A Millennial or A-Millennial Future: Which? (3)
2. Conditions in the Present Time
The amillennialist says that the church (presently) fulfills the OT promises to Israel of earthly blessing. Let us look around, and examine whether what we see in the present matches this claim.
There are many places to which we could turn, but we will restrict ourselves to two: one from the first book in the Bible, and one from the last.
In Genesis 12:1, God tells Abram to go to “a land that I will shew thee.” In verse 5, he arrives in Canaan, and God says it is “this land” to which He had been referring. In chapter 13:14, 15, God tells him that the land that he was looking at would belong to him, and to his seed, forever. This is restated in 15:7. In verses 8-21, God solemnizes His covenant, indicating that Abram can know for sure that it is “this land” (v 18) which will be given to him. Moreover, God identifies the boundaries of the land (vv 18-21).
The amillennialist says that these promises will never be literally fulfilled; that they have a present, spiritual fulfillment in the Church. However, in the passages above, God shows Abram a literal land, and makes it clear that it is “this land” He is referring to, with precise boundaries. In Genesis, when “land” is used, it denotes a literal land. For example, in 15:13, God says, “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” This is Egypt, and this was fulfilled literally. Joseph (Gen 50:24) has no doubt that the land which God “sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” was the literal land of Canaan, for he says that is where God is going to bring them. Moses (Ex 32:13) is equally sure of this.
The amillennialist tries to counter by saying that, yes, the OT saints believed it was the literal land of Canaan, but in the light of the NT, we can see that it is meant to be taken spiritually, in the present blessings of the Church.
The problem with this view is that nowhere, either in the OT or in the NT, are we given the slightest indication that God’s words to Abraham were not meant literally; nowhere is the promise nullified, or transferred to the Church. On the contrary, the NT Scriptures affirm and refer to the literal land of Canaan. In Acts 7:3-8, Stephen tells his accusers that “the land” (v 3) is “this land wherein ye now dwell” (v 4), and that this was the land God had promised to Abram and to his seed (v 5). It could not be clearer that the NT reasserts the promise of the literal land to Abraham’s literal descendants. In Hebrews 11:9, Abraham is said to have sojourned in the “the land of promise.” This has to be the literal land. Thus, the status of the “land of promise” has not changed, and the promises concerning it await fulfillment.
We pass over to Revelation 20. The amillennialist says that this passage speaks of the present; that the 1,000 years are the present age; that the binding of Satan is his defeat at the cross; that the “first resurrection” is what a person experiences when he receives salvation; that believers are presently “reigning” with Christ; and that this will continue until the dead are raised together, at the end of the world.
Now, let us take the amillennialist’s interpretation at face value. Immediately we can see three huge problems:
(1) Revelation 20:2 says that Satan will be “bound” throughout Christ’s reign. We are told the meaning of this in verse 3: “that he should deceive the nations no more.” Let us look around, and ask if this is an appropriate statement of present conditions in the world. It is totally inappropriate. Scriptures written about the present age, such as 2 Corinthians 4:3,4, vividly describe Satan’s blinding of the minds of unbelievers, and we (believers) are not immune from his attacks: the description in 1 Peter 5:8 of “a roaring lion” who “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” hardly depicts one who is bound and incapable of influence! See also Acts 5:3; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Ephesians 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:18; and 2 Timothy 2:26 for evidence of Satan’s current activity. And the daily news headlines testify to Satan’s efficiency in deceiving the nations.
(2) Revelation 20:3, 7, 8 tell us that, after the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed for a short time, and he will deceive the nations again. The amillennialist claims that the present age will continue, until the end of the world, when all will be raised and judged, and the eternal state will begin. This leaves no room for anything corresponding to Satan’s release. If, as he claims, Satan’s binding is his defeat at the cross, then it would be undoing the work of the cross for him to be unbound. There is, in the amillennialist’s scheme, no explanation for Satan’s release.
(3) Revelation 20:4 states that the martyrs “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” The amillennialist says that this “resurrection” (v 5) refers to the spiritual life obtained when a person trusts Christ. If so, what does verse 5 mean when it says that “the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1,000 years were finished?” It cannot mean spiritually, for these people are not saved. If he is honest, he is forced to admit that it is literal resurrection. He gives the word “lived” at the end of verse 4 and at the beginning of verse 5, two totally different meanings, despite the fact that the context and language make it clear that these verses describe a contrast in experience (i.e., literal resurrection) between two different groups. The amillennial interpretation does violence to the plain teaching of the passage.
Thus, looking at present conditions, we see that the amillennial doctrine does not bear scrutiny. Both the promise of the land and the promise of the saints reigning with Christ demand future fulfillment.
In this article, we have seen something of the inconsistencies in the amillennial interpretation. In the following article, we will look further into the consistency of Biblical interpretation.