Tuesday, May 25, 2021

A Study of Prophecy - Covenant A-Millennial Theology

Introduction

A-Millennialism is the eschatological view of historic Lutheran and Reformed (Calvinist) Christianity. It is the official view of the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps two-thirds of the Christian family espouse an A-Millennial eschatology.

Prior to Augustine the predominant view of eschatology was Pre-Millennial. It was Augustine that presented the A-Millennial view and in so doing, caused quite a stir. The Augustinian view of A-Millennialism was quickly adopted by the Roman Catholic Church, because it enhanced the importance of the church. It allowed the church to claim all of the promises given to Israel as their own, and in so doing gave the Roman Catholic Church the belief that they had the right to rule over all the nations of earth. (Christ in Prophecy - A-Millennial Problems - https://christinprophecy.org/articles/amillennial-problems/)

Interestingly, when Augustine was questioned about the Millennium he claimed that the Millennium started at the cross and would continue for a literal 1000 years. When the Lord failed to appear after 1000 years, A-Millennialist simply spiritualized the 1000 years to mean an indefinite period of time. Augustine did not deny that there would be a Millennium, he just claimed that it was a spiritual reign of Christ through the church during the church age. David Reagan explains:

"We live in a world that is rotten to the core. The Bible says that during the Millennium, “the earth will be flooded with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). The nations of the world today are all in rebellion against God and His Anointed One. The prophecies say that during the Millennium the nations will all be in subjection to the Lord and will glorify His name (Psa 22:27-31). If the Lord is reigning over the nations of the world today, He is doing a very poor job of it. Isaiah says that when the Lord reigns, the world will be characterized by peace, righteousness, and justice (Isa 9:7).

The amillennial response to this is usually to argue that we are in the Millennium because the Holy Spirit is in the world restraining evil. If the Holy Spirit were not here, things would be much worse. Thus, relatively speaking, we are in the Millennium."

When Augustine was questioned about the Tribulation period, he responded that we were simultaneously in the Tribulation and the Millennium. Tribulation because the church will suffer persecution until the Lord returns, and Millennium because the Holy Spirit is restraining evil. Augustine dismissed the specification of a seven year period as simply symbolic.

In addition to the tribulation being spiritualized, A-Millennialist also spiritualize the binding of Satan (Rev 20:1-3), the nations are still being deceived, and Satan is still called the "ruler of this world" (Joh 16:11). They also conflate different judgments into a single end of Millennium judgment (Act 24:15, Rev 20:5-6, Dan 12:2)

Leading contemporary A-Millennial theologians would include popular writers such as J. I. Packer, Mike Horton, [the late] Calvin seminary professor, Anthony Hoekema, William E. Cox, Oswald T. Allis, R. Ludwigson, Louis Berkoff, William Hendrickson, William B. Eerdsman, Authur Lewis, and RC Sproul.

A-Millennial Church Age Timeline

A-Millennialist equate the church age with the Millennium. They are one and the same. Thus, "A" is not an accurate description of what is believed about the millennium, however, it is the generally accepted term, even by A-Millennialist. Some prefer "realized" Millennialism as a more accurate definition.

From First Coming to Start of Tribulation

Jesus came to earth and defeated Satan. Satan is now bound and on probation with limited powers.

Having defeated Satan, Jesus instituted the Millennial Kingdom of
Rev 20:1-6. The Millennium will continue for an indeterminate length of time from the first to the second coming of Christ.

God presently reigns in the hearts of His people, the church, aka. spiritual Israel.

The church was warned tribulation would occur.

From Tribulation to the Second Coming

This tribulation will grow progressively worse until it culminates with the appearance of the Antichrist. A great apostasy occurs during this time.

The Satan will be restored to complete power for a short time. This loosing of Satan will come near the end of the millennial period, and last until the second coming of Christ.

Christ's second appearance will be in bodily form. At this appearing, Satan will be cast into hell.

At this second coming, there will be a general resurrection of all the dead of all time. This will be followed immediately by a judgment, separating the righteous from the wicked.

From Second Coming to the Eternal State

The earth will be purified and cleansed by fire. The eternal state of Rev 21 and 22 will become a reality.

The saints of all time will reign in this eternal state, glorifying God for all eternity. 

The wicked will spend eternity in hell.

Branches of A-Millennialism

Preterism

Preterism is an understanding that all prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD. There is no future Millennial Kingdom, nor does Israel have a place in God's future plans.

Partial Preterism is an understanding that most prophecy was fulfilled by 70AD, with the exception for a future return of Christ to earth and a future resurrection and judgment. There is no future Millennial Kingdom, nor does Israel have a place in God's future plans.

A-Millennial Summary

Basic Principles of Interpretation

  • Spiritualization of Scripture

  • Old Testament Promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Church

  • The Millennium is nowhere found in scripture except in Rev 20:1-6, which being a book of signs and symbols is to be interpreted symbolically.

    To A-Millennialist the Millennial period is just a "long period of time" between the two comings of Jesus to earth.

  • Christ is reigning today in peoples hearts of believers on earth and souls in heaven.

