What Difference Does It Make?
By Jonathan C. Brentner
During the past year, I have written many articles defending my belief in premillennialism, which is the belief that Jesus will return to earth after a literal seven year tribulation, destroy the armies arrayed against Jerusalem, and rule the world for a thousand years seated on the throne of David.
At this point you may be asking, “What difference does it make?” After all, many pastors who deny these things preach the Gospel and expound the Word with great conviction. Does it really matter if they deny Israel’s place in future biblical prophecy or regard the book of Revelation as having little relevance for us today apart from the final two chapters?
Yes, it absolutely matters.
Never before have the perils of this teaching, referred to as amillennialism, been so potentially harmful to the saints. Below, I list six extreme dangers of replacing Israel with the church.
1. Negates Biblical Watchfulness
The New Testament teaches the imminency of Jesus’ appearing. The Lord told us to always be ready and watching for His return (Matt. 24:42-44, 25:13). The apostle Paul repeatedly referred to his converts as eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return as though it could happen at any moment (1 Thess. 1:9-10; Phil. 3;20-21; 1 Cor. 1:7; Titus 2:11-14). James pictures Jesus as standing at the door, ready to return (James 5:8-10).
If one hears someone teach that the Lord will not return until the beginning of the eternal state as amillennialists believe, does that not take away any sense of biblical imminency? Of course it does. Some amillennialists say that Jesus could return at any moment, but their teaching denies its reality.
If we believe Jesus will not return until the beginning of the eternal state, it instantly becomes a far distant reality for us that is anything but imminent.
2. Replaces Eternal Expectations with Temporal Aspirations
If the amillennial view of Jesus’ return to earth is true, it becomes more than a little difficult to maintain the perspective Paul wrote about in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
I am not denying that for some, it’s possible to maintain such a two-world perspective without believing in the imminency of Jesus’ appearing. However, I could not maintain such an outlook apart from seeing Jesus’ return as imminent. It’s difficult for me to do so at times enough even with my strong convictions regarding His soon return.
Once Christ’s return becomes a far distant reality, our hopes soon shift to our aspirations for this life, to our retirement years, and to our desire for a peaceful world for our great grandchildren to enjoy. If in the back of our minds we view our blessed hope as a far distant reality, we replace our anticipation of eternity with temporary earthbound desires. Why wouldn’t we? I would.
3. Blinds Believers to the Signs of the Times
Because amillennialism teaches that either Jesus or the church fulfills all the covenants and prophecies of the Old Testament regarding Israel, it removes her place in God’s prophetic program. In other words, the miraculous rebirth of Israel and God’s supernatural protection of her during the past seventy-one years are just flukes with no bearing on prophecy or our future.
Amillennialists dismiss Jesus’ list of signs in Matthew 24:3-28 as either allegory or something true in the past. Since they subject almost all future biblical prophecy to allegory, their teaching effectively blinds the eyes of believers to the abundant signs of the approaching tribulation and Jesus’ return.
Jesus scolded the Pharisees for not recognizing the signs of His first coming (Matt. 16:1-4). Does He not expect His followers today to recognize the abundance of signs that we live in the last days? Absolutely!
4. Sees No Prophetic Significance in a World about to Explode
Since amillennialists do not recognize the current signs of the day in which we live, they remain blind to the prophetic significance that our world seems ready to explode at any moment. “The world has experience turbulent and evil times like these in the past,” they say, “this is no different from any other previous time in history.”
A quick look at our world reveals a much different picture.
The recent escalation of tensions between the United States and Iran is just one of several hotspots that could easily escalate into a nuclear war with the loss of millions of lives. Iran repeatedly warns of its intention to destroy Israel in the near future. A devastating worldwide economic meltdown looms as a distinct possibility especially with the natural disasters now occurring and those predicted for the near future.
Jesus gave a particularly strong warning for those He sets in charge of His people: He requires that they provide nourishment that fits with the season (Luke 12:41-48). This is the time, like no other, to proclaim the future tense of the Gospel that calls believers to watchfulness and the lost to Christ!
5. Diminishes the Future Glory of Jesus
Next month, the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) will vote on a motion that would replace “the premillennial return of Jesus” with “the glorious return of Jesus” in their statement of faith. I believe this is a huge mistake for many reasons and ironically by inserting the word “glorious” in place of “premillennial,” they actually diminish the future glory of Jesus! Let me explain.
The book of Revelation views the Second Coming as the glorious return of a King and Conqueror to defeat the armies of the world, destroy the antichrist, and establish His rule over the nations. This spectacular show of great power and glory culminates in judgment, the raising of the dead, Jesus setting up His rule over the nations of the world precisely as the Father promises His Son in Psalm 2.
The amillennial picture of Jesus’ return is not only boring and unbiblical, it subtracts from Jesus’ future glory. Christ no longer returns as a mighty Conqueror and Judge to establish His sovereign rule over the nations, but as One wrapping up things in the world ahead of the eternal state (yawn). I think the amillennial view is far less glorious than what the book of Revelation teaches.
6. Opens the Door to Heresy
Amillennialism opens the door wide open to heresy. It has done so in the history of the church and does so today.
If one regards the events of Revelation 6-20:10 as allegory that does not represent a future time of tribulation or Jesus’ thousand year rule on earth, then what is to prevent characterizing the last two chapters in the same way. Indeed, many do exactly that today.
Some teach Jesus returned to earth in AD 70 and fulfilled all future prophecy. Others teach that the church will convert the entire world to Christ and usher in God’s rule on earth with Jesus returning at the end to view its kingdom. Some commentators blatantly state that the book of Revelation offers nothing for believers of this day.
All these false teachings started with amillennial beliefs and later extended its non-literal approach to Scripture to more and more passages.
So what difference does it make if someone preaches amillennialism? Such teaching blinds people to what God is currently doing in our world, focuses undue attention on the temporal things of this life, offers no encouragement to watch for Jesus’ return, and make more Scripture vulnerable to allegorical interpretations thus opening the door to heresy in the church.
We desperately need preachers who recognize the signs that we live in the last days of human history as we know it, who teach believers to watch for Jesus’ soon appearing, and who encourage their listeners to be ready for Jesus’ soon appearing.
This is the time to be watching for Jesus’ imminent appearing. This is not the time to lull the faithful to sleep by ignoring the signs that flash like giant billboards before our eyes.
The time has long, long past to overlook the prophetic significance Israel’s miraculous rebirth and scoff at those who say Jesus is coming soon!
Maranatha my brothers and sisters in Christ!