Premillennialism or Amillennialism – Which view is correct?
by David McAllister
David McAllister, a Bible teacher from Donegal, Ireland, examines the vital topic of the Millennium. He gives 8 major reasons why the premillennial view of prophecy is correct and scriptural, as opposed to the amillennial view.
In Revelation 20:1-7, we read about a period of “a thousand years”, from which we obtain the word “Millennium”. These verses tell us that, for that period, Satan will be bound, and the saints will reign with Christ. Now, the question is this: are those 1,000 years literal, referring to a time in the future when there will be a literal reign of Christ on the earth? Or are they symbolic, speaking of the present age, with Christ reigning in the hearts of His people, and His people, in a spiritual sense, reigning with Him in heaven? Those who take the former view believe that there really will be a Millennial reign of Christ. The latter view is referred to as “amillennialism” (the prefix ‘a’ having the effect of negating what follows it).
We believe the former to be the true view. Having already, at least seven years earlier at the “Rapture” (1 Thess 4:13-18), come to the air to take the Church to heaven, Christ will return to the earth, and will reign over the world for a period of 1,000 years, when the nation of Israel will be restored to its place of privilege over the nations, and when the many Scriptures promising peace and prosperity will be fulfilled. There are many reasons why we take this view, but in this article we will explore eight:
1. The Content of Scripture
We will seek to show that the fact of a future, literal Millennium here on earth, is the clear and consistent teaching of the Bible, both in the OT and the NT.
2. Conditions in the Present Time
We will look at the amillennialist claims that the OT prophecies regarding a blessed future for Israel and the world are fulfilled in the present (by the believers reigning with Christ in heaven). Present conditions do not answer to this interpretation.
3. Consistency of Interpretation
We will see that it is only by holding to a future literal Millennium that Scriptures can be interpreted in a consistent manner, and that the amillennial view uses an inconsistent and unreliable mix of interpretative methods.
4. Contrast between Israel and the Church
The references in the Scriptures to “Israel” and “the Church” are distinct from one another. The amillennial view obliterates this distinction.
5. Covenants with the Fathers
We will consider the solemn covenants which God made with the great fathers of the nation of Israel, and how that fulfillment of them demands a literal, future Millennium.
6. Completeness of the Divine Program
We will refer to Scriptures which show that, before the future “new heavens and new earth”, God has a blessed future planned for this present earth in which there will be peace and righteousness; we will see how this can only come about by the rule of Christ on the earth.
7. Character of God
To deny a literal Millennium is, in effect, to deny that God speaks the truth, that He keeps His promises, or that He is able to carry out what He has foretold.
8. Context of Quotations
We will examine passages which are often quoted to support the amillennial position, and seek to show that, seen in their right context, they do not support that idea at all.
In Acts 17:10-11 there is commendation of people who “received the Word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” As we go through this series together, this is the desire of the writer: that the reader would not either blindly accept or reject what is being written, but that he or she would go humbly to the Scriptures, and seek, before God, to ascertain what the Word of God teaches. Many Scripture references will be given and these should be read along with the article. If this article succeeds in encouraging some to “search the Scriptures” in order to know “those things which are most surely believed among us” (Luke 1:1), then it will have been worthwhile.
1. The Content of Scripture
Why do we believe in a literal, future Millennium? First and foremost, because it is taught in the Bible.
The amillennialist will counter this by saying that it is only taught in one passage, Revelation 20, and that, being in a book which is so symbolical, it does not mean a period of 1,000 literal years.
Now, it is true that Revelation 20 is the only place where its duration is given, but it is stated to be 1,000 years no fewer than six times in that passage (once in each of verses 2-7). And how many times does the Bible need to state something in order for us to take it to be true? Surely one time should be sufficient!
Moreover, Revelation 20 is not the only place in the Bible where we read of a literal reign of God on earth. Indeed, much of the Old Testament is taken up with it. The references are so extensive that it would be impossible, in an article like this, to go through them all. But a reading of passages such as Psalm 72; Isaiah 2, 11, 35, and 65; Ezekiel 20, 34, 36, 47; and Amos 9 reveal to us a glorious future for Israel when she will be regathered and cleansed. There will be universal blessing with freedom from oppression. There will be righteousness and justice, peace and security. Unproductive land will become fertile and there will be abundant and frequent harvests. The Dead Sea will teem with life and wild animals will be tame, posing no danger to human beings. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.
These and many other similar prophecies are stated clearly in the OT without any suggestion that they are not to be taken literally. Certainly, the nation to which they were given understood them as being literal. And so do we. They are in the Word and thus we believe them as they stand.
Against this, the amillennialist will say, “If they are meant to be taken literally, why are they not repeated in the NT?” To which we respond with three points.
Firstly, they primarily refer to the nation of Israel, and how blessing will flow out from Israel to the nations. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the details are given in the OT and not in the NT.
