21 November 2010

The Two Age Structure and Chiliasm

For those who like to listen to podcasts....

Below you will find a link to a recent and worthwhile episode over at Christ the Center. The topic is Amillennialism and the guest is Kim Riddlebarger. He's pretty well known as one of the most vocal proponents of that system in Reformed circles. He's also a co-host on the radio programme known as The Whitehorse Inn. Michael Horton is the other well-known figure often linked with Riddlebarger.

I don't agree with him on everything, but he brings out several of the most salient points that are often missed by the critics of Amillennialism. Namely, the Two Age Structure so clearly demonstrable from the New Testament and the issue of the 'nature' of the Kingdom.

I remember some years ago sitting in Alan Cairn's congregation while he mocked Amillennialism as being absurd because it was obviously choosing to ignore the millennium of Revelation 20. This proved two things. One, that Cairns knew nothing about Amillennialism and accomplished nothing other than demonstrating his ignorance. And two, that the term itself is unfortunate.

A- of course implies 'non-' or 'no-' millennium, but this is misleading. Every Amillennialist believes in the millennium of Revelation 20. The issue is...what is the millennium? What is its nature? For Amillennialists, the millennium is simply a symbolic-figurative way of describing the superlative fullness (10x10x10) of Christ's reign and the nature is derived from the pages of the Gospels and Epistles...a Spiritual Kingdom, one that does not come with observation, one only seen and comprehended by those who have been indwelt by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the period of time spanning the first and second Advents of Christ. A time in which all has been completed, but is not yet completed. Christ plainly proclaimed His Kingdom had come, and it certainly did. He ascended into heaven and Peter plainly taught in Acts 2 that the conditions of the Davidic Covenant had been fulfilled...Christ was and is reigning and King. But we also understand that in the Not Yet-sense it will only find its ultimate fulfillment in the age to come.

So in reality rather than Amillennialism, a more accurate way of putting it would be Anti-Chiliasm. Chiliasm is the belief that the Kingdom will manifest itself 'physically' in space and time prior to the Consummation, the Eschaton.

The Two Age Structure of the New Testament which speaks of This Age and The Age to Come does not find a place for this intermediate Kingdom structure, a physical Kingdom between This Age and the eternal Age to Come. Amillennialists would argue The Kingdom is both in This Age and The Age to Come. It is both Temporal and Eternal at the same time.

Pre-millennialists often argue that non-Chiliasm originated with Augustine of Hippo. There's no doubt it became more popular as a result of his writings and work, but it can be found prior to him though it was certainly a minority position. It must be admitted that most of the Early Church Fathers were Pre-millennial and thus Chiliastic.

Though this is a strong argument, in the end we must ask...what do the Scriptures say? Anyone who has read the Early Fathers can certainly detect a significant departure in terms of authority and the quality of their writings. Clearly there was a significant break at the end of the Apostolic period. The Consensus Patrum, the Consensus of the Fathers, which the Roman Catholics argue for is a patent fiction. Read them yourself. It's clear, there's no consensus. The Fathers can be appealed to as an authority, but do not have Canonical Authority.

Whether or not Post-millennialism qualifies as a form of Chiliasm is still debated. The problem is Post-millennialism is not monolithic. Amillennialism is technically a form of Post-millennialism. That is, Christ comes after the Millennium...the temporal aspect of the Kingdom.

Some Postmillennialists define the 'golden age' in such a way that the Kingdom essentially retains its spiritual nature. But the more popular and modern forms of Postmillennialism, those advocated by Dominionist and Theonomic Reconstructionists would I think, qualify as another form of Chiliasm.

As I've written elsewhere, though I consider Dispensational Pre-millennialism to be heretical, Historic Pre-millennialism is certainly acceptable. I don't advocate it, but find it compatible with the Gospel imperative. The issues regarding how we are to live our lives in the present, and what are the goals and expectations of the Church are largely compatible with what I believe to be the Biblical Eschatology and its implications.

Here's the link at Christ the Center.

Just below the title, there's an info line that has a click-button for download. I always do the right-click, save taget as, to get the file.