Of all the beliefs about Bible prophecy established as normative among Christians, Amillennialism ranks number one, thanks to the prolific writings and wide influence of the African Bishop, Aurelius Augustine of the city of Hippo Regius, in what is present day Algeria. St. Augustine was born on November 13, 354 and died on August 28, 430. Today, almost 1,583 years after his death his prophecy ideas are the most prevalent belief system on end times in the whole Christian world. However, we would be mistaken if we thought this truth meant that the majority of Christians know their eschatology by this name; such is not the case!
Nevertheless, Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant churches charish these views and are reluctant to doubt them, and to be effective teachers and communicators it is necessary to help direct people to understand what they presently believe, and encourage them to discover how it differs with what the Bible says or infers.
In order to facilitate this process the two charts below were drawn. The first chart gives a rough outline of Amillennialism from a non-technical point of view. The lettered flags note six major questions we would like our fellow Christians to entertain. The second chart should serve as a comparison model and both charts should be checked against the Bible. This work is meant to augment the Study Initiative for All Christians we are asking all interested believers to take upon themselves to start and complete in as much time as they wish to allot.
Encouraging a Reappraisal of Amillennialism
To even begin contemplating any changes at all, each and every one of us must have a clear idea of what we believe and why we believe it. Is our view based on the Bible? Is it based on the accumulated assumptions of many years? Is it comprised of collective ideas that have not undergone the rigors of point by point testing with what the Bible says? What we believe may easily be a combination of both, but we need to look at whatever it is and compare it with data that all parties agree should serve as a standard, a guide and yardstick. Using Nebuchadnezzar's dream as found in Daniel 2:31-45 is an excellent way for each of us to fact-check ideas we have received and generally take for granted. Daniel 7:1-27 is a parallel account that uses different symbols and adds more details to the course of events. It, too, is a great text to be familiar with. Between the two passages many of the fundamental ideas of New Testament prophecy find their basis. However, the question needs to be posed as to whether or not Amillennialism reflects the essential shape and outcome of the events represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream or Daniel's night vision?
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Compare Amillennial Eschatology above with Atavist Eschatology below
Red Flags and Queries
As you can see in the above diagram, six red flags have been placed at key points in the illustration. The first of these, a is there to ask if the Fourth Kingdom is really intended to denote the Roman Empire? It is also there to ask: In what way does a divided (East/West) Roman realm make sense when that was not a reality or an issue in the first century during the time of Domitian but only happened long after the contemporaries of Jesus and the first Christians were long on the scene of this earthly theater, in the fourth century after Christ? This question assumes Amillennialism's claim that the Fourth Kingdom is indeed the Roman Empire.
"John's visions are revealed against the backdrop of Roman persecution of the church, and the image of the satanic beast clearly draws upon the historical image of Nero Caesar as a referencw to a series of anti-Christian empires and their leaders throughout the age.
According to this view, Revelation is more likely to have been written after A.D.70. John does not intend his reader to seee Babylon as referring to apostate Israel but to an evil secular empire which persecutes God's people."1
Now, the Roman Empire--even if it was intended--was not a "secular empire" as no nation, kingdom or xountry was without a variety of nationaly recognized deities. Yet in terms of irreligion and tendency toward secularism, and can be truthfully said that the Jerusalem aristocracy was the most agnostic and atheistical of them all.
It is staying well with the parameters of possibilities and options to think that the fourth kingdom could only be the Romans, but what if that is not the case? Is it possible that the fourth kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel's prophecies was Judaea itself? (Click this link to see what that looks like and where that leads).
Hasmonean Judaea began, not with an east/ west split but with a north/south division in its very character due to the contradictory influences of the Greek Seleucid northern kingdom versus the Greek Ptolemaic southern kingdom. Jewish society was similarly affected and divided leading to dissonant policies and practices from the time of Alexander's Diodochi, into the Hasmonean Dynasty, on into Herod's reign and policies. The repurcussion reverberated all the way to the First Great Revolt. However, a specifically Jewish timeline does not characterize Amillennial considerations of texts, hermeneutics and exegesis, but should it?
