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I once told myself one thing I could never make sense of was
amillennialism. How could one ignore such a clear and logical reading of Revelation 20. The text states that “then” (Rev. 20:1), implying after the false prophet and beast are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20), Satan is bound for 1000 years (Rev. 20:3). Moreover, how on earth could Satan be bound, just look at the world around us? Paul taught Satan is the “god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4), while Peter taught he prowls around like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8) and throughout Revelation itself we see the Satanic impacts on the world and on God’s people (eg. Rev 12–14).
When I pressed amillennialists on their views all they would seem to argue was premillennialism does not fit with the rest of Scripture. I would then ask in confusion, “Then what about Revelation?”
Yet, despite all this, I eventually came to a position where I viewed both premillennialism and postmillennialism as untenable positions. Here are some reasons why I hold to an amilliennial view.
REVELATION CONTAINS PARALLELISM
We’ve all heard it before- there’s the seven seals, then trumpets, then bowls, then Armageddon, then the millennium. However, a closer look at the text shows a striking similarity between the end of the last seal (Rev. 8:5), trumpet (Rev. 11:19) and bowl (Rev. 16:18). An earthquake, lightning and hail are mentioned in these verses. Yes, there is an extent to which this parallelism is progressive in that the bowls seem more severe than the seals but there seems to be no question the same time period is viewed from different angles given the ending is the same.
Moreover, in Rev. 11:7 we read the beast conquers the two witnesses while in Rev. 13:7, parallel language is used that the beast conquers the saints.
Revelation 16:14–16, refers to the final battle at Armageddon outlined again in Rev. 19:11–16. The fall of Babylon in mentioned in Rev. 14:8 and 16:19, before being outlined in more detail through chapter 18.
These examples should stand as clear warnings we should not read the book of Revelation in a strict linear chronological fashion. There is indeed progression through time in the book but we should allow for recapitulations and varying snapshots of the same event.
We see parallels even between Revelation 12:7–11 and Revelation 20:1–6. GK Beale points out both passages begin with a heavenly scene (Rev. 12:7, 20:1), contain an angelic or presupposed angelic battle with Satan (Rev. 12:7–8, 20:2), Satan is cast down showing a loss of power- to the earth in one passage (Rev. 12:9) and the abyss in another (Rev. 20:3), the angel’s evil opponent is called a deceiving dragon (Rev. 12:9, 20:3), Satan is shown to have little time (Rev. 12:12, 20:3), Satan’s fall results in the kingdom of Christ and His saints (Rev. 12:10–11, 20:4) and finally the saints kingship is based on their faithfulness unto death- holding to their testimony (Rev. 12:11) and Christ’s work and Word (Rev. 20:4).
Beale further argues for a chiastic structure in chapters 17–22, beginning with the judgement of the harlot (17:1–19:6) and ending with the vindication of the bride (Rev. 21:1–22:5). The middle section is bookmarked by the divine judge (19:11–16, 20:11–15), implying that 19:17 to 20:10 contains parallelism.
THE SAME OLD TESTAMENT REFERENCE IS USED FOR THE “TWO” BATTLE SCENES
Revelation 20:8 mentions “Gog and Magog” gathered from the four corners of the earth while Rev. 19:18–19 mentions the kings of the earth, their armies and all men, small or great, opposed to God. In both instances there is a universal war against Christ which is baffling given all this sin and opposition to Christ somehow mysteriously appears at the end of the millennium during which humans live peacefully for generations following the defeat of all evil enemies at the start of the millennium (19:18).
First, the fact all who oppose Christ are at war in both cases on a very large scale would seem to suggest this is the same event being referred to from different angles. Second, the dragon, beast and false prophet deceive the nations to go to war in Rev. 16:13–16 and all human enemies of Christ are defeated finally in Rev. 19:18. How does Satan go to war at Armageddon according to 16:13–16 and yet, somehow gets no mention in 19:11–16 when he is the first one mentioned in 16:13! This would only make sense if progressive parallelism is being used and 20:7–10 describes the same event!
Third, both battle scene passages use language from Ezekiel 38–39 and one must ask why John would use language from the exact same battle scene in Ezekiel to describe different battle scenes in Revelation! Fire and sulfur are mentioned in Revelation 19:20, 20:10 and Ezekiel 38:22. Birds feasting on the enemies of God are mentioned in Ezekiel 39:17–18 and Revelation 19:18–19. Fire from heaven on Magog is mentioned in Ezek. 39:6 and Revelation 20:9. A great feast is mentioned in Ezekiel 39:20 and Revelation 19:17. The nations or “all men” are mentioned in Ezekiel 39:7, Revelation 19:18 and Revelation 20:8. These are far too many similarities to be a mere coincidence, implying the same battle scene is outlined in both Revelation 19 and Revelation 20.
