Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 4

Of the three broad millennial positions, amillennialism is the simplest: this age will end with the return of Christ, and then comes eternity.  Variations within this view normally pertain to what eternity will be like.  For the major part of church history, amillennialists have followed Augustine’s “spiritual vision” eschatology, which views salvation as basically an escape from this world, which will be annihilated.  The redeemed will go to Heaven to be with God forever (their experience of God there is known as the “beautific vision”). 

More recently, amillennialists such as Anthony Hoekema and Vern Poythress have argued for an “earthy” amillennialism, which understands the eternal state as a renewed creation.  Christ will return, not to take us away from here and annihilate this world, but to renew it so that the redeemed might inherit a new creation forever. 

Some amillennialists believe that Israel will turn to Christ collectively at the end (Romans 11), and some believe that Paul’s reference to “all Israel” in Romans 11:26 is a reference not to ethnic Israel but to the people of God as a whole, (i.e., the elect Jews and Gentiles from all nations).  Some amillennialists believe there will be a definite tribulation period with a personal antichrist just prior to the return of Christ, and others view these terms as symbols of more general realities in the period between Christ’s two comings.   

Amillennialism has been the dominant view of church history, particularly in its “spiritual vision” variety.  Augustine set the trajectory for medieval theology in this regard, and the Reformers also embraced an amillennial eschatology.  It has also been the dominant view among covenant theologians up to the present day.  (Covenant theology is a major strand of Reformed theology that views the biblical storyline as the story of two covenants: the covenant of works made with Adam and Eve, which they broke, and the covenant of grace made with God’s covenant partners throughout redemptive history under various administrations.  According to covenant theologians, the one grand covenant of grace is the underlying unity of the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Israel, David, and the church). 

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