A Millennial or A-Millennial Future: Which? (2)

1. The Content of Scripture

Why do we believe in a literal, future Millennium? First and foremost, because it is taught in the Bible.

The amillennialist will counter this by saying that it is only taught in one passage, Revelation 20, and that, being in a book which is so symbolical, it does not mean a period of 1,000 literal years.

Now, it is true that Revelation 20 is the only place where its duration is given, but it is stated to be 1,000 years no fewer than six times in that passage (once in each of verses 2-7). And how many times does the Bible need to state something in order for us to take it to be true? Surely one time should be sufficient!

Moreover, Revelation 20 is not the only place in the Bible where we read of a literal reign of God on earth. Indeed, much of the Old Testament is taken up with it. The references are so extensive that it would be impossible, in a series like this, to go through them all. But a reading of passages such as Psalm 72; Isaiah 2, 11, 35, and 65; Ezekiel 20, 34, 36, 47; and Amos 9 reveal to us a glorious future for Israel when she will be regathered and cleansed. There will be universal blessing with freedom from oppression. There will be righteousness and justice, peace and security. Unproductive land will become fertile and there will be abundant and frequent harvests. The Dead Sea will teem with life and wild animals will be tame, with no danger to human beings. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord.

These, and many other similar prophecies, are stated clearly in the OT, without any suggestion that they are not to be taken literally. Certainly, the nation to which they were given understood them as being literal. And so do we. They are in the Word, and thus we believe them as they stand.

Against this, the amillennialist will say, “If they are meant to be taken literally, why are they not repeated in the NT?” To which we respond with three points.

Firstly, they primarily refer to the nation of Israel, and how blessing will flow out from Israel to the nations. Therefore, we should not be surprised that the details are given in the OT, and not in the NT.

Secondly, when God had already given these promises, there was no need to list them all out again.

Thirdly, the NT, as its name indicates, is concerned with new revelation from God, in the Person of His Son, and as a consequence of this, the emphasis in the NT epistles is on church truth. OT teaching does not become invalid simply because it is not all repeated again in the NT!

The more pertinent question is this: “Does the NT negate the promises of future earthly blessing given in the OT?” The answer to this is in the negative. Take Acts 1:6, 7. The Lord Jesus is about to return to heaven, and the disciples ask Him, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” Israel had, not much more than a month before this, rejected Him. If Israel was finished as a nation, if there was no hope of a future, earthly kingdom, then this was the ideal moment for the Lord to break it to the disciples that they had it all wrong. But He does not. On the contrary, He tells them that it is not for them to know the “times and seasons.” It was not a matter of whether it would happen, but of when it would happen.

Thus, not long after the Lord’s ascension, in Acts 3:19-26, Peter is able to tell his Jewish audience, in a message full of OT allusions, that, at the Lord’s return, and only then (vv 20, 21), would all the OT prophecies be fulfilled regarding “the times of restitution of all things” (v 21).

Later on (Acts 15:13-17), James states that the prophecy of Amos 9:11, 12 (that God will rebuild the tabernacle of David) will be “after” (v 16) the present age, when He is taking out of the nations “a people for His Name” (v 14).

This is all well-illustrated in the “parable of the pounds” (Luke 19:11-27). The “certain man” (v 12) is undoubtedly the Lord Jesus, Who has gone into a “far country” to “receive for Himself a kingdom” and Who will “return.” It is equally certain that the “citizens” who reject Him represent the nation of Israel (v 14). The Lord has been rejected by the nation; He has gone away, and will return in kingdom glory.

The man in the parable returns to the same place, and to the same people, and as his reward, he will be given authority over cities in that kingdom. Likewise, the Lord will return to the same place where He was rejected, to the same nation which rejected Him, and those who have been faithful will be rewarded in that kingdom on the earth.

So, far from nullifying or spiritualizing away the OT promises of a future earthly kingdom, the NT does the opposite: it reaffirms them. The promises are there, and we believe them.

But the amillennialist says, “Not so. These promises of blessing will not be fulfilled in the future, literally, but rather they are being fulfilled in the present, spiritually, in the blessings enjoyed by the Church.” In the following article, we will consider present conditions, and see if such a claim bears scrutiny.