Posted by: Tim | February 21, 2009

Book Review: A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger

I’m  a premillennialist. It’s part of Prairie Tab’s statement of faith. I’ve wondered why some people hold to other eschatological positions.

I discuss it a few times a year when I teach a membership class and I walk through the statement of faith with candidates for membership. I find that there are usually people in the class who are unsure what premillennialism is, and others confuse it with pretribulationalism.

Recently I’ve come to see that there are some evangelicals far smarter than I who hold to amillennialism and I decided I wanted to understand why they hold to this position. So I looked around online and found Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism to be a strongly recommended, recent defense of the position. I tried to find a strong argument, to read it with an open mind, and to understand the position.

Riddlebarger presents amillennialism as the middle position, with postmillennialism on one side and premillennialism on the other. He grew up in premillennial circles but later became convinced of amillennialism.

The book is divided into three sections:

Part 1 First Things First

Part 2 Biblical and Theological Concerns

Part 3 Exposition of the Critical Texts

The first section “First Things First” is helpful in defining terms and laying the groundwork for the discussion. If you want to understand the difference between premillennialism, postmillennialism, amillennialism, historic premillennialism, progressive dispensationalism, etc…, this is the section for you.

I found the second section “Biblical and Theological Concerns” to be long and tedious to get through, as it walked through some long theological arguments. The section is filled with Biblical references, and the arguments are primarily theological.

Key arguments include:

1. Covenant theology is an important theological framework for understanding the amillennial position.

2.The Bible talks about ‘this age’ and ‘the age to come’, leaving no room for a literal 1000 year millennium in between.

3. The final judgment happens when Christ returns, not 1000 years later

4. Other arguments are presented relating to the kingdom of God (some based around George Ladd’s ‘already’/’not yet’ understanding of the kingdom – Riddlebarger says that post mill is too much ‘already’, pre mill is too much ‘not yet’).

The final section, “Exposition of the Critical Texts”, was good reading as it did what the title suggested, exegeting the texts most relevant to the discussion. Riddlebarger looks in detail at Daniel 9, Matthew 24, Romans 11 and Revelation 20. While I did not agree with many parts of his exposition, I did find it helpful to understand where an amillennialist gets his theology! Also, I found it helpful to learn that some amillennialists do see a future for ethnic Israel (I had previously thought that all amillennialists saw no future for ethnic Israel). I found the exposition of Revelation 20:1-6 to be painful reading, because it seems to me that there are a lot of hoops an amillennialist has to jump through, which appear to avoid the plain meaning of the text.  For example, the text says that Satan is bound and put in the pit which is sealed over him for 1000 years. Amillennialsts believe the 1000 years refers to right now (the millennium being symbolic of an extended period of time between Christ’s ascension and his return). The problem is that Satan appears to be anything but bound and locked in a pit right now. So the amillennialist responds that Satan is like a wild animal tied to stake – he is bound, but still dangerous if you get close. This explanation just doesn’t do justice to the text of Revelation 20 which says Satan is bound and locked away, which suggests he could have no influence on earth. Another example is the explaining away of the two resurrections. Amillennialists are so committed to one resurrection only, that when they hit Revelation 20 which seems to plainly talk about two, one before the millennium and one after, they have to spiritualize one of them away to keep their theological system intact.

I found it frustrating that the exegesis of key Bible texts was left until the end of the book, after the theological discussion of part 2. I recently taught a hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation) course and two of the basic principles are 1. Revelation is progressive and 2. The Bible text gives you your theology, and your theology is not the grid that interprets the Bible text. It seems that by the time an amillennialist gets to Revelation 20, he has such a big theological system built that he cannot let the text read plainly. So when we have the latest piece of biblical revelation in Revelation 20 regarding the millennium, it is not allowed to speak, and is instead forced to fit with the theological system.

In conclusion, I found A Case for Amillennialism to be a helpful book in understanding the Amillennial position, and also for a better understanding of the postmillennial position. It is well written, but heavy reading, and while it is not overly technical, neither is it a popular treatment of the subject. I would recommend it for someone who wants to better understand the amillennial position. After reading this book, it firms up my premillennial position even more, as I did not find the arguments convincing, but it also gives me a better understanding of the position of fellow believers with whom I disagree.

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Responses

  1. First blog I read after wakeup from sleep today!

    ________________________
    The Easiest and Quickest $100 A Day I Know.Email to mike.wilson80@ymail.com for more information.

  2. […] PS#2: Someday, maybe I’ll blog more about eschatology – premill, amill, etc… For now here’ the book review I did of Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism. […]

  3. I appreciate your review. I am about to read riddlebarger’s book. I would like to share my view with you about a-mill and pre-mill. I can promise to absolutely poove pre-mill is false and give you a great commentary on revelation. You would probably consider me an a-mill, but not in a way you have probably evr heard expressed. I am a preacher for the churches of Christ. Please e-mail me.

    • Hi Ed,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. I am convinced of the pre-mill position, and Riddlebarger’s book helped to confirm it even more for me, as my review describes. I am open to learning and hearing other viewpoints, but my reading time is committed to other areas right now, and I don’t think pre-mill is something I am likely to change on, so I won’t take you up on your offer. Thanks anyways.

      Tim

      PS: I am not familiar with “churches of Christ”. Is that a denomination? What are its distinctives?

  4. […] Of related interest: I reviewed Kim Riddlebarger’s “A Case for Amillennialism” here. […]

  5. Both Amillennialism and Prmillennialism have strong and Scriptural points, as well as weak and erroneous ones–all views probably do. However, the eschatology of or Lord and his Holy Apostles has a great many things to say/inform us on these important issues. Please visit my blog Synagogueandchurch.blogspot.com and check out my article “Babylon the Great City–According to the Bible” and a chapter out of my upcoming book, “Understanding the End of the World” “A Bright and Sudden Cognition.” And I would love to dialogue. God bless you and yours.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I dropped by your blog and read the article you suggested. I think you are advocating what is called a ‘preterist’ view of eschatology. I have not studied this position in great detail, but in my limited studies I have not found it to be persuasive.

      Blessings,
      Tim

  6. […] A Case for Amillennialism by Kim Riddlebarger – This book is a solid presentation of the Amillennial position. You can read my full review here. […]


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