Question: "What is amillennialism?"
Answer: Please note, as a ministry, GotQuestions.org rejects amillennialism. We truly and fully believe in premillennialism, that Christ will return to establish His kingdom, over which He will reign for 1,000 years. However, we believe that amillennialism is a valid viewpoint that a Christian can hold. In no sense is amillennialism heresy and in no sense should amillennialists be shunned as not being brothers and sisters in Christ. We thought it would be worthwhile to have an article that positively presents amillennialism, as it is always good for our viewpoints to be challenged, motivating us to further search the Scriptures to make sure our beliefs are biblically sound.
Amillennialism is one of four views of the end times regarding the 1,000-year reign of Christ. Each of the four views differs in the placement, or the timing, of the 1,000-year reign mentioned in Revelation 20.
An amillennialist sees the 1,000 years as spiritual and non-literal, as opposed to a physical understanding of history. Although the prefix a- would typically signify a negation of a word, the amil position sees the millennium as “realized,” or better explained as “millennium now.” To simplify, amillennialism sees the first coming of Christ as the inauguration of the kingdom, and His return as the consummation of the kingdom. John’s mention of 1,000 years thus points to all things that would happen in the church age.
The amil position sees the book of Revelation as having numerous “camera angle” approaches. For instance, chapter 19 ends with Christ returning to destroy His enemies, making chapter 20 difficult to understand in that enemies arise to attack Him again (what enemies are these, if they’ve already been destroyed?). However, if we see chapter 20 as a different “angle” for the end of the age, then the 1,000-year reign isn’t necessarily physical/earthly history, but symbolic. It speaks of the spiritual realm. John is giving a “replay” of what he saw.
Scripture uses the number 1,000 many times as a generic term to mean “immensity,” “fullness of quantity,” or “multitude” (e.g., Psalm 84:10; Job 9:3; 1 Chronicles 16:15). With the repeated symbolic use of 1,000, it is difficult to see its use in Revelation as literal, especially in a book as heavily symbolic as Revelation is.
There are many arguments against the amillennial position, but they can be refuted through exegesis of Scripture. Careful hermeneutics (the study of the principles of interpretation), proves the amil position has legitimacy. Most passages of Scripture used to try to refute the position actually make it more viable, based on the words of our Lord Himself: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). In light of the words of our Savior, prophetic passages like Daniel 7 and Jeremiah 23 are to be understood as fulfilled in Christ Jesus and His first coming, especially since all of the prophets are talking about the coming Messiah in the first place.
Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies concerning Him, including, for example, the prophecy that Christ’s feet will touch the Mount of Olives prior to the establishment of His kingdom (Zechariah 14). This was clearly fulfilled in Matthew 24 when Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to teach what is known as the Olivet Discourse.
In amillennialism, the “1,000 years” is happening right now. Christ’s work in this world—His life, death, resurrection, and ascension—greatly hindered the works of Satan so that the message of the gospel could leave Israel and go out to the ends of the earth, just as it has done. The 1,000 years spoken of in Revelation 20, in which Satan is “bound,” is figurative and fulfilled in a spiritual sense. Satan is “bound” in that he is restricted from implementing all his plans. He can still perform evil, but he cannot deceive the nations until the final battle. Once the “1,000 years” are over, Satan is released to practice his deception for a little while before the return of Christ.
When we study the Olivet Discourse, along with the accounts of the “Day of the Lord” in 2 Peter 3 and 1 Thessalonians 4, we see that the return of our Lord comes quickly, visibly, and with the sound of a trumpet. In other words, all alive at that time will experience the return of our Lord, and then will come the end. There is no mention in these texts about a literal 1,000-year earthly reign. Rather, Christ’s return is heard, seen, and realized. In fact, the apostle Peter says that, at the Day of the Lord, the heavens and earth will be burned up and the new heavens and new earth will be created. This leaves no room for a supposed physical and earthly kingdom lasting a literal 1,000 years.
The amillennial view, along with premillennialism, is one of the oldest in church history, being held since the first century. In the 5th century, Augustine settled on the amillennial view as his understanding of eschatology. Additionally, amillennialism was the primary view of most of the Reformers in the 16th century.