The Doctrine of Last Things, Part Two: Amillennialism

By Leroy Forlines

Both premillennialists and postmillennialists believe that there will be a time on this earth, before the resurrection and judgment of the wicked, when righteousnes and peace will prevail. They understand this time to be that which is referred to in Revelation 20:1-6.

Premillennialists believe that Jesus will be reigning on earth during this time. Postmillennialists do not believe that Jesus will reign on the earth; rather, He will reign through the Church. Amillennialists deny the idea of a worldwide thousand-year reign of righteousness and peace on the earth. Amillennialists understand the thousand-year reign referred to in Revelation 20:1-6 to refer to the present period up to the second coming of Christ.

Some understand this reign of Christ to take place in the hearts of Christians on earth. Others understand it to refer to the present condition of departed saints. Most of what follows fits in with the view that the thousand-year reign is taking place in the hearts of Christians on earth now.

The number 1,000 is not taken literally. It is taken figuratively as meaning the number of perfection or completion. The binding of Satan is understood as a reference to his power being broken so far as the believer is concerned.

The amillennialist believes that both literal and figurative language is used in Scripture. In the Old Testament, he understands such passages as Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:1-16; Amos 9:11-15; and others to refer to the reign of Jesus in the Church at this present time. These passages would be taken as allegories. Though the language taken literally would sound like a reference to Jesus’ reigning on the earth, it is felt that it should not be taken literally but as figurative descriptions of the triumph and victory experienced by the Church.

The amillennialists are aware of the fact that they interpret passages figuratively that appear from reading to be literal. They feel that their justification for this is found in the New Testamenẗ interpretation of some of these passages. They understand Amos 9:11-15 to sound like a literal future experience for the nation of Israel.

However, they take the reference to this passage in Acts 15:14-17 as a figurative interpretation indicating that it is fulfilled in the Church. Another example is the reference in Hebrews 8:8-12 to the New Covenant which was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. The language sounds like a literal reference to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. The amillennialist understands these to be applied figuratively to the Church. On the basis of these observations, he reasons that other prophesies which sound like a literal prophecy of a future kingdom for Israel must be interpreted figuratively as a reference to the Church in this present time.

Another reason they reject the idea of a future literal kingdom of earth is found in Luke 17:21, It is understood that the statement by Jesus, “The kingdom of God is within you,” excludes the possibility of a literal kingdom.

Another reason they rely heavily on a figurative interpretation is centered around their idea of Israel. When taken literally, Israel refers to those who descended from Abraham through Jacob. If the prophecies about the kingdom are taken literally, they would refer to a future restoration of the nation of Israel to the land and a reign on earth of the Messiah. The amillennialist believes that when Israel rejected Jesus they forfeited their place as the covenant people of God. They were permanently set aside by God so far as being a covenant people is concerned. The church became the covenant people of God without reference to Jew or Gentile. Since the name Israel was the name of the covenant people of God, it became the name of the Church. The Church became the New Israel—the New Covenant people of God.

Following this line of reasoning, the amillennialist usually takes the Old Testament prophecies about Israel that were not fulfilled by the first coming of Christ and applies them to the Church. This calls for a figurative interpretation.

The development of the plan of God by amillennialists is as follows. God made a covenant with Abraham and his seed (Israel) to give them salvation on the condition of faith. This covenant remained with them until the coming of Christ. When the majority of Israelites rejected Jesus, God set them aside as the covenant people. He, then, made His salvation covenant with the Church and the Church became the true Israel.

Jews can be saved individually by becoming parties of the covenant with the Church on the condition of faith. But Israel as a whole will never again become a covenant people. At no time in the future will being a Jew have any special significance in the plan of God. By referring the prophecies that sound like a future kingdom on earth to the present experience of the Church, the amillennialists find no need for a future worldwide kingdom of righteousness and peace on this earth.

He believes instead that when this age comes to a close all the dead will be raised and judged. After that, everyone will enter into the final state—the wicked into the lake of fire and the righteous into the everlasting presence of Jesus Christ.