennialism. It will be a fun post to interact with.

      Any specifics on your skepticisms with Amillennialism? Id love to dialogue about them. Sadly, many times people are against Amillennialism, but then when we start talking about it I realize they are pretty ignorant of the belief itself(not saying this is you). I had a pastor once tell me that he didn’t even consider Amillennialism because he believes in a late date for Revelation AD95-100. I laughed and said, “Yeah, me too. Along with every Amill author I have read.” So, a pastor didnt consider it and proved he was completely ignorant of it. Partial Preterists are the ones who MUST have an early date, not Amillennials. Riddlebarger, Horton, Goldsworthy, and myself all believe in a late date of Revelation and yet that pastor didnt even give Amillennialism a chance because he was ignorant about what Amills believe.

      • Alen

        Sorry for the late reply. I have no specific issue with it, it’s just something instilled within me I guess from my legalistic days :) I had the same aversion to other issues like Calvinism, CCM and so forth. With time my views changed.

        I don’t know all too much about Amillennialism, other than the straw-man rhetoric instilled into me so it’s been beneficial to read up on it. I appreciate and look forward to seeing more of your posts!

  • http://daniellyle.wordpress.com daniellyle

    Lately, I’ve been wondering about the merits of eschatology as a theological discipline. Consider all of the prophetic works of the OT and look how off the Jews were in their interpretation of the Messiah. We have one primary book with support passages from the OT and NT. I know there are Strong eschatological overtones to Revelation but maybe those overtones aren’t intended to assist us in divining God’s Day Runner as it pertains to future events. Its interesting to me that John calls the book “the revelation of Jesus Christ” not “the revelation of future events and how they will unfold.” What really bugs me is how this subject seems to generate a great deal devision in the church. We know Jesus is coming back. I think we should take Him at that and do what we can to spread the Gospel. Pre-mill, Amill, Post-Mill… I just don’t see how any of it matters.

    • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

      daniellyle,

      Those are legitimate points, but I will give you some reasons why it matters.

      First, this should NOT be a divisive issue. Some allow it to be, but that is to their shame. Amil, Postmill, Premill, and Partial Preterism is all within orthodoxy and they all agree with on the “meat” of Eschatology.

      Reasons why we cant just leave it at “Jesus is coming back:”

      1) God in his wisdom, gave us more detail than that. It is our role to study all of the Bible and come to a conclusion of what we think it teaches, this includes Eschatology.

      2) Different positions have different implications.

      3) Your position will determine how you interpret different passages. For example: a partial preterist is going to interpret Matthew 24 a LOT differently than a Dispensationalist.

      4) For me, as a pastor, it determines how I preach many different passages that talk about Eschatology.

      I like that you point out that the purpose of it all is not to figure out God’s play-by-play. Revelation and other Eschatological passages merely give us a big picture of what is to come, leaving many details out. Yet, everything God put in the Bible is for our benefit and spiritual growth… We are unwise not to study a topic simply because others allow it to be divisive and because we will never have all of the answers. God has every word in the Bible in their for a reason- it is our responsibility to study, listen to, and obey all of those words.

      • http://daniellyle.wordpress.com daniellyle

        All very valid points and I don’t think I disagree…. And my point was not an attempt to discredit your work or your view or the merits of the subject… (I love your blog by the way. I have been following it for about a year.) I guess I should have said my struggle is not so much with the discipline but with the implications of the discipline.

        Yes, God gave us a bunch of details and I think its good to think through and draw conclusions on those things. However He has given us a lot of this information in the form of poetic language which I’m not so sure systematic or Biblical theology has all the answers for. Not only that, I’m not really sure He ever intended prophesy to let us know whats coming… I think it is far more likely that He gave it to us so we can recognize it when it does come. The apostles used a lot of prophecy to support the ministry of Christ on earth. I wonder if the 144k will do the same.

        I understand that hermeneutics have a fantastic baring on eschatology and that our eschatology is the logical conclusion of our hermeneutic. However, theologians don’t always follow their hermeneutic to its natural conclusion… Hence progressive Dispensationalism : ) (Thats my camp by the way… I just can’t let go of all those cheesy end-time movies I used to watch in Junior church as a kid.)

        In recent years I have watched my alma-mater be ripped in two… On one side the dispensational guys on the other side the covenant guys. Eschatology is not always the issue but it often is and I just don’t get it. I don’t understand how people can look so forward to the coming of the same event but can’t strive together towards that day…. Its madness.

        • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

          Daniellyle,

          It is madness! Let me tell you how undivisive this issue is for me- I have never served at a church in which any pastor agreed with my Eschatological position. lol- That sounds funny even to say it. Every church I have ever been a member in any way has had all Premillennial pastors.

          Also, I hope my last comment didnt come across as defensive because I didnt think you were trying to discredit my thoughts or my view on the merit of the discussion… So, if I came across as defensive I apologize. Out of all the subjects in the Bible this is the one I am most sympathetic with when it comes to people saying, “I really dont want to go beyond- Jesus is coming back.” I feel they should, but I understand the desire.

          You make a good point- it is my opinion that Revelation and other Eschatological passages were not given just to let us know what is coming… All of Revelation is a letter, not just chapters 2-3. Therefore, the entire book of Revelation has a practical purpose- to encourage believers as they were suffering persecution and hardship and to point them to the Blessed Hope. Under that umbrella he did give us some details, but I believe every detail is given to us in order to do one of those two things, or both.

