On these cold and long winter days (long in the sense of boring), I thought I would share with you the views of Pastor Kim Riddlebarger whom I admire. He writes today on the topic of the strenths and weaknesses of the various endtime views, and Jesus Christ's promised return. Pastor Riddlebarger supports Amillenialism, and is a Reformed preacher, along the lines of John Calvin. Here are his thoughts on the two main endtime views, Premillianism (This is the view of the 'Left Behind' book series - Jesus raptures believers up to heaven, followed by tribulation for the rest of the world, Jesus then sets up a 1,000 year Milleniall Kingdom, Satan causes a worldwide revolt, and the final Judgment), and Amillenialism (where Jesus returns once on Judgment Day, with the Judgment seat being rewards for believers, and just punishment for non-believers.) Here are Pastor Riddlebargers thoughts on the two main endtimes views, Premillenialism and Amillenialism:
Lëmi asks (October 31, 2007): "Could you explain briefly all the millennial positions pointing out their main strengths and weaknesses?"
Thanks for the question Lëmi...
Lets start with premillennialism. As for its strengths, there seem to be two. One is the fact that Revelation 19 depicts the return of Christ, while Revelation 20:1-10 depicts the reign of Christ on the earth. If these chapters describe consecutive events (a point with which I would take issue) then this would place the millennial age after Christ's return. A second apparent strength is that a number of church fathers state that this was the teaching passed on to them by the eyewitnesses to the ministry of the apostles, although this was not the only view in the early church (book citation omitted.)
There are several serious weaknesses with premillennialism. The first weakness is that premillenniarians have to explain how it is that people make it through the return of Christ and yet remain in natural bodies. Jesus taught that his return marks the end of the age (Matthew 13:39) and that after his return, people no longer marry or are given in marriage (Luke 20:34-36). At Christ's return, he judges the world, making it tough for someone to be judged and yet not eternally condemned or rewarded with eternal life (Matthew 25:31-46). This is especially problematic for premillennarians, since they claim that their view is based upon a "literal" interpretation of prophecy. Where, then, is the one-thousand year gap between the return of Christ and the judgment (which, according to premillennarians takes place at the end of the millennium) when Jesus teaches that judgment takes place at his return? Those who take the Bible "literally" find themselves having to insert a gap into the biblical text which isn't there.
The other problem with premillennialism is, if it be true, there is a great apostasy on the earth after one thousand years of Christ's rule (Revelation 20:7-10). If there cannot be people on earth in natural bodies during the thousand years (which supposedly comes after Christ returns), then who are the people who revolt against Christ at the end of the millennium? And that after Christ's own rule? It makes much more sense to see Revelation 20:1-10 as a description of the entire inter-advental age, since the scene takes place in heaven where the thrones are (vv. 1-6), before shifting to the earth in verses 7-10...
As for amillennialism, it has no weaknesses whatsoever, since it is the biblical position (I'm being facetious). In all seriousness, Amillennialism's strength is its understanding that imminent return of Christ is the consummation of all things and marks the fullness of both the kingdom of God and the age to come. Christ will return to judge the world (Matthew 13:36-43; Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9), raise the dead (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57) and make all things new (2 Peter 3:3-15). He does not return to set up a kingdom (as in premillennialism), but to usher in the eternal state and create a new heaven and earth--the final consummation.
The biggest weakness of amillennialism is in the details--what does John mean by the binding of Satan? Can we really say Satan is bound now? (I say "yes"). What about the first resurrection in Revelation 20? Is John referring to regeneration, or the bodily resurrection? These things require a fair amount of explanation, especially since most American evangelicals know only the premillennial view.
Pastor Riddlebarger's full thoughts can be found at http://kimriddlebarger.squarespace.com/. Anyone have any thoughts about Jesus' return?