From Premillennialism to Amillennialism And Back: An Eschatological Change of Mind
Nearly two years ago I wrote a post entitled, “Amillennialism: Rethinking and Critiquing my Eschatology After Five Years.” In that post I analyzed an earlier blog post I wrote back in 2007 called, “How I Became An Amillennialist.” Two years ago I concluded that I was still an Amillennialist, but I realized that many of the arguments I previously found so convincing were not nearly as persuasive.
Now I’m ready to say it: I’m a Premillennialist.
whoa… that was weird. That was the first time I actually admitted it.
You see, I’m stubborn. I didn’t want to finally say it, but it’s true. And I feel like it’s been true for some time. I can’t actually call myself an Amillennialist anymore.
Because of Revelation 20. Period.
Now, I believe that the entire Bible is non-millennial in perspective. I disagree with those who try to make Paul a millenarian from 1 Cor 15, and I completely reject the idea that the millennium is taught in the OT (look again, the prophets are thinking of the new created order—the new heavens and the new earth). So I used to say that if I became a premillennialist I’d be the kind that said there was only one text that even addressed the topic. And here I am.
So what about the idea of placing too much weight on one passage? This is asked a lot in debates about eschatology. But it’s a silly question (and a silly rebuttal). There are two reasons why.
1) “too much weight”—this really only applies to certain kinds of premillennialists, specifically those who pull out their prophecy charts and dispensational timelines. Go read Revelation 20.1–10 again. There is no mention of Jerusalem, or Israel, or the Temple, or red heifers, or anything. Just some beheaded Christians coming to life and reigning with Christ. That’s it. My kind of premillennialism looks at the lack of detail in Revelation 20 regarding the millennium and the lack of emphasis from a broader biblical perspective on the millennium and says that the main telos of the Bible is not the millennium but the new heavens and the new earth. Nothing changes about my theology. Nothing. In fact, nothing even changes about the way I read Revelation. I still completely affirm that Revelation is a critique of first century Rome for the encouragement of suffering Christians. I also completely affirm that Revelation is full of recapitulations—I just have changed my opinion about whether Rev 20 constitutes another recapitulation.
2) “one passage”—Yea, if one passage teaches something that’s all it takes. Is that really so weird? If we didn’t have 1 Cor 11, we may assume that Pauline churches did not practice the Eucharist. One text disproves that idea. Likewise, evangelicals often speak of conversion as a “born again” experience, but this is a particularly Johannine concept, stemming primarily from John 3, and yet it is ubiquitous in evangelical rhetoric.
And the three most convincing things for me in this debate which caused me to change my mind are (1) the comparisons between 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch and Revelation 20 regarding temporary messianic kingdoms. When Rev 20 is compared with these it is hard not to see the common apocalyptic heritage. (2) The reference to “the rest of the dead” in Rev 20:5 was always hard to square in the Amillennial interpretation as well as (3) “they came to life” in reference to the souls of beheaded Christians. This coming to life is explicitly called a “resurrection” and a bodily resurrection seems most likely.
I should conclude by saying that I do not think Amillennialism is completely wrong. The emphases I’ve gathered as an Amillennialist—regarding the present reign of Christ, the “binding of Satan” for the advance of the Gospel, the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the people of God, the emphasis on the new heavens and the new earth—are important and valuable, and won’t simply go away.
So what are your thoughts on eschatology? Changed your mind recently?