Amillennialism and the Age to Come—A Critical Review # 13

by | Jul 5, 2017 | Book Reviews, Eschatology

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12

Waymeyer’s Treatment of Luke 20

Perhaps the clearