Amillennialism interprets the millennium mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 as a symbolic period between Christ's first and second coming, known as the Church Age. It posits that Christ is currently reigning spiritually from heaven and that the binding of Satan, limiting his ability to deceive the nations, began at Christ's first coming. This perspective anticipates a visible and decisive Second Coming of Christ, culminating in the final judgment and the establishment of a new heaven and earth.
Amillennialism does not deny Christ's return. Amillennialists ardently affirm Christ’s physical, bodily return. It simply holds that the nature of the Kingdom of God is spiritual before it is consummated physically at Christ's return.
Amillennialism is not an inherently pessimistic view. It affirms Christ's current reign in heaven and anticipates global spiritual growth, though it does not predict a Christian-dominant world before the Second Coming. Instead, our hope and reward are stored up in Heaven, where Christ is.
While Amillennialism holds that the 1,000 years described in Revelation is a metaphor for a long period of time, it does not apply a "non-literal" or "spiritual" approach to the entire Bible. Instead, the approach is to understand the genre and context of biblical texts. It focuses on letting the New Testament interpret the Old and applies a Christ-centered interpretation to the Bible instead of a national Israel-centered interpretation.
Amillennialism does not teach replacement theology, that the church replaces Israel or that God has a different plan for the church and Israel. Instead, the Church, composed of both Jews and Gentiles who believe in Christ, is the spiritual continuation of Israel. This is rooted in the belief that God's promises to Israel in the Old Testament find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ and, by extension, in the Church as the body of Christ.
Amillennialism has been the dominant Christian eschatological view since Augustine's time. With the rise of dispensationalism, amillennialism became associated with liberalism and Catholicism, leading to misinterpretations about its approach to biblical prophecy. While not recognized as a distinct view until the 20th century, even Walvoord, a dispensationalist, admits its strong position within Reformed theology and its historical roots in Augustine's "City of God." It's the position of most Lutheran and Reformed theologians (e.g. Dutch Reformed theologians like Vos, Ridderbos, Hoekema, Venema, and Kline) and is enshrined in their confessions.
The New Testament holds the final say in interpreting the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament provide the best lens for understanding the earlier text. This means allowing the New Testament to guide how we interpret Old Testament prophecies, not the other way around.
Old Testament prophets spoke of a future messianic age with Old Testament concepts like the nation of Israel, the temple, and the Davidic throne. These elements are types and shadows of the true realities fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The New Testament reveals how these elements are fulfilled. For example, Jesus is the true Israel, the true temple, and the true heir to David's throne.
Unclear biblical passages should be interpreted in light of clearer passages addressing the same topic. This principle is crucial for understanding eschatology, especially when New Testament authors show how Old Testament prophecies pointed to Christ and his fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God, as revealed in the New Testament, is a present and spiritual reality. In Luke 17:20-21, Jesus declares that the Kingdom is not observable in traditional ways, indicating its spiritual nature. Matthew 12:28 shows Jesus associating His exorcism of demons with the arrival of the Kingdom, suggesting that His ministry marks the inception of this Kingdom. John 18:36 further affirms this by stating that His kingdom is not of this world.
Ephesians 1:20-23 describes Christ seated at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, underscoring His supreme reign. Colossians 1:13 speaks of believers being transferred into the kingdom of the Son, indicating an already established realm. Moreover, Matthew 28:18-20 commissions the Church to make disciples of all nations, a task that reflects the Kingdom's expansive and inclusive nature. Acts 2 demonstrates the early church actively participating in the Kingdom work of evangelism.
The parables of the mustard seed and leaven (Matthew 13:31-32, Luke 13:20-21) illustrate the Kingdom's seemingly small beginnings and its pervasive, transformative influence in the world.
1 Corinthians 15:25-26 speaks of Christ reigning until all enemies are under His feet, emphasizing His eventual victory over death. Hebrews 10:12-13 depicts Christ as seated at God's right hand, awaiting the subjugation of His enemies. This victorious reign signifies Christ's authority over all powers, both spiritual and temporal.
The binding of Satan is illustrated in Revelation 20, depicting a period where Satan's ability to deceive the nations is restricted. Hebrews 2:14-15 reveals that through His death, Christ rendered powerless the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil. Colossians 2:15 speaks of Christ disarming rulers and authorities, reflecting Satan's binding. 1 John 3:8 states that the Son of God appeared to destroy the devil's work, further supporting this interpretation.
The New Covenant's inclusivity of Gentiles is a prominent theme in the New Testament. Isaiah 49:6 and Hosea 2:23, along with New Testament fulfillments of Acts 13:47 and Romans 9:25-26, indicate this extension to Gentiles. Hebrews 8:6-13 describes the New Covenant as superior to the old, and Luke 22:20 records Jesus establishing this covenant through His blood. This covenant is not limited by ethnic boundaries, as emphasized in Romans 4:16-17, Galatians 3:28-29, and Ephesians 2:11-22, where Paul stresses that faith, not ethnicity, defines the people of God.
The Second Coming of Christ is vividly portrayed in the New Testament as a future, visible, and global event. Matthew 24:29-31 describes cosmic disturbances followed by the visible arrival of the Son of Man. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 speaks of Christ descending from heaven with a loud command. Revelation 20:11-15 and 21-22, along with 2 Peter 3:13, envision a new heaven and a new earth established following Christ's return.
John 5:28-29 talks about a time when all in their graves will hear Christ’s voice and come out. Daniel 12:2 prophesies a resurrection of both the righteous and wicked. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 assures believers of the resurrection of those who have died in Christ. The parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46 vividly portrays the final judgment upon the return of Christ, consistent with the timing and order of events in Amillennial view.
The differing interpretations of biblical prophecy between amillennialists and dispensationalists stem from hermeneutical approaches. Dispensationalists prioritize a literalistic interpretation of the Old Testament, using it to interpret New Testament prophecies, including interpreting Revelation through the lens of Daniel. This hermeneutic leads to downplaying and even ignoring how New Testament authors interpret Old Testament prophecies.
An example of this is Acts 15, where James cites Amos 9:11-12 to explain the inclusion of Gentiles in the church. For dispensationalists, this prophecy refers to a future millennial reign, while amillennialists see it as fulfilled in Christ's resurrection and the creation of the New Israel. The Scofield Reference Bible illustrates this literalistic approach, interpreting James' speech as describing the future millennium, even though the immediate concern was Gentile inclusion in the present church. This interpretation prioritizes the dispensational framework over the plain sense of the text.
Dispensationalists often reinterpret New Testament data that doesn't fit their Old Testament-derived scheme, leading to inconsistencies with the New Testament's interpretation of Old Testament prophecies. Amillennialists, by adopting the New Testament's inspired interpretation of the Old Testament, are interpreting the text correctly, even if they universalize something originally specific to Israel. This allows the New Testament to guide the interpretation of Old Testament prophecies. 1 Peter 2:4-10 is a good case study for this where Peter presents the Church as renewed Israel in Christ.