Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Why I am an Amillennialist

Although it looks like I am in the minority, I wanted to share (although no one asked me to) the reasons why I believe Amillennialism is the best Biblical way for understanding the end times. The main opposing view to Amillennialism is Pre-Millennialism (Pre-Mil from now on). I respect the great number of Pre-Mil teachers and theologians (oh, and my family members also - J) who hold the Pre-Mil viewpoint. And as I grow in my knowledge of Scriptures, I hope I am open to learn more, and possibly even changing my mind on my end-times view.

But here goes. Here are three quick reasons why I believe Amillennialism is the best method for understanding the Bible's description of the end-time events:

First, How should we understand the Book of Revelation? Here's the issue –Pre-Mil's (I will use Pre-Mil as being the same as the largest group of today's Christians who believe in a Pre-Trib, Pre-Mil Rapture) view the Book of Revelation as a chronological book that is to be read as a straight sequence of future events. This means that Pre-Mil's understand the 7 Seals (Revelation 6) are one set of events followed by the 7 Trumpets (Revelation 8-14), then followed by the 7 Bowls (Revelation 16). While the Amillennialists believe the Book of Revelation describes repeating sequences of events that grow in the power of their effects (also called Recapitulation).

The repeating cycles used in Revelation make it similar to a song with a repeating refrain that grows in volume. Lowery, Robert, Revelation's Rhapsody, College Press (2006). I remember the first time I read Revelation, I thought it was odd that in Revelation 6:8 after the 4th Seal is opened one-fourth (1/4) of the earth is killed. But in Revelation 9:15 one-third (1/3) of mankind is killed after the 6th Trumpet is blown. My suspicion that something was going on was confirmed when I heard the explanation of Recapitulation which answered my suspicions. Here is a good summary of how the different cycles are repeating in Revelation:

A correlation between the seven trumpet judgments and the seven bowl judgments has often been observed, suggesting the possibility of parallelism between the sections:

A. The first of each affects the earth (Rev. 8:7; 16:2).

B. The second of each affects the sea (Rev. 8:8; 16:3).

C. The third of each affects the rivers (Rev. 8:10; 16:4).

D. The fourth of each affects heavenly bodies (Rev. 8:12; 16:8).

E. The fifth of each affects men (Rev. 9:1; 16:10).

F. The sixth of each affects the Euphrates (Rev. 9:13; 16:12).

G. The seventh of each is the end (Rev. 11:15; 16:17).

Revelation, Four Views : a parallel commentary, S. Gregg, Introduction.


 

The Second reason why I am an Amillennialist is because of the Second Coming. Remember that most Pre-Mil's believe that Jesus comes secretly to rapture believers, unknown to the rest of the world, then comes back 7 years later to lead the saintly armies in the Battle of Armageddon and set up His earthly millennial Kingdom (Revelation 19:11-20:6; famous Pre-Mil author T LaHaye, Bible Prophecy – A Quick Reference Guide, q. 3-4). I do not believe that the Bible describes Jesus coming to Earth three times. Instead, Hebrews 9:28 states that Christ will appear a "second time". I take this wording on its face, and believe that there will be one Second Coming of Jesus, and not a second followed by a third appearance of Christ. Amillennialists believe this because when Jesus comes back a "second time", it will not be only to rapture believers, but also to resurrect those dead in Christ, and ultimately to resurrect all people to face Him at the Great White Throne Judgment Seat (Rev. 21:1-8). This all takes place on the Biblical term referred to as the "Last Day". I understand that Pre-Mil author Tim LaHaye describes Jesus' return as being in phases – the first phase is the Secret Rapture of believers. While the second phase is the resurrection of the rest of the world which is post-Millennium and before the Great White Throne Judgment, 1,007 years later. Two phases of Christ's return 1,007 years apart? I'm sorry I don't see that, or read anything that even hints that this is possible anywhere in the Bible.

