Tag Archives: Hank Hanegraaff

How Does Amillennialist Hank Hanegraaff Interpret Revelation 20?

Hank Hanegraaff, in his book The Apocalypse Code, is convinced that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 is symbolic and not to be taken literally.  “The figurative use of the whole number one thousand is virtually ubiquitous in Old Testament usage.  For example, God increased the number of the Israelites a thousand times (Deuteronomy 1:11); God owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10); the least of Zion will become a thousand and the smallest a mighty nation (Isaiah 60:22).”  Hanegraaff continues by emphasizing “a thousand more examples (figuratively speaking) could easily be added to the list.”  What, then, does the “thousand years” mean?  Hanegraaff rejects the view that the words of Revelation 20 are a “literal prophetic chronology according to which Satan will literally be bound for one thousand years while the resurrected martyrs reign with Christ . . . .”  Alternatively, Hanegraaff argues, “We must be willing to interpret this markedly symbolic passage in light of the rest of Scripture.”  The number one thousand is symbolic of “ultimate completion.”  The “thousand years” of the martyrs’ reign indicates the vindication of the martyrs who were subjected to the terror of the Beast for “ten days.”  The “thousand years” is a qualitative contrast, not a quantitative period of time.

Amillennialist J. Marcellus Kik, in his book An Eschatology of Victory, also does not believe that the “thousand years” conveys a future, messianic, millennial kingdom.  He adds another dimension to Hanegraaff’s view.  “The term thousand years in Revelation twenty is a figurative expression used to describe the period of the messianic Kingdom upon earth.  It is that period from the first Advent of Christ until his Second Coming.”  In other words, we are all in the “millennium” today, for it spans the time between the two appearances of Christ on earth.  Kim Riddlebarger, in A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, concurs: “Amillenarians generally agree with this assessment, seeing the thousand years as a symbolic number, spanning the entire ‘church age.’”  He adds that there are good reasons for interpreting the number one thousand symbolically.  He notes, “Numbers are always used symbolically throughout the book [of Revelation].” Riddlebarger agrees with Hanegraaff’s conclusion that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 “symbolizes an ideal period time, a time of completion.”  He also contends that other words in Revelation 20, such as chain, abyss, serpent, and beast are symbolic, so it is reasonable to conclude that the number one thousand is also symbolic.

In the early centuries of the church, the Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine (354-430), likewise interpreted the “thousand years” symbolically.  Augustine was a premillennialist earlier in his life, but came to regard the “thousand years” allegorically.  In The City of God he writes, “The thousand years may be understood in two ways, . . . either because these things happen in the sixth thousand of years or sixth millennium (the latter part of which is now passing), as if during the sixth day, which is to be followed by a Sabbath which has no evening, . . . or he used the thousand years as an equivalent for the whole duration of this world, employing the number of perfection to mark the fullness of time.”  It is interesting to note the reasoning Augustine employs to demonstrate that the number one thousand is the number of perfection.  “For a thousand is the cube of ten.  For ten times ten makes a hundred, that is, the square on a plane superficies.  But to give this superficies height, and make it a cube, the hundred is again multiplied by ten, which gives a thousand.” Augustine then gives an example in Scripture of the number one hundred indicating perfection or completeness, and thus concludes that if ever “one hundred” is interpreted as totality or completion, then how much more complete and perfect is one thousand.  Regardless of which of his two interpretations one may choose, Augustine came to see the millennium as the present age within which he lived.  The end of the “thousand years” will be the end of the world when Christ returns.  Christ will only return after the perfect amount of time has elapsed.

Hanegraaff, Riddlebarger, and Kik are all heirs of the amillennialism that Augustine propounded.  Augustine’s view of the “thousand years” in Revelation has been the dominant view of the church ever since the early fifth century and continues to be widely held even today.  However, many contemporary evangelicals are premillennialists and can claim their interpretational heritage to a time before Augustine, a claim that is explored in the next blog post.

How Does Premillennialist Norman Geisler Interpret the Fulfillment of the OT Covenants?

For premillennialist Norman Geisler, the future, literal fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants must occur in a millennial, messianic kingdom for several reasons.  First, the land promise to Israel has yet to be fulfilled.  The land promise made to Abraham was unconditional, meaning that God placed no conditions on Abraham for this land grant to be made.  Citing Genesis 15:7-18, Geisler, in Systematic Theology, vol. 4, Church, Last Things, notes that “Abraham was not even conscious when [the covenant] was made, and God alone passed through the split sacrifice.” This procedure followed “the legal form of a grant covenant,” which was a one-way land grant.  Hebrews 6:13 indicates that God swore by himself, again proving that the land promise was certain to occur.  Abraham’s descendants, the Jews, have never occupied the promised land between the Euphrates and River of Egypt for “any prolonged period of time.”  Even if it could be argued that Solomon ruled over the lands promised to Abraham (cf. 1 Kings 4:21), “He reigned over it for a very short time, not forever, as promised to Abraham.”