          The Final Judgement for instance is not just a “detail-filler.” It ought to encourage us that God is in control and he will have the final say- “Vengeance is his!” This would be very encouraging to those we were having their family members killed and were themselves being tortured because of their faith in Christ. The millennium, IMHO, is not just a “detail-filler.” I find great hope and am greatly encourages that Jesus is reigning right now and that Satan is bound from deceiving the nations that the gospel might go into the whole world to save lost sinners!

          Our attitude in approaching Revelation is a big determining factor in what we will receive from reading it. If we are trying to “fill in the details” we will be frustrated… If we are trying to read what God wanted to tell his suffering church at the beginning of the church age and in a time of great tribulation then we will be greatly encouraged and our hearts will long greatly for our Kings return!

          I have great respect for the progressive Dispy camp… They saw a very unbiblical belief in the Dispy camp so they humbly and boldly fixed it… They saw the truth of the present reality of the Kingdom of God and they tweaked their Eschatology accordingly. It is just absolutely silly to get too bent out of shape over this issue. This is what I tell my church and small group- Don’t listen to the people that always spend their time on this topic.. John Hagee for example.

        • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

          Oh yeah, and thanks for reading my blog! its nice to know someone reads what I put time into writing! I do it mainly just because it helps me to get my thoughts down and because I enjoy to write, but it is encouraging to know someone appreciates it enough to keep coming back!

  • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

    Matt, you wrote:

    Satan is bound from deceiving the nations that the gospel might go into the whole world to save lost sinners

    I’m trying to understand how Satan could be bound at this point, yet still active as he appears to be.

    If Satan is bound at this point from deceiving the nations at this point, would you say that the rise of postmodern pluralism (i.e. the current mood of “everything being equally valid… unless it’s Christianity”), the unrestrained acceptance of eastern spiritual practices and the frequent attempts to discredit Christ and the Scriptures that we see on TV, online and in print are the result of past work and/or our natural opposition to Christ?

    Or is there something I’m missing?

    • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

      Aaron,

      Amillennials dont say that he isnt active… He is very much active, but he is bound in ONE sense: from deceiving the nations. All in all, Satan has no authority to deceive the nations from believing the gospel. It seems to me(some Amills probably disagree with this) that when he is released at the end of the Millennium (when the final tribulation starts) then he will have great ability to deceive… In fact, Revelation says the beast and false prophet will be able to perform false signs, etc… I dont see Satan performing false signs like described in Revelation. Revelation, to me, gives a picture in which during that final tribulation Satan will have a lot of authority to deceive which is why many will fall away and why even fewer come to faith in Christ.

      Even the premill view has sin still going on while Satan is bound… Not only do they have sin going on, but they have people rejecting Jesus even when he is amongst them in his glorified state!!! That is crazy to me. Jesus is walking around, glorified, as God, and yet still people are rejecting him. It does not add up to me.

      • http://hardwords.wordpress.com Aaron Armstrong

        Makes sense – thanks for the clarification.

        Agreed, it’s absolutely nutty that people will see the glorified Christ and still say, “I hate you and I’d rather die than worship you.” Such is the ridiculousness of our sin, yeah?

        • http://sbcvoices.com Matt Svoboda

          Yes, but it is truly more ridiculous than our sin…

          Its more like if Peter at the Transfiguration would have said, “Nevermind, youre not god, I am… Im outta here.”

          I think when we see Jesus in all of his glory we will not be worshipping anything, but him- we will ALL be bowing.

  • Graeme

    I believe the Amil position is correct after thinking about it carefully over the last two to three years (never heard of it before, having come from a pentecostal background).
    Have since read Riddlebarger, Hoekema, and many others.

    Apparently many? Reformers held this position.

    My ideas are mainly formed from the NT before you get to Revelation.
    To me, the Amil position is clear as day in the gospels and letters.

    I see now these “left behind” ideas (and their theology) especially as being the result of American media saturation across the world and churches.

    It was interesting to read the comment above by a poster who mentioned his thoughts on Genesis 1&2 and Rev. 19&20.

    And yes, you are correct in that the position you hold to does determine many things in the way you view Christianity and the future and the present.

    • Charles E. Miller, BA, MAR

      I am a former Southern Baptist Deacon who now is a United Methodist. I formerly held the pretribulational view; however, I no longer accept that interpretation; on the contrary, I am now a Partial Preterist Amillennialist. The pretribulational view has too many problems. I will give one example. Those who support this view say that babies born before the secret rapture will be taken at that time into heaven; however, what about babies born after the rapture? That is a major problem, isn’t it? I will mention one more problem. They predict too much and make Christians and our Holy Bible look stupid. As an amillennialist, I know Jesus could return tomorrow or in a million years. The church age, which is the millennium, will last for an indefinite period of time. I feel that the Roman Emperor Domitian was the anti-Christ. He did call himself Dominus et Deus, which means Lord and God. In any case, I hope the Lord will bless all members of the body of Christ. Charles in Chesapeake, Virginia

  • http://chapter1verse1.com Tom Allen

    I think you might be interested in the book Chapter1, Verse 1 concerning the revelation of Christ in the Book of Revelation…(or not! :+) If you would like you can download a sample at smashwords.com. I have seen some of your stuff on line…keep up the good work!