One Lutheran Woman's Search For Truth
My path to Jesus
Lutheran Pastors, start here: Conversion of the Jews
Church Growth Movement & other Christian Concerns
What IS Amillennialism?
It starts with the Bible and how you read it
When the questions started
Part 1 - Conversion of the Jews
Part 2 - The restoration of Israel and earthly reign of Messiah
Part 3 - Questions about the Antichrist - Already fully fulfilled in the Papacy?
Part 4 - The Tribulation - A specific period?
Part 5 - How can Jesus come like a thief?
Part 6 - The world ends in an instant?
Part 7 - Will this present world come to an end at Jesus' return?
Part 8 - The Book of Revelation
Does it really matter?
Why I still participate in Communion
I want to tell you right up front that I didn't create this web site because I think I have all the answers. The reason it's called "Questioning Amillennialism" is that I have more questions than answers. The real reason that I've bared my soul on the Internet is to find God's truth. If I am the one in error, I want someone to help me understand. If I am not in error, then I am hoping that Lutheran pastors will read this and see why at least some of amillennialism doesn't seem to fit God's Word.
That's the heart of the matter right there. This isn't really about end times! It's about trusting God's Word and the promises that He made. I have studied the Bible for quite a long time now, and I have come to believe that every word is there for a reason. All those little details are there for a reason, and nothing is there "just because." Yes, the books of the Bible were written by human authors, but the ultimate author was God Himself! From my study, it appears that He does nothing "just because." I'm having a very hard time accepting a theology that simply explains away major portions of Scripture.
That's what this site is about. I didn't do it to propagate my beliefs. I did it because either I'm in error - and need help from someone willing to take the time to actually study this (and where better to find that person than the Internet, since I've had no luck locally). Or, I'm not in error, in which case my Synod needs to study these issues.
What IS Amillennialism?
What brought YOU to this site? Perhaps you've just found out that your church is amillennial, and you're not sure what that means. The short answer: Amillennialism is a belief that Jesus will not reign on this earth, but is already reigning from heaven and in our hearts. Other major views are Premillennialism, the belief that Jesus WILL physically reign, on the earth, at some point in the future, AFTER his second coming and Postmillennialism, which usually holds that the church will gradually take over the world and reign for 1,000 years BEFORE Jesus second coming. Some Postmillennialists believe that this church reign is yet future, and some hold that is here now. The second variety is hard to distinguish from Amillennialism.
There are different flavors of Amillennialism. Some amillennialists arrive at their conclusions by interpreting the Bible from a Preterist view point. That is, they believe that some, most, or in the case of extreme preterism, ALL of Bible prophecy was fulfilled at some time in the past. (Most amillennialists would not agree with extreme preterism). Many point to 70 AD and the destruction of the Jewish Temple, while others see the fulfillment continuing to about 300 AD and the reign of the emperor Constantine. Here's one of the places where they explain their view: http://www.lvcm.com/preterism/preterism.htm
Other amillennialists see themselves as Historicists. According to one historicism web site, http://www.historicism.com/tour/tour2.htm , historicism is the view that Bible prophecy, especially the Book of Revelation, describes the events of the last two-thousand years. For example, the prophecies concerning the Dragon, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the Whore of Babylon, are references to the pagan Roman Empire, papal Rome (that is, Rome under the rule of the popes), the Papacy, and the Roman Catholic Church. (Of course, Catholic historicists would interpret those differently). Some historicists see themselves as "idealists." In the words of one idealist,
In this view the red horse of(Revelation) chapter six is not a symbol for any specific war, but a symbolic portrayal of every war that has brought great tribulation to men; the black horse symbolizes not any specific famine in the end times but every famine that has raised the price of food out of reach. The smoke from the bottomless pit which obscures the sun in chapter nine is not one specific heresy, but every false doctrine that obscures the light of the gospel.
Most amillennialists are some combination of the two, and individual people or churches may disagree on the details. Both of these views are contrasted with Futurism, which usually holds that prophecy has been or will be fulfilled exactly as written. For example, most futurists would say that Isaiah 17:1, when Damascus will cease from being a city, is still future. They point to the fact that Damascus advertises itself as being the world's oldest, continuously inhabited city.
An easy way to contrast these views would be to look at passages describing the Tribulation. A preterist would likely say they were fulfilled in 70 AD. Historists would say the passages describe all tribulation throughout the last 2,000 years, while futurists believe say they are still future.
That's the short answer. The rest of this web site is dedicated to the long answer. Does amillennialism make sense? Is that what the Bible teaches? For some of you, this isn't a big deal. You're either in one camp or the other, but it doesn't have much effect on your life. For some of us, though, holding a different view from our church is a fairly serious matter. I spent five years actually trying to ADOPT the view of my church before I finally admitted to myself that I wasn't getting anywhere. The following material is based on something I wrote for my husband at that point. I had (and still have) so many questions! And he didn't understand my problem. Even though I looked, there really wasn't a book or a web site that I could direct him to, so I wrote it all out for him. Then, I put this here, so that maybe, just maybe, the right person will find this.
