Third Revised Edition
Amillennialism as a Political Reality to
Be Reckoned With in Christian Churches
by Mark E. Mountjoy
Amillennialism is a political reality in the Christian world. It influences the way Christians understand a set of subjects: The last days, the Second Coming and the end of the world and concerns (the Law of Moses, Israel, the Gospel of Christ, the Church, orthodoxy, heresy, judgment day and the eternal state).
In relation to orthodoxy and heresy, Amillennialism also influences doctrinal policies and what is considered acceptable or taboo and since Amillennialism is the norm it is considered orthodox. These influences and concerns are central to Christian self-understanding and carry important weight in defining what is correct teaching within Christianity.
But, before one can accept Amillennialism as being orthodox, or before one can label Atavism as heretical, one should and must ascertain, through first-hand research, observation, comparison and analysis, what is at issue and what is at stake—in light of the Bible, in general, and the New Testament, in particular.
In Amillennialism received wisdom of twenty centuries of Christianity lives, breathes and agrees with all the accepted creeds rehearsed by Christians daily and weekly.
Now, it is easy to assume that 'received wisdom' needs no justification. Is not the traditional view pure, hallowed and sacred by virtue of its age, esteem and ubiquity? Surely it reiterates what the New Testament advocates and upholds! Surely Jesus, Peter, Paul and the other holy Apostles believed and taught the same view!
However, a closer inspection of the inner logic behind Amillennialism will reveal troubling differences and serious omissions. Rampant efforts to conflate texts, topics and themes plague the view. On a number of levels, obfuscations—the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible—plague its claims on every hand.
These disparities and oversights, along with the fact that the majority of the world's nearly three billion Christians (knowingly or unknowingly) subscribe to Amillennialism, means that we need to think about what suppositions and concepts comprise this idea and ask ourselves, How can we best bring what the New Testament says to the contrary to the attention of these Christians?
Amillennialism is "the Gospel" and One Cannot Officiate
While Believing in Realized Eschatology
One of the most important things to keep utmost in our thoughts is the motive we harbor in having discussions and talks in the first place. Are we intruding into the business of others in order to overthrow their faith and prove how smart we are or do we have a genuine concern for the well-being of the people of God?
If it is to demonstrate a grasp on history, knowledge and exegetical skill, that, in and of itself is displeasing to Christ! The only reason why an issue like the one we are about to describe should be discussed is if there is a relational basis where two or more people can come together and examine the issues as brothers and sisters under the shadow of the Cross of Jesus our Lord and our Savior.
If there is any other motive—to discredit the Church, to invalidate its leadership, to sow divisiveness, to achieve vain glory—then those reasons should automatically prevent a discussion of this nature from being embarked upon.
The love of God and the fear of God should move any child of God to deeply consider the consequences of everything we say and do and not do anything that could possibly allow our good to be evil spoken of.
We want to influence leaders and teachers, but the nature of what is hidden behind the veil of Amillennialism is so drastic that we could run the risk of stumbling their faith in God or of choking them with doctrinal information they are not prepared to digest. When we have Bible studies with any fellow Christians we should start with prayer and openly ask God to forgive us of any sins we have committed knowingly or unknowingly.
It is a good practice to remember that what we are talking about is a seriously different paradigm and the knowledge that the blood of Jesus and the grace of God covers our ignorance, oversights and mistakes must be emphasized. For us and for them God's goodness and mercy preserves our salvation and hope. Since most Christians pass into eternity without ever realizing Christ made good on all his promises, we understand that God, for our ignorance of a data point, does not automatically condemn his people to the fires of hell!
This is a truth that must be held forth at all times (Hebrews 9:7). In all events we must refrain from stepping forward as accusers who bring a message of condemnation to others seeking to know the way of the Lord more perfectly. As it now stands, Amillennialists interpret what is said in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John according to an expectation that anything apocalyptic remains to be fulfilled in a future unknown to anyone but God alone.
This understanding of the apocalyptic content of the Synoptics and John means that:
(1) the end of days "the last days" (even after over twenty centuries) is still in effect.
(2) warnings about the end of the world in the Synoptics (Matthew 24-25, Mark 13:1-35 and Luke 17:20-37 and 21:5-34) represent a long-standing reality that extends back to A.D.30 and remains true of the world situation in modern times.
(3) Jesus' parables about the separation of the tares and the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30), his marriage to the Church (Matthew 22:1-14 and 25:1-13), the separation of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) and any other thing besides his impending crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, are all future events which stand to be fulfilled.
(4) [for Amillennialists] there is nothing that stands out in the Gospels that particularly singles out Jerusalem, Judæa, or the Diaspora or the final days of the Second Jewish Commonwealth as the setting for the circumstances that Jesus so frequently predicted and described.
Therefore, in the eyes of Amillennarians, Amillennialism is a total view of the Gospel and is the Gospel of important apocalyptic work not yet finished, not yet satisfied and definitely open to future fulfillment.
In light of this, it makes total sense that someone proclaiming the fulfillment of all apocalyptic promises along a roughly century-long span reaching into almost the middle of the second century would be rejected without a moment's hesitation!
Removal from officiating and even denial of participation in the Lord's Eucharist could even happen because, in the eyes of Amillennarians, the belief that Jesus fulfilled his return in antiquity would automatically seem to threaten the very reason there should be any Church in the here and now.
It must be understood that, at the present time, the average Christian has no reasons to believe that an interpretation of the Synoptics and John requires and must have a tighter and more specific context to determine its validity and [past] fulfillment.
This is the very reason why, first of all, if your convictions must be made known, the first order of business is to share, with meekness and wisdom, reasons why a demonstrable holistic view of Jesus' contemporary period and his promises have a greater immediate concern for his first century audience and why a failure to fulfill those promises hold a greater danger for the inspired nature of the Christian message in toto.
Amillennialism's Exegesis of the Olivet Discourse Holds No Water
To bring Amillennialism's deficiency front and center, it is inevitable that the contents, context and character of the Olivet Discourse must come into view. The chart below demonstrates how each of the three Synoptics are are a unified synphony. Use it to help others quickly grasp the fundamental unity, harmony and beauty of the discourse. This is a good starting point because the Amillennial viewpoint can only lay claim to legitimacy by breaking the Olivet Discourse into disparate parts and alleging that some parts happened in A.D.70 whilst the verses that talk about the Son of man coming with great glory on the clouds of heaven "has to be in our future."
By examining and comparing what Matthew and Mark and what Luke says, it will quickly become apparent that Jesus is definitely describing something he believes will transpire at the upcoming destruction of Second Temple Jerusalem. But the view that the Apostles asked Jesus "three questions" with the erroneous idea that the fall of the Temple meant the end of the world, will not stand on its own two feet.
