Millennial Series: Part 3: Amillenniallism in the Ancient Church -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:423 (Jul 1949)
Article: Millennial Series: Part 3: Amillenniallism in the Ancient Church
Author: John F. Walvoord

Millennial Series:
Part 3: Amillenniallism in the Ancient Church

John F. Walvoord

[Author’s Note: The present article is the first of a series of studies in amillennialism which will form a background for later articles on premillennialism.]

In recent years interest has been revived in the origin of millennial theology. This has been caused, first by the decadence of postmillennialism which seemed to demand a new search for perspective in this field; second, by the popularity of premillennialism with its claim that the early church was premillennial; and, third, by the trend toward more serious Biblical studies—a result of the decline of extreme liberalism. The reduction of millennial theories to only two principal viewpoints—amillennial and premillennial—has tended to simplify the issue and make the millennial argument largely one for or against a literal millennium.

The nature of the arguments bearing on the millennium has also been significant. These have been characterized by: (1) a fresh study of literature of the Fathers to see if it is necessary to concede that the ancient church was premillennial, as had previously been almost universally allowed by all parties; (2) a fresh study of the Scriptures by the amillennialists to defend themselves from the obvious Biblical approach of premillennialists; (3) a more vigorous attack on premillennialism with a view to proving its doctrines dangerous and heretical to orthodox theology as a whole. Many of the significant books in the controversy have come from the pens of amillennialists, and these books in turn are refutations of earlier books of the premillennialists. Of particular interest is the recent restudy of millennialism in the ancient church with the objective of destroying or at least weakening the weighty argument of premillennialists that the ancient church was in sympathy with their viewpoints.

Problems of Classification

Amillennialism as a theological term has come into general use to distinguish its viewpoint from both the postmillennial and premillennial views. With its basic concept of a denial of a future millennial reign of Christ on earth, amillennialism holds that the present age is the millennium and that the promises of a righteous kingdom on earth are being fulfilled in the church on earth or by the saints in heaven. As Allis, an amillenarian, defines it, amillennialism “is the teaching that the only visible coming of Christ to this earth which the Church is to expect will be for judgment and will be followed by the final state. It is anti-chiliastic or a-millennial, because it rejects the doctrine that there are to be two resurrections with an interval of a thousand years (the millennial rei...

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