Amillenarism or Amillennialism is a type of chillegorism which teaches that there will be no millennial reign of the righteous on earth. Amillennarists interpret the thousand years symbolically to refer either to a temporary bliss of souls in heaven before the general resurrection, or to the infinite bliss of the righteous after the general resurrection.
This view in Christian eschatology does not hold that Jesus Christ will physically reign on the earth for exactly 1,000 years. This view contrasts with some postmillennial interpretations and with premillennial interpretations of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.
The amillennial view regards the "thousand years" mentioned in Revelation 20 as a symbolic number, not as a literal description; amillennialists hold that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age. Amillennialism holds that while Christ's reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent reign in the new heaven and new earth.
Many proponents dislike the term "amillennialism" because it emphasizes their differences with premillennialism rather than their beliefs about the millennium. "Amillennial" was actually coined in a pejorative way by those who hold premillennial views. Some proponents also prefer alternate names such as nunc-millennialism or realized millennialism, although these other names have achieved only limited acceptance and usage.
VariationsIn Amillenarism there are two main variations: perfect Amillenarism and imperfect Amillenarism. The common denominator for all amillenaristic views is the denial of the Kingdom of the righteous on earth before the general resurrection.
The perfect Amillenarism
- Marcion taught that only souls will resurrect, rejecting the bodily resurrection. He followed the teachings of Simon Magus and Cerdo .
- Origen further developed the Amillenarism of Marcion in his teaching about the reign of the saints in heaven while rejecting the idea of the Kingdom of the righteous coming down to the earth . This teaching was later supported by Gaius of Rome , St. Dionysius of Alexandria , and Eusebius of Caesarea .
- Emanuel Swedenborg taught about the reign of saints in heaven but denied the bodily resurrection .
- In A.P. Lopukhin's Explanatory Bible, the first resurrection refers to the state of the righteous souls reigning in heaven, that is, "they can be guides and helpers to the Christians who are still fighting the good fight of faith on the earth. The souls find in this a new source of joy and blessing" .
- Sickenberger interprets the first resurrection as the ascension of the souls of martyrs into heaven. The Millennium is for him "a symbolic number".
- Giblin, Tadros Malaty see the Millennium as the life of saints in heaven.
- Daniil Sysoev, a priest, taught that the first resurrection is the life and reign of the righteous souls in heaven .
The imperfect Amillenarism
- Cerinthus believed that Jesus Christ "has not yet risen but will rise when the general resurrection of the dead takes place" , i.e. he denied the first resurrection. At the same time, he also said something quite different: "Jesus suffered and rose from the dead, but Christ, who had descended upon Him, went up to heaven without suffering. And the one who came down from heaven in the form of a dove is Christ, but Jesus is not Christ" .
- St. Ephrem the Syrian believed that the first resurrection would occur simultaneously with the second and both would constitute "one resurrection". The Millennium signifies "the immensity of eternal life" .
- Blessed Theodoret of Cyrus expressed similar views on the Millennium to those of St. Ephrem’s. .
- Kraft describes the first resurrection as the resurrection of the martyrs and sees the second one as the judgment over all the dead, which basically means that he denies the Millennium.
- that Jesus is presently reigning from heaven, seated at the right hand of God the Father,
- that Jesus also is and will remain with the church until the end of the world, as he promised at the Ascension,
- that at Pentecost, the millennium began, citing, where Peter quotes on the coming of the kingdom, to explain what is happening,
- and that, therefore the Church and its spread of the good news is indeed Christ's Kingdom and forever will be.
- , where Jesus cites his driving out of demons as evidence that the kingdom of God had come upon them
- , where Jesus warns that the coming of the kingdom of God can not be observed, and that it is among them
- , where Paul speaks of the kingdom of God being in terms of the Christians' actions
Amillennialism also teaches that the binding of Satan, described in Revelation, has already occurred; he has been prevented from "deceiving the nations" by the spread of the gospel. Nonetheless, good and evil will remain mixed in strength throughout history and even in the church, according to the amillennial understanding of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares.
Amillennialism is sometimes associated with Idealism, as both schools teach a symbolic interpretation of many of the prophecies of the Bible and especially of the Book of Revelation. However, many amillennialists do believe in the literal fulfillment of Biblical prophecies; they simply disagree with Millennialists about how or when these prophecies will be fulfilled.
Early churchFew early Christians wrote about this aspect of eschatology during the first century of Christianity, but most of the available writings from the period reflect a millenarianist perspective. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis speaks in favor of a pre-millennial position in volume three of his five volume work and Aristion and the elder John echoed his sentiments, as did other first-hand disciples and secondary followers. Though most writings of the time tend to favor a millennial perspective, the amillennial position may have also been present in this early period, as suggested in the Epistle of Barnabas, and it would become the ascendant view during the next two centuries. Church fathers of the third century who rejected the millennium included Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian. Justin Martyr, who had chiliastic tendencies in his theology, mentions differing views in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, chapter 80:
"I and many others are of this opinion , and that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise."
Certain amillennialists such as Albertus Pieters understand Pseudo-Barnabas to be amillennial. In the 2nd century, the Alogi were amillennial, as was Caius in the first quarter of the 3rd century. With the influence of Neo-Platonism and dualism, Clement of Alexandria and Origen denied premillennialism. Likewise, Dionysius of Alexandria argued that Revelation was not written by John and could not be interpreted literally; he was amillennial.
Origen's idealizing tendency to consider only the spiritual as real led him to combat the "rude" or "crude" Chiliasm of a physical and sensual beyond.
Premillennialism appeared in the available writings of the early church, but it was evident that both views existed side by side. The premillennial beliefs of the early church fathers, however, are quite different from the dominant form of modern-day premillennialism, namely dispensational premillennialism.
Medieval and Reformation periodsAmillennialism gained ground after Christianity became a legal religion. It was systematized by St. Augustine in the 4th century, and this systematization carried amillennialism over as the dominant eschatology of the Medieval and Reformation periods. Augustine was originally a premillennialist, but he retracted that view, claiming the doctrine was carnal.
Amillennialism was the dominant view of the Protestant Reformers. The Lutheran Church formally rejected chiliasm in The Augsburg Confession—"Art. XVII., condemns the Anabaptists and others ’who now scatter Jewish opinions that, before the resurrection of the dead, the godly shall occupy the kingdom of the world, the wicked being everywhere suppressed.'" Likewise, the Swiss Reformer Heinrich Bullinger wrote up the Second Helvetic Confession, which reads "We also reject the Jewish dream of a millennium, or golden age on earth, before the last judgment." John Calvin wrote in Institutes that chiliasm is a "fiction" that is "too childish either to need or to be worth a refutation." He interpreted the thousand-year period of Revelation 20 non-literally, applying it to the "various disturbances that awaited the church, while still toiling on earth."