Amillennial scholar, William Cox writes, ". . .statements of the apostles should be labeled "before Calvary," and "after Calvary." Before Calvary, while they were learners (disciples) at the feet of Jesus, their minds still retained many Jewish fables. One example must suffice here. Their indoctrination from the Talmud and from Jewish religious leaders fixed in their minds the idea that the Jewish temple would stand as long as the world stood. Therefore when Jesus stated that the temple would be destroyed, they immediatedly jumped to the wrong conclusion that he spoke of the end of the world, when actually he spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in A.D.70." p.11. 1
If that idea comes up, gently (but firmly) challenge it. Cox concedes that the Apostles asked one question although it was a three -part question,
"Matthew records, in this setting, one statement by Jesus: that the temple would be destroyed. And he records one question by the disciples, which was prompted by the one statement. Yes, it was one question, although a three-part question. In the disciples' minds they were asking three things that would happen simutaneously—the destruction of the temple, the second coming of Christ, and the end of the world. Their minds could not conceive of the world continuing to stand longer than the temple stood. History, however, has proved them wrong."2
Now, the Amillennial idea that the Apostles were asking Jesus a question prompted by Jewish fables poses major problems.† It forgets what Jesus has already told them in Matthew chapter 10 (verses 22 and 23, in particular) and what he had said in Matthew 13:33-43; 16:27-28; 19:27-30. Since they were told of his coming at least thrice before this, they know he believed this would be near. But Amillennialism assumes all they ever knew or learned were Jewish tales and yet Jesus does not correct them!
So that, finally (Amillennials believe) Jesus wanted the Apostles to look out for something that was very near and something that (long beyond their lifetime) would still be astonishingly far away!In addition, what Jesus says when he solemnly vowed: "Truly I say to you, This generation shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled" requires that all three concerns to happen in the lifetime of those who posed the inquiries. If this is recognized, then a foundation is set in place to understand Bible prophecy (not as a private interpretation where every man gets his say and every man gets his way) but in a manner that gives God's Son (and not the Church) the authority he possesses to circumscribe his own promises and claims.3
Right now Amillennial clergy have the highest educated Christians in comparison with sectarians who offer prophecies of impending doom and fear in small, but vocal doomsday sects. The Amillennial clerical and apologetic attitude about Bible prophecy, though not completely synchronous with the claims of the New Testament, could offer even more stability and counteract the propaganda of sectarian doomsday cults if it would see these issues strictly in the light of the testimony of Jesus and not ameliorating claims of Church Fathers and creeds. The fact remains that Amillennialism, instead of putting its full weight on the Son, wants to appeal to the Fathers and the creeds to steady itself whenever it feels challenged or threatened.
But how would this look? What would it look like if, for example, Christians interpreted Jesus' prophecies about the downfall of the Second Temple (in the Gospels) as the same as John's description of the demise of the Temple in Revelation chapter 11:1-2ff? If they did, a process of recognition would begin that would soon pull 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 into what would soon be a complete but frightening picture of the circumstances that happened at Herod's Temple in the confusion and commotions of the A.D.66-70 Jewish civil war. And this would not forestall a past Second Coming, but would make it completely certain that such a thing was witnessed by the Jewish nation and the Romans in the context of those tragic circumstances.4
Political Realities Restrain Christians Today
The political scene that exists in the churches is not an obvious one (but it is there). Does it have a cause? Where did it come from? It came from the separation of Christianity from the Jewish world in the second century; it came because first-hand knowledge of what it was like to live in the Jewish world, with its political and institutional realities, dropped out of view and, over time, became completely forgotten. Now what was forgotten, if remembered, puts a unique slant on prophecies which have come to be favorites and futurized to stand for things that were never intended. And so, we must ascertain how Jesus framed his promises with the construct of the social world he knew.
This is the spirit of the prophecies of Jesus.
Attention to this neglected aspect of New Testament studies would certainly make what Amillennialism forbids completely allowable—to wit:
Christians are not allowed to believe or openly confess Jesus' Second Coming is fulfilled already. But Matthew 10 and the Olivet accounts in Matthew and Mark and Luke attach this prodigious event to the Destruction of Jerusalem in no uncertain terms, so does 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 and Revelation 16:15ff.5
Christians are not allowed to believe or profess that the judgment foretold in the New Testament fell out on the Jewish nation in the contemporary period of those who saw Jesus. But Luke 23:27-31 and Revelation 6:10-17 make this conclusion certain.6
Christians find it hard to understand how the Second Coming was impending for the churches of the Gentiles and the seven churches of Asia, but once Jesus is freely believed this problem disappears immediately. Now, all of a sudden, verses like Romans 13:9-11 and 16:20 and 1 Corinthians 1:6-9 and 7:29-31 make sense.
Even the resurrection passages of 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 and 1 Thessalonians 4:8-13 and 5:1-4 and 5:23 suddenly fall into place. These insights awaken from dormancy Scripture after Scripture, verses and chapters suddenly fall into place demonstrating the high relevance of Jesus coming to the Jewish State at that time and how the aftermath of his ministry was followed up by events that could hardly be believed even when the leaders were told to expect them well in advance.7
Amillennialism Actively Suppresses New Testament Apocalyptic
Ulrich H. J. Körtner in his masterful dissertation, The End of the World, A Theological Interpretation, demonstrates how, again and again, standard Christian theology (which is arguably Amillennial) suppresses the New Testament.8 Important quotes follow below: He describes how apocalyptic is viewed as mysterious, dark and abstruse, bizarre, menacing and fantastic.9 Above all, however, Amillennialism's idea of apocalyptic (unlike what the Old and New Testament presents) is catastrophic, complete and total. It is a total destruction of mankind; a total destruction of the earth; and a total destruction of the universe and of history and time as we now know it! In this way of thinking, the end of the world is total and complete and involves the total and complete obliteration of each and every material thing God created!
Stripped from its antecedent language of apocalyptic figures of speech, 2 Peter 3:10-11, for example, certainly looks like it easily describes the fulfillment of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.10 It looks like it describes the end of the universe and Amillennialists view the end of the universe as the very time when Jesus will finally come back.11
But this interpretation immediately puts unbelievable tension and unbearable weight on the gullibility and credulity of people who first believed the claims of Jesus and the apostles. If this is true, a whole litany of New Testament passages and verses have to be overturned, and this in order that the Church can now look toward a distant future when a total destruction of the physical world will fulfill long awaited (and long misunderstood) Second Coming and end of the world promises.
Amillennialism Conflates Events of Daniel Chapter 7 into Acts 2
Without realizing that the people of the saints of the Most High God were raised up to meet Jesus in Revelation chapter 12:6 and sent forth to judge the Jewish world in Revelation chapter 14:1-5, 14-16, Amillennialists conflate the events of Daniel 7:13-27 down to the day of Pentecost in A.D.33! No war or tribulation, no blasphemies, no bloodshed, in fact, thirty-three years ahead of the Great War the prophecy is turned on its head.12 Note, below, how this strategy of interpretation simply won't work:
The prophecies of Daniel 7:13-27 match the promises and prophecies of Revelation 2:25, Revelation 5:1-14 and Revelation 12:6 and 14:14-16.