Second, the Davidic throne promise has not been fulfilled.  Again, this covenant was unconditional, as evidenced by Psalm 89.  Speaking of David, God said, “Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness – and I will not lie to David – that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun” (Ps. 89:35-36).  God promised that even if David’s descendants violated his decrees, he would not violate David’s covenant.  Clearly, today, no descendant of David is ruling over Jerusalem and Israel, so, according to Geisler, there must be a day when David’s descendant will fulfill a “future, political, earthly messianic reign [as] found in 2 Samuel 7:11-16.”

Third, the Old Testament prophets continued to predict a messianic kingdom all the way up to 400 B.C.  Isaiah wrote about the messianic kingdom in Isaiah 9:7: “He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  In the very last book of the Old Testament, Malachi speaks of the coming kingdom and fulfillment of the covenant in Malachi 3:1.

Fourth, Jesus offered the political, messianic kingdom to the Jews of first century Palestine, which is a clear indication that the messianic kingdom, the kingdom that would fulfill the covenants made with Abraham and David, was yet to be fulfilled.

Fifth, subsequent to the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus promised that in the future the kingdom would still be restored.  Jesus made the following promise to his disciples with regard to the messianic kingdom: “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).  The question the disciples asked Jesus in Acts 1 is illuminating.  After spending forty days with him, discussing the “kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3), the disciples then asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6).  Instead of Jesus rebuking them for asking a meaningless question about the literal fulfillment of the covenants, he tells them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority” (v. 7).  According to theologians John Walvoord and Roy Zuck in , “If the followers of the Lord Jesus had an incorrect view, this would have been the time for Him to correct it. The fact is, Christ taught the coming of an earthly, literal kingdom.”  The clear implication is that there will be a literal restored kingdom of Israel some time in the future.

Sixth and finally, Paul affirmed the national restoration of Israel in Romans 11.  Speaking of the promises made to Israel, Paul proclaimed that “God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29).  Israel clearly has a national role in the future when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26).  Walvoord and Zuck explain: “Because God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob . . ., He loves the nation and will carry through on His promises.”  According to Geisler, “When God’s complete plan of salvation is accomplished, He will restore national Israel and fulfill His unconditional promises to them, including the messianic kingdom.”

In response to Hanegraaff’s use of typology to show the fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, Geisler recognizes instances of typology in the Bible, but denies that the covenants are typological.  For example, “Hebrews speaks of the entire Levitical sacrificial system as being fulfilled by our great High Priest.” Geisler affirms that “Christ is the fulfillment of Old Testament types that prefigured Him and that passed away when He fulfilled them.”  However, “Not all Old Testament predictions were types.”  Geisler argues that a covenant is not a type at all and should not be interpreted that way.  Therefore, to understand the literal promises made to Abraham and David as types to be overshadowed by Christ is a category mistake.

Additionally, Hanegraaff and other amillennialists believe that the New Testament should be used to reinterpret the objective meanings of Old Testament passages, the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants included.  In their view, when God promised Abraham the literal land of Canaan forever, he did not really intend that Abraham would receive the land of Canaan forever.  The New Testament reveals the real meaning of the text: Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the promise, not the land.  In the words of theologian Kim Riddlebarger in A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, “The New Testament should explain the Old.  This is one of the most basic principles of Bible study.  The New Testament must be seen as the final authority and interpreter of the Old Testament.”

Geisler answers this claim in emphatic terms: “The Old Testament should not be interpreted in light of the New, because later writings, inspired or not, do not change the meaning of earlier writings.  Meaning is objective and absolute; a text means what the author meant by it, nothing more and nothing less.  Later authors can add more information on the same topic, but they cannot change the meaning.”  If God promised the land, then Abraham’s descendants will get the land.  If God promised the throne, then David’s descendants will get the throne.  Any attempt to deny these straightforward interpretations of the Old Testament leads down the slippery slope of allegorism.

How Does Amillennialist Hank Hanegraaff Interpret the Fulfillment of the OT Covenants?

