How does discussion concerning models of Christian eschatology relate to the millennial views of premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism? Is premillennialism inherently in accord with a new creation model while amillennialism and postmillennialism are intrinsically linked to the spiritual vision model?
These issues were directly brought up by Craig Blaising in his section, “Premillennialism” in the book, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond.[i] Here Blaising specifically argued that non-premillennial views influenced by Augustine are reliant on the spiritual vision model while premillennialism is more consistent with the new creation model. Blaising argues that a Platonic, spiritual vision model approach led to a rejection of the idea of an earthly kingdom:
Ancient Christian premillennialism weakened to the point of disappearance when the spiritual vision model of eternity became dominant in the church. A future kingdom on earth simply did not fit well in an eschatology that stressed personal ascent to a spiritual realm.[ii]
Blaising claims that spiritual vision model presuppositions were behind Augustine’s turning from premillennialism to amillennialism and the view that the millennium of Revelation 20:1-10 is being fulfilled spiritually through the institutional church in the present age.[iii] On the other hand, premillennialism thrives in an environment in which the new creation model and a more literal approach to Scripture are emphasized. As a result, kingdom promises are taken more literally and the physical dimensions of the kingdom are emphasized.
Robert E. Strimple, a representative of amillennialism in the same book, Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, disagrees with Blaising that amillennialism is inherently linked to the spiritual vision model. He also challenges Blaising’s idea that premillennialism is necessarily linked to the new creation model. In his response to Blaising, Strimple asks, “What evidence does he [Blaising] offer, for example, to support the alleged link between early amillennial thought and Greek philosophical dualism?”[iv] Strimple says, “no evidence is offered to support the idea that such a bias is present in modern amillennialism.”[v] He also declares: “When we read modern amillennialists themselves, do we find them expressing a purely ‘spiritual’ (i.e. nonphysical) eschatological hope? Not at all.”[vi] He then lists a series of amillennial theologians who believe in a “more earth-oriented vision” of eschatology including Herman Bavnick, Geerhardus Vos, Anthony Hoekema, and Greg K. Beale.[vii]
Strimple then offers a second response to Blaising in claiming that earlier dispensational premillennialists like Darby, Scofield, and Chafer often drew heavily upon the spiritual vision model, as even Blaising admits. Thus, “the fact remains that historically the link between the new creation model and premillennialism has not been as clear and strong as his thesis implies.”[viii] As the above quotations show, the issue of the millennium and models of Christian eschatology is one in which there is some disagreement. I will comment more on this in an upcoming blog entry.
[i] Blaising, “Premillennialism” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 170–74.
[ii] Ibid., 170.
[iii] Ibid., 172-74.
[iv] Strimple, “An Amillennial Response to Craig A. Blaising,” in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond, 257.
[v] Ibid., 258-59.
[vi] Ibid., 259.
[vii] Ibid., 259–60.
[viii] Ibid., 261.