What is Amillennialism?
By Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.
Amillennialism is a theological view concerning the 1000-year reign of Jesus Christ that is mentioned in Revelation 20:1–6. In particular, Amillennialism is the perspective that there will not be a future literal 1000-year reign of Christ upon the earth. The inseparable Latin prefix a means “no” and the term “millennium” is Latin for “1000 years.” Thus, Amillennialism literally means “no 1000 years.”
It should be noted that the term Amillennialism is a reactionary title in that it denies the presence of a future literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth that premillennialists affirm. However, Amillennialists do in fact believe in a millennium; what they reject, though, is the idea of a future literal 1000-year reign of Christ on earth after the second coming of Christ.
According to Amillennialism, the millennium of Revelation 20:1–6 is being fulfilled spiritually in the present age before the return of Jesus Christ. Thus, the millennium or kingdom of Christ is in existence now. Amillennialists affirm that the millennium began with the resurrection and/or ascension of Christ and will be consummated when Jesus returns again to establish the Eternal Kingdom that is discussed in Revelation 21–22.
For amillennialists, Satan is presently bound and Christians are now enjoying the benefits of the millennium. Some amillennialists claim that the millennium also involves the reigning of saints who are now in heaven. Amillennialists claim that the 1000-year period that is mentioned in Revelation 20:1–6 refers to a long indefinite period of time between the two comings of Christ and is not a literal 1000- year period that occurs after Jesus’ return. Because amillennialists believe Christ is currently reigning in the millennium, some, like Jay Adams, believe the title “Realized Millennialism” is a more appropriate title than “Amillennialism.”
In regard to the end times, Amillennialism affirms the following chronological scenario:
- Christ is now ruling in His kingdom while Satan is bound from deceiving the nations.
- Tribulation is experienced in the present age even though Christ is ruling.
- Jesus will return again to earth.
- After Jesus returns there will be a general bodily resurrection of all the righteous people and a general judgment of all unbelievers.
- The Eternal Kingdom will begin.
Amillennialism in History
Premillennialism, not Amillennialism, was the predominant view in the first 300 years of church history. However, the early church did evidence hints of what later would become Amillennialism. For example, Origen (185-254) popularized the allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture, and in doing so, laid a hermeneutical basis for the view that the promised kingdom of Christ was spiritual and not earthly in nature. Eusebius (270-340), an associate of the emperor Constantine, viewed Constantine’s reign as the Messianic banquet, and he held to anti-premillennial views. Tyconius, an African Donatist of the fourth century, was one of the earliest theologians to challenge Premillennialism. He rejected the eschatological and futuristic view of Revelation 20. Instead, he said that the millennium was being fulfilled in the present age and that the 1000 years mentioned was not a literal 1000 years. Tyconius also viewed the first resurrection of Revelation 20:4 as a spiritual resurrection which was the new birth.
Augustine (354-430), who is often referred to as the ‘Father of Amillennialism,’ popularized the views of Tyconius. Augustine abandoned Premillennialism because of what he considered to be the excesses and carnalities of this view. He also interpreted Mark 3:27 to be a present binding of Satan. Augustine was the first to identify the Catholic Church in its visible form with the kingdom of God. For him, the millennial rule of Christ was taking place in and through the church, including its sacraments and offices. His book, City of God, was significant in the promotion and acceptance of Amillennialism.
Augustine’s Amillennialism quickly became the accepted view of the church. It became so accepted that the Council of Ephesus (431) condemned the premillennial view as superstitious. Amillennialism soon became the prevailing doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church and was later adopted by most of the Protestant Reformers including Martin Luther and John Calvin (some Anabaptists held to Premillennialism).
While Premillennialism has experienced a great resurgence in the last 200 hundred years, Amillennialism is widely held by many Christian denominations. It is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church and is held by many Lutherans and those in the Reformed tradition.
Specific proponents of Amillennialism include B.B. Warfield, Oswald T. Allis, and more recently this view has been defended by Anthony A. Hoekema and Robert B. Strimple.