AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (1)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
It is right that the child of God should have an interest in future events. For one thing, much is said in the Word of God regarding our future, and we ought to have an interest in a subject that God considers to be of such importance that He says so much about it. Furthermore, the believer’s hope is not based on present things but on future things. As Paul says, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15.19). Since our hope is bound up in future events, we ought to be interested in them. Again, our Lord is now rejected and despised by the world. He does not have His rightful place. We ought to long for and know about the day,when He will be vindicated before all, and when “Every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2.10,11).
Over the years, the teaching (on future events) in assemblies gathered to the Lord’s Name has been very clear, and could be called “Pre-Tribulational, Pre-Millennial”. In other words, that the Lord will return to the air for His church before the Tribulation, and subsequently will return to earth to reign for the 1000 year Millennium.
However this view has not been universally held. Some other views that have been held and propogated from time to time over the years include:—
- Post-Tribulational, i.e. that the Lord’s return will take place after the Tribulation.
- Mid-Tribulational, i.e. that the Lord’s return will take place in the middle of the Tribulation.
- Post-Millennial, i.e. that the Lord will not return until after the Millennium.
A-Millennial, i.e. that there will not be a literal Millennium at all, and the Lord will not return until the end of the world.
It is the last of these different views that will be dealt with in these articles.
“Amillennialism” is a big word, but its meaning is relatively straightforward: The Latin word for a thousand is “Mille” (e.g. a millipede is supposed to have 1000 legs!). The Latin for “years” is “annum”, so millennium is literally “1000 years”. When a word is prefixed by the letter “a” this means, “not” or “against”, i.e. the opposite of what follows it, so “Amillennium” could literally be translated “Not 1000 years”! And so we see that the main argument of Amillennialism is all to do with that capital “A” at the start of the word. Thus we look at some aspects of Amillennialism, all of them starting with that same letter “A”:
- The Advance of Amillennialism
- The Analysis of Amillennialism
- The Arguments of Amillennialism
- The Advocates of Amillennialism
- The Anomalies of Amillennialism
- The Attacks of Amillennialism
The Advance of Amillennialism
The reader could reasonably ask the question, “Why focus on Amillennialism? Surely other theories were mentioned in the introduction. Why not deal with them all?”
There is a reason not to deal with them all, and that is that even to deal with any one of them will take a lot of page space; to try to deal with all of them would take a large book! However, there is a more important reason for concentrating on Amillennialism, and that is it is the belief in which there has been an advance in recent years. Thus this section has been called “The Advance of Amillennialism.”
Post-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation and Post-Millennium theories have all declined in popularity in recent years. It is getting rather difficult to find people who believe them, or at least who are prepared to propagate them. Thus they present little threat to the teaching given in assemblies over the years. The very opposite is the case for Amillennial teaching. It is undoubtedly in the ascendancy. The number of people holding it is increasing rapidly, and they are increasingly confident and vocal in their propagation of it. This has been most marked in so called evangelical circles. There are doubtless many reasons for this, but one is definitely the resurgence in popularity of so-called “Reformed doctrine”, which is held by ever-increasing numbers of evangelical clergymen in different denominations, and which is avowedly and uncompromisingly Amillennial in outlook, and totally dismissive of any other position. Consequently, in denominational “churches” of almost every hue, in seminaries, in books, in magazines, in conferences, in holiday homes, and wherever possible, the Amillennial position is now propagated either without question, or if any alternative is mentioned, it is mentioned only so that it can be contemptuously dismissed. It goes without saying with this being the case among evangelical leaders, the same is increasingly so among their flocks. In evangelical circles today, it takes a strong fish to swim against the strong tide of Amillennialism.
But someone will say, “What you say may be true, but you are describing conditions outside the assemblies. It has not yet become a problem in the assemblies, so why worry us with it? Surely it is all rather abstract and technical. Why should I, as a simple believer, concern myself with this subject at all?” In reply, here are several reasons why believers in assembly fellowship cannot afford to ignore it:—
- As we shall soon see, the issue of Amillennialism is not just an argument about future events. The issue at stake is more fundamental, i.e. Is Scripture to be taken literally or not?
- Although Amillennialism is not as yet taught to any great extent in the assemblies, this is no guarantee that it might not begin to make inroads in days ahead. It is better to counter it before it starts to do the damage, than to wait until the damage has already been done. There are many ways in which it could begin to make inroads. One example will suffice: there is a growing availability of “Reformed” Literature available, often at reduced prices, and it is to be seen in the bookshelves of many believers. There is the danger that its teaching will get beyond the cupboard, into the Christian, and from thence into the company. We need to be on our guard.
- People in assembly fellowship meet others from day to day: at school, at work, in the bus, etc. In the vast majority of cases these will have a background in Amillennialism (whether the person is Roman Catholic, nominal Protestant, or evangelical). It is important that we should know where we stand on the issue, so that we can counter false teaching and speak the truth in love.
- It should ever be our desire and prayer that believers in denominations will see the truth of scriptural gathering, leave their systems, and come into assembly fellowship. Increasingly, such exercised believers will come from Amillennial backgrounds, and these will need sound teaching on future events. Such a responsibility falls on all of us. It is simply not good enough to “brush off those recently received into fellowship with phrases such as “We don’t believe that sort of thing here, and if you continue holding it you should go back where you came from”. We ought not only to know what we believe, but also to be able to explain, courteously and patiently, from the Scriptures, why we believe it.
There is a further valid criticism which could be made of embarking on a study of Amillennialism. Someone may say, “Surely the best way to deal with error is not to concentrate on refuting the error, but rather to teach the truth. Teach the truth and then people have no problems whenever the error comes up”. This is true: the best, indeed the only, way to combat error is to teach the truth, but there are 2 reasons why, in these articles, we will concentrate on the error:
- In this magazine there have been many excellent articles which set forth the positive truth on future events clearly and much more ably than the present writer could possibly do, including “Notes on Revelation” (J. Flanigan), “The Blessed Hope” (D. M. Martin), “The Millennium” (J. E. Todd), “The Great Tribulation” (E. Barker), and “Christ in the Apocalypse” (J.B.D. Page). The reader is referred to these.
- The believer who tries to reason with an Amillennialist on the grounds of what the Scripture teaches will soon find himself up against a difficulty, and it is this: the believer could know and be able to quote to the Amillennialist every verse from Genesis to Revelation which refers to future events, but he will constantly receive back a response which is, in effect, “I know that that is what the Bible says, but it doesn’t actually mean that. It is to be interpreted spiritually, not literally.”
And so, when seeking to combat the error of Amillennialism, we need to know something of how Amillennialism came about, what it is based on, what are its main arguments, and how these can be answered from Scripture.
Amillennialism is on the advance. It is the purpose of these articles to seek to make some little contribution to trying to preserve saints from it. May the Lord give help to reader and writer alike.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (2)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
- The Analysis of Amillennialism
We need to consider what are Amillennialism’s main points. Perhaps the clearest way to do so would be to contrast it with what has generally been held in assemblies over the years, that is:-
When God spoke to Abraham, He made a number of promises to him, promising a blessed future for his seed. These promises were totally unconditional, and thus they will be fulfilled literally to the nation of Israel. These blessings have not been transferred to the church, which is distinct from the nation of Israel, and is a mystery which was not revealed in the Old Testament. After the church has been removed from the earth and the Great Tribulation has taken place, Israel will be restored as a nation to its place as the people of God. Christ will sit on the throne of David, and there will be a period of peace and justice on earth for 1000 years, which we thus call the Millennium, during which the many promises given in the Scriptures will be fulfilled.
And now, by contrast, the Amillennial position:-
When God made the promises to Abraham, these promises were conditional upon obedience by Abraham’s descendants. Due to the nation’s disobedience, they forfeited these blessings, so that they will not be fulfilled literally to the nation of Israel, but rather spiritually to the church. The church is not a distinct entity revealed in the New Testament; rather, it did exist in the Old Testament, and consists of all believers, from Old Testament times right up to now. There will be no restoration of the nation of Israel. Christ will not return to sit on the throne of David; such references in the Scriptures are fulfilled by His present session at His Father’s right hand. There will be no 1000-year reign. The promises of peace and justice in the Scriptures are presently being fulfilled spiritually in the blessings of the church.