Secondly, when God had already given these promises, there was no need to repeat them.
Thirdly, the NT, as its name indicates, is concerned with new revelation from God in the Person of His Son, and as a consequence of this the emphasis in the NT epistles is on church truth. OT teaching does not become invalid simply because it is not all repeated again in the NT!
The more pertinent question is this: “Does the NT negate the promises of future earthly blessing given in the OT?” The answer to this is in the negative. Take Acts 1:6-7. The Lord Jesus is about to return to heaven and the disciples ask Him, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Israel had, not much more than a month before this, rejected Him. If Israel was finished as a nation, if there was no hope of a future earthly kingdom, then this was the ideal moment for the Lord to break it to the disciples that they had it all wrong. But He does not. On the contrary, He tells them that it is not for them to know the “times and seasons”. It was not a matter of whether it would happen but of when it would happen.
Thus in Acts 3:19-26, not long after the Lord’s ascension, Peter is able to tell his Jewish audience, in a message full of OT allusions, that at the Lord’s return, and only then (v20-21), would all the OT prophecies be fulfilled regarding “the times of restitution of all things” (v21).
Later on (Acts 15:13-17), James states that the prophecy of Amos 9:11-12 (that God will rebuild the tabernacle of David) will be “after” (v 16) the present age, when He is taking out of the nations “a people for His Name” (v 14).
This is all well-illustrated in the “parable of the pounds” (Luke 19:11-27). The “certain man” (v12) is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus, who has gone into a “far country” to “receive for Himself a kingdom” and who will “return”. It is equally certain that the “citizens” who reject Him represent the nation of Israel (v14). The Lord has been rejected by the nation; He has gone away, and will return in kingdom glory.
The man in the parable returns to the same place and to the same people and, as his reward, he will be given authority over cities in that kingdom. Likewise, the Lord will return to the same place where He was rejected, to the same nation which rejected Him, and those who have been faithful will be rewarded in that kingdom on the earth.
So, far from nullifying or spiritualising away the OT promises of a future earthly kingdom, the NT does the opposite: it reaffirms them. The promises are there, and we believe them.
But the amillennialist says, “Not so. These promises of blessing will not be fulfilled in the future, literally, but rather they are being fulfilled in the present, spiritually, in the blessings enjoyed by the Church.”
2. Conditions in the Present Time
The amillennialist says that the church (presently) fulfills the OT promises to Israel of earthly blessing. Let us look around and examine whether what we see in the present matches this claim. There are many places to which we could turn, but we will restrict ourselves to two: one from the first book in the Bible, and one from the last.
In Genesis 12:1, God tells Abram to go to “a land that I will shew thee.” In verse 5, he arrives in Canaan, and God says it is “this land” to which He had been referring. In chapter 13:14-15, God tells him that the land that he was looking at would belong to him and to his seed forever. This is restated in 15:7. In verses 8-21, God solemnises His covenant, indicating that Abram can know for sure that it is “this land” (v18) which will be given to him. Moreover, God identifies the boundaries of the land (vv 18-21).
The amillennialist says that these promises will never be literally fulfilled; that they have a present, spiritual fulfillment in the Church. However, in the passages above, God shows Abram a literal land and makes it clear that it is “this land” He is referring to, with precise boundaries. In Genesis, when “land” is used, it denotes a literal land. For example, in 15:13, God says, “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” This is Egypt, and this was fulfilled literally. Joseph (Gen 50:24) has no doubt that the land which God “sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” was the literal land of Canaan, for he says that is where God is going to bring them. Moses (Ex 32:13) is equally sure of this.
The amillennialist tries to counter by saying that, yes, the OT saints believed it was the literal land of Canaan, but in the light of the NT, we can see that it is meant to be taken spiritually, in the present blessings of the Church.
The problem with this view is that nowhere, either in the OT or in the NT, are we given the slightest indication that God’s words to Abraham were not meant literally; nowhere is the promise nullified, or transferred to the Church. On the contrary, the NT Scriptures affirm and refer to the literal land of Canaan. In Acts 7:3-8 Stephen tells his accusers that “the land” (v3) is “this land wherein ye now dwell” (v4), and that this was the land God had promised to Abram and to his seed (v5). It could not be clearer that the NT reasserts the promise of the literal land to Abraham’s literal descendants. In Hebrews 11:9, Abraham is said to have sojourned in the “the land of promise”. This has to be the literal land. Thus, the status of the “land of promise” has not changed, and the promises concerning it await fulfillment.
We pass over to Revelation 20. The amillennialist says that this passage speaks of the present; that the 1,000 years are the present age; that the binding of Satan is his defeat at the cross; that the “first resurrection” is what a person experiences when he receives salvation; that believers are presently “reigning” with Christ; and that this will continue until the dead are raised together, at the end of the world.
