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RDean/Daniel Lesson 9

Amillennialism – Daniel 2:31


I thought I would read a couple of excerpts from an editorial that I ran across, simply because it fits in with the subject matter in Daniel.  As we are going through Daniel we see that here you have a mature believer who is in the extreme minority and a pagan culture, pagan society, dominated by some of the most extreme forms of idolatry and fertility religion, astrology, astronomy, and occult teaching, and Daniel has gone through his own three intensive training course where the Babylonians have attempted to force him to think as the government wants him to think.  He's gone to all the state-sponsored schools and tax-supported schools.  I ran this editorial, I thought I'd read before we get to the point of confession because while I read it many of you are going to get out of fellowship. 


This is from Ann Coulter's column, June 14, 2001.  She begins, "This week the Supreme Court upheld the right of religious groups to participate in the beautiful mosaic of after school activities."  Now apparently there was a case before the court on this and it so aggravated a school in this state that when they discovered that they were going to have to allow for a five-day club by Child Evangelism Fellowship to be held at their elementary school, and this shows you what the real issues are here, there's a hatred of Christianity.  It is not just that they want something neutral, they hate Christianity and they hate it so much that what this school system decided to do was to do away with all after school extra curricular activities so they wouldn't have to let anyone come on campus and teach, oh horror of horrors, the Bible.  So that just shows you that we are engaged in a battle.


Anyway, she goes on to write regarding this decision, "Justice Clarence Thomas remarked on the oddity of having to reverse the same query twice," what had happened was the same lower court had made a decision against having after school Bible groups on campus back in the 70s and the Supreme Court reversed them, and this same court, I'm not sure which one it was, made the same decision, it had to be reversed again on the same issue.  So apparently there's a court out there that doesn't want any kind of Christianity anywhere close to schools at all. 


She goes on to say, "at least a six to three decision," that is on Supreme Court, "gives us an accurate count of the atheists on the court.  Justice David Souter dissented in a hair-splitting exegesis about the precise time class is let out, 2:56 p.m. versus the time the organizers would enter school property."  So there's this real antagonism there, we just don't really want to tank our school children or infect them with anything religious.  "The New York Times obligatory hysterical denunciation of the decision, revealingly complained," quote, "'children that young are unlikely to discern that the religious message of authority figures who come to the school each day to teach does not carry the school's endorsement.'"  Coulter writes, "It's simply taken for granted that it's desirable for children to revere authority figures at government schools.  Normally those authority figures are teaching the youngsters to put condoms on zucchini or training them in the catechism of recycling, sending a mixed message about government authority figures might interfere with the state's ability to turn small children into good Germans inculcated in the liberal religion.  It's well past time for liberalism to be declared a religion and banned from public schools.  Allowing Christians to be one of many after school groups induce hysteria, not just because liberals hate religion, it's because the public school is their temple.  Children must be taught to love Big Brother, welcoming him to take over our schools, our bank accounts, our property, even out toilet bowls."  She goes on to write several other telling comments, but at the end she says: "It's hard to imagine now, but before the official government religion was liberalism devoted to class warfare, ethnic hatred and intolerance, Americans were kind to one another.  They managed to get along even without ACLU lawsuits.  Thus, when back in the early days of the Republic, when there were enough practitioners of other faiths in various states that had established religions," for example Connecticut didn't disestablish congregationalism until the 1820s, they still had a state law on the books establishing the congregational denomination as the authorized religion of the state of Connecticut.  She goes on to say that "when there came to be enough of other views, the majority just disestablished themselves, all quite civil."


 But we live in an age when the majority wants to promote the religion of liberalism and don't be confused and don't be distracted, every belief, even atheism, liberalism, secularism, are all religions, because they all entail certain views of the ultimate reality in the universe and they all entail value judgments and value judgments have something to do with absolutes and what's right or wrong, and that always entails a religious issue.  You can't have neutrality, there's no such thing as creating a public school system that's neutral.  Whose values are going to be dominant; whose values are going to be taught in the classroom?  And that's the issue. 


