No. 18. >> I, too, am interested in learning more about millennialism. Are we denying the full authority of Scripture if we deny that the thousand-year reign of Christ in Revelation 20 will really happen? Can amillennialism be taken too far? >>DR. THOMAS E. MANTEUFEL: Yes, you refer to the Lutheran hermeneutic. That is there is certainly a rule of interpretation of the Scripture which says this: That we should not depart from the proper sense of the text. That is to say the exact sense of the words, unless forced by Scripture it self. That either by circumstances in the text itself or by a parallel passage or by the analogy of faith. And the analogy of faith is really the harmony of a passage with all clear passages on that same doctrine, which are found in Scripture. Now, amillennialists are certainly undertaking an interpretation which does not follow the proper, meaning the exact, sense of the passage in Revelation 20. But rather, we are giving a figurative interpretation to the text, as I've already indicated in my answer to the last question. And amillennialists believe that there is indication within Scripture itself, indication from the analogy of faith and from clear passages of Scripture that this is the right way to understand that text. And so the thousand-years reign with Christ in Revelation 20 is understood figuratively. The number there is a symbolic number. And we find many symbolic numbers in the book of Revelation and elsewhere in Scripture. The number here is really a multiple of a number ten. Thousand is ten times ten times ten. And ten is often used in Scripture as a symbolic number referring to completeness. And the thousand-years reign in Christ in Revelation 20 is an image of the completeness and completion of all that God had planned to accomplish through Christ. And it is saying that Christ will bring his plans and his purposes to completion, according to his own time schedule. The emphasis here is upon completion and completeness. And so the thousand-year reign of Christ and of his people is really his work of carrying out the divine purposes. A work which he graciously shares with his church. And which he does through his people. The Old Testament promises about the messianic kingdom are fulfilled not in some future reign of the Jews, which is to be set up in the future but, rather, these promises are fulfilled in the Christian church. And we take that into account in identifying what the kingdom of Christ is. What the reign of Christ with his people is. The millennial period is the period of the church in which we are living right now. And in this millennial period Satan is bound, according to Revelation 20. That is to say he is bound in victories that are won by the church over the kingdom of darkness. Satan's kingdom. And also, during this time of the millennium that we are now experiencing, there occurs the career of anti-Christ. The counter Christ of the last times. And here we point out that there are both Protestant and Roman Catholic amillennialists. And many of the Protestants identify the anti-Christ with the Roman Catholic papacy. Of course, the Roman Catholic amillennialists don't make that identification. But identify the counter Christ with other figures of history and so forth. And then there is the first resurrection in Revelation 20. There it says that there will be a resurrection of those people who will reign with Christ. The amillennialists take this to be a figurative resurrection. That is it is an image -- this resurrection described here is an image of a spiritual reality. And then the little season of Satan, which is also described in Revelation 20 is taken to refer to increasing demonic activity and hostility to the church that appears near the end of history. That is toward the end of the period of the church, which is what the millennial reign is taken to be by amillennialists. And then there is the Battle of Armageddon described in Revelation 16 and also Revelation 19. That is the end time conflict of God and the forces of evil. It's the final conflict of that ongoing war which is described in Scripture with military images. Since the beginning of the church there has been such a war going on between Christ and his enemies, his spiritual enemies. And the Battle of Armageddon will be the final conflict of that war. Here we think of passages with military imagery like Ephesians 6 for example which says: Put on the whole armor of God in order that we might fight against the firey darks it of the wicked one and so forth. And the vision of the Battle of Armageddon should not be interpreted literally any more than the other vision details of the revelation. Like the locusts and the chains and the lamp stands and the bulls of wrath and the beasts of the sea and the woman clothed with the sun and the moon and so forth. And then amillennialism says at the end of this period will become the visible second advent of Christ. And the general resurrection will be a real physical resurrection of all people. And the last judgement will then take place. Revelation 20 speaks of a reign with Christ. And in thinking