Clearly both views cannot be simultaneously correct! In analysing the above views, it would be easy to get into deep water quickly and to lose sight of where we are going. So we will set ourselves 5 questions to answer; questions which deal with key differences in the above 2 points of view:-
- Were the promises given to Abraham unconditional or conditional?
- Will the promises be fulfilled literally (to Israel) or spiritually only, (to the church)?
- Is the church a distinct entity, seen only in the NT, or did it exist in OT times as well?
- Will the nation of Israel be restored, or is their setting aside permanent.
- Will Christ reign on the throne of David, or does this refer to His present glory in Heaven?
We will seek to answer each question in turn. In the interests of space, Scripture references will be given, but the passages will not be quoted. This is because it is assumed that the articles will be read with an open Bible alongside, and that every reference will be looked up and read carefully. The Scripture references are of immeasurably more value than anything that will be said about them.
Question 1: Were the promises given to Abraham unconditional or conditional?
If they were conditional, then Israel could forfeit them by disobedience. Doubtless there was much failure in the nation, so if the promises were conditional, then we have no right to believe that Israel has any hope of receiving them. If, on the other hand, the promises were unconditional, then Israel’s failure does not nullify them, and they must be fulfilled to Israel.
The following show that the promises were unconditional:
1. Once Abraham had obeyed God and left his country and kindred, the covenant with him was stated and repeated several times without any conditions whatsoever (Gen 12 .1-3; 13.14-17; 15.1-7, 18-21; 17.1-18). If it had been conditional, God would have stated the conditions, as He did in the Mosaic Covenant (Ex. 19.5; see also Deut. 28.1-15).
2. Not only was the covenant repeated and amplified to Abraham several times; it was also repeated to Isaac (Gen. 17.19; 26.2-4) and Jacob (Gen. 28.13-15), always without any conditions attached. By the time we have reached Gen. 28 and God states it to Jacob, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have all failed in different ways, yet the covenant is unaffected. It is not nullified by failure on the part of the nation.
3. The Abrahamic Covenant is explicitly referred to as “everlasting” in Scripture (Gen. 17.7,13,19; 1 Chron. 16.16,17; Ps. 105.9,10). A covenant which can be broken by man is not in any sense, everlasting.
4. In solemnizing the covenant (Gen. 15.9-17), only the Lord passed through the pieces. Normally both parties to a covenant passed through the pieces. In this case the covenant did not depend on man for its fulfilment, but entirely on God.
5. Even in the midst of apostasy, God states that He will not cast aside Israel (e.g. Jer, 31.35-37). Failure on the part of the nation does not nullify His promises.
6. Failure on the part of an individual to be circumcised resulted in that person individually losing out on the blessings of the covenant (Gen. 17.14). This shows that disobedience by an individual affected only his own relationship to the covenant; it did not nullify the covenant.
7. In the New Testament, after the nation of Israel has committed the worst sin possible: rejecting and crucifying the Messiah, it is specifically stated that the covenants are still theirs (Rom. 9.3,4 and Ephes. 2.12). Even their rejection of Messiah did not nullify God’s covenants with them.
8. In Rom. 3.1-4, which is most definitely regarding the nation of Israel, Paul makes it abundantly clear that the lack of faith on the part of individual Israelites in no way nullifies the faithfulness of God: “For what if some did not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged”.
9. In Rom. 11.1,2, Paul categorically states that “God hath not cast away His people which he foreknew”. We will return to this passage later, so will not add further here.
There are further reasons, but we trust that sufficient has been said to show that the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant are unconditional, and that thus those which await fulfilment (notably the extent of the borders of the land given in Gen. 15.18-21) will surely be fulfilled. Israel’s disobedience has not nullified the promises of God.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (3)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
- The Analysis of Amillennialism (continued)
Question 2: Will the promises be fulfilled literally (to Israel) or spiritually only (to the church) ?
All are agreed, Amillennialists included, that there are many prophecies in the Old Testament, and also in the New, which have not been literally fulfilled; in particular ones relating to a time of unprecedented tribulation and a time of unprecedented peace on earth the earth. The Amillennialist says that these were never intended to refer to literal events on earth; they have a spiritual fulfilment only. We therefore need to try to determine whether or not we can expect a literal fulfilment for these Scriptures.
The following points are put in favour of a literal fulfilment:
- If we consider again the promises given by God in the Abrahamic Covenant, there are many promises which all must agree have been fulfilled literally. He was promised a great nation stemming from him; blessing; a great name; blessing for those who blessed him; cursing for those that cursed him; blessing for all families of the earth through him; that he would have an heir; that he would be the father of many nations; and that kings would come out of him. These promises have been fulfilled literally. There is not the slightest need to spiritualise any of them. Now when we come to the issue of the promises regarding inheriting the land, which are part of the same covenant, in view of the fact the other promises were literally fulfilled, surely we are entitled to expect that the promises regarding the land will be (also) literally fulfilled. Consistency of interpretation will not allow for anything other than a literal fulfilment. To suggest otherwise is to accuse God of inconsistency; a very serious charge indeed.
- In Genesis 15, Abraham is told by God that it is “this” land which the Lord brought him out of Ur, to inherit (v7). This can only mean the physical land of Canaan. Abraham asks how he will know he is to inherit it (v8), and in response God solemnizes the covenant in a most emphatic way, indicating to him beyond doubt that he will inherit the very land he is standing on. God emphasises again that it is “this” land (vl8). And as if any further proof were needed that it is the literal land of Canaan He is talking about, God precisely delineates its boundaries in vl8—21. In the same passage God predicts the period of suffering in Egypt, referring to it as “a land that is not their’s” (vl3). This clearly refers to a literal land, and it was fulfilled literally. Abraham would have had no doubt whatsoever that God was referring to literal land throughout this passage. To suggest that when God gave such a clear and specific promise and description of the land, He did not have in His mind any intention of ever giving Abraham the land, is not only to rob language of any meaning; a serious enough error in itself, but, more seriously, it is to accuse God of deliberately deceiving Abraham.
- Later references in the OT (e.g. Gen. 50.24 and Ex. 32.13), and, very significantly, in the NT as well (e.g. Acts 7.3—8 and Hebrews 11.9), categorically state that the land Abraham and his seed were promised was the literal land of Canaan.
- But the Amillennialist sometimes goes even further than this. He says that when God made these promises to Abraham’s “seed”, He was not referring to Abraham’s natural descendants at all; He was referring to believers, whether Jews or not. Thus the nation of Israel has no entitlement to the blessings.
Another look at Gen. 15 will answer this point: In vl3 we have already seen that God says “Thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not their’s”, and He goes on to describe the affliction in Egypt, and the Exodus (vl3—16). Thus the term “thy seed” must refer here to the nation of Israel. By no stretch of language or imagination can it mean the church. Abraham would have had no doubt that the term “thy seed” was literal. So for other references to his seed in the promises given. Thus again, on grounds of consistency, of interpretation and the impossibility of God trying to deceive Abraham, we cannot make the word seed mean the church here. Moreover, in Gal. 3.8, 15 Paul makes it clear that the promise “In thee shall all nations be blessed” is fulfilled ultimately in Christ. He was literally a descendant of Abraham, so again the word seed is to be taken literally.
(The writer is aware that the term “seed of Abraham” is also used in a spiritual sense in the N.T. He is not avoiding that issue, and will come to it later. But that is not what we are attempting to determine at the moment. We are trying to decide whether the promises in the OT were meant for Abraham’s literal seed or his spiritual seed, and the above reasons would point to the fact that they were given to the former, and hence will have a literal fulfilment for the nation of Israel.)
Moreover, the promises of the covenant are stated as having been given not only to Abraham’s seed, but also to Isaac’s “seed” (Gen. 17.19) and to Jacob’s “seed” (Gen. 28.13). To support their theories, many Amillennialists must construe the OT references to Abraham’s seed to mean his spiritual seed, due to NT references calling all believers the seed of Abraham. No such construction can however be made from the seed of Isaac or seed of Jacob, as NT believers are never referred to as “Isaac’s seed” or “Jacob’s seed”. The only way these terms can possibly be taken is literally.
Other uses of the word “seed” in Genesis include 7.3, 9.9, 38.8, 46.6, 48.11, and 48.19. Examination of the context in each case shows that each must refer to literal descendants. Neither is there any reason to believe that in the Abrahamic Covenant it refers to anything other than literal descendants.
