Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Lesson 8: Amillennialism: A Golden Age Beyond Time (part 2)

Amillennialism and the Historic Creeds

Amillennialism is the only eschatological viewpoint expressed or implied in the historic creeds of the church. That the creeds are not premillennial is explicit, for they express as simultaneous certain events which premillennialism has separated by 1000 years. That the creeds are amillennial as opposed to postmillennial is more nebulous. It is based on the lack of mention of the attainment of world-wide Christian dominance prior to the Second Coming.

For example, two of the historic creeds of the early church with amillennial expectations are the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed.

The Apostles' Creed contains the words "He [Christ] shall come again to judge the quick and the dead," implying that both judgment and the resurrection will take place at His coming. There is no intervening millennium.

The Nicene Creed states that Christ "shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end." Christ’s kingdom is viewed here as eternal, not as a temporal reign of 1000 years.

But the early church statement of faith most explicit in its amillennial eschatology is the Athanasian Creed. Attributed to Athanasius, the Bishop of Alexandria and the champion of the Council of Nicaea, AD 325 A.D. The creed ends with these words:
He shall come again to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life eternal, and they who indeed have done evil into eternal fire. This is the catholic faith, which except a man have believed faithfully and firmly he cannot be in a state of salvation.

Let us examine these statements and see how they conform to amillennialism.
  1. "He shall come again to judge the living and the dead." This means that there will be those who are alive as well as those who are dead when He comes (1 Thess. 4:15). Notice that judgment of the living and the dead occurs at His coming (cf. Matt. 25:31-46), not a thousand years after His coming.

  2. "At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies ...." At the second advent, all rise, both the good and the wicked. (cf. John 5:28,29, Matt. 12:41,42). Dispensational premillennialism teaches that the wicked will be resurrected 1000 years after the righteous.

  3. "... and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life eternal, and they who indeed have done evil into eternal fire." This is a reference to the sheep and goats of Matt. 25:31-46. This takes place after the resurrection making it a post-resurrection judgment. This is in contrast to the dispensational view that Matthew 25:31-46 is only a judgment of Gentiles who survive the tribulation. Note again that it is viewed as a judgment of all men.

Amillennialism and the Reformed Confessions

Amillennialists can also point to the various Reformed confessions as proof that the titans of the Reformation were amillennial. From the Westminster Confession (1646) Chapter XXXIII:
I. God has appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world, in righteousness, by Jesus Christ, to whom all power and judgment is given of the Father. In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged, but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.

II. The end of God's appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice, in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord; but the wicked who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power.

III. As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin; and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity: so will He have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be always watchful, because they know not at what hour the Lord will come; and may be ever prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen.

The London Baptist Confession (1689) is virtually identical. (For my fellow Baptists who have never read the London Baptist Confession, I urge you to examine our proud heritage, which included neither Arminianism nor Left-Behind-ism.)

The Belgic Confession (1561) reads:

Finally we believe, according to the Word of God, when the time appointed by the Lord (which is unknown to all creatures) is come, and the number of the elect complete, that our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, corporally and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty to declare himself judge of the quick and the dead; burning this old world with fire and flame, to cleanse it. And then all men will personally appear before this great judge, both men and women and children, that have been from the beginning of the world to the end thereof, being summoned by the voice of the archangel, and by the sound of the trumpet of God. For all the dead shall be raised out of the earth, and their souls joined and united with their proper bodies, in which they formerly lived. As for those who shall then be living, they shall not die as the others, but be changed in the twinkling of an eye, and from corruptible, become incorruptible. Then the books (that is to say the consciences) shall be opened, and the dead judged according to what they shall have done in this world, whether it be good or evil. Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest: and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all. And therefore the consideration of this judgment, is justly terrible and dreadful to the wicked and ungodly, but most desirable and comfortable to the righteous and elect: because then their full deliverance shall be perfected, and there they shall receive the fruits of their labor and trouble which they have borne. Their innocence shall be known to all, and they shall see the terrible vengeance which God shall execute on the wicked, who most cruelly persecuted, oppressed and tormented them in this world; and who shall be convicted by the testimony of their own consciences, and being immortal, shall be tormented in that everlasting fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels. But on the contrary, the faithful and elect shall be crowned with glory and honor; and the Son of God will confess their names before God his Father, and his elect angels; all tears shall be wiped from their eyes; and their cause which is now condemned by many judges and magistrates, as heretical and impious, will then be known to be the cause of the Son of God. And for a gracious reward, the Lord will cause them to possess such a glory, as never entered into the heart of man to conceive. Therefore we expect that great day with a most ardent desire to the end that we may fully enjoy the promises of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. AMEN.

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