A Look at the Underlying Assumptions
That Empower Each Outlook
by Mark Mountjoy
Amillennialists are not stupid people; it is a fact that Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Methodist and Restoration Movement clerics tend to be quite literate, well-educated and able to distinguish between a variety of considerations and beliefs―even those that are not necessarily their own. It should not be assumed that because of tradition or blind bias people accept the Amillennarian viewpoint as a default; they don’t and modification of their ideological outlook is very possible if they are treated with respect, patience and resources for their own examination.
In many, if not most cases, Christian leaders have never even heard another explanation, let alone a careful delineation that offered an attractive alternative for what, to all, is basically a complex subject involving idiosyncratic historical reports about Semitic misfortunes that the Jewish people are not especially proud of. The tragedies that led up to the Destruction of Jerusalem are, in many ways, similar to the troubled social circumstances that led to the fall of our own beloved capital of Constantinople and, as can be expected, people are understandably sensitive and leary of blame and recriminations, but the very nature of New Testament apocalyptic actually demands that all concerned Christians take a closer look at the dynamics of the demise of the Second Temple, Jerusalem and the Second Jewish Commonwealth.
This is exactly what we are going to be asking Christians convinced of Amillennialism’s verity to do. This essay aims to redirect the attention of Christians away from using Revelation 20 as a controlling assumption to using Revelation 1 as a platform towards a sure path for exploration, discovery and interpretation.
Revelation Chapter 20 as the Quintessential
Prologue of Book of Revelation Studies
Initial conditions presented at the very beginning of a report, herald or epistle are, as a rule, contained in the prologue.
"Prologue comes from the Greek term [πρόλογος] prologos, which means “before word,” is an opening of a story that establishes the setting, and gives background details.1
And the device is, of course, a standard introductory section of a literary or musical work whose function is to foreshadow events to come in the body of the work. It also provides background information or backstory on the central theme, plot or conflict by establishing an initial point of reference that the reader can build a conclusion that will evolve as the narrative progresses and unfolds.
Assuming Revelation chapter 20 (even without realizing it or designating it as such) has its own distinctive consequences, implications and outcomes; this 20th chapter development (if a initial condition) to the book of Revelation’s other chapters (in that order of 20, 1, 2, 3, and 4, etc) is a peculiarity of Amillennialism only.
In this dissertation we would like to zero in on how Revelation 20 functions as a “controlling issue” in place of Revelation 1 which should be that deciding factor, above all else. We want to ask believers: What is the practical difference in these two conflicting approaches and what does it mean for modern Biblical research, understanding and intra-Christian dialogue?
After extensive examination and a deep decades-long study of this issue, Amillennialism’s use of Revelation chapter 20 as a prologue is infused with at least 8 other factors which are contributed from other chapters, passages and verses; these secondary factors make up the story that is Amillennialism, but it comes with a hefty price to pay (which we will get to in a moment).
First, Revelation 20 as a prologue is one of the first things we need to realize about the function of the chapter in the Amillennial schema, but that fact alone does not mean that their understanding of its meaning is not mitigated by other considerations that actually make it seem like a very logical choice. It really means that the thousand years reign is set to be a platform for all the events that happen from the earthly ministry of Jesus to the end of time (with the help of other chapters, passages and verses as ancillary support).
We will look at these secondary reasons below.
A Standard Amillennial Framework
In Amillennial parlance the Revelation 20 interval of time is called "the Inter-Advent period"; it is conceived as lasting from at least the cross of Christ to the end of time; it is parallel to the existence of the Second Temple [in its last thirty-seven years], but also it perdures past the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem, past the Judaea (Roman Captivity) period, past the Bar Kokhba Revolt, past every revolution and crisis of the Roman Empire up to and through the end of the empire in May of 1453, past the 16th century Reformation Movement, through the 19th and 20th century's Industrial and Atomic, Technological and Space revolutions and will (presumeably) go on indefinately, till the eve of the final Second Coming about which date "no man knows the day or the hour" (Matthew 24:36 cf. Mark 13:32).2
An alternative interpretive imperative is the occasion for our talks. But this one focuses on Revelation chapter 1 as serving the purposes Amillennialists, by default grant to Revelation 20. And it is here that we agree to disagree, but encourage one another to at least (for the sake of discussion) give the benefit of the doubt.