- The above discussion has been largely confined to the Abrahamic Covenant, but the argument for literal fulfilment goes much further than that. Frequently in the OT we have references to Christ’s first coming, which were fulfilled literally (e.g. that He would be a descendant of David, that He would be born in Bethlehem, that He would be born of a virgin, descriptions of His earthly ministry, the manner of His death, and the circumstances surrounding it). There is not the slightest doubt but that these prophecies were literally fulfilled. But in the same OT, there are many prophecies regarding His return to earth, judgments, a blessed future for Israel, and a time of peace. Often these are side by side with prophecies of His first coming. For example, we do not doubt the literal fulfilment of Isa. 53 at the Lord’s first coming. Why then doubt the literal fulfilment of Isa. 11 and 12 at His second coming? Consistency demands a literal fulfilment for these as well. It is absurd to suggest that everything that has been fulfilled up to the first coming was meant literally, but everything else spiritually only.
- There is not a single scripture that the Amillenniaiist can produce in order to substantiate his claims that OT promises of the land have been spiritually transferred to the church. Never in Scripture is the promise to Abraham cancelled, never is it stated or implied that the literal boundaries given are only of spiritual significance, and never is it indicated or even hinted that the church inherits these promises. If the Amillenniaiist proposes that the promises have a totally different meaning than the plain sense of their words, the very least we can expect is a clear statement from scripture to back up his claims. This has never been produced, only lot of convoluted arguments, which we will consider later.
Thus we conclude that the promises given to Israel in the OT must be literally fulfilled, and this can only happen in a future literal reign of Christ on earth. There must be a Millennium.
Question 3: Is the church a distinct entity, seen only in the NT, or did it exist in OT times as well?
If, as the Amillennialist would have us believe, the church is nothing more than full-blossomed Israel, and is not distinct from Israel, then he can with some justification say that she fulfils the OT promises to Israel.
On the other hand, if it can be shown that the church is not the subject of OT prophecy, then it follows that it cannot be the fulfiller of the OT promises to Israel.
The following shows that Church is distinct from Israel:—
A. The use of the word “mystery” to describe many of the major truths of the church. Four verses in particular give us the meaning of the word “Mystery”:
1. Romans 16.25: “the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began”
2. Colossians 1.26: “The mystery which hath been hidden from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints”
3. Ephesians 3.4,5: “The mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”
4. Ephesians 3.9: “the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God”
Thus we clearly see that a mystery is a truth hidden in the OT but revealed in the NT.
Now let us look at some things pertaining to the church which are described as a mystery, and which thus are new revelations in the NT, and not in the OT:—
Eph. 3.1-12. This describes the mystery of the one body, which Paul calls a “new man” in 2.15. Nothing could be clearer: the church has not been incorporated into Israel, nor is it a fulfilment of it, rather it is an entirely new and distinct entity. In v 9 it is stated that it was “hid in God” from “the beginning of the world” and in v 10 it is stated that it has been revealed “now”. There could be no clearer statement of the fact that the church is not in the OT.
Col. 1.27. This describes the fact that Christ indwells each believer. “Christ in you” was never the case for individual Israelites, let alone Gentiles. Something never revealed heretofore has been revealed and realised in the church.
Eph. 5.32. This speaks of the relationship between Christ and the church. It is a mystery, never before revealed. The description of God as the husband of Israel was known (Isa. 54.5). The relationship of Christ to the church is distinct.
1 Cor. 15.51,52. This describes the rapture of the church. This was not revealed in the OT.
Thus, so many major truths concerning the church are clearly indicated to have been hidden before and have been revealed in the NT. The church must therefore be seen as distinct from Israel.
B. The Lord Jesus in Matt. 16.18 says, “I will build my church.” The tense is future, clearly showing that when the Lord Jesus spoke, the church was not yet in existence.
C. The church’s purchase and purification depends on the shed blood of Christ (Acts 20.28 and Eph. 5.25-27). Therefore it could not have existed before the death of Christ.
D. The church is the body of Christ, and this Head and body relationship is consequent upon Christ’s resurrection and glorification (Eph. 1.20-23).
E. Entrance into the body of Christ was by the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12.13), and this did not take place until Pentecost, so this fixes the beginning of the church at Pentecost.
F. The word “church” is never used of Israel in the NT (or the OT for that matter) in the sense of being the body of Christ. The use of the word “church” in Acts 7.38 and Heb. 2.12 refers to a congregation or assembly of people, and would be better translated as such, as was done elsewhere, e.g. Acts 19.39,41. Acts 7.38 no more proves that the church was in the OT than Acts 19.40,41 proves that the riotous mob at Ephesus was the body of Christ! The Amillennialist’s use of Acts 7.38 to try to prove that the church as the body of Christ was in the OT shows just how short of evidence he is.
G. In the NT, there are many references which refer to the church and Israel as being distinct, e.g. 1 Cor. 10.32; Rom. 9.4,5; 11.1-27.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (4)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
Question 4: Will the nation of Israel be restored, or is their setting aside permanent?
If the Amillennialist is right, then there is no future for the nation of Israel in the purpose of God. If he can prove that God has cast them away irrecovably, then he has a very strong case for his Amillennialist position. If on the other hand we can show that there is a future for Israel, then his argument is doomed.
A couple of points before looking at the evidence:—
Firstly, many of the points cited above are also evidence for the restoration of Israel as a nation. For example, proving that the promises to Israel were unconditional is proof that Israel will have to be restored. Also, proof that the promises will be fulfilled literally to Israel is proof of their future restoration. Thus in this section we will look only at evidence not yet considered, but we should bear in mind that the restoration of Israel is essential in view of what we have already seen.
Secondly, we must confine our evidence in this section to the NT. Whatever OT Scriptures could be quoted as evidence (and there are many) the Amillennialist will not admit it, but will claim it has to be spiritualised away. We thus confine ourselves to NT Scriptures.
(a) There is one passage which will be more than sufficient to totally prove that Israel will be restored. The Scripture in question is Rom. 9-11. No-one can deny that the subject of this section is the nation of Israel. At the start of each chapter: 9.3-5; 10.1-3; 11.1,2 we are left in no doubt that physical Israel is being referred to; it cannot by any stretch of imagination be the church. Many verses, particularly in ch.ll, indicate that Israel’s fall is not final (e.g. v.2,11,12,15,23,24). However of particular concern to us is 11.25-27. Again it must be stressed that these verses must refer to literal Israel, as phrases such as “blindness in part is happened to Israel” (v.25), “turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (v.26), “I shall take away their sins” (v.27), “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies” (v.28) cannot by any means refer to the church.
These few verses show beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israel’s blindness is partial (v.25), temporary (v.25), will cease when the Deliverer comes out of Sion (v.26), and removes their ungodliness (v.26) and sins (v.27), and saves them as a nation (v.26).
(b) Several times people spoke to the Lord Jesus when He was on earth, mentioning the hope of the coming earthly kingdom, and the Lord never contradicted them. Of particular interest and significance is Acts 1.6,7, because it was after the ultimate rejection by the nation (the crucifixion), and also because it specifically mentions Israel’s restoration. When the disciples ask Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”, the Lord’s reply, had the Amillennialist been right, would have been undoubtedly to make it very clear to them that such a thing was never going to happen. On the contrary, however, His reply confirms that it will happen (“the times and the seasons”), but it is not for the disciples to know when it will happen. But undoubtedly the Lord’s words would have left the disciples in no doubt about the fact that it would happen.
(c) Other examples of references by people to the earthly kingdom include:—
—James and John’s mother in Matt.20.21-23
—those who thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear, in Luke 19.11
—the dying thief spoke of the Lord coming into His kingdom in Luke 23.42.
In every case, the Lord does not even hint that there is not going to be an earthly kingdom, but is clear that it will not be immediately. But come it will, indeed He Himself makes many references to His literal earthly kingdom (e.g. Luke 22.30, when He speaks of the apostles sitting on thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel).
(d) Passages such as Acts 15.14-17 show that in the present age God is taking from the Gentiles “a people for His Name” (v.14), and that “after this” (v.16) Israel will be restored (v.16) and there will be universal blessing (v.17).
Thus we see that there is going to be restoration for the nation of Israel. This cannot take place under the Amillennialists’ scheme. Either we accept the evidence of the above (and many other) Scriptures or we accept the Amillennialist theory. We cannot do both.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (5)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
Question 5: Will Christ reign on the throne of David, or does this refer to His present glory in Heaven?
