The End Times/prophecy genre is over stacked with popular books about how current affairs are fulfilling Biblical predictions.Dr. Kim Riddlebarger’s, A Case For Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, is not such a book. It’s a theological treatment of the millennial subject written for a widespread audience. This is, as the title says, a case for the Amillennial position of eschatology.

The Introduction details Riddlebarger’s personal exodus from the theological camp he once embraced:Dispensationalism.As one who once was steeped in Dispensational theology, he struggled with the decision to reject that school of thought, and accept Amillennialism. So he wrote this book with some thought, and appreciation for the difficulties one faces in choosing which theology makes the most sense of the Scriptures. While I disagree with his conclusion, I felt he was engaing in relating his experiences as a Dispensationlist. I was drawn into the case he was attempting to make if  for no other reason than to see if I too could be convinced, and see if he had the answers that would perhaps take me from Dispensation Premillennialism to where he is at.   The rest of the book is an irenic attempt at rebuttal of all things Dispensational , regarding the Millienium. He paints Dispensationalism with the “sensationalist/newspaper exegesis” brush.  Nevertheless, his purpose is clear enough:”…to set forth the historic Protestant understanding of the millennial age. ”  This, of course is Amillenialism, the idea that the present reign of Christ is the “thousand year” kingdom of God.

The book is decked out in four main parts, each developing some aspects of the biblical, theological, and historical arguments for his eschatology. The first two parts are the obligatory “first things first”, which objective is to define terms and survey the major eschatological views held by Christians.  It is Chapter Three where the crux of the case begins to unfold. Riddlebarger, to his credit, addresses the operating presuppositions that an interpreter brings to the text of the Scriptures.  He deals with the Dispensational hermeneutic of “literal interpretation” and the three major principles of that system. Then he states the historic Protestant principles, and why those are preferred.

Again, it is to his credit that Riddlebarger gives brief but due process to the hermeneutic questions of how we approach the prophetic scriptures. However, already, at this point, the problems arise. Firstly, he doesn’t address the main issue of how Dispensationalists understand literal interpretation.  Although he quotes Dispensational theologians Walvoord and Ryrie on the matter (Chapter One), the real issue is a matter of the relationship between the Old Testament & the New Testament. It’s a question of how the two divisions of the bible relate in their progressive unfolding of revelation. Dispensationalists see the O.T. Scriptures as having a literal grammatical-historical meaning in their own context, which the N.T. gives additional & fuller details to without violating previous revelation. In this way, Riddlebarger’s stated principle of Protestant interpretation that gives the N.T. interpretive authority over the O.T. weakens his whole case. It’s the reason why Amillenialists must use figurative re-interpretation of previous prophecies in relation to New Testament interpretation, the so-called “spiritualizing method” of hermeneutics.  Since, according to Riddlebarger, the New Testament shows that Jesus fulfilled the O.T. prophecies about his first coming, all themes from the O.T. must now be understood” in the  light of the messianic age which dawned in Jesus Christ”, p. 38.

He draws on Acts 15, where James talks to the Jerusalem council concerning Gentile conversion. He takes James’ quote of Amos 9:11-12After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. It’s ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things that have been known for ages.” Riddlebarger claims that this must be understood as Christ rebuilding the church through Jewish and Gentile salvation. But this is not what the prophecy is saying. It’s merely a covenant premillennialist eisegetical understanding of the text. James is using Amos’ words as an illustration not as a fulfillment. He only says that the vistation of the Gentiles by God is in agreement with the words of the prophet. And those things mentioned in Amos are in a context that refers to unprecedented blessings for Israel, not something they now experience, thus it’s referring to the Millennial Kingdom. Riddlebarger makes the bold claim that Dispensationalists interpret “all” prophetic texts in a “literalistic” (meaning extremely literal)fashion p. 40, and that this repudiates the historic Protestant hermeneutic and the principle of the analogy of faith. That claim is a serious over generalization. He merely takes his own Covenantal hermeneutic as the standard and chastises Dispensational theologians for their alleged errors.

The operating scheme for his case for Amillenialism is that of Reformed Covenant Theology. Without getting into that entire subject, suffice it to say, this theology is assumed throughout the book, and applied to various prophetic passages. While Dispenationalists recognize that God deals with man on the basis of covenants, this is not the same as saying that Covenant Theology is true and should be our controlling frame of reference for dealing with prophecy.

