4 Mar 2024

I hope you’ve seen up to this point that this subject can be is rather tricky. As we’ve worked through the preliminaries, terms, definitions, hermeneutics, and so forth, we have seen a few different roads that we can follow as they wind towards the end of days. And you can take comfort in the fact that if you are having trouble navigating these roads, you are not alone, in fact, you are in rather good company.

Throughout the history of Christianity there have been three dominant views:

  • amillennialism (the millennium is not a literal 1000-year period, and it was ushered in when Christ ascended)
  • premillennialism (Jesus will set up his kingdom prior to ushering in the millennium)
  • postmillennialism (the millennium is a time when the church will have an increasing influence and victory over the world which culminates in Jesus returning to a victorious church)

Actually, these three views can almost be seen as four since premillennialism is divided into two camps, historic and dispensational, and these two, though they share the belief that Jesus will return prior to a literal 1000-year reign, are actually quite different.  In fact, historic premillennialism has more in common with amillennialism than it does with its dispensational cousin.

The fact that this topic is difficult to navigate and has been debated throughout the history of the church doesn’t excuse us from trying to figure it out – wrestling with the word of God is one way we are sanctified. If we believe that Jesus speaks to us through His word written, then we should want to understand what He’s telling us, right?

So, now, finally, we outline the main positions, and the view we’ll be looking at in this post is amillennialism (which also happens to be the view I hold.) We could go into much more detail about this and all the other positions, so consider these next few posts to be 30,000-foot views, highlights really.

Amillennial literally means “no millennium”, but what is meant by the term is not that there is no reign of Jesus or kingdom for Him to rule, but rather that there is no literal 1000-year millennium.  This view teaches that the 1000 years is symbolic of Christ reigning in the hearts, minds, and lives of His people.  In other words, from the ascension until Christ’s second coming, we are living in the millennium and are awaiting the physical return of Christ to usher in eternity.

This view of the millennium seems to have been taught by Augustine (AD 354 – AD 430) and quickly became the majority view of the church.  A strange bit of history related to amillennialism – during the Reformation in the 1500’s, even though the Reformers were rejecting many things that the Roman Catholic church taught, they held onto this view of the end times.

Amillennialism teaches the following main points about the millennial kingdom:[1]

  • that Jesus is presently reigning from heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father
  • that Jesus also is and will remain with the church until the end of the world, as he promised at the Ascension
  • that at Pentecost, the millennium began, as is shown by Peter using the prophecies of Joel, about the coming of the kingdom, to explain what was happening
  • the church and its spread of the good news is Christ’s kingdom

Virtually all who subscribe to this view are post-tribulational and as such, believe that Christians will suffer through the tribulation and that only when Christ comes back to set up his eternal kingdom will we go to meet Him in the air.

Pictures are worth thousands of words, so here’s a pretty decent picture of the amillennial position.

In amillennialism, the millennium was inaugurated at Pentecost, is coincident with the church age and the tribulation, and lasts until Jesus returns for the church to execute final judgment and usher in eternity. It teaches a spiritual kingdom in the hearts and souls of the people of God everywhere which will be made a final, perfect, physical kingdom after the final judgment when the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and all of creation is made new and restored.

Amillennial believers see many references to the kingdom being spiritual:

Matthew 3:1–2 (1) In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (2) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (ESV)

Matthew 6:31–34 (31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (34) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (ESV)

Matthew 12:25–28 (25) Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. (26) And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? (27) And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. (28) But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (ESV)

It also does not make a distinction between the church and Israel as it pertains to how God relates to them and His plans for them:

Romans 9:6–8 (6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, (7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (8) This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. (ESV)

And it sees the church as suffering through the tribulation:

Revelation 13:1–8 (1) And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (2) And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. (3) One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast. (4) And they worshiped the dragon, for he had given his authority to the beast, and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (5) And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. (6) It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. (7) Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, (8) and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (ESV)

It also sees texts like Revelation and the prophecies in Daniel and others to be highly symbolic.  As far as the millennium goes, it sees the thousand years of Revelation 20 as being symbolic, much like other uses of the number 1000:

Psalm 50:9–11 (9) I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. (10) For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. (11) I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. (ESV)

Psalm 90:1–5 (1) Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (2) Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (3) You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” (4) For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. (5) You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: (ESV)

Psalm 105:7–11 (7) He is the Lord our God; his judgments are in all the earth. (8) He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, (9) the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, (10) which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, (11) saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” (ESV)

2 Peter 3:7–8 (7) But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (8) But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (ESV)

In all of those texts, the number 1000 is symbolic and the amillennial believer would say that the thousand years in Revelation 20 is symbolic as well.

Amillennialism would also see the events described in Revelation to be cyclical (describing the same event multiple times from different perspectives) and not chronological, even including the events of Revelation 19 and 20.

OK, so that was a pretty high-level overview of amillennialism in a world where volumes of books have been written covering its finer points! But even as the study of the end times (eschatology) is tricky and sometimes confusing or weird, great joy is found when we dig in.

Why?

Because, ultimately, a study of the end times is a study of the victory of Jesus over sin, Satan, and death!

And because of that, there are some things to keep at the forefront of our minds when thinking through these topics:

  • Jesus wins and will return for His church
  • Every view has strengths and weaknesses
  • Jesus wins and will return for His church
  • Whatever view you hold, hold it with conviction, understanding, and not ignorance
  • Jesus wins and will return for His church
  • Good and godly people have held all of these positions
  • Jesus wins and will return for His church

And remember, Jesus wins and will return for His church!

Studying the end times is a great opportunity to draw closer to God, to pray for wisdom, and to rejoice in the fact that if you are a Christian, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and your inheritance is being kept in heaven for you by the power of God until Jesus returns for you!

Also, if you are not a Christian, it is an opportunity for you to see the surpassing majesty of the King of the universe and realize that the battle belongs to Him and to Him alone. All other armies not only will lose but have already lost. He is powerful. He is mighty. He rules with justice and compassion.

He is your king whether you embrace Him as such or not.

A study of the end is a time to reflect on what it means to be a citizen and what it means to have a king. Everyone is either a citizen of God’s kingdom or a citizen of the kingdom of His enemy, whether you want to believe it or not, and studying this topic gives you a front-row seat into what it looks like to align and fight for a victorious king and also what it looks like to align with and fight for usurpers who ultimately lose the war and are cast into the outer darkness.

It’s about rejoicing in the God who wins, and brings great hope!

Even through tribulation.

 


[1] Theopedia, Amillennialism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amillennialism)

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