Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Amillennialists and Premillennialists: What Do We Agree On?

I am a better Premillennialist for having interacted with Amillennialists on the same church staff for the past two years. I understand the Amillennial position better, and I'm better equipped to explain and defend the exegetical foundation for Premillennialism. I'm also far more acquainted with the soft spots in the Amillennialist position and far less likely to toss around the common Premillennial caricatures and canards.

Perhaps most importantly, I've grown to comprehend what Premillennialism and Amillennialism have in common. No doubt there are as many permutations of Premillennialism as there are of Amillennialism—probably more. Nevertheless, as a Premillennialist, I'm going to attempt to create a list statements I can affirm—and that I believe every Amillennialist I personally know would agree with. Here goes:
  1. We should interpret the Bible literally where God intended us to understand it literally.
  2. We should interpret the Bible figuratively where God inspired imagery.
  3. Jesus is returning.
  4. Jesus could return at any moment.
  5. Satan's power is presently limited by God.
  6. Satan cannot stop the spread of the gospel to all nations.
  7. The 1000 years may be symbolic for a long period of time.
  8. At the end, God will give Satan widespread freedom to deceive the nations.
  9. Jesus will crush Satan and the rebellion he incites.
  10. Jesus will rule over the nations.
  11. God will judge all sin and pour out his wrath for eternity on all who are not redeemed by his Son.
  12. All the Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled in the way God originally intended for them to be fulfilled.
  13. All the promises to Abraham will be fulfilled in and through his promised seed.
  14. That seed is Jesus.
That's a start. I'm sure we could come up with more; feel free to try.

7 comments:

Bruce said...

Thanks for this post. It seems more constructive than all the noise out there about whether MD thinks something's a sin or not (says the EFCA pastor who would have been happy to drop the pre-mill in the recent statement of faith revision).

I've got a comment and a question:
1. "Jesus could return at any moment." I'm not sure I've heard non-dispensationalists agree to this wording, at least in the way that dispensationalists mean it. Usually, it's "we agree on imminence," but dispy pre-tribbers mean "any-moment rapture of the church (post-restoration of national Israel in 1948)" and non-dispy post-tribbers mean something like "his return could be in any generation," leaving room for the Antichrist to emerge prior, a la 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4. If I were making a list, I'd ditch "any moment" and go with something related to constant expectancy expressed in holy living, but maybe everybody in your crew likes "any moment."

2. Is there any agreement that there will be a final generation of Jews who will come to faith in Jesus as their Messiah?

Peter B said...

Some good points. I too benefited from learning more about the Amillenial position.

Ben said...

Bruce,

Good point about imminence. I think I could agree with the Amils I know on the wording I used. But I'm sure you're right that not all could.

Help me out here. I'm wondering if that's a difference between Covenant/Historic Premil and (a more Dispensational?) Post-Trib Premil. My memory is fuzzy on how those groups differ. So I'm wondering if Historic Premils see the Tribulation as now so that Christ's return could be "at any moment," whereas Dispensational Post-Trib Premils (if there is such a thing) demand a literal 7-year period including the rise of a personal Antichrist prior to the Rapture. Is that what you're referring to? Is that even a real distinction?

On the salvation of a generation of Jews, it might be tough. I believe their will be. Some if not all Amils I know would concede that there may be.

Bruce said...

All I'm saying is that if you're post-trib of any stripe, and you believe in a literal, ultimate Antichrist (post A.D. 70, also acknowledging many "antichrists" throughout history-- 1 John 2:18), then it's hard to hold to an any-moment rapture/return. Imminence, yes, but not in a strict any-moment sense.

Maybe you're right-- it's only a problem between Historic Premill and Dispensational Premill (if Covenant Amill doesn't believe in a final Antichrist-- I don't know), but in my experience, I've only heard Dispensationalists emphasize "any moment" language.

C A Watson said...

Ben,

Is that "seed" within the texts of the Abrahamic covenant of Genesis always (without exception) Christ?

James Kime said...

Ben, is the point simply to demonstrate that amills can be christian too? What christian couldn't affirm these things?

Christ is coming back, he wins, etc. Of course they believe these things.

My honest question to you is: so what? The bible (and NT in specific) reveal a little more than just the bare bones of Christ's return. They affirm the most basic points of Christ's return and then muddy the rest.

It is in their departure from truth that causes problems.

Justin Martyr:
But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare (Dialogue. Chapter 80).

For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create'...For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place (Dialogue. Chapter 81).

Papias (one who heard John the apostle and friend of Polycarp)
... there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth (Fragments of Papias, VI. See also Eusebius, Church History, Book 3, XXXIX, 12).

The splinter is not on the premills insisting on correct theology. The splinter is owned by the amills who insist on their own theology.

Nathan said...

Ben,

This comment is probably way late since this discussion happened a couple of weeks ago...but I am curious. Would Mark Dever let a member of his church teach a premillenial view from the Pulpit or in a Sunday school class?

Nate Williams