Now, to continue, the very first verse of Revelation takes our minds back to Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32 where our Lord speaks of a day and an hour where no man knows, but the Father only. However, here, the Spirit informs the Apostle John that this very time is no longer the Father's secret, but is new knowledge that has been divulged to the risen Son of God. And so, in verse 3 the promise is issued,
"Blessed is he that reads and they that hear the prophecies of this book for the time is at hand"
This assurance refers back to verse one and verse one refers back (logically) and consistently to that coming of the Lord elucidated in the Olivet Discourse found in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Therefore, that familiar trope evoked in Revelation 1:7 is a harbinger, not of something out of turn or out of reach, but of what was foretold on a mysterious Babylonian night in 553 B.C.
Now, Daniel's Night Vision tells us a number of unexpected and surprising things:
This Second final coming is slated for the fourth kingdom of Bible prophecy which (by the way) Amillennialists agree is no longer here, but understand it to be a foregone fact of history, therefore, Daniel 7:7-27, if read again for clarification's sake makes clear that this is a bellicose polity bent on taking the kingdom of God by force of arms, but it was destined to forfeit its aspirations by the decision of a heavenly court whose jury rules against these unwarranted ambitions.
By this peculiar kingdom's being fourth in line following on the heels of Greek imperial power we surmise it to be a world power that has a direct bearing on second century B.C. political developments within the parameters of Jewish national history (1 Maccabees 13:41-42).
It is related to the mystery of God declared to the saints and prophets (Revelation 10:7 cf. Hebrews 11:40 and 1 Peter 1:12).
It is concerned with Jewish comeuppance in very definite terms (e.g., Matthew 23:29-39; Luke 11:45-51; 23:27-31 and John 16:2). This links directly with Revelation 6:11-17; 11:1-2; 17:6; 18:20-24 and 19:1-4).
Seals, Trumpets, Bowls and Thunders (Revelation 6:1―20:9) represent an inviolable order of events that underlie the entire Book of Revelation.
The multitudes of Gog bear the designation of being Abrahamic forces - Revelation 20:8 cf. Hebrews 11:12; Romans 9:27; Isaiah 10:22 and Genesis 22:7.
This encircling event after the thousand years reign has a very different meaning if it can be shown to refer to Semitic ambitions around the Messiah and the promised kingdom of God.
Mass resurrection of the casualties of this second devastating war and preservation of those kingdom related things which could not be shaken (Revelation 1:9; 11:15; 21:1 and Hebrews 12:27).
There are in this interpretation Pastoral implications about 'mass popular actions' versus an individual's personal responsibility to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
The doctrine of a temporary, ephemeral Church must now be requestioned as the Amillennial interpretation conceives of the Church's role as having run its course and, therefore, exhausted and annuled (in the Revelation process), whereas the alternative outlook sees the demise and annulment of the Second Temple, the Law and the synagogue only.
Both views cannot be right; both views are not actively supported by the New Testament. In the New Testament the Church―
It lasts forever because Jesus declared that the gates of hell would never prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).
- It endures by the right of Holy blood shed to purchase it (Acts 20:8).
- It lasts forever because of him who is the Head of it (Ephesians 1:21-22 cf. Colossians 1:15-20).
- It must be permanent because God the Father gets glory in it (Ephesians 3:21).
-Jesus is declared by the Father to be a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6; 5:10; 6:20; 7:10; 7:11; 7:15; 7:17 and 7:21).
Furthermore, and finally,
- It is repeatedly declared to be an enduring phenomenon (Luke 1:33; 1 Corinthians 3:11; Hebrews 12:28 and Revelation 11:15).
This all means that if Amillennialism is actually correct, then the entire body of New Testament apocalyptic, the early expectation of Jesus' return and the orientation and directional flow of the material in the Book of Revelation is really pointless, indefensible and inconsequential.
We now come to our concluding remarks about the handicaps of the traditionalist Amillennial view.
In order to appreciate the direction Amillennialism takes when it comes to the purpose and significance of the Apocalyptic material (which it holds to be a description of the course of human history and the termination of this physical world) we need to go a step further and grasp what happens when the Book of Revelation not only has chapter 20 as its ostensible prologue, but also all the following chapters are mistakingly conceived to describe the course of human history from the cross of Christ to the very end of time.
Revelation 20 becomes a tourniquet - Revelation 20 cuts off the flow of information because it is an artificial arrangement if it comes first instead of chapter 1. It disallows intergration of the material in the Book of Revelation with the flow of claims in the rest of the Bible.