Hank Hanegraaff, in his book The Apocalypse Code, argues that the promises to Abraham and David were ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Citing Galatians 3:16, Hanegraaff believes that the Abrahamic covenant is “spiritually grounded in one singular Seed [Christ].” In the words of Keith Mathison, as quoted by Hanegraaff, “The promises made to literal, physical Israelites were fulfilled by a literal, physical Israelite, Jesus the Messiah.  He is the Seed of Abraham.”

This is not to say that the land promises were never fulfilled.  Hanegraaff sees the fulfillment of Abraham’s covenant occurring in multiple phases.  In the first phase, the land promises actually were fulfilled under Joshua and Solomon.  “God’s plan becomes a tangible reality when Joshua leads the children of Israel into Palestine.”  Hanegraaff cites Joshua 23:14 as evidence of the Abrahamic covenant’s fulfillment.  “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”  Under Solomon’s rule, “the land promises reached their zenith” since his rule “encompassed all of the land from the Euphrates River in the north to the River of Egypt in the south (1 Kings 4:20-21; cf. Genesis 15:18).”

The first phase of fulfillment was only temporary.  Hanegraaff continues to explain that “the land promises are fulfilled in the far future through Jesus who provides true Israel with permanent rest from their wanderings in sin.” This is the second phase of fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant.  Hanegraaff argues that the land promises were never the primary concern of the covenant.  “The land was never the focus of our Lord; instead, our Lord is forever the locus of the land.” In Acts 1:6, when the disciples asked Jesus about restoring the land to Israel, “Jesus reoriented their thinking from a restored Jewish state to a kingdom that knows no borders or boundaries.” The physical rest, which the land promises were to provide to the Jews, is a type which is fulfilled in the antitype of the spiritual rest in Christ.  “The writer of Hebrews makes clear that the rest the descendants of Abraham experienced when they entered the land is but a type of the rest we experience when we enter an eternal relationship with the Lord.” Likewise, Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, is also a type which is superseded by Christ, the ultimate antitype.  “Jesus is the antitype who fulfills all of the typology vested in Jerusalem.”

The third and final phase, which will occur in the future, takes place when Paradise is restored – when the New Jerusalem, the Holy City spoken of in Revelation 21, replaces the earth.  “The climax of the promise would not be Palestine regained but Paradise restored.” In Hanegraaff’s view, “The promise of the land will be fully and finally consummated when Paradise lost is reconstituted as Paradise restored.  Canaan is thus typological of a renewed cosmos.”

The Davidic covenant is also fulfilled by Christ.  “God’s promises to David that his descendants would sit on the throne forever . . . was fulfilled when Christ, the ‘Son of David’ . . . , ascended to the throne of the heavenly Jerusalem and established his rule and reign over all the earth.”  According to Hanegraaff, Peter makes clear in Acts 2 that “Jesus’s reign has already been inaugurated in his resurrection and ascension to the throne of God.” Jesus, therefore, completely fulfills the promise made to David that his descendants would forever rule on the throne of Jerusalem.  No messianic kingdom in the future is necessary to fulfill the Davidic covenant.  In comparing the fulfillment by Jesus to the original promise made to David, Hanegraaff observes that “the lesser is fulfilled and rendered obsolete by the greater.”

In summary, Hanegraaff believes that the promises made to Abraham and David were fulfilled in Christ.  Instead of just receiving the land of Canaan, Abraham’s spiritual descendants will receive the entire cosmos when God replaces the earth with the New Jerusalem.  Instead of just receiving a physical throne in Jerusalem, David’s descendant, Jesus, inherited the very throne of heaven where he reigns over the entire universe.  For Hanegraaff, “To now require that God must provide a literal throne in Jerusalem upon which Jesus will physically sit to rule over national Israel in a millennial semi-golden age is more than an anticlimactic step backward; it is an insult to the glory and grandeur of God’s throne.”

2009 National Apologetics Conference

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Southern Evangelical Seminary is hosting their annual apologetics conference on Nov. 13 and 14 in Charlotte, NC.  The conference will feature speakers such as William Lane Craig, Chuck Colson, Dinesh D’Souza, Greg Koukl, Gary Habermas, Hank Hanegraaff, and Peter Kreeft (click here for the full speaker list).  These men are all incredible defenders of the Christian faith and many of them have deeply influenced my journey into Christian apologetics.

If you can possibly make this conference, please come.  You will learn so much that your mind and heart will be bursting by the end of it!  I have attended the conference several times and have always thoroughly enjoyed it.  I promise you’ll have a great time and you will be challenged to grow in your faith more than you can imagine.