THE JUDGEMENT OF GOD IS COMPLETE WITH THE 7TH BOWL FOLLOWING ARMAGEDDON
As mentioned previously, Armageddon is mentioned in Rev. 16:13–16, after which the seventh bowl is mentioned where “it is done” (Rev. 16:17) and God’s judgement is complete. How could God’s judgement be complete when Babylon falls and Satan’s armies are defeated at Armageddon if the judgement of God is not finalised until the end of the millennium? It does not make any sense.
SATAN IS BOUND ELSEWHERE IN REVELATION AND THE NEW TESTAMENT
In Rev. 20:2, Satan is bound. “How could Satan be bound presently look at the state of the world” premillennialists respond. However, as mentioned previously in Revelation 12, Satan is cast down onto earth, defeated and conquered by the blood of the Lamb (12:11). This shows a loss of power, he can no longer accuse the brethren (Rev. 12:10) as he did, for example, in the case of Job in the Old Testament. It is indeed after this loss of power the beast and the false prophet are unleashed in Revelation 13, showing Satanic forces are still dangerous though defeated!
Moreover, in Revelation 9:1–2, the shaft of the bottomless pit is opened with a key on the fifth trumpet implying it was locked beforehand! This language sounds very familiar as we read of a key, chain and bottomless pit in Rev. 20:1 where Satan is bound meaning this could take place before Rev. 9:1–2 where the bottomless pit is opened!
Indeed we see before the bottomless pit is unlocked there is still evil, judgement and Satanic activity on earth in Revelation 8. This indicates that the binding of Satan does not mean he is harmless during this period but rather that he is unable to prematurely incite an eschatological battle with the armies of heaven whereby he deceives the nations and halts gospel progress (Rev. 20:8). Unfortunately this consideration of Revelation 9, 12 and 20 is often completely ignored by premillennialists.
Of course the idea of Satan being defeated, losing power or being bound due Christ’s first coming is nothing new to Scripture! In Matthew 12:29, when discussing the casting out of demons, Jesus states demons cannot be cast out unless the strongman (ie. Satan) is bound first. In Luke 10:17 Jesus claims to see Satan “fall like lightning from heaven” mirroring the words used in Revelation 12. In John 12:31–32, Jesus claims the ruler of this world will be driven out and Christ will be lifted up drawing all men to Himself. We read in Colossians 2:15, Christ has disarmed rulers and authorities putting them to open shame.
Does this mean Satan is not dangerous? Absolutely not! A wounded animal is often more vicious than a well one. A team facing defeat is more likely to break the rules than one that is not. These verses simply show how the cross Christ is able to draw and save the elect in accordance with His purposes. The gospel can grow and spread at a time where evil also does!
20:7 ALONE DISPROVES POSTMILLENNIALISM
Some postmillennialists look at the verses mentioned above and argue that Christ’s death will help usher in a “Christianising” of the nations prior to His second coming. However, we read in Rev. 20:7 Satan will be released and mass deception will take place on a scale never seen before where all the nations are deceived and unite as one to fight with Christ. This hardly seems like a Christianised world to me! Indeed, Meredith Kline states that Rev. 20:7 itself refutes postmillennialism.
OLD TESTAMENT PROMISES ARE OFTEN “SPIRITUALISED” IN THE NEW
Premillennialists love referring to the land promises made to Abraham and the promises of a Davidic throne to argue Christ must physically reign in Jerusalem for 1,000 years for these to be fulfilled. Amillennialists are often accused of “spiritualising” the text. However, even the New Testament authors do this exact same thing! Peter claims while speaking of the Davidic throne, that this was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection and in Him sitting at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:31–35). Moreover, Paul claims the offspring of Abraham is Christ (Galatians 3:16) through whom all who believe are blessed (Galatians 3:9,29). Even Christ Himself in Revelation 3:9, speaks of those who think they are Jews but are not and will bow down before the believing Gentiles’ feet, using the exact language from Isaiah 60:14 while speaking of Gentiles who oppressed Israel bowing at Israel’s feet!
As Paul who stated to be absent from the body is to be home with the Lord (2 Cor 5:8), says in 2 Tim 2:12, if we endure we will reign with Christ mirroring Rev. 20:4. This reigning begins straight after death for even Christ calls on the church of Smyrna to be “faithful onto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). Crown of life at death not over 2,000 years later.
A CROSSING FROM DEATH TO LIFE BEGINS WITH FAITH IN CHRIST
Premillennialists interpret the “coming to life” of Rev. 20:4 as a literal physical resurrection. However, it could be argued that Rev. 20 employs a chiastic structure where the first resurrection for believers is spiritual and the second physical as taught in 1 Cor 15, while for unbelievers the first death is physical while the second mentioned in Rev. 20:14 is clearly spiritual.
