The following is a message that I gave at my church, First Baptist Church in Lindale, TX, on Sunday, September 26, 2021. We just finished up a Sunday evening series on eschatology, in which all four end-times views were presented in this order: historic premillennialism, amillennialism, dispensationalism, and postmillennialism. All of the messages can be found at our website fbclindale.com. Here is the sermon that I presented on amillennialism.
Opening and Prayer
Two weeks ago, when Tom did our introduction to this series on eschatology, he made fun of me for hiding in the back—me, the amillennial guy, I was embarrassed and I was concealing myself from everyone else. I would just like to note that here I’m going to be doing a presentation on amillennialism and Tom’s not even here. So who’s afraid of who exactly?
I’m totally kidding. As I said two weeks ago, this is all in a good spirit. We rib each other about this all the time. Tom and I had talked long before I came here, and we are alike on just about everything else except our eschatology. That’s where we differ, and we argued about it before I came. Yet our differences on eschatology we couldn’t see as anything to hinder us from doing ministry together.
So as David talked about having a fraternity among the pastors, that we have these different views concerning the end times, that you may see an example that we set forth for you. It’s good to talk about these things, and may we heed the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 when he said, “Encourage one another with these words.”
If you have your Bible, we’ll begin tonight in Revelation 1:1-3. So please open your Bible to Revelation chapter one, verses one through three. I’m going to read through this introduction to the book of Revelation and then say a short prayer. The Apostle John begins:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending His angel to His servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that He saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.”
Let’s pray. Heavenly Father, as we consider these things tonight, I pray just very simply that we will see Christ. I may get to the end of this and there will still be some differing opinions on eschatology, but most of all we desire to see Christ shine forth through your Scriptures. And I pray that I give honor to the name of Jesus tonight. And it’s in His precious name that we pray, amen.
Tonight, I will be representing what’s called the Amillennial view of eschatology, beginning with a brief introduction to Amillennialism, including an exposition of Revelation 1:1. Next, I’m going to examine the four end-times categories that Pastor Tom set forth in his introduction: the Return of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Final Judgment. And then we’ll examine the Millennial reign of Christ.
Introduction to Revelation
First of all, what is Amillennialism? A stupid name, that’s what it is. I have no affinity for the name Amillennialism. The prefix “a” means “no.” So just like “atheist” means “no God,” the name “amillennialism” means “no millennium,” and that’s not what an amillennial believes. We do believe in the millennial reign of Christ—it is the time between His ascension into heaven until the day He returns. I believe everyone in here agrees with me when I say: Christ is reigning right now, amen? I will explain the implications of this later on.
According to R. Scott Clark, the term amillennial does not show up in any theological writings until about 1930, which means it’s likely an insult by our postmil and premil bretheren. I’m sure all of you with brothers are familiar with the endearing names they come up with for you. Though the term is new, amillennial teaching on the end times goes all the way back to the first century.
Last week, David mentioned second century theologian Justin Martyr, a historic premil. In his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin said “that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise” about a literal thousand year kingdom on earth. He was referring to amillennialists.
Augustine of Hippo was an amillennialist. In his fourth century work City of God, he referred to premils as chiliasts—someone who believes in an earthly thousand-year kingdom. John Calvin is believed to have been amil based on his commentary of the book of Daniel. More recent amillennial theologians include A.W. Pink, J.I. Packer, Kim Riddlebarger, Owen Strachan, Jeffery Johnson, and Voddie Baucham. You may recognize many of those names and know them as being thoroughly biblical, even expository preachers.
Whether you’re a Dispie, Premil, Amil, or Postmil, we all claim our eschatology comes straight from the Bible. So if we all claim the same source, why the different viewpoints? Because this is prophecy. And we limited human beings have difficulty perceiving what has not yet come to pass. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” But we are given a picture of what is to come through signs.
My understanding of the end-times begins right here in Revelation chapter 1. My understanding of Revelation 20, where we read about the millennium, is shaped by what comes in the previous 19 chapters, and in fact the other 1,167 chapters of the Bible before that. According to Dr. Baucham, there are 404 verses in the book of Revelation with over 500 references to the Old Testament. There’s a reason why Revelation is at the end of the book—not just because it is the end of everything, but because it is the summation of God’s Redemption Story.