Now, Daniel 7:9-27 reads:
Daniel's Vision of the Ancient of Days
9I beheld until the thrones were set, and the Ancient of days sat; and his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head, as pure wool: his throne was a flame of fire, and his wheels burning fire.
10A stream of fire rushed forth before him: thousand thousands ministered to him, and ten thousands of myriads, attended upon him: the judgment sat, and the books were opened.
11I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which that horn spoke, until the wild beast was slain and destroyed, and his body given to be burnt with fire. 12And the dominion of the rest of the wild beasts was taken away; but a prolonging of life was given them for certain times.
13I beheld in the night vision, and, lo, one coming with the clouds of heaven as the Son of man, and he came on to the Ancient of days, and was brought near to him.
14And to him was given the dominion, and the honour, and the kingdom; and all nations, tribes, and languages, shall serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed.
Daniel's Visions Interpreted
15As for me Daniel, my spirit in my body trembled, and the visions of my head troubled me. 16And I drew near to one of them that stood by, and I sought to learn of him the truth of all these things: and he told me the truth, and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17These four beasts are four kingdoms that shall rise up on the earth: 18which shall be taken away; and the saints of the Most High shall take the kingdom, and possess it for ever and ever.
19Then I enquired carefully concerning the fourth beast; for it differed from every other beast, exceeding dreadful: its teeth were of iron, and its claws of brass, devouring, and utterly breaking to pieces, and it trampled the remainder with its feet: 20and concerning it ten horns that were in its head, and the other that came up, and rooted up some of the former, which had eyes, and a mouth speaking great things, and his look was bolder than the rest. 21I beheld, and that horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22until the Ancient of days came, and he gave judgment to the saints of the Most High; and the time came on, and the saints possessed the kingdom.
23And he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom on the earth, which shall excel all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and trample and destroy it. 24And his ten horns are ten kings that shall arise: and after them shall arise another, who shall exceed all the former ones in wickedness and he shall subdue three kings. 25And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change times and law: and power shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. 26And the judgment has sat, and they shall remove his dominion to abolish it, and to destroy it utterly. 27And the kingdom and the power and the greatness of the kings that are under the whole heaven were given to the saints of the Most High; and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all powers shall serve and obey him."
Reflection and comparison of the prophecies of Daniel's Night Vision shows that the investment of power to the Son of man figure leads, not to Acts or the 29 year span Acts encompasses, but to the forty-two month long Jewish civil war, which raged from the fall of A.D.66 to the summer of A.D.70. In other words, the events where the Son of man on a cloud officiates in judgment, portrayed in Revelation 14:14-16, happen sometime near the beginning of the Jewish revolt, perhaps in the winter of 66/67, or the spring Passover of 67. In case it was the spring of 67 that would mean pilgrims from all over the Jewish world (attending Passover) were trapped in deadly unrest happening at and around the Temple of God.13
Again, in Amillennialism's interpretation of the Book of Revelation itself, efforts to smooth over the text fall, once more, into the tendency to conflate and equivocate subjects through redundancy and overlap (as can be seen in how the view handles the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls in Revelation chapters 5:1-9 and 6:1-17, 8:1-2,6-13; 9:1-13 and 10:7 and 11:15; 15:1, 6-8; 16:1-17).
In the Scriptures the Seals, Trumpets and Bowls appear as increasingly harsh punishments, but in Amillennialism the instances are thrown together as interchangeable instances of judgment. This tactic of making different things the same thing even leads to the questionable calculation that one thousand two-hundred and sixty days is the same thing as the one thousand year reign, or, in another instance of conflation, that the casting out of Satan at the outset of the war (Revelation 12:7-13) is the same as the casting of Satan into the bottomless pit after the end of the war (Revelation 20:1-3).
Certain other features are left out altogether and uninterpreted. Among these, the marriage of Christ to the Church after the conflagration of Babylon the Great City, stand out.
Furthermore, the millennium, as understood in Amillennial circles, is allowed although it defies A.D.33 as its initiation point. No effort is made to pinpoint or say when the seven seals, seven trumpets or seven bowls were dispensed as judgments in any history, and yet, for the future, Amillennialists teach and expect one and only one trumpet (the final trumpet), which the Bible, contradicting Amillennialism, posits in the midst of the Jewish war (Revelation 11:15)!
The net effect of conflations and criss-crossing interpretive motifs ahead of real events is to confuse, combobulate and neutralize the sequence, sense and direction of prophecies altogether.
Apart from Daniel 7:13-14, the prophecies of Revelation 2:24-25 and 12:5 and 14:14-16, fall to the ground, disconnected from its Danielic motifs, it is also denied its historical fulfillment in the Jewish war and, as we shall see below, numerous time statements get short shrift in the Amillennial paradigm.
Amillennialism Pays No Attention to the Majority of New Testament Time Statements
Ironically, the justification for ignoring New Testament time statements happens on the grounds that nothing like the passing of the heavens and the earth happened in the first or second century after the advent of Christ. The circular reasoning feeds itself and the result is that all the time statements and expressions of urgency can and are taken with a grain of salt.
Nothing, it is reasoned, was getting ready to happen, because nothing happened--they only thought it would, but they were obviously wrong. The subject of what early Christians expected is now one of the hottest topics among Christians all over the world.14
Amillenialism's insistance on turning a blind eye to time statements can easily be turned to advantage in studies. Here's how: Point out that the Apostle Peter was personally taught by Jesus. Jesus taught him about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the Temple. The $64,000.00 question is whether or not the end of Jerusalem and the Temple meant also the end of the Jewish era that was dependent on both? If it was, then it is plain to see that "an end of a world" took place in the generation of the Apostle Peter.
But let's go further.
Have your study audit the instances of all time statements and declarations in the epistles of Peter. What do we find them to address—events to be expected within a human lifetime or the destruction of heaven and earth outside the lifetime of Peter's audience?
The next problem to solve is this: Does the disturbance of "heaven and earth" in Old Testament terms, necessarily even mean the geographical plain, the sky and the universe? A look at Jeremiah 4 (the destruction of Yehud) and Isaiah 13 (the downfall of Babylon) can help us here!