We are continuing our study of Daniel and we came down to Daniel 2:34 and following, where Daniel begins to tell Nebuchadnezzar the content of his dreams.  Nebuchadnezzar had been disturbed by a dream he had had, not just one dream but a dream he had over and over and over again.  Nebuchadnezzar was one of the greatest monarchs, one of the greatest emperors, one of the greatest military men of history.  He was prior to Alexander the Great, he was a young man, probably in his late 20s or early 30s at the time that he conquered both the Assyrian Empire and then the Egyptian Empire, and he finalized that defeat at the battle of Carchemish, which was up in Syria.  That was a vital strategic area because it gave him control of all of the major trade routes in the ancient Near East.  Once he defeated the Egyptian army at Carchemish and they retreated rapidly to Egypt, it left Nebuchadnezzar as a young man in control of the largest piece of real estate that any one individual had controlled in almost all of human history.  I think the Babylonian Empire was larger than any other empire in history. 


Now at that stage when he has consolidated his power, some two or three years after ascending to the throne, he began to be disturbed in his sleep by some dreams.  Now he wasn't just worried and then his worry and anxiety generated some sort of dream from his subconscious.  This was a dream that was given to him by God; it was part of divine revelation.  And we see that in the midst of that dream he's confronted with the fact that even though he possesses all of the details of life in a degree and in such an abundance that none of us could even imagine the kind of power, the kind of control, the kind of prosperity that he enjoyed.  And yet, when he is at the very top of all of the aspirations of human ambition, he has this dream and he focuses on this dream, night after night after night, and it disturbs him, and he doesn't know what it means but he senses that this dream has something to do with his own position, his own power, it has something to do with the future.  And so he is disturbed.


He goes to all of his counselors, all of the wise men, all of the academics, all of the soothsayers and fortune tellers and astrologers in the empire, the greatest men that he knew, men who had taught him when he was a young man, taught him all of the religious systems of Babylon, taught him their systems of astrology and astronomy and all of their systems of prophecy and he went to them and he said okay, if you guys really believe this, that this is really true, then I'm going to put you to the test because I'm so disturbed at what I've seen in my dream that I want to find out if you're just blowing smoke at me or if you really have the answers to life's problem.  So I not only want you to give me the interpretation of the dream, I want you to tell me what I dreamed.  So he puts them to the ultimate test.  Now it's a test they realize they can't pass and so they try to get out from under the situation, they try to tell him that no one can do that, it's impossible, they can only do that if God told them how to do that.  And of course they're just setting the stage for Daniel to come in.  So we saw that Daniel heard about this because the penalty was that if they couldn't do this, then they were going to be executed, they would be torn limb from limb, not a pleasant death, and their houses would be turned into public urinals to express exactly what Nebuchadnezzar thought of their whole system and their whole approach to life.


Well, when the executioners came to Daniel to get Daniel, he said wait a minute, God's going to give me the solution; take me to the king and let me tell him.  So he went to the king, informed the king that God would give him the solution, tell him what the dream was and its interpretation.  Daniel went home, got with his three friends and they prayed, late into the night.  God revealed to Daniel the content of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams and its interpretation.  Then we came to the point in verse 31 where he begins to tell Nebuchadnezzar just exactly what it was that he dreamed. 


At that point we stopped; we took a pause, because this is one of the most significant chapters in all of the Bible for understanding God's prophetic plan for human history, and for understanding God's outline of human history.  It is one of the most remarkable prophecies of all time, and if we lived in a time, which was really not that long ago, maybe four or five decades ago, when people in this country were truly educated, every one of you would know exactly what this dream related to.  There was a time in the history of western civilization when it was just common knowledge to understand the four kingdoms of Daniel's dream.  And the fifth kingdom was the final kingdom in human history, such that back during the time of the Puritans in England, during the time of the Puritan Revolution, when they killed or executed Charles I, when Cromwell established the protectoratein England, there was also a group at that time called the Fifth Monarchists.  Now they had taken this to an extreme and they were almost anarchists, but they got the term "Fifth Monarchy" from the fifth kingdom in this outline of Daniel 2 and that became a general term for anarchists over the centuries, was Fifth Monarchists, and that has its roots in Daniel 2.  Hegel and Marx subverted the historical interpretation of Daniel 2 and perverted it and converted it into Hegel's philosophical system and Marx understanding of history for communism.  So you see this chapter has quite a history, quite a significance, but most people today are ignorant of it because we no longer live in a truly educated society.


