Review of “Amillennialism and the Age to Come” by Matt Waymeyer

I grew up being taught that both the pretribulational rapture and premillennialism were gospel truth. But after an examination of every text in the Bible on the second coming of Christ, I came to the conclusion that amillennialism was the teaching of Scripture. I bought Waymeyer’s book to evaluate the best new arguments for premillennialism to see if my beliefs needed to be changed in light of Scripture. While my beliefs have not changed, it has forced me to take a closer look at Scripture and for that I am thankful. I appreciate that Waymeyer has taken the time to carefully study and accurately represent the amillennial position throughout his work. In this review, I will explain why I am not persuaded by his arguments.

A major weakness of the book is that there is almost no discussion of Ezekiel 40-48 and the animal sacrifices described there. While dispensationalists have interpreted these to be “memorial sacrifices” commemorating the death of Christ, the text calls them sin and guilt offerings (Ezek 40:39; 45:17-25). We also see the Levitical priesthood and the Jewish Sabbath (Ezek 43:19; 46:1-4). If this is a literal description of the future, then it would overturn the theology of the book of Hebrews which teaches that the shadows of the Old Testament have been done away with in Christ (Col 2:16-17; Heb 7:11-28). Therefore, in light of the teachings of the New Testament and the parallels to Revelation 21-22 (Ezek 47:12 and Zech 14:8 with Rev 22:1-2 for example), Ezekiel’s temple is a depiction of the new heavens and new earth as an idealized present using symbolic language that the original readers could relate to.

But Waymeyer will not allow amillennialists to interpret the Old Testament passages he believes describe a millennium (Ps 72; Isa 2:1-3; 11:1-9; 65:17-25; Zech 8:4-5; 14:16-19) using the hermeneutic that the future is being described as an idealized present in Old Testament prophecy. But if this is not a valid method of interpreting Old Testament prophecy, then he has no way of reconciling the sin offerings of Ezekiel’s temple with the teachings of Hebrews. There is an unwillingness throughout the book to allow the didactic passages of the New Testament to interpret the apocalyptic passages of the Old Testament. As he argues, “later revelation often supplements and clarifies earlier revelation by providing broader context or additional detail, but it never reinterprets or changes the meaning of those previous passages in the process” (301). But if we do not reinterpret Ezekiel’s temple in light of the teachings of the New Testament, we have created a reductio ad absurdum where people continue to make animal sacrifices for their sins after Christ has died on the cross (Heb 10:1-14). See Sam Waldron’s book More of the End Times Made Simple for more detail on this point.

I agree with Waymeyer that “prophetic foreshortening” is a valid method of interpreting Old Testament prophecy where a prophet quickly describes multiple events that will take place in the future even though we learn from later revelation that there are gaps between each event. He uses this device to argue that Isaiah 65:20 is describing death in the millennium even though verse 17 begins by describing this period as the new heavens and new earth rather seeing verse 20 as an idealized depiction of this time. But then he argues that amillennialists cannot legitimately use prophetic foreshortening to interpret those Old Testament passages he believes describe the millennium in a way consistent with amillennialism. However, if amillennialists can use prophetic foreshortening together with recognizing that the future is depicted as an idealized present in these passages, then they are able to interpret them in a way that does not demand a millennium by seeing them fulfilled partially in the New Testament and finally in the new heavens and new earth using the language of accommodation.

When it comes to the millennium, I believe the key issue is whether all believers at the second coming will receive resurrected and glorified bodies. We both agree that all unbelievers at the second coming will be condemned to hell for their sins in contrast to posttribulationism (Luke 17:26-30). But the earth during Revelation 20 is still inhabited by unbelievers (Rev 20:3, 8). If this passage takes place after the second coming, how did they get there? This is why the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ must be separated by a period of time as taught by pretribulationism in order for premillennialism to be true so that the tribulation saints can enter the millennium with unresurrected bodies and reproduce. But if the rapture and the second coming are not separated from each other, then Revelation 20 must be interpreted in light of the truth that all believers at the second coming will receive resurrected bodies which do not reproduce (Luke 20:34-36).