Look again at Revelation 1:1. The book begins with that word: “Revelation.” And if you don’t agree with me on anything else tonight, I hope we can at least come to an agreement that this is pronounced Revelation, not Revelations. This is The Revelation, or the word “apocalypse” in the Greek.
This is the Revelation of what or of whom? Jesus Christ. “Which God gave Him,” the Father gave to the Son, “to show to His servants,” Christ’s servants, “the things that must soon take place.” This is so very important and often overlooked. The purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal to us the glory of Christ. Jesus is the key to understanding this book.
In John MacArthur’s commentary on Luke 1-17, there is an excursus at the end entitled, “Why Every Self-respecting Calvinist Must be a Premillennialist.” On the second page of that appendix, MacArthur writes, “It does matter that Calvinists care about eschatology and get it right—and we will if we get Israel right… [If] we get our hermeneutics right, we’ll get the Old Testament promises right. Get the promises right, we’ll get Israel right. Get Israel right, we’ll get eschatology right.”
Now, I love John MacArthur. He is a gift to the church and one of the greatest Bible expositors for over a generation. But on this particular point, I must very respectfully disagree. I do not believe that if we get Israel right, we get eschatology right. If we get Christ right, we get our eschatology right.
Someone might say, “Now, hang on, Gabe—are you saying that Mark, David, and Tom, and even John MacArthur, who share a different eschatology than you have—are you saying they get Christ wrong?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. I mean that to be right on eschatology, we look at Christ, not Israel. My brothers know this.
The book of Revelation is, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”—those are the first five words. This is Christ revealed, and the images, the signs we are shown are magnificent and stunning but also perplexing, because how do we mere mortal, imperfect people living in a linear and finite earthly existence behold the glory and perfection of the exalted Christ seated on a heavenly throne? This is not a puzzle book where Israel is the key. This is a picture book that reveals to us the glory of Christ.
I humbly yet emphatically say—I am not standing here contrary to what I’ve learned from men like Tom Buck or Mark Mills or John MacArthur. I have an amillennial view of eschatology precisely because of what godly men who tremble at preaching God’s word have taught me about the Bible and how to study it. I’m not taking a foreign view and imposing it upon Scripture. Amillennial eschatology is exegetical, drawn out from the text.
Look at Revelation 1:1 once again: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His servants the things that must soon take place.” They must soon take place. As David mentioned last week, I have an idealist approach to the book of Revelation. This not a futurist view where Revelation only applies to some future generation and has no relevance to our present except to tell us what will happen to them later. For every generation of the church, Revelation has been relevant. The book of Revelation is “already” and “not yet.”
Look at the last part of verse 1: “He made it known,” literally, He signified it, “by sending His angel to His servant John.” This book is full of signs. No matter how literally you say you read this book, you too read it symbolically—unless you believe Jesus has a literal two-edged sword coming out of His mouth (Revelation 1:16). Where we tend to disagree is how these symbols are to be interpreted.
If you read Revelation, and you start seeing China and Russia and the United States and computer chips and Apache helicopters, you are not reading Revelation the way John wrote it or how the first century church would have heard it. My time is short, but I will do my best to give you a glimpse into how these signs are to be understood, from the original author to his original audience. This concludes my introduction.
The Return, the Rapture, and the Resurrection
Turn next to 1 Thessalonians chapter 4. Pastor Tom began this series by saying that each end-times viewpoint should be explained according to these four categories: the Return of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Final Judgment, and the Millennial reign. Now, if you like charts, the amillennial view is going to be a disappointment, as the Return of Christ, the Rapture of the Church, and the Resurrection of the Dead are the same event, followed immediately by the Final Judgment.
Look here at 1 Thessalonians 4, beginning in verse 13:
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first, then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up, together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
The return of Christ, which is also the rapture, will happen exactly as it is written here. The rapture will not be secret, and it will not be silent. Everyone will witness Christ return and the dead rise. Jesus says in Matthew 24: “For as lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man… He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call.”