So Daniel 2 is crucial; it's crucial to understanding the rest of Daniel, it's crucial to understanding what happens in Revelation; it's crucial to understanding Jesus' prophecies in Matthew 24 and 25, at the Olivet Discourse.  So we have to take some time before we get into the nuts and bolts of the interpretation to understand some framework of how Christians have tended to interpret this passage.  And this is a basic overview of interpretation.  There are all kinds of little intricate variations on each one of these that I could get into, but that's not my purpose.  My purpose is simply to give a broad enough overview for you to understand what the basic differences are between these three systems, because they are not only systems of interpreting prophecy, but since prophecy deals with the end of history and prophecy deals with where history is going and what God is doing in history, prophecy then, how you understand prophecy, becomes fundamental to your philosophy of history.  And how you understand history becomes fundamental in what you think about law, government, politics, the roles of nations, social action, all of these issues become affected by how you view and understand prophecy.  So it's not just a matter of what's going to happen in the future and having your curiosity titillated by all kinds of speculation as to what's going to happen and what does 666 mean and who's the antichrist going to be, and golly, could it be Henry Kissinger or Bill Clinton or who could it be.  We're not going to get into that but we're going to look at the foundational issues.


I wanted to focus this on three key questions, and you need to get these fixed in your mind.  The first is what is the relationship of Christ's return to the end of history?  Jesus is going to come back, does that end history, is that going to just bring in another phase of history, how does it relate to human history.  Second question, will the kingdom of Christ ever dominate human culture?  Now I'm making a specific point of stating it that way, "the kingdom of Christ," the Messianic kingdom, because the Bible talks about the kingdom of God in different ways, it has phrases such as the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God and those are distinct terms from the kingdom of Christ or the kingdom of the Messiah.  And what happens is if people think these terms are synonymous you can end up really getting confused and misinterpreting some passages of Scripture.  So will the kingdom of Christ ever dominate human culture?  And third, what ends evil in human history?  What is it that brings evil to an end in history? 


So those are the three questions.  Now the three schools of thought are premillennialism, that Christ returns before the millennial; amillennialism, that there's no literal millennium, and post­millennialism, that gradually the church brings in the millennium and Christ comes back post­millennially or after the millennium.  So let's just survey the answers: first of all, Christ's return in history.  Second, the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Christ will at sometime dominate this world's culture; and third, evil remains in force until Christ returns.  Amillennialists and post­millennialists say that Christ return ends human history; human history ends with Christ's return.  Premillennialists say no, Christ's return ends the tribulation but the millennial kingdom is part of human history.  It is the last stage in human history and human history does not end until God or Christ brings in the kingdom and brings to fulfillment the original creation mandate for man to subdue the earth under the authority of God.  Premillennialism says that the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Christ will at sometime dominate this world's culture.  And that will only be in the Messianic kingdom.  Postmillennialists say the same thing but the Church is going to bring in the kingdom and then Christ will return.  Premillennialists say evil remains in force until Christ returns.


I want to point out something, that in premillennialism you have a true substantive understanding of the depravity of the human heart.  I don't think in all my readings of post­millennialists that they really grasp the fact that even saved people still have a sin nature that's just as just as capable of extreme heinous sin as it was prior to salvation.  Salvation does not reduce, change or remove the sin nature.  It does break its power but it doesn't remove it.  After salvation you were just as capable of committing all the horrible sins that you were before you were saved.  If you don't believe that, show up Sunday morning as we go through Samson.  If there ever was anybody as self-centered, self-absorbed, sex oriented, perverted as Samson was, and yet he was a believer according to Hebrews 11.  That shows that you don't have to be pure to be a believer.  Now he suffered a lot because of his disobedience and that goes along with it, but he was still a believer.


Amillennialists also believe that evil remains in force; they are pessimistic.  It's only the post­millennialists who have an optimistic view that somehow things are going to get better and better. 


That's our overview.  Last time we looked at the history of premillennialism and saw that it extends back to as early as the early days of the Church Age; the early church fathers were pre­millennial.  They believed that Christ was going to return and then set up His kingdom, that that was what was taught in the Old Testament, that Israel had a Messianic expectation, that the Messiah would come and set up a kingdom and rule on the earth, on the throne of David, in Jerusalem.  So this chart demonstrates it; we are currently in the Church Age, somewhere hopefully near the end.  The Church Age is followed by a seven year Tribulation.  That is ended by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth, and at that time He inaugurates the millennium. 


