This is the first post of a series on Christian beliefs about the Last Days. The first view we are going to look at is Amillennialism. I actually appreciate this view mainly because it is the most simple view of eschatology. Also, many popular theologians hold fast to this view, including such prominent figures as J.I. Packer and Sam Storms. One quick note: I used Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for a good majority of research, as well as a video entitled, An Evening Of Eschatology, that was filmed at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN and hosted by pastor John Piper. If you are interested, at the end of this study, I’ll put out some further reading you can do if eschatology interests you further.
The Problem Text At Hand
We’re going to come back to this text a number of times during our study, but I want to show it now so we can see why amillennialists hold to their theory:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
On the surface this view looks very promising. To quote Mr. Grudem, “According to this position the passage in Revelation 20.1-10 describes the present church age. This is an age in which Satan’s influence over the nations has been greatly reduced so that the gospel can be preached to the whole world. Those who are said to be reigning with Christ for the thousand years are Christians who have died and are already reigning with Christ in heaven.” This is the basic belief of Amillennialists. When you boil it all down to its simplest form, that’s what they believe.
Some Distinctions to Keep In Mind
In the view of Amillenialism, the thousand years of Christ's reign is currently happening. Also notice that there is no tribulation as Premillennialists and Postmillennialists ascribe to. The third important thing to notice is there is only one resurrection (more on that in a minute). Both the believers in Christ and unbelievers in Christ are raised at the same time. Directly after the resurrection is the eternal state (New Heavens and New Earth, New Jerusalem). Now it is time to look at some of the arguments from Scripture why Amillennialists believe the way they do.
Arguments For Amillenialism
The first argument that Amillennialists make is they feel that Satan is currently bound to the extent that Revelation 20:2-3 says he is. “According to the Amillennial interpretation the binding of Satan in verses 1-2 (of Revelation 20) is the binding that occurred during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He spoke of binding the strong man in order that he may plunder his house (Matthew 12.29) and said that the Spirit of God was at that time present in power to triumph over demonic forces: ‘If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matthew 12.28). Similarly, with respect to the breaking of Satan’s power, Jesus said during his ministry, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18)” (pg. 1115).
The second argument for Amillennialism is that Amillennialists hold that there is only one resurrection. They explain the “first resurrection” described in the Revelation 20 passage as “going to heaven to be with the Lord. This is not a bodily resurrection but a coming into the presence of God in heaven. In a similar way, when verse 5 says, ‘The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended,’this is understood to mean they did not come into God’s presence for judgment until the end of the thousand years’” (p. 1115). And to quickly point out, Amillennialists also believe the “first resurrection” can mean Christ’s resurrection, and the believer’s participation with Christ in that by means of salvation.
The third argument for amillennialism is that if there were a “future millennium, the very idea of 'glorified believers and sinners living together' is too difficult to accept” (p. 1116). This is a good point, and I pondered this myself when examining all views of the millennium in preparation for these posts. To quote Berkhof, “It is impossible to understand how a part of the old earth and of sinful humanity can exist alongside a part of the new earth and of a humanity that is glorified. How can perfect saints in glorified bodies have communion with sinners in the flesh? How can glorified sinners live in this sin-laden atmosphere and amid scenes of death and decay?”(p. 1116).
Lastly, the millennium seems to have no intended purpose. “Once the church age has ended and Christ has returned, then what is the reason for delaying the start of the eternal state?"
Arguments Against Amillenialism
So now that the arguments have been made for Amillennialism, let’s look at the rebuttals. In regards to argument one, this idea that Satan is bound in the current church age so that the gospel can spread unhindered is a little far fetched for me to believe personally. I have two simple points of rebuttal:
- An unobservant person can take a look at the current state of the world and see that Satan is not being bound, but is the main thrust of evil and sin in the world.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “ In their case (speaking of those who are perishing) the god of this world (emphasis mine)has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (ESV).” That doesn’t sound to me like Satan is bound. You could just as easily point to Ephesians 6:11-12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, as well as other New Testament texts.
Secondly, amillennialists try to insist that the Scriptures only teach one resurrection on the argument that the Bible is vague on this matter. However, you cannot simply ignore Revelation 20 on this. It says there will be a first and second resurrection, implying therefore, that there will be a second. “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:5-6). This passage makes it clear: if you are not in the “first resurrection”, then you are included in the “rest of the dead”. And if you are a part of the “rest of the dead” then there is a clear, definite teaching on two resurrections. FYI, other passages that amillennialists try to use to justify one resurrection are normally implications as opposed to truths. See Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29 for specific examples.
Thirdly, in the matter of glorified believers and sinners on the earth together is indeed hard to imagine, but the main evidence is Jesus. He spent forty days post-resurrection in a glorified body teaching and speaking to people. Also, remember after Christ’s death, there were those who were dead who were raised alive (Matt. 28:17). For some reason that story never made it on to the felt board in Sunday School when I was a kid. Weird. The idea is odd, but not out of the realm of possibility.
Fourthly, the purpose of the millennium may indeed lay a mystery until Christ’s return, but even if that is the case, isn’t God trustworthy enough to know what He’s doing? Grudem summarizes this point in three ways:
- God uses the millennium to “show the outworking of God’s purposes in the structure of society, especially the structures of the family and civil government.”
- The millennium will further vindicate God’s righteousness (towards those who will rebel against God in the end).
- The millennium will reveal “God’s good pleasure to unfold his purposes and reveal more and more of His glory gradually over time.” (p. 1121)
Wrapping It All Up
So that’s Amillennialism, and I spell it wrong every time I type it! Hopefully by the end of this entire discussion on eschatology, we come back to a point we harp on a lot at The Voice: READ YOUR BIBLES. You can’t disagree with what you don’t know, and you only look ignorant when you make proof texts as your arguments. I know my personal Bible study has been enriched by this study, and as we move on to the other views of eschatology, it will become vital that we are rooted in truth as we try to explain things the way the Apostle John unpacks them, as well as how we interpret these passages. I pray that Christ would find us faithful to His word, and we echo the words of John where He says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” May Your kingdom come on this earth as it is in heaven Lord. For Your beautiful name in all the earth, come.