Revelation 20 and Amillennialism

This is not going to be an exhaustive post on Revelation 20, about which several forests have been demolished in trying to explain. I am merely going to argue for the amil position in Revelation 20. The key issue turns on whether Revelation 20:1-10 follows chronologically after 19:11-2, or whether it follows non-chronologically (following a sequence of visions). Here are the two best arguments that 20:1-10 follows a visionary sequence, and not a chronological sequence: 1. The battle in 19:11-21 destroys all the enemies of God. The beast (vs 20), the false prophet (vs 20), and all the rest (vv. 18 and 21) are thrown into the lake of fire. This battle is certainly the final climactic battle, the result of which is that all the enemies of God are destroyed. Well, if they are all destroyed, then who is left for Satan to deceive in 20:3? The terms of 19:11-21 are so final (especially the lake of fire imagery) that nothing is really left after that. Poythress explains how it is that anything follows literarily in the book: 

“In view of the structure of the whole book, it makes more sense to see 20:1-15 as the seventh and last cycle of judgments, each of which leads up to the Second Coming…Thus, 20:1-15 is to be seen as the seventh cycle leading to the Second Coming. It parallels all the other cycles, rather than representing a unique period chronologically later than any of the others” (The Returning King, pg. 179). 

In short, the premil position needs to explain why there are any people left for Satan to deceive in Revelation 20, if that chapter follows chronologically from chapter 19.

Secondly, 20:7-10 is clearly describing the same battle as 19:11-21. The quotations from Ezekiel 38-39 point clearly in the direction of Armaggedon in 20:7-10. But most commentators refer 19:11-21 also to Armageddon, in which case we have recapitulation (for a more extended defense of this position, see Beale’s excellent excursus on the relationship of 20:1-10 with 19:11-21, found on pp. 972-983 of his commentary). For an excellent article exhaustively dealing with the evidence for recapitulation in Revelation 20:1-15, see Fowler White in the Westminster Theological Journal 51.2 (1989), pp. 319-344.

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20 Comments

  1. R. Fowler White said,

    March 15, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    You’re kind to refer to my article. A recent excellent book-length resource on all things eschatological, including a thorough discussion of Rev 20, is Cornel Venema’s book, The Promise of the Future (Banner of Truth, 2000).

  2. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    You’re welcome, Dr. White. Of course, Beale refers to your article rather often as well. I have Venema’s book. Haven’t delved into it much yet. The book I read on eschatology was Anthony Hoekema’s excellent book _The Promise of the Future_.

  3. David Gadbois said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Venema used to pastor my church (long before I was a member), but then went off to be a seminary prof. I met him once when he visited us to preach in our morning service. Anyway, us 3FU continental Reformed types can’t always let the presbyterians have all the fun writing books.

  4. RFW (r. fowler white) said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    Yes, for my money, Hoekema’s treatment of the new earth and its correlation with the land promises was his book’s most outstanding contribution. That material revolutionized my own understanding. Taken together, Venema, Riddlebarger, and Hoekema overwhelm the alternative approaches. I did learn much of value from Gentry too, but was not convinced of his postmillennialism.

  5. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Oops, I meant _The Bible and the Future_, not the same title as Venema’s!

  6. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    David, you are going to see in the next 20 years a flood of continental theology that should even up the imbalance created by the fact that most Puritan theology was written in English! I know there are plans for Mastricht being translated, my good friend Wes White is almost done with Rijssen’s Compendium, after which he plans on tackling Marckius, and then De Moor. I will probably try my hand at something in the next year or two when my Latin gets to where it needs to be.

  7. David Gadbois said,

    March 15, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    Lane, the children of the Reformation would rise up and call you blessed if your only contribution in life was to get Calvin’s Institutes re-published as an English-Latin (or English-Latin-French!) polyglot.

    I’ve seen long, LONG out-of-print Latin editions of the Institutes on sale for over $1,000!

  8. greenbaggins said,

    March 15, 2007 at 5:48 pm

    The Latin edition is available on books.google.com

  9. Gomarus said,

    March 16, 2007 at 7:07 am

    That old book by William Hendriksen entitled “More Than Conquerors” introduced me to the idea of progressive parallelism (or recapitulation) in the interpretation of Revelation. It was an eye-opener to me many years ago and I still see it as a classic. Originally published around 1940, I believe Baker republished it in 1998.

    Thanks for this series of posts, Lane.

  10. March 16, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Go over to Justin Taylor’s blog and see the link he posted on Sam Storms and his piece, ‘Problems with Premillennialism’. As Fowler will confirm, our long time friend has done some of his best work on this topic

  11. pdugi said,

    March 16, 2007 at 11:37 am

    I guess one could answer “who is left to be deceived” is that there is a distinction between the battle in 17-19 (which is possibly limited to the Land of israel) and the final battle of 20 where things extend out into the wider world, instead of dealing with apostate judaism (the land beast) in its immitation of Rome (the sea beast)

  12. greenbaggins said,

    March 17, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Well, I think there are serious difficulties with such a view. Universality seems to be in view in 17:8, 14, 15, 18:3, 19:15, 17-20. In fact, the land of Israel is not mentioned once in all of chapters 17-19. 20:7-10 does seem to me to be referring to this same battle, in which case the first verses are a recapitulation, since there is a very clear temporal marker in 20:7.

  13. greenbaggins said,

    March 17, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Hendriksen is good, and I have read his entire book. It is still a good popular-level book on the subject, although Poythress and Johnson might have surpassed him at that level. Gary, I took a brief look at Sam’s work, and it looks quite exhaustive and careful. A great resource.

  14. pduggie said,

    March 18, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    Well thats one of those interpretive cruxes, whether we take “of the earth” to refer to the whole earth, or just “the land”. If so, chapter 17 is full of references to the Land.

    In 17: 8 we have “they that dwell on the earth” wondering (jews, on the *land*), but in v 15, we have an explicitly *wider* reference “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”

  15. pdugi said,

    March 19, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    I also might wonder how a “clear temportal reference” in verse 7 means that what happened “before” and “after” is just the *same* thing. I’d rather think that the opposite is implied.

  16. greenbaggins said,

    March 19, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    I don’t think that I’m saying that what happened “before” and “after” is just the same thing. What I thought I was saying was that the temporal reference indicates that what happens in verse 7ff happens chronologically after vv. 1-6, but at the same time as chapter 19. Is this clearer?

  17. Larry Van Beek said,

    March 19, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Pastor Lane,
    Did you get to look at or view the DVD – “Facing the Giants”?
    This is a must for everyone; what a way to share your faith; “gather them around your living rooms, dens, youth groups, special services – they will come”.
    Love,
    Larry & Cathy

    P.S. Enjoyed the comments and topic on Amillennialism. When I can, would like to submit some classics I have read on the topic that are very informative.

  18. greenbaggins said,

    March 19, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    Hello, Larry. Good to see you here. I haven’t seen that DVD. Do you have a link for it?

  19. March 19, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    Excellent point… another reason why I turned to the amillennial view

  20. Mike said,

    April 19, 2009 at 10:54 am

    This is more of a question than a comment.

    Is it possible to reconcilea premillennialist view with the Athanasian Creed (line 40)?


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