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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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Eschatology Q & A -- Matthew 19:28, Revelation 3:10, and Dispensational Presuppositions

eschatology%20q%20and%20a.jpgMelissa asks (February, 21, 2008):

Dear Mr. Riddlebarger, I have been listening to your series (Amillennialism 101) with great interest.  Having only been taught and believing premil dispensationalism (but with a lot of questions about it), I do find compelling arguments in your series.  I am seriously studying this matter for myself and trying to set aside my presuppositions and beliefs.

I was just wondering how amils interpret passages such as Matt 19:28 (referring to the regeneration specifically) and also Rev 3:10 in which believers will be kept from the hour of testing.  Any response would be most appreciated.



While you make an important point about presuppostions, and then ask about two different passages, all of these matters are closely related.  So I'll tackle them together in one Q & A.

First, you are absolutely right when you stress setting aside dispensational presuppositions when analyzing verses such as these.  These are both important passages to dispensationalists, because they make perfect sense when read through the dispensational lens.  So, for the sake of argument, let us analyze the two verses apart from the dispensational grid, and then see if they make  better sense on amillennial presuppositions.

Matthew 19:28 reads, “Jesus said to them, `Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (ESV).   Dispensationalists understand this passage as teaching that there will be a future restoration of the nation of Israel, in which the disciples will exercise an important role in an earthly millennial kingdom (Campbell and Townsend, A Case for Premillennialism, Moody, 1992, 176-178).  John Walvoord says that this “is clearly a picture of the millennial earth, not heaven” (Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, Moody, 1974, 146). 

I beg to differ.  The problem for dispensationalists in particular, and premillennarians in general, is that Jesus says this will happen when he sits on his throne, “in the new world.”  In the Greek text, the phrase is en te palingenesia, which literally means “rebirth” or “regeneration.”  The phrase en te palingenesia may be used in a similar sense to the way the word apokatastaseos is used in Acts 3:21, where it is translated “restoration.”  The temporal aspect of this renewal or rebirth is tied to what follows (“when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne”), simply meaning that this is a reference to the renewal of the world at the end of the age, and is not a reference to an earthly millennium (see Hagner, Matthew 14-28 Word Biblical Commentary 33a, Word, 1995, 565).

Since the contrast between "this age" and "the age to come" is a contrast between the temporal and the eternal (see the discussion of the "two-age model in my A Case for Amillennialism, 81-99), this cannot be a reference to an earthly millennium after Christ comes back.  When Jesus returns, he judges the world (Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15) raises the dead (1 Corinthians 15:12-57; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11) and makes all things new (2 Peter 3:3-15).  This makes it pretty clear that there is no one left on the earth in natural bodies over which the disciples can rule!  In other words, this is a reference to the eternal state, not an earthly millennium.
On the dispensational/premillennial scheme, Jesus is telling the disciples that they will rule over Israel during the millennial age, while on the amillennial view, the rule depicted here is when the twelve disciples represent the true Israel and are vindicated by Jesus himself.  In effect, Jesus is telling those who gave up everything to follow him, that they will be vindicated in the end.

As for Revelation 3:10, the passage reads, “because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (ESV).  Dispensationalists believe that this is a reference to the rapture, in which the faithful church (symbolized by the church in Philadelphia) is removed from the earth immediately before the beginning of the seven-year tribulation period.  Indeed, dispensational presuppositions require that the Gentile church be removed from the earth at the start of the Seventieth Week of Daniel’s prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27), so this verse is taken as proof of that pre-determined fact.

The problem is that dispensational presuppositions clearly get in the way of the text, and when you set them aside it is easy to see a better way to understand this verse.  John tells the church of Philadelphia (the actual church in Philadelphia at the time John writes this letter about. A.D. 95),  that a world-wide hour of trial is coming--perhaps a reference to persecution of the faithful by the beast from the sea (Revelation 13:1-10) and the beast from the land (Revelation :1311-18)--and that this particular congregation will be spared from this extensive period of tribulation because they have been faithful.  Jesus will preserve them.

Notice that the same power which kept them strong, will preserve them (vv. 7-8)–  “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.  “‘I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” It is this same power (weak in man’s eyes) which will maintain for them their status (v. 9)– “Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.”

Because the Philadelphian Christians have been faithful witnesses to Christ in the past, Jesus now tells them that he will be faithful to them when some sort of horrible tribulation comes upon them in the near future.  In other words, Jesus himself will preserve this congregation in the midst of whatever trial is about to come upon them.  There is no hint here that these people will be taken out of the world before the trial comes, much less does this passage event remotely hint at the dispensationalist’s rapture. 

But this passage does tell this congregation that when the hour of trial comes, they will be "kept" (preserved) from its evil effects.  We know this because the same Greek word translated as “keep from” (tereso)  appears only here (with ek, “from”) and in John 17:15, where we read, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” 

I would argue that John is saying pretty much the same thing to the Philadelphians in Revelation 3:10, that Jesus said to his disciples in John 17:15.  He will preserve his people in the midst of tribulation by protecting them from the evil around them.

This is why your first point, about setting aside your presuppositions for a time to investigate this matter, is so wise.  Yes, dispensationalists can make sense of these passages in light of those particular presuppositions.  But their presuppositions are clearly faulty on a number of levels, and as we’ve just seen, the amillennial reading of these passages makes far better sense of these verses.

Reader Comments (3)


Thanks for the post. I would like to point people to an explanation of why the punctuation is all wrong in Rev. 3:10 and what the correct punctuation should be (which affects the meaning).
February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kurschner
I wonder why not as much attention is given to the church in Smyrna in Rev 2:10?
February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrett
Thank you for taking the time to give such a detailed explanation. It has been an interesting week - as I've tried to view scripture through a different lens, so many things have had new light shed on them. It has truly been a blessing.
February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa

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