Revelation, itself, in all its gorgeous symbolism and imagery, devotes 9 chapters to just one city: Jerusalem! In all this, time statements are interjected and interspersed throughout. This should make us pause and think that some important phenomenon, expected by everyone, was intended for that momentous time of revolution and transformation.15
Amillennialism Ignores the Semitic Milieu of the Entire New Testament
The books of Hebrews and Revelation are perfect examples of the harmony, congruity and sense of the Semitic milieu of the world of the first Christians. Below the radar of the Roman Empire, Christians were, from the very beginning, in the eyesight and cross-hairs of hostile Jewish authorities and nationalist extremists. More than anything else, the disputes, the interpretations, the hopes and aspirations of Christians and their foes was tied into either the continuance or the termination of existing institutions—institutions which were part and parcel, not of the Roman world, but of the Jewish world.
God, the Temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices and gifts, the holy days and Sabbaths, the interpretation of Messianic prophecies and of contemporary developments and events, the appearance and significance of Jesus and the newly born collegiate of apostles and the nascent church ties itself into a fraught narrative of intramural competition, acrimony and violence.
At no time does the New Testament show this conflicted exchange breaking up and transforming into a Christian versus Roman issue. On the contrary, the Synoptics and John, Acts, the Pauline corpus, Hebrews, James, Peter and Jude and Revelation show, with great intensity, how the civilization of the Jewish people was coping with the appearance of Jesus and the Christians and how the unbelieving Jews (against the will of God) were negotiating their own interpretation of Messianic hopes through ill-advised military attempts against the Roman Empire.
Amillennialism is Oblivious of Contextual Constraints
When time statements do not matter and when things that are different are deemed the same thing, confusion reigns. The contextual constraints of the New Testament could be either (a) Roman or (b) Jewish. Both civilizations existed, side by side when the New Testament was written.
The first option is the most obvious, but 2,000 years of Christians assuming it is the case has proven it surprisingly frustrating and less than promising. Indeed, to use the Romans as a foil with which to understand the New Testament means that, in certain cases, interpreters will be forced to make the Christian church into what the real Second Jewish Temple was: a shadow and forerunner of the true heavenly sanctuary.
At first this seems promising and leads to plausible interpretations; especially interpretations that help us understand overgrown leadership phenomenon like the Roman Catholic Church or secret societies like the Knights Templar or the Jesuits. However, the pursuit of theories which ignores the specific historic thread that gave birth to the Church may be fascinating and plausible, but completely wrong.
As a case in point, let's take 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13 and apply it (as many Christians do) to the Papacy. Looks real and sounds real: Catholics are following the man of sin and the Pope (seated as God's viceroy) is in the "Temple of God" showing himself that he is God. But no such thing ever happened in St. Peter's Basilica in the entire time since it was first built! Nor can we suspect that Christians in first century Thessaloniki would have conceived such a thing; nor would that have been of any concern to them!
Instead, Gentiles (that is, God-fearers) in the first century would have been particularly susceptible and prone to cave into the Jewish religion and its yearly calendrical obligations. The dangers of this become clear when we begin to understand the thrice yearly mandatory pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the sinister changes that the Zealots immediately enacted once war was declared against the Romans.
Josephus describes the horrors and the atrocities that befell the gullible Jews and proselytes during the civil war years. He called the Temple a "shop of tyranny" and describes it as a place of injustice and unspeakable abominations.16 This makes 2 Thessalonians and all the New Testament passages that speak of the Abomination of Desolation much more urgent, pertinent and intelligible.
What, then, are the constraints Amillennialism disregards? Jerusalem and Judeans, the twelve tribes of Israel who lived scattered abroad at that time and it also disregards the importance of Herod's Temple as the focus, hub and center of the Jewish world. The Jerusalem Aristocracy, wealthy Sadducees and Pharisees responsible for missives directed against Christians all across the Jewish Diaspora, directed from great distances acrimony, violence and extradition (e.g., Acts 9:1-2 cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
The view also underestimates the presence and popularity of Jewish bandit leaders and false prophets and their detrimental impact on the faithfulness and steadfastness of Christians to Christ during those dangerous and trying times.
And finally, constraints include the obvious fact that the Romans could not be "persons of interest" for the simple fact that their civilization was able to dodge any judgment of God or Acts of God for hundreds and hundreds of years. But the same cannot be said for Judæa or the Second Jewish Commonwealth.
Amillennialism Interpolates the Book of Revelation
Without Sufficient Attentiveness to Biblical Antecedents
Some of the problems associated with the Church's historic struggle to come to terms with the meaning of the Book of Revelation may seem difficult, but, in fact, are very easy to resolve. Biblical antecedents, by which we mean the language God used elsewhere in the Bible to describe similar episodes of judgment and the breaking down of kingdoms and civilizations is something Christians can immediately get acquainted with.
A glance at the woes of Babylon, the judgment of Edom and the downfall of ancient Yehud and Seleucid Jerusalem give vivid examples of why the apocalypse of the New Testament can hardly mean what the world of Science envisions for the end of the universe. At the same time, the Book of Revelation demonstrably presents itself as the fulfillment of Jewish hopes in Jesus of Nazareth according to an edict that called for the disappearance of the forms and functions of the Law of Moses and the dispensation of the Levitical priesthhood. An approach to the Book of Revelation that holds antecedents in mind will look something like this:
An Attempted Interpretation With Revelation's Biblical Antecendents in Mind
Now, in order to push back some of the ambiguity that the traditional interpretation of the Book of Revelation makes necessary to employ we want to walk, step by step, from chapter one to chapter twenty-two with a sense of subject, direction and goal in mind. This is not an exhaustive interpretation, but a general overview that will give Christians a good idea how Revelation could be reinterpreted with Semitic rather than Roman or Catholic or modern realities in mind. Follow this logic, but seek God's wisdom and guidance in your quiet time with him.
(1) Seven churches given same apocalyptic promises evoked by Jesus in the Synoptics and John.
(2) Revelation chapters 4-5 shows God's heavenly tribunal preparing for the deciding events foretold in Daniel 7:7-27.
(3) Revelation 6:12-17 harks back to promises Jesus told Judæans on the way to the cross (Luke 23:27-31).
(4) Revelation 7:1-8 harks back to Ezekiel's vision of the sealing of the saints before angels cut down disobedient Judeans (see Ezekiel 9:4-5).
(5) Revelation 8 depicts judgments alluded for adulterers (as Judæa was repeatedly called a sinful and adulterous generation by our Lord. See bitter waters given as a test for adulterers in the Law, Numbers 5:11-31.
(6) Revelation 9:14-17 has antecedents in Mark 5:9. The Revelation verses says nothing about a human army (Chinese or otherwise) ascending from the Euphrates, but 200 million demons.
(7) Revelation 10 returns to Ezekian motifs. See Ezekiel's eating of scroll—what was going to happen to the Roman Empire in the mid 90s that required John to take this drastic step? John's mission field was a Jewish one, not a Gentile one; therefore, what is portrayed in Revelation 10 must pertain to some highly charged Jewish debacle that would ease and then resume in ferocity in the very near future.