Now, let us take the amillennialist’s interpretation at face value. Immediately we can see three huge problems:
(1) Revelation 20:2 says that Satan will be “bound” throughout Christ’s reign. We are told the meaning of this in verse 3: “that he should deceive the nations no more.” Let us look around and ask if this is an appropriate statement of present conditions in the world. It is totally inappropriate. Scriptures written about the present age, such as 2 Corinthians 4:3,4, vividly describe Satan’s blinding of the minds of unbelievers, and we (believers) are not immune from his attacks: the description in 1 Peter 5:8 of “a roaring lion” who “walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” hardly depicts one who is bound and incapable of influence! See also Acts 5:3; 2 Cor 11:14; Eph 2:2; 1 Thess 2:18 and 2 Tim 2:26 for evidence of Satan’s current activity. And the daily news headlines testify to Satan’s efficiency in deceiving the nations.
(2) Revelation 20:3, 7, 8 tell us that, after the 1,000 years, Satan will be loosed for a short time, and he will deceive the nations again. The amillennialist claims that the present age will continue, until the end of the world, when all will be raised and judged, and the eternal state will begin. This leaves no room for anything corresponding to Satan’s release. If, as he claims, Satan’s binding is his defeat at the cross, then it would be undoing the work of the cross for him to be unbound. There is, in the amillennialist’s scheme, no explanation for Satan’s release.
(3) Revelation 20:4 states that the martyrs “lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.” The amillennialist says that this “resurrection” (v5) refers to the spiritual life obtained when a person trusts Christ. If so, what does verse 5 mean when it says that “the rest of the dead lived not again until the 1,000 years were finished?” It cannot mean spiritually, for these people are not saved. If he is honest, he is forced to admit that it is literal resurrection. He gives the word “lived” at the end of verse 4 and at the beginning of verse 5, two totally different meanings, despite the fact that the context and language make it clear that these verses describe a contrast in experience (i.e., literal resurrection) between two different groups. The amillennial interpretation does violence to the plain teaching of the passage.
Thus, looking at present conditions, we see that the amillennial doctrine does not bear scrutiny. Both the promise of the land and the promise of the saints reigning with Christ demand future fulfillment.
3. Consistency of Interpretation
We believe that a passage of Scripture should be interpreted according to its vocabulary and grammar, taking into account its context and comparing it with other Scriptures. In other words, Scripture means what it says and says what it means. If we abandon this principle, then Scripture can be taken to mean whatever the reader fancies.
Many amillennialists believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture, and generally they hold to the same method. On many major doctrines, such as the virgin birth and the resurrection, Scripture is taken to mean what it says. But then, for prophecies regarding the future, they abandon this method, substituting an allegorical one in which plain statements of Scripture are spiritualised away and made to mean whatever the individual chooses. In this article, we shall seek to show some of the inconsistencies of such a method of interpretation.
God gave many promises to Abraham in Genesis 12-15. Some examples are, that he would have an heir; that he would be the father of many nations; that kings would come out of him; that his descendants would be slaves in Egypt; that they would come out from that bondage. All those prophecies were literally fulfilled. So, for the promises concerning the land, which are part of the same covenant, we can expect that they will also be literally fulfilled. Consistency of interpretation demands this.
Now, considering the promises to Abraham’s “seed” in the same passages, the amillennialist, in trying to make them refer to the church, points to NT passages where the term “seed of Abraham” is used of all believers, and says that these promises refer to Abraham’s spiritual seed and not to his literal descendants. But consistency of interpretation does not allow for this. In Genesis 15:13, God tells him, “thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs.” This is the sojourn of Israel in Egypt, and refers to his literal descendants. The promises of the covenant are also said to have been given to Isaac’s “seed” (Gen 17:19) and Jacob’s “seed” (Gen 28:13). This must be the literal descendants and cannot mean NT believers as we are never referred to as the “seed of Isaac” or the “seed of Jacob”. Other references to the word “seed” in Genesis include 7:3; 9:9; 38:8; 46:6 and 48:11, 19. Each must refer to literal descendants. On the grounds of consistency, the references in God’s covenant must also refer to Abraham.
The promise to David that his throne would be “established for ever” (2 Sam 7:12-16) is embedded in other prophecies that were literally fulfilled (that he would have a son; that this son would build the temple; that he would be chastened for iniquity, but that God’s mercy would not depart from him). David expected literal fulfillment of the whole prophecy (vv 18-29) and, on the grounds of consistency, we can also expect literal fulfillment.
