Thursday, June 17, 2010

Problems with Amillennialism

Problems with Amillennialism: by tim Etherington

One of the most difficult issues of most Christians is to understand eschatology and all of the neuances of meaning that go along with the end times. I have no doubt that Christians will continue to debate (hopefully in an irenic way) these issue for the good and growth of the church. As I was reading some articles I stumbled upon this article that affirms Covenantal or Historic Premillennialism and states the problems (not in a stawman sort of way) with amillennialism. Read and enjoy and tell me what you think.

Tim states:
I kind of hate to post this but a list was posted of Sam Storms’ problems with Premillennialism so I thought I should say something. I read Storms’ list of “problems” and am fine with all of them from the context of my understanding of the Millennium. I might respond to his list at some point.

In another setting, I’d said, “Eschatology is a tough nut to crack. It is like an ill-fitting jacket. Okay overall, pinches in a spot or two. You just have to decide which placed you’re okay being pinched.” I believe this is essentially true. From my perspective Dispensational Premillennialism pinched in far too many places. Amillennialism seemed to fit pretty well till I’d worn the jacket for a while then I noticed the pinches and they became uncomfortable. Postmillennialism always seemed like a jacket with three arms or something. I could never get that one to fit though I do appreciate its optimism. What I’ve found is that Historic Premillennialism embraces all the strengths of these other perspectives and pinches in a few spots that I’m currently OK with.

Anyway, here goes with my list of some of the problems. If you are Amillennialist there are some important things you must reckon with:

You must necessarily must read New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming the same way Jews read Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ First Coming. This thought came from George Eldon Ladd:

From the Old Testament perspective, the church age is not seen…There are indeed prophecies which describe the coming of a Messianic personage in suffering and humility such as Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 9:9-10, other prophecies which describe the victorious King of the Davidic Line (Isaiah 9, 10), as well as a prophecy of the coming of a heavenly Son of Man in Daniel 7. But the Old Testament does not relate these several prophecies to one another, either theologically or chronologically. God will finally act to redeem his people, and different prophets describe this eschatological redemption in different terms. The Old Testament makes no effort to synthesize the prophecies; and the effort to decide which prophecies apply to the church age, which apply to the millennial era, and which belong to The Age to Come ignores this basic fact of the prophetic perspective. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

What Ladd is saying is that in the Old Testament, the prophets and the prophetic message didn’t clearly articulate a space between the events of Jesus First Coming (the Suffering Servant) and those of his Second Coming (reigning Davidic King). The perspective of the Old Testament prophets was that those events appeared to happen at once. That is why the Apostles expected Jesus to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6) before his ascension. They did not yet understand that there would be a time period between Christ’s two comings.

Non-millennialists do the same thing with the New Testament explanations of the events of Jesus Second Coming and the ushering in of the New Heavens and New Earth. Ladd again:

One would never discover this fact [of the Millennial reign of Christ] from most of the New Testament because it sees the future like a two-dimension canvas in terms of length and breadth without depth. The transition between the two ages is viewed as though it were one simple event, even as the Old Testament prophets looked forward to a single Day of the Lord. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 38

And

From the New Testament perspective, the eschatological act of God is usually viewed as a single day which will introduce The Age to Come. However, the Revelation of John, as well as I Corinthians 15: 20-28, indicates that there are yet to be two eschatological stages in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

You must conflate what are clearly two separate resurrections into one. In Revelation 20:4 John says that he saw that “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus…came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” In verse 13 the sea and Death and Hades give up the dead and they are judged. The Amillennialist must deal these two resurrections, separated by “a thousand” years, in such a way that there is only one resurrection at Christ’s return. Some Amillennialists have said that the first resurrection is speaking of regeneration, the new birth. Regeneration is passing from spiritual death to spiritual life. (Eph 2:5) But consider how those who were raised in Revelation 20 are described. It is those “who had been beheaded” who “had not worshiped the beast” or “received its mark”. They were not brought to life before they did these things in order that they might be able to do them, it was after they had done these things that they were brought to life. In other words, as John describes it they did regenerate things, were killed and then were brought to life.

If instead the Amillennialist says that this resurrection actually happens at the same time as the one in verse 13, then what does their reigning with Christ mean? They were raised and then reigned with Jesus. If they are raised at the time of the final judgment how do the reign with him? And why would John mention a specific interval of their reign if they are raised, judged and brought in to the New Heavens and New Earth in one event?

You must reconcile the present binding of Satan in order that he may not deceive the nations with verses in the New Testament that indicate that he is still actively deceiving people. One of the verses that bothered me enough to move me out of the Amillennialism was 2Co 4:4 “In their case the god of this world 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.” If Satan is currently bound as he is described to be in Revelation 20:1-3, then he should not be able to “blind the minds of unbelievers.”

That is not to say that at the cross Jesus didn’t in some sense bind Satan. Matthew 12:28-29 indicates that Jesus’ ministry and that of his followers of casting out demons was in essence binding the strong man and plundering his house. But that appears to be different than Satan’s binding where he is remove and bound more fully not so that demons can be cast out of people, but that his deceptive powers over humanity are removed. The non-millennialist usually equates the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 with the binding of the strong man in Matthew 12 and exegetically that appears to require some justification.

You must believe that the present earth will never be set free from its bondage under sin but will be destroyed and recreated. Under a non-millennial view, Jesus returns to earth, judges the living and in the dead and ushers in the final state in one cataclysmic event. According to 2Pt 3:10-12 on the Day of the Lord the creation will be dissolved and judgment will come. There is no deliverance of creation, only a day when it is replaced. But Romans 8 indicts that creation is waiting a day when it will be delivered from the futility it was subjected to at the fall. If there is not a time when peace reigns on the earth but there is only recreation, creation is not waiting for deliverance but destruction. It would be like a hostage waiting for friendly forces to come and shoot him rather than liberate him.

We experience rebirth before resurrection. There is a period for us when we are born again but are not glorified. We have redeemed hearts but unredeemed bodies. The non-millennialist must believe that this “now and not yet” does not apply to the rest of creation even though verses like those in Isaiah 11 describe a time when the earth is at peace with itself, not yet burned up and replaced.

You must see the reign of the promised Davidic King as only ever partial on this earth. The non-millennialist sees currently Jesus reigning from heaven, as he truly is, and must accept that as sufficient. Though he is promised to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Isa 11:4, Ps 2, Rev 2:25-27), he actually will only rule his church on this earth. We do not see Jesus rule this way yet (Heb 2:6-9) but there is a day coming when he will (1Co 15:24-28).

We do not see Jesus rule the nations in this manner now and for the non-millennial view, he never will. The nations rage under God’s sovereign control as they have all along (Dan 7). But what seems to be pictured in many verses is the significant, earthly reign of the Davidic King over the nations of the earth. As I mentioned above, the Apostles still had this hope when Jesus ascended to heaven. His answer to them did not sound particularly amillennial; “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 2:7) An amillennial answer might have been more along the lines of “Yes I shall as you receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Instead Jesus tells them to not worry about when that will happen but that they will first be his witnesses to the nations under the hope of that coming day when Jesus will rule in that fashion.
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1 comment:

  1. I have read and heard these problems with amillennialism before, but not in more convincing way. Thanks for the post.

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