What is Amillennialism?
The name “amillennialism” does not adequately characterize the eschatological system. Etymologically, the word means “no millennium,” since the prefix “a” in Greek negates the word to which it is connected. Amillennialists, however, don't adhere to the non-existence of a millennium, but just that it 's not a literal 1,000 year period.
Amillennialism is by far the most dominant eschatological position in the history of Christianity. The view is held by the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, and by a large segment of Protestantism. In recent years, amillennialism has seen an increase in adherents due in part to the decline of dispensationalism. Stanley Grenz writes: “[A]millennialism has benefited from the efforts of those who have questioned the validity of dispensationalism in a context in which postmillennialism was perceived as no longer a viable option.”
Where as postmillennialism holds that the millennium will be inaugurated by means of the Church preaching the gospel, and premillennialsim holds that the millennium will begin after the seven-year tribulation, amillennialism believe the millennium began with Christ’s first coming and will continue until Christ’s second coming.
Amillennialism can be graphed in the following manner:
Christ Second Coming
Church Age = The Millennium The Eternal State
Amillennialists interpret the millennium figuratively. The 1,000 years, they argue, means a long, undetermined amount of time. They argue that numbers throughout the book of Revelation are figurative and so to maintain a consistent hermeneutic, they contend that the millennial period is understood in the same manner. In the context of Revelation, amillennialists contend that key passages are not chronologically arranged.
Paul Benware elaborates:
"Important to the amillennial approach is this view that Revelation 20 (on the Millennium) does not follow chronologically from Revelation 19, which describes the second coming of Christ. Instead, Revelation 20 is said to give additional information on the period of time between the two comings of Christ. The statements of Revelation 20 concerning the two resurrections and the binding of Satan must, therefore, be interpreted accordingly."
As Benware notes, the two resurrections mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 are important to the amillennial system. The first resurrection is a spiritual one, associated with the individual accepting Christ. The second resurrection is a physical one that will occur after the millennial period. Amillennialists further hold that Satan is currently bound in the world. They do not believe Satan is immobile and powerless, but that he is restricted and limited.
The Last Days
Amillennialism emphasizes New Testament passages that call the time immediately following the resurrection of Christ the “last days.” To the amillennialist, this means that the millennium began with Christ and although the phrase “last days” seemingly conveys a short period of time, it apparently means more than 2,000 years since Christ has not yet returned. The amillennialist suggests the phrase refers to the final era of history.
An important passage to the amillennialist is Acts 2:17-21. In this passage, Peter addresses a crowd and quotes the Old Testament prophet, Joel. The passage reads:
“In the last days,” God says, “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophecy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and sings on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.".
The larger context of this passage is the coming of the Holy Spirit, which occurred shortly after Christ’s resurrection and ascension. Peter calls this time the “last days” by means of quoting the Old Testament prophet, Joel. Therefore, to the amillennia list, the world has been in an eschatological stage since the time of Christ. Amillennialists also believe that Revelation 20:1-6 is a glimpse and description of this current stage.
Amillennialists also cite Hebrews 1:1-2 in their argument.
“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” writes the author of Hebrews,” but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe” (NIV).
Again, the phrase “last days” is associated with the first coming of Christ. Likewise, 1 Peter 1:20 tell of the “last days” being associated with Christ: “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” Other passages amillennialist cite have to do with Jesus as the true Israel. Adherents believe that the promises given to Israel in the Old Testament are fulfilled spiritually in the person of Christ and in the Church. Amillennialist, Robert B. Strimple writes:
All evangelical Christians are accustomed to viewing the Old Testament sacrifices and feasts and ceremonies as being types that is teaching tools pointing forward to the work of Christ. Why then should the elements that we will consider now – the land of Canaan, the city of Jerusalem, the temple, the throne of David, the nation Israel itself – not be understood using the same interpretive insight that we use in interpreting the sacrifices and ceremonies?
Unlike postmillennialism and premillennialism, amillennialism does not believe the nation of Israel has a unique, forthcoming time, distinct from Gentiles. Because Christ fulfills the promises given to Israel, amillennialists believe God is finished with Israel as a national entity. Whether Christ and the Church are separate from Israel or distinct is a crucial point of contention among eschatological systems.
For their argument on this issue, amillennialists cite Isaiah 42:1-7. The passage reads:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on Him and He will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness He will bring forth justice; He will not falter or be discouraged till He establishes justice on earth. In His law the islands will put their hope.” This is what God the Lord says – “He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: I the Lord have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness."
Amillennialism suggests that the individual spoken of in this passage is Christ, who is the fulfillment of the promises given to Israel. In such passages, adherents believe that the nation of Israel is the Lord’s Servant, but acknowledge that their interpretation is only clear by looking back on the passage. (They suggest that even Isaiah did not know what he was writing about.) Amillennialists cite 1 Peter 1:10-11 for support:
“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (NIV, emphasis mine).
Even Peter did not understand how the prophecies would be fulfilled.