Other OT passages (such as in Psa 22, Isa 7, 11, 53, 61; Micah 5), which foretell Christ’s first coming (that He would be descended from David; that He would be born in Bethlehem; that He would be born of a virgin; descriptions of His earthly ministry; details of His sufferings and death) were certainly literally fulfilled. Also, in the OT, numerous passages speak of His second coming, His return to earth, the judgments, a blessed future for Israel, with blessing flowing out to the nations, and a time of unprecedented peace and righteousness. Often these are together with prophecies of His first coming (for example, in Isa 61). We do not deny the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 53 at His first coming. How can we then deny the literal fulfillment of Isaiah 11 at His second coming? It makes no sense to say that, when the prophets wrote about His first coming, it was meant literally but when they wrote about His second coming, it was meant spiritually.
Coming now to the NT, in Luke 1:31 Mary is told that she will conceive and bear a Son and call His name Jesus. We do not doubt the literal interpretation of these words. Then immediately we read, “the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David, and He shall rule over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (vv 32-33). The amillennialist cannot have it both ways. If he takes the details of the Lord’s birth as literal, then he should also take the reign over Israel on the throne of David as being literal.
The amillennialist tries to deny the literal Millennium on the grounds that Revelation is a book full of symbols. But, as the above discussion shows, he has abandoned literal interpretation long before he gets to Revelation!
Finally, let us consider his dismissal of the literal meaning of Revelation 20. To do this on the basis of the Revelation being full of symbols will not do. Yes, there are plenty of symbols, but those symbols denote things which are literal. For example, in 1:12 the “lampstands” are symbols, but they stand for something real: seven churches (v20). The “Lamb” (5:6) is the Lord Jesus Christ, even though He is not literally a sheep. The use of the figure does not nullify the reality of what is being portrayed. So it is in chapter 20: the “chain” (for example) in verse 1 is figurative, but the binding of Satan (which it represents) is real. The use of imagery enriches the Scriptures and deepens our insight into them, but does not do away with the reality of the literal events described.
Thus, the amillennialist is inconsistent in his interpretation of Scripture, using the literal method in general, but switching to the allegorical method for prophecy, or at least for some prophecy; for he is not even consistent with prophecy. When it concerns the Lord’s first coming, he takes it literally, but when it concerns His second coming, he abandons the literal method.
When we consistently use the same yardstick of interpretation, the historical-grammatical method, then we conclude that there will be a literal, future Millennium when Christ will reign over this world.
4. The Contrast Between Israel and the Church
A further reason why we believe in a future, literal Millennium is that we believe the Bible makes a clear distinction between Israel and the Church: both are dear to the heart of God, but they are distinct, with different promises and roles in the purposes of God.
Let us consider what the NT teaches about the Church. A crucial passage is Eph 3:1-12, where it is described (vv 3-4) as a “mystery”. Now what is a “mystery”? The following verse (v5) tells us that it is something “which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Other Scriptures (Rom 16:25; Col 1:26; Eph 3:9) teach the same thing. It is a truth which was not revealed in former times, but which God has now made known. In short, it is something not in the OT, but in the NT.
Now what is this “mystery” in the early part of Eph 3? It is the truth of “one body”: Jews and Gentiles united together in the “same body” (v6). Paul calls it “one new man” (2:15). The Church is not the development of Israel, nor incorporated into Israel; rather, it is an entirely new and distinct entity, which was “hid in God” (v9) and has “now” been made known (v10). There could be no clearer statement of the fact that the Church is not in the OT.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He said, “I will build My Church” (Matt 16:18). The tense is future, indicating that the Church was not yet in existence when He spoke. In Eph 1:20-23, we read that God “gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church”, showing that the Church, of which He is the Head, came into existence consequent to His resurrection, ascension and glorification. The baptism in the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost, shortly after He ascended back to heaven (Acts 2) and it is by this baptism that believers have all been baptised into one body (1 Cor 12:13). Thus, the Church began at Pentecost.
In the NT, Israel and the Church are clearly distinguished. For example, Paul, in speaking of himself in Philippians 3, makes a careful distinction between “Israel” (v5) and “the Church” (v6).
Thus, in this age, a new entity has been brought about, different from Israel, whose promises are not the many earthly blessings promised to Israel in the OT, but the “spiritual blessings” (Eph 1:3) with which we have been blessed in Christ. Many are the blessings which are ours in Him, but the promises of the land and of national blessing are given to Israel, and they still stand. They have not been transferred to us. God will ensure that they are fulfilled, literally to Israel, in a coming day.
The amillennialist will make a number of objections:
Firstly, that the Church is not taught in the OT.
To which we respond that we agree with the objection! Indeed, this is precisely what we are saying: the Church is a “mystery” which was not revealed in the OT, but has now been revealed, as the NT teaches.
Secondly, that the OT makes no provision for God setting aside Israel, introducing the Church, and taking up Israel again.