The Amillennialist denies that there will be a restoration of the earthly throne of David, and says all such references in Scripture refer to the Lord Jesus’ present session in Heaven. If he can show there will be no restoration of David’s earthly kingdom, his case is strengthened. If, however, we can show that there will be a literal reign on the throne of David, this can only be fulfilled in the Premillennial scheme since Amillennialism has no place for it.
The following points indicate the restoration of the Davidic throne, with Christ sitting on the throne of David:
A. The covenant with David, promising that his throne would be established forever is given in 2 Sam, 7.12-16. Much of what was said above regarding the Abrahamic Covenant is also true of the Davidic Covenant, and so will be given in summary form: It is unconditional and demands literal fulfilment:-
- it is described as “everlasting” (2 Sam. 23.5), “for ever” (2 Sam. 7.13,16)
- its promises are often repeated, in the midst of failure (Isa. 9.6,7; Jer. 23.5,6; 33.14-17,20,21; Zech. 14.4,9) – disobedience on the part of Solomon will bring chastening on him, but will not nullify the covenant. The words of 2 Sam. 7.13-15 could not make this clearer.
- it was confirmed by an oath (Ps. 132.11)
- God says He will not break it (Ps. 89.34)
- much of 2 Sam. 7.12-16 has already been fulfilled literally (e.g. David was given a son, it was his son who built the temple, his kingdom was established, Solomon was chastened for his iniquity, but God’s mercy did not depart from him, and did not result in a destruction of the Davidic line). Since all these were fulfilled literally, consistency demands literal fulfilment for the promise in vl6.
- David expected a literal fulfilment (2 Sam. 7.18-29). To propose that it will not be fulfilled literally is to say that God was deliberately deceiving David, and indeed the nation of Israel.
- B. In the OT it is clear that Christ is the ultimate fulfiller of the promises to David, and that it will be literally, e.g. the well known passage in Isa. 9.6,7. The reference to the child born and the son given (v6) must be taken literally. For consistency so must the reference to His “government and peace . . . upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom”. We cannot take verse 6 literally and spiritualise verse 7.
- C. Turning now to the NT, no clearer example could be afforded to us than the words of the angel to Mary in Luke 1.31-33. He tells her that she will conceive in her womb, bring forth a son, and call His name Jesus. These are literal, if ever anything was. Then in the next verse the angel says, “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” The Amillennialist cannot have it both ways: if he takes the details of the Lord’s birth as literal, then he must take the reign over Israel as literal. If he denies the literalness of the reign, then to be consistent he must deny the literalness of the details of the Lord’s birth.
- D. There are many references to David in the NT, and there are also many references to the Lord’s present position in Heaven. Nowhere is His present session said to be on the throne of David. On the contrary, His present position is at God’s right hand (e.g. Heb. 12.2) or the Father’s throne (e.g. Rev. 3.21). Moreover, to equate David’s throne with the Father’s throne is to say that David’s throne has existed from all eternity: a strange suggestion indeed!
- E. The Lord Jesus Himself refers to His return to earth and sitting on His throne, e.g. in Matt. 25.41, He says “When the Son of man shall come in his glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit on the throne of His glory’. The linking of the two words “When” and “then” show clearly that the sitting on the throne is not until He comes again. Thus it is future (so it cannot be His present sitting in Heaven), and it will be on earth (again showing that it is not His present session in Heaven).
- F. Acts 15.14-17 show that the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David is “after” God takes out a people for His name, and it will be at his “return.”
So we see that the promises of Scripture can only be fulfilled by a literal reign of Christ on the throne of David. Amillennialism cannot be true if this is so.
In closing this long section, we must summarise. We have analysed 5 major planks of Amillennialism:
- The claim that God’s promises to Abraham and the nation were conditional on obedience, and that thus they were irrevocably forfeited.
- The claim that the promises to Abraham and the nation were not meant to be taken literally.
- The claim that Israel and the church are not distinct.
- The claim that there is no future restoration for the nation of Israel.
- The claim that Christ’s session in heaven is the fulfilment of the promises regarding the throne of David.
In order for Amillennialism to stand, it must be able to show that all five statements above are true. If any one of them falls, the whole system falls. We trust that it has been shown that each one of them is false, and thus that Amillennialism must be rejected.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (6)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
- The Arguments of Amillennialism
We must consider the points which Amillennialists make in favour of their views. We will never be able to convince Ihefti that they are wrong if we cannot at least answer their points. Also when they make their points, these often seem at first to be very plausible. It is sometimes only after looking a little closer that we see the error of them; so we need to look a little closer now.
There are several main reasons that an Amillennialist will give in support of his position:-
- The use of figurative language in prophecy.
- The claim that OT prophecies which on the face of it are literal, are given a spiritual interpretation in the NT.
- Alleged difficulties in the Pre-Millennial position.
- Objection to the view of the church as a parenthesis.
- The claim that the only Scripture for the Millennium is Rev. 20.1-7. 6. Argument based on 2 Peter 3.8.
We will consider each of these points in turn:
Argument 1 : The use of figurative language in prophecy.
It is argued that since so much of prophetic writing uses figurative or symbolic language, it was never meant to be taken literally, thus we are free to spiritualise prophetic passages.
However, while it is true that much prophetic writing is in figurative language, these figures are nonetheless used to represent actual things, people and events. The use of figures does not do away with their reality.
Scripture abounds with the use of figures. For example, in Ex. 19.4, God tells the people of Israel that He has borne them out of Egypt “on eagles’ wings”. This is clearly a figure. No-one is seriously going to suggest that they left Egypt on the wings of birds. God is using a figure to show the might and power with which He took them out. But God’s use of a figure in no way lessens the fact that it was a literal exodus from Egypt. Figurative language is used to describe it, but it is nonetheless a real event.
It was so in recording past events. It is so in prophecy too. Take for example Isa. 11.1: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’. No-one doubts that this refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus the words “rod”, “stem”, “Branch,” and “roots” are figurative. Nonetheless this in no way negates the fact that the Lord Jesus is a literal descendant of Jesse. The use of figures does not nullify the literal fact.
Turning now to the Book of Revelation, which is so much attacked because it abounds in figures and symbols. Take chapter 1 for example. We read in v. 12 about 7 candlesticks (lampstands). These are figurative, but we are told in v. 20 that they represent 7 churches. And those 7 churches are actual churches, as we see in the following 2 chapters. The use of the figure of the candlesticks (lampstands) does not mean that they did not represent literal churches. Take ch. 5.6. The Lord Jesus is represented as “a Lamb as it had been slain.” This draws our attention to His great sacrifice. No-one would suggest that the One being worshipped is a literal Lamb, but this figure in no way lessens the reality of that great scene of worship. The use of figurative language does not remove literalness. Thus while prophecy does not often have figurative language, this is used to describe literal people, things and events. The use of figures enriches the Scriptures and gives to the reader many insights which he would not obtain if figures were not employed. But to use these figures as an excuse for doing away with literal events, is not valid.
Argument 2: The claim that OT prophecies which on the face of it are literal, are given a spiritual interpretation in the NT.
This point is really the cornerstone of the Amillennialist’s argument. He will point to NT quotations from the OT, which would appear to interpret the OT passage non-literally, and thus say that this shows that the OT passage was never meant to have a literal fulfilment, and the spiritual fulfilment is all the fulfilment there will be, i.e in the present age for the church and not for Israel in the future.
However, in taking this line, the Amillennialist is making a very big assumption. He is assuming that when an OT passage is quoted in the NT, then the NT quote is giving the only, the full, and the final interpretation for the original passage. This is not a valid assumption, for many reasons :-
(a) There can be two fulfilments for the same OT Scripture. 2 examples:
1. Matthew 2.15: “Out of Egypt have I called my son”. This is stated by Matthew to be the fulfilment of the words of “the prophet”, that is, a fulfilment of Hosea 11.1, where the context shows beyond doubt that God is referring to the Exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt, many years before. Thus this verse, while it clearly describes a past event, is said to be fulfilled in the events in the Lord Jesus’ life in Matt. 2. Hence we see that the same Scripture refers to 2 distinct events. But the fact that it refers to 2 different events does not mean that one of the events could not have taken place. They both took place, but one Scripture referred to both .
