That is why there is some confusion over whether to label Augustine an amill or a very-early-onset-of-the-millennium postmill, not that the controversy should keep you awake at night.
According to the books I’ve been reading, the amillennialist position is both (a) the most commonly held eschatology throughout the history of Christendom (although today it is dwarfed by the newcomer: dispensationalist premillennialism) and (b) is still the dominant view among Reformed believers.
Kenneth Gentry 1 gives the following characteristics of amillennialism (to which I have added commentary):
- The present church age is the kingdom era prophesied in the Old Testament.
- The New Testament church is the "spiritual" Israel. However, some amillennialists hold that, for example, the phrase "all Israel" as found in Rom. 11:26
and so all Israel will be savedmight indeed refer to Jews, but unlike dispensationalist view they are not the Jews of an eschatological nation of Israel but the elect among the Jews, i.e. the remnant. (Which I suppose might include me, as my maternal grandfather was a Russian Jew. And my mom was a Lutheran. And I was a Catholic. Now I am a reformed baptist. Go figure!)
- Satan was bound, or more accurately restrained, during Christ’s ministry, particularly when he was defeated on the cross and in the initiation of the great commission. Consider Luke 10:18
And He said to them, "I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.Given that this is spoken to the 70 returning disciples, an amill might view it as referring not to Satan's original fall but to the reduction of his power concurrent with Christ's ministry.
- Christ is ruling now through the hearts of believers. The Kingdom of God is now. Thus amills are delighted with verses that read "The Kingdom of God (or Heaven) is at hand" which they say implies a near term fulfillment.
- Toward the end of the age, evil’s growth will accelerate (Satan’s unleashing, for a short while, as described in Rev. 20) culminating in the tribulation and the appearance of the antichrist.
- Christ will return to end history and judge all men. The same glorious consummation described in all millennial views.
All Old Testament promises to Israel were either (a) conditional and become null and void when the Jews did not meet the conditions (b) have already been fulfilled or (c) will be fulfilled in the New Testament Israel, the church. Like postmills, amills do not attach eschatological importance to the nation of Israel. There are no pending promises to the nation of Israel that must be kept in a future millennium 2.
Unlike postmillennialism which has a gradual or evolutionary aspect to it, Amillennials actually proclaim the biggest discontinuity of all the millennial views. The present church age, is the Kingdom of God. Satan is already bound although not completely powerless (hence the paucity of demonic possession?). Throughout this age, a diminished (but strengthening) Kingdom of Evil will coexist with the Kingdom of God. Both will be replaced virtually instantly with the eternal dispensation. There is no 1000 year buffer between this age and the ultimate age. This age, and indeed history itself, will end abruptly with the second advent, which will occur in the midst of a final intense persecution of the church.
Reasons to be PessimisticWhile postmillennialism is criticized for being unrealistically optimistic, amillennialism is charged with being too pessimistic. There is no rapture to spare believers from the tribulation. Nor is the tribulation reserved for unconverted Jews. The church itself will endure the tribulation (and may be doing so right now) as things gradually get worse, perhaps culminating with the appearance of the antichrist. The is no danger in this view being co-opted by utopian liberal progressives, as was the case with postmillennialism.
The different eschatological views also result in different anticipations in terms of the numbers of people saved. Postmills, who look forward to the ultimate success of the great commission in converting many nations, generally expect a much more "populated" heaven than do the amillennialists.
Noted AmillennialistsWell known proponents of amillennialism include Jay Adams, G. C. Berkouwer, and Louis Berkhof. (And Augustine, in my opinion.)
1Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology, 1992.
2Stanley J. Grenz, The Millennial Maze, 1992.