That day is going to be bright, and it is going to be loud. Notice something else about these words Paul uses. Verse 16, Christ “will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.” What’s He describing here? Jesus is making war. He is coming to take up His saints and destroy His enemies.
Continue to 1 Thessalonians 5, beginning in verse 1: “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”
Let’s stop there. This reference to a “thief in the night” is often misunderstood. There was a film in 1972 entitled A Thief in the Night that depicted the rapture as something mysterious and secret. Surely you’re familiar with the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins which also foretells a silent rapture—piles of clothes left behind because the Christian wearing them suddenly vanished without a sound.
After all, thieves are sneaky, right? So if Jesus returns like a thief, this must be something quiet. But why, when you see the word thief, do you think of a cat burglar and not smash and grab? Think back to last year (which probably seems like ten years ago now). For the whole summer of 2020, did we not see on the news footage of destructive thieves rioting and looting in major cities across the country?
What did Jesus say about a thief in John 10:10? “The thief comes only to steal and” to do what? “to kill and destroy.” Most thieves are not cat burglars. They steal and kill and destroy. They come at night so you don’t see them coming, but once they’re there you know they’re stealing your stuff.
Jesus uses the same expression in Matthew and Revelation, and Peter uses it in 2 Peter 3. In none of these contexts is the thief ever silent. In 2 Peter 3:10, Peter says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Let’s continue reading here in 2 Thessalonians. Remember, Paul just said that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. What does he say next? Verse 3:
“While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.”
Ah! So the day of the Lord is only like a thief to those who are not looking for Him. He’s not a destroyer of everyone—only of those who do not believe. But as Paul goes on to say in verse 5:
“For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”
Notice that verse 9 says, “God has not destined us for wrath.” Zephaniah 1:15 says that the Day of the Lord is a day of wrath, “a day of trumpet blast and battle cry.” But we don’t receive wrath. We are appointed unto salvation. But those who will not be saved will be destroyed on the day of Christ’s return. Turn one more chapter over to 2 Thessalonians chapter 1. I’m going to begin reading in verse 5:
“This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might, when He comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”
My friends, I’m just reading the text in three successive chapters. The plain reading of the text is this: that the day of Christ’s return, the rapture of His saints, the resurrection of the dead, and the fires of the judgment of God poured out on those who did not believe will all be on the same day. Before getting to the millennium, let me respond to a few arguments.
Responding to Arguments
Someone might say, “Well what about the 7 year period of tribulation.” I don’t believe in a 7 year period of tribulation. We are in tribulation now. There are Christians in nations on earth undergoing tribulation. In Afghanistan, China, North Korea—Christians locked up, families torn apart, pastors kidnapped, churches bombed or burned down, saints being tortured and killed. If someone from Religious Freedom USA says to them, “Don’t worry, Jesus will rapture us before it gets really bad,” that doesn’t minister to them.
Someone might say, “Well what about Daniel’s 70 weeks?” The meaning of the 70 weeks is theological, not calendrical. The 70 weeks are an approximate period that begins with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25) and ends with the Roman general Titus marching on Jerusalem and destroying the temple in 70 A.D. An inconsistent interpretation would be to count 69 weeks which are exactly 483 years, then break for an unspecified 2 millennia gap, then have the 70th week be exactly 7 years of tribulation somewhere in the far distant future.
Someone might say, “Well what about the antichrist?” There still might be an antichrist. I believe as David said last week, 1 John 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore, we know it is the last hour.” Every generation has seen its share of antichrists. I consider myself a Reformed Baptist, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says the antichrist is the Pope. So I don’t deny the appearing of a final antichrist.
Someone might say, “Then what about God’s promises to Israel?” Christ is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Romans 1:16, the gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 2:29, a true Jew is one inwardly, not outwardly. Romans 3:22-25, “There is no distinction,” between the Jew and the Greek. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.” In Romans 11, the cultivated olive tree depicts Jews and Gentiles grafted into Christ.
Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” This is not supersessionism, the idea that the church has replaced Israel. As Kim Riddlebarger has said, I don’t believe it, I don’t teach it, and I don’t know anyone who does. The church is not the replacement of Israel—it is the expansion of Israel, which is happening in the present age. That brings us to the Millennium.
