What is Amillennialism?

What is the amillennial view of the end times?

Dillon Burroughs

In the book of Isaiah, there is a poetic and famous passage about a period of time in the history of the world that is known as The Millennium a time of unprecedented peace on the earth, with Jesus Christ as King. The passage speaks of peace so profound that even the predators will no longer kill and eat their prey:
"The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them."
Amillennialism is the belief that there will not be a future 1,000-year reign of Christ. The word "amillennialism" is a combination of the prefix "a" (not) and "millennial" (1,000), literally meaning "no millennium." Those who hold to this view of the future are called amillennialists.

Amillennialism is one of three major views of the end of time in Christian theology. The other two views are premillennialism (the view that Christ will literally return to earth at the prior to a literal millennial kingdom, and postmillennialism, a view that believes Christ will return after the millennium after Christians themselves have established the kingdom of God on earth.

Rather than a future millennial kingdom as predicted in Revelation 20:1-6, amillennialism teaches that Christ is currently seated on the throne of David and that the current church age is the kingdom Christ leads. Those who hold a more literal view (premillennialists) argue that this view is inconsistent with God's promises to Israel and to David (2 Samuel 7:8-16; Psalm 89:3-4) of a future, literal, physical kingdom on earth. In addition, several other biblical prophecies regarding the future reign of Christ on earth would be difficult to understand without a coming literal millennium.

At stake in this discussion is also the issue of Bible interpretation (also called hermeneutics). In amillennialism, the Bible may be interpreted literally, but it also allows for "spiritual" or figurative interpretations regarding prophecy. In doing so, there is both the danger of inconsistency in interpretation as well as a lack of basis for evaluating whose figurative interpretations is correct.

A second weakness is related to the biblical teaching of the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1-3. There, Satan is bound at the start of the millennial period. Amillenialists who do not hold to a future literal millennium are forced to identify this binding as something that took place at Christ's first coming. Yet Satan's work appears to be alive and well today, and is spoken of as such in New Testament teachings. The same inconsistency can be mentioned regarding the "loosening" of Satan at the end of the millennium.

A third weakness is the understanding of the two resurrections mentioned in Revelation 20:1-6 related to the millennium. Most amillennialists accept one resurrection as spiritual and the other as physical. Yet these distinctions are not clearly made in the biblical text, again leading to inconsistencies related to what is taken literally and what is taken figuratively.

In summary, it has been said that the prophecies concerning Christ's first coming were all fulfilled literally. Therefore, prophecies concerning Christ's second coming should also be expected to be fulfilled literally. An allegorical interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be rejected and a literal or normal interpretation of unfulfilled prophecy should be preferred. This would makes premillennialism the biblically-based interpretation of the millennium.

Image Credit: Ahquib Hussain; "Un cop de ma"; Creative Commons

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Published 1-7-12