Amillenialism (Amil’s) has been roughly marginalized in the modern evangelical church. So much of Evangelicalism is influenced by America, which since the First World War has been dominated by Dispensationalism (if these labels mean nothing to you, don’t worry, keep reading, and you will pick it up).
There are different groups in Chrisendom who are trying to understand what the Bible says about the end times (Eschatology). All these groups approach this debate with their own presuppositions, which if not identified can lead to some pretty fruitless discussion. Having grown up on Dispensationalism and having changed my position almost two years ago, I want to constantly be growing and reforming.
It is with this in mind that I write this post, today dealing with the top three questions that come up in those fun chats I have with my dispensationalist brothers. (Note: Most of my work is a rehash of others who have gone before me, particularly Riddelbarger[i])
Allow me to just share some of the different views. Within Reformed Christianity, there are three major views on this phrase. Note that all agree that Paul does not speak of an earthly millennium in this important passage in which he directly addresses the future course of this age.
a). Some argue that “all Israel” refers to the full number of the elect (Calvin, Irons, O. P. Robertson)
b). Some argue that the phrase “all Israel” refers to the sum total of the believing remnant (Robert Strimple, O. P. Robertson’s earlier position, Anthony Hoekema)
c). Others argue that the phrase refers to a conversion of the Jews at end of the age (Beza, Vos, Venema, Riddlebarger)
I think all views are sustainable from the text, but I lean towards the third option.
2. Do Amill’s believe in replacement Theology?
No, Amills do not believe in Replacement Theology, in fact I have never read an Amill using that term to describe his/her position. The only people who use that phrase are Dispensationalists.
Saying that Amillenials believe in replacement theology only serves to prove that you have not understood their view (I mean that in all kindness). It would be like saying that adopted children replace the biological childen that a family already has.
Amil’s believe in fulfilment theology if anything, or perhaps expansionist theology. That is that the people of God are all those who had faith in the promise of God from Adam, to the last of the elect before Christ’s return.
The scene described in Revelation 20 only makes sense in light of biblical imagery (especially that from the Old Testament). So let’s follow the course of redemptive history to grasp what John means.
Satan was active in the Fall, and as we see in the early chapters of Genesis, swiftly deceived the world. Remember Enoch’s place (cf. Genesis 4:17)? How about Babel and Ninevah? What about Babylon? Egypt? The Assyrians? The Moabites? These are nations who fell under Satan’s influence and brought together their resources against God’s people. After that, there’s the mass apostasy among the Israelites, both in both the wilderness and the promised land. The Jews never fulfilled the commission given them in Isaiah 49:6, “I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Because of unbelief Israel was repeatedly subject to godless Gentile nations and taken into captivity. We could go on, but I think the point is clear.
Jump ahead to the New Testament. When Jesus arrived on the scene, his public ministry did not begin until he had first overcome Satan in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). As we all know, Jesus messianic mission appeared completely destroyed on Good Friday, but by Easter Sunday, it was clear that Satan’s “victory” was actually a total defeat. Jesus now becomes the light to the nations and the true Israel. He fulfils that mission which both Adam and Israel failed at. Indeed, the gospel message “binds” the Devil and all his works. God’s people are commanded to make disciples of “all nations” (Matthew 28:19), and told that this gospel must be preached as a witness to “all nations” (Matthew 24:14). Not only will Jesus be with his people until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20), but the gates of Hell will not prevail against Christ’s church (Matthew 16:18). This is how we must understand the meaning of Satan being presently bound. It is a reference to the success of the gospel.
Therefore, the presence of evil and unbelief in the present age does not mean that Satan is not yet bound. It is the inevitable success of the missionary enterprise which is the proof. Under the present circumstances Satan cannot use empires and nations to completely stop the mission of church. He may make attempts. However how long did Hitler’s thousand year Reich last? Contemporary situations, (i.e. the People’s Republic of China which seeks do this), serve as a great illustration. Many thousands become Christians every day in China, despite the efforts of the government to stamp out Christianity! Remember, the biblical writers are not millennarians. The kingdom can grow and thrive all the while things appear to be getting worse (cf. Revelation 11 and the account of the two witnesses). Kingdom success does mean the spread of the gospel and the effectual call of all of God’s elect–a multitude so vast they cannot be counted. In some cases, there is a corresponding effect upon the culture. In some cases there is not.
Remember too that according to John, Satan will be released for a short time before the end, when he will be allowed to deceive the nations for one brief last period in an organized political, economic, and military sense against the church (Revelation 20:7-10). But until then, he is bound and cannot deceive the nations. The gospel will go to the ends of the earth! While Satan rages like a wounded animal, he does so because he knows his time is short (1 Peter 5:8 with Revelation 12:12).
Therefore, the answer to your conundrum is to be found in what is meant by “deceive the nations.” When viewed against the backdrop of redemptive history, it is clear that this is tied to the missionary enterprise, and the success of that mission is clearly what is in view (not the absence of all evil and unbelief).
If you have any questions you would like me to cover, leave them in the comments, and in the near future (literally) I will do a follow up post and try deal with them as best as I can.
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another
– Proverbs 27:17