Now, I'm just getting warmed up (sorry, this I hope is my last 'Princess Bride' reference). The third reason why I am an Amillennialist is the problem with the Pre-Mil position on the Resurrection / and the Day of the Lord. This is similar to the Pre-Mil problem on Jesus' Second Coming where Pre-Mil's believe in essentially there being two separate, future return appearances of Christ, The Resurrection problem is this – Pre-Mil's believe there is one Resurrection for believers in Christ (see, 1 Thess. 4:16-:17, the Lord Himself will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then also those who are alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord.) and a second Resurrection taking place after the Millennium and before the Great White Throne Judgment. While Amillennialists believe there is only one Resurrection that takes place for both believers and unbelievers at His Second Coming before the Great White Throne Judgment. I believe the Biblical support for only one Resurrection of the living and the dead is very strong: As one example of both the rapture of believers taking place at the same time with the Resurrection of the world is contained in 1 Corinthians Chapter 15:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised…

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. 23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming. 24
Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. 1 Cor. 15:12-:13, 20-24.

My reading of these verses tells me in verse 23 that Jesus comes for those who are His at the Second Coming. And then comes the end, when Jesus delivers the Kingdom to God the Father. Again, it takes quite a stretch to read in a 1,007 year separation for these two events. This is also related to the Biblical term 'Day of the Lord'. Here are some other descriptions of what takes place on the 'Day of the Lord':

  • The Day of the Lord - For the ungodly:
    • A Day of Decision – Joel 3:14
    • A Day of God's Wrath – Isa. 2:6-22; Romans 2:5
    • A Day of Righteous Judgment – Romans 2:5
    • Heavens will pass away at the Day of the Lord – 2 Peter 3:7,10
    • Earth will pass away, melt at the Day of the Lord – 2 Pt. 3:7, 10
    • It is a Day of Judgment and utter destruction/eternal damnation (perdition) for the ungodly – 2 Peter 3:7
    • It is a Day of sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman – 1 Thess. 5:3
    • It is a Day from which there is no escape – 1 Thess. 5:3
    • A frequent metaphor for the Day is war – Isa. 13:4
    • All nations will recognize Yahweh – Joel 3:17; Phil. 2:10
    • Day of the LordBut for the Elect:
      • A day where we rejoice for not having run in vain - Phil. 2:16
      • It is a day where God's promises are fulfilled; 2 Peter 3:13
      • It is a Day when Israel will be saved – Joel 2:32; Zeph.3:14-18
      • It is the Day when we are gathered with our Lord – 2 Thess. 2:1-3
      • It is a day of our salvation; 1 Thess. 5:8-9
      • It is a day when we begin to live with Jesus – 1 Thess. 5:10
      • The end comes right after the resurrection of those in Christ. 1 Cor. 15:22-24
      • At least saved Israel will trample the wicked – Mal. 4:3

And so, on the 'Day of the Lord' there is a resurrection of both believers and unbelievers. For unbelievers, this Day is a Day of Judgment (2 Peter 3:7). While for believers, the Day of the Lord is when believers are gathered with our Lord (2 Thess. 2:1-3). And all of the other descriptions of the Day of the Lord also include pictures of Believers being separated from unbelievers (see, for example separation of wheat and tares/chaff (Matt. 3:12/Luke 3:17), at harvest time weeds and wheat gathered together (Matt. 13:30), and the separation of sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46), with judgment following for the unbelievers. So the Pre-Mil understanding of the Rapture of believers is the dead in Christ rise first, then those in Christ are also raptured (1 Thess. 4:16-17). But this Pre-Mil understanding means that there is a 1,007 year separation of the resurrection of believers and unbelievers. It appears to me that the Pre-Mil understanding is difficult (but not impossible) to reconcile with the verses speaking of the separation of wheat and tares taking place at the same time, and this happening at the time of judgment. Also, John 5:29 and Acts 24:15 speak of an hour coming when the resurrection will take place, with the elect to a resurrection of life, and those who had done evil to a resurrection of judgment. Again these verses speak of the resurrection taking place at the same time, with no mention of a 1,007 year separation for these events as Pre-Millers would have us believe. Therefore, I agree with the Amillennialist position that says that the Resurrection of saints and sinners, the living and the dead takes place at the same time, followed by judgment.

