It’s a lot easier for me to love Amillennialists when they talk like this.

From Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future

Dispensationalists commonly say that we amillennialists spiritualize prophecies of this kind by understanding them as being fulfilled either in the church of this present age or in heaven in the age to come. I believe, however, that prophecies of this sort refer neither primarily to the church of this age nor to heaven, but to the new earth. The concept of the new earth is therefore of great importance for the proper approach to Old Testament prophecy. All too often, unfortunately, amillennial exegetes fail to keep biblical teaching on the new earth in mind when interpreting Old Testament prophecy. It is an impoverishment of the meaning of these passages to make them apply only to the church or to heaven. But it is also an impoverishment to make them refer to a thousand-year period preceding the final state. They must be understood as inspired descriptions of the glorious new earth God is preparing for his people (205-06).
Dispensationalists accuse us amillenarians of “spiritualizing” prophecies of this sort so as to miss their real meaning. John F. Walvoord, for example, says, “The many promises made to Israel are given one two treatments [by Amillennialists]. By the traditional Augustinian amillennialism, these promise are transferred by spiritualized interpretation to the church. The church today is the true Israel and inherits the promise which Israel lost in rejecting Christ. The other, more modern type of amillennialism hold that the promises of righteousness, peace and security are poetic pictures of heaven and fulfilled in heaven, not on earth.” On a later page, after quoting and referring to a number of prophetic passages about the future of the earth, Walvoord goes on to say, “By no theological alchemy should these and countless other references to earth as the sphere of Christ’ millennial reign be spiritualized to become the equivalent of heaven, the eternal sate, or the church as amillenarians have done.
To the above we may reply that prophecies of this sort should not be interpreted as referring either to the church of the present time of to heaven, if by heaven is meant a realm somewhere off in space, far away from earth. Prophecies of this nature should be understood as descriptions – in figurate language, to be sure – of the new earth which God will bring into existence after Christ comes again – a new earth which will last, not just for a thousand years, but forever. … There will be a future fulfillment of these prophecies, not in the millennium, but on the new earth. … It is, however, not correct to say that referring these prophecies to the new earth is to engage in a process of “spiritualization” (275-76).

If they can accept that the prophecies of the OT are to be interpreted literally regarding the new Earth, then all you need to do is open to Isaiah 65 and point out the intermediate state (the millennial kingdom):

“Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed.” (Isaiah 65:20)

This is not the new Earth, since death is banished from the new Earth (Revelation 21:4). This is the millennial kingdom that all the Jews after the Davidic covenant waited eagerly for. It will exist on the earth, after the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming, for 1000 years (Rev.20). And according to Isaiah, it will be composed mostly of people who die.

But wait – a few verses before, in Isaiah 65:17, establishes the context of the new heavens and earth.

Like all prophecy, this takes wisdom to understand. If the new earth is in view in v.20, then v.20 contradicts Revelation 21:4 outright. We have to understand, then, that like most Bible prophecy, this passage is layered. The idea of “new earth” here contains the millennium and the eternal state. The millennial earth is a new earth, but not the final new earth – so the idea is encompassing all the “newness” that comes in increasing measure with the governance of Jesus and his people until the eternal state is ushered in.

So v.20 is in the right context, the creation of the new heavens and earth that begins with the Second Coming. The only way to understand v.20-25 (including v.23, which mentions bearing children, something that Jesus said is non-existent in the eternal state) is to interpret Rev. 20 literally. There will be a thousand years of Jesus-ruled peace on the earth before the eternal state.

Biblically, it fits into the narrative as a whole (and the symmetrical nature of Hebrew literature). Just as after paradise there was a (roughly) 1000-year period of degeneration, so there will be a 1000-year period of regeneration before paradise.


~ by bradybush on May 1, 2010.

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