Amillennialism: Wikis

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Amillennialism (Latin: a- "no" + millennialism) is a view in Christian end-times theology named for its rejection of the theory that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long, physical reign on the earth. This is in opposition to premillennial and some postmillennial views of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.

In contrast, the amillennial view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age, (or more rarely, that it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 — see Preterism). Amillennialism holds that while Christ's reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish permanent physical reign.

Contents

Terminology

Many proponents dislike the name amillennialism because it emphasizes their negative differences with premillennialism rather than their positive beliefs about the millennium, and although they prefer alternate terms such as nunc-millennialism (that is, now-millennialism) or realized millennialism, the acceptance and widespread usage of the different names has been limited.[1]

Teaching

Amillennialism teaches that the Kingdom of God will not be physically established on earth throughout the "millennium", but rather

  • that Jesus is presently reigning from heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father,
  • that Jesus also is and will remain with the church until the end of the world, as he promised at the Ascension,
  • that at Pentecost, the millennium began, as is shown by Peter using the prophecies of Joel, about the coming of the kingdom, to explain what was happening,
  • and that, therefore the church and its spread of the good news is Christ's kingdom.

Amillennialists cite scripture references to the kingdom not being a physical realm: Matthew 12:28, where Jesus cites his driving out of demons as evidence that the kingdom of God had come upon them; Luke 17:20-21, where Jesus warns that the coming of the kingdom of God can not be observed, and that it is among them; and Romans 14:17, where Paul speaks of the kingdom of God being in terms of the Christians' actions.

In particular, they regard the thousand year period as a figurative expression of Christ's reign being perfectly completed, as the "thousand hills" referred to in Psalm 50:10, the hills on which God owns the cattle, are all hills, and the "thousand generations" in 1 Chronicles 16:15, the generations for which God will be faithful, refer to all generations. (Some postmillennialists and nearly all premillennialists hold that the word millennium should be taken to refer to a literal thousand-year period.)

Amillennialism also teaches that the binding of Satan described in Revelation has already occurred; he has been prevented from "deceiving the nations" by preventing the spread of the gospel. This is the only binding he will suffer in history: the forces of Satan will not be gradually pushed back by the Kingdom of God as history progresses but will remain just as active as always up until the second coming of Christ, and therefore good and evil will remain mixed in strength throughout history and even in the church, according to the amillennial understanding of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.

Amillennialism is sometimes associated with Idealism as both teach a symbolic interpretation of many of the prophecies of the Bible and especially the Book of Revelation. However, many amillennialists do believe in the literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecies; they simply disagree with Millennialists about how or when these prophecies will be fulfilled.

History

Comparison of Christian millennial interpretations
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Early church

The first two centuries of the church held both premillennial and amillennial opinions.[2] Although none of the available Church Fathers advocate amillennialism in the first century, Justin Martyr (died 165), who had chiliastic tendencies in his theology,[3] mentions differing views in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, chapter 80: "I and many others are of this opinion [premillennialism], and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise."[4]

A few amillenialists such as Albertus Pieters understand Pseudo-Barnabas to be amillennial. In the second century, the Alogi (those who rejected all of John's writings) were amillennial, as was Caius in the first quarter of the third century.[5] With the influence of Neo-Platonism and dualism, Clement of Alexandria and Origen denied premillennialism.[6] Likewise, Dionysius of Alexandria argued that Revelation was not written by John and could not be interpreted literally; he was amillennial.[7]

Origen's idealizing tendency to consider only the spiritual as real (which was fundamental to his entire system) led him to combat the "rude"[8] or "crude"[9] Chiliasm of a physical and sensual beyond.

In general, however, premillennialism appeared in the available writings of the early church but it was evident that both views existed side by side. The premillennial beliefs of the early church fathers, however, are quite different from the dominant form of modern-day premillennialism, namely dispensational premillennialism.[10]

Medieval and Reformation periods

Amillennialism gained ground after Christianity became a legal religion. It was systematized by St. Augustine in the fourth century, and this systematization carried amillennialism over as the dominant eschatology of the Medieval and Reformation periods. Augustine was originally a premillennialist, but he retracted that view, claiming the doctrine was carnal.[11] Although he argued that Christ's reign was spiritual and not literal and earthly, and that the church was currently living in the millennium, Augustine held to a literal 1,000 year millennium that could end in perhaps A.D. 650 or, at the latest, 1000.

