An Amillennial Rebuttal to Dispensationalism 2

A Christological Focus

But the greatest challenge (and the greatest privilege) in preaching the Old Testament is finding the way that it points to Christ and bringing that to the congregation in a way that clearly honors the Old Testament passage and makes much of Christ. This is not a call for importing some artificial connection to Jesus whenever we preach. Just the opposite. This calls for understanding and expositing the specific ways in which Old Testament passages point to Christ. But it does presuppose, based on Jesus’ own words in John 5 and Luke 24, that every passage of the Old Testament does indeed point to him.1

It is very true national Israel lies at the heart of all biblical eschatology and covenants, the Old Testament promises made to national Israel are the hermeneutical center of Scripture. However, Scripture Itself does not leave this principle where Dispensationalists plant their feet. The New Testament (see the book of Matthew) goes to great lengths to show that Jesus Himself fulfills all of the promises made to national Israel. Matthew explains that Jesus is very much an Israelite, He is very much the Son of David, presenting Jesus as the representative of all of Israel, thereby Christ’s rightful place in Scripture is the center.

1). Isaiah’s servant songs have a double referent that has long baffled Jewish commentators. On the one hand, they refer to Israel, God’s chosen one and servant (Isaiah 41:8-9; 44:1-2, 21; 45:4; 49:3). On the other, they seem also to refer to some individual (Isaiah 42:1-4). These prophecies are interpreted by the New Testament as referring to Christ (Matthew 8:17 and Acts 8:30-35)

2). Matthew sees a double referent in Hosea 11:1, (“Out of Egypt I called my son” Matthew 2:15)

3). Paul identifies Christ, not physical Israel, as Abraham’s seed (Galatians 3:16). Galatians 3:7 and Romans 4:11, 16, moreover, identifies the church as Abraham’s offspring.

4). Henceforth, we are in Christ the true Israel: Galatians 3:26-29, Romans 2:28-29, and Philippians 3:3.

5). The Old Covenant is obsolete, having been superseded by the New: Hebrews 8:8-12 identifies the new covenant with Israel (Jeremiah 31:33-34) with the covenant instituted by Christ with the church. Most importantly, Hebrews 8:13 declares the old covenant obsolete and passing away. This makes impossible the dispensational view of Ezekiel 40-48 as a reinstitution of temple sacrifice.

6). The upshot is that the Old Testament did not see how its own prophecies were to be fulfilled – indeed, it could not prior to Christ. The New Testament authors were able to interpret the Old Testament in the light of His coming of the new covenant that He instituted. So should we2.

This means that Jesus is the true Israel, and that all Scripture–especially its prophetic sections–must be read through a Christ-centered hermeneutic, not a dispensational one which centers upon national Israel3.

1The Greatest Challenge and Privilege of OT Preaching by Mike Bullmore Senior Pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin.
2Amillennialism by Prof. Robert B. Strimple – The Mountain Retreat.
3“John MacArthur on Calvinism, Dispensationalism, Israel and Hermeneutics: A Few Comments by Kim Riddlebarger


An Amillennial Rebuttal to Dispensationalism

As I have posted the Dispensational viewpoint of how one should read Scripture, see here and here, I am posting the Amillennial rebuttal.

Summing up the Dispensational viewpoint, one person wrote:

It has been my practice to approach Scripture with the grammatical historical method of interpretation, also called the literal interpretation method . This can also be called the normative approach (and the one I prefer) as the literal meaning of words is the normal approach for understanding and communication in any language. This method, basically stated, attempts to interpret Scripture 1) Grammatically—that is to say according to the normal and plain understanding of grammar and in accordance to its rules, 2) Historically—that is to say according to the geographical and historical setting of the original audience, and 3) Contextually—that is to say in accordance to the immediate context of the passage and to the larger context of its place within Scripture.

It is my belief that one can apply this method of interpretation throughout the entirety of Scripture. I do not see the need to abandon this method of interpretation when faced with a prophetic passage but rather interpret prophetic and non-prophetic passages alike by adhering to the same rules of interpretation for both.

Critiquing Dispensational Hermeneutic

“When one allows God himself to interpret the meaning of his prophecies through later revelation, it becomes impossible to employ a naturalistic, Dispensational hermeneutic. Dispensationalists claim to have a literal hermeneutic, taking prophecies in a simple, material sense unless the immediate context demands otherwise. The problem with this approach is that it arrives at interpretations which are later contradicted by the New Testament. In opposition to this principle, [we] recognize the validity of ‘the analogy of faith,’ that is, that the best interpreter of scriptures is other scriptures. The hermeneutic which allows the Author to foreshadow spiritual realities through physical means, and later interpret them in clear, didactic writing, is actually a more natural and literal hermeneutic than one which demands a physical/material sense unless an immediate absurdity arises thereby, even when other scriptures contradict this physical/material sense. The basic question is this: will our hermeneutic allow God to explain himself, or will it allow our own human understanding of what is more literal to negate the interpretation of God himself?” ~Nathan Pitchford

Interpretational Warning

Walter Kaiser, in Toward an Exegetical Theology, explains,

“the Church at large (since the time of the Reformers especially) is in error when she uses the analogy of faith (analogia fidei) as an exegetical device for extricating meaning from or importing meaning to texts that appeared earlier than the passage where the teaching is set forth most clearly or perhaps even for the first time” (p.82). While the concept of progressive revelation suggests interpreting the Old Testament in light of the New, Kaiser argues that this is not a license to read meanings into the OT that are not there.”