Just a note, one thing that has happened to bring confusion to this whole issue is that due to the pressure of the debates between premillennialists and amills and postmills, some premillennialists are trying to find a middle ground and I think they have compromised and they have started interpreting certain passages in the same way that amills have.  So what they're going with now, and here's the catch phrase, that we're already in the kingdom but it's not yet fully here.  It's call the already not yet view of the kingdom and so Jesus inaugurated the kingdom at the First Advent but He doesn't establish it fully until He comes at the Second Coming.  The problem with that is that they start loading into the Church Age all kinds of things related to the millennium, into the Church Age and it gets into a lot of different problems.  But I don't want to get distracted into that, that's just another one of those various little views that are cropping up today.  This is premillennialism.


Now with regard to the first question, Christ's return and its relationship to history, we've seen on the basis of Revelation 20 that Christ's return does not end history.  The premillennialist argues on the basis of Revelation 20 that Jesus Christ comes to the earth and inaugurates; it's not until His return that He inaugurates a one thousand year reign on the earth.  And therefore other passages, such as 1 Corinthians 15 which talks about the return of Christ, Matthew 24 and 25, must be interpreted in light of Revelation 20.  So when we come to passages like Matthew 24 and 25 which describe the return of Jesus Christ and a judgment separating the goats from the sheep, that that is not talking about the same judgment that occurs at the end of Revelation 20.  That would be a judgment that occurs at the end of the Tribulation, separating the believers who survive the Tribulation from the unbelievers and then the believers who survive the Tribulation continue into the Millennium in their mortal bodies, to reestablish, repopulate the earth.  So the judgment of Matthew 24 and 25 is then seen as an elimination of unbelievers, not the final judgment. 


The second question we asked: the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Christ will some day literally dominate this mortal world's culture.  The basis of this position goes back to Genesis 1:26, when God originally mandated to Adam before the fall that he was to subdue the earth.  Now because of the fall and all of human history since the fall man has never been able to subdue the earth under the authority of God.  And so the premillennialist says it's not until Christ returns as the second Adam establishing a kingdom on the earth that we have a time when that original mandate, that original creation purpose of man in Genesis 1:26-28 is going to be fulfilled.  So it has to be fulfilled in time in human history.  Dr. Charles Ryrie states about this: "Concerning the goal of history, the premillennial dispensationalist finds it in the establishment of the millennial kingdom on earth, which the covenant theologian," that's the amill and the postmill, "which the covenant theologian regards as the eternal state.  This does not mean that the dispensationalists minimize the glory of the eternal state but they insist that the display of the glory of God who is sovereign in human history must be seen in the present heavens and earth as well as in the new heavens and earth."  And what he is saying is that it must be demonstrated in time, in a creation and a universe that is still under the curse of sin.


Another writer on millennialism, Alva McLain writes that: "Premillenarianism says that life here and now, in spite of the tragedy of sin, is nevertheless something worthwhile and therefore all efforts to make it better are also worthwhile.  All the true values of human life will be preserved and carried into the coming kingdom."  Now I want you to think about that; that is an insightful statement.  Some of you can really speculate on that a lot.  What that is saying is that the tech­nology that we have at the end of the tribulation is going to be where man starts technologic­ally at the beginning of the millennium.  When the millennium starts we're not going to forget about all of the wonderful beautiful music of Bach, of Beethoven, Handel, Wagner, all of that is going to continue, all of the art that survives the Tribulation that's not destroyed, is going to survive into the millennial kingdom.  Everything that is produced of value in human history up to the Second Coming of Christ is going to still be here and go into the millennial kingdom because ultimately what is happening in the millennial kingdom is the bringing to pass the mandate of Genesis 1:26-28, that man is going to dominate and subdue the earth.  So every bona fide piece of human culture is going to survive: art, music, technology, science, all of that is going to be carried into the millennium and that's going to be the starting point and it will develop from there.


Now one of the problems is that the postmill and the amill is always accusing the premill of being pessimistic, oh you just think everything is going to fall apart and you have to have Christ come back to rescue you.  That's not what we're saying; this view is not pessimistic, it is realistic in the view that all men are sinners and there's going to be a decline but it's optimistic in terms of what is going to be accomplished in the kingdom of Christ on the basis of fulfilling the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:26-28. 