2. Matthew 2.18: “Rachel weeping for her children’. Matthew tells us, in v.17, that this fulfils the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 31.15). In Jeremiah the context is the sorrow of the Babylonian Captivity. Thus this one Scripture refers to two different events. Both are actual distinct events but are described by one Scripture.
The above examples are not the only ones, but have been chosen because there is little room for argument about the fact that they show that one scripture can describe two different things. But the point is this— Matthew’s quotations of these passages did not in any way do away with the reality of the Exodus, or of the Babylonian Captivity. By the same token, the quotation of an OT Scripture in the NT, in a context different from that given in the OT, does not nullify its OT meaning. One OT passage can refer to two different things, and the fact that one of these is given in the NT does not mean that the other is untrue.
Thus, for example, in Rom. 4.17, when Paul quotes God’s words to Abraham, “I have made thee a father of many nations”, it is clear from v.16 that he is saying that the OT quote is fulfilled in the spiritual children of Abraham. However that does not in any way nullify the literal fact that Abraham was the physical progenitor of many nations, which we know to be true . The fact that God’s word to Abraham can be taken in two ways does not make one or other way untrue. Both are true.
And so it is for many OT prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Their use in NT quotations, which appear to indicate their fulfilment already, does not in any way mitigate against their future fulfilment. A Scripture can be fulfilled in more than one way.
Malachi 4. 5,6 gives us an example of two fulfilments for the same passage. These verses promise that Elijah will come before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. This prophecy relates to John the Baptist, as our Lord’s words in Matt. 17.12,13 show. However it is equally clear from the same passage that this Malachi prophecy also awaits future fulfilment, as the Lord says in v. 11, “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.” That this cannot refer to John the Baptist is seen in the fact that the tense used is future (and John was already dead when the Lord spoke these words), and also by the fact that the Lord says Elijah will “restore all things” (John certainly did not do that). John’s being the final fulfilment of Malachi 4.5,6 depended on the nation accepting his message (Matt 11.14), but their rejection of it, and thus of the Messiah means that the prophecy will have a future fulfilment. The fact that John fulfilled, in a measure, this prophecy does not mean it will not be fulfilled again in a day to come.
(b) Related to the above point, but different from it, is the issue of partial fulfilment. A prophecy may have a partial fulfilment in the NT but may still await its full and final fulfilment. An example is from Luke 1.32, where the angel tells Mary that her Son “shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest”. This was fulfilled in large measure at His first coming. But, from the evidence of other prophecies, it awaits a fuller and final fulfilment. His greatness is yet to be fully manifest to all. His Sonship is yet to be acknowledged by all. The words of the angel have been partially fulfilled, and will be fully fulfilled in a day to come.
Thus it must always be kept in mind, when a prophecy is quoted in the NT, it may have been fulfilled only to an extent. The full fulfilment may be yet to come. The quotation in connection with its partial fulfilment does not remove the fact of its complete fulfilment in a day to come.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (7)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
The Arguments of Amillennialism (continued)
(C) We must also take account of the time gap between the fulfilment of different parts of the same prophecy. Often a prophecy is given which on the face of it will all be fulfilled together, but then in the NT we see that only parts of it have been fulfilled and the other bits are still to be fulfilled. We will take one example each from the OT and the NT:-
OT: Isa. 9.6-8. In this passage, no distinction is made between prophecies referring to the Lord’s first coming (such as “For unto us a child is born”) and His second coming (such as “upon the throne of David”). Some of these prophecies were fulfilled in the NT and others still await fulfilment. But the fact that only some were fulfilled does not mean that the rest cannot be literally fulfilled.
NT: Luke 1.31-33. Again no indication is given that there is a time gap between the fulfilment of statements such as “thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son” and “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David”. The fact that the latter has not yet been fulfilled literally does not mean that it will not be. We must allow for the time gap.
The Lord Jesus illustrated this Himself as no other could. In Luke 4.16-21 he read the prophecy from Isa. 61.1,2 and told that He is the fulfilment of it. But He read only the words from Isaiah which refer to His first coming, and left out the phrase “the day of vengeance of our God”, which refers to His second coming. Thus our Lord Himself makes clear to us that there may be a time interval between fulfilment of parts of a passage and other parts of the same passage.
Thus, when an OT passage is quoted in the NT, we must not assume that it has all been fulfilled. Take, for example, Peter’s quotation of Joel 2.28-32 in Acts 2.16-21. The events in Acts have fulfilled the predictions quoted in v.17 and 18, but the events quoted in v. 19,20 have still to take place. The fact that the whole passage is quoted in Acts 2 does not mean that it has all been fulfilled in Acts 2.
It may seem that in points (a), (b) and (c) above, the same point is made in each case, and that each point is merely repetition. But they are distinct, and it is important that we should see that they represent three distinct cases. An illustration may help to this end:—
As students, we studied some of the work of the great scientist, Linus Pauling. He achieved the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1954 and then the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1962. Imagine that when he was a student, one of his tutors had great insight into his potential, and predicted concerning him, “He will be a leader both in the fields of Science and of world political affairs. He will be a very famous man, and I predict that he will be a Nobel prizewinner”.
Now suppose that in the year 1955 someone sat down to analyse the tutor’s predictions, in order to determine to what extent they had been fulfilled:
1. He could take the statement that he would be a Nobel prizewinner, and state that it had been fulfilled. And so it had. But what the man in 1955 does not know is that it will be fulfilled a second time, in 1962. The fact that he received a prize in 1954 will not stop him from receiving one again in 1962. This prediction ended up having two fulfilments. This corresponds to point (a) made above. An OT prophecy can have two fulfilments, and both are possible. The occurrence of one of them does not mean the second one cannot occur as well.
2. The observer could take the statement that he would be a very famous man, and state that it had been fulfilled. And so it had. But what he does not know is that his fame has not yet reached its peak. He will be more famous in 1962 than in 1955. Many will hear of his Nobel prize for peace who never heard of his prize for Chemistry. He was famous in 1955, but not to the full extent. The prediction has been fulfilled only to an extent, although the observer does not know it. This corresponds to point (b) above. Many OT prophecies are only fulfilled to an extent in the NT. This does not prevent them from being more fully fulfilled in the future.
3. The observer could take the statement that he would be a leader in science and in world political affairs. In 1955 he would judge that the first had been fulfilled but not the second. But if he was a sensible man, he would not take this to mean that the political prediction could not be fulfilled. He would accept that there could be a time gap between him being a great scientist and a great politician. He would take a “wait and see” attitude.
4. This corresponds to point (c) above. When parts of a prophecy have been fulfilled, the Pre-Millennialist takes the “wait and see” view. He trusts that God will fulfil all that has been promised. But the Amillennialist is not prepared to wait. He demands that it must all have been fulfilled already, and so anything for which he does not yet see the literal fulfilment he spiritualises away.
(D) But we can go a step further. We have seen above that the quotation of an OT passage in the NT could be a case of fulfilment on more than one occasion, or of fulfilment to an extent, or of fulfilment of only part of the passage. But there is another point to bear in mind: the quotation of an OT passage in the NT is not necessarily a fulfilment at all. We cannot assume that a quotation means fulfilment. Examples:-
1. Acts 15.14-17, quoting Amos 9.11,12. Many assume that this means that Acts 15 is fulfilling Amos 9. But it is never said to be fulfilling it. What is said is that what is happening in Acts is in agreement with what is said in Amos. James is not saying that the one is fulfilling the other, but that they agree together; they are in perfect harmony with each other. Much of the NT is not fulfilment of OT Scriptures, but it is not in disagreement with them.
2. Hebrews 8.8-12 and 10.15-17 refer to the New Covenant, quoting Jer. 31.31-34. Because the provisions of the New Covenant are quoted to believers in this age, many take it that the New Covenant is with the church, and so that there is no future for Israel as far as the New Covenant is concerned. However, nowhere in Hebrews does God say that this New Covenant is completely fulfilled by the church. In fact He re-iterates (Heb. 8.8) that it is with “the house of Israel and with the house of Judah”. He quotes it to us as the Spirit’s “witness” (Heb. 10.15). Witness and fulfilment are not the same thing. The main benefit of the New Covenant to Israel will be that their sins will be remembered no more (Jer. 31.34). We bless God that this same benefit is true for the people of God today, and thus we can say that it is true that we do come into some of the blessings of the New Covenant. But that is not to say that we are the fulfilment of Jeremiah 31. The fact that present-day believers are said to come into of some of the blessings promised to the nation of Israel does not mean that we have replaced Israel in the purpose of God. That some of its blessings have been made good to us does not in any way mean that it will not be made good to Israel in a day to come. Here we have a case of amplification of an OT promise, to include us. The fact that it is amplified to include us does not in any way nullify its future fulfilment for Israel.