The possibility of interpretational abuse is not qualification of wholesale rejection of analogia fidei (analogy of faith). Where else can we learn to interpret Scripture but from Scripture?

Problems with Dispensational ‘Literal’ Interpretation

1) Tacit acknowledgement that a literal reading of the text need not exclude a spiritual meaning or figurative and symbolical language. In the original position of Scofield himself, a somewhat arbitrary distinction is made between the historical and prophetic texts in the Bible. This distinction is made in order to allow for the possibility that the historical texts may have both a literal and a spiritual meaning. Though Scofield maintains that this is never possible in the case of prophetic texts, there seems to be no reason why this cannot be the case. Why can historical texts that speak of Jerusalem have a spiritual meaning, while prophetic texts that speak of Jerusalem must invariably have a literal meaning? Furthermore, the possibility of non-literal elements indicates that it is somewhat simplistic and misleading to insist that texts always be read literally.

2) For Dispensationalism to begin with a commitment to the ‘literal, plain or normal reading of a text’ entirely begs the question as to what that sense is. To say that the literal meaning of biblical prophecy and promises must always be the most plain, concrete and obvious meaning, is to prejudge the meaning of these texts before actually reading them ‘according to the letter’, that is, according to the rules that obtain for the kind of language being used.

3) For Dispensationalism to begin with a commitment to the ‘literal, plain or normal reading of a text’ entirely begs the question as to whose “literal, plain or normal reading of the text do we rely upon? What may be literal, plain or normal to one person may be different for another. Do we rely upon the majority view?

4) A tacit rejection of NT interpretation of OT texts which do not change the meaning so much as the referent (see Acts 2 – If Acts 2 is not the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy, why does Peter say it is?

How do we account for the issue of a second sacrificial system being set up even though Christ is the final sacrifice? Is there another meaning for the word final?


It has been common since the time of the Protestant Reformation to speak of a grammatical-historical reading of the biblical texts. This is one that takes the words, phrases, syntax and context of the biblical texts seriously — hence, grammatical — and also takes the historical setting and timing of the texts into careful consideration — hence, historical.

Eric Adams explains the issue of the Dispensational hermeneutic this way:

The problem is that the Dispensational hermeneutic is not based upon the exegesis of Scripture. “Literalism” is a presupposition, a philosophical pre-commitment. In fact, Dispensationalists routinely teach that one should not look to the Bible to obtain sound interpretive principles. Matt Waymeyer … wrote an article called “Don’t Try this at Home: Today’s Interpreter and the ‘Apostles’ Hermeneutic.'” While the NT use of the OT can be a thorny issue, and Waymeyer does raise some valid concerns, his conclusion is that we should not even attempt to find interpretive principles in how the NT writers used the OT. Hence, the warning in the title is “Don’t try this at Home.” Other Dispensationalists have argued the same thing. This is shocking. Dispensationalists routinely argue that Scripture ought to be our standard for everything, except for interpretive principles. The Dispensational hermeneutic is not derived from Scripture itself. “Literalism” is a philosophical presupposition. Thus, the ultimate foundation of Dispensationalism is not the Scriptures themselves, but philosophy. This philosophical principle of “literalism” is then used to interpret the Scriptures, which produces many of the distinctively Dispensational doctrines (e.g., a future Jewish millennium). These doctrines appear to be Scriptural, but they are arrived at using interpretive principles that are foreign to Scripture. While the application of “literalism” is a notorious problem, the foundation of “literalism” is even more deeply flawed.

This is not denying the literalness of communication. Communication is based upon a literal meaning. There is a difference between what a text says and what it means and sometimes are the same thing but not always. Another way to say it is, Interpreting Scripture “literally” is to focus on Its meaning and not necessarily what it says. Scripture interprets Itself on so many levels and in so many ways via many authors, much time and genres that It provides us with a lens by which we can interpret Scripture.

Making the sense plain to others is not necessarily looking to the plain sense. Be faithful to Scripture, not necessarily literal.

Scripture Itself does not always interpret Scripture literally.

Scripture Itself provides us with a robust hermeneutical paradigm.

To deny how Scripture interprets Itself on any point is to reject Scriptural objective literalism, which in turn, is a rejection of the authority of Scripture Itself.

To interpret the Scriptures literally
To interpret the Scriptures “literally” simply means to interpret them as literature. The wonderful thing about Scriptural literature is that it self-interprets at enough points (over many authors, centuries, and genres) to give us fairly robust hermeneutical paradigm. Denial of this paradigm is not objective literalism, it is anti-literalism because it dismisses the signals within the literature itself.