I want to look at a couple of passages to see how they impact our understanding of this future kingdom because one of the things that we see here is that the Old Testament talks about a golden age, almost an utopic state in the future, but their description of that utopic state still includes the problem of sin and death.  The amillennialist and the postmillennialist are going to look at what happens after Christ comes as something that is purely utopic; they're going to spiritualize these prophecies and make them apply to a time when there is no sin, especially the amillennialist.  So let's look at this and we're going to see these passages, I'm going to refer to them again and again as we get into our examination of amill and postmill thinking.


For example, Isaiah 2:2-4, [1b] "Now it will come about that [2] in the last days," now that's not the last days of the Church, that's the last days of human history, "The mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains," this is talking about that future time when Israel, the northern kingdom and southern kingdom are reunited with the Messiah in the land, in those "last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it."  Notice, all the nations are going to be going to "the house of the LORD" to worship, there's going to be a universality of salvation.  Verse 3, "And many peoples will come and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways,'" notice there's no anti-Semitism, the entire world, everybody's looking to Israel for spiritual instruction, "let us go to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us concerning His ways, and that we may walk in His paths, for the law will go forth from Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  [4] And He will judge between the nations," there's the key phrase, "He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples and they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war." 


At the opening introduction this evening as I talked about that there is no such thing as neutrality, even in the classroom you'll never find it, someone's value has to dominate, this passage reminds us that there is no such thing as neutrality.  Think about it; Isaiah 2:4, the second half, that verse hangs over a very significant site on the face of the planet.  The verse, the quotation, "they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war" hangs over the entrance to the U.N. building in New York.  And that is a conscientious claim by the United Nations that they are capable of bringing in this kind of utopia, they are usurping for themselves the claims of the Messiah and they are claiming that they can bring it in, so there is a religious foundation, not a Biblical foundation, not a Christian foundation, but a religious foundation, the usurpation of this verse to the secular kingdom of man at the U.N.


Now this verse, verse 4, states that Christ, the Messiah, will judge between the nations.  That indicates that there will still be the necessity of adjudicating between national disagreements.  There is still going to be conflicts between nations and the Messiah is going to have to judge between them.  So that indicates that even though it is a utopic state it is not without sin, without disagreement and without problems.  So this means that warfare won't be practiced any more because according to Major General Carl Von Clausewitz, in his work on war, "war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political activity."  That's a famous definition of war offered by Clausewitz, "it's a continuation of political activity."  But that continuation of political activity won't be involved in the millennium because there will be no war.  War necessarily is the result of sin and sinful nations and powers operating on their own self-centered agenda. 


Alfred Thayer Mahan, in his famous work on naval strategy writes: "Where evil is mighty and defiant, the obligation to use force, that is war, arises."  So they recognize that because men are sinful war is an inherent reality and we must prepare for it.  But because there will be a righteous and perfect government in the millennial kingdom, these disagreements will not flare to the point of war and there will be no purpose for armament, but that doesn't come about until the millennial kingdom and that's why Jesus said, "There will be wars and rumors of war" until I come again, man cannot stop that. 


Another passage that indicates that there will be sin, there will be depravity, even in this utopic state of the Messianic kingdom is in Isaiah 65:20-25.  There we read: "No longer will there be in it," that is in the kingdom, "an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his days," see there won't be health problems, there will be a reversal of man's limitations since the flood, and they will live out their days, even a thousand years, "For the youth will die at the age of one hundred and the one who does not reach the age of one hundred shall be though accursed. [21] And they shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall also plant vineyards and eat their fruit."


Isaiah 65:22, "They shall not build, and another inhabit, they shall not plant, and another eat; for as the lifetime of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, and My chosen ones shall wear out the work of their hands," notice there's still going to be toil, remember that was introduced as a result of the curse, so there is still a partial curse on the planet; sin is still involved even in the Messianic kingdom.  It's not the pure utopic view of the amillennialist.


Isaiah 65:23, "They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they are the offspring of those blessed by the LORD, and their descendants with them.  [24] It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear."  Notice, that's a very famous promise that people quote all the time for prayer.  Please notice the context, it's millennial. 