But there is a gigantic problem with separating 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 from the second coming of Christ: if the second coming occurs seven years after the rapture, then the date of Christ’s coming could be calculated to the exact day by those living in this tribulation period! But the Bible always teaches that the date of Christ’s coming cannot be calculated and will come unexpectedly (Matt 24:36, 42-44, 50; 25:13; Luke 12:39-40; 1 Thess 5:2-3; 2 Pet 3:10; Rev 16:15). In light of the popularity of the Left Behind series, if there is an actual tribulation period after all Christians are raptured from the earth, then the people living in this time would all be able to count down the days until the second coming of Christ. Therefore, an eschatology with a seven-year tribulation period cannot be the teaching of Scripture or else the date of Christ’s second coming would be known to man. In addition, the New Testament uses the term parousia or “coming” of Christ interchangeably in both rapture passages and with reference to the second coming.

While much can be said about Revelation 20, I will just focus on Waymeyer’s five objections to the amillennial interpretation of the “first resurrection” in 20:5-6 as the translation of the saints at death into the presence of Christ. First, he argues that the term anastasis or “resurrection” that is used in Revelation 20 almost always refers to bodily resurrection so that is how it should be understood here (219-20). But this argument is similar to the argument annihilationists use based on Revelation 20:6, 14 that hell is annihilation because it is called the second “death” and death in Scripture almost always refers to a cessation of conscious existence. But the annihilationist argument is flawed because it ignores how death is being modified by “second” to indicate that this is not literal death, but the metaphorical second death of the age to come which never ends. More importantly, it overlooks how death is being defined by the context as never-ending torment (20:10). So likewise, when John calls this resurrection the “first” resurrection, he is distinguishing it from the one that takes place on the day of judgment. Because there are still unbelievers around during Revelation 20, this is John’s way of informing us that the second coming has not taken place yet in this vision. Because the second coming has not taken place yet, the first resurrection is that resurrection which corresponds with this age. Since those John sees in his vision are described as “souls” who sit on “thrones,” this is additional evidence John is describing the intermediate state (Rev 4:4; 6:9).

Second, Waymeyer argues “if the ‘first resurrection’ does not consist of a physical resurrection, then Revelation 20 contains no explicit mention of the future resurrection as the consummation of the believer’s hope” (220). But doesn’t Revelation 20:11-15 describe the future resurrection? Waymeyer responds to this objection by saying, “this passage describes only the resurrection of judgment which awaits unbelievers” (220). But what about believers who die during the millennium? Where does it mention their resurrection? If Revelation 20:11-15 only describes the resurrection of unbelievers, does that mean believers who die during the millennium will not receive resurrected bodies?

Third, Waymeyer argues that this specific amillennial interpretation of the “first resurrection” was not advocated before the twentieth century. Therefore, such an interpretation calls into question the perspicuity or clarity of Scripture (221). But this same argument could be used against his own belief in the pretribulational rapture where 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 takes place seven years before the second coming since this belief was not taught in the church until the nineteenth century. Fourth, he argues that the non-sequential meaning of first “is highly questionable” (221). But as an amillennialist, I have no problem with seeing “first” and “second” as taking place in sequential order. The first resurrection to the intermediate state takes place before the second resurrection on the day of judgment and the first death when a person dies takes place before sinners are thrown into the lake of fire. Fifth, he argues “How can a ‘resurrection to heavenly glories’ – including the blessings it brings to those who are resurrected – be considered part of the present, sin-cursed creation order?” (225). Because the intermediate state where the saints reign with Christ is not part of the “sin-cursed creation order.” The saints in heaven are without sin and are free from the effects of the fall (Rev 7:13-17).

The way I would interpret the relationship between the “first resurrection” and “second death” is that the passage is teaching that the wicked experience two deaths (one literal at death and one metaphorical at the resurrection when they are cast into hell) while the righteous experience two resurrections (one metaphorical at death and one literal at the resurrection to eternal life). The first resurrection and second death are metaphorical while the second resurrection and first death are literal. Though believers participate in the first death as unbelievers do, for them it is a kind of resurrection. While unbelievers participate in the second resurrection as believers do, for them it is a kind of death. The first death for believers leads to the first resurrection while the second resurrection leads to the second death for unbelievers. The first resurrection and first death correspond to those which take place during this age while the second resurrection and second death correspond to those which take place in the age to come.