It denies Revelation as the flower of the New Testament by interpretive strategies that end up abbreviating or otherwise cutting out material that can only be found in it. The book of Revelation is a flower, and as a flower it has features which appear nowhere in the stem, but this does not diminish its importance or significance, but because it is the conclusion of the matter we should try to understand exactly what happens in this conclusion (but the conclusion of what? world history? the Roman Empire? Physical reality? or the Second Jewish Commonwealth?).
If we can requestion, reexamine and rethink about what we are dealing with from Revelation chapter 1 to 22, then all of us can come away from these talks with a fresh understanding of the real meaning and implications the Book of Revelation holds for the Second Temple, the synagogue and the Church and Christians.
Other Negative Impacts of the Traditional View
In an effort to get above or around the seemingly confusing material in Revelation chapter 6 (where, it seems, the world literally ends), Amillennialists tend to rifle through Revelation 7 to 16 were the commotion does not appear to correspond to anything we know about in the history of the Roman Empire.
At Revelation chapters 17, 18, and 19, however, many begin to see certainty, as it seems as if Babylon the Great must obviously be Rome. Chapter 19, in light of this, vaguely suggests God's victory against the Empire, but chapter 20, in this case, is assumed to be a recapitulation that describes events bigger than the situation confined between the space of Revelation chapter 19, on one side and chapter 21 and 22 on the other side.
And this is where the recap takes its toll (because the narrative has not been identified, the direction of the story has not been detected or established and the real focus of the story remains unknown). So huge swaths of the Book of Revelation have to be cancelled out. For example, the material in chapters 4-5, and chapters 6-19 (a ginormous chunk!) have to be thrown away as useless and undecipherable.
Moreover, the Seventh [final trumpet] has to be jerry-rigged onto the end of Revelation 20's fire when it really could only happen in the A.D.66 leadup to the Destruction of Jerusalem, before the seventh Bowl was poured (Revelation 11:2-15 cf. Revelation 16:15).
Amillennial Belief # 1:
Revelation chapter 20 symbolically represents the Inter-Advent Period - Luke 19:12. But there are many reasons to question, scrutinize and reject this assumption.
Amillennial Belief # 2:
Revelation 20 covers the Cross of our Lord till the end of time - Matthew 12:29 (but notice Matthew 12:45 "even so shall it be unto this wicked generation").
Amillennial Belief # 3:
The Millennium parallels to the last 37 years of the Second Temple and beyond - Luke 10:18 (but the city and Temple are destroyed in Revelation 17, 18 and 19 (see Revelation 19:1-4). Therefore, if Revelation chapter 20 is kept in its proper sequence it cannot be said that any Second Temple existed contemporanous with it as the Second Temple was a reality in the world only until its destruction, which took place between August 4th through the 30th of A.D.70.
Amillennial Belief # 4:
According to Amillennialism, since the ministry of our Lord Satan has been on parole, but never literally imprisoned in a bottomless pit - 1 Peter 5:8. But see Romans 16:20 "but the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly" (written by the Apostle Paul, circa A.D.59).
Amillennial Belief # 5:
Gog and Magog represents the rebellion of all mankind at the end of time - Luke 18:8 cf. Matthew 7:13, but by reading the entirety of Ezekiel 38 and 39 it becomes clear that that invasion happens in the Holy Land only and, after that war, the bones of the troops are searched out and labeled (Ezekiel 39:14-15). Such a procedure as that would be unnecessary and pointless at the end of human history or the termination of the physical universe.
Amillennial Belief # 6:
Second final coming of our Lord of the Great White Throne is one and the same as what the Apostle Paul expected in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (but see 1 Thessalonians 5:-1-4 and 5:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 7:29!).
Amillennial Belief # 7:
Revelation 20:11-15 has to do with the end of history and a general bodily resurrection of all mankind, from Adam and Eve -1 Corinthians 15:52, but see Isaiah 9:7 "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever."
Amillennial Belief # 8:
Revelation 20:7-15 represents the end of history as we now know it - 2 Peter 3:10 cf. Revelation 21:1-2, but notice Jeremiah 4:23-28 (where it speaks of the fall of the Southern Kingdom of Yehud to Nebuchadnezzar; and Isaiah 13:1-22, which speaks of the fall of Babylon to the Medes (v. 17). The language of Matthew 24:29 and the limitations of the expression "this generation" (v.34) indicate that Jesus speaks of the fall of the Jewish government with nothing like the material universe in mind at all. See also Daniel 8:9-11 where Daniel, in a vision, saw Antiochus IV Epiphanes overthrow the Jewish government "and some of the host of the stars it cast down to the ground, and trampled upon them" (v. 9).
