Review of Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model, by Matt Waymeyer
Waymeyer’s book is both a critique of amillennialism and a case for premillennialism. Recent books by amillennialists have focused on a two-age model for understanding eschatology—the present evil age and the eternal age to come ushered in at Christ’s second coming. As Jesus taught,
“As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be [the temple’s destruction], and what will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3). The objective of Waymeyer’s book is to demonstrate that premillennialism can also be integrated into this two-age hermeneutic: “Premillennialists also agree with two-age advocates that this present age will come to an end at the Second Coming of Christ” (p. 99).
Amillennialists claim that this Genesis age remains an evil age until the very last day of this creation. As Paul taught,
“Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away” (1 Cor. 2:6).
Or, Christ “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age” (Gal. 1:4). According to amillennialists, ever since the fall, this world has been, and will remain, a demonic and evil age until the end of the world when Christ returns and ushers in eternal life for his saints on the eternal new earth. There is never a thousand-year age of righteous humanity on this earth.
Whereas amillennialists have Christ’s second coming and the end of this present evil age occurring at the end of this Genesis creation, Waymeyer makes the case that Christ returns at the end the Tribulation to put an end to this present evil age when he destroys the Antichrist and removes Satan from this world. Christ then ushers in an age of righteous humanity and another thousand years of this Genesis creation before the saints inherit the eternal kingdom of heaven. The millennium is an introductory phase of the eternal age or an intermediate period within the eternal age—a dress rehearsal, so to speak. Waymeyer states, “The millennium is the first thousand years of the age to come” (90). In short, since Christ returns at the beginning of the millennium, his earthly reign is a part of the eternal age to come. After Christ’s millennial reign over this earth ends, the Genesis creation perishes or is purged by fire, and Christ and his raptured saints transition to the eternal new heavens and new earth—to join the amillennial saints who decided to skip the millennium!
According to Waymeyer, the millennium may be the end of this present evil age and the beginning of an age of righteous humanity, but it is not the end of this Adamic creation. During the millennium, people will still experience the Adamic order of being with marriage, procreation, and even some measure of death as described by Isaiah and the prophets. In the eternal age, the Adamic order of being comes to an end, and the immortal sons of God will no longer experience marriage on the eternal new earth.
The amillennial counterclaim to this eschatology is that a plain reading of numerous Scriptures teaches that Christ’s second coming and the rapture are inseparably linked to the final resurrection of all mankind on Judgment Day and the very last day of this Genesis creation—not another thousand years of the earth’s existence. How can Christ return to this earth with the raptured saints to establish his millennial kingdom if he destroys the earth when he returns? Amillennialists have a point. If Christ comes again at the end of the Genesis age, then he ushers in the eternal age to come—not another thousand years of this temporal Genesis creation. Logically, one cannot have it both ways. Either Christ returns at the end of this Genesis age and ushers in the eternal new heavens and new earth, or Christ returns and ushers in another thousand years of this earth, which is not the end of this Genesis age. The premillennial return Christ may be the end of this evil age, but it is not the Omega of this creation. As Jesus taught: The second coming of Christ is on Judgment Day at the Omega of this creation.
Waymeyer insists, however, that one must integrate Christ’s second coming “at the end of the age” described in the Olivet Discourse with the sequence of events outlined by John in Revelation. John plainly describes a millennial reign of Christ before this Genesis creation perishes and the saints inherit the new heavens and new earth. Premillennialists did not invent the concept of a millennial reign of Christ before the Genesis earth perishes; John revealed it by divine revelation from Christ.
Waymeyer does make a strong case that one can and should link Christ’s millennial reign described in Revelation to the numerous Old Testament prophecies that elaborately describe his messianic kingdom on this earth. The prophets described the messianic kingdom as an age of righteous humanity on a restored Genesis earth in a time of peace, justice, and prosperity. People are getting married, having children, and living an abundant life on a restored natural earth (Isaiah 65). The earth will be restored to an Edenic paradise as the wolf and the lamb graze together. The prophets are not describing the eternal new heavens and new earth when the immortal sons of God will no longer experience marriage or mortal death. Without a literal one thousand-year messianic kingdom, amillennialists have a Messiah without his messianic kingdom, which is a contradiction in terms.
