A Defense of (Reformed) Amillennialism 4. Matthew 24

Postmillennialism in the Reformed churches teaches the saints to expect an earthly victory in the future before the coming of Christ. The majority of the human race will be converted to Christ and added to the church. The world will be “Christianized.” Christians will govern all nations, controlling all aspects of national life. Christians will dominate whatever ungodly remain, punishing them for misbehavior and compelling them to obey the laws of God.

There will be no great departure from the faith by Christian churches and professing Christians in the future.

There will be no Antichrist and antichristian world-kingdom in the future.

There will be no great persecution, or tribulation, of the true church in the future.

To this, the Reformed student of the Bible reacts with astonishment. His astonishment is due partly to his awareness of ongoing developments in history in both the church and the world.

No great falling away in the sphere of the church? What about the enormous departure in the early post-apostolic and medieval church that resulted in the false church of Roman Catholicism? What about the dreadful apostasy in Protestantism that began soon after the Reformation and that continues at this very moment? Theological modernism has already destroyed multitudes in the mainline churches and eats like a cancer in churches that have yet the name of orthodoxy. The lie of Arminianism dominates much of fundamentalism and evangelicalism. The false gospel of the charismatic movement seduces many others.

No gathering of the nations under one diabolical head by the spirit of autonomous, deified man? What then is the meaning of the relentless rejection in the West of every vestige of Christian influence in national life? How is it to be explained that the “Christian nations” systematically repudiate the authority of the sovereign God as expressed in His law, not only in Scripture but also, and even, in nature, and decree instead man’s own will in bold defiance of the will of God? Why the official, national banishment of God and His law from the schools? Why the official, national legislating of the murder of millions of unborn? Why the official, national approval of homosexuality?

If there is to be no union of the nations as the kingdom of Antichrist, why is there the definite coming together of all the nations on earth, East and West, “Christian” and non- Christian, on the basis of their common insistence that man and his happiness are the main thing, indeed, the only thing?

Is this not the spirit of Antichrist? Is this not the spirit of the man who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped (II Thess. 2:4)? Is this not the forming of the world kingdom the number of whose name will be 666—the number of man independent of God—and which will be a gigantic blasphemy against God, Christ, the church, and the saints (Rev. 13)?

No coming of worldwide, intense persecution, when we can already sense, in the “Christian West,” that the increasingly antichristian state will turn on those who call abortion murder, who condemn homosexuality as perversion, who cannot yield to feminism in church or family, who confess, in short, that Jesus is Lord?

The postmillennialist will disdain this as “newspaper exegesis.” The fact is, nevertheless, that the Christian can and must see the signs in history of the Lord’s coming. Christ Himself commands and commends this (Matt. 16:3Matt. 24). The apostle of Christ made the signs of apostasy and of Antichrist the guard against foolish expectation of the day of Christ at any moment (II Thess. 2:1-3).

The happy predictions of postmillennialism for the church in the world are overthrown by 2,000 years of history.

Postmillennialism’s denial of apostasy, antichrist, and persecution is refuted by historical events.

Amillennialism, on the other hand, rings true to history, past and present. To refer only to this one vital element in the controversy, the true church has always been and is today the remnant according to the election of grace. When and where has the true church ever been the majority? It was the remnant in apostolic times; it was the remnant at the time of the Reformation; it is the remnant today. Why, even in Israel/ Judah, it was the remnant.

Awareness of developments in the world in light of the prophecy of the Holy Scriptures is not, however, the main reason for the astonishment of the Reformed Christian at the dream-world of postmillennialism. His amazement at postmillennialism’s rosy forecast of the earthly future is mainly due to the contrary testimony of the Bible.

What of the apostles’ prediction of departure from the faith in the last days in II Thessalonians 23; II Timothy 3, 4II Peter 2; and I John 2:18, 19?

What of the apostle’s warning of a coming Antichrist in II Thessalonians 2?