Repeatedly, Riddlebarger claims that the prophets and apostles “reinterpret“( p.72 and throughout the book), O.T. promises about the Land of Israel, The City of Jerusalem, and the Mountain of the Lord, among other things. He takes entire swaths of detailed, meaningful, literal,historical texts of prophecy and claims that they are said to be “fulfilled” by N.T. writers. Thus Micah 4:1-5 which talks about how the “mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains, it will be raised above the hills…Nation will not take up sword against nation… “ is supposed to be fulfilled by the CHURCH! and that according to the writer of Hebrews p.73 in Hebrews 12:18-24. But that passage is talking about the contrast between the earthly Mount Sinai and the  unapproachable thundering that accompanied the giving of the Law of Moses, and the heavenly Mount Zion, which is God’s abode. Mount Zion…city of the living God…heavenly Jerusalem are all synonyms for Heaven, not the Church itself which is mentioned in the text distinctly. Here we see Riddlebarger’s case unravelling. It is better to see that N.T. writers are applying O.T. passages under inspiration by the Holy Spirit. This “inspired sensus plenior” or fuller sense is part of the apostolic prerogative under continuing progressive revelation. They weren’t “reinterpreting” anything, but giving the fullness of the revelation under N.T. canonical writing. 

I found his exegesis of Daniel 9:24-27  unconvincing .It’s at this point that I simply found his case to fall apart, frankly. Riddlebarger accuses of Premillenialists of badly erring in interpreting Daniel 9:27 to be referring to the Antichrist instead of Christ. “In order to make this fit into their interpretative scheme, dispensationalists insist that Messiah is cut off after the sixty-two sevens” p.153. However, he fails to note that Dispensationalists “insist” on this not because they’re forcing their theology on the bible, but because the bible itself “insists” on it by it’s very God-breathed word for word direct rebuttal of Riddlebarger’s claim: “And AFTER the sixty-two sevens Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself” Daniel 9:26. (Emphasis mine). Riddlebarger’s interpretation of the covenant that is made to prevail in v. 27 is proof of his reading theology into the text, as he sees this as a confirmation of the Covenant of Grace p.155. In fact, it is the covenant made by the “prince” who is to come, the same one who sets up an abomination on the wing of the temple. Daniel 9:27. Jesus spoke of this as “the abomination of desolation” in his Olivet Discourse. Yet, Riddlebarger claims that the prince who confirms the covenant and puts an end to sacrifices and offerings  is Jesus Christ, and that after his death sacrifices became an abomination to God. But the biblical text nowhere states this. It is a serious misreading of the words of the bible to say that Jesus is the one who as the verse actually states ” will set up an abomination that causes desolation”. It is Kim Riddelbarger who is in gross error at this point as it is he who is wrongly confusing Christ and Antichrist. Having made such an egregious error in interpretation it seems pointless to address the rest of his treatments of the main prophetic texts of Scripture; SO important is Daniel 9 to the issue of eschatology.

Overall, A Case for Amillenialism is a fair, irenic, and lucid argument for the position he is advocating. This book could be used as an introductory text for an adult bible class, or perhaps a college course on Covenant eschatology. If you’re delving into the different millennial views, this is a must read book. Again, it’s a lucid treatment in a survey style of millennialism, and the author makes his case for Amillennialism and in that sense it’s a good case from his position. As an argument for Amillennialism against Premillennialism it is a very flawed argument.The holes in it  are too egregious to make this a convincing case. It’s probably the best that can be said for Amillennialism as a system. However this is  Kim Riddlebarger I ‘m talking about , that’s Kim Riddlebarger as in “ White Horse Inn” and  The Riddleblog Kim Riddlebarger-who also teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary. So while I respect his work elsewhere, as an Amillennialist against Premillennialism, I must part ways.

Final say: Buy the book, make it a part of your library, but read it with discernment. And go to the sites where Kim Riddlebarger does his stuff-you’ll be blessed.

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger is pastor of Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim, California. He is visiting professor of systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California.

A Case For Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times by Kim Riddlebarger is published by Baker Books, A Division of Baker Book House Co. & Inter-Varsity Press(3rd Printing, May 2006).ISBN 978-0-8010-6435-7

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