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The Error of Amillennialism

Posted by Matt Postiff January 17, 2018 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Eschatology  Bible Texts 

I read Tim Challies' article about why he is not dispensational and was interested to find that his defense of amillennialism was basically that it was the position he was taught from youth, and he had not been convinced otherwise since that time.

I believe pretribulational premillennialism most accurately represents the Biblical teaching on God's plan for the future. This view is sometimes called dispensational premillennialism, to distinguish it from historic premillennialism. I have written on it in prior blog posts (here, here, and here).

This view relies on the principle of literal interpretation, in which words are understood according to the plain meaning. This is not the principle used by amillennialism or postmillennialism. And that is not a straw-man charge: consider this quote referenced by Challies regarding the definition of amillennialism:

Allison: "With respect to eschatology, the position that there is no (a-) millennium, or no future thousand-year period of Christ's reign on earth...Key to this position is its nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20:1-6: Satan’s binding is God’s current restraint of him, enabling the gospel to advance everywhere. Saints who rule are Christians who have died and are now with Christ in heaven. At the end of this present age, Christ will defeat a loosed Satan, ushering in the last judgment, the resurrection, and the new heaven and earth." (The Baker Compact Dictionary of Theological Terms).

Note well that the nonliteral interpretation of Revelation 20 is key to this view. I could never believe such a notion, and so amillennialism is basically dead on arrival when it comes to my doorstep. I argue opposite, that the literal interpretation is key to understanding this portion, and indeed any portion, of the Bible. And in fact, the literal interpretation is feasible. It presents no impossible difficulties.

A critical review of Allison's definition raises several deficiencies in it. First, Satan is not presently bound in any meaningful sense of the term "bound." 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking people to devour. He freely deceives individuals and nations throughout the world.

Second, the gospel has not advanced everywhere: certainly not in closed countries; and even in open countries it is now on the decline. This agrees with the pessimistic view that the Bible presents about mankind and its sin (2 Timothy 3:1, 13; 4:3).

Third, the ruling saints, if they are ruling from heaven, are not doing a very visible or effective job of their rule. There is no territorial realm which they rule over; there are no people they rule over; and their ruling function does not appear to be exercised here on earth. World conditions hardly indicate the uniformity and righteousness that would be present if in fact glorified saints were in charge of things. Furthermore, there seems to be little or nothing that requires ruling in a perfect heaven.

Fourth, Allison says that the saints who rule with Christ had died and are now ruling in heaven. But the text of Revelation is explicit that they "came to life" (CSB, ESV, NAS, NET, NIV). That is, they were resurrected and then reigned with Christ!

Fifth, the kingdom is always portrayed in the Bible as future and earthly. To redefine the rule as present and heavenly is another example of how a nonliteral interpretation does damage to the plain meaning of Scripture. I am aware that this assertion demands proof. That will have to be taken up another time.

Sixth and finally, at least for this brief critique, it needs to be noted that the Bible is explicit that there are (at least) two resurrections. They are separated by a period of 1000 years. There is not one general resurrection.

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