about what this reign actually is, we should look to what the book of Revelation says here. Namely, that these are priests who reign with Christ. They are kings and priests. They share a kingdom and a priesthood with Christ. And the reign of Christians with Christ and the royal priesthood that they share with him are really in operation right now. We do not have to wait for them to be set up in some future time. Ephesians 1 speaks about this. That is Ephesians 1:20 describes the exaltation of Jesus when it says: God has set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. And then in the next chapter, Chapter 2, he says: He has made us to sit together with him -- that is with Christ Jesus -- in heavenly places. And furthermore, we are now priests with him, according to I Peter 2:5 and 9 which speak of a spiritual priesthood which we have and then also speaks of the church as a royal priesthood. And then in the book of Revelation itself in Revelation 1:6 it is said that Christ has made us a kingdom. That is there is an activity of reigning which the King shares with his people. And he has made us priests. And therefore, when Revelation 20 in the vision of the millennium refers to kings and priests who reign with Christ, that's referring to a present reality that's going on right now. There are two different interpretations of this symbolism of a thousand years among the amillennialists, who are agreed, indeed, that there is symbolism involved here in the vision of the thousand-years reign. But one version is more comprehensive and says that the millennial image refers to reining with Christ in the church's life and work on earth and in heaven after death. And then the second version is more restrictive as to what the millennium actually includes and says that the millennium includes only the life of the church after death. That is to say Christians will die and then go to share with Christ in reigning with him in his kingdom. The more common interpretation among amillennialists is the first one. And I believe that is better supported by Scripture on the basis of things that I've said already. Satan is bound during the millennial period. Scripture says that in Revelation 20. And here again, the amillennialists do not think that this should be taken in the exact sense, meaning the proper or literal sense. But rather, it should be taken in more of a spiritual sense to refer to the victories which the church gains over Satan and his kingdom in its work. Especially its mission work. So Satan is bound according to this so he might deceive the nations for longer. And this means that Christ has decisively hindered and restrained Satan in his attempt to lead the whole world astray. He cannot do that now that Christ has come. And so Satan is bound in relationship to what he would do if Christ had not come. And so Christ keeps the devil on a chain, so to speak. And controls and restrains his malignity and the power of Satan to bring rule to the whole human race was decisively curtailed by what Christ did. Now, of course it is still true that the devil certainly does horrible, destructive work in the world right now. But his menace is not the same as what it would be without Christ. That is to say if Christ had never come. We think of this fact in certain hymns that we sing like, for example, in the hymn about the "Mighty Fortress" talking about the devil. He can harm us none. He's judged. The deed is done. His rage we can endure. For lo, his doom is sure. To give one translation of a "Mighty Fortress." Or there's the epiphany hymn which says: Jesus has come as the mighty redeemer. See now the threatening strong one disarmed. That's the devil. Jesus breaks down all the walls of death's fortress. Bring forth the prisoners triumphant unharmed. Satan, you wicked one, own now your master. Jesus has come, he the mighty redeemer. This is a present reality that we are speaking of here. Then on the matter of the resurrection, I had mentioned before that amillennialists take that first resurrection referred to in Revelation 20 of those who are to reign with Christ not in a physical sense, a literal sense of a physical resurrection. Not in that proper exact sense. But rather, in a figurative sense. And this is because according to Scripture, there is to be not two resurrections a thousand years apart but rather just one resurrection. And I pointed out at an earlier time why we say this. The words of Jesus in John 6:40 make it clear that there will be one resurrection. The believer in Jesus will not be raised up a thousand years before the last day. But Jesus says: I will raise him up at the last day. There's one resurrection of all people. Believers and unbelievers. Just and unjust. Therefore, it has to be that the first resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20 is not the physical resurrection to come at the last judgement. But rather, it is figuratively meant. Amillennialists defer somewhat as to exactly what the symbolism of that first resurrection does refer to. Some amillennialists say that the first resurrection is an image of regeneration. And there