The Great Hope of Amillennialism
Amillennials like myself have good reasons for great hope, a hope that fuels our passion in the daily hours. We aren’t defeatist, disengaged, and doleful. We smile in the light of Christ’s glorious victory and look expectantly, with the rest of Christendom, to his second coming.
Defeatist. Disengaged. Doleful. That’s a caricature of what theologians call amillennials. But amillennials, I argue, actually have a wonderful hope to treasure. This isn’t an article meant to argue for a position. It’s meant to correct a misunderstanding out there and encourage the global church to rally around its one true passion: the return (whenever it may come) of Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Big Three
Without getting into great detail or exegetical intricacies, there are three common positions on the end times (eschatology). Premillennials believe that Christ is going to return before (pre) a one thousand year period (or at least a long period of time; Rev. 20:6) in which we rule with him before the final judgment. Postmillennials believe that Christ will come after (post) a thousand year period, during which the church will grow in prominence and influence in the world. Amillennials believe that we’re currently in the end times right now, and that we’ll continue suffering with Christ until he comes again at the end of time for the final judgment. Given that summary, it seems clear why the amillennial caricature emerged. Christ isn’t coming back to reign? Defeatist. We aren’t called to take over and influence culture, bringing heaven on earth? Disengaged. We aren’t waiting for an imminent return of Jesus so that we can reign with him? Doleful. Amillennials can seem stiff, joyless, and removed.
Reasons for Hope
But that isn’t the case. At least, it shouldn’t be the case for amillennials who know the good news of Scripture. Here are a few reasons why our hope should be blindingly bright. I’ll be drawing on the thought of Richard B. Gaffin Jr. And then I’ll end with something every Christian should be able to celebrate, despite our theological differences. Such celebration is critical in our times, when the unity of the church is needed to stand against the ravages of a hostile world.
Jesus Won and He Rules Now
We believe that Jesus’s victory over sin and Satan wasn’t provisional; it was definitive. The resurrection life that crowned his head when it emerged from the shadows of the tomb still shines. And it will shine until he comes again in glory. As Gaffin put it, “The entire period between his exaltation and return, not just some segment toward the close, is the period of Christ’s eschatological kingship, exercised undiminished throughout.” Jesus won, and he rules. Smile. Nothing can threaten your King. You and I are now beacons of Christ’s reigning light. As the poet Malcolm Guite wrote,
We ourselves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light;
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed.
We Are Victors
If Christ began his reign in the resurrection, and our life is hidden with Christ on high (Col. 3:3), then we are victors with him. Regardless of how we may feel, we are victorious in Christ. Today. Right now. My father used to keep an old Joe Namath quote on the inside flap of his Bible: “When you win, nothing hurts.” Of course, that’s demonstrably untrue, but you have to smile at the sentiment. Eternal victory burns beyond earthly sorrow. If your eyes are fixed on Christ, they’re fixed on your Captain and King, and his victory over death should take your breath away.