- The Different Views on Eschatology:
People act out of what they believe (II Cor.4:13). Just as differing world-views have implications for human behaviour, the common eschatological views held in the Church, also have behavioural implications for believers.
Amillenialism is based around an interpretation of Revelation 20:1-7. It is the view espoused by Augustine, Luther, and the Roman Catholic Church, and it teaches that there will not be “any earthly time of godly peace and prosperity either before the second Advent (as postmillennialists assert), or after the second Advent (as premillennialists assert).” Amillennialists claim to believe the Bible, but assert that Christ’s victory is a “spiritual” one only; that “the kingdom prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in the church, the deceased saints now in heaven, or the eternal state.” 
One leading amillennial theologian, Hoekema, describes his beliefs well:
Amillennialists interpret the millennium mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6 as describing the present reign of the souls of deceased believers with Christ in heaven. They understand the binding of Satan mentioned in the first three verses of this chapter as being in effect during the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ, though ending shortly before Christ’s return. They teach that Christ will return after this.
Amillennialists further hold that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ is ruling His people by His Word and Spirit, though they also look forward to a future, glorious, and perfect kingdom on the new earth in the life to come. Despite the fact that Christ has won a decisive victory over sin and evil, the kingdom of evil will continue to exist alongside of the kingdom of God until the end of the world.
Although we are already enjoying many eschatological blessings at the present time (inaugurated eschatology), we look forward to a climactic series of future events associated with the Second Coming of Christ which will usher in the final state (future eschatology). The so-called ‘signs of the times’ have been present in the world from the time of Christ’s first coming, but they will come to a more intensified, final manifestation just before His Second Coming. The amillennialist therefore expects the bringing of the gospel to all nations and the conversion of the fullness of Israel to be completed before Christ’s return. He also looks for an intensified form of tribulation and apostasy as well as for the appearance of a personal antichrist before the Second Coming.
Amillennialism effectively spiritualises the promises of God, for in denying that they are earthly, they must be applicable to another world or time. The Bible tells us that “the earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains…” (Ps.24:1), but in amillennial thinking, “the victorious, symbolic language of the Old Testament must be interpreted mainly to refer to victory in the church or in eternity.”
Amillennialism, centred as it is on an interpretation of a section of the most symbolic book of the Bible, leaves the believer with nothing to claim, expect or hope for in this life, other than the decline of the church and its influence in the world.
Amillennialism holds that the major area of growth and power is in Satan’s kingdom, because the world is seen as progressively falling away to Satan, the church’s trials and tribulations increasing, and the end of the world finding the church lonely and sorely beset. There is no such thing as a millennium or a triumph of Christ and His kingdom in history…the Christian must retreat from the world of action in the realisation that there is no hope for this world, no world-wide victory of Christ’s cause, nor world peace or righteousness. The law of God is irrelevant, because there is no plan of conquest, no plan of triumph in Christ’s Name or power. At best, God’s law is a plan for private morality, not for men and nations, in their every respect.
- Premillennial Dispensationalism:
Ryrie, one leading dispensational theologian of the twentieth century, defines dispensationalism in the following manner:
Premillennialists [sc., dispensationalists] believe that theirs is the historic faith of the Church. Holding to a literal interpretation of the scripture, they believe that the promises made to Abraham and David are unconditional and have had or will have a literal fulfillment. In no sense have these promises made to Israel been abrogated or fulfilled by the Church, which is a distinct body in this age having promises and a destiny different from Israel’s. At the close of this age, premillennialists believe that Christ will return for His Church, meeting her in the air (this is not the Second Coming of Christ), which event, called the rapture or translation, will usher in a seven-year period of tribulation on the earth. After this, the Lord will return to the earth (this is the Second Coming of Christ) to establish His kingdom on the earth for a thousand years, during which time the promises to Israel will be fulfilled.
Perhaps surprisingly, though dispensationalism is viewed as an eschatological perspective, it is based on a number of important hermeneutical assumptions. The first of these is an apparent determination to view Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 as texts that relate to the second coming of Christ. But this is a mistake. Why? Because internal evidence shows that this cannot be the case. Let me explain:
Our Lord, in many passages in the gospels, clearly expressed his displeasure and anger towards the generation of His era. The adjectives He employed are instructive; “sinful” (Mk.8:38), “evil and adulterous” (Mat.12:39, 45), “unbelieving and perverted” (Mat.17:17; Luke 9:41) and “wicked and adulterous” (Mat.16:4 KJV).