Isaiah 65:25, "The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food.  They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD."  So passages like these do not refer to an eternity where there is no sin, but they refer to a utopic environment on the earth but there will still be sin present and a degree of the curse is still in operation.


The third question involves the relationship of evil to time and the premillennial position is that evil remains in force until it is completely removed by the return of Christ.  There's a partial roll­back of the curse at the Second Coming and then it's completely removed at the end of the millennial kingdom.  But again there is an emphasis that evil remains in force fully until Christ returns—fully.  The postmill says it's not full, it's gradually rolled back.  Look at these verses.  Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. [23] And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."  Until there is a physical transformation, i.e. the new heavens and the new earth, there is still going to be groaning because of sin in this present age of history. 


1 Corinthians 7:30, "and those who weep, as thought they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as thought they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess," and that's talking about the fact that even at that time, let's go on to verse 31, "and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away."  In other words, there'll still be weeping, and sorrow, and sadness, until this world is completely gone.  It's not going to gradually fade out. 


2 Corinthians 4:4 states, "in whose case the God of this age," literally it's a temporal time word, "the God of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."  Compare that with Revelation 20:3 where we are told that it is at the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the millennium that Satan is thrown "into the abyss," and Christ will "shut it and seal it over him, so that he should not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time."


The point is simple, that during this age, according to the premillennial view, there is going to be a continuous intensity of sin.  It's not gradually reduced or rolled back until Jesus comes.  But post­millennialism specifically says that it's going to gradually get rolled back.


Let's look at a couple of interesting quotes.  One is from Lorraine Boettner, in his book, The Millennium, he's a postmillennialist, and he writes: "On postmillennial grounds it hardly seems that even in the most advanced nations on earth have we seen anything that is worthy of being called more than the early dawn of the millennium."  So he admits, he wrote this the 50s, that there's nothing close to the millennium on the horizon.


Then another amillennialist who makes this comment, which really is one which we would wholeheartedly agree with, he says: "The Christian congregation is in miniature exactly what the postmillennialist expects the millennium to be on a larger scale."  Now think about this, "The Christian congregation," that is pick a church, any church, that's "what the postmillennialist expects the millennium to be like on a larger scale."  I don't know about you but I've been in some churches where there's some real cat fights, and that's this guy's point, he said "but the sin and consequent problems among Christians proves that such a society would be far from golden."  See, Christians still have sin natures and can still sin in extreme ways.  I'm telling you, if you've never ran afoul of some Christian who is operating full bore on his sin nature and been the brunt of all of his evil, then you just haven't lived yet.  You think unbelievers are bad, just wait until you get some carnal believer coming after you. 


That's the premillennial position; let's compare it with the amill position.  Amillennialism says that the Church Age is the same as the millennium, it's spiritualized.  The term "millennium" and the idea of the thousand year reign of Christ, that's He reigns spiritually today from the throne of David, it's a spiritual throne in heaven.  And the Second Coming of Christ ends the current age and that's when the present heavens and earth are destroyed and the new heavens and the new earth will be created for the eternal state.  That's amillennialism, no literal millennium. 


As with premillennialism, amillennialism has its roots in the age before Christ, the interpretation that is applied for amillennialism goes back into ancient Greek culture.  The origin of this sort of spiritualizing goes back to a Jew in Alexandria, which was located in North Africa and Egypt, a Jew by the name of Philo; Philo of Alexandria along with the other rabbis, many other rabbis in North Africa, tried to combine the Old Testament with Platonism.  Now remember Plato taught that everything physical or material was inherently evil and everything spiritual or immaterial was inherently good.  And so where that will go is that which is literal, the letter, is evil and you have to find the spiritual behind it.  So what they were doing is they were merging Biblical concepts with Greek philosophy and that always gets us in trouble.  When we try to merge divine viewpoint with human viewpoint we're always going to destroy divine viewpoint.  What was happening at the time is the Jews were coming under a lot of criticism and ridicule from the Greek intellectuals, so rather than stand their ground on the truth of the Scriptures as they had it, they thought well, let's try to make this more acceptable to these Greeks so we won't be such an affront to them.  So they began to compromise and they began to adopt a Greek approach to interpretation. 