The amillennial counterclaim is that we are currently experiencing Christ’s millennial kingdom because Satan is already bound so that Christ can rescue sinners from his dominion of darkness. After Christ’s victory over Satan, our Lord is now the sovereign King over the world and over his people. The Edenic paradise described by the prophets is a metaphorical description of the joy of the Holy Spirit we experience as we walk through this troubled world. The millennium is real, but it is in the celestial realm—not on this earth which remains an evil realm of Satan.
Waymeyer effectively counters this argument by demonstrating that there is a fundamental difference between Satan being bound so that sinners can be rescued from his dominion of darkness, and the whole world being delivered from Satan’s dominion and influence. John is describing Satan’s total removal from this world so that Christ’s reign of absolute justice and righteousness can be established on this earth. Satan and his demons are locked away in a maximum security prison just for demons, and these cosmic forces of evil will have no contact with this world during the millennium. The current world remains a demonic world characterized by strife and war, unrighteousness, injustice, and systemic poverty. It is definitely not paradise on earth. Christ may be sovereign with all the authority and power necessary to rule this world, and he can intervene in the affairs of fallen man when he wants to; but he has not yet completely removed Satan from this world and used his divine authority and power to rule the world and establish an age of righteous humanity on this earth. We are still waiting for the regime change described by the prophets. One could also make the case that since this Genesis creation was uniquely created by, through, and for the Son of God, Christ has a divine right to remove Satan and rule this world. This Genesis creation was his kingdom and dominion before Adam and Eve let Satan into this world. The millennium is simply the Son of God’s kingdom restored, before he turns his kingdom over to his Father.
Waymeyer’s chapter 12 on the nature of the “first resurrection” at the beginning of the millennium is particularly well thought out. Amillennialists attempt to explain away the first resurrection by claiming that it represents a spiritual resurrection of the saints either upon conversion or upon mortal death when their spirits rise to heaven. They assert that the born-again saints now reign with Christ on this earth, or that the departed spirits of the saints reign with him in the celestial realm of heaven. John, however, knew that the saints martyred during the Tribulation would have already experienced a resurrection of their spirits to the celestial realm of heaven the moment they were killed by the Antichrist. He even describes these martyred saints as risen spirits assembled in heaven waiting for justice on this earth (Rev. 7:9–14; 19:1–2). So why would the martyred saints need to experience yet another resurrection of their spirits if their spirits have already been raised to heaven? Therefore, the first resurrection described by John must be of the actual bodies of the departed saints so that they can physically reinhabit the earth during the millennium. John taught that one day the ransomed people of God will reside on the earth—not in the celestial realm of heaven: “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:9–10). The first resurrection of their body enables the departed saints to physically reside on the earth during Christ’s millennial kingdom.
Of course, Waymeyer believes the saints martyred during the Tribulation will experience the first resurrection of their immortal, glorified bodies—not their natural bodies. They, along with the saints raptured before the Tribulation, will comingle with natural human beings who survive the Tribulation. As amillennialists correctly point out, however, this presents a host of other problems, for the New Testament teaches that the transformed sons of God are destined for their citizenship in heaven when Christ returns, not their citizenship on earth (Phil. 3:20). What in the world are the glorified sons of God doing on this earth living among mere mortals when they belong in the Father’s eternal kingdom of heaven? Will the immortal saints who no longer experience marriage live in huge dormitories, or will they live next door to young families with children? Waymeyer does not address this problem.
Nonetheless, Waymeyer does a good job exposing many of the shortcomings of amillennialism. He also he makes a good case that the millennium is a real earthly kingdom, and the first resurrection is of a real body. And to his credit, he honestly wrestles with the many New Testament passages that describe the second coming and the rapture as occurring on Judgment Day at the end of this age. But when he attempts to work his way through these passages and defend the premillennial return of Christ, he encounters major problems. For example, Paul taught that after Christ has destroyed all of his enemies during his reign over this world, he comes again at the end of the world to destroy death itself through the rapture of the saints and then turns his kingdom over to his Father (1 Cor. 15:23–26). Waymeyer offers multiple interpretations by different premillennial scholars to circumvent the obvious meaning of this passage. None of these arguments, however, make a lot of sense, and it is unlikely that these strained interpretations are going to convince amillennialists to abandon their eschatology and adopt premillennialism. They have heard these arguments before.