3. Romans 9.26, quoting Hosea 1.10,11 and 2.23. The whole context of Hosea chapters 1 and 2 show that these verses in Hosea refer to Israel being set aside and subsequently restored. However, in Rom. 9 Paul is using this verse to refer to Gentiles being brought into blessing. Amillennialists seize on this as a proof that the church fulfils Hosea’s promise to Israel. But Rom. 9.26 says nothing of the sort. Paul is simply quoting Hosea out of its original context, and is not suggesting for a moment that Gentile blessing is the fulfilment of Hosea’s words. He says “As he saith also in Osee”. He is simply borrowing the quote, and applying it in a different context. He is not denying or changing the original meaning of Hosea’s words. They will be fulfilled. We must always remember that the Holy Spirit is free to quote a Scripture in a different context from its original OT reference. That does not in turn free us to dispose of the OT context altogether.
We do this frequently in everyday speech. For example, it is almost 150 years since H. F. Lyte wrote the words “Change and decay in all around I see”. Often, as we consider conditions in the world today, we would say words such as, “As the hymnwriter said, “Change and decay in all around I see”. When we do this, we are not trying to say that Lyte was describing conditions in the 1990’s, but we are borrowing his words and applying them to our situation, because they are as appropriate now as they were in their original setting. This is what Paul is doing in Rom. 9. He is borrowing Hosea’s words and giving them an application in a different context. But he is not doing away with the primary context.
Example (i) above is a case of agreement between OT and NT.
Example (ii) is a case of amplification of the OT context.
Example (iii) is a case of application of an OT passage in the NT. But none of them is fulfilment. Thus we see that NT quotation does not mean the same as fulfilment, and does not preclude future fulfilment for the passages quoted.
(E) Another point of which we have to be careful, is the equation of things that are mentioned in the same passage but which are not equated in the passage. For example, the Amillennialist will use Acts 2.25-36, in which we read of the Lord sitting on David’s throne (v. 30) and we also read of His present exaltation in Heaven (v. 33), and put these two things together and say it proves that His present exaltation is Him sitting on David’s throne. But Peter simply does not say that they are one and the same thing. The two statements are a couple of verses apart and are connected only to the extent that His resurrection is the reason why He is exalted in Heaven and also the reason why He will be able to sit on David’s throne. They are two separate things. The fact that they are mentioned in the same passage does not make them the same thing.
(F) It must also be borne in mind that when believers in the NT are said to fulfil parts of an OT prophecy, that does not mean they fulfil all of it. There is no doubt that believers in this age do fulfil some OT prophecies, but we must not take that to mean that they fulfil all of them.
We get a good example of this in the use of the term “seed of Abraham” in Gal. 3 and Rom. 4 to refer to present-day believers. Amillennialists seize on this and take it to mean that all the blessings promised to Abraham’s seed in the OT are ours, spiritually. But if we look carefully at these 2 passages we will see which of the promises to Abraham are are said to be ours:—
Gal. 3.8: “And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Thus we see that in us is fulfilled the promise that in Abraham all nations would be blessed.
Rom. 4.13: “For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world”. This phrase is not found in God’s words to Abraham in Genesis, but it clearly must refer to some promise that was made to him regarding the whole world. The only blessing promised to Abraham which was of a universal nature was that above, i.e. that in his seed would all nations of the earth be blessed. This therefore must be what is meant by his being “heir of the world”.
Thus in both these passages it is made clear that the promise, in Abraham would all nations of the earth be blessed, is fulfilled in salvation through Christ for all nations. But nowhere in these two passages or elsewhere are present-day believers said to fulfil any of the promises relative to the nation and the land. These await literal fulfilment to literal Israel. The blessings for us spoken of in Gal. 3 and Rom. 4 were promised to Abraham. They do not go beyond God’s original promise, and no spiritualisation is necessary in order to bring them in. But we do not fulfil all God’s promises to Abraham. The promises to his physical seed will not be fulfilled in us.
Thus, when we take all the above points into consideration, we are not left with a single NT passage which nullifies or invalidates the original meaning and interpretation of an OT prophecy. In the NT we may get repetition, application, partial fulfilment, agreement, amplification, or broadening of the context of the original prophecy, but never does it entitle us to do away with the full sense and fulfilment of the original passage.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (8)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
The Arguments of Amillennialism (cont.)
Argument 3: Alleged difficulties in the Pre-Millennial position.
One of the major ways the Amillennialist will try to discredit the Pre-Millennial position is by putting up difficulties. Before looking at some of the difficulties he brings up, however, two points are pertinent:—
Firstly, the existence of difficulties does not make the thing wrong. It is admitted that there are many things about which we are not 100% sure, such as what exactly is being described in Revelation 21 and 22 (the Millennial city, or the eternal state, or both). But whichever is right, it does not in any way weaken the Premillennial argument. If we were working on the basis of difficulties, we would see that the Amillennialist himself has very many difficulties to try to explain. The existence of difficulties does not nullify the truth.
Secondly, many of the so-called difficulties are due to the Amillennialist doubting the power of God. Things that seem impossible to our finite minds are possible with God.
Some examples of difficulties which the Amillennialist mentions are:
- The reinstatement of a priestly order. It is argued that this is impossible, as the records of the different tribes have been destroyed.
It is true that the records have been destroyed, and that perhaps no Jew alive today knows his tribe. But does God not still know it? And will God not be able to tell everyone which tribe they are from? And will anyone dare to disagree with Him? This is no difficulty when we are dealing with an infinite God.
- The ritual of animal sacrifices. They argue that this would contradict the teaching of the Book of Hebrews, which says that animal sacrifices have given place to the final sacrifice of Christ. But it must be remembered that the Book of Hebrews is dealing with Christians of this church dispensation, and the point being made is that animal sacrifices could never take away sin, and are totally inappropriate in this age. But in a future day, when Israel is restored, in the land, with priests, and a temple, then sacrifices will be in order; not to take away sin, any more than the OT ones did. The OT sacrifices were effective only because they pointed forwards to Christ, and the Millennial sacrifices will point back to Christ. God will not allow Israel to forget the sacrifice of Christ and the system of sacrifices will continually be a memorial to them of what the death of God’s Son has done for them. Thus, as a commemoration, they will not be inappropriate at all.
- They claim that a temple of the dimensions of that given in Ezekiel could not fit in the present temple site.
This is true, but they forget that Zechariah (14.4) tells us that at the Lord’s return to earth there will be massive geographical changes in the Jerusalem area, which will make room for the larger temple.
One is reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus: “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matt. 22.29). In the light of Scriptures and God’s power, these and other “difficulties” will vanish.
Argument 4: Objection to the view of the church as a parenthesis.
The Amillennialist claims that the OT makes no room for the setting aside of Israel, the introduction of the church, and then taking up Israel again. He claims that to believe this is to introduce an unwarranted break in the continuity of God’s dealings with His people.
It is interesting that this objection by the Amillennialist is tantamount to an admission that the church is not in the OT! As we have already tried to show, the church is not the subject of OT prophecy; it is a “mystery” not revealed until the NT. Revelation was progressive: God did not reveal everything at once, but different things in stages. The fact that the church was not revealed in the OT is not an argument against its existence in the NT.
But although it is true that the church is not in the OT, the Amillennialist is not right when he states that the OT makes no provision for it. Many times in the OT God speaks of the setting aside of Israel and their subsequent restoration at a later date. There are so many references to this that it would be difficult to know where to start with examples, but Hosea 1.10,11 is one of many. This setting aside and subsequent restoration leaves room for the church period.
Allowance is made time-wise for the church period in passages such as Daniel 9.24-27, which give the “Seventy weeks” prophecy. That 69 literal weeks of years passed up to the Lord’s death has been well-established (“The Coming Prince” by Sir Robert Anderson), leaving one week (7 years) to be fulfilled. That more than 7 years have passed since the Lord’s death is obvious, thus there must be a gap before the 70th week is fulfilled. Therefore provision is made for the church age.
We see similar allowance in the NT, in the Lord’s reading of Isa. 61 in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4.16-21). The gap between His first and second comings leaves room for the church age.