Well, this is my long-winded explanation of why I am an Amillennialist. My take away thought for you who are thinking about Jesus' return is this: Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-:25.

6 comments:

edward oleander said...

It seems to me that the Bible has multiple examples of stories that have multiple versions, or at least multiple view points. In Genesis there are two competing Creation stories. Some say they're compatible, I'm not so sure. Couldn't Revelation also be such a conglomeration? I admit the possibility would perhaps hopelessly complicate separating the real story out... For the sake of discussion, how would that possibility affect your view?

Besides being an interesting intellectual exercise, what do you see as the stakes in getting the interpretation of the End Times correct?

BTW: I added a couple posts to recent threads... bon appetite!

};-)
~E~

Bryan & Meggan said...

Tom,
I defer to you in study time spent on this topic, so I can't create sophisticated arguments for the premil. position. However, it seems to me, at least in my current understanding, that you are wrongly lumping all premils in with pre-tribs. As one who leans toward a post-trib. position, I do not see how any of the three arguments you supplied would argue against me.

Once again, I readily admit that I don't know all the in's and out's of this discussion - I know just enough to be dangerous!

Thanks for your thoughts,
Bry

edward oleander said...

Bryan,

Don't sell yourself short... I think you've shown some great insights on your positions... I don't agree with a lot of your conclusions, but your ability to think something through is not in doubt...

You may have read my rather shrill admonition for Tom to speak his mind, even if it disagrees with the church authorities... I would encourage you to do the same.

We all take chances when we stretch ourselves in an area we aren't experts in, but that is how we learn, and possibly even change...

I'm still at square one with the whole A-mil vs. Pre-mil thing, so I would like to hear what you think the difference between Pre-Mil and Pre-Trib is...

Back in Logic class, one of the prime ideas we studied was the idea that while all "X" might also be "Y", not all "Y" are also "X"... How does that apply here...

Plus I am still VERY interested to hear yours and Tom's answer to my question above about the stakes of this debate...

~Ed~

tom wolff said...

Hi Bryan, yeah, my computer is back in working order. I’m so excited!

I am going to pass on discussing the Post-Trib view, as I just don’t know enough to say anything helpful. But Minneapolis’ own Pastor John Piper on his ‘Desiring God’ blog, discusses a little bit about his Post-Trib viewpoint. Pastor John Piper is a great Pastor and theologian, and he has put together several sermons dealing with the End Times and Jesus’ Second Coming. Here is the list of his End Times’ sermons - (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByTopic/29/). He has rejected the Pre-Trib view and holds to a Post-Trib view. Here is a short blurb from one of his sermons.

One Argument for the Post-Tribulational View

(from the sermon on What Must Take Place Before the Day of the Lord) … Tonight I hope to take this issue up in more detail. But for now let me just show you one of several arguments from 2 Thessalonians why I cannot follow this interpretation (i.e., the Pre-Trib view), as much as I love and respect those who do. Why am I a post-tribulationist, that is, why do I look forward with great anticipation not to a sudden departure from the world for seven years but to a great gathering to meet the Lord in the air as he comes with his mighty angels in flaming fire to establish his earthly kingdom, giving rest to his people and judgment to his enemies?

What the Thessalonians Were Alarmed About
The saints at Thessalonica were shaken and alarmed thinking that the day of the Lord is at hand. Now for the pre-tribulationist the "Day of the Lord" is the second half of the second coming after the tribulation. It is described in verse 8: "And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming."
This is the day of the Lord—not the quiet rapture when the saints are snatched away, but the glorious and overwhelming attack from heaven against the man of lawlessness and all evil.
Now the question arises: If the Thessalonians were overly excited and shaken, thinking that the day of the Lord had come, why didn't Paul simply say, "You know it hasn't come because you are still here and I'm still here and the rapture hasn't happened yet"? Why did he say in verse 3, "You know the day of the Lord has not come because the apostasy has not come and the man of lawlessness has not been revealed"? …

tom wolff said...
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tom wolff said...
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