Amillennialism was the dominant view of the Protestant Reformers. The Lutheran Church formally rejected chiliasm in the The Augsburg Confession— “Art. XVII., condemns the Anabaptists and others ’who now scatter Jewish opinions that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed.’"[12] Likewise, the Swiss Reformer, Heinrich Bullinger wrote up the Second Helvetic Confession which reads "We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment."[13] John Calvin wrote in Institutes that chiliasm is a "fiction" that is "too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation." He interpreted the thousand year period of Revelation 20 non-literally, applying it to the "various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth."[14]

Modern times

Amillennialism has been widely held in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as in the Roman Catholic Church, which generally follows Augustine on this point and which has deemed that premillennialism "cannot safely be taught."[4] Amillennialism is also common among "mainline" Protestant denominations such as the Lutheran, Reformed, Disciples of Christ, and Anglican churches, and even has a significant following amongst Evangelical Christian denominations. Partial Preterism is sometimes a component of amillennial hermeneutics. Amillennialism declined in Protestant circles with the rise of Postmillennialism and the resurgence of Premillennialism in the 18th and 19th centuries, but it has regained prominence in the West after World War II.

Criticism

Many premillennialists accuse amillennialists of over-spiritualizing parts of the Bible. Amillennialists argue that to understand the Bible literally, one must interpret it according to its genre such that history is not read as though it were poetry, for instance. Amillennialist B. B. Warfield says that in the genre of the Book of Revelation, which he calls an "apocalyptic," everything is stated in a "symbolic medium" such that "every event, person, and thing, that appears on its pages is to be read as a symbol, and the thing symbolized understood. This is not to say one thing and mean another; it is only to say what is said through the medium of a series of symbols, and to mean nothing but the things symbolized."[15] Since the events pictured in an apocalyptic are spoken of in a symbolic medium, the details of the symbol must not be forced onto the thing symbolized because the book itself "gives us a direct description of nothing it sets before us, but always a direct description of the symbol by which it is represented." [16]

The amillennial view that good and evil will persist has led some postmillennialists to accuse amillennialists (and premillennialists) of being overly pessimistic. Amillennialists have countered that the Parable of the Weeds and the Parable of Drawing in the Net show that the good and evil will be sorted out only at the end of the world.

Critics also believe that caesaropapism caused millennialism to be eliminated from Christianity from the 4th century onwards.

See also

References

  1. ^ Anthony Hoekema, "Amillennialism"
  2. ^ Patrick Allen Boyd (1977). Thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary. p. 90f. "[P]erhaps, seminal amillennialism, and not nascent dispensational pre-millennialism ought to be seen in the eschatology of the period)."  
  3. ^ "Always Victorious!" by Francis Nigel Lee
  4. ^ a b Catholic Answers on "The Rapture"
  5. ^ Eusebius, 3.28.1-2
  6. ^ De Principiis, 2.2
  7. ^ Eusebius, Church History, 7.15.3; 7.25
  8. ^ The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol.8, p. 273
  9. ^ The Anchor Bible Dictionary (1997) article "Chiliasm", The Labyrinth of the World and the Paradise of the Heart (Johann Amos Comenius, ed. 1998) p. 42 and Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (James D. G. Dunn, 1999) p. 52.
  10. ^ Boyd, pp. 90f: "It is the conclusion of this thesis that Dr. Ryrie's statement [that dispensationalism was the view of the early church fathers] is historically invalid within the chronological framework of this thesis. The reasons for this conclusion are as follows: 1). the writers/writings surveyed did not generally adopt a consistently applied literal interpretation; 2). they did not generally distinguish between the Church and Israel; 3). there is no evidence that they generally held to a dispensational view of revealed history; 4). although Papias and Justin Martyr did believe in a Milennial kingdom, the 1,000 years is the only basic similarity with the modern system (in fact, they and dispensational pre-millennialism radically differ on the basis of the Millennium); 5).they had no concept of imminency or a pre-tribulational rapture of the Church; 6).in general, their eschatological chronology is not synonymous with that of the modern system. Indeed, this thesis would conclude that the eschatological beliefs of the period studied would be generally inimical to those of the modern system (perhaps, seminal amillennialism, and not nascent dispensational pre-millennialism ought to be seen in the eschatology of the period)."
  11. ^ City of God 20.7
  12. ^ Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.) 381.
  13. ^ Philip Schaff History of Creeds Vol. 1, 307.
  14. ^ John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, XXV.V
  15. ^ B. B. Warfield, "The Apocalypse" in Selected Shorter Writings, vol II. Presbyterian and Reformed: Phillipsburg, 1971. p. 652. ISBN 0875525318
  16. ^ B. B. Warfield, "The Millennium and the Apocalypse" in Biblical Doctrines, vol. II in Works. Baker Book House: Grand Rapids. n.d. p. 650

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