It’s the End of the World As We Know It – Amillennialism

13Jan12

Amillennialism

In my late teens and early 20’s I started a small speaking ministry on modern culture with an emphasis on music. I would travel around the area speaking to Youth groups and parents about music, movies and the pitfalls of modern culture and its impact in Youth Group students.

On one occasion I had been invited by a rather large Lutheran church to speak to their Youth Group. I was friends with the Youth Pastor and he afforded me the luxury of introducing his students to much of the Christian Rock that was popular at the time by playing snippets of the music. One of the most popular bands at the time was called DeGarmo and Key. As it so happens much of DeGarmo and Key’s lyrics centered on a soon approaching tribulation and the soon expected Rapture of the Church.

This was quite a common topic of Contemporary Christian music in its early Jesus Music days with Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill and the Calvary Chapel influenced bands like Love Song and Mustard Seed Faith. Not much changed lyrically throughout the 1980’s as many musicians made the Rapture of the Church a primary lyrical topic.

After playing some snippets from several different artist including DeGarmo and Key and others I saw a noticeable shift in posture and attentiveness, not of the students in the Youth group, but in my Youth Pastor friend.

After the conclusion of the presentation I went to his office to see if there was a problem with the music I was playing. I had feared maybe the rock was too aggressive or loud for a Sunday Morning Sunday School class. But that wasn’t the issue at all. In fact he was just more frustrated with the content of nearly every song being about the Rapture and a soon to appear Antichrist, full and complete with his own numerical system of 666.

“Why would that bother you,” I asked him, “It’s all throughout the Bible, right?”

“Actually, Dave,” he responded, “I don’t think it’s there at all. Plus, we’re Lutheran, remember. We never talk about the Rapture…we’re Amillennial!”

 

Over the next several chapters we will begin a more in depth study on the four previously discussed Millennial positions throughout Church History. As was stated in the Introduction of this book, much of what is discussed is not original information but a pooling of the best and the brightest Christian thinkers and theologians from all eschatological positions. So, it should be noted that much of what you’re about to read comes from to very exceptional sources that I highly recommend.

The first is Dr. Kenneth Gentry and his classic work on Postmillennialism entitled, He Shall Have Dominion. His concise and well laid out chapters introducing the Millennial positions had a strong influence on the layout and presentation of the following chapters. Dr. Gentry’s listing of early Church adherents is also included and is expanded by other research.

Also, I would overwhelmingly recommend Steven Gregg’s wonderful commentary on the book of Revelation entitled, Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary.  Gregg’s work was an invaluable resource for clearly and succinctly presenting the differing views of the Millennial and Interpretive Methods in a parallel format allowing the reader to judge the positions as they are presented side by side.

It is important here to note that there will be very limited exegesis of Scripture to propose or defend particular systems in the following few chapters as that is not the purpose of these chapters; rather the purpose is to present the views in broad and acceptable terms to make the definitions easier for the reader to grasp. The minutia of the positions is best left to the books that are dedicated to the subjects in which the proponents can give the detailed exegetical arguments for their positions.

The positions outlined below and in the following chapters are broad and hopefully acceptable positions that the majority of those holding the position would find agreeable.

There will be a brief critique of the positions following each description, but these will not be detailed by any sense. This is not a debate book! The purpose is to present the ideas here and allow the reader to see the value or flaws located within each view. The critiques will be broad-based arguments leveled against each position in history. There are more than enough books that the reader can find presenting, defending and critiquing all of the views below.

The one exception, as noted a few times previously, will be the extended discussion of the Dispensational Premillennial system. As noted previously that is because of the overwhelming popularity of the system and its impact on modern evangelicalism as a whole.

 

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Of the four Millennial position the most difficult to distinguish by its name alone is Amillennialism. The prefix “a” in Amillennialism denotes a “no” or “non” association with a Millennium. What that means is simply that Amillennialism means No-Millennium.

Unfortunately this is a misnomer as the definition can and does lead many, especially critics, to accuse the Amillennialist as denying a millennium at all. The facts could not be further from the truth and the straw man argument against the position based on the baseless claim really should cease, even though I have no real hope that it will.

The name itself was not given to the view by the adherents, but rather by the detractors of the view. This creates a negative connotation that is undeserved. A more acceptable or accurate name would be nunc-millennialism (which mean “now” millennialism) or “realized” millennium. This more accurately describes the position as we shall see in the following description.