Not so! While the Church is not revealed in the OT, it does speak of Israel being rejected by God and then taken up again. An example is Hosea 1:10-11; another is the “seventy weeks” prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. This 69 weeks of years (483 years) passed between the commandment to restore Jerusalem (v25) and the death of the Messiah (v26) has been well-established; this leaves one more “week” (seven years) to be fulfilled in the future. The Church age comes in between the 69th and the 70th week. When the Lord read Isaiah 61 in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), He stopped after the prophecies of His first coming and did not read those concerning His second coming. The gap leaves room for the present age. This is described in Acts 15:14-17, where we read that, at the present time, God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for His name” (v14), and then Israel will be restored (v16).
Thirdly, that promises which are made to Israel in the OT are applied to the Church in the NT, thus equating Israel and the Church. An example is the prophecy of the “new covenant” of Jer 31:31-34, which is referred to in Heb 8:8-12 and 10:15-17.
However, this is not a problem. What the writer to the Hebrews is telling us is that (because of the shedding of the blood of Christ) those who turn to Him today experience, in the present, the blessing of forgiveness of sins that Israel will come into the good of in the future. This does not negate the fact that Israel will enjoy it in the future; nor does it mean that Israel and the Church are one and the same.
So, we will save ourselves a lot of confusion if we “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). We must remember that there is a distinction between Israel, which is presently in unbelief, but for which there is a glorious future, when she comes to know Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, and the Church, which is a mystery, unrevealed in the OT, gathered out from the nations, and by which is made known “the manifold wisdom of God” (Eph 3:10).
Many and wonderful are the blessings, present and future, which are ours in the Lord Jesus Christ; but not even one of them nullifies the promises of great blessings to Israel and the nations, which will find their fulfillment in the Millennium.
5. Covenants with the Fathers
The amillennialist will agree that men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, to whom God made such wonderful promises, were great men of God. But then they will point to the fact that their descendants in the nation of Israel did not live up to their standard and thus the nation forfeited the blessings promised to it.
We agree with the first part of this assertion: the history of Israel is generally a sad story of departure from God, and the nation has paid dearly for it many times over the years, right to this present day.
However, we have to examine the second part of the assertion: has the nation of Israel forfeited the blessings promised to the fathers?
Let us look again at the Abrahamic Covenant. We have already considered the promises made to Abraham and to his seed of the land and of blessing flowing out to all peoples. The promises are stated and repeated to him, and also to Isaac and Jacob, on a number of occasions (Gen 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:1-7, 18-21; 17:1-19; 26:2-5; 28:13-15). There is no suggestion that it is conditional on the part of the descendants. It is an “everlasting” covenant (Gen 17:7, 13, 19; 1 Chron 16:16, 17; Psa 105:9, 10), and thus, by definition, unbreakable by man. When God solemnised it (Gen 15:9-17), He alone passed through the pieces – man had no part in it; its fulfillment depended entirely on God. An individual could, because of disobedience, forfeit his own relationship to the covenant people (Gen 17:14), but that did not nullify the covenant.
Similar considerations apply to the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam 7:12-16). It is described as “forever” or “everlasting” (2 Sam 7:13, 16; 23:5); its promises are often repeated, in spite of failure (Isa 9:6, 7; Jer 23:5, 6; 33:14-17, 20-21); disobedience by Solomon would bring chastening, but would not nullify the covenant (2 Sam 7:14, 15); it was confirmed by an oath (Psa 132:11); and God says He will not break it (Psa 89:34-36).
Even in the midst of apostasy, God states that He will not cast aside Israel (for example, Jer 31:35-37). Failure on the part of the nation does not nullify His promises.
Turning to the New Testament, after the nation of Israel had committed the worst sin possible, rejecting the Messiah, the covenants are still specifically stated to be theirs (Rom 9:3, 4 and Eph 2:12).
In Romans 3:1-4, Paul makes it abundantly clear that lack of faith on the part of some Israelites in no way nullifies the faithfulness of God. God’s promises are not discarded just because some do not believe them. Even if every person in the world were to say the opposite of what God says, then God is the One Who will be found to be true, and everyone else will be found to be a liar (v4). God is totally faithful, and will honour His promises to the nation.
In Rom 11:1-2, Paul states that “God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew.” He goes on (v11) to state that their “stumbling” is not full and final. Their “blindness” (v25) is partial and temporary: “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” Israel “shall be saved” (v26), and it will happen when the Deliverer shall come “and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (v26), and “take away their sins” (v27). That this is talking about the nation of Israel, and not the Church, could not be clearer, for Paul says of them in verse 28 “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes.” He has already spoken of Israel as those for whom he has sorrow in his heart (9:2); of their privileges (9:4-5); of the fact that Christ came through them (9:5); of their misplaced zeal (10:2-3); of their disobedience (10:21). All these references cannot possibly be speaking of the Church. The whole context of Romans 9-11 shows that when he speaks of Israel, he is speaking of the literal nation of Israel. So, when he speaks in chapter 11:26 of Israel being saved, it is the future salvation of the nation. To assert that it is otherwise is to twist the plain teaching of this section of Romans.