(8) Revelation 11:1-2 alludes to Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14 and Luke 21:20, and Daniel 9:27, respectively.
What is interesting about the Jewish takeover is this: the Jewish rebels ended Roman control of their city. Now, to give an idea of how spectacular and monumental this was you have to remember that Roman control was established 129 years earlier under the auspices of Pompey the Great in 63 B.C. Can you imagine the joy and elation they must have felt?
Ironically, once the Jewish rebels succeeded in taking the city out of the hands of the Romans the Levitical priesthood was immediately made fun of and dissolved! (see The Wars of the Jews 4.3.7:151-8:157).
In other words, instead of the rebellion being an effort to save and preserve Biblical Judaism, it was a definite attempt to sully and destroy it! The rebels threw off Roman rule of the land and turned around and fulfilled what was foretold to happen there in the Temple!
Now, the designated time for rule, authority and power is said to be forty-two months, but some Amillennarians, mixing their theology with Historicism's claims, allege this signifies one thousand, two-hundred and sixty years of Gentiles trampling the Christian church. This is an interpretation that clearly goes beyond and violates the flow of the narrative, the sense of the symbols, the time it was written, the circumstances it clearly warned of and the goals that would be reached in just under four years of heavy Jewish infighting.
(9) Revelation 12:1-2 depicts the Jerusalem church in beauty and glory, but in the throes of labor pains. Some suppose this could be the Virgin Mary, but the time and the circumstance will not allow such a view to be read into the narrative. We could not think of Mary fleeing to safety without Jesus, her son. But here her son is caught up to the throne of God and she flees to safety alone. The passage brings to mind the Pella flight traditions which have been preserved in various forms. Chapter 12 also alludes to a battle of which the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus record.17 The circumstances of the scene after Judæa had wholly repudiated the sacrifices to the God of Israel on behalf of the Romans (which would place this battle in the fall of A,D.66, in Marcheshvan (October-November).
(10) Revelation 13:1-2 pictures fighting forces as a amalgam (a mixture, a blend) of three wild beasts--a seven headed leopard, a bear and a lion. These three were seen and described in Daniel 7:2-6. They form one monster that worships Satan and is powered by Satan (Revelation 13:4). Its period of power, coincidentally, matches the time when the city suffers atrocities. Chapter 13:14-18 introduces, for the very first time, the mark of the beast (see wound on right hands in Wars 3.8.6:385-386).
The phenomenon of this mystery of iniquity appears to be a late development in the ministry of John, rather than an early anomaly as required by Amillennialism's insistence that Revelation 20's millennium has Pentecost of the Church's beginning in mind.
(11) Revelation 14:1 returns to the one hundred and forty-four thousand Israelites who had been sealed by God on their foreheads. Here, they are with Jesus on Mount Zion singing the song of Moses.
Three announcements follow:
(1) vs. 6, the Gospel is announced to be everlasting (even as the days of Second Temple worship are numbered).
(2) vs. 7, the arrival of the hour of judgment is heralded and the people are encouraged to worship God.
(3) vs. 8, the fall of Jerusalem is mentioned for the very first time.
(12) vss. 9, 10, 11, and 12 are devoted to warning unbelievers and Christians alike to refuse to take the mark of the beast on pain of eternal of fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and Christ himself.
(13) vs. 13, a benediction is given promising blessings and rest for all who die in the Lord from henceforth (i.e., from here on out).
(14) Revelation 14:14-20 depicts devastating loss of life under the guidance of Providence and the newly crowned Son of man (who was delivered by the Church and straightaway caught up to God's throne as recently as Revelation 12:6). The scene of this staggering bloodshed is JERUSALEM, (Revelation 14:20).
Moving swiftly along,
(15) Revelation 15:1 John sees seven angels preparing to pour out the seven last plagues "to complete the wrath of God." Revelation 15:2 depicts Christians in heaven who have already suffered death at the hands of the Beast and they are singing the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and marvelous are thy works,
Lord God Almighty;
just and true are thy ways,
thou King of saints.
Who shall not fear thee,
O Lord, and glorify thy name?
For thou only art holy:
for all nations shall come
and worship before thee: for thy
judgments are made manifest"
(16) From Revelation 15:5-8 to 16:1 preparations are made to dispense the final seven agonies that will bring the glory of a once great city to the ground. In verse 2 the first agonies are inflicted on the men who have taken the mark of the beast. To them is given a foul smelling and loathsome sore. In verse 3 the second angel inflicts the sea that it became as the blood of a dead man, killing every creature. The third angel did the same thing to rivers and springs. The crimes of these men are spelled out in verses 4-5 (they had sinned against the early Christians by shedding their blood) now God was giving them blood to drink.
(17) Josephus records the deaths of six thousand five-hundred people in this way in Wars 3.10.9:522-531. Revelation chapter 16 approaches the very eve of the destruction of a city the beast and his warriors are fighting and struggling to punish and save at the same time, even as this very chapter will end with the metropolis being stoned for adultery.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
17 And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.
18 And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.
19 And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath.
20 And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
21 And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
(see Revelation 16:15-21 compare with Wars 5.6.3:269-273).
What is announced in 16:15ff is nothing less than what was already promised in the Synoptics: the return of Christ in connection with the destruction of Jerusament! Is it a coincidence that the great city is also guilty of the blood of the prophets, apostles and saints?
(18) Chapter 17 gives us some insight into Jerusalem's precarious position under the rule of rebels and under her own delusions that she can survive this crisis and make it out unscathed. The city cannot be Rome and elicit John's "great admiration." Nor can the fall of Rome be jettisoned back into the first century. In addition, the lots falling to the Son of Perdition closely matches what happened in the Passover of A.D.70 when Simon Bar Giora was elected to rule Jerusalem and take the city safely away from the dangers presented by John of Gischala.
(19) Chapter 18:9-19 depicts wailing and mourning about the fall of Jerusalem by kings and merchants, shipmasters and sailors. Its vantage point comes from an angle of the distant Port of Jerusalem near Joppa (present day Haifa).
(20) Chapter 19:1-4 reveals heaven's joy at the judgment and destruction of God's once faithful city.
(21) Now, 19:7-9 depicts a wedding Jesus associated with the fall of Jerusalem and the widening of the Gospel call thereafter (Matthew 22:6-10).
(22) Revelation 19:11-21 envisions God's execution of the men who said of Jesus, "We will not have this man reign over us" (See Luke 19:14 and 27).
The losses, bloodshed and carnage are surely something associated with the aftermath of the destruction of the capitol city of the Second Jewish Commonwealth. What happens in Revelation 19:19-21 easily evokes what happened to the Jewish nationalists three years after their city fell.
Simon Bar Giora was taken up to Rome and thrown off a cliff in a ritual execution and all who had bound themselves with an oath of death were cast alive into the lake of fire.
