Why I Am Amillennial

There are a number of reasons why a person should be amillennial when it comes to their eschatology. For me, a large part of being convinced of this view is the structure of the Book of Revelation itself. The idealist interpretation, based on a progressive-parallel reading, leads one to deny that the early part of Revelation 20 refers to a future millennium. Of course, due to the rich nature of the apocalyptic genre, a number of structural elements can be detected and followed. This does not mean, however, that every grid that has been offered is legitimate. Various options are listed in the “Structure” section of Vern Poythress’ The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation.

The progressive-parallel approach, also called progressive-recapitulation, was first brought to my attention through the reading of William Hendrickson’s More Than Conquerors. It is well expressed in G. K. Beale’s commentary The Book of Revelation in the NIGTC series. Beale explains that the pattern follows “repeated combined scenes of consummative judgment and salvation found at the conclusions of various sections throughout the book” (p. 121). He lists 6:12-17; 7:9-17; 11:18; 14:14-20; 15:2-4; 16:17-21; 17:1-18:24; 19:1-10; 20:7-15 and 21:1-8. In each of these scenes, Beale tells us, the pattern is always the same: a depiction of judgment is followed by a portrayal of salvation. Beale notes that this recapitulation formula is common in apocalyptic literature and provides a helpful chart demonstrating this from Daniel (p. 136).

Anthony Hoekema, in his now classic The Bible and the Future, pulls back into a broader structure of progressive parallelism breaking the Apocalypse down into seven larger sections. He says that the sections “run parallel to each other, each of which depicts the church and the world from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of his second coming” (p. 223).

These sections are:

1) Chaps 1-3 – Letters to the churches

2) Chaps 4-7 – Seven seals

3) Chaps 8-11 – Seven trumpets

4) Chaps 12-14 – Woman giving birth while Dragon waits to devour

5) Chaps 15-16 – Seven bowls of wrath

6) Chaps 17-19 – Fall of Babylon and beasts

7) Chaps 20-22 – Doom of Dragon, final judgment, new heavens and new earth

While these seven sections run parallel to one another and recapitulate tellings of the interadventual period, there is also a degree of eschatalogical progress as more details are provided in each. Hoekema says, “Although the final judgment has already been briefly described in 6:12-17, it is not set forth in full detail until we come to 20:11-15. Though the final joy of the redeemed in the life to come has been hinted at in 7:15-17, it is not until we reach chapter 21 that we find a detailed and elaborate description of the blessedness of life on the new earth (21:1-22:5)” (p. 226). This is why the method is called “progressive.”

The twentieth chapter, typically understood to depict a future millennium, therefore fits into the scheme of recapitulation as a retelling of the time between the comings of Christ. All of the detail given in the previous sections of judgment and salvation are well-summarised in this chapter. This is why I don’t believe in a future, thousand-year reign of Christ on earth. The millennium is now.



Filed under amillennialism, apocalyptic, end times, eschatology, revelation

6 responses to “Why I Am Amillennial

  1. thanks for that glimpse into the amill view with that helpful outline of Rev. Would you recommend Beale’s commentary or perhaps another one to start as a young guy like me starts studying through Revelation?

    • Hey Scott,

      The Beale commentary is outstanding, but it’s a bear. It’s also heavy with Greek (note the series). A better introduction might be Dennis Johnson’s “Triumph of the Lamb” commentary, which is a more popular commentary that would be similar to Beale. An earlier commentary by William Hendrickson called “More Than Conquerors” is also good, but a little dated.

  2. I guess Ian, it would depend if one accepted Revelation to fit within the apocalyptic genre to allow the genre to have so much influence upon the structure. The only problem is there are a number of characteristics of apocalyptic that Revelation does not partake of. Therefore I’ve always felt it much better fits in the traditional prophetic genre. Regardless, I do not hold to recapitulation as the defining structural characteristic of Revelation, thus Rev 20 becomes a future millennial reign of Christ. Of course, to the premillennialist, it is far more than Rev 20 being the definitive marker about the nature of the future (t simply gives us the duration); it is about allowing the OT to teach us about the nature of the concept of the Kingdom of God (see the important volume, “The Greatness of the Kingdom” by Alva McLain) and not, as many are prone to do, redefine the OT nature of the kingdom by so-called NT changes. As one who has read a plethora of amillennial writers, I would encourage all ammillennialists to read McLain’s important work, as well as Campbell and Townsend’s “A Case for Premillennialism” and of course Robert Thomas’ magisterial 2-volume commentary on Revelation.

    • J. J. Collins defines apocalyptic thusly:
      “‘Apocalypse’ is a genre of revelatory literature with a narrative framework, in which a revelation is mediated by an otherworldly being to a human recipient, disclosing a transcendent reality which is both temporal, insofar as it envisages eschatological salvation, and spatial, insofar as it involves another, supernatural world” (Semeia 14 [1979], 9).
      If this definition stands, then I don’t see why Revelation is not apocalyptic (of course it is prophetic and epistolary as well).
      While there are other ways to structure Revelation (see my Poythress reference), progressive parallelism/recapitulation is readily apparent as I noted above.

      • The apocalyptic genre, as understood as common in the Jewish period flourished in Israel from Maccabean times to the final defeat of Bar Kochba in A.D. 135 maintains some elements that do not flesh with Scripture (especially the pseudonymous nature, dualism, and ethical passivity). I am familiar with Collins work on apocalyptic but I think he dismisses some of these inherent qualities of Jewish apocalyptic literature as being less integral as they should be thus putting Revelation out of the scope of that genre. Regardless, I do not agree that recapitulation is as readily apparent as you would think it us. Thus the impasse.

  3. Alot of people think Revelation primairly deals with the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 a.d Well if a Jewish year is 360 days long, and Christs kingdom is supposed to be 1000 years, then if it started in 70 a.d it would have ended in 1054 a.d, the year the great schism split the christian church in half. just something to think about.

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