Friday, July 21, 2006
"What's a Thousand Years Among Friends?"
Kim Riddlebarger has written a lot of good material on the end times, and yesterday he posted an introductory defense of amillenialism over premillenialism: "What's a Thousand Years Among Friends?" Here is how he begins:
Without a doubt, most American evangelicals are firmly committed to premillennialism–the belief that an earthly millennial age of one thousand year’s duration will begin immediately after our Lord Jesus Christ’s Second Advent. Since premillennialism is so dominant in American church circles, many who encounter Reformed theology for the first time are quite surprised when they discover that all of the Protestant Reformers, as well as virtually the entire Reformed and Lutheran traditions (along with their confessions), with a few notable exceptions, are amillennial. Amillennialism is that understanding of eschatology which sees the millennium as the present course of history between the first and second Advents of our Lord (the age of the church militant), and not as a future golden age upon the earth as is taught in premillennialism and postmillennialism. In the case of both "pre" and "post" millennialism, the millennium is thought to be the age of the church triumphant, not the age of the church militant.
I am convinced that the reason why so many people reject amillennialism is simply that they do not understand the basic end-times scenario taught throughout the New Testament. Part of the problem is that dispensational premillennial writers have completely dominated Christian media and publishing for the last fifty years. There are literally hundreds of books, churches, and parachurch ministries, all devoted to taking premillennialism, dispensationalism, and the so-called "pre-tribulation" rapture idea to the masses. Many of these teachers and ministries are very effective and compelling in their presentations. Look at the sales of Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, which was the best-selling book in the USA in the 1980's. And then there is the Left Behind series of novels, and the accompanying videos, journals, games, and whatever else LaHaye and Jenkins have cranked out, which have cumulatively sold well over 50 million units.
I can only lament the fact that my own tradition has done so little to produce popular books introducing and defending amillennialism. It is my guess that a number of you have never heard the case for the classical position held by Reformed Christians regarding the return of Christ and the millennial age.