Amillennialism

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The "amillennial"53 view teaches that the millennium is not a literal thousand years. The name literally means 'not millennial." Many amillennialists prefer the term 'realized millennium ,"54" which calls attention to their belief that the millennium is not exclusively future, but present after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. For the amillennialist, the thousand years of Revelation 20 is a reference to the entire period of the church's historical mission,55 Christ returns at the end of this indefinite period of time. During this time, the church grows slowly, and so does the kingdom of Satan. The signs of the final coming of Christ, though present throughout this period, will intensify as the time of Christ's coming approaches. The church will survive and may be influential until Jesus returns, but it will not rise to pre-eminence among the kingdoms of the world.56

Despite their differences, there is a significant similarity between amillennialism and the different forms of premillennialism. Both deny that the church will be victorious in history and on earth prior to the millennium. Both deny that the nations will be converted to Christ before the second coming. They tend to define "victory" solely in terms of 'souls saved" or personal "victory over sin." They claim that their positions are victorious in the sense

53. Amillennialism first became widely accepted with Augustine, though, as we shall see, there are some apparently "postmillennial" elements in Augustine. Many of the reformers would be classified as amillennial. Today, amillennialism is advocated in the writings of Louis Berkhof, William Hendriksen, Jay Adarns, Leon Morris, G. C. Berkhouwer, and Cornelius Van Til. The Lutheran tradition is also amillennialist.

54. Jay Adams, The Timeisat Hand (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1970).

55. The use of "thousand" in the Bible usually means more than a thousand (Deut. 1:10,11; Isa. 30:17; 60:22; Psalm 50:10; 84:10; 90:4).

56. See Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerd-mans, 1979), chapter 14.

that ultimately Christ will triumph during the millennium and the final judgment. Culturally and historically, however, both tend to be pessimistic about the church's earthly future. We would like again to remind the reader that a study of history will show that the church was not preoccupied with the end of all things. The great advances in civilization came because Christians believed that God gave them time as a gift to bring glory to God in their work. The more orthodox believers — whether premillennial, or postmillennial — faithfully carried out God's directive to "subdue" the earth by gospel proclamation and adherence to the ethical law of God.

Postmillennialism teaches that Christ will return after the millennium. The millennium itself is variously interpreted. Some postmillemialists equate the millennium with the present age, as Christ rules from His heavenly throne and graciously saves men and nations through His church. This is similar to the amillennial view; in fact, it may also be labeled "optimistic amillennialism." This position differs from that of many- amillennialists, however, in the fact that the postmillennialist believes that Christ will triumph over His enemies during the present age through His redeemed people. True, the forces of Satan become more satanic, but Satan does not dominate the world. Before Christ returns, the nations will have been converted to Him.

Other postmillennialists interpret the millennium as a future stage of history. Though the kingdom is already inaugurated, there will someday be a greater outpouring of the Spirit than the

57. Postmillenniafism has been taught by Loraine Boettner, Charles Hedge, W. G. T. Shedd, B. B. Warfield,Marcellus Kik, John Jefferson Davis, Roderick Campbell, John Murray (in his commentary on Remans, chapter 11) as well as by "reconstructionist" writers such as R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, GregBahnsen, James B. Jordan, and David Chilton. You can also find strains of postmillennialism in the writings of the great English Baptist preacher of the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. See Iain Murray, "C. H. Spurgeon's Views on Prophecy," in The Puritan Hope (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1971), pp. 256-65.

church has yet experienced. In either view, the postmillennialist views the future with confidence that Christ's kingdom will triumph on earth and in history.

There is another, more subtle distinction among postmillen-nialists. Some emphasize that the victory of Christ will be manifested in the conversion of more and more people to Christ. Thus, the victory of the church will be seen in the salvation of many individuals. Others, while not denying or de-emphasizing the central importance of conversion, teach in addition that there will be a transformation of society and culture, resulting from the conversion of vast multitudes of peoples and nations. "Reconstruction-ists," without denying the other postmillennial distinctive, generally fall into this latter group. As we shall see in a later chapter, this is not distinctive to "reconstructionists." What is distinctive about "reconstructionists," however, is their consistent emphasis on the necessity of preaching the gospel and adherence to the Bible as the standard and means of advancing the kingdom on earth.

Conclusion

When 'fundamentalism" first came on the scene, there was great misunderstanding and misrepresentation of its beliefs. In fact, if you pick up the literature that was written about fundamentalism and substitute 'Christian reconstruction" where you find "fundamentalism," you will notice that similar misconceptions exist. The influential scholar and writer J. I. Packer describes the difficult time fundamentalists had in having their position properly understood. He writes:

'Fundamentalism' has recently grown notorious. Three factors seem to have caused this: Billy Graham's evangelistic crusades, the growth of evangelical groups in schools and universities, and the increase of evangelical candidates for the ministry. A long correspondence in The Times in August 1955, coupled with strong words from bishops, headmasters and other responsible persons, made 'Fundamentalism' a matter of general interest. Since then, 'anti-fundamentalism' has become a widespread fashion. The debate continues, and shows no sign of abating yet.

It must encourage evangelical Christians to find so much notice taken of their position. The fact that those who differ from them can no longer ignore them marks a real increase of their position.%

What was true of fundamentalism is now true of reconstruc-The number of books, journals, articles, and newsletters that come from reconstructionist writers is staggering. And there seems to be a disproportionate amount of reconstructionist influence compared to their small number. But alas, the misrepresentations and caricatures continue to flow from the pens of those who do not show a real understanding of what reconstructionists believe.

58. Packer, Fundamentalism' and the Word of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerd-mans, 1958), p. 9.

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