The Reign of Christ in the Millennium
Turn in your Bible to Revelation 20. As I mentioned in the beginning, I believe we’re presently under the millennial reign of Christ, the time between His ascending to the Father and His second coming. Remember what Pastor Tom read us in Acts 1. Jesus was lifted up into heaven before His disciples very eyes, standing on the Mount of Olives, and two angels appeared saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw Him go into heaven.”
What is Jesus doing from Acts 1 to His promised return? He reigns—1 Peter 3:22, He “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.”
Look at Revelation 20 verse 1: “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key.” Now, as I said earlier, all of us read Revelation symbolically because that’s the way it’s written. We just disagree on what the symbols represent. Do you think John is talking about a literal key? No, this is something symbolic, right? A key “to the bottomless pit.” An actual bottomless pit? “And a great chain.” An angel carrying a literal chain? “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent.” Notice that in Genesis, Satan is a serpent. In Revelation, he’s a dragon—meaning that his influence has grown since the Garden of Eden.
Going on: “The devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years are ended. After that he must be released for a little while.” How many of those things there did you view symbolically and not literal?
Someone might say, “You almost had me, Gabe, but I still interpret those things literally. Revelation 20 says a thousand years, therefore we have to believe it is a literal one thousand years.”
Let me read to you from Dr. James Hamilton, a pre-trib rapture premillennialist who teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his commentary on Revelation, published by Crossway, he said:
“I think an important point about interpreting the Bible can be made here. Sometimes a false dichotomy is introduced when it is said that this is either a literal thousand year period or it is only symbolic. I am happy to grant that this is symbolic. One thousand is a perfectly round number and symbolizes a very long time.”
[EDIT: It has since been pointed out to me that Jim Hamilton is a historic premillennialist, not a (pre-trib rapture premillennial) dispensationalist.]
Listen, it’s not fair to insert 2,000 years into Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks when the text says no such thing, but then accuse someone of playing fast and loose with the text when they say that the millennium is symbolic and not literally a thousand years.
To affirm something David said last week, the book of Revelation is not a chronological sequence of events. Rather, John sees one thing, then he sees the same event again from a different camera angle. David called this recursive. I prefer the term recapitulation (because eschatology is a theology of big words). Recapitulation means that the themes of the exposition are restated. John is shown a series of events play out, then he sees the same events again from a different vantage point, like watching instant replay from different camera angles.
One viewpoint concluded at the end of Revelation 19, then John is given a different viewpoint in Revelation 20. Now, David contended with recapitulation by reading from Revelation 19 into chapter 20 and emphasizing every time the word “Then” appears. Remember when he did this? Chapter 19, verse 11, “Then, I saw heaven opened.” Verse 17, “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun.” Chapter 20, verse 1, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven.” Verse 4, “Then I saw thrones.”
Over and over, David emphasized the word “Then.” But he missed two very important words that come after then: “I saw.” Each phrase begins with “Then I saw,” not “Then this happened.” John is not speaking of events occurring chronologically. This is just the order in which he saw them.
If you try to read Revelation chronologically, you run into some problems, and David was humble enough to acknowledge that. Chapter 19 ends with the beast and the false prophet and everyone who followed them being thrown into the lake that burns with fire and sulfur. “All the rest were slain by the sword,” in verse 21. The kings of the earth and their armies are dead.
But then in chapter 20, Satan gathers the nations for battle. How can that be? They were all dead at the end of chapter 19! This is not a succession of events. It is John seeing the same event again from a different camera angle. That’s recapitulation.
Now what about this idea of Satan being bound for a thousand years? If we are in the millennium now, how can Satan be bound? Verse 3 tells us exactly what this means. The angel “threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.”
All that Satan is prevented from doing is deceiving the nations so the gospel can go forth into all the nations. That’s exactly what has been happening in this present age. Think about this—before Jesus gave the great commission to His disciples, “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), only one people on earth had been given the word of God: the Jews! Now the gospel of God is going into all the earth so that children of darkness might be transferred to the kingdom of light.
Jesus said in Mark 3:27, “No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man.” Satan has been bound so his fallen kingdom can be plundered. Colossians 1:13 says that God “has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.”