So they adopted a Scriptural hermeneutic based on allegory and spiritualizing the text.  And this concept of allegory really went back to Plato because in Plato's time the Greeks had developed a view of spiritualizing or allegorizing their interpretation of the Olympian gods because if you really read the myths and all the stories about the Olympian gods coming down to earth and raping a bunch of women that that was really perverted and who wanted to have a bunch of perverted immoral gods so these were just allegories.  So in order to make the gods of Olympus more acceptable, they spiritualized and allegorized the interpretation of these stories of the Greek gods.  So the concept of spiritualizing or allegorizing interpretation went back to Plato and so the Jews just picked that up and tried to use that to interpret Scripture to make it more acceptable to the Greeks. 


Well, Philo's concept of… [tape turns] …was later picked up, after Christ, at the end of the third century BC, in the period from about 250-300 AD, by a guy by the name of Origen.  Origen took Philo's allegorical hermeneutics and brought it into Christianity.  Philo was before Christ; Origen is after Christ, and Origen picked this up from the past and brought it into Christianity.  Origen did a lot of good things for the Church, he also did some horrible things, and one of the horrible impacts that he had was in spiritualizing the text.  For example, this is how he would interpret Scripture.  In his commentary on Matthew, Origen psychologizes the prophetic imagery of the passage.  When Christ says that He is going to come on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory, Origen spiritualizes that, it wasn't a physical literal coming in the clouds with glory, but that this relates to Christ's coming to the mature believer, his spiritual encounter with Christ every time he read the Scripture.  See it's spiritualized, it's not something that happens in the future and literal, it's just Christ comes to you every time you are impacted by the Scripture. 


He taught that the two comings of Christ were: the first was in humility when you trust Christ as Savior and the second was any time that you are impacted by Jesus in your life.  So it could refer to Christ coming to the mature believer in the Scripture, sometimes he says it refers to Christ coming in the flesh in the 1st century, some­times at the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, that Christ comes as a spiritual presence when the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost, and He comes now in every single manifestation of redeeming power, any reformation in history and anytime you have spiritual insight.  Those are all comings of Christ, so there's not just two comings, there's hundreds, thousands, millions of comings of Christ. 


But if you're thinking you ought to go back to a passage I quoted when Jesus said "there will be wars and rumors of war until I come again," in that same Matthew 24 passage.  Now when Jesus said "until I come again," if that refers to the coming of Christ when we read the Scripture, then war should have ended a long time ago.  See, when you spiritualize that all of a sudden you start losing any real meaning, the meaning of Scripture just becomes very broad and general and starts getting washed out and diluted. 


Leon Morris writes, concerning this allegorical method, that "the spiritualizing method was greatly advanced by the work of Tichonius," so from Origen you go to the next guy, "Tichonius, who interpreted nothing on the basis of its historical setting or the events of the first century."  It didn't matter to them what the original historical setting was; exegesis, history, culture, context was irrelevant, it's just whatever God means to you right now.  So Tichonius is the bridge from Origen to Augustine, and Augustine lived at the end of the 4th century AD and is the father, really, of amillennial theology.  It's first systematized and explained in his book, The City of God, which was the most significant piece of literature to be written in the early church and its impact, both on Catholics throughout the Middle Ages and on Protestants in the Protestant Reformation is unsurpassed by anything else.  Nothing comes close to the impact of Augustine's book, The City of God, from about 400 AD up, really until about 1800 AD.  And in that he rejects as simply Jewish influence the idea that there would be a future golden age in the mortal world.  So Augustine shifted everything to a spiritualized allegorized interpretation and nothing happens literally. 


Now to justify their position they'll go to passages like Hebrews 12:22, where we read: "But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels," and they would say that's spiritual, "the heavenly Jerusalem," that's just heaven.  No, this is a literal interpretation of a future New Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom, but see, they spiritualize these things out and so it really doesn't mean what it says, they apply it to some general spiritualized heaven; it just refers to heaven in general. 


Another passage that they go to to try to support allegorical or spiritual interpretation is in Revelation 11:8, there is the description of the dead bodies of the prophets who are laid out in the streets of Jerusalem for all the world to view, and the text states: "and their dead bodies will lie in the street of that great city, which," and then we have a bad translation, "which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt," and they go right to that and say see, this justifies a spiritual allegorical interpretation.  No it doesn't, not at all.  First of all, it's a bad translation, the word "mystically" isn't there at all, it is the Greek word pneumatikos which means spiritually, so what is happening is that the writer is saying that Jerusalem at this time, because of its paganism, because of its rejection of God, at that time in the middle of the Tribulation, "is like Sodom and Egypt."  It is represented by all of the worst in paganism in all of human history.  And so it is just using an analogy, it is not a spiritualization. 