As I mentioned above, either I'm in error - and need help! Or, I'm not. In that case, my prayer is that with God's help, this will finally reach the right eyes. My search for truth is not finished, and what I would write here ten years from now may be different, but this is where I'm at today.
Maybe you're here because these are your questions, too. If so, let's study together - and pray - and see where we wind up.
It starts with the Bible and how you read it
I'm not a theologian with ten degrees. I'm a Mom who loves Jesus. The more I study the Bible, the more I've come to think that it's more important to believe it than explain it. I've come to believe one simple tenet: God had a reason for each and every thing that He has said in His Word. And, I think He says what He means, and means what He says. I believe that He wants people like me to just read His Word and accept it. I believe that God chose His words carefully as He was inspiring the men who wrote down His words, and I believe that every single detail is in there for a reason. That doesn't mean we'll understand them all in this life. But, searching them out makes for wonderfully interesting study!
Most of all, I believe that I can read the Bible and (with the Holy Spirit's help!) generally understand it, if I just accept the words as they're written and not try to make them fit my preconceived notions. That doesn't mean that I don't still have a zillion questions. A thousand lifetimes of study would not exhaust God's riches in His Word! But, overall, the big picture is fairly clear.
Pastors, don't you think that - at times - that might mean there are things we could just leave open to question? Do we have to be dogmatic about things that good Christians disagree on? I'm not saying this belligerently, but if you claim to have the full understanding of everything in God's Word, aren't you kind of putting yourself on God's level? I would never, ever make light of Scripture, nor do I ever want to be in the position that the liberal takes and say that things don't matter. But, why is nearly everything that doesn't agree with the traditional Lutheran view considered heresy? For example, my synod says the "sons of God" in Genesis 6 are the children of Seth marrying the children of Cain and that the "fallen angels" view is unscriptural. I could actually make a better scriptural case for the fallen angels view! Instead of making a big deal out of it, why can't we just say that some people hold the Seth and Cain view, while others, (including nearly every writer through the Ante-Nicene church fathers), hold to the "fallen angel" view and point to these verses (abc) as evidence? That would encourage people to be good Bereans and study it for themselves. Sometimes I think that our fellowship policy takes things to great extremes. Why can't I be a Wisconsin Synod Lutheran and still believe that there will be a conversion of the Jews? Why can't I be WELS and think that maybe - perhaps - not every prophecy of antichrist has been fully fulfilled?
For all you "regular" folks reading this (non-pastors), if you haven't done it already, I strongly encourage you to just get out your Bible and read it. Yes, the whole thing. Don't let Satan tell you that it's too long, too hard, too whatever. On the first run through, forget the commentaries and anybody else telling you what it's supposed to mean, and just read it. Ask God to give you understanding, and He will! That doesn't mean you'll become an instant expert, but God will help you understand what He wants you to understand. The next time, He'll increase your understanding even more.
Twelve years ago, I didn't know what "Amillennialism" even meant. I had read the Bible, cover to cover, several times and it seemed pretty clear to me (more or less) what it said about end times. Of course, there were lots of questions, but over all, I thought I understood. It seemed quite clear that there was going to be a period of really, really bad "stuff" and then Jesus would come back, sort it all out, get rid of the bad guys and reign over the earth from Jerusalem. It seemed obvious that we were going to be "caught up" and then somehow reign with him. I didn't call it "rapture," and I didn't worry about how much time I was going to be in heaven or how the timing of it related to the Tribulation.
At the time, I was in a Lutheran church that never talked about Jesus' return or end times at all. So, I never realized that my view didn't match up with theirs. I had just taken what it seemed like the Bible said and believed it. It was God's word, after all. In 1996, my husband and I joined a more conservative Lutheran church. We went through a class with the pastor to review Lutheran beliefs. On the last day, we spent about two minutes covering end times. The pastor concluded by saying "and we also reject the teaching of a future, literal millennium with an earthly reign of Christ." I sat there so surprised that I couldn't think of anything to say!
I got my act together a couple of weeks later, and went in and asked the pastor some questions. When we were done, I realized that there were a whole bunch of things I needed to re-think. I must have really misunderstood what I had read in the Bible! It didn't really bother me that much, because I just assumed that I had missed some things that would explain it all. Overall, I was thrilled with our new church! They talked about Jesus every Sunday! No more ambiguous grace sermons. I was happy to finally learn what Lutherans believed. It was hard to understand how I could have professed to be a Lutheran all those years without knowing.
I ordered a couple of study booklets on Revelation from Northwestern Publishing, the synod publishing house. I figured that would be all it would take to "get it." Those just raised more questions. I went in and talked to the pastor again. Our conversation went around in circles. He wasn't understanding that I wasn't getting it, let alone WHY I wasn't getting it. He would explain one passage that I didn't understand his view of, with another passage that I didn't understand his view of. I got really frustrated, and finally asked for more things to read.