In another passage, Jesus warned of a coming judgment, that “the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world [may be] charged against this generation” (Luke 11:50). In the next verse, for emphasis, He added: “Yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.” After the ascension Peter, as he closed his Pentecostal sermon, reflected Jesus’ repeated condemnations, when he declared that his hearers needed to “be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40)
We can see that when Jesus and Peter use the term, “this generation,” they were always referring to the generation alive at the time.
Turning to Luke 21, we see that Jesus makes a number of predictions, three of which we will examine: a) “…there will not be left one stone upon another [of the temple stones] that will not be torn down” (v.6). b) “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognise that her desolation is near” (v.20). c) “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (v.32). These points are essentially repeated in Matthew and Mark’s gospels, though both use the term “tribulation” (Mat.24:21; Mk.13:19). Furthermore, the three writers make clear that the circumstances they are referring to relate to “this generation” (Mat.24:34; Mk.13:30; Luke 21:32).
What do we know occurred historically? Because of Israel’s persistent rebellion, the Roman armies came and destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, and the temple was destroyed. Every person still in the city was either executed, or taken away as a slave. This represented God’s judgment on Israel and Jerusalem: His “days of vengeance”  (Luke 21:22) for her evil rebellion against Him, which culminated in the murder of His Son (Mat.26:59; 27:1; Acts 7:52).
Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 are not therefore, referring to the second coming of Jesus. They are chapters warning the disciples of His coming visitation in the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The second hermeneutical error of the premillenialist, is the view that there is a distinction between Israel and the church. “The New Testament church is seen as a separate entity from the Old Testament church (Acts 7:38), having separate promises and a separate calling.” If this is the case, the church has not replaced Israel as the people of God. But Jesus’ comment on this to the Jews was very clear: “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it” (Mat.21:42).
Five further points need to be made in relation to this.
- a) There is only one olive tree of God’s redemptive blessing, indicating one people of God (Ro.11:13-24).
The fatness and grace and benefit that the Gentiles derive is the same fatness and grace and benefit the ethnic Jews were designed to derive, but forfeited by their unbelief and disobedience. The wild branches of the new covenant, multinational and multiracial church, have replaced the natural branches of ethnic, national Israel as the single people of God…This passage [Ro.11] does not teach that there is a distinction between Israel and the church. Rather it teaches that the church has become in God’s plan what Israel once was: God’s sovereignly elected, specially loved people who are the recipients of His covenantal dealings. The New Covenant church, having replaced ethnic Israel, is the covenant people of God. 
- b) Jew and Gentile are both Abraham’s seed if they are united to Christ (Gal.3:29), and therefore entitled to the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant (Gal.3:16).
Most Christians would agree that the Abrahamic covenant is a leading aspect of the Old Testament. It involved glorious promises to Abraham, about him and his seed. These were chiefly, a relationship, a land, a seed (posterity) and a blessing to other nations. The first three are seen in Gen.17:7-8, and the fourth is found in the first mention of the Abrahamic covenant, Gen.12:2-3. This covenant and its provisions repeatedly appears in the Old Testament.
Dispensationalists tend to assume that the Abrahamic covenant made by God with him and his seed is limited to the physical seed of ethnic Israel. But Gentiles could become members of the Abrahamic covenant, even from the beginning (see Gen.17:12-13). The issue was one of religion, not race, which is one of the errors the Jews made in their controversies with Jesus. When they claimed that “Abraham is our father” (Jn.8:39), Jesus immediately challenged them on that very point. He questioned this fact, saying, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.” He refuted the notion that being a physical descendent of Abraham was any guarantee, and then indicted them with a stunning accusation, which should have smashed any confidence they should have had, in their Abrahamic genealogy: “You are of your father the devil” (Jn.8:44).
Galatians 3 makes abundantly clear that the seed of Abraham toward which the Old Testament pointed is Jesus Christ (v.16). Just as Christ is identified as the true heir of David’s throne in the Davidic covenant (Acts 2:25-36) so He is identified as the true seed of the Abrahamic covenant. The point of Galatians 3 is that the Abrahamic covenant is not primarily racial, but religious…Just as David’s physical seed to whom the throne of Israel was promised (II Sam.7) prefigured and pointed to the true royal seed, Christ (Acts 2:29-36) so Abraham’s physical seed to whom the glorious covenant pledges of relationship, land, seed and blessing were given prefigured and pointed to the true Abrahamic seed, Christ.
Who is the “Israel of God”?
