Because Christ reigns

Three ways amillennialism impacts my Christian life

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Nicolae Carpathia. Buck Williams. Tsion Ben-Judah. These names kickstarted my ongoing enthusiasm for eschatology, the study of “last things” in Scripture. They are not influential theologians and biblical scholars but characters in the massively popular Left Behind novels. I was raised in the halcyon days of Left Behind mania and read every publication, from the original book to Glorious Appearing.

The biblical book of Revelation has always captivated me. These novels further sparked my imagination by taking the then-confusing imagery of Scripture and mixing it with modern geopolitics (and I would now say a good bit of fantasy).

I remember picking up the authors’ non-fiction work, Are We Living in the End Times? It detailed the scriptural framework and interpretation that guided the series, while asking and answering the titular question of whether we are living now in the days of apocalypse.

Specifically, I remember reading their thoughts on the rapture of believers, an event of particular interest. It is one of those biblical events—like Adam and Eve eating the fruit, Noah’s ark and Jesus walking on water—that has spread beyond Christendom and permeated popular culture. Even non-Christians have some sense of what it means to be “left behind.” I wanted to know for myself how Scripture describes it.

One page in the book featured a complete list of verses that spoke of the rapture. I have a distinct memory of examining every passage and thinking I must not be sharp enough in my biblical insight. I could not figure out how they found the rapture in the verses they listed. I assumed the authors were simply smarter than I was (which is probably still a safe assumption).

I later realized I simply held, or better yet developed, a different view of eschatology and the millennium. The authors of Left Behind wrote from a kind of dispensationalism. Depending on the day, I can convince myself of classic premillennialism or even postmillennialism. But five days out of the week I land on the amillennial position.

Amillennialism and why it matters

What is amillennialism? And does it matter? How does my view of the millennium and the return of Christ affect my Christian life, if at all?

First, a description. Essentially, amillennialism holds that the millennial reign of Christ referenced in Revelation 20 is not a future event, but instead began when Christ ascended to right hand of God and was seated on his heavenly throne, 2000 years ago. Christ has been reigning since, and we currently live under his heavenly, “millennial” reign. So, in contrast to other views, the millennium references not a future, geopolitical reign on earth but a current, universal reign in heaven.

Logically then, Christ’s return will not begin a millennial reign but complete it. His return will initiate the resurrection of all humanity, the final judgment and the new creation of heaven and earth. In the amillennial view, there will be no initial, secret return of Christ rapturing the church before his later public return. Rather, the one return of Christ will be seen by all. Upon his return and judgment, the Lord will call (i.e. rapture) all his saints to him, that they may enter the new creation with him in eternal triumph. Hallelujah!

Furthermore, Satan is bound and dethroned during this present millennial reign of Christ. While he still is active in attempting to deceive the nations and accuse the church, his effectiveness has been greatly limited by the victory and enthronement of Jesus the King.

So, how does all of this affect my Christian life? Here are three practical applications of this view of the millennium for your consideration. Other millennial/eschatological positions do not at all deny these three truths. But I do appreciate how amillennialism uniquely emphasizes them.

Our present tribulation

First, amillennialism helpfully accounts for our present tribulations. Some millennial views hold that the great tribulation is a future event. The earth will experience great trials and tribulations, especially for God’s people, as the millennium approaches. But if the millennium is not future, then neither is tribulation. Trouble for the God’s church is here and now.

Why is that helpful? Because it explains the pain we feel now without promising that things necessarily must get worse. I find it a comfort, pastorally speaking, to be able to tell people that the pains of this life are expected. The trials we experience now are not insignificant. When you are rejected for your faith in Christ or when the doctor says it is terminal, you are experiencing the tribulations spoken of in Scripture. We don’t have to wonder if things will get hard someday. Our trials are current and real now.

Our persecuted brothers and sisters across the globe can take comfort in this. It seems an odd thing to tell persecuted believers, losing their lives for the faith, that some future day things will get really bad. For them, the tribulation is now, just as it was for the apostolic church.

In his introduction to Revelation, John refers to himself as “your brother and partner in the tribulation” (Revelation 1:9). According to John the tribulation is a present reality for the church. I find it helpful to know that present suffering is not an unexpected anomaly nor is it an appetizer for greater future misery, but rather is an expected reality of following Christ in this present age. Amillennialism helpfully accounts for our present tribulations.

Christ’s present rule

Second, amillennialism encourages us in Christ’s current and universal reign. If we emphasize Christ’s current heavenly reign, we have great comfort as we walk through the trials of this life. I don’t have to hold out hope that someday Christ will come and set up his throne in Israel. He has already established his throne over every nation. And my future hope is not in any way tied to a temporary reign of Christ on earth but is fixated on an eternal reign over a perfected creation.

Until Christ’s return, Christ truly reigns now over all creation. This is great news! Why?

Because Christ reigns now, missions can be effective. He has all power and authority to ensure the gospel will go out and souls will be saved. As I nervously share the gospel with my neighbor or stumble over my words in a sermon or Bible study, I can trust in Christ’s heavenly rule and power to effect salvation.

Because Christ reigns now and is seated at the right hand of God, I can be sure my sins are forgiven. He has finished the work and has taken his seat. There is nothing I need to add to the saving work of the Lord. When I feel deficient, I recall his sufficiency.

Because Christ reigns now, I can be sure the Father hears my prayers as I am united to the Christ who intercedes for me. From his position of rule, Christ speaks on my behalf. When Satan tempts me to despair and accuses and speaks condemnation, I know Christ currently rules not just over me but for me.

Amillennialism encourages us in Christ’s current and universal reign, while focusing us on our great hope of a perfected eternal creation.

Satan’s present defeat

Finally, amillennialism comforts us in Satan’s present and eventual defeat. Revelation 20 teaches that during the millennium Satan is bound and prevented from deceiving the nations. It may be difficult to believe that describes today. It appears deception is alive and well in our time.

But while Satan is currently active and prowling around this earth, Scripture also teaches he has been handily dethroned (see Matthew 12:25-29; Mark 3:27; Luke 10:18; John 12:21; Colossians 2:15; and 1 Corinthians 15:24-25). As Martin Luther said, “Even the devil is God’s devil.” In other words, he is currently restricted by the rule of Christ and will be fully defeated upon Christ’s return.

The practical upshot of this is that evil is presently defeated and on a ticking clock. Satan may roar like a lion, but he cannot stop the progress of the gospel. Nor can he stop the work of sanctification in me that Christ has begun. He has no legitimate dominion or authority in any sphere of this world. Wherever he operates, Christ rules. So, I have hope for my own growth as a Christian and defeat of personal sin. I have hope for my church’s continued faithfulness because Satan has no dominion there. And I have hope for our gospel witness because the deceiver is being defeated, and Christ is opening blind eyes.

Amillennialism comforts us in Satan’s present defeat. Eventually, that defeat will be final, to the praise of God’s grace.

Years after Left Behind, I still have an enthusiasm for eschatology. Part of that fascination is certainly driven by a desire to better understand the more debated portions of Scripture. But as I grow, I am increasingly encouraged by the universally held truths of Christ’s rule and return; truths that encourage all Christians, regardless of millennial position.

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