Posts Tagged ‘Regeneration’

Problems with Amillennialism

I kind of hate to post this but a list was posted of Sam Storms’ problems with Premillennialism so I thought I should say something. I read Storms’ list of “problems” and am fine with all of them from the context of my understanding of the millennium. I might respond to his list at some point.

In another setting, I’d said, “Eschatology is a tough nut to crack. It is like an ill-fitting jacket. Okay overall, pinches in a spot or two. You just have to decide which places you’re okay being pinched.” I believe this is essentially true. From my perspective Dispensational Premillennialism pinched in far too many places. Amillennialism seemed to fit pretty well till I’d worn the jacket for a while then I noticed the pinches and they became uncomfortable. Postmillennialism always seemed like a jacket with three arms or something. I could never get that one to fit though I do appreciate its optimism. What I’ve found is that Historic Premillennialism embraces all the strengths of these other perspectives and pinches in a few spots that I’m currently OK with.

Anyway, here goes with my list of some of the problems. If you are amillennialist there are some important things you must reckon with:

You must necessarily read New Testament prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming the same way Jews read Old Testament prophecies of Jesus’ First Coming. This thought came from George Eldon Ladd:

From the Old Testament perspective, the church age is not seen…There are indeed prophecies which describe the coming of a Messianic personage in suffering and humility such as Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 9:9-10, other prophecies which describe the victorious King of the Davidic Line (Isaiah 9, 10), as well as a prophecy of the coming of a heavenly Son of Man in Daniel 7. But the Old Testament does not relate these several prophecies to one another, either theologically or chronologically. God will finally act to redeem his people, and different prophets describe this eschatological redemption in different terms. The Old Testament makes no effort to synthesize the prophecies; and the effort to decide which prophecies apply to the church age, which apply to the millennial era, and which belong to The Age to Come ignores this basic fact of the prophetic perspective. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

What Ladd is saying is that in the Old Testament, the prophets and the prophetic message didn’t clearly articulate a space between the events of Jesus First Coming (the Suffering Servant) and those of his Second Coming (reigning Davidic King). The perspective of the Old Testament prophets was that those events appeared to happen at once. That is why the Apostles expected Jesus to “restore the kingdom to Israel” (Acts 1:6) before his ascension. They did not yet understand that there would be a time period between Christ’s two comings.

Non-millennialists do the same thing with the New Testament explanations of the events of Jesus Second Coming and the ushering in of the New Heavens and New Earth. Ladd again:

One would never discover this fact [of the millennial reign of Christ] from most of the New Testament because it sees the future like a two-dimension canvas in terms of length and breadth without depth. The transition between the two ages is viewed as though it were one simple event, even as the Old Testament prophets looked forward to a single Day of the Lord. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 38


From the New Testament perspective, the eschatological act of God is usually viewed as a single day which will introduce The Age to Come. However, the Revelation of John, as well as 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, indicates that there are yet to be two eschatological stages in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and the establishment of God’s Kingdom. – George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom, 37

You must conflate two separate resurrections into one. In Revelation 20:4 John says that he saw “the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus…came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” In verse 13 the sea and Death and Hades give up the dead and they are judged. The amillennialist must deal with these two resurrections (separated by “a thousand” years) in such a way that there is only one resurrection at Christ’s return. Some amillennialists have said that the first resurrection is speaking of regeneration, the new birth. After all, regeneration is passing from spiritual death to spiritual life (Ephesians 2:5). The immediate problem with that is that anastasis, which is translated ‘resurrection’ in Revelation 20:5, always refers to physical resurrection, never regeneration. And the resurrection mentioned in verse 5 is “the first resurrection,” that is, the resurrection of the beheaded martyrs. Their resurrection is described as a pysical one, not strictly spiritual.

Also consider how those who were raised in Revelation 20 are described. They are those “who had been beheaded” who “had not worshiped the beast” or “received its mark”. They were not brought to life, i.e. regenerated or born again, before they did these things in order that they might be able to do them, but after they had done them. In any other discussion we would say that regeneration is the only way we are able to resist such things, otherwise we’re slaves to sin. The implication that those who were raised can do it before they are regenerate is problematic. No, it was after they had done these things that they were brought to life. In other words, as John describes it, they behaved like born-again Christians, were killed for that, and then were brought back to life. The only way that makes sense is if they were physically resurrected after their martyrdom.

If instead the amillennialist says that this resurrection actually happens at the same time as the one in verse 13, then what does their reigning with Christ mean? They were raised and then reigned with Jesus. If they are raised at the time of the final judgment in what sense did they reign with Jesus? And why would John mention a specific interval of their reign if they are raised, judged and brought in to the New Heavens and New Earth in one event?

A potential answer to this is that at our spiritual resurrection we reign with Christ. This sounds good because as Ephesians 2:6 says, God “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” As glorious as that truth is, it doesn’t mean that we’re currently reigning with Jesus. New Testament discussion of our reigning with Christ always puts it in the future:

The saying is trustworthy, for:
if we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11–13)


Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! (1 Corinthians 4:8)

You must reconcile the current binding of Satan with verses in the New Testament that indicate he is still actively deceiving people. One of the verses that bothered me enough to move me out of  amillennialism was 2 Corinthians 4:4: “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” If Satan is currently bound as described in Revelation 20:1-3, “that he might not deceive the nations any longer,” then he should not be able to “blind the minds of unbelievers.”