Red Flag B
Under red flag b we want Christians to consider whether it is really best to think of Daniel 7:13 as representing the Ascension of our Lord back to God the Father ten days before Pentecost, as many seem to assume. The reason we might want to reconsider this is because the Son of man being brought to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13 appears to parallel the Stone striking the toes of the feet in Daniel 2:34. If that is the case, Daniel 7 tells us much more than we could know by Daniel 2 alone: it tells us that the kingdom would be given to "the people of the saints of the Most High God" in the midst of tribulation, war and judgment (Daniel 7:7-27). The entire scene reflects nothing that happened at the end or immediate aftermath of our Lord's ministry, nor does it reflect conditions that prevailed at the time of Christ's Ascension or mirror anything that was going on anywhere on the day of Pentecost when the New Testament Church was born. It does, however, closely resemble events in Revelation 12:4-5 (compare with Revelation 2:25-28) and the circumstances of Revelation 13:1-7 and 17:8-14. If this is so an amendment occasioned by this Biblical information would move events thought to have happened as early as A.D.33 towards the Destruction of Jerusalem ( A.D.66-70), 33 years later.
Red Flag C
In what Amillennialists like to point to as the "Inter-Advent Period" we have what is believed to be the Church's conquest of the Roman Empire where, however, in both of the prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7 there should have been a coming and one hundred thousand people standing before the Ancient of Days for judgment (Daniel 7:10). Since the fall of the Roman Empire is now a historical reality, this one fact seems to put Amillennialism in a dilemma by asking, What are the implications of the fall of the Fourth Kingdom in the Scriptures? In the Scriptures the fall of the Stone is represented as the cataclysmic arrival of the kingdom of God (Daniel 2:34, 44). In Daniel 7 the downfall of the Little Horn is represented as the time when the saints received the Kingdom of God (Daniel 7:14, 18, 22, and 27. But how does this mesh with the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D.476? Or does the idea of a Roman Fourth kingdom lend itself to these prophecies in any discernible way?
Red Flag D
In red flag d we have the Great Mountain, which represents the Church and kingdom of God. According to Amillennialism the Church will decline and fail and then Jesus will return. A proof text to support this idea is Luke 18:8--"When the Son of man comes will he find faith on the earth?" To many Christians this rhetorical question suggests that there will barely be any believers when Jesus comes back. However, an alternative interpretation of that verse (one that takes the speedy vengeance of part [a] of the eighth verse into account) suggests, not an eventual, but a very early Second Coming and very few believers left holding the faith in ancient Judaea (compare this with the Fifth Seal of Revelation 6:9-11 and the adjacent Sixth Seal of Revelation 6:12-17). So the meaning would come down to widespread apostasy among Jewish Christians frightened away from the Lord by persecution and injustices imposed upon them by their own countrymen in a time long ago. If the New Testament, in reality, supports a very early Second Coming, Luke 18:8 has no bearing on the failure of the Church or disappearance of Christians at some point in a distant futurity.
Red Flag E
The prophecy of the Great Mountain (represented in d) has implications that merge into problems between Amillennialism and the Bible on questions related to red flag e. In e we have Amillennialism's future Final Return of Jesus Christ to this earth. It, more than any other model and expectation, matches with the Nicene Creedal statement, "And he shall come again to judge the quick and the dead." Note that it is conceived as both the Second Coming (which in the New Testament was allegedly near to the first Christians) and the Great White Throne Judgment, which was set to happen after Satan was released, and after the Final Revolt had been put down.
In other words, the Second Coming from before John's Revelation 20 millennium, is combined with the Great White Throne Judgment that was to happen after the millennium. This is a cognitive error of major proportions and has to be addressed and resolved in order for the narrative of Revelation to be able to be straightened out in exegesis. Click this link for a more detailed analysis between the ministry of our Lord and the Destruction of Jerusalem and the period between the Destruction of Jerusalem and the downfall and disappearance of the Jewish State in antiquity: Twenty-two Verses that Will Change the Way You See Bible Prophecy.
Furthermore, because of the way things are arranged, the continuity of the Mountain that begins and extends into the Eternal State in the Scriptures does not do so in Amillennialism. Hence, such promises as those found in Isaiah 9:6; Daniel 2:44; Luke 1:33 and Ephesians 3:21 need to be looked at again. Moreover, Revelation 11:15 and 12:10 also surely suggest only continued success for the kingdom of God from age to age.
Red Flag F
Stone and Wind: What do they introduce? In very close connection with the idea of the Church being rescued from the earth at its weakest point is the Amillennial idea that the Stone Destruction and the Wind Destruction (the so-called 'Future Final Second Coming') introduces the Eternal State (the Goal of Amillennialism). But are the Mountain and the Eternal State two different things or different aspects of the same period in the Scriptures (Daniel 2:35, 44 cf. Revelation 21:10)? How does Daniel 2:34 and 35 and verse 44 and Revelation 21:10 explain this? Does one catastrophe bring in the Eternal State? Or does the Stone reduce the toes, pulverize the image and does the Wind remove the Chaff and introduce the Mountain and the Holy City, the final state?
