WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
THE AMILLENNIAL VIEW OF END-TIME PROPHECY
The Amillennialists argue that the Kingdom of God portrayed in Revelation 20
is "spiritual in nature" and to be viewed figuratively. God's Kingdom is
intimately connected with the church, which between the first and second coming
of Christ accomplishes God's will on earth. All this despite the opposition
the church encounters, because the church is in the midst of tribulation.
Pate goes on to tell us that these people teaching the binding of Satan in
Revelation 20 for a short time corresponds to the present rule of Christ
through the church until the parousia (Rev.20:1-4), which began as the cross-
resurrection (John 12:31033). The reference to the first resurrection is an
allusion to Christian's conversion, at which time they began to reign with
Christ (cf.Eph.2:1-7; Col.3:1-4). Pate further states that the a-millennialists
teach the reference to the battle of God and Magog anticipates the second coming
of Christ, who at that time will finally defeat Satan and then establish the
eternal state (Revelation 21-22).
Hence with this view there is no litertal 1,000 year millennium reign of Christ
on earth over the nations of the world. The Kingdom of God is here and now. So
the name - "a" (no literal) millennium.
So it is to them:
Death and resurrection of Christ
The Church/Millennial Kingdom now
Christ Returns/Judgment/Resurrection of Believers/Unbelievers
It is important we get some understanding of the mind-set of the allegorical
people, who try to understand the Bible in figurative ways, i.e. this story
means this etc.
I will give you a few pages of Pate's writing on this allegorical interpretation
of the Bible.
As to the worldview of this school of thought, "realism" is its
preferred perspective. Stanley J. Grenz encapsulates this
mind-set of the amillennial position:
The result is a world view characterized by realism. Victory
and defeat, success and failure, good and evil will co-exist
until the end, amillennialism asserts. The future is neither
a heightened continuation of the present nor an abrupt
contradiction to it. The kingdom of God does not come by
human cooperation with the divine power currently at work in
the world, but neither is it simply the divine gift for
which we can only wait expectantly.
Consequently amillennialism declares that both unbridled optimism
and despairing pessimism are inappropriate. Rather, the
amillennialist worldview calls the church to "realistic activity"
in the world. Under the guidance and empowerment of the Holy
Spirit, the church will be successful in its mandate, yet
ultimate success will come only through God's grace. The kingdom
of God arrives as the divine action breaking into the world, but
human cooperation brings important, albeit secondary, results.
Therefore, God's people must expect great things in the present;
while knowing that the kingdom will never arrive in its fullness
in history, they must always remain realistic in their
The Hermeneutic of the Already/Not-Yet View of End-Time Prophecy
"Tweaked" by Amillennialism
Hermeneutic means interpretation. It is well-known that the
church throughout the centuries has interpreted the Bible in one
of two ways: literally or allegorically. The first of these is
the preferred approach. It takes the words of the Bible at face
value, that is, it tries not to read something into the text that
was not intended by the biblical author. Not that this approach
eliminates figurative interpretation; it allows for such, but
only when the text calls for it, for example, as the Psalms do.
CORRECT! Keith Hunt
The allegorical hermeneutic looks at the Bible much differently.
An allegory is a story in which the details correspond to a
deeper level of meaning than the literal sense. An allegory is a
story that uses an extensive amount of symbolism, that is, most
or many of the details in the story represent something or carry
some specific nuance of meaning. Thus Bunyan's "Pilgrim Progress"
is a well-known Christian book devoted to allegory. To understand
it, one must read it figuratively and not as history. Some
classic examples of allegory in the Bible include Isaiah 5:1-7
(Israel is the vineyard of God) and John 15:1-8 (Jesus as the
vine and his followers as the branches). So allegory has its
rightful place in Scripture.
CORRECT! Keith Hunt
However, allegory can be utilized in inappropriate ways,
especially in regard to biblical prophecy. Sometimes narrative
material in Scripture can be interpreted incorrectly in an
allegorical manner instead of a more literal, historical manner,
as the material was originally intended to be understood.