The believer must let the New Testament interpret the Old. Paul teaches that to be “excluded from Christ” means also, exclusion from “the commonwealth of Israel,” and “the covenants of promise” (Eph.2:12).
Ethnic Israel traces its racial and religious lineage to Abraham; but according to Jesus and Paul, Abraham is father only to those who by faith belong to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. In Galatians 6, Paul excludes people whose confidence is physical; in their circumcision: “for neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal.6:15-16).
Clearly, “the Israel of God,” could be nobody but believers in Christ, irrespective of their racial background. The Abrahamic covenant cuts across all racial barriers. God has united converted Jews and Gentiles into His covenant plan, tearing down the racial barrier between them. Christians are the true seed of Abraham.
- c) The New Testament teaches that the New Covenant is fulfilled in the present age (Jer.31:31-34; Ezek.36:22-28; Luke 22:20: Heb.8:7-13; II Cor.3:6):
The Old Testament promises concerning the New Covenant explicitly refer to Israel and the Jews. But we must refer to all of the Bible to discover God’s teaching on any subject. Furthermore, we have to read the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, a later (though certainly not more accurate or superior) revelation. The New Testament is no more authoritative than the Old Testament, and it does not give a higher ethical or instructional standard than the Old Testament; but the New Testament often gives a more complete picture of God’s will than the Old Testament. This is the case with the New Covenant. It is a prime example of how we need to let the New Testament interpret the Old Testament.
It is clear from Jesus’ institution of communion at the Last Supper (Luke 22:20), that this was the fulfilment of the New Covenant. Now, He has defined (or redefined) who will be its recipients. In several parables, He had already taught that God intended to suspend His dealings with an unbelieving and rebellious Israel, and turn to believing Gentiles (Mat.20:1-16; 21:28-45; 22:1-14; 23:24-39). The fact that the New Covenant included all of the people of God (that is, believing Jews and Gentiles) is clear, because the covenant meal was regularly celebrated by the Christian churches (I Cor.11:20-34).
Furthermore, we can see from Paul’s ministry, that he considered himself to be a minister of the New Covenant (II Cor.3:6). Twice, Jeremiah 31 (which refers to the New Covenant) is quoted in the book of Hebrews (8:7-13; 10:12-18), and it is Jesus’ shedding of blood through His sacrificial death which is clearly the critical factor. By linking the new covenant promise with the death of Christ, the New Testament indicates that the new covenant recipients are the members of Christ’s church-both believing Jew and Gentile. The new covenant church has replaced old covenant Israel in the plan of God.
- d) The New Testament teaches that the re-building of David’s tabernacle is fulfilled in this age, through the inclusion of the Gentiles in God’s covenant plan (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:13-21).
At the Jerusalem Council, Peter had explained to the disciples that (much to his surprise) he had been shown a divine vision explaining God’s intention to minister to the Gentiles, and had witnessed first-hand their conversion in Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:44-48). James then made reference to God’s promise in Amos 9:11-12, and translated “nations” as “Gentiles” (Acts 15:17). What was he doing? He was applying the promise of God in the book of Amos, to his present day. As a result, James’ verdict was that the Gentiles did not need to become Jews and be circumcised to be included among the people of God.
To James’ way of thinking, the re-building of David’s tabernacle which was occurring in the apostolic age was drawing into the Christian fold numerous Gentiles, just as Amos had predicted…God was dismantling the physical house of David precisely while He was rebuilding the true house of David. The Davidic covenant is fulfilled in the new covenant church…The new covenant church must have become the replacement of national, ethnic Israel, entitled to all the promises (and subject to all the punishments) of old covenant ethnic Israel. 
- e) The New Testament calls believing Jews “true Jews” (Ro.2:28-29):
The most obvious evidence that the new covenant church has replaced old covenant Israel as the people of God appears in those passages where members of the church (of whatever race) are identified as true Jews. 
Jesus had warned the Jews that they had no warrant for trusting in the fact that they could trace their lineage back to Abraham. “If you are Abraham’s children,” He said, “do the works of Abraham” (Jn.8:39). Jesus is alluding to the fact that there are natural seed, and there are spiritual seed, and physical lineage is not enough. If it was enough, God would be a racist, indifferent to the attitudes and behaviour of people. This important issue is made clear by Paul in Romans 9:8: “It is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.”
It is the circumcision of the heart not the flesh, that is important to God. This is the message ethnic Israel rejected (Luke 20:16), and it meant that all that Israel was trusting in, would be a false foundation. All who trust in Christ alone, the new covenant church, have replaced unbelieving, rebellious, old covenant ethnic Israel as the true Israel. “The Israel of God” (Gal.6:16), the new covenant church is not racially based, and excludes any who do not love Jesus Christ.
