There are theological stances that are worth making standards of faith. Increasingly, one’s view of the “millennium” is becoming one of the stances that schools, seminaries, universities, and church bodies are making a standard of faith. I cannot emphasize this enough: this is a terrible mistake.
When I was getting my graduate degree, I signed off on a doctrinal statement with reservations for the school I was attending. That statement, at the time, allowed one to disagree with the school’s position (premillennial dispensationalism) so long as they were willing to learn about that position. I was and am Lutheran and hadn’t learned much about any endtimes position, so was perfectly willing to agree to learn about their own teachings on the topic. That school’s statement of faith has hardened on eschatology, to the point where it now seems to imply that their own particular brand of premillennialism is one of those make or break, in or out views related to sound Christian teaching. It’s not.
One thing that immediately struck me as I was learning about the eschatological position of millenarianism more generally (reading some multiple view books, for example, to try to understand the different positions) was that the supposed plain and simple reading of the text I was told led to premillennial dispensationalism strangely yielded an untold number of divergent charts, timelines, and theories about exactly how it would all play out. One author was absolutely certain some events would happen in a seven day period, while another would say it would take place over 7 years, and another would have a timeline showing how the 7 days were correct but that they were not consecutive days. It was bewildering, coming from an outside perspective, trying to even understand the basics of why anyone would hold to such a view. Surely, if one’s view of eschatology and even the timeline of events of Revelation (usually borrowing selectively from parts of the Old Testament to bolster one’s case) is the clear reading of Scripture that anyone who was being honest about the Bible should come to, it shouldn’t be the case that basically every single adherent of the position would have slight or major differences in something as simple as when a major event should occur.
Of course, logically, divergence of opinion does not necessarily entail that a position is wrong or unclear. However, on the face of it, if someone makes a claim that something is clear and simple, and all the evidence at hand suggests that virtually no one can come to agreement on what this clear and simple fact means, then there seems to be very good reason to doubt that the initial claim of clarity is correct. And this, in part, is why I think we need to say “Down with milllenarianism.” Look, I have no problem with someone who wants to read about rapture theories or make some extensive timeline in which they splice a verse from Daniel into a prediction from Isaiah in order to clarify what sort of military hardware might exist in the endtimes. Go for it! But the problem is when people insist that everyone else must also do the same or else they’re rejecting God’s Word–that’s when it needs to be cut off (if not before). Here are some reasons I think we ought to be extremely skeptical of basically any form of millenarianism.
I think I could probably continue this list for quite a while, and each of these points will probably be endlessly debated, but this is the core of my objection. Millenarianism is divisive, a poor reading of Scripture, and suspect given its theological history.
I’ve written before about how I’m reconstructing faith. For me, a complete rejection of millenarianism is part of that. It is important to take God’s word seriously, and I think it’s time to take it seriously enough to reject the poor readings that most forms of millenarianism require. Insisting on reading the Bible in a way that it was never intended is to do damage to the word of God.
Reconstructing Faith– Read other posts as I search for truth and navigate the messiness that is faith.
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Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Does 1 Corinthians 15 teach a Millennial Gap?
Sam Storms’ Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative is a major work written in defense of amillennialism–the eschatological (end times) position that there is no 1000 year earthly reign of Christ but rather that the millennium is the church era (among other things). One argument premillennialists use to defend one aspect of their position is that 1 Corinthians 15:22-28. Because there is a gap between Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of believers, premillennial believers argue that there can also be a gap between the resurrection of Christ’s people and “the end” in verse 24.
Sam Storms analyzes this argument in extended fashion. Here’s a snippet of his discussion:
The premillennialist argues that the “end” [in verse 24] is the end or close of the millennial age, 1000 years after Christ has returned to earth. The amillennialist argues that the “end” is the end or close of the present church age… all one need do is demonstrate which of these two options is correct… So, does Paul tell us when death dies? …As I read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, the defeat of death occurs at the second coming of Christ… (145, cited below)
If it is the case that Christ’s second coming is indeed the “end,” then it follows that the premillennial interpretation is mistaken and indeed, Storms argues, the whole system mostly collapses on itself. Storms concludes that 1 Corinthians 15 cannot be used to support the notion of a millennial gap.
What do you think? Does 1 Corinthians allow for such a lengthy gap in between parts of the text? What eschatological position do you hold to? How damaging is this text–if at all–for various eschatological positions?
No matter what you think, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative is cogently argued and something that anyone interested in eschatology should own and read.
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Scotland: Mentor, 2013).
Each Week on Saturday, I’ll be asking a “Question of the Week.” I’d love your input and discussion! Ask a good question in the comments and it may show up as the next week’s question! I may answer the questions in the comments myself.
What’s Your View of “The Millennium”
There are few in-house debates which are as divided among Christians as issues related to eschatology. I’m curious as to what views my readers take on various eschatological themes, so I figured I’d ask! Before we ask the question, here’s a brief outline of different views about “The Millennium”:
[P]remillennialism… claims that the return of Christ precedes the millennium [as an actual 1000 year reign of Christ on Earth], postmillennialism… holds that Christ returns after the millennium… amillenialism.. holds that the millennium is not limited to a thousand years but includes the entire period of time between the first and second comings of Christ (Riddlebarger, 19, cited below)
There are seemingly endless permutations of how these different views may be hashed out, but I’m curious:
What is your view of the Millennium? Will it be a literal 1000 years, or is it some finite, but undetermined period of time? Will Christ come before or after it?
Eschatology– the study of the end times- is not something I’ve focused on much at this blog (though you may read what I have written by clicking on the word) for a few reasons. The most prominent is that I haven’t studied it much. This makes me curious: which view do you hold and why? Let me know in the comments.
Question of the Week– Check out other questions and give me some answers
Book Review: “Four Views on the Book of Revelation” (Zondervan Counterpoints Series)– I review a book which focuses upon Revelation–the book of the Bible which is most commonly associated with eschatology. Check it out for a survey of four views on how to read the book alongside various eschatological views.
Kim Riddlebarger, A Case for Amillenialism (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003).
– I chose this specific book because it featured a concise outline of the three most prominent views on the millennium.