Over time, I understood that, like most mainline churches, the Lutheran view of end times was amillennial. Not all amillennial churches are in agreement over the details, but this is basically the view my synod holds:
At first, I accepted that all these things were true. The fault was with me. I read every Lutheran thing I could get my hands on. I read books and commentaries. I read material on the Internet. I even read Reformed Amillennial books and articles. I talked to pastors from other churches. I really tried to leave no stone unturned in my attempt to understand and adopt the Lutheran viewpoint. I honestly started to think there was something seriously wrong with me spiritually if I could read all these things and STILL not get it. My friends will attest that I was going through a very dark period. I want to say again, that it was NOT ABOUT END TIMES. It was about God and His Word - and whether I could trust what He had to say or not. Of course, when I try to explain it, I wind up talking about end times, because that is where it comes out.
Looking back, it seems as though God (or Satan, some would argue) was directing my path. Books I came across by chance wound up affecting my thinking. People would come into my life at just the right time. Unrelated events opened other doors. And, time and time again, I had to deal with people that were taking the Bible symbolically.
Those are just a sample of the many occasions. It seems odd to me that God would have me deal with that over and over again. How could it help but affect my thinking? It confirmed to me that anybody who reads the Bible and declares, "That may be what it SAYS, but THIS is what it MEANS..." may be heading down the wrong path. So, it bothers me when someone takes what seems to be the clear language of scripture and then tells me what it REALLY means. For example, Zechariah 14 is just a picture of redemption and has nothing to do with what happens after Jesus returns, even though the language seems very clear. One Lutheran pastor I talked to actually seemed to be saying that people need to be careful when they read the Bible on their own. I said, "Are you telling me that if I read the Bible without someone to explain it to me, that I'm going to come to some dangerous conclusions?" Apparently, that is what he thinks.
It didn't help that it kept coming up, either. During a Bible study, one of the pastors from my church said, "You have to understand, people, that with all the apocalyptic books of the Bible, the symbolism is much more important than the actual message." I sat there thinking, "Who says? Where does the Bible give permission for such a statement? And who is qualified to interpret the symbolism? Couldn't a clever person make the words stand for almost anything then?"
I have tried to both "get" amillennialism or to just forget about it. I prayed and prayed for God to help me change my thinking - show me my error, make it less important to me, something! I would literally go to Communion with tears running down my face, begging God to help me stop being so stubborn. I would plead with Him, "God, you're stronger than me. No matter how tightly I'm holding on to this, I know You can make me let go!"
The amillennial authors I read made sense. . .until I would go back and read the Bible again. The question I kept asking myself was "Why can't I just accept what it says? Why does it have to mean something else?"
Everyone uses symbolic language, and, yes, sometimes that leads to confusion. However, for the most part, we understand each other. If God really thinks of us as "little children" (just do a phrase search at www.blueletterbible.com if you don't think so), shouldn't we just listen to our Father's words and believe them? I really don't want to stand before God one day (forgiven, yes, but my works will still be tested) and have Him say, "Weren't My words clear enough for you? Was your meaning better than Mine?" Maybe I'm being naive, but it seems safer to trust God's words just as they stand. I'm not trying to be stubborn here.
So, here's my plea: If you believe that I'm in error, and you have the time to study this, please write me. (Please - and I mean this in all gentleness - don't bother writing if you're going to tell me that I'm in error because Jesus is already here or that Revelation is really about empire or saving the environment or any other modern liberal thought. If you consider yourself a religious liberal, please don't write. I'm as fundamental as they come, and we'll just be wasting each other's time.) If you believe that I have legitimate questions or you'd like to pass along a little encouragement, I'd love to hear from you, too. I especially want to hear from fellow Lutherans, no matter what your view is.
NOTE: September, 2005 - I am working at re-writing these pages in the hopes of more clearly communicating these issues. I don't know how long it will take, but I'm going to try to work at it consistently. These pages will be continually changing during this time.
NOTE: April, 2007 - Well, the above was my intent, but it just didn't happen. If I had the time, there are many things I would say differently. I would put things in different orders. I would also include some of what I've learned in the last few years. The information to follow, for the most part, was written in 2001. Perhaps, if it is God's will, I will finally get back to this. My beliefs have not changed, regardless of the additional years of searching. So, I'm still "Questioning Amillennialism" but still convinced that there has been a purpose to the questioning. If nothing else, I've given some people a perspective that they might not have read otherwise.
Continue toPart 1 - The Conversion of Israel
Lutheran Pastors, please read this version of Part 1: National Conversion
I eagerly seek your counsel or encouragement. Please write me!
E-mail Questioning Amillennialism
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Heavenly Father, please keep my spirit right as I seek Your truth. If there are people that You wish to read this, please help them find it. You know that I just want Your truth, and I'm trusting You to lead me. If You want someone to help me, please help that person to find this page. If I am not in error, please help me to understand more perfectly and to communicate more clearly. Please, Lord, if I am in error, send someone to help pull me from it. If I am not, please help my Synod. Let the right person study these things. In the name of Jesus, my Savior and King, I'm asking you these things. JLK