Now, why is it that, despite all Israel’s failure, its rejection of the Messiah, its enmity to the Church, there is future salvation for them? We are not left to guess. In Rom 11:28, Paul states a fact which overrides all the negatives. “As touching the election, they are beloved for the Father’s sakes.” Their relationship to the patriarchs, to whom the promises were made, means that, notwithstanding their enmity to the gospel, they are beloved of God, and there is great blessing coming to them. Paul clinches the argument when he writes: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (v29). That is, God does not change His mind. He has made His great promises to the nation of Israel, and He will keep them. They will be fulfilled.
And so, because of the covenants with the fathers of the nation of Israel, which God will certainly honour, we believe in a literal, future, Millennium, when those promises will surely be fulfilled. Great are our blessings in the Church in this present day, as well as in the future, but they are not the fulfillment of the promises God made to the fathers of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament. No. God has not changed His mind about the promises He made to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob and to their descendants. He will fulfill them.
Let us take to heart the warning of Paul to Christians in Rom 11:25. There is the danger being “wise in your own conceits”, of being so full of our self-importance that we despise Israel, mistakenly thinking that all the blessings are ours, and that there is nothing left for them. God has a glorious future for that nation, and it is in the Millennium that so many promises will be fulfilled.
6. Completeness of the Divine Program
We believe that a future literal reign of 1,000 years on earth is necessary in order that God’s plans for this earth be brought to fulfillment. When God made the world and everything in it, it was all “good” (Gen 1). He put a man as head over the creation (Gen 1:26-28). This is described in Psalm 8:6: “Thou madest him [man] to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” However, sin came in, so, quoting and commenting on this Psalm, the writer to the Hebrews says that, in the present, we do not see all things under a man (Heb 2:8). However, this passage (by using the words “not yet”) shows that a time is coming when we will. This he calls “the age to come” (v5). And certainly the Man in Whom this will be fulfilled is the Lord Jesus Christ (vv 9-10).
How and when will this take place? Under the amillennial scheme, there will not be a time when this earth will see its former glory restored, for according to this, things will continue as they are now, until the end, when there will be a general resurrection, a general judgment, the destruction of the earth, and the bringing in of the eternal state. Thus, according to this scheme, the words of the Lord’s pattern prayer (Luke 11:2), “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth,” will never be answered, as far as this present earth is concerned.
However, not only does the OT abound with references to future blessing on earth, but the NT affirms them. The “whole creation” which “groaneth and travaileth in pain” shall be “delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom 8:21-22). Such a wonderful prophecy could scarcely be fulfilled by the “fervent heat” of 2 Peter 3:10, which describes dissolution of the present creation, rather than its deliverance! The conflagration which Peter describes here will surely take place, but not until the glorious period of the 1,000-year rule of Christ on earth has been completed. No, the will of God will be done on this very earth, for 1,000 years, before the dissolution of the elements occurs, resulting in the new heavens and the new earth.
Passages such as Zechariah 14 would be meaningless if they did not refer to the literal earth. It is stated that the Lord will stand upon the mount of Olives (v4), and Zechariah describes major topographical changes that will take place then: the mountain splitting in two (v4), a great movement of waters (v8), and the formation of a plain (v10). If it was true that the coming of the Lord was immediately going to result in the dissolution of everything, Zechariah could have said so, without giving details of specific geographical places and events, which, if the amillennialist is right, will not take place. Surely it is better to take Zechariah’s words as they stand. At the Lord’s return to earth, there will be changes, but they will take place on the same earth we are living on now, in places that can be identified on the present globe. Moreover, since Zechariah describes topographical changes, not atomisation, we would be wise to accept that what will happen at the Lord’s return is just that, and keep the atomisation and reconstitution (of 2 Peter 3) for when it belongs – much later.
When the Lord was here, He was crucified. He left as a rejected King. He is still rejected. Is this the end of things as far as this world is concerned? Is He never going to reign on this present earth where He was rejected? Yes He will! How blessed are the words of Zech 9:10: “His dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.” He will reign over this very world where He was rejected.
Psalm 2:1-3 describes the hatred of the nations against the Lord. The psalmist expresses the futility of their opposition: “Yet have I set my King upon My holy hill of Zion” (v6). This is doubtless referring to the future reign of the Lord Jesus Christ (the words in v7: “Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee” quoted in Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5, and the quotation from Psalm 2 in Acts 4:25-27, confirm that the passage refers to Him). The readers of this psalm would have had no doubt that “Zion” was the hill on which Jerusalem was built (Psa 48:12), and they would certainly have understood the statement in verse six to refer to the Messiah reigning in the earthly city of Jerusalem. There is no reason for anyone to jettison the literal fulfillment of this beautiful Messianic prophecy. The statement in Hebrews 12:22: “But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” shows us that we, as believers in the present day, come into the spiritual blessings associated with heaven, God’s dwelling place, of which Zion and the earthly Jerusalem are a picture. This does not negate the Scripture references to Him reigning as King in the literal city of Jerusalem.