Is tje Use of Revelation 20 as an
Overriding Tool a Good Idea?
There are important reasons why using Revelation 20 as a guide to understand the whole New Testament or the Book of Revelation may prove questionable and even detrimental.
First, the first century city of Jerusalem, which was established at the time of Cyrus the Great, Ezra, Nehemiah and Zerubbabel no longer existed in the entirety of Revelation 20.
Second, the Second Temple, which was burnt to the ground when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 also did not exist in Revelation 20.
Third, Satan was really absent, not on parole, for the first time in his long life, only after the end of the Second Temple and the destruction of first century Jerusalem. According to John he was seized (ἐκράτησεν), bound (ἔδησεν), thrown in (ἔβαλεν), shut up (ἔκλεισεν), sealed (ἐσφράγισεν) and imprisonment (φυλακῆς) in the bottomless pit (Revelation 20:2, 3 and 7). This was a totally new development and if he had been bound at the beginning of Revelation, Pargamos would hardly have been his place of residence, let alone the throne of his government (Revelation 2:13).
We can go further and say that neither the Cross of Jesus nor the end of human history frame the beginning or end of Revelation chapter 20, but the mark of the beast, which was, by the way a mark of conscription in the Jewish war of A.D.66-70,3 and the end of the existence of the Jewish State in A.D. 135-136 do yield a more exact correspondence to the chapter.
In fact Satan's release from imprisonment (Revelation 20:7) leads to a predictable attack on the second century Christian church and the Jewish nation being almost entirely put to death in a flash of judgment that the Bible describes in terms of what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah in the long ago (Revelation 20:9; Romans 9:27-29 cf. Genesis 19:24).
Now, this late stage catastrophe can and is being imagined in a variety of ways, but we will be sticking with the Scriptures if we concede that the search for skeletons and posting signs by them (Ezekiel 39:15!) tells us that human history (as we know it) continued or else nothing like that would be necessary in case the world, without any qualification about which "world" we are talking about, came to a unilateral dead end, but as Ezekiel predicted and the Israel Archaeology Society has discovered, the Second Jewish-Roman war yields the bones of only forty of casualties of the Simon Bar Kokhba war; these have been found sorted and stacked neatly, according to their parts, in weaved baskets.4 Where are the majority of the others buried? And who in found and collected the ones we have?
A Heavy Price to Pay
In the final analysis the Christian clerics may be hesitent to rethink the possibility of the Book of Revelation as a group of prophecies that have already been fulfilled because they may erroneously think it will destroy the reason and purpose of the Church and usher in the minister's own vocational demise. But this would only be the case because of the way that Christians habitually and wrongfully understand the whole purpose of the Book of Revelation along with misconceptions about the conditions of Revelation chapter 20 which did not exist at all when the prologue of the Book of Revelation was penned by the Apostle John.5
And it was even humanly unforseeable that such a reversal of Jewish national fortunes could successfully take place, but Jesus' personal intervention (which was not deemed possible by the Sadducees and not believed by the Zealots) happened anyway on behalf of Christians (just as promised - Hebrews 10:23 cf. Revelation 22:6 and 10). This was the exact reason why these things had to come to pass, not because of accidents, mistakes and poor strategies on the part of the Zealots and the national leadership. But clerics mistakenly think they will vote their for own existential demise because of the way Revelation 20 is exaggerated and the rest of the Book of Revelation habitually and wrongfully understood to mean that if Jesus fulfilled his Second Coming, not only would the Church not be here, the world would not be here, either.
Above we have already named a number of reasons why it is quite impossible that the Book of Revelation has anything other than the demise of the Second Jewish Commonwealth in mind. But, if clerics (or even laymen and women) end up noticing that the events of Daniel 7:7-27 were coming up at the end of the Second Jewish Commonwealth, how tragic and unfortunate that that these individuals now have a likely chance of being considered out-and-out heretics, "extremists" who misrepresent the truth and lost all sense and good judgment.
But if we take this tack, categorizing these ideas as heretical would easily include John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-11), Jesus (Mark 13:24-30), the Apostles (1 Corinthians 7:29; Hebrews 10:37; James 5:1-9; 1 Peter 4:7 and Jude 14) and all the first Christians (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; 2 Thessalonians 3:5; Hebrews 10:37 and Revelation 2:24-25) as well as those who lived at the time St. Barnabus penned his epistle to warn Christians against reading too much into the Jewish success around the enterprise of Simon Bar Kokhba.6
With a re-examination of the subject at hand we can all come away from the table with a different appreciation of what was at stake as the Church was emerging from the crucible of sectarian Second Temple Judaism and its dangerous Messianic wars. And by honoring and paying attention to the claims of Jesus, the Apostles and their clerks and taking note of the specific sequence of events, as they are listed in the Book of Revelation, we can help develop a new level of common knowledge about our Jewish world past and what similar militant nationalist challenges in the here and now can be faced with fortitude, courage and hope.