There are several important verses related to this question that Waymeyer does not mention or only mentions in passing without giving an interpretation. Matthew 12:41-42 teaches that the men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South “will rise up at the judgment with this generation.” This means that believers will be raised from the dead on the day of judgment together with unbelievers. But in premillennialism, believers are raised up at least a thousand years before unbelievers. Matthew 13:43 teaches that all believers (since all believers are righteous) at the second coming will be glorified and given resurrected bodies based on Jesus’ allusion to Daniel 12:2-3 describing the resurrected bodies of the righteous.

Waymeyer rightly sees that “the kingdom of God” in 1 Corinthians 15:50 is the eternal state (165). But he never mentions the parallel between this text and Matthew 25:34 where the kingdom the righteous inherit is the one which is established at the second coming. Since corruptible bodies will not inherit it, all of the righteous will have resurrected bodies. Luke 1:33 and Daniel 7:27 teach that the messianic kingdom set up at the second coming will never end whereas premillennialism teaches that the kingdom of Christ will one day end leading to the eternal state. There is no mention of John’s use of the “last day” when all of the elect are raised up (John 6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24; 12:48). It is called the last day because it is the last day of this age. On that day, those who rejected Christ while he was on earth will be judged (12:48). This indicates that both believers and unbelievers will be resurrected at the same time. Also, are those living in the millennium among those who were given to the Son by the Father? If they are, then wouldn’t they be raised up after the last day instead of on it?

Acts 3:21 teaches that Christ must remain in heaven “until the time all things are restored.” This indicates that 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 is the time when Christ will restore all things. But according to premillennialism, the restoration of all things does not occur until at least a thousand years after Christ returns. There is no discussion of the parallels between John 5:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:16, and 1 Corinthians 15:52 which indicate that these events all take place at the same time. Hebrews 10:12-13 interprets Psalm 110:1 to be a description of the present reign of Christ in heaven now rather than one which will take place in the future. This should influence whether we interpret 1 Corinthians 15:25 to be a description of what is happening now or something that only takes place after the coming of Christ. 1 John 2:28 warns us to abide in Christ so that we will not shrink from him in shame at his coming. But why would unbelievers shrink from Christ in shame at his coming in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, the time when Christ comes for his church, if this event is not the second coming when unbelievers are condemned for their sins?

If Revelation 11:15-19 is a description of the second coming of Christ and the final judgment, in light of verse 18 which says that now is the time for the dead to be judged, would that not prove that the resurrection of the wicked takes place at the second coming? With reference to Gog and Magog in Revelation 20, Waymeyer says, “John’s allusion should not be understood as a direct fulfillment of the events predicted by Ezekiel” (292). But Waymeyer overlooks the parallel between Ezekiel 38:22 in Revelation 20:9 which describes the army assembled against Israel as being destroyed by fire and sulfur coming down from heaven. Since Daniel 7:9-10 is being quoted in Revelation 20:12 when it says “the books were opened,” the events at the end of Revelation 20 take place at the same time as Daniel 7:9-10. And the judgment of Daniel 7:11 occurs at the downfall of the man of sin which is at the second coming of Christ (2 Thess 2:8). Waymeyer also does not address the question of what happens to people who die during the millennium since Jesus is already on earth. Where do they go after they die?

And lastly, if the events of Revelation 18-20 must be interpreted in a strictly chronological fashion, then the result is that the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19:7-9 is only for a portion of God’s elect since the second coming has not taken place yet in the futurist reading of Revelation. Are the tribulation saints on earth not part of Christ’s bride? If they are, how could they miss out on their own marriage supper? It is for these reasons why I am not persuaded by Waymeyer’s work. If Waymeyer decides to release a second edition of his book, he should interact with these verses together with Ezekiel 40-48. I have written about my own views on the second coming of Christ in my theses on eschatology.

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