A Millennial or A-Millennial Future: Which? (4)
Consistency of Interpretation
We believe that a passage of Scripture should be interpreted according to its vocabulary and grammar, taking into account its context, and comparing it with other Scriptures. In other words, Scripture means what it says, and says what it means. If we abandon this principle, then Scripture can be taken to mean whatever the reader fancies.
Many amillennialists believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, and generally, they hold to the same method. On many major doctrines, such as the virgin birth and the resurrection, Scripture is taken to mean what it says. But then, for prophecies regarding the future, they abandon this method, substituting an allegorical one in which plain statements of Scripture are spiritualized away and made to mean whatever the individual chooses. In this article, we shall seek to show some of the inconsistencies of such a method of interpretation.
God gave many promises to Abraham in Genesis 12-15. Some examples are, that he would have an heir; that he would be the father of many nations; that kings would come out of him; that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt; that they would come out from that bondage. All those prophecies were literally fulfilled. So, for the promises concerning the land, which are part of the same covenant, we can expect that they will also be literally fulfilled. Consistency of interpretation demands this.
Now, considering the promises to Abraham’s “seed” in the same passages, the amillennialist, in trying to make them refer to the church, points to NT passages where the term “seed of Abraham” is used of all believers, and says that these promises refer to Abraham’s spiritual seed and not to his literal descendants. But consistency of interpretation does not allow for this. In Genesis 15:13, God tells him, “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” This is the sojourn of Israel in Egypt, and refers to his literal descendants. The promises of the covenant are also said to have been given to Isaac’s “seed” (Gen 17:19) and Jacob’s “seed” (Gen 28:13). This must be the literal descendants and cannot mean NT believers as we are never referred to as the “seed of Isaac” or the “seed of Jacob.” Other references to the word “seed” in Genesis include 7:3; 9:9; 38:8; 46:6; and 48:11, 19. Each must refer to literal descendants. On the grounds of consistency, the references in God’s covenant must also refer to Abraham.
The promise to David that his throne would be “established for ever” (2Sam 7:12-16), is embedded in other prophecies that were literally fulfilled (that he would have a son; that this son would build the temple; that he would be chastened for iniquity, but that God’s mercy would not depart from him). David expected literal fulfillment of the whole prophecy, (vv 18-29), and, on the grounds of consistency, we can also expect literal fulfillment.
Other OT passages (such as in Psa 22, Isa 7, 11, 53, 61; Micah 5), which foretell Christ’s first coming (that He would be descended from David; that He would be born in Bethlehem; that He would be born of a virgin; descriptions of His earthly ministry; details of His sufferings and death) were certainly literally fulfilled. Also, in the OT, numerous passages speak of His second coming, His return to earth, the judgments, a blessed future for Israel, with blessing flowing out to the nations, and a time of unprecedented peace and righteousness. Often these are together with prophecies of His first coming (for example, in Isa 61). We do not deny the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 53 at His first coming. How can we then deny the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 11 at His second coming? It makes no sense to say that, when the prophets wrote about His first coming, it was meant literally but when they wrote about His second coming, it was meant spiritually.
Coming now to the NT, in Luke 1:31, Mary is told that she will conceive and bear a Son, and call His name Jesus. We do not doubt the literal interpretation of these words. Then immediately we read, “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, And He shall rule over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (vv 32, 33). The amillennialist cannot have it both ways. If he takes the details of the Lord’s birth as literal, then he should also take the reign over Israel on the throne of David as being literal.
The amillennialist tries to deny the literal Millennium on the grounds that Revelation is a book full of symbols. But, as the above discussion shows, he has abandoned literal interpretation long before he gets to Revelation!
Finally, let us consider his dismissal of the literal meaning of Revelation 20. To do this on the basis of the Revelation being full of symbols will not do. Yes, there are plenty of symbols, but those symbols denote things which are literal. For example, in 1:12, the “lampstands” are symbols, but they stand for something real: seven churches (v 20). The “Lamb” (5:6) is the Lord Jesus Christ, even though He is not literally a sheep. The use of the figure does not nullify the reality of what is being portrayed. So it is in chapter 20: the “chain” (for example) in verse 1 is figurative, but the binding of Satan (which it represents) is real. The use of imagery enriches the Scriptures and deepens our insight into them, but does not do away with the reality of the literal events described.
Thus, the amillennialist is inconsistent in his interpretation of Scripture, using the literal method in general, but switching to the allegorical method for prophecy, or at least for some prophecy; for he is not even consistent with prophecy. When it concerns the Lord’s first coming, he takes it literally, but when it concerns His second coming, he abandons the literal method.
When we consistently use the same yardstick of interpretation, the historical-grammatical method, then we conclude that there will be a literal, future Millennium when Christ will reign over this world.