Moreover, Christ is clear in John 5:24, when one believes in Him he has crossed “from death to life” and eternal life begins now. In Romans 6:4–11, Paul outlines how we have newness of life through Christ’s death and resurrection, echoing the language he uses in 2 Cor. 5:17 that we are a “new creation”. 1 Peter 1:23 speaks of us being born again through an imperishable seed.
Some premilliennialists argue that the mark of the beast is something entirely future in Rev. 20:4 so it cannot be something people who reign with Christ in heaven now could actively not have received during their lives. However, this ignored the fact the beast was a present reality at the time of writing with five of the heads already fallen (Rev. 17:9–11) and also ignores the mark of the beast applies to all whose name had not been written in the Lamb’s book of life from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8).
JESUS TAUGHT OF THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME- NOTHING IN BETWEEN
Throughout the New Testament there is a clear teaching of this age and the age to come. There is no mention of some millennial “middle age” and neither does the postmillennial view of multiple ages existing fit the framework of this teaching.
Christ teaches, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). This same “end of the age” is what Jesus’ disciples ask Him about in Matthew 24:3. When speaking of this “end of the age”, when He “will sit on his glorious throne” (Matthew 25:31), He will separate the sheep from the goats on judgement day (Matthew. 25:31–46) and the tribes of the earth will mourn when they see Him and when He gathers His elect (Matthew 24:29–31). In these verses, there is no room for pretribulationism or premillennialism or postmillennialism. It is clear, at Christ’s return, a gathering of the elect and judgement of non believers will take place as part of the same event with some going away into “eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life” (Matt. 25:46). This echoes Christ’s end of the age parable about the weeds and the wheat which take place at the end of the age (Matt. 13:39) and leads to a separation of the righteous and unrighteous (Matt. 13:42–43).
In this age people are given in marriage but not in the age to come (Luke 20:34–35). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come (Matt. 12:32). Christ has dominion above all names not only in this age but the age to come (Eph. 1:21).
All of these passages listed overwhelmingly point to a non literal use of the 1,000 years. This should come as no surprise to us given Revelation uses round numbers such as the 144,000 or the thousands of angels in Revelation 5:11 and is of a highly symbolic nature. Indeed, Peter claims a day with the Lord is a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8) and this echoes Psalm 90:4, “a thousand years in your sight are but yesterday.” In Psalm 105:8 the covenant established forever is equated to the covenant to 1,000 generations. The use of 1,000 years does not necessarily point to how long the time period will be but rather the fact the saints are triumphant and reign with the Lord during this time period.
DEATH IS DEFEATED AT THE SECOND COMING
In 1 Cor 15:50–58, Paul explains that when the trumpet sounds and the dead believers are raised and put on an imperishable body, death will be finally defeated. How can death be defeated on the return of Christ, if there is still another 1,000 years of “normal life” to continue on afterwards?
Furthermore, 2 Peter 3 adds in verse 13 we (Christians) look forward to a new heaven and new earth, not a millennial reign of Christ physically on earth. It speaks of Christ’s coming being like a thief (2 Peter 3:10) and the earth as we know it passing away at that time. No 1,000 year gap or 7 year tribulation in between!
THE DAY OF JUDGEMENT HAPPENS AT THE SAME TIME FOR BELIEVERS AND NON BELIEVERS
I mentioned in point 8, the parable of the weeds from Matthew 13 and the parable of the sheep and goats from Matthew 25. In both of these passages, the judgement of believers and unbelievers takes place at the end of the age. This echoes Christ’s words in John 5:28–29 that at the same hour some will take part in the “resurrection of life” while others in the “resurrection of evil”. Moreover, this language mirrors Daniel 12:2 where at the end of time some rise to everlasting life while others to everlasting contempt. None of these passages allow for any sort of 1,000 year time gap between the two resurrections.
It can be very easy to get swept up in all of these arguments without taking a step back to understand the practical implications of amillennialism. Indeed, it warns us to be wary of the schemes of the evil one who much like an aggressive wounded animal or chained dog who can still attack is able to inflict significant damage. This will reach a peak at the end of time when he is unleashed and God’s people suffer intense persecution on an unprecedented scale. Nevertheless, it is Christ’s death which has cast Satan down onto earth and bound him in the abyss, Christ’s death which places those who trust in Him on the winning side and Christ’s death which has settled the end result of a violent football match before the game is over. This does not mean no one will get hurt during the match, for we should in fact be prepared to get hurt, but it means victory is certain for those who place their trust in Christ.