We must never forget that belonging to Jesus of Nazareth means we are participating in a phenomenon which claims, above all, that it is objectively true and not a lie. But it cannot be true if catastrophic apocalyptic failures can be proven against it. But if those so-called apocalyptic failures are only imaginary (and can be shown to be so) then Christianity is indeed the greatest and most successful revolution in the history of mankind and we have every reason to continue to give glory to God as we exalt his Son and his Word and contribute, unselfishly, to the expansion and well-being of the Church.
A Final Encouraging Word
I would like to end this talk by reminding Christian clerics of the kind of God you and I serve. We serve a Deity who cares about the truth and he is someone you can not only pray to, but also a God who can talk to you any way he wants. You can directly ask him for wisdom and understanding; you can ask for his guiding hand and your petitions will not go unanswered. You also may need to be reminded that God's love for you is not predicated on how little or how much of his Word you know or don't know (you are not damned or condemned because you were not aware of a thing).
If God loves you because of Jesus, why would you condemn yourself for any omission you suddenly become aware of or now realize? While you live you learn and grow, but God's love is not constrained by the legal edicts of the Church or any arbitrary parameters it has over the years set; God's love for his people, as individuals with limitations, remains steadfast; so do not worry and fret, but look up and continue to live by faith and be encouraged and be transformed by the continual renewing of your mind. And I bid you Godspeed!
1 Source: https://literarydevices.net/prologue/
2 In this regard you discover, first of all, that Amillennialists conceive of the Olivet Discourse, not as a herald of Jesus discussing to Peter and John, James and Andrew about the upcoming Destruction of the Second Temple and Jerusalem, but that it is a prediction about the end of the whole earth and history as we know it. Now, where even the Olivet Discourse itself is really about the Second Temple (not a third or fourth or fifth one) it naturally refers back to Daniel twice decisively (Matthew 24:15 and 24: 29-30). This means that the basic roots of Amillennial misunderstanding and the remedy for it will be, ultimately, borne through examination, scrutiny and clarification of what Daniel 9:24-27 and Daniel 7:7-27 mean, respectively.
3 The mark of the beast involves an injury Jewish rebels received on their right hands under the leadership of Simon Bar Giora, according to Josephus' report in Wars of the Jews 3.8.6:386.
4 Gog and Magog have been judged before the throne of God, the vultures ate the flesh off their bones (Ezekiel 39:17-20) we still have those bones in museums, but that does not change the fact that real human beings stood before Jesus at the time the nation was executed by Hadrian and his desperate, but ultimately victorious Roman legions.
5 The revelation (or unveiling of Jesus Christ) happens because of the Divinely designed disappointing trajectory, and outcome and the Son of God's denial of the defiant and imperious Jewish messianic ambitions to successfully build a Place and nation ― a Third Temple and a Messianic second century Jewish State under the leadership of Simon Bar Kokhba who, like our Lord, was a descendent of King David (Revelation 20:11).
6 St. Barnabus wrote to frightened second century Christians:-
1"I will also speak with you concerning the Temple, and show how the wretched men (the Jews) erred by putting their hope on the building, and not on the God who made them, and is the true house of God. 2 For they consecrated him in the Temple almost like the heathen. But learn how the Lord speaks, in bringing it to naught, "Who has measured the heaven with a span, or the earth with his outstretched hand? Have not I? saith the Lord. Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool, what house will ye build for me, or what is the place of my rest?
You know their hope was in vain. 3 Furthermore he says again, "Lo, they who destroyed this temple shall themselves rebuild it." 4 That is happening now. For owing to the war it was destroyed by the enemy; at present even the servants of the enemy will build it up again. 5 Again. it is made manifest that the city and temple and the people of Israel were to be delivered up. For the Scripture says, "And it shall come to pass in the last days that the Lord shall deliver the sheep of his pasture, and the sheep-fold, and their tower to destruction" (Epistle of St. Barnabas 16:1-5).
Caption: Bar Kokhba staggers, holding his heart with his left hand, his sword drops from his right hand because his cause was condemned to failure by God. Source: en.wikipedia.org