What of the apostle’s alerting the saints to an impending tribulation as an element of those things that must shortly come to pass before the coming of the Lord, in the book of Revelation, e.g., Rev. 3:10Rev. 6:9-11Rev. 7:9-17Rev. 11:1-12Rev. 12:17Rev. 13Rev. 14:9-13Rev. 15:2Rev. 16Rev. 17Rev. 19:2, 19-21; and Rev. 20:4, 7-10?

The answer given by the postmillennialist, particularly the “Christian Reconstructionist” (such as Gary DeMar, who asked for this biblical defense of amillennialism), to all of these astonished questions by the Reformed Christian is that all of the prophecies of apostasy, Antichrist, and tribulation have already been completely fulfilled. They are past events. The church of A. D. 1995 does not need to concern herself with them. Nothing of them is yet future. All was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70.

Postmillennialist Gary DeMar writes, “It is unbiblical to use the term ‘Antichrist’ for a present-day or future political ruler. The proper context is theological and pre-A. D. 70” (Last Days Madness, p. 204).

The same author has written that the church must “recognize that the Great Tribulation is a past event.” For “the tribulation had reference to the Jews, the people of Judea.” It was “the destruction of Jerusalem” (Last Days, pp. 119, 110).

The exegetical basis of “Christian Reconstruction’s” grand vision of a “Christianized” world—the victory of the gospel in history—is largely the interpretation ofMatthew 24 by J. Marcellus Kik. The Presbyterian’s interpretation of Jesus’ eschatological discourse has been reprinted in a book titled, An Eschatology of Victory (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1971), pp. 53-173.

Kik explains the chapter in such a way that verses 4-31 refer exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in A. D. 70. Nothing in these verses refers at all to Jesus’ second coming and the events that immediately precede His coming. The abomination of desolation in verse 15 refers only to the desecration of the temple by the “idolatrous ensigns” of the invading Roman army (p. 104). The “great tribulation” of verse 21 refers only to the suffering of the Jews at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. The false Christs and false prophets of verse 24 refer only to the pretender-Messiahs and false teachers among the Jews at that time.

The “coming of the Son of man” in verses 27 and 30 is not the visible, bodily return of Christ, but His revelation in the preaching of the gospel by the apostles. The gathering of the elect by the angels in verse 31 is the spiritual saving of the elect through the gospel. “Angels” are human preachers.

The preliminary signs in the heavens of verse 29 are not the literal darkening of the sun and moon, prior to Jesus’ second coming, but the going out of the figurative light of the Jews as a nation in A. D. 70. “The sun of Judaism has been darkened” (p. 128). The shaking of the powers of the heavens in verse 29 “refers to Satan and his angels” (p. 133).

The basis for this understanding of Matthew 24:4-31according to Kik and his “Christian Reconstruction” disciples is Jesus’ word in verse 34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Kik explains this word as meaning, very simply, that every single prophecy of Christ in verses 4-31 was fulfilled, exhaustively, in the lifetime of the generation that was alive at the time of Jesus’ instruction. All was exhaustively fulfilled in A. D. 70 in the destruction of Jerusalem. Nothing foretold in verses 4-31 pertains to the second coming.

The key to Matthew Twenty-four is verse 34…. Every thing mentioned in the previous verses were (sic) to be fulfilled before the contemporary generation would pass away…. The first thirty-four verses of

Matthew 24

, along with verse 35 deal with the destruction of Jerusalem (pp. 59, 60, 67).

Gary DeMar agrees:

The events rehearsed in the Olivet Discourse are signs leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A. D. 70. These chapters have nothing to do with when Jesus will return at the final judgment. There are no observable signs leading up to His bodily return (Last Days, p. 151).

This interpretation of Matthew 24 is basic to the postmillennial denial of apostasy, Antichrist, and great tribulation for the church in the future. For in the light of this explanation of Matthew 24, the postmillennialist goes through the entire New Testament rigorously applying all prediction of such things to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Fundamental to this interpretation of Matthew 24 is Kik’s explanation of verse 34, the “key” to the chapter. If Kik is wrong here, his whole postmillennial conception of the earthly future collapses like a house of cards.

“This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”

Does Christ teach that every last particular in the preceding verses was fulfilled exhaustively in A. D. 70? We shall see.

—DJE