This method had its origin in Alexandria, Egypt, a Christian
center of scholarship led by Clement of Alexandria in AD 190 and
then by Origen in AD 200. The Alexandrian school was influenced
by Platonic philosophy and understood the task of biblical
interpretation as seeking the allegorical or symbolic meaning of
the Bible, which lay behind the literal sense. While the
motivation of this school of thought was laudable (it sought to
show that the Old Testament is filled with messianic predictions
now fulfilled in Jesus Christ), its methodology (reading the New
Testament back into the Old Testament without the latter having
any say in it) was incorrect. Regrettably, such an interpretation
paved the way for later theologians to see Christ everywhere in
the Old Testament, without regard for the intent of the inspired
author. For example, the tabernacle as described in Exodus has
been the breeding ground of fanciful messianic readings. Thus the
tent pegs of the Holy Tent are thought to anticipate the cross of
Christ (never mind the fact that the tent pegs were not wood, but
bronze, the latter of which is supposedly symbolic of our
salvation in Christ that does not decay)! And the pins were
buried in the ground but emerged from the ground when the
tabernacle moved, thus bespeaking the death and resurrection of
Christ. And on and on the messianic interpretation of the
tabernacle goes. Now there is certainly a connection between the
tabernacle and Christ, according to the book of Hebrews, but it
is the general point that Christ is the superior replacement to
the ancient holy tent, not the specific far-fetched details often
teased from the Exodus narrative regarding the tabernacle.
Thus it is important to recognize that the interpreter today is
not free to use allegorical methods to interpret Scripture
whenever the interpreter feels as though it might be appropriate.
It is critically important first to identify whether the biblical
author intended the passage to be allegorical in nature. While
allegories do occur in Scripture, as we have seen in the examples
of Isaiah 5:1-7 and John 15:1-8, they are fairly rare, and
today's interpreters should exert extreme caution before using
the allegorical method to interpret most biblical texts. But the
amillennial approach seems to throw such caution to the wind in
the way it interprets end-time prophecy in general and the
millennium in particular.
CORRECT! Keith Hunt
Now the already/not-yet approach follows the literal hermeneutic
in its attempt to understand the New Testament's teaching on the
kingdom of God. Thus it believes the kingdom of God arrived
literally in the ministry of Jesus (see, for example, Mark 1:15;
Luke 17:21) but the kingdom has not yet conquered the earth
(Matt.6:10). All of this is based on the near/far fulfillment
dynamic discussed back in chapter 1.
But the already/not-yet eschatological tension takes on a
different look in the hands of the allegorical hermeneutic in two
ways. First, the kingdom of God will not be a literal rule of
Christ on earth in the future; rather, it is Christ's reign
through his church now. Put another way, the church has replaced
Israel as the people of God. Second, the tribulation period
should not be viewed as a future, literal seven-year outpouring
of intense persecution on the people of God; rather, it is a
symbolic concept that applies to the church now. This is what the
not-yet aspect of the kingdom means to amillennialists - not that
the kingdom is only partially here through the church but,
rather, the kingdom is fully here in the church but it is still
opposed by evil. We now unpack these two allegorical twists of
the amillennial view.
CORRECT! Pate has given you the a-millennialism mind-set and the
way over the top of using this mind-set for just about everything
in the Bible - Keith Hunt.
The Church as the True Israel
Simply put, the Old Testament promises to Israel that God will
give her a new covenant (Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 36; Joel 2) and
restore her to her land (Isaiah 40-66; Ezekiel 40-48; Daniel
11-12; Zechariah 12) are reapplied by amillennialists in a
figurative way to the church. Thus Christ has established the new
covenant with his followers, not the followers of Moses (see
Matt. 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:14-20; 2 Corinthians 3-4;
Hebrews 8). And the restoration of Israel to Palestine is
reinterpreted as the spiritual rest that belongs to the church in
Christ (see especially Heb. 3:7-4:13). For the amillennialist all
of this is thought to be confirmed by those passages that call,
or imply that, the church is the true Israel. Thus in the
Gospels, the twelve apostles replace the twelve tribes of Israel.
In Galatians 6:16 Paul calls the church "the Israel of God." In
Romans 2:28-29 Paul implies that the church is spiritual Israel.
Hebrews reinterprets the major institutions of Old Testament
Israel (covenant, sacrifices, tabernacle, and others) as now
devolved onto the church in Christ. In 1 Peter 2:5-10 names that
were once applied to Israel are applied to the church -
"spiritual house," "a royal priesthood," "a holy nation," and so
on. And Revelation 7 and 14 reinterpret the church in terms of
the twelve tribes of Israel.
Pate goes on to show other ways that the allegorical a-millennialists
use stories to give whatever they figure is the truth behind the story.
