Not a Simple Matter by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.
As we begin a new month, the final one of 2013, we take a brief look at the latest issue of Ligonier Ministries’ Tabletalk magazine. This issue is devoted to the theme of “The Millennium”, i.e., the varying views found in the church today on the end of the world and the return of Jesus Christ, especially as set forth in Revelation 20.
Burk Parson provides his customary introduction to this topic under his editor’s column “Coram Deo – Before the Face of God”. He titles this editorial “Not a Simple Matter”, describing how the church has struggled to understand Revelation 20 and other passages relating to eschatology. Here is his closing paragraph:
If you are among the many Christians who find it difficult to understand eschatology (the doctrine of last things) and have found yourself in a quandary in the millennial maze, you are not alone. Even some of the church’s greatest scholars, past and present, have admitted their own struggle to understand the Bible’s teaching on the last things and the millennium. It is not a simple matter. Nevertheless, it is a biblical matter and therefore an important matter, one we should never stop studying as we continually strive to rightly divide the Word of Truth for our edification and for God’s glory as we eagerly anticipate the return of our conquering King, Jesus Christ, when we will see Him and reign with Him coram Deo, before His face forever.
Yesterday I also read the first main article on “The Millennium”. Keith Mathison in his article “The Millennial Maze” provides an overview of the four major views of eschatology: historic premillennialism, dispensational premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Though brief, Mathison’s descriptions are accurate and also give concrete examples of figures in the church who have held these positions.
This is how Mathison opens his article (with a little humor):
I once heard someone define the millennium as a thousand-year period of time during which Christians fight over the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation. While amusing, that definition is obviously incorrect. Christians have been fighting over the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation for two thousand years. In all seriousness, however, all of the fighting has led some Christians to adopt despairingly a position they call panmillennialism (we don’t know which view of the millennium is correct, but we know it will all pan out in the end).
While we may smirk at these comments, and also acknowledge the difficulty in understanding the Bible’s teaching on the return of our Lord, we should also be clear that the problem is NOT the Bible’s clarity, but our own frail and feeble understanding.
It is inconceivable that Jesus would leave us in the dark about such an important event, and indeed we believe that His teachings are plain and simple. But because of our own limited understanding, as well as sin and pride, we do not grasp His teaching as we ought.
Having said that, I firmly believe that the amillennial position – in spite of the shortcomings of its name – is the correct one, and that all the others are in error on this matter. To my mind this position best reflects the plain and simple teaching of the Word of God. And, I might add, also the teaching of the historic creeds of the church (especially the Reformed creeds).
May God give us true light on this important doctrine even as we live in these last days. And may that true light give us true hope for the one, final coming of our Savior and Lord.