certainly are a number of passages in Scripture in which regeneration is described by the image of resurrection. For example, Ephesians 2 in the beginning verses which say that the Christians were dead in trespasses and sins. Now have been raised with Christ with a spiritual resurrection. That's regeneration. Then there's the other point of view among amillennialists in which this first resurrection is simply identified with the rising of Christian souls into heaven after death. But that appears to be a much more unlikely interpretation. Then, also, amillennialists do not take literally the description in Revelation 20 which refers to two comings of Christ. One to set up the millennium. And then another one at the end of the millennium to hold the final judgement. The great white throne judgement. Because if we compare this with what clear passages of Scripture teach elsewhere, we see there's in fact only one return of Christ to be expected. This is spoken of in Hebrews 9:28: He shall appear the second time without sin unto salvation. And then also you asked whether this amillennialism, this symbolic interpretation of the eschatological visions can actually be taken too far. Indeed, it can. There is a version of amillennialism which is called Preterism. And that does go too far in applying all of this figurative interpretation to the eschatological prophesies. That is to say Preterism takes the basic amillennial rejection of a political reign of Christ, which all the amillennialists accept, and then extends that to a rejection of any expectation of the second coming at all. Saying that the second coming of Christ has occurred already. In other words, the second coming of Christ itself is said to be already past. And that's where the name of this idea comes from. It comes from the Latin word preter, which means past. And it is saying that the second coming of Christ is past. It's not a literal event as described in Scripture. But rather, it's something in the past which has come about in some way that we understand symbolically or figuratively. So Revelation as a book is said by this point of view to be no more than a book of symbols of the church's conflict with the Jews and with pagan Rome in the First Century. The thousand-years reign according to this was the life of Christ's church reigning with him until the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And so Jesus' second coming then was not a literal event which we are still to look forward to. But rather, it was his action to punish the unbelieving Jews at that time in 70 AD. So that's certainly a figurative interpretation of the second coming of Christ. And this is often called 70 ADism. That's another term for Preterism. And this view says that Christ continues to be present in Christianity and the work of the church. And that this will go on indefinitely. He will have no other coming. There will never be a second coming of Christ in the future. There will never be a literal resurrection of the physical body. But rather, the resurrection of the body is completely spiritual. What we say about the first resurrection, that it was regeneration, that it was a spiritual resurrection, they say that that is what all prophesies of the resurrection are referring to. That is the spiritual experience of regeneration. So then, according to this, we then will never have a resurrection of our bodies. But after death, we will continue to live in some spiritual body with the Lord. Now, this idea, Preterism, is based mainly upon passages of Scripture that speak of Christ as coming soon. Coming quickly. And there are many passages of that type. These passages should actually be understood as referring to a quickness as seen from God's perspective, not as seen from the perspective of men who are waiting for this to happen. Often impatiently. God, we remember, is not in time at all. But he is outside of time. He inhabits eternity. God has set a date in time for the second coming of Christ and for Judgement Day, as Paul says in his sermon on Mars hill in Acts 17:31, he has appointed a day on which he will judge the world. But his Word to us is emphasizing that the return of Christ is the next great event to come in the plan of redemption. Christ was born, suffered, died, rose again, ascended into heaven, sits on the right hand of God. And the next thing to happen will be the return for judgement. And we are now living in the interval between these two phrases of the creed. And we tend to forget that. But the Word of God reminds us of it. And that's the reason for the use of the word soon and quickly and at hand and so forth. The vast majority of amillennialists and in fact the vast majority of all Christians is that the Preterists have not done justice to the prophesies of Christ's coming. They have not seen the full scope of what is portrayed in them. Look at I Peter 3:10, which says that: The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise. And the elements shall melt with fervent heat. The earth, also, and the works that are therein shall be burned up. And clearly nothing like that has happened yet.