The a-millennialists teach indeed a "replacement theology" - the church
is now Israel.
They teach the the rejection of Christ by the Jews is a permanent re-
jection, not temporal as Paul teaches in Roman 11.
The a-millennialists have a completely different way of reading the
book of Revelation, yes of course, this must be so, as they take just
about everything figuratively and allegorically.
Pate goes on to show in some detail of some examples as how the a-
millennialists interpret Scripture. I will not take the time to go
over the examples Pate gives, as this "allegorical for everything"
is from planet Pluto or from outside the milky way galaxy. If we
were ever meant to try to understand the Bible by taking all its
stories as allegorical, then anyone could come up with his/her ideas
on any story in the Bible. It would make the Bible open to ANY
interpretation ANYONE would like to come up with, and hence make
unity in the Spirit pretty well impossible, as everyone would also
claim they had the Spirit, and their interpretation was the correct
I will give you the last section by Marvin Pate in this chapter of
Thus the amillennial view asserts that the first coming of Christ
"already" inaugurated the kingdom of God. But it is "not yet"
completely triumphant because it battles Satan during the
messianic woes and will continue do so until the return of
Christ. Premillennialists, however, criticize the amillennialists
for toning down the magnitude of the kingdom and the tribulation
because they allegorize the details of these two realities.
Even more so than Romans 11, the book of Revelation, especially
chapter 20, is the key battleground text in this discussion. For
their part, amillennialists accept the label "allegorical" as
their hermeneutic because they believe Revelation is a symbolical
book through and through; thus it demands to be read
figuratively. Therefore Raymond Calkins captures the chief
message of Revelation in terms of five propositions:
1. It is an irresistible summons to heroic living.
2. It contains matchless appeals to endurance.
3. It tells us that evil is marked for overthrow in the end.
4. It gives us a new and wonderful picture of Christ.
5. It reveals to us the fact that history is in the mind of
God and in the hand of Christ as the author and reviewer of
the moral destinies of men.
While all of the schools of interpretation surveyed here resonate
with these affirmations, the idealist/amillennial view
distinguishes itself by refusing to assign the preceding
statements to any historical correspondence and thereby denies
that the prophecies in Revelation are predictive, except in the
most general sense of the promise of the ultimate triumph of good
at the return of Christ. Thus the idealist/amillennialist does
not restrict the contents of Revelation to a particular
historical period but rather sees it as an apocalyptic dra-
matization of the continuous battle between God and evil. Because
the symbols are multivalent and without specific historical
referent, the application of the book's message is limitless.
Each interpreter can therefore find significance for his or her
Since the amillennialist believes Revelation speaks of the
present tense of God's kingdom at work through his church in the
world, and the tribulation as a current reality too, the only
things that are still future in terms of end-time prophecy are
the return of Christ at the end of history (Revelation 19;
20:7-15) and the new heaven and new earth (chaps. 21-22).
Therefore the present tense is marked by the conflict between the
kingdom of God and the tribulation. The clearest statement of the
first of these is in Revelation 20:1-6. The binding of Satan took
place at the cross and resurrection of Jesus. The first
resurrection alludes to the conversion of the Christian and
therefore is spiritual in nature. The saints' reign in Christ's
kingdom began, then, at their conversion, when they were raised
to the heavenlies and were seated on the divine throne with
Christ. Things will continue that way until the second coming of
Christ, which will make public his and his followers' invisible
kingdom. Revelation 7 and 14 portray the same truth but use the
numerical symbol of the sealing of the 144,000 for the church,
the true Israel. The church, the replacement of Israel, reigns
now with Christ on high (see 1:6).
In utter contrast to the preceding, while God's people are sealed
and reign with him as priests, the wicked are judged by the seal,
trumpet, and bowl judgments poured out on the earth. These
judgments of God come in various forms: disease, catastrophes,
wars, and so on. And their differing levels of intensity
(seals-one-fourth of the earth; trumpetsone-third of the earth;
bowls-whole earth) are a symbolic way of saying that God metes
out judgment on nonbelievers in proportion to their evil deeds.
The Antichrist is any form of anti-God government in history:
Roman Empire, Nazi Germany, Communist China, pagan America, even
the church if it abandons its testimony of Christ during times of
persecution. But God always has a people for his name - the true
church that is faithful to him.