When the Lord Jesus last walked the streets of Jerusalem, the people cried, “Away with this man” (Luke 23:18). But when they see Him again, they will say, “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord” (Matt 23:39). The same city that rejected Him will receive Him gladly. He will establish His throne right there, and from it blessing will flow out to the nations.
By denying a future reign of Christ, centred in Jerusalem over the earth, the amillennialist is denying a vital part of God’s program for the present earth. Only by a literal, future rule of Christ on earth can all God’s promises for this world be fulfilled.
7. The Character of God
The great majority of Christendom is amillennial in doctrine. Roman Catholicism sees itself as the fulfillment of the Kingdom prophecies, and would not countenance the thought that there is One coming Who will supersede its own hegemony! Most of apostate Protestant denominations have embodied the Roman Catholic position on future events by default – mostly without serious questioning. Liberals and modernists do not accept the truth of inspiration of Scripture. Part of their larger agenda is to deny the literal fulfillment of prophecy, which then denies the literalness of Scripture in general.
Having said that, we know that there are many amillennialists who are true believers, who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture and who would never seek to impugn the character of God. However, if we look closely at what the amillennial teaching is, we can see that it is not consistent with the high view of God’s character, as presented for us in the Word of God.
The Bible tells us that God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Yet amillennial doctrine is effectively saying that God said things which were not true, and that He thereby deliberately deceived people. For example, when He told Abraham to look at the land which he and his seed would receive (Gen 13:14-15), and when He indicated the borders of the land (Gen 15:18-21), Abraham certainly understood the references to the “land” as literal. If the amillennialist is right, then God had no intention of giving that land to him at all, and Abraham was deceived.
So it is with the promises to Abraham and to his “seed”. Abraham certainly took the term to refer to his literal descendants (Gen 21:12), yet the amillennialist tells us that the term does not refer to Abraham’s literal seed, but to his spiritual seed.
Throughout the OT, when God gave detailed prophecies to the nation of Israel, regarding the future, they would certainly have taken them literally. This expectation was equally strong in the NT. It is clear from our reading of the gospels and Acts that the disciples expected a future, literal kingdom, with Israel at the head of the nations (Acts 1:6). Are we really expected to believe that, for hundreds and hundreds of years God allowed His people to be deceived as to the true nature of the promises He was making? And if they had misunderstood the true character of prophecy, why did the Lord Jesus not set them straight when He had the golden opportunity (Acts 1:7)? Do the amillennialists think they have received some great insight into the mind of God, which allows them to discard the clear passages which abound through the Scriptures, when even the Lord Jesus Himself, when here on earth, did not do so?
The implication of all this is not a trifling matter. For, if God said things to Israel that He did not mean to fulfill, what reason have we to believe that He will fulfill the promises He has made to us? Can we be confident that we will fare any better than Israel has? If OT saints misunderstood what God promised to them, how can we be sure that we are not misunderstanding the promises He has made to us? Let us reject such aspersions on God’s character, and quote with confidence Heb 10:23: “He is faithful that promised.”
The Bible tells us that God does not change His mind regarding His calling and His gifts (Rom 11:29). Yet the amillennialist teaches that (because of unbelief) the nation of Israel has forfeited the blessings promised to it. This flatly contradicts what Paul says in Romans 11, where he clearly indicates that God will not go back on His promises to the patriarchs (v28), that the blindness of Israel is partial and temporary (v25), and that there is future salvation and forgiveness of sins for the nation of Israel (vv26-27). It also contradicts the OT statements of the unconditional character of God’s promises. For example, in Psalm 89, the writer speaks of God’s covenant with David (vv 3, 4, 20), and states that, while disobedience on the part of David’s descendants will result in judgment on them (vv 29-32), it will in no way nullify the covenant that God made with him (vv 28, 33-37).
The Bible teaches that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). Yet frequently the amillennialist states that a future literal Millennium is “impossible”. For example, he says that the records of the tribes have been lost, so it would be impossible to know who the Levites are. But surely God still knows them, and it will be no difficulty for Him to make them known in His own way and at His own time.
It is also argued that the dimensions of the Millennial temple, as given in Ezekiel, could not fit into the present temple site. But this reckons without the great topographic changes that will take place (Zech 14), which will make space for a much larger structure. Doubtless there are other “difficulties”, for which we do not have the answers. But God knows the answers, and we can trust Him. Let us not limit God’s abilities to carry out what He has promised.