That is not to say that at the cross Jesus didn’t in some sense bind Satan. Matthew 12:28-29 indicates that Jesus’ and his disciples’ ministry of casting out demons was in essence binding the strong man and plundering his house. But that appears to be different than Satan’s binding more fully so that his deceptive powers over humanity are removed. The non-millennialist usually equates the binding of Satan in Revelation 20 with the binding of the strong man in Matthew 12 and exegetically that appears to require stronger justification that has been offered.

Perhaps “so that he might not deceive the nations” in Revelation 20:3 is not describing the extent of Satan’s binding but rather the reason for it. But that doesn’t solve the problem because if his being bound doesn’t prevent him from blinding the eyes of the unbelievers, then Jesus did not achieve his purpose in binding him.

You must believe that the present earth will never be set free from its bondage under sin but will only be destroyed and recreated. Under a non-millennial view, Jesus returns to earth, judges the living and the dead then ushers in the final state in one cataclysmic event. According to 2 Peter 3:10-12 on the Day of the Lord the creation will be dissolved and judgment will come. There is no deliverance of creation, only a day when it is replaced. But Romans 8 indicts that creation is waiting a day when it will be delivered from the futility it was subjected to at the fall. If there is not a time when peace reigns on the earth but there is only recreation, creation is not waiting for deliverance but destruction. It would be like a hostage waiting for friendly forces to come and shoot her rather than liberate her.

We experience rebirth before resurrection. There is a period for us when we are born again but are not yet glorified. We have redeemed hearts but un-redeemed bodies. The non-millennialist must believe that this “now and not yet” does not apply to the rest of creation even though verses like those in Isaiah 11 describe a time when the earth is at peace with itself, not yet burned up and replaced, death is weakened but not removed.

You must see the reign of the promised Davidic King as only ever partial on this earth. The non-millennialist sees Jesus currently reigning from heaven, as he truly is, and must accept that as the full extent of it. Though he is promised to rule the nations with a rod of iron (Isaiah 11:4, Psalm 2, Revelation 2:25-27), he actually will only rule his church on this earth. We do not see Jesus rule this way yet (Hebrews 2:6-9) but there is a day coming when he will (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

We do not see Jesus rule the nations in this manner now and in the non-millennial view, he never will. The nations rage under God’s sovereign control as they have all along (Danial 7). But what seems to be pictured in many verses is the significant, earthly reign of the Davidic King over the nations of the earth. As I mentioned above, the Apostles still had this hope when Jesus ascended to heaven. His answer to them did not sound particularly amillennial; “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 2:7) An amillennial answer might have been more along the lines of “Yes I shall as you receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Instead Jesus tells them to not worry about when that will happen but that they will first be his witnesses to the nations under the hope of that coming day when Jesus will rule in that fashion.

Also, I did a follow up post on the binding of Satan here.

Circumcision Type

While doing some research for my exegetical paper on Colossians 2:11, I came across this material in Benjamin Keach’s Preaching from the Types and Metaphors of the Bible. Keach was a signatory of the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith (a daughter of the Westminster Confession) and has a catechism attributed to him (though there is some question about who authored it). I liked the guy right off the bat because he argued for congregational singing amongst the Particular Baptists in England. Also, he was listed as the pastor at Horse-lie-down, Southwark. I guess a more contemporary spelling would be “Horsely Down” but the old one is more fun.

Anyway, here’s the quote:

  1. Circumcision was the cutting off the foreskin of the flesh; signifying the cutting off of the lusts of the heart and life, or parting with the corruption of nature, which rebels against the Spirit, Col. ii. 11
  2. Circumcision puts the body to pain. So those who come under the Circumcision of the heart, are sensible of much spiritual pain upon the account of sin, Gen. xxxiv. 25.
  3. As that part cut off was never set to the body again, but was taken away, so in this spiritual Circumcision, sin must not be parted with for a time only, but must be cast off for ever.
  4. The Circumcised person was admitted in the Church and family of God. So he that is spiritually Circumcised becomes a fit person for baptism, and so to be admitted into the Church of God.
  5. Such who were not Circumcised, were not to be admitted to the privileges of the Church, and outward worship of God. So the Uncircumcised in heart and life ought not to be admitted unto the spiritual privileges of the Gospel, and communion of the saints.
  6. The Uncircumcised person was looked upon by God’s people as a hateful person; see with what contempt David beheld Goliath upon this account, “This Uncircumcised Philistine,” &c., 1 Sam. xvii. 36. So those who are not Circumcised in heart, are hate to God.
  7. Circumcision was a sign of the righteousness of faith: so the spiritual Circumcision of the heart, i.e. putting away the body of sin, &c., is a sign of the truth of grace, and of an interest in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.

I think I’m going to put this in the conclusion of my exegetical paper. :)