Evaluation of the Amillennial Approach
What shall we say about this time-honored interpretation of the
millennium, popularized by Augustine and championed by much of
Christendom since then? On the positive side, amillennialism must
be commended on at least four points.
1. Its already/not-yet construct has been embraced to some degree
by every major eschatological school of thought - biblical and
liberal postmillennialism, dispensational and historic
premillennialism, even skeptical scholarship (see the next
chapter for this viewpoint). The already/not-yet dynamic is what
drove the New Testament authors.
2. The commitment to apply the message of Revelation and end-time
prophecy to Christians and the world throughout church history is
laudable and practical.
3. This application of end-time prophecy does not degenerate into
seeing every current event as a sign of the end of history (as
some dispensationalists are wont to do).
4. The realist philosophy of history that the amillennial
viewpoint espouses is a healthy balance between the unbridled
enthusiasm of the postmillennialist on the one hand and the dire
pessimism of the premillennialist on the other hand. Thus the
church can expect to encounter both triumph (the kingdom of God)
and tribulation (the persecution from anti-God societies) through
its earthly existence. That tribulation will culminate at the end
of history in a final stand against the onslaught of evil. And
Christ and his church will win in the end (Revelation 19-20).
CORRECT! Keith Hunt
On the negative side, the number one criticism of the amillennial
perspective by both postmillennialists and premillennialists is
its unfettered employ of the allegorical method of
interpretation. Such an approach was born out of the Platonic
dualism between the invisible but real world of ideas and the
visible but nonreal world of copies. To the latter belongs the
literal, surface reading of the text while to the former belongs
the symbolic, deeper significance of that text. Thus Jewish
exegesis was replaced by Platonic dualism. With Augustine, the
church officially left behind its Jewish heritage, which read the
Scriptures literally, replacing it with Greek hermeneutics. But
if the church would have followed the Jewish preference for the
literal, normal method of reading a text (which the New Testament
authors appear to do), then the church's teaching could have held
on to both the already/not-yet tension and a future, temporal
messianic kingdom on earth. Indeed, a number of amillennialists
have come to admit this fact, especially the hope for the
conversion of the nation of Israel. The following chart
encapsulates the Platonic influence on the allegorical reading of
Scripture, from which a-millennialists must distance themselves.
Invisible, real word
Symbolic interpretation brings out the real meaning of the text.
Visible, inferior, unreal shadows
Literal interpretation brings out only the superficial
understanding of the text; therefore one must go behind this
reading to get to the symbolic, true meaning of the text.
It is time now to take a step back and survey the lay of the land
of the three major schools of interpretation of endtime prophecy
and the millennium that we have summarized thus far.
There is, I believe, truth in each of the three major schools of
interpretation. I agree with the amillennialist that the kingdom
already came at the first coming of Christ but will not triumph
until his second coming at the end of history as we know it. And
like the postmillennialist, I suspect the fall of Jerusalem to
the Romans formed a significant part of the background of the New
Testament, but this does not rule out a return of Christ at the
end of history. Recall my comments in chapter 3 to that effect.
Yet, agreeing with the premillennial perspective, I see no reason
to deny a future, temporary reign of Christ on earth immediately
following his return. Taking seriously the early church's
indebtedness to Jewish exegesis leads me to this conclusion.
It must be said in all of this that all three major schools of
interpretation of eschatology - premillennialism, post-
millennialism, and amillennialism - are rooted in conservative
convictions. And each group should of course show love and
respect for their colleagues across the evangelical spectrum
regarding this issue.
(NO I WILL NOT BE SO GENEROUS AS PATE. THERE IS ONE AND ONLY ONE
CORRECT UNDERSTANDING AND TRUTH ABOUT END TIME PROPHECY, THE LAST
42 MONTHS OF THIS AGE, THE COMING OF CHRIST, AND THE SETTING UP
OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD ON THIS EARTH UNDER JESUS THE MESSIAH, AND
THEN THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW EARTH, WHERE GOD THE FATHER WILL COME
AND DWELL WITH HIS CHILDREN AS INSPIRED IN REVELATION 20,21,22.
THERE IS ONE TRUTH OF THE MATTER AND ON THIS WEBSITE YOU WILL
FIND THAT TRUTH EXPOUNDED TO YOU IN FULL DETAIL - Keith Hunt)
There is a large, formidable group of interpreters, however, who
debunk the Bible and end-time prophecy. They offer the skeptical
view of the kingdom of God. To that influential view we now turn.
To be continued