Note that their bodies were NOT cast into the lake of fire, for their carcases were food for birds. So what happened here has absolutely no parallel in anything that would befall Rome for the next three centuries.
(23) Chapter 20 calls to mind the Parable of the Wicked Spirit and reminds us that this thousand years, if literal, would mean a single generation of Judæans could survive without dying in all that time—or—this thousand year reign speaks of the longsuffering of God in the Judæa Captaæa aftermath leading to more Jewish attempts at establishing the promised kingdom of God by force. If the Jewish war in 66 was Perigee, the event that would end the state was at length a zenith or an Apogee.
(24) The final horizon in the Book of Revelation is the only one that, no matter which generation we live in, is written both to us and for us. And what it describes is the goal of our very Christian existence: a city foursquare, whose builder and maker is God. Splendor and beauty and joy are promised as this is the home of the soul, the place the saved go at the very end of life.
The Book of Revelation then ends with assurances and promises and threats (as it should). It should do this for those who are tired and weary and may want to give up (but if you are a Christian too much is at stake and you must never give in and never give up!). These promises are for God's people to cherish and keep as goals. And the threats are there to warn the stubborn and the foolish against tampering with the text and the message contained therein. And with this, Jesus ends the New Testament with the final assurance that his Second Coming would be soon, quick and on time.
Going Against Amillennialism Violates a Long Established Status Quo
Because Amillennialism is so old, a violation of its assumptions, precepts and conclusions can have far-reaching consequences in the lives of dissenting Christians. There are circumstances where what is established takes precedence over what is true and accurate.
In the subjective world of feelings and opinions, what is believed is what is true. It is for this very reason that some people cannot bring themselves to believe anything about the claims of the New Testament. When one goes against Amillennialism one is also challenging people's certainties—which can feel like a dangerous threat. When one goes against Amillennialism, one is also bringing into question people's intelligence; pride and prejudices.
One must be careful when challenging others assumptions and certainties about Jesus, the Church, life and even death itself. A response could as easily be openness to hear something different as to refuse any further communication whatsoever. In either case, once a dispute comes to the knowledge of authorities, there is sure to be an appeal to disciplinary texts if every effort to curb the inclination to renounce Amillennialism fails.
Disciplinary Texts (Out of Context) Will Come to the Service of Prosecutors
Since Amillennialism is considered "the Gospel," and since its exegesis of the Olivet Discourse will attempt to disprove by a divide and conquer strategy, and since, overall, Amillennialism tends towards the suppression of the apocalyptic character of the New Testament and early Christianity, and because events spelled out in Daniel 7:13 are conflated into the Ascension of our Lord, and because the plenteous time statements in Jesus and the Apostles' sayings are virtually invisible, and because the reality of the Second Jewish Commonwealth is hidden behind the assumption of a Roman imperial milieu, contextual constraints mean very little.
From these complicated dynamics a daring but unwarranted effort is made to interpret the Book of Revelation (yielding predictably disastrous results). This is the political reality of good part of today's Christian churches.
Flowing from this, understand and be ready for a disciplinary imbroglio. Such interpersonal troubles could be followed by excommunication and social ostracism almost certainly. It is not because Christians holding these views do not love God or the truth, it is because too little is known about the real dynamics of an outlook they wish to defend and enforce.
Moreover, absent a decisive research intervention, Amillennialism looks and sounds more or less like what the Gospel demands of the future and the return of Jesus and judgment day.
And so, instead of being established with overwhelming parallel truth (which verifies the Bible as true) it is infused with overwhelming counter proofs through a long and winding process of oversight and neglect.
It, ultimately, falsifies promises of Christ in favor of Early Church Father suppositions and long-standing superstitions about history, the nature and length of the last days and eternity.
If, then, a challenge to Amillennialism is carried out without thoughtful and prayerful preparation and dispensed with enough information to quiet fears and concerns, then what the real truth may be does not matter in the eyes of foes and prosecutors, at the end of the day.
Texts out of Matthew 18:15-17, Acts 20:29-31, Romans 16:17-18, Titus 3:10-11, 2 Peter 2:1-2; 3:15; 2 John 9 and Jude 4 will be pressed into service to portray Atavist tendencies as the very thing the New Testament warns against and which must be eradicated from among the Christian people!
Are you ready for such high irony?
Amillennialism influences the way Christians understand a set of subjects: The last days, the Second Coming and the end of the world. It also affects concerns: orthodoxy, heresy, judgment day and the eternal state. It influences doctrinal policies and what is considered Scriptural or taboo. It stands for normalcy; it stands for orthodoxy; it represents the hope of a bodily resurrection at the end of the world, as we now know it.
In light of its teachings, someone proclaiming the fulfillment of all apocalyptic promises along a roughly century-long span reaching into almost the middle of the second century would be rejected without a moment's hesitation!
Amillennarians maintain that the Apostles asked Jesus "three questions" but Mark and Luke present one question. This poses problems to the idea that Jesus wanted the Apostles to look out for something that was very near and something that (long beyond their lifetime) was very far.
Amillenarians do not see these issues strictly in the light of the testimony of Jesus, but through the lens of ameliorating claims of Irenaus, Bishop Polycarp and other Church Fathers. The fact remains that Amillennialism, instead of putting its full weight on the Son, wants to appeal to the Fathers and the creeds to steady itself whenever if feels challenged or threatened.
The political reality of Amillennialism means Christians are not allowed to believe or say Jesus' Second Coming is fulfilled already and are not allowed to believe or profess that the judgment predicted all over the New Testament befell the Jewish nation in the contemporary period of those who saw Jesus.
As a direct result of this Christians will continue to find it hard to understand how a Second Coming was ever legitimately believed to be imminent anywhere near the first century. Furthermore, since Amillennialism's conception of the apocalypse is one of complete and total destruction, its adherents have to suppress what is said in the New Testament as either mistaken or a trick of perception.
Amillennialism goes even further and conflates events of Daniel Chapter 7 into Acts 2. This habit, here and elsewhere confuses and obliterates events which God used to support and preserve what Jesus did on the Cross. By conflating events, Amillennialists fail to see the apocalyptic episodes carried out at the end of the Jewish state as "critical supporting events" paving the way for the coming of the kingdom of God (Christianity) into the world.
Because Amillennialism is looking at different objects and objectives these serve as the grounds that nothing like the passing of the heavens and the earth happened in the first or second century after the advent of Christ.
The circular reasoning feeds itself and the result is that all the time statements and expressions of urgency are taken with a grain of salt. Nothing, it is reasoned, was getting ready to happen, because nothing happened!
Furthermore, Amillennialism overlooks what God was doing in the Holy Land at that time, what was expected of the Temple, the fate of the priesthood and end of the reception of sacrifices and collection of tithes and gifts. These, along with the holy days and Sabbaths, the interpretation of Messianic prophecies and of contemporary developments ties itself into a fraught narrative of intramural competition, acrimony and violence.
