Millennium in the Old Testament: Reckless Spiritualization
By Dr. David R. Reagan
The Amillennial viewpoint of end time Bible prophecy is the majority view within the Church today — held by both the Catholic church and most mainline Protestant denominations.
Amillennialists are those who believe that Jesus is currently reigning over all the world from Heaven through the Church. They therefore believe that we are in the Millennium now — that it began at the Cross and will continue until the Second Coming. They do not believe that Jesus will ever return to this earth to reign from Jerusalem.
To sustain their viewpoint, Amillennialists must spiritualize most end time prophecies, arguing that they do not mean what they say. Thus, for example, they dismiss the fact that in Revelation 20 we are told six times that the Millennium will last 1,000 years. Amillennialists reject the thousand years as being "figurative in nature," meaning only a long period of time.
One interesting thing I have noticed over the years about Amillennialists is that they have little or no knowledge of the end time prophecies contained in the Hebrew Scriptures. Most Amillennialists I have encountered believe that the only place in the Bible that the Millennium is mentioned is Revelation 20.
A Personal Experience
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. Several years ago I was invited to make a presentation to a very large Christian convention. Specifically, I was asked to speak on the topic, "Why I Believe Jesus Will Return to Reign on the Earth."
I was told I would have 30 minutes to make the presentation. When I asked why I was being allotted such a short period of time, I was told, "It's because there is going to be another speaker who will tell why he does not believe there will be a future reign of Jesus on the earth. Each of you will speak 30 minutes, and then there will be 30 minutes for questions and answers."
I accepted the invitation. The other speaker turned out to be a distinguished professor of theology from a Bible College.
I knew my audience would be made up of people who believed that a future reign of Jesus on this earth is mentioned only one place in the Bible — in Revelation 20. So, I decided to spend all my time talking about one passage in the Old Testament — the prophecy contained in Zechariah 14:1-9.
This prophecy states that a day will come when Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemy forces. Half the city will fall, and then the Lord will return to the Mount of Olives. When His feet touch the mountain, it will split in half, and the Jewish remnant will flee from the city and hide in the cleavage of the mountain. The Lord will then speak a supernatural word, and all the enemy forces will be instantly destroyed. And at that point, "...the Lord will be king over all the earth" (verse 9).
The other speaker, who followed me, totally ignored my presentation. He read an academic paper based on the opinions of theologians and not the Scriptures.
When the time came for questions, the other speaker was asked, "What is your explanation of Zechariah 14:1-9?" His exact words in response were, "I have no idea what that passage means, but I can assure you that it has been fulfilled somewhere at sometime."
A Strange Doctrine
I was not surprised by his bizarre response because I had grown up among the churches which were hosting the conference, and I was very familiar with their attitude about Old Testament prophecies.
In their attempt to defend their Amillennial viewpoint, they had developed a doctrine which stated that "all Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled." To justify that assertion, they always pointed to the words of Jesus recorded in Luke 24:44 —
These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.
The problem with using this passage to justify their dismissal of Old Testament prophecy is that it does not say that all Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. It says they must be fulfilled. The First Coming prophecies have been fulfilled. The Second Coming prophecies are yet to be fulfilled, and Zechariah 14:1-9 is one of those prophecies.
At least my opponent did not spiritualize the passage, as most Amillennialists do. Take, for example, the 20th Century theologian Lorraine Bettner. In his book, The Millennium, he argued that the Mount of Olives is a symbol of the human heart. The enemy forces are a symbol of the evil in the world attacking the heart. When a person receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, He comes into their heart, causing the heart to split in repentance. He then defeats all the enemy forces and begins to reign over that person's heart.
This, of course, is an utterly ridiculous interpretation of this passage, but it represents the kind of games that Amillennialists have to play with the Scriptures in order to sustain their position.
In summary, Amillennialists either ignore the Old Testament passages about the Second Coming and the Millennium, or they spiritualize them, or they argue they have already been fulfilled.
A Major Spiritual Problem
But the bottom line is that most Amillennialists simply do not know the Old Testament Scriptures, and this is a major problem in the Church today because it affects not only prophecy but all doctrine.
I grew up in what was called a "New Testament Church." We focused all our Bible study on the New Testament because we were taught that the Old Testament had been "nailed to the Cross" and was therefore no longer valid. Most of us did not own a complete Bible. When we went to a Bible study, we took our New Testaments.
The idea that the Old Testament had been "nailed to the Cross," and was no longer relevant was based on a statement in Colossians 2:14 which reads, "...having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the Cross." This verse is speaking of a "certificate of debt," not the Old Testament. It is talking about the debt we owed God for our sins. By taking our sins upon Himself, Jesus, who was sinless, paid our debt through His crucifixion (1 Peter 2:24).
In the next part of this series on the Millennium in the Old Testament, we'll look at why the Old Testament is vitally relevant for the Church today and our understanding of Bible prophecy.