Please look again and ponder the differences between the arrangement of events in the Scriptures and how they are represented in Amillennialism. From the Scriptures we see that the Stone Destruction should have happened before the Mountain ever appeared; in Amillennialism the Stone (that is, the Second Coming) happens to affect the Mountain, not the toes of the image's feet. Moreover, the Wind Destruction, which in the explanation of Daniel was to remove the Chaff of the pulverized image, is conflated into one event in Amillennialism. As a result of this, instead of the Stone and the Wind being events standing across from each other, they are parallel to one another and have an implied impact on the Mountain and its continuance.
Finally, in the Amillennial view, the Second Coming is an all encompassing event. It ends human history, it ends time as we know it, it ends physical reality as we know it, it sees the resurrection of all who have ever lived, it sees the judgment and condemnation or reward of every man, woman, boy or girl who was ever born. In Amillennialism the Second Coming heralds the detonation of the planet earth (as 2 Peter 3:10 is interpreted to mean) and a New Heaven and New Earth. From their interpretive perspective a 'new planet and a new sky' will literally be the aftermath of the Acts of God following what they understand as the return of Christ.
However, this concept and expectation, though familiar to so many Christians, is completely foreign to the language of prophecy in the Bible and Semitic modes of expression (see Isaiah 66:22-24 cf. Malachi 4:1-3).
Those prophecies could not be fulfilled if God intended for us to understand that a New Heaven and Earth was a new planet and sky. Nevertheless, upon a high mountain on this expected new planet, Amillennialists expect a New Jerusalem and outside of it (presumably) will be a Lake of Fire for all the condemned.
Ideas and expectations clustered around Red flag f are problematic because Isaiah foretold that there would be no end of the increase of Christ's government and peace. However, if people are no longer born and are no longer coming into the New Heaven and New Earth, it will have a steady population from the Second Coming onwards and will surely cease to increase, won't it?
Finally, a final "sinless eternal state" will have enormously negative reverberations on the oft repeated sworn prophecies of the Hebrew Writer who declared, over and over, that the Father said of Christ, "The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" (Hebrews 7:21 cf. Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:16-20; 7:3; 7:28). A birthless, sinless eternity with a kingdom of God with a fixed population is the hope of Amillennial aspirations, but is it what the Bible conceives? It is difficult to understand why Jesus needs to be a priest forever if that office is only needed on a finite time-table that has a due date.
What Amillennialism is Telling Us
The simplicity of the above charts should not fool you; the differences between them and the messages they represent are the cause of great grief, disappointment, and interpersonal turmoil between Christians. Christians who know only the Amillennial interpretation of Bible prophecy believe certain things about reality and are expecting certain things to happen in the future, even if it is believed it may happen in 44,000 years (if not longer). At any rate the future aspirations of these Christians is taken very seriously and is not something to be trifled with or made fun of; respect must be shown because beliefs are not strictly matters of fact but equally profound unspoken feelings too.
On the other hand, Christians who are keenly aware of the following qualities: audience relevance and time statements, Jewish Salvation History and the context of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, the Second Temple and the coincident events of the Jewish war their efforts to realize Messianic prophecies (according to Essenic and Rabbinic sectarian scenarios) believe deeply that the mistake of all futurist views is in lifting Bible prophecy out of its context and placing it in a continuum that God never intended. In other words, futurism's scope is too big and the parameters of the Bible subject and fulfillment can't be fulfilled at all because of this.
On the other hand, from the angle of strictly Jewish history, we have very good reasons to believe that the prophecies of the New Testament were fulfilled in no long time--as the New Testament writers repeatedly affirm (Romans 13:11-12; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 1:5-8; 7:26. 29-31; 10:11; 15:51; Galatians 4:21-31; Colossians 2:14-22 cf. Hebrews 8:8-13; 12:28; James 5:1-9; 1 Peter 4:7, 17; 2 Peter 3:10-14; 1 John 2:18-19; Jude 14; Revelation 1:1, 3 and 7; 16:15; 22:6-7, 10). Compare Revelation 22:10 with what was said to Daniel six centuries before Christ in Daniel 12:9 and we have every reason to believe that the goals of the Apocalypse of our Lord was linearly near rather than far at the time John received the Book of Revelation at the behest of the Holy Spirit. Revelation 22:20 is the last word in a heavy band of Scriptures that insisted that Jesus was coming back in the very days when the New Testament was being penned; Amillennialists ardently disagree with this and allege these texts mean no such thing.