Amillennialism and Premillennial Dispensationalism – a Conclusion:
Certainly each of the millennial views presented above has characteristic features that are different enough to distinguish them. These differences are of no small consequence. Yet one thing unifies these millennial views: overall pessimism regarding the hope for Christian civilization in present history. Such pessimism is a fundamentally important matter when men attempt to develop and promote a Christian worldview.
Amillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism have a number of things in common.
- a) Both regard attempts to build a Christian society or to further Christian reconstruction as either futile or wrong.
- b) Both limit the responsibility of the believer to soul-saving. Scripture is stripped of its total message and reduced to a soul-saving manual.
- c) Neither pays much attention to the creation mandate (Gen.1:26-28), and may even deny it. The notion that man is to exercise dominion in the earth, that He is to “do business with this until I come back” (Luke 19:13) at the command of Jesus is essentially ignored.
- d) Amillennialism and premillennialism are antinomian. They do not recognise God’s law as God’s plan for dominion, for godly authority and rule in every area of life.
- e) They are both guilty of implicit Manichaeanism; that is, of surrendering the material world to Satan, while the spiritual world is reserved for God.
- f) Since the world is surrendered to Satan, the church becomes a convent: a retreat from the horrible world around us. Under the influence of these two millennial views, Protestantism has turned the whole church into a retreat from the world. Nothing is said of establishing the reign and rule of Christ in every aspect of life, thought and action.
- g) Both these views effectively suggest that the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden was a defeat for God, and that Christ’s restoration is only towards to a heavenly goal, not to a life of authority and dominion in this life. The amillennialist and premillennialist push the prospect of Christ’s victory back beyond the time of the second coming. In their perspective, He has to come back before His people have any hope of victory in the world.
It is obvious that the church’s testimony particularly in the last century, has been muted, confused and divided. This is not because “the world is getting darker;” the darkness in the world has been a reflection of the darkness in the heart of the church.
Because the church has believed foolish, unscriptural notions about what Christ has done, and it has believed there is no prospect of victory for His people in the world (other than through the Second Coming), this has had massive implications. The church has believed that we are only here to “snatch brands from the burning,” and that “you don’t polish the brass on a sinking ship:” the spectacular decline of the world in the twentieth century has been a logical result. It is we, the church which has failed.
Virtually all amillennialists and premillennialists defend natural law theory and political pluralism, while attacking theonomy. They see God’s people as cultural losers in history. The most they hope for is a cultural stalemate. They prefer to live meekly and impotently inside cultural ghettos rather than fight a cultural war in the name of Christ. They do not believe they can win; therefore, they deny the basis of fighting in such a war, namely, a uniquely biblical judicial alternative to humanistic law. They deny the legitimacy of Bible-revealed judicial standards that would make possible an explicitly Christian social order during the era of the church. Their antinomian social ethics is a corollary to their pessimistic view of the church’s future. God has granted them their desire: they live at the mercy of their enemies who control the various social orders of our day. But the walls of their ghettos have huge holes in them: public schools, television, movies, rock music, and all the rest of humanism’s lures.
 Sandlin, ibid, p.23.
 ibid., p.23.
 Hoekema, “Bible and the Future,” p. 174.
 Sandlin, p.26.
 Rousas J. Rushdoony, “God’s Plan for Victory,” 1977, p.8-9.
 Charles C. Ryrie, “The Basis of the Premillennial Faith,” 1953, p. 12.
 See David Chilton, “Days of Vengeance,” 1987.
 For a Jewish historian’s eyewitness account of this, see Josephus’ works, in David Chilton, “Paradise Restored,” 1994, Appendix B.
 Sandlin, p.7.
 I am grateful for Andrew Sandlin’s insights here, see above, p.8-17.
 Fuller, D., and Poythress, V., quoted in Sandlin, p.8.
 Sandlin, p.8-9.
 Sandlin, p.11.
 Sandlin, p.13.
 Sandlin, p.15.
 Sandlin, p.16.
 The scripture makes it clear that there are glorious promises to ethnic Israel (Ro.9-11), but these are still contingent upon Israel’s acceptance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
 Gentry, K., “He Shall Have Dominion,” 1992, p.64.
 I am indebted to R. J. Rushdoony (“God’s Plan for Victory,” 1977, p.9-12) for the following insights.
 Gary North, “Inheritance and Dominion,” 1999, ch.63.