Someone might say, “But Gabe, if Satan is bound, why is there still so much evil in the world?” Listen to how Voddie Baucham responded to that:
“Most of the evil that you do, the devil doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s the world and the flesh. Amen, somebody. Satan is [a limited] being. He is not omnipresent. God is omnipresent… Satan can only be in one place at one time. And here’s a little newsflash: you’re probably not important enough for him to bother with you personally. I don’t mean to bust your little bubble.”
Colossians 2:15 says that God, through the cross of Christ, “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, triumphing over them in Him.” Satan has already been defeated, amen? God has disarmed Satan’s armies and triumphed over them. Does that mean there are no more demons and no more Satan? Not yet. See, you understand the “already” and the “not yet” in Colossians 2:15. Can you not also see that in Revelation 20:3?
I would argue that Colossians 2:15 is even more thorough than Revelation 20:3. In Colossians 2:15, Satan is disarmed and defeated. In Revelation 20:3, he’s bound. Yet most Christians accept Colossians 2:15 as a present reality, but not Revelation 20:3. Satan is bound so you and I could hear the gospel and be saved.
Let’s read the next section of Revelation 20. Look at verse 4: “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned for a thousand years.”
Notice that John sees souls, not the saints in resurrected bodies, because that hasn’t happened yet. Verse 5 says, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” Who are the rest of the dead? The ones who didn’t worship Christ but followed Satan. The rest of verse 5 says, “This is the first resurrection.” We’re talking here about a spiritual resurrection, not the resurrected bodies we read about in 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
Brothers and sisters, I’ve been with you a short time, but I know you understand this concept. You need not have anyone explain this to you. Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked.” Verse 4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.” Verse 6: “And raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
Other passages that talk about this include Romans 6:4-13 and 8:10-11, and Colossians 2:12-15 and 3:1-4. The first resurrection is spiritual, and everyone who is in Christ Jesus has received it. The second resurrection is bodily, and that doesn’t happen until Christ returns. Let me show you again from the same author as the book of Revelation.
In John 5:25-29, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.” That’s the first resurrection. Verse 26: “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out,” there’s the second resurrection, “those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” Two different resurrections—one spiritual, one bodily—same author as the book of Revelation.
John goes on in verse 6: “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with Him for a thousand years.” John sees reigning with Christ the saints who have died and are seated with Him in glory. That’s who he sees.
Here in verse 7, let me contend with my postmillennial brothers. Postmillennialism believes that this age gets progressively better until the return of Christ. I agree with that to a point. There are many nations that have prospered thanks to Christianity—the United States of America among them. But verse 3 said Satan will be released. We see this also in verse 7: “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations” once again, and things will get really, really bad.
Verse 8, Satan “will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.” These are the armies that were defeated in chapter 19. How is Satan rousing up nations that have already been defeated unless John is looking at the same event again from a different vantage point?
Verse 9: “And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them.” Remember from 2 Thessalonians 1:8 that Christ returns with fire. Verse 10: “and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were”—that’s a false trinity, by the way: the devil, the beast, and the false prophet—”and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
Next is the judgment, the same judgment we read about in Matthew 25. Great books will be opened, it says in verse 12: “Then another book was opened which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.”
Verse 13: “And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the fire.” As Jesus said in Matthew 25:46, “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:22-26, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first-fruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
Christ is raised bodily, then at His coming those who belong to Christ, “then comes the end.” My friends, when Christ returns, the end!
The New Testament speaks of only two ages: there’s the present age that we are in now, and there is the age to come. Jesus said in Luke 18:29-30, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” There’s this age, and the age to come is eternity. Look at Revelation 21:1-4.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Now a common argument against amillennialism is that if you use symbolism to interpret Revelation, what’s to keep you from using symbolism to interpret the rest of the Bible? Why can’t you interpret Genesis 1 and 2 symbolically, and God didn’t really create everything in 6 literal days, but those days represent longer periods of time?
Listen, the first being who questioned the literalness of Genesis 1 and 2 was a serpent in Genesis 3. So let’s all agree we should not be on his side about anything. But secondly, we do not read Genesis and Revelation the same way because they’re books in different genres. Genesis is historical. Revelation is apocalyptic.