Amillennialists make a much better case that the Scriptures plainly teach that Christ returns on the last day of this Genesis creation to usher in the Father’s eternal kingdom of heaven, which precludes him from returning to this earth with the raptured saints to establish his millennial kingdom. Simply put, according to these Scriptures, the beginning of the millennium cannot be the second coming of Christ because it is not the end of the Genesis age. As Christ taught, he comes again at the Omega of this creation to usher in the eternal age to come.
Waymeyer also makes a major tactical error in concurring with the amillennial assumption that there are only two ages: “this present evil age” we are experiencing today, and the eternal age to come ushered in when Christ returns. The phrase “this age” in the New Testament certainly includes the current age of unrighteous humanity. But it is also a reference to the whole Genesis creation from beginning to end or from the Alpha to the Omega. Christ defines “this age” simply as the Genesis age when men and women experience marriage, and he defines “the age to come” as an eternal age when the immortal sons of God will be like the angels and will no longer experience marriage (see Luke 20:34–36). The Adamic order of being pertains to this Genesis age, and the new creation as immortal sons of God pertains to the eternal age to come.
Most important, Christ himself taught that there will be an age of righteous humanity on this earth in this Genesis age for the Adamic order of being before he comes again at the end of the age to usher in the eternal age for the immortal sons of God. This teaching occurs after Christ had a conversation with a rich man who walked away sad when he could not depart with his great wealth that had become his idol. The disciples then asked Christ what their reward would be for sacrificially following him. In his answer, Christ affirmed that his followers would indeed inherit an age of righteous humanity on a restored Edenic earth in this Genesis age when he sits on his throne and rules the world. This earthly paradise will be a hundred times better than the rich man’s life. And, in addition, they will inherit eternal life in the age to come. As recorded by Mark and Matthew, Jesus taught: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–30 NIV; cf. Luke 18:29–30). Jesus said to them,
“Truly, I say to you, in the new world [the restored Genesis earth], when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne [and rule the world], you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones [on the regenerated earth], judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold [in this present age] and [in the age to come] will inherit eternal life [an eternal embodied life in the eternal kingdom of heaven]” (Matt. 19:28–29).
The reference to the “new world” (translated “regeneration” by the ASV) is a reference to this Genesis creation when the curse is removed and the earth is regenerated and restored to its Edenic condition. The restored earth during Christ’s reign is not a reference to the eternal new earth, for Jesus said that this earthly paradise occurs “in this present age”—not when he comes again to usher in eternal life for his followers in the age to come. This restoration of humanity with houses, lands, and extended human families living in an Edenic paradise on a restored Genesis earth as described by Isaiah and the prophets is part of God’s plan of redemption to restore mankind and this earth to its original glory before he destroys this Genesis creation and ushers in the new creation for the sons of God. Revelation 20 simply adds a few important details, such that Satan will be removed and Christ’s reign over the restored earth will last for a thousand years. It also reveals that for the disciples to inherit this earthly paradise and to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel, they will be resurrected to sit on thrones to reign with Christ over his millennial kingdom.
After experiencing this age of righteous humanity and Edenic paradise, the disciples will inherit eternal life in an eternal body “in the age to come,” which occurs when they inherit the eternal new heavens and new earth. In other words, the millennial age of righteous humanity that the prophets described occurs in this Genesis age—not in the eternal age to come. Christ is describing two forms of paradise that his followers will experience: one on the restored Genesis earth when he is ruling the world, and the other in his Father’s eternal kingdom when he comes again to rapture the saints into eternal bodies and take them to heaven. Contrary to the amillennial assertion, according to Jesus, there will be an age of righteous humanity in this Genesis age before he comes again on Judgment Day to destroy this creation and usher in the heavenly paradise for his followers.
Yet, this sequence of events poses major problems for premillennialists as well. As Waymeyer aptly points out, Christ’s promises must be integrated into the sequence of events found in Revelation. Based on Revelation, however, the millennial age of righteous humanity occurs within this Genesis age—before this Genesis earth perishes and God creates the eternal new heavens and new earth. In other words, if Christ returns at the end of this Genesis age to usher in eternal life for his followers, then, according to Revelation, that places Christ’s second coming after his millennial reign at the final resurrection when the raptured saints inherit the eternal new earth. Amillennialists may be missing Christ’s 1,000-year restoration of this Genesis creation and an age of righteous humanity, but premillennialists have Christ’s second coming in the wrong place—it occurs after the millennium, not before.