Hidden in the field of contextual constraints fatal dangers awaited. These were a threat both to Jewish unbelievers, God-fearers and Christians alike. Each of these groups had the potential to be snared, but these cares and concerns are muted because of a disregard of contextual constraints which now characterize the Amillennial paradigm today.
A more realistic view of the New Testament world would emerge, shedding light on the trials and plights of Christians living in the twilight years of a lost and dying civilization. God only knows what insights and pearls of wisdom might be had if, in situations somewhere in the world, in some present or future instance, a Christian might find himself or herself living in a civilization on its way out.
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel provide instances of apocalyptic imagery that sufficiently informs us about the upheavals and commotions portrayed in 2 Peter 3:10, Hebrews 12:25-28 and Revelation 6:13-14.18 Revelation 21:1 dscribes the downfall of the Jewish state at the downfall of the Bar Kokhba government which had managed to set itself up against all odds.19
The fact that an important entity like the Jewish government perished (and it took almost seventy years to completely come to an end) should tell us something about the validity and reliability of the words of Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles.
Finally, though, going against the claims of Amillennialism can have far-reaching consequences. This will be seen as much more than a mere difference of opinion and affect Christians in terms of leadership participation, sharing in the Eucharist, joining others in worship and having a voice in the community of faith.
One's spiritual vocation could stand the possibility of being terminated in schools of higher learning and one's reputation could easily suffer. The focus of attention in the event of intramural conflicts will not likely be the different aspects named in this essay, but the different disciplinary texts which will be called into service to bring this kind of research and outlook to a screeching halt within the four walls of any Christian church that embraces and defends Amillennialism.
Amillennialism is a political reality (a definite set of ecclesiastical policy issues). Whatever we think we want to share we need to be sure to be realistic about the chances we have to succeed. The issues involved in this discussion are complicated and are best hashed out patiently over extended periods of time in collaborative dialogue.
We should not deceive ourselves: Every attempt to share will not be met with ready comprehension. We must be realistic and hold constructive talks in order to successfully cross obstacles and impasses.
In the event of a parting of the ways, we must remain hopeful. Do not be downcast, but optimistic. The Holy Spirit is able to open hearts and reveal the right way. Between studies we can be spreading the word of salvation through Jesus' blood and his cross and combining our efforts with others who share the same outlook on the church, Bible history, the Scriptures and understanding of realized eschatology.
This is the way forward.
We have complete freedom of speech and the right to establish Christian churches that have an understanding that boldly evokes New Testament claims (and makes good sense of them).
So long as we know that we, too, belong to Jesus, there is nothing in the world that says that we have to have the same policy framework of the majority or we have to do without.
1 William E. Cox, Amillennialism Today, p.11
2 Ibid. p. 12.
† It might be successfully maintained that, instead of Jewish fables as the source of the Apostles questions to our Lord, Jesus' own statements in Matthew chapter 10 are the definitive basis of their assumptions.
3 Matthew 24:29-34; Mark 13:24-30 and Luke 21:25-32 anchor the disputed events firmly into the contemporary generation of our Lord. No matter what Jewish fables the apostles supposedly had, Jesus' statement about the generation should end all contradictions.
4 If the testimony of Christ was the consideration that governed New Testament prophecy, then what he said it meant would be what it meant and not some other thing, outside and foreign to the generational container Jesus clearly placed all these things (Matthew 12:39-45 cf. Revelation 22:7, 10, 12, 20). On this point it should not escape notice that the battle between Michael the Archangel and Satan apparently is recorded in Jewish history. See, Josephus the Complete Works, Dissertations 3.5:15
5 Daniel 7:7-27 captures and circumscribes the judgment the New Testament anticipates to happen within the framework of the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy. Amillennial officials will not be inclined to assert that the fourth kingdom is some revived Roman Empire, so it will be advantagious to refer them to Daniel 7 where they can see that there are unsurmountable problems with taking the judgment of the Ancient of Days outside of the scope and parameters of the existence of the fourth kingdom.
6 The "daughters of Jerusalem and their children" of Luke 23:28-31 have to live long enough to see Jesus' promise fulfilled in the horrifying events that happened three years before the eve of the destruction of Jerusalem (Revelation 6:12-17). Then, the Jewish government was seriously rattled when the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus arrested and whipped thousands of high officials who ranked as Equestrian dignitarians. He ventured on and had these men and their wives and children crucified before his tribunal (see The Wars of the Jews 2.14.9:305-308).
7 See Acts 13:41.
8 "We summarize our observations concerning Paul, the Synoptics, and the Johannine circle by pointing out that influences of apocalyptic . . .by no means manifest themselves only in marginal writings or remote passages of the New Testament. The New Testament as a whole stands under a strong apocalyptic influence, and apocalyptic has substantially influenced the theology of the most important New Testament writings. The reasons for this can be found in the earliest Christianity. We find that the theology of primitive Christianity temporarily preceding the New Testament writings cannot be understood without taking into account its relationship to apocalyptic thinking." Kortner, Ulrich H. J., The End of the World, Christian Faith and the Apocalyptic World Experience, p. 239.
9 "The overview in this section has shown that apocalyptic conceptual models play a theologically significant role in the New Testament. Even though apocalyptic topoi do appear relatively isolated in some passages, this should not prompt the false conclusion that the New Testament on the whole employs apocalyptic language more as an aside." Ibid. p. 240.
10 On the Second Law of Thermodynamics, or entropy, see: Wikipedia.
11 Isaiah 13 details the end of Babylon of the Chaldeans at the hands of the Medes reads like the description of a collapsing universe. Next, Isaiah 34 describes God's judgment against Edom uses volcanic eruptions to express the ruin of the region and yet the area can be visited today. Jeremiah chapter 4:23-27 shows Nebuchadnezzar's invasion of Yehud and describes what happened in totalistic terms.
Moreover, Daniel 8 in gives us yet another example of political upheaval and big language to describe it. There, Antiochus IV Ephiphanes is predicted to bring the hosts of heaven down. This was fulfilled in the downfall of Onias III due to intrigues of the Tobiads against traditional Yahwists officiating in Zarubbabel's Temple during the period of Imperial Seluecid rule. The passages in Daniel 8:10-11 ("casting down some of the host and stars...the prince of the host"), 9:26 ("shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself") and 11:22 ("...and shall be broken; yea, also the prince of the covenant") are generally [believed to refer] to the murder of Onias." Source: Wikipedia
12 Comparing Daniel 7:13 and the verses around it with the circumstances that happened in Acts 2 reveal major dissimilarities. The events of Daniel 7:13-27 do not appear anywhere near or in Acts 2 or anywhere else in Luke's account covering 29 years years (i.e., A.D. 33 to A.D.62).
But see, E. R. Harper's, Prophecy Foretold, Prophecy Fulfilled where he states: ". . .this announcement of His ascension is made in the vision of Daniel, chapter 7, verse 13- "I saw in the night visions, and behold, one LIKE THE SON OF MAN came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him." p.46. But see Revelation 12:1-5 where the manchild, born from the woman (the Jerusalem Church) is caught up to God's throne on the very eve of the war of the Destruction (Revelation 13:1ff). In Revelation 14:14 he is described as being "like unto the Son of man" which means this figure could be Jesus, or a collective group of people who are like him (see 1 John 3:2 cf. Daniel 7:27).
14 Amillennialism, at its core, is dead set against exactly what the New Testament advocates. Note this bold Amillennial disclaimer:
"Perhaps the most serious problem associated with all varieties of preterism is the failure to acknowledge that the end of this age and the dawn of the age to come are not mere shifts in redemptive history. There is no doubt the events of A.D.70 do, in part, fulfill our Lord's words to his apostles of immanent judgment on Israel. The destruction of Jerusalem and its temple does not mark the end of the age; the final consummation does (Matth. 13:40). The events of A.D.70 do not mark the dawn of the age to come; the final consummation does (Luke 20:35). This indicates that the events of A.D.70, while vital to the course of redemptive history, do not constitute our Lord's Parousia or the judgment. The contrast between this age and the age to come is a contrast between things eternal and things temperal." Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillennialism, p. 241.
It should be noted that Riddlebarger's Amillennialism causes him to deny everything the New Testament stands for in regard to the annulment of the Levitical priesthood and the disappearance of the State Temple era as the eternal church and kingdom of God dawned to remain (see Luke 1:33 cf. Ephesians 3:20-21 and Revelation 11:15). Many Amillennialists fail to realize that the Church,the kingdom of God and the New Jerusalem are three parts of an eternal arrangement that will not be altered, world without end (see Matthew 16:18-19; 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Hebrews 7:17).
Thus, on 16 Iyyar A.D.66 Gessuis Florus' crackdown took place. He, in violation of Roman law, had three thousand six-hundred Jewish government officials (incuding their wives and children) whipped and nailed to crosses before his tribunal before the civil war. This is what is described in Revelation 6:13. See Wars 2.14.9:305-308. However, a different shakeup happens later on. The passing of heaven and earth in Revelation 21:1 happened when Simon Bar Kokhba's second century Jewish state failed to defeat the Romans and went into oblivion, bringing the state to extinction for the first time since it was founded by Moses and Aaron on Mt. Sinai more than fourteen centuries before. For more on this momentous event see, Yehoshafat Harkabi, The Bar Kokhba Syndrome.
15 On abominations in the Second Temple, see: Wars 4.3.8:155-157; 4.3,10:162-191; 4.3.12:200-201. The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote, "‘Prodigies had occurred, which this nation, prone to superstition, but hating all religious rites, did not deem it lawful to expiate by offering and sacrifice. There had been seen hosts joining battle in the skies, the fiery gleam of arms, the temple illuminated by a sudden radiance from the clouds. The doors of the inner shrine were suddenly thrown open, and a voice of more than mortal tone was heard to cry that the Gods [sic!] were departing. At the same instant there was a mighty stir as of departure. Some few put a fearful meaning on these events, but in most there was a firm persuasion, that in the ancient records of their priests was contained a prediction of how at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers, coming from Judaea, were to acquire universal empire. These mysterious prophecies had pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, with the usual blindness of ambition, had interpreted these mighty destinies of themselves, and could not be brought even by disasters to believe the truth.’ (Histories 5.13).
Unfortunately, this reading of the situation is unnecessary and unreasonable to many officials and laymen alike. Some complain that the Church "never" believed Jesus would come back and some say that Jesus "never" said or insinuated that he would come back in any connection with the soon-coming destruction of Jerusalem. But of course, as we have repeatedly shown, he did, time and time again. Now, if this is a very small thing and of very little consequence, opposing sides should remain under one roof. But if the claims (on their part or our part) are deemed unjustifiable and insufferable, there is definite justification to work toward a policy situation where expressions of this faith won't cause contentions and havoc but are welcome, permitted and encouraged.
16 Josephus writes,
"They also set the principle men at variance one with another, by several sorts of contrivances and tricks, and gained the opportunity of doing what they pleased, by the mutual quarrels of those who might have obstructed their measures; till at length, when they were satiated with the unjust actions they had done towards men, they transferred their contumelious behavior to God himself, and came into the sanctuary with polluted feet.
And now the multitude were going to rise against them already; for Ananus, the ancientest of the high priests, persuaded them to it. He was a very prudent man, and had perhaps saved the city if he could have escaped the hands of those that plotted against him. Those men made the Temple of God a stronghold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny.
They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for, in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we said already, it was to descend by succession in a family.
The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot, but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased" The Wars of the Jews 4.3.6:150-154.
17 In Tacitus Histories this account of a vision over Herod's Temple reads as follows:
"Prodigies had indeed occurred, but to avert them either by victims or by vows is held unlawful by a people which, though prone to superstition, is opposed to all propitiatory rites. Contending hosts were seen meeting in the skies, arms flashed, and suddenly the Temple was illumined with fire from the clouds.
Of a sudden the doors of the shrine opened and a superhuman voice cried: "The gods are departing" : at the same moment the mighty stir of their going was heard. Few interpreted these omens as fearful; the majority firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the East should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world."
Tacitus Histories IV-V Annals I-III, pp. 197-199. Harvard University Press, 1992.
18 Familiarity with Semitic idioms and hyperboles allows us to interpret the New Testament in a way that gives Jesus, the Apostles and the first Christians the benefit of the doubt instead of believing that the passage of time proved their ideas to be wrong. How could the New Testament pass for "inspired by God" if so much of it ends up being mere guess-work and off the mark?
19 The unlikely success of the Jews setting up an independent Jewish government in the third decade of the second century gives one just one more reason to pause and reflect upon exactly what the Holy Spirit was indicating and warning believers about. The dangers of nationalist Rabbinic interpretations of the Tenakh's Messianic prophecies posed the danger of deception, death and damnation, in real time. These would have been serious concerns for the emerging Christian churches in the twilight years of the Second Jewish Commonwealth.
Other Essays on Amillennialism on this site:
Josephus, The Complete Works, William Whiston, 1998.
Jewish War Under Trajan and Hadrian, William Horbury, 2014.
The Jewish Revolts Against Rome--A.D.66-135, James J. Bloom, 2010.
History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff, 1910.
The Zealots, Martin Hengel, 1989.
The Bar Kokhba War A.D. 132–136: The last Jewish Revolt Against Imperial Rome, Lindsay Powell, 2017.