Amillennialism is a doctrine which maintains that the millennial kingdom referred to in Revelation 20:1-6 is not an entirely future literal "1000 year" reign of Christ on earth. Hence the name a-millennial, with a- being a negative prefix suggesting no millennium. However, rather than believing in no millennial age, the amillennialist contends that the period described in Revelation 20 was inaugurated at Christ's resurrection and will continue until his Second Coming, and is in fact, the church age. For this reason, amillennialists sometimes argue that an alternative name like realised millennialists would be more accurate.
Top level distinctions
- Premillennialism - Christ will return prior to a literal 1000 year earthly reign.
- Postmillennialism - Christ's return will follow a 1000 year golden age ushered in by the church.
- Amillennialism - Christ is presently reigning through the Church. The "1000 years" of Revelation 20:1-6 is a metaphorical reference to the present church age which will culminate in Christ's return.
As with most theological positions, there are many different exegetical routes to amillennialism. The following overview should not be taken as a normative statement of "the" amillennial understanding of the relevant passages so much as "an" amillennialist understanding.
The Book of Revelation may be seen as having seven distinct sections, each of which describes the state of the church at the time Revelation was written and each of which looks forward in time toward the second coming of Christ. This view is called progressive parallelism and is presented in Hendriksen's More Than Conquerors. The last of these parallel sections is seen as Revelation chapters 20-22, which begins with Christ's victory over Satan and goes onto the final doom; and it is the opening of this section that is seen in Revelation 20:1-6.
By his death and resurrection, Jesus achieved victory over the forces of sin, death and hell (v. 1). A thousand years is a symbolic number, indicating both length and completion (or perfection): Jesus has bound Satan for a long time and that binding is perfect, which is not to say that Satan is inactive, but rather that he is bound exactly as far as God wants him to be (v. 2). Although the devil is still active, he no longer holds unfettered sway over the Gentiles, as he did in former times. In those days, God had given the Gentile nations over to the depravities of their minds and the deceptions of the Evil One; now, he has bound the devil and the Gentiles are free to turn to him (v. 3).
And John saw those who had died in Christ, martyrs and those who had contended for their faith (an alternative reading of Rev. 20:4 is "... and because of the word of God, and also those who had not worshipped ..."). As believers in Christ, they were raised to spiritual life by Christ's bodily resurrection, and now are reigning with Christ (v. 4). Those who have died outside Christ, however, did not share in his resurrection, which is the first resurrection (v. 5), although they will be resurrected in the second, or general, resurrection, to eternal damnation (cf. Dan. 12:2). But thanks be to God! for those who have died in Christ have a share in the first resurrection, of which their spiritual life now is a token; they will be priests of God and of Christ and share in his reign (v. 6); and they will be resurrected to eternal life in the second resurrection.
- Louis Berkhof
- William Hendriksen
- Anthony Hoekema
- John Murray
- Vern Poythress
- Geerhardus Vos
- Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, Eerdmans, 1979. ISBN 0802835163
- William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, Baker Book House, 1998. ISBN 0801057922
- Kim Riddlebarger, "A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times," Baker Book House, ISBN 080106435X