We return to our look at the millennium of Revelation 20 and the various interpretive methods. Last week, we looked at the most optimistic view of the millennium, which is postmillennialism. The church eventually conquers culture worldwide, bringing in a golden era of faithfulness from every tribe, tongue, nation, and people. This golden era is the millennium of which Revelation 20 speaks, and it does not need to be taken as a literal one-thousand years. At the end of that span of time, Christ returns to reign forever. The transition from this age to the next is a relatively smooth transition.
Today we turn to another view, that of amillennialism. This literally means "no millennium," which is a bit of a misnomer. Amillennialists definitely believe in a millennium, but it is not a literal 1,000 years. In short, amillennialists define the millennium as the time between Christ's ascension and his second coming.
Amillennialism reads the various Old Testament prophecies about the reinstitution of temple worship and all that accompanies it as fulfilled within the time frame of the old covenant, or before Christ. These concepts are the Israelites, the promised land, Jerusalem, the temple, the sacrificial system, and the Davidic lineage. Amillennialism relies heavily on biblical typology, or shadow and fulfillment (cf. Colossians 2:17). What in the world does that mean? The Old Testament foreshadowed the reality that Christ would inaugurate.
Amillennialism also reads that Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, thus implying that when the fullness comes, the shadow passes away. Prophecies seeming to be about the Israelite people are more accurately speaking about Christ, the true Israelite. We'll divide this post into these concepts.
Keep in mind that books and books and books (and books) have been written arguing for and against each of these theologies of the last days. What follows is an introductory summary to get your feet on the ground so you can look into them further.
First, the true Israel.
The Servant Songs of Isaiah speak of a servant born out of Israel on whom God will put his Spirit. He will be a light to the Gentiles, and he himself will be a covenant for his people (Isa. 42). Israel the nation failed in her covenant keeping, so God sent his servant to fulfill that role.
New Testament authors interpret Old Testament prophecies about Israel as if they were about Christ. Matthew 2:15 quotes Hosea 11:1 ("Out of Egypt I called my son.") to speak directly about Christ, even though in the context of Hosea it spoke directly about Israel's freedom from slavery in Egypt. New Testament authors consistently reinterpret, under the inspiration of the Spirit, the nation of Israel as the person of Jesus Christ.
The author of Hebrews in chapter 8 re-emphasizes the shadow that was the old covenant and the reality of the new covenant now in effect. The old covenant is obsolete and is going to vanish away because of the new covenant instituted in Christ's blood.
Hebrews 8 also quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, noting that the new covenant will be made with the house of Israel (v.10). But remember, amillennialists hold that Christ is the true Israel, as are those who are in Christ. So, the covenant is made with the house of Israel, as understood as those who are in Christ.
Second, the promised land.
Canaan was a type that was to be fulfilled in a richer way once Christ inaugurated his kingdom. The fulfillment would be that the whole world would be Christ's kingdom, of which the promised land was a type or a shadow (or a recapitulation for those who took The Christian's Story. Use those $1 words you worked hard for!).
Romans 4:13 says, "For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith." The word for world is kosmos, which has to do with all creation, not just people. If you read Paul's words as an apostolic interpretation of the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 17:8, which says, "And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God", then you necessarily will read the promises about the promised land as being fulfilled in Abraham's seed, singular, Jesus Christ.
In terms of prophecies made about the restoration of the whole earth, amillennialism reads these prophecies as being fulfilled in the new heaven and new earth. It's no small matter that the new creation will be heavenly and earthly, which accords nicely with the author of Hebrews saying that Abraham was searching for a city made by God (Heb. 11:10ff).
It's important to remember that Jerusalem was a temple that just so happened to have a city. Hebrews 12 is a critical passage for understanding the relationship of the land to the new covenant promises for amillennials. There the author speaks of Mt. Zion/Jerusalem being where the people of God worship. The Israelites, fresh out of slavery in Egypt, were not permitted to ascend the mountain for fear of death. But Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, has drawn us near.
For those in the new covenant, our temple to which we draw near is not a piece of the earth. Our city is Christ himself. Type and fulfillment. Shadow and light. Copy and true.
Revelation 14 speaks of the lamb standing on Mt. Zion with the 144,000. In the background of this passage is Isaiah 2 and Micah 4, which speak of the nations flooding the great city in the last days. The New Testament authors consistently witness to the the last days being inaugurated by Christ's resurrection and ascension.
When Jesus speaks to the woman at the well in John 4, he tells her that there is coming a time, which he says has now arrived in v.23, when people will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, not in any one specific place, nonetheless Jerusalem. That's because Jesus is our Jerusalem and our temple.
Fourth, Davidic lineage.
The gospel of Luke presents Jesus Christ as the one who will sit on the throne of David (Lk. 1:30-33). 2 Samuel 7 and Isaiah 9 speak of his kingdom as an eternal kingdom. When Peter preaches at Pentecost, he sees the fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:16 ("And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.") speaking distinctly of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:31).
At the Jerusalem council recorded in Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas give the evidence they've seen as to the reality that God is saving Gentiles. Peter also pipes up and says that he's seen God save Gentiles by faith. Then James speaks and quotes Amos 9:11-12, a prophecy of the nations coming to the rebuilt tent of David. James' point is that that prophecy is being fulfilled in their midst, not only in their future. It's precisely because God is at work among the Gentiles that the apostles should not burden them with anything beyond the essentials.
Fifth, the temple.
Again, it's important to understand that the Jews saw Jerusalem as a temple that also had a city, not a temple within a city. Life revolved around the temple and the sacrificial system.
In John 2, Jesus speaks of the temple being destroyed and him raising up another in 3 days. John, acting as a narrator, tells us that he was speaking directly about himself. Even before the temple was destroyed in AD 70, Jesus was the new temple for God's people upon his resurrection on the third day after his death.
God's presence, our sacrifices, and our worship were all central to the old temple. In Jesus, all of those things are manifested perfectly. And it changed from the old to the new immediately upon his resurrection. There is no other temple in the future, because the future temple is here now in the person of Christ. Even in Revelation 21, John sees no building functioning as a temple because Christ is there and is the temple in the flesh.
We are already beyond the bounds of a simple blog. There are many, many passages that the amillennial uses to build their theology of the last days, especially the millennium. But the power of amillennialism is its rootedness in biblical theology, typology, and recapitulation. Again, this is intended to be an introduction to the major components.
But let's summarize the amillennial's points so far. The millennium is the time between Christ's ascension and his second coming. The five