Our God is a God of truth (Deut 32:4), a God Who is able to perform that which He has promised (Rom 4:21). To believe in a future, literal Millennium is to acknowledge these things; to deny it is effectively to deny the dependability and the power of God.
But the amillennialist will disagree with our assertion that the NT does not nullify the promises of a literal future kingdom on earth. He will point to passages in the NT which, he claims, show that the kingdom promises are to be interpreted spiritually. What of this claim?
8. The Context of Quotations
An example often quoted concerns the term “Abraham’s seed”, which is used of present-day believers in Galatians 3. Thus (says the amillennialist) all promises in the Bible to the “seed of Abraham” are fulfilled in us, and have no future fulfillment to Abraham’s literal seed.
But let us look at the context in which we are referred to as “Abraham’s seed”. Consider Gal 3:8, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed’.” In the remainder of this chapter, Paul goes on to show that the promise that all nations would be blessed through Abraham is fulfilled in the salvation which people of all nations receive, through faith, because of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (vv 14, 26, 28). Thus, he can close the chapter (v29) with the words, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Which promise? From the context, it is the promise stated in verse 14: “The promise of the Spirit through faith.” Thus, we, as the spiritual seed of Abraham, in Christ (vv 19, 29), fulfill the promise made of blessing to the world through the gospel. Nothing is said which nullifies any of the promises about the nation and the land. They are not even mentioned. They await literal fulfillment to literal Israel.
Another set of quotations used by the amillennialist is Heb 8:8-12 and 10:15-17, referring to the “new covenant” promise given to the house of Israel and the house of Judah in Jer 31:31-34. The fact that these promises are quoted to believers in this age means (claims the amillennialist) that “Israel and Judah” and “the Church” are one and the same, and hence we are the complete fulfillment of this prophecy, and there is no future fulfillment for the nation.
Once again, let us carefully examine the context, and we will see that nowhere does the writer to the Hebrews say that the new covenant promise is completely and finally fulfilled by the Church. The basis for the new covenant is the shedding of the blood of Christ (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 9:15), and the result for those who come under it is that their sins will be remembered no more (Jer 31:34; Heb 8:12, 10:17). Thus, a person who receives Christ as his Saviour today comes into the blessings of the new covenant. That is the teaching of the Hebrew epistle. However, this does not in any way militate against its future fulfillment for Israel. Israel is still in unbelief, but when she turns to the Lord, Jeremiah’s prophecy will be fulfilled to the nation. Present day believers are already in the blessing of what Israel still awaits. But the fact that we have it now does not mean that Israel will be denied it in the future.
Another example used by the amillennialist is Hosea 1:10-11 and 2:23, which Paul quotes in Romans 9:23-26. The context of Hosea 1 and 2 shows that he is referring to the restoration of Israel; Paul is referring to the bringing of blessing to the Gentiles. Thus, says the amillennialist, Paul is stating that the Church is the fulfillment of Hosea’s promise to Israel.
But Paul is not saying that. He is simply borrowing Hosea’s words and applying them in a different context. His words are clear: “As He saith also in Osee (Hosea)” (v25). He does not state that Gentile blessing is the fulfillment of Hosea’s words, but just that Hosea’s words can be applied to it. He is not denying the future literal fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy.
Another case is James in Acts 15:14-17, quoting Amos 9:11, which, the amillennialist claims, shows that Gentile blessing in the present fulfills the prophecy that God will “build again the tabernacle of David.”
But once again, James says no such thing. Examination of his words shows that present Gentile blessing is in “agreement” (v15) with this prophecy. Rather, it is “after this” (v16) that the tabernacle of David will be restored. In the meantime, God is taking out of the Gentiles “a people for His name” (v14). This is in agreement with what Amos has said; it is not the fulfillment of it.
This analysis of quotations in their context has certainly not been exhaustive; however, we trust that enough has been written to show that when an amillennialist quotes certain “proof texts” for his doctrine, a careful examination of them in their context will show that they do not support his theory.
We have considered some reasons why we believe in a future, literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth: because the Scriptures teach it; because current conditions in the world do not answer to the alternative view; because it is in line with consistent principles of interpretation; because it preserves the distinction which the Scriptures make between Israel and the Church; because it is the only way in which God’s covenants with the fathers will be fulfilled; because it is necessary to the completeness of God’s programme for the ages; because it is consistent with God’s character; and because Scriptures which may seem to suggest otherwise, when examined in their rightful context, say nothing of the sort.
We gladly join with Paul as he unequivocally teaches the restoration and blessing of Israel: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!…For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom 11:33, 36).
(Used with permission from Truth and Tidings magazine. In combining what was originally 9 separate articles, this post has made minor adaptations to reflect the unity of its form above).