In the wake of this data and in the aftermath of persuasion that a lot more happened in antiquity than at first meets the eye, Amillennarians have been quick (too quick?), to see these emerging issues as ridiculous interpretive follies gone completely amuck or berserk to the nth degree. It might seem that way when for all of our lives we never even questioned the assumptions that undergird our own beliefs and, consequently, an idea like Daniel 7:13 actually being fulfilled in the context of the Ascension and the day of Pentecost in A.D.33 does not sound very problematic when, in fact, it is very problematic.
Even the seemingly simple process of moving the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13 forward only 33 years has gigantic reverberations that bring surprising new things into view. Suddenly the Olivet Discourse, which Amillennialist typically handle in a way that steers away from what a more disinterested observer might think is a more natural interpretation: that Jesus is conflating his own Second Coming and the gathering of his elect by his angels with the Destruction of Second Temple Jerusalem, is rejected as obvious nonsense by Amillennial exegetes who are determined to have it say something else.
In regard to Revelation 20, Amillennialists are telling us that this symbol represents the Inter-Advent period, or, in
other words, the time-span between the Ascension of Christ until his Second Coming. But this does not appear to be the case when Revelation 20:4 makes it crystal clear that this period that started, not at the Cross, the Ascension or Pentecost, but after the madness and mayhem of the Sea Beast, the Land Beast and the issuance of the damning image, mark, name or number (Revelation 13:15:18 cf. 14:9-12 and 20:4). Hence, Revelation 20:1-4 is erroneously taught to reach back to the Ascension of Christ when in reality it only reaches no earlier than the aftermath of the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 (Revelation 19:1-4 cf. 19:19-20).
Contentious issues these are, and yet Amillennialists are people too, and, as we expect for ourselves, the same holds true for them: it will take patience and kindness to see the fruits of these inquiries as unlearning some things is like dying a death (of sorts). We should respect the process and pray that people can grow in the true knowledge of Christ without, condescension, calumniation and name calling being the order of the day. Nobody needs it when we want to be Christians in the best and truest sense of this most noble, worthy, and holy name. True, we do not now see eye to eye because we disagree with the Amillennial insistence that Jesus somehow made a difference between his Second Coming and his appearance at the Fall of Jerusalem.
We also feel obliged to reject the Amillennial characterization of any preterist viewpoint as less accurate than theirs. It does not make a real difference what is initially believed either in a preterist sense or a futurist sense if the main point of the story and the sequence of events is completely out of order. Views can change once a better sense of what the Bible is saying has a chance to emerge in the awareness of Christians. Once that happens it is very likely that a preteristic outlook will come to be seen more favorably. But at this time Amillennialism is an ideology that looks to the end of human history and the end of time itself as the real deadline and goal for things to happen which the Bible includes with the destruction of the Second Temple, the cessation of the Aaronic priesthood, end of the Law and the types and the shadows.
These are just some non-technical issues and questions we would like all interested persons to entertain. The sole purpose of these exercises is to break the ice and promote amicable dialogue between Christians. Progress and inroads towards understanding are going to come when people began to realize to what extent what they already believe calls into question, falsifies or militates against what Jesus and the Apostles advocated. After that it is up to their own sincerity and self-motivation to propel them forward towards changes and amendment of ideas which find no support in the narrative of the Bible, the Word of God.
For the past fifteen centuries Amillennialism has been and continues to be the dominant eschatological viewpoint in the Christian world, nevertheless, it is our observation that Biblical information around the subject of end times is arranged in a distinct pattern that is significantly different than the views St. Augustine of Hippo introduced. His ideas (and not that of Jesus Christ and the Apostles) are now viewed as more or less normative in the largest sectors of the Christian world--Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant.
While we question and challenge things that are not as they should be, nevertheless, after all is said and done, we hope that a true and genuine respect for people as people will remain and that no bridges will be burnt. There is every reason to respect people that we differ with and what matters more than knowledge is the care we show to other Christians in spite of our differences.
1. Riddlebarger, Kim A Case for Amillennialism, p. 22. Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Mi 2003.