A friend of mine, who works at Grace to You, which is John MacArthur’s ministry, balked at this genre and called it bogus. “There is no such thing as apocalyptic,” he said. “That’s a recent modernist term applied to biblical books by critics who wish to strip them of their prophetic message.”
I love this brother, so I asked him, “Who said this in his commentary on the book of Zechariah? ‘I really believe that God has used this in my own life to increase my understanding not only of this book but of much of the Old Testament apocalyptic literature.'”
He said, “I suppose you’re going to tell me that was John MacArthur.”
“That is correct,” I said. Furthermore, another teacher at MacArthur’s church said the following: “Historical-grammatical hermeneutics apply in apocalyptic literature just as it applies in poetry and narrative” (Gabriel Powell). So this term “apocalyptic literature” is not a free-for-all to interpret prophecy however we want. It is still bound to the same rules of interpretation that we apply to the rest of the Bible. And I believe I have done that with you tonight.
So in review, we have considered what amillennialism is, and we’ve looked at what the Scripture says about the return of Christ, the Resurrection of the Dead, and the Final Judgment, and finally we have looked at this view of the millennium. In closing, let me come back to that word again, amillennial, meaning “no millennium.”
Amillennialism is not a denial. It is not a denial of the millennial reign of Christ, nor is it a denial of the rapture, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, Daniel’s 70 weeks, God’s promises to Israel, nor any of these other elements connected with the end of the age and the age to come. Nor does amillennialism redefine these things.
Amillennialism is an affirmation. I believe in the millennial reign of Christ. I believe He is reigning right now. Christ is on His throne, seated at the right hand of the Father, as the Scripture says. “For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Christ is the fulfilment of the Davidic covenant. In 2 Samuel 7:12, God said, “I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build a house for my name,” that is the church, which is the house of God, “and I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever.” That eternal throne is Christ’s, born in the line of David, the rightful heir to David’s throne, and who David Himself called, “Lord” (Matthew 22:45).
Respectfully submitted, I believe that premillennialism and postmillennialism commit the same error anticipating a kingdom on earth. Consider these words about the Old Testament faithful in Hebrews 11:13-16.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had the opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city.”
Once again: the desire is not for an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. We must be careful not to return to types and shadows, even in our eschatology.
Not only is Christ reigning in heaven, He reigns through His church, and we reign right now with Him. Remember Ephesians 2:6, God has “raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In 1 Peter 2:9, we are told, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” You are that right now. You don’t become that later, you are His royal priesthood and holy nation reigning with Christ.
Consider the song to the Lamb in Revelation 5:9-10, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God, from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Saints, we are doing that now. You are not powerless peons oppressed by the ruler of this age. “No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Closing and Prayer
There have been many funerals in this church this year. We’ve lost friends and family. You’ve lost loved ones. If not this year, then in others. A friend of mine back in Kansas died this year and I was unable to get back for the memorial service. Pastor Tom lost a friend in Florida, and that’s why he’s not here tonight.
These brothers and sisters in the Lord we have lost, what are they doing right now? They are with Christ reigning with Him. And if you are a Christian, we will join them soon.
There are many things I talked about tonight and much more that could be said. And you may not agree with me on everything. As I shared with my brother Gary last week, when we get to heaven together, and you were right and I was wrong, you can rub it in forever. I give you permission to do that. But I don’t think it will matter. We will be so overwhelmed with the presence of Christ, and that’s all that will matter to us in eternity.
Revelation 22, verses 20-21, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all,” and all God’s people said, “Amen.” Let me pray for you, and we’ll be dismissed.
Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for this good word and these good promises that we read here in the Scriptures. And though we may disagree on signs and symbols, we may disagree on the order of events in which these things will take place, nevertheless we have Christ as our hope. And we cling to Christ and His word, and all these promises that are given to us here in the pages of Scripture will be ours for all who are in Christ. They are ours now as we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places.
Let us not shrink back in these present days, but give us the courage and the boldness to go forth, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of Christ until He returns. It’s in Jesus name that we pray, and all God’s people said, amen.