Let me make a point about allegory; what allegorical interpretation says is the actual historical events are meaningless; it didn't even have to happen that way literally, or physically, or historically.  All that matters is whatever spiritual truth you generalize from the text.  And once you do that you can really make the Scriptures mean just about anything you want them to mean. 


So Origen and Augustine and many others take these passages as an example of spiritualization of prophecies where emblems are used, symbols are used, and then they say well, it doesn't have a literal, physical application, it's just spiritual.  Now amillennialism is the… it's not official I don't believe, but it is the position usually adopted of Roman Catholicism, it's the official position of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran Church, and of the Christian Reformed Church and the Orthodox Reformed Church.  It's the unofficial creed of many Churches of Christ, and many Baptist Churches.  Now GARB, Greater Association of Regular Baptists, I think they're premill, the Southern Baptists are generally, there's a lot of premills there, there's not a consensus, I think, among Southern Baptists.  Conservative Baptist Association is premill, but most of the other groups are amillennial in their orientation if not in their creed.


Now from the amill point of view will the kingdom of God ever dominate history?  Not at all.  They look for a passage, for example in Matthew 13:10-11, "And the disciples came and said to Him, 'Why do You speak to them in parables?' [11] And He answered and said to them, 'To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.'"  Now the way the amill takes this is that Jesus is supposedly correcting the earthly oriented view of the disciples towards the kingdom; He is supposedly saying okay guys, I'm going to let you in on a little secret here, that the kingdom is really spiritual not physical, that's why we're going to parables.  But you see, they make the mistake of identifying the kingdom of heaven here with the kingdom of the Messiah.  The kingdom of heaven and the parables that follow in Matthew 13 are describing characteristics even of the present age.  The kingdom of heaven is the overall rule of God throughout all of human history and is not the same as the Messianic kingdom; it's not the same as the future kingdom of Christ that comes when he returns.  So He's not correcting anything, He's simply beginning to give them insight into what's going to happen in the mystery form of the kingdom called the Church Age, after His death, burial and resurrection. 


Another verse they go to is Galatians 6:16, there we read: "And those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God."  The amillennialist says see, there the Church is called "the Israel of God."  But that's not what this passage is saying at all.  In the book of Galatians Paul is dealing with the fact that a bunch of Jewish believers who've gotten into a false teaching that you have to come into the Law to get blessing have come in behind him, after he left Galatia, teaching that if you really want to be blessed you have to be circumcised and become part of Israel, and proselytize to Israel.  They were called Judaizers and they were trying to say there was a distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers.  But Paul negates that and in this verse he's saying "peace to all who will walk by what I've taught in this epistle, including Jewish believers."  "Israel of God" is not describing every believer but only the Jewish believers that were also present in Galatia.


Romans 11:17 which states: "But if some of the branches were broken off," it's the olive tree analogy, "some of the branches were broken off of the olive tree, and you," that is you Gentiles, "being a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and became partakers with them of the rich root of the olive tree."  The "root of the olive tree" is the Abrahamic Covenant, the native branches, the domestic branches are Israel, but because of their rejection of Christ some are broken off, and grafted on are wild olive branches are Gentiles, but they both are blessed because of the Abrahamic Covenant.  The Church doesn't replace, it's like this, here's a nice picture, this tree is located outside a church down in Norwich, and if you notice in this area you have red blossoms on this cherry tree, and the rest of it is white blossoms.  What they've done is they've grafted on part of one cherry tree so that you have red blossoms on part of it and white blossoms on another part, and it partakes of the same root. That's the principle, like the red cherry blossoms, that's the Church; those are Gentiles who have been grafted in, not to the body of Christ but to a position of blessing in Abraham, there both Jew and Gentile will participate in blessing from one covenant.  Next time we'll wrap up amillennialism and get into the postmillennial view and then we'll be ready to get into analyzing Nebuchadnezzar's dream and his interpretation of history.