  • The "first resurrection" is the new birth of believers, which triggers the reign of Christ. Rev 20:5-6 says it is the resurrection of the dead at the end of the Millennial period.

The Nature of the Kingdom

The Kingdom is Spiritual and heavenly and not political and earthly.

  • Repentance and the new birth are necessary for entrance into this spiritual kingdom

  • The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 2:20-21) characterize the kingdom.

  • Christ's Kingdom is in heaven, not in the earthly Jerusalem.

  • The Kingdom prophecies of the OT given to Israel are fulfilled in the church. The Church is the "true Israel". National birth as a son of Jacob does not guarantee spiritual blessing.

From Donald J. Clairmont

"Premillennialism, The Case for an Earthly Reign:

In contrast to the claim of those (Amillennialist) who say there is “no indication in these verses (Rev 20:1-7) that John is describing an earthly millennial reign” (Anthony A. Hoekema), there are at least five reasons to believe that the millennial reign will take place on earth and not in heaven.

  1. Rev 5:10, identifies the location of the saints’ reign to be “upon the earth.”

  2. When the seventh (7th) trumpet sounds in Rev 11:15, heavenly voices proclaim, “The kingdom of the ‘world’ has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever,”.

  3. The elimination of Satan’s activities and influence on earth is part of what makes the millennial reign possible (the binding of Satan is unnecessary for a millennial reign that takes place in heaven).

  4. Rev 20:9, indicates that the saints who reign for a thousand years are living “on the broad plain of the earth.”

  5. Revelation teaches that Messiah will return to earth to defeat the nations, Rev 19:11-16, after which He will reign for a thousand years, Rev 20:4-6"

Concerning Establishment of the Kingdom

The Kingdom started at Christ's first coming, since Christ said the Kingdom was at hand. The Kingdom is present in the hearts of believers. (Mat 11:12, Luk 7:21)

  • Jesus and John the Baptist said the Kingdom was "at hand".

  • Jesus announced a worldwide kingdom (Joh 1:19 to Joh 4:45).

  • The Kingdom was offered to Gentiles as well as Jews.

Final Form of Kingdom

  • Good and evil coexist in the kingdom today. (Wheat and tares)

  • Evil will grow worse and worse, and evil will increase persecution of the good.

  • The end of the age will be the rise of the Anti-Christ and a super political, economic and religious force.

  • Great numbers of believers will be killed, this is the time of great tribulation.

  • Christ will return and gather the "tares" and righteousness will shine forth then as the eternal kingdom of God (Mat 13:14).

Interpretation of Millennial Passage in Rev 20

  • The passage describes the souls between the first and second coming of Christ.

  • The "first resurrection" is the rebirth of the believer.

  • The other resurrection is when Christ returns and there is a general resurrection.

  • Satan has been bound during this time, limiting his ability to harass believers. He's on a sort of probation.

  • Satan is loosed just before the second coming, and is destroyed when it appears that Satan and his hosts will have won the battle at Armageddon.

The Spiritual Millennium Will End This Way

  • General resurrection of the dead

  • Living saints transfigured and called up to be with Christ.

  • After the saints are called up, the final judgment.

  • The old earth and heaven pass away, the eternal kingdom established on a new heaven and earth.

A-Millennial Differences of Opinion

  • Some say the Millennial Kingdom is in hearts, others in heaven.

  • Most go with Augustine and say it is in the church.

  • Some have differences as to how long the Millennium would last. Augustine said until 650 AD, others will the fall of Rome in 476 AD.

About Israel

The views of A-Millennialist is based on Covenant Theology. Fruchtenbaum quotes Cox:

  • God only had one spiritual people, represented by the "remnant" in each generation.

  • God's promises to Israel were conditional.

  • All earthly promises to Israel have been fulfilled in the church or invalidated due to Israel's disobedience and unbelief.

  • Israel was a type of the church and was superseded by the church.

  • The Church was prophesied in the OT, using OT language.

  • Christ is Israel's only hope, and Jews will be saved only if they accept him during THIS age. (Content of faith was Christ and His sacrificial death.)

  • The first coming of Christ completed Israel's redemption, and from that came the "Israel of God" of Gal 6:16.

  • Christ instituted a Jewish-Gentile church.

  • All remaining unfulfilled prophecies will be fulfilled in the church. This does not represent a change in God's plan, but evidences progressive revelation.

Sources

Israelology - The Missing Link in Systematic Theology - Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

Is the Church the Kingdom

https://christinprophecy.org/articles/is-the-church-the-kingdom/

A Defense of (Reformed) A-Millennialism

https://www.prca.org/articles/amillennialism.html?fbclid=IwAR2DAUxJ3e4psvkk7IOfWQAEHqTrsV6T2Ao92CHMr0k0HwXg6VKkgrEmNNw#No2

A-Millennial Problems

https://christinprophecy.org/articles/amillennial-problems/

Has the Church Replaced Israel

https://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-error-of-replacement-theology/

Eschatology Comparison

https://www.fivesolas.com/esc_chrt.htm





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