This is the chief failure of dispensationalism – it approaches the OT with a naive / one-dimensional perspective that dismisses the NT interpretive paradigm.

Two-Sided Coin
The Dispensationalist condemns the Amillennialist for “picking and choosing” what various words and phrases mean; they charge that the final rule of interpretation is the Amillennialist’s whim.

The other side of this coin is relying upon a strictly and woodenly literal interpretation. Both sides claim their interpretation is the meaning of the passages in question.

The Dispensationalist is hoisted upon their own petard.

If you notice, the Amillennialist continually points to Scripture and says, essentially, “this is why this word or phrase means x because Scripture tells us what it means,” whereas, the Dispensationalist relies on the surface meaning of the word: “the number 7 is always a quantity of 7 (unless, of course, it inherently produces “bad theology” (i.e. the 7 spirits of God in Revelation).

Eschatology Hermeneutics

Eschatology 101 – Hermeneutics

The discussion of Eschatology isn’t so much about Eschatology as it is hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is essentially how you read Scripture. For example, the person who is a Premillennialist views Scripture through one lens, while the Amillennialist views Scripture through another lens.

These lenses through which we view Scripture are established by which presuppositions we bring to Scripture. These presuppositions establish each view as mutually exclusive.

Presuppositions are the assumptions you make before you arrive at the text. For instance, a Dispensationalist presupposes the Old Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the New Testament, while the Amillennialist presupposes the New Testament takes a certain amount of precedence over the Old Testament.

However, all views see a certain amount of continuity (what’s the same) between the Old and New Testaments, and all views see a certain amount of discontinuity (what’s different) between the Old and New Testaments. For instance, we do not offer sacrifices as was done in the Old Testament (discontinuity), yet we believe in one God that is represented in both the Old and New Testaments (continuity).

The difficulty is answering the question, “to what extent is there continuity and to what extent is there discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments?”

Due to the mutually exclusive nature of these views, if one view is true, the others cannot be true. Further if, for example, the Premillenial view is true, then the way the Premillennialist reads Scripture is the correct method of interpretation. This is, in my opinion, why Eschatology can be such a volatile subject. To discredit a particular Eschatological view essentially discredits the method or way someone reads Scripture.

Great effort and due diligence must be the key because this study is not for the faint of heart.

When you dive into Eschatology, you will be forced to seriously evaluate your hermeneutics (the way you read Scripture). This is why many folks do not go too deeply into this discussion, nor do I blame them.

With all this said, we will be explaining the what, why and how these different Millennial views read various passages of Scripture the way they do.

Eschatology Media Videos

Eschatology 101 – Timelines

To help you continue in your understanding of the four major views of the End Times, here are the timelines for the four major views of Eschatology presented by David Murray of These are excellent.


Dispensational Premillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.


Historic Premillennialism

Premillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.



Postmillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.



Amillennial Timeline from Puritan Reformed on Vimeo.


Eschatology 101 – Overview

Eschatology is the study of the Last Days, also known as the End Times or Last Days. Eschatology revolves around the Day on which Jesus Christ returns to earth to gather up His people, and each view within the study of Last Days centers upon what is called the Millennium and when Christ’s Second Return, also known as the Day of the Lord, will happen in relation to the Millennium.

The Millennium is solely mentioned in Revelation 20 six (6) times as “a thousand years”. A single reading of the passage seems to provide one meaning, but the issue is not so simple.

The issue of the Millennium has to deal with the nature of the Millennium. In other words, the goal of Eschatology is to figure out the characteristics of the Millennium:

Is the Millennium centered around the nation of Israel?
Is the Millennium “physical” in characteristic?
Is the nature of the Millennium “spiritual” but nonetheless real?
Will the Millennium be characterized by peace and “Christian-ized” living?
Will things grow worse and worse as the Millennium progresses?

These, and other, questions need to be answered, hence the study of Eschatology is vital. Each view of the Millennium (listed below) is simply based upon presuppositions one holds about Scripture, Christ’s Kingdom, and the Promises and People of God. Yet, the discussion of Eschatology is not as easy as one would think.

  • Dispensational Premillennialism
    • Pretribulational
    • Hard distinction between Israel and the Church
    • Strictly literalistic reading of Scripture
    • Physical earthly reign of Christ
    • 1000 literal year millennium
  • Historic Premillennialism
    • Soft distinction between Israel and the Church
    • Semi-literalistic reading of Scripture
    • Physical earthly reign of Christ
    • 1000 literal year millennium
    • Posttribulational
  • Amillennialism
    • Posttribulational
    • PostMillennial
    • Sees Scripture expressing symbols of reality in Scripture
    • Spiritual reign of Christ in believers’ hearts
    • 1000 (indefinite) amount of time for the millennium
    • Allows for the inclusion of ethnic Israelites ala Romans 9-11
  • PostMillennialism
    • Posttribulational
    • 1000 (indefinite) amount of time for the millennium
    • Physical reign of Christ at the end of the millenium
    • Semi-literalistic reading of Scripture

We will continue this discussion in a future article.