Since we were recently asked a question on our blog about our thoughts on amillennialism, we wanted to provide a brief discussion on the subject. Before we get to the heart of the question I think it is wise to make two introductory statements.
First, we want to note that we have many dear friends and ministry allies that are amillennialists. We have had amillennialists teach at our conferences and speak from our pulpit. So, while amillennialism is not the position of our church, we are not opposed to being friends and ministry partners with those who believe amillennialism is biblical.
Second, while we believe everything the Bible teaches is important because it is in God’s Word, there are some truths that are more important in terms of how we function than others. For example, no systematic theology book of which I am aware places the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation at the top of the outline. Why not? Some truths simply are more important or more central than others. To say it another way, there are certain issues that are core truths and there are other issues that are not. Therefore, our church attempts to place its focus and energy on those core truths … the gospel of the Lord Jesus, substitutionary atonement, the trinity, the importance of winning people to Christ and teaching them the commands of Christ. We are fired up about Jesus and all that Jesus has done and continues to do in building his church. This means that while we have a position on the end times, we don’t believe it is more important than our unity of being passionately pursuing our Savior.
With those comments in mind, here is how we would answer the question.
What is amillennialism and premillennialism?
It might be wise to begin with a definition (so we are all on the same page). Amillennialism is the belief that there will be no earthly reign of the Lord Jesus and therefore, there will be no millennium. In this system, the final judgment will immediately follow the second coming of Christ and will initiate the final states for both the wicked and the righteous. Amillennialists interpret the “millennium” described in the book of Revelation as a symbol for an unspecified period of time occurring in the present.
Premillennialism is the belief that Jesus will return and reign on the earth for 1,000 years. The conclusion of the 1,000 years begins the final judgment and the eternal state for the righteous and the wicked. In contrast to amillennialism, premillennialists believe that the millennium is not a symbol for the present time, but rather a literal 1,000 year yet to come in the future. Some premillennialists have been criticized for not concluding that Jesus reigns forever. We want to make it clear that while our church believes in a literal, earthy reign of Jesus, we also argue that Jesus will reign forever and his kingdom will have no end.
Why is our church premillennial rather than amillennial in its understanding of the end time events?
While this question could require a very long answer with many different points of discussion along the way, we can summarize the reasons into two basic points.
Point 1: Desire to take Revelation literally
Revelation 20:4-6 make two points that encourage a premillennial understanding: (1) there are two resurrections, one at the beginning and the other at the end of the 1,000 years; (2) there is a statement itself of a 1,000 year reign. This second point is particularly significant when combined with the chronological features of Revelation 19-21. In our judgment, the proper understanding of this passage would require a premillennial understanding. Some of you may be familiar with Tom Schreiner, a professor at Southern Seminary. In a sermon delivered in his church, he explains why he believes Revelation 20 encourages a premillennial understanding (in the sermon he confesses that he was previously an amillennialist).
http://cliftonbaptist.org/sermons/?series=2 [June 14, 2009]
Point 2: The Kingdom promises and biblical covenants
A second reason that Faith has held to a premillennial understanding of the end times is based on the covenants made to Abraham, Israel, and David. We have not been convinced that the NT spiritualizes those covenants and makes them completely fulfilled in the church. This means that even though there are many Israel-church connections and continuity in the Bible that there remains discontinuity. When the OT promises and covenants are understood in this manner then one would expect that future events would ultimately complete and fulfill those promises.
If you are interested in additional reading we would suggest two books (although there are literally hundreds of books available).
- A Case for Premillennialism. In this book, the authors trace premillennial ideas in both the Old and New testaments. This book is written from a “dispensational-premillennial” view – which is the view of our church.
- A Case for Historic Premillennialism. In this book, the author provides evidence for premillennialism and also seek to offer reasons why a historic premill understanding of the Bible is better than that of dispensational premill.