The name given to the position stems from the view’s rejection of the Premillennial position that Jesus will have a literal and physical reign on earth for one thousand years. Amillennialism rejects both the idea of a physical reign on Earth at anytime in the future and that the Millennium lasts a literal 1,000 years.

But the view does teach a Millennium!

The Millennium is defined a greatly different terms than most might be familiar with, but it is a Millennium all the same. Like was discussed in the previous chapters the issues lie in the “nature” of the Millennium and the Kingdom of God and how it relates to the Millennium. Rather than teaching that the “Kingdom” was postponed like is found in Dispensational Premillennialism, Amillennialism believes the Millennium is a present day reality and will find it’s conclusion at the return of Jesus Christ.

So, in the timing sense, the Amillennialist agrees with the Postmillennialist that Jesus Christ physically returns and resurrects His people at the end of the Millennium. This would be, timing wise, “post” millennial. We will deal with the beginning point of the Millennium for the differing options within Postmillennialism in the chapter dedicated to that view as many Postmillennialist are in agreement with the Amillennial position while others are not in agreement.. What is important here is to note that Amillennialist and Postmillennialist are in agreement when it comes to the conclusion of the Millennium in the sense of timing.

Amillennialist argue that the Millennium began at the first advent of Christ and will conclude at His second advent. The entire Church Age should be defined as the Millennium. It is a long period of time and the reign of Christ is Spiritual through His people the Church in the present age.

The bullet point outline of Amillennialism listed below will have some agreement with the Postmillennial position that will follow when it comes to the timing issues, but the issues regarding the nature of the Kingdom (Millennium) is where the reader will note the greatest disagreement.

I do want to note very early on that although the Amillennial name may be a rather recent development, but the ideas presented below are by no means novel or recent. As early as Justin Martyr in the second century it was noted the differing Millennial positions within the Church and were considered acceptable and orthodox. In Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew he writes:

“I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.”

So, as early as the post-Apostolic age there is writings that note that differing positions were promoted, defended and accepted. That would mean logically that the position itself had to have been around long enough to garner such general acceptance, even amongst its detractors.

Amillennialist most often employ the previously discussed “Idealist” interpretive method interpretation though many would also be considered Preterist.

AMILLENNIALISM OUTLINED

1. The Millennium is the same as the Kingdom of God as prophesied in the Old Testament and announced in the New Testament. This has been discussed previously and shows agreement with nearly all adherents of the four.

2. The binding of Satan that initiates the Millennium in Revelation chapter 20 takes place during Jesus’ earthly ministry both through the “binding of the Strongman” in Matthew 12 and through the defeat of Satan at the cross by which he is “driven out,” an event of which Jesus foretells in John 12.

3. The Millennium is of a long, indeterminable length of time the stretches from the first advent of Christ and is consummated at His second advent. The numerical term, 1,000, should be seen as figurative as it is often and nearly exclusively the case throughout the rest of scripture.

4. The nature of the Millennial Kingdom is one in which Jesus reigns from heaven through His Church, both in the hearts and in the minds of those members of His body. There will be occasional short lived advances of the Gospel in history, but the Church will experience an apostasy near the end.

5. Many Amillennialist believe in cyclical “tribulations” throughout history, but also many argue that there will be one final, great Tribulation in which the world is tested and the Church struggles and, as mentioned above, apostatizes. But throughout history both good and evil will grow simultaneously until the end of the age (Matt 13).

6. Christ returns at the end of the Millennium. This Second Coming will happen simultaneously with the General Resurrection, General Judgment and the establishment of the Eternal State. (For further study on this point note the chapter in this booked called “Wanna Sound Really Smart?”

The view has had a long and storied history with great and orthodox support throughout the ages.

Early Church Adherents Include: Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome, St. Origen

Modern Church Adherents Include: Berkhof, Adams, Hanko, Hoekema, Kuyper, Horton, Riddlebarger, Kline, Pink, Van Til, Calvin

 

EVERYONE’S A CRITIC

The most popular critique of Amillennialism, coming primarily from Premillennialist, is the more “figurative” and “spiritualized” reading of the prophetic and Kingdom text. This is most notable in the book of Revelation where many Amillennialist employ the Idealistic or Spiritualist Interpretative method.

Postmillennialist criticize the Amillennialist for their seemingly pessimistic view of the Church and her future history and the futurizing of the Tribulation and the events surrounding the end of the Millennial Age.

This view is also criticized for its difficulty in addressing the apparently two different resurrections in Revelation chapter 20. This will be answered in future chapters but is worth noting here as a main concern among Premillennial critics.

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