In Acts this is made clear too, e.g. Acts 15.14-17, which speaks of this time when God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for his name”, and then Israel’s subsequent restoration.
As we have already seen in the epistles also, notably in Romans 11, the setting aside of Israel, a time of Gentile blessing, and future restoration for Israel.
Thus the claim that there is no provision in Scripture for the church period is unfounded.
Argument 5: The claim that the only Scripture for the Millennium is Revelation 20.1-7.
The Amillennialist claims that the only time we read of the Millennium is in Revelation 20, and that without it there would be no case for the doctrine of the Millennium.
It is true that Revelation 20 is the only place where we are told the duration of the Millennium, but it is stated no fewer than 6 times that it is “one thousand years”. However if it is the Word of God, one reference is all that we need. To say that something only occurs once in Scripture is an argument against it is to imply that something needs to be said several times before we are expected to believe it. If God says it once, that is enough.
The claim that Revelation 20 is the only Scripture for the Millennium is untrue. In these articles we have had many scriptural references and this is the first time reference has been made to Revelation 20.
There is much Scripture for the Millennium, from Genesis to Revelation. Revelation 20 gives us the duration.
Argument 6: Argument based on 2 Peter 3.8
The Amillennialist says that since Peter tells us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”, then when the Lord tells us in Revelation 20 of a thousand-year period, we have no reason to take it literally.
But to argue thus is to do violence to Peter’s words. Peter is talking about scoffers who are denying that the Lord will come again, because, in their view, He is taking such a long time (v4). In response Peter reminds his readers that God is outside time, and what can seem a very long time to man is not so with God. The scoffers have no concept of how God sees world history and the passage of time.
However, to say that God is outside time, is not the same as saying that when God specifies a time to us, that He does not mean what He says. He does mean what He says, and when He gives us information, He gives it accurately. Peter is not implying for one moment that we can make specified time intervals in scripture mean whatever we want them to mean. On the contrary, in this passage He is emphasising the accuracy of Scripture. Amillennialists try to make it mean that he is teaching that Scripture is inaccurate. This is not so.
The Amillennialist’s arguments are clever and at first sight plausible but are unsound. May God give us help to know His Word, so that we will not be swayed by such erroneous teaching.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (9)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
D. The Advocates of Amillennialism.
If the Amillennialist doctrine is contrary to Scripture, as we believe it to be, we must ask the question, “How did it come about?” How did the teaching manage to gain such popularity? Thus it will be interesting to trace briefly the history of Amillennialism, and we shall see that the evangelicals who hold it today are in a very “unholy alliance” with others both from history and the present day.
We have looked previously at the scriptural evidence, and have seen that we do not find Amillennialism there. But what of those who lived shortly after the completion of Scripture, some of whom knew apostles personally? They would certainly have had a good insight into the meaning of Scripture and the beliefs of people like Peter and John. It is very interesting to see that many of the writings of the so-called “church fathers” unequivocally show that they expected literal fulfilment of the prophecies concerning Christ’s return and the establishment of His earthly kingdom. They include Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Tertullian. Even many Amillennialist sympathisers admit that for the first 3 centuries or so of the church’s history, the Pre-Millennial view was widespread. The opponents of the literal interpretation in the very early years were the well-known heretical groups such as the gnostics, Platonists, and Montanists, for all of whom non-literal interpretation went far beyond future events. This is hardly illustrious company for the present-day evangelical Amillennialists, but at least they were consistent: they took their non-literalness to its logical conclusion; present-day evangelicals prefer to pick and choose which parts of scripture they accept and which they try to explain away!
It is very widely accepted that the first advocate of Amillennialism to lay down a formal theory of interpretation was Origen (185-254 AD). He refused to accept Scripture references to the Millennium literally, instead propounding the allegorical method of interpretation. He and others at the “Alexandrian School” used his method of interpretation to explain away not only the doctrine of the Millennium, but also many other teachings of Scripture. Instead of bringing out the sense of Scripture, he introduced all sorts of fanciful ideas. He would, had he been alive today, not be regarded as a “sound” evangelical by any stretch of the imagination, and would be denounced as a heretic by many who accept his view of the Millennium, yet the growth of Amillennialism in those days perhaps owed more to him than to any other person. (Again rather unillustrious company for today’s evangelical Amillennialists!). His work was carried on by men such as Dionysius and Augustine, and his allegorical methods of interpretation gradually gained the upper hand.
It is not difficult to see why it gained in popularity in those days. Up until then the church had been a persecuted minority, and the hope of the Lord’s coming thus ever burned brightly. It was clear that the church was distinct from all the systems of the world. But with the unification of so-called church and state by Constantine, the distinction became blurred. Increasingly the Church of Rome saw itself as the fulfilment of the promises of the earthly kingdom, and so the hope of a future literal kingdom at Christ’s return was in a great measure lost. To teach that the present kingdom of Rome would be replaced by a future coming King, would not exactly please the Roman rulers! Thus the Amillennial doctrine, (which did away with the teaching of a future earthly kingdom) flourished. The rise of Amillennialism is thus indissolubly associated with the rise of ecclesiasticism and the papal system (again, not very good company for our evangelical Amillennialists of today!)
Amillennialism was the accepted doctrine of the Church of Rome throughout the Dark Ages, and remains so to this day. With the Reformation much Scriptural truth was “rediscovered”, but most of the reformers continued to hold Amillennial doctrine. This was not necessarily because they had studied prophecy in great detail and came to the Amillennial conclusion, but rather because their major studies were not in the field of future events. It has thus been true that in Protestantism in general the Amillennial view has continued to be held, not so much because it has been extensively studied, but by default, from Rome.
Through the ages the pre-Millennial truth has never been completely lost, but it did burn dimly for many years. It was not least brethren gathered to the Lord’s Name, who brought its truths to light in the last century and to the present day it is those similarly gathered who have been most faithful and consistent in teaching it.
Thus Amillennialism is variously held, but for very different reasons:–
For Roman Catholics, because their system views itself as the fulfilment of the kingdom prophecies, and will not countenance the thought that it could be superseded or done away with.
For Protestant Denominations, by default from Rome. The bulk of Protestantism has never seriously questioned Roman teaching on future events.
For Reformed teachers, because “it’s what the early Reformers believed”. Constantly, reformed teachers will state that in holding their views, they are “standing foursquare with those who defended the faith in the days of the Reformation”. They claim that Amillennialism is the historical view of the church, and this is in a measure true, in that for about 1700 years so it has been, in the so-called church at least. But what matters is not, “What is the historical view of the church?”, but rather, “What is the teaching of scripture?” Their axiom is more “What did the reformers believe? That’s what we believe”, rather than “What saith the scripture? That’s what we believe, no matter what other great men thought”. It is highly ironic that those who regard themselves as most opposed to Rome obtain their eschatology from Rome.
For Liberals and Modernists, because they simply do not accept the full verbal inspiration of scripture. They spiritualise all sorts of truths, or else flatly deny them, and so they have no compunction at denying the literal fulfilment of prophecy.
For Charismatics, because they come from all areas above, and have taken their own systems’ teaching on future events along with them. Moreover, the charismatic’s tendency to substitute supposed experience and fanciful interpretation of Scripture for sound exposition finds a ready ally in the allegorical view of future events.
It is an unholy alliance indeed: Roman Catholic, Protestant churchman, Reformed teacher, Modernist, and Charismatic, all united by very little, other than their allegiance to Amillennialism. May the Lord preserve us from such a group.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (10)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
E. The Anomalies of Amillennialism.
It may be helpful to list some of the contradictions involved for an evangelical who holds Amillennialist teaching. This section is really a drawing together of points already made in previous sections, so a detailed discussion will not be given; the reader can refer back to earlier issues for this.
For a true believer who is an Amillennialist, he is in an anomalous position for many reasons, including:
- He claims to believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. This means that every word is inspired by God, and that thus the Scripture is totally infallible. Yet in holding Amillennialism, he is accepting a system which effectively says that not every part of Scripture is to be accepted as true.
- He claims to believe that Scripture is the only authority on all matters of doctrine and practice. But to introduce allegorical interpretation, is to leave the decision as to the meaning of Scripture open to the whims of men. Unless one accepts literal interpretation of prophecy, one can make it mean whatever one wants. There is nothing with which to control one’s whims. One is effectively introducing an authority outside God’s Word, and that “authority” is oneself, or whoever else one wants to believe!