Theologians from amillennial and premillennial camps are attempting to synthesize all the relevant Scriptures into a coherent biblical theology of the future. Yet, the Scriptures affirm both a millennial age of righteous humanity on a restored Edenic earth for the men and women of God and the second coming of Christ at the end of this Genesis age to usher in the Father’s eternal kingdom for the transformed sons of God. None of the current views on God’s endgame, however, affirm both of these scriptural truths, which is why there is so much confusion in the field of eschatology.
Like all premillennialists, Waymeyer assumes that the only way Christ can establish his millennial reign is for him to physically return to this earth on his white horse at the end of the Tribulation (Rev. 19). Upon closer examination, however, John never described Christ leaving the celestial realm on his white horse and descending to this earth to destroy the Antichrist and the false prophet. From his celestial position in heaven, Christ merely says the word and they are destroyed. He then sends an angel from heaven to bind Satan so his reign can begin. But he never leaves his throne in heaven.
There is an option that Waymeyer failed to consider in his analysis and synthesis of the Scriptures. When being interrogated by the high priest, Jesus said that after his resurrection and ascension, “from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God [the Father]” (Luke 22:69). Jesus seems to be saying that after he ascends to heaven, his modus operandi in relation to this world will from then on be from his celestial throne in heaven. God’s plan of redemption will unfold while Christ remains seated on this throne in heaven. Therefore, when he rules the restored earth during the millennium, it will be from “his glorious throne” in heaven at the right hand of God.
In other words, instead of Christ returning to this earth to establish his 1,000-year messianic kingdom, he will simply rule the world from his throne in heaven when Satan is removed from this world and the earth is restored to its Edenic condition. And in order for Peter and all the departed saints to inherit the restored earth during Christ’s millennial reign as promised, they will experience the first resurrection of their Adamic bodies—a natural body for a restored natural earth. They will marry, have children, build houses, and experience a hundredfold reward on the restored Edenic earth as described by Isaiah and the prophets (see Ezek. 37). And to inherit the eternal new heavens and new earth as promised, when Christ returns at the end of the age, the sons of God will then experience the final resurrection or rapture of their immortal bodies—an eternal body for an eternal kingdom. This understanding of the two resurrections is how the early millennialists such as Justin, Irenaeus, and Lactantius understood Revelation. There are two resurrections because the saints are destined to inherit two kingdoms of the triune God: (1) the Son’s restored earth for a thousand years, and (2) the Father’s imperishable kingdom of heaven. This version of God’s endgame is appropriately named postrestorationalism: Christ returns after a literal 1,000-year restoration of this Genesis creation at the end of the Genesis age to usher in the Father’s eternal kingdom of heaven for the raptured sons of God.
For those theologians that believe in a literal millennium, there are three questions that need to be answered. 1) Where is Christ when he rules the world? 2) What is the nature of the first resurrection? 3) What is the nature of the final resurrection? As the human son of David, one would expect Christ to rule the world from this earth. But as the Son of God, one would expect Christ to rule this world from his throne in heaven. Since the millennium is an age of righteous humanity on a restored Edenic earth, one would expect the first resurrection to be of the natural bodies of the departed men and women of God. Since the transformed sons of God are destined for the eternal new heavens and new earth, one would expect the final resurrection to be of the immortal, glorified body. An online video series titled “godsendgame” explores this view of eschatology.
Waymeyer’s book is one of the best books ever written making a biblical case for premillennialism. If you want to understand this eschatology, his book is a must read. And he has a noble objective in that he is attempting to affirm a literal millennium. But like all premillennialists, he has the second coming and the rapture in the wrong place. In this regard, amillennialists are correct. But amillennialists are also mistaken when they assert that there will never be an age of righteous humanity on this earth before the eternal kingdom. Christ himself promised that one day he will sit on his glorious throne in heaven and rule this world during an age of righteous humanity—before he comes again at the end of the age to usher in eternal life for the sons of God in the Father’s kingdom.
Review by Gary S. Cangelosi