- He claims to believe that it is impossible for God to lie. Yet Amillennialism effectively teaches that when God made certain promises, He never had it in His mind to fulfil them in the way in which the hearers understood them.
- He claims to believe that God is omnipotent, yet he effectively denies that God has the ability to perform what He has said. He raises all sorts of “practical difficulties” with literal fulfilment, forgetting that “with God nothing shall be impossible”.
- He uses literal interpretation to study the Scriptures in general, but when it comes to prophecy, he changes his rules and uses allegorical interpretation. He thus abandons consistency of interpretation of Scripture.
- Even within prophecy, he is not consistent in his interpretation. With some prophecies (e.g. those concerning the Lord’s birth) he is happy to adopt the literal method, but with others (e.g. the coming kingdom) he rejects the literal method.
- In holding his view, he is holding doctrine which can be directly traced back, not to Scripture, but to heretics in the early days of the church age.
- He is in alliance with all sorts of present-day groups with which he would disagree on other major doctrines, such as Roman Catholics and Liberals.
- He is holding a system which, although it tries hard, fails, even by its own standards, to consistently explain away the prophetic passages. There are numerous examples of such inconsistencies, but we will confine ourselves to one:
Consider 3 facts taught in Revelation 20:
- Christ and His people reigning 1000 years (v.4,6).
- Satan being put in a bottomless pit for 1000 years and being able to deceive the nations no more (v.2,3).
- Satan being loosed after the 1000 years and deceiving the nations (v.7,8).
It is clear that the above 3 statements all refer to the same period of time. Even if the Amillennialist does not accept that it is literally 1000 years, he has to accept that it is the same period of time to which reference is made. He claims that the period of time is the present age, and the reigning being referred to is Christ at present reigning spiritually with His people. If this is true, then it must follow that:
- at present, Satan is bound, and is not deceiving the nations, and
- at the end of the age, Satan will be loosed again and will deceive the nations again.
He must hold these 2 things, according to his own scheme, for in the passage the binding of Satan is clearly concurrent with the reign of Christ, and then Satan is loosed. But this reveals big flaws in the Amillennialist’s argument:—
- If Satan is bound, in what sense is he bound at present? The Amillennialist simply has no satisfactory answer to this question. Whether he tries to say it is literal or spiritual, both arguments are equally impossible. And Revelation states that during his binding he will deceive the nations no more. Has this been the case, in any sense, during the past 2000 years? On the contrary, the whole course of the history of this age is a catalogue of Satan’s deception of the nations. The Amillennial line here is self-contradictory.
- If Satan is bound now, what is the meaning of the statement that he will be released again and deceive the nations again? This, no matter how it is taken, cannot be satisfactorily explained. The Amillennialist believes that the present age will continue as at present right to the end of the world, when Christ will return, raise the dead, judge everyone, consign some to glory and others to damnation, and then the eternal state will begin. Thus, in his own scheme, there is no place for anything corresponding to the releasing of Satan.
This is only one of numerous examples of the self-contradictions found in the Amillennial system.
Thus a brother who is an Amillennialist is really in a very anomalous position. We are not trying to suggest that he is deliberately denying inspiration, God’s power or character, allying himself with heretics, etc., but that unwittingly he is giving support to such ideas. For a liberal to hold Amillennialism is consistent with his position on the rest of Scripture. For a true believer to hold Amillennialism is to put him in an inconsistent position. None of us should want to be in such an anomalous position.
AMILLENNIALISM EXAMINED (11)
by David McAllister (Zambia)
F. The Attacks of Amillennialism.
From what we considered in these articles it should be clear that Amillennialism is an attack on many things that we hold dear, and so in this final section we will look at some of the attacks that it makes. As previously, this paper will be doing little more than summarising material in previous sections, so points made will not be enlarged.
Some of the objects of the attack of Amillennialism are:
(a) God’s character:
Amillennialism implies that God says certain things that He does not really mean; that He makes promises that He does not intend fully to fulfil; that He uses language which He knows people will take in a different way to what He intends, yet He chooses to keep them in the dark about it; and that He does not have the ability to deliver that which He has promised. Such a view of God must be rejected in its entirety.
Amillennialism states that there are many passages of Scripture which do not really mean what they say; and that we can either spiritualise these away, or else ignore them altogether.
(c) Sound interpretation:
Amillennialism teaches that sound interpretation of Scripture, taking into account the grammar, context, literal meaning of the words, and comparing Scripture with Scripture, can in certain circumstances be set aside; thus leaving us without any yardstick with which to test interpretation, leaving it open to whatever ideas we wish to introduce. The logical conclusion of Amillennialism is to lead to Liberalism. Once we introduce the possibility of allegorical interpretation, there is no telling where it can lead. Why stop with prophecy? Why not go all the way? It has been well said that it is almost impossible to find a modernist who is also pre-millennialist, and that equally, among the assemblies, which are Pre-Millennial in doctrine, Modernism is practically unknown. Amillennialism and Modernism are natural allies; pre-millennialism and Modernism are incompatible.
(d) The created world:
It follows from Amillennialist teaching that there is no hope for the present creation, which is “groaning and travailing” in pain at present, to have fulfilled the promises given in Scripture to be delivered and restored to its former glory.
Amillennialism categorically states that the nation has been permanently set aside; that there is no future for it; that the myriad promises made to the nation have no hope of fulfilment. It is not surprising that not a few Amillennialists confess to being anti-semitic. Taken to its extreme, we see the persecution of Jews by the Roman Church during the Inquisition and by Hitler (who was also a Roman Catholic) this century. Of course it would be going too far to blame this totally on Amillennialism. However, had the belief of the Roman Church been Pre-Millennial, with its promise of the restoration of Israel, it is certain that they would never have carried out these atrocities. Amillennialism was undoubtedly a major factor in the build-up of anti-semitic forces which have been released with such satanic ferocity at various times in the history of Christendom.
(f) The Church, Christ’s Body:
Amillennialism teaches that this is not a distinct body, introduced consequent to and as a result of the death of Christ, with Jew and Gentile uniquely united together in one “new man”, enjoying privileges and blessings never given or promised to Israel, but rather it is no more than a full-blossomed Israel.
Amillennialism teaches that many promises which God made in the OT will never be literally fulfilled. If this is true, then what right have we to assume that what He has promised to us as the Church will be literally fulfilled either? If Israel is not to be given all that it was promised, are we likely to fare any better? If Amillennialism is true, then we have difficulty in taking any of the promises to us at face value.
(g) The assemblies gathered to the Lord’s name:
We believe that:
- just as the Church which is the Body of Christ came into being in the Acts, so did local assembly testimony,
- just as the Church which is His Body was not in the OT, neither was the assembly.
- just as the Body is unique to this age, so is the assembly testimony.
- just as the Body was formed as a result of the death, burial, resurrection and exaltation of Christ, so is each assembly.
- just as the Body will cease to have any members on earth at the Rapture, so assembly testimony will cease at that time.
Thus whilst the Church which is the Body of Christ and the assembly are not one and the same thing, nevertheless their beginning, character and future are inextricably linked together. The Amillennialist denies all the above points as far as the Church which is His Body is concerned, so he with equal vigour also denies the parallels as far as the local assembly is concerned. It is not surprising that a person in an assembly who holds Amillennial doctrine often does not feel much at home. That may well be partly because his teaching is not accepted or acceptable. But there is more to it than that: he soon sees that there is no place in Amillennialism for the view that the assembly is unique to this dispensation, and distinct from everything else around it. And if he does not believe in the distinctiveness of the assembly, he does not really feel any reason to stay. Amillennialism is opposed to assembly testimony.
And so, in a magazine whose name indicates its dedication to the maintenance of assembly testimony, this would perhaps be a suitable point at which to conclude our study. It has been long, but it is a very embracive subject and cannot really be dealt with in just a few pages. But although it has been long, it has been by no means a full treatment of the subject; it has done little more than scratch the surface. It is the writer’s prayer that it may be used in the hand of God in helping some to see and avoid the errors of Amillennialism.
Any attempts such as this to show its errors are feeble when compared with what is soon to happen: a series of events that will settle the argument once and for all: the return of the Lord Himself to the air to take His redeemed people home, the Tribulation, the return of the Lord to earth, the restoration of Israel, the Millennial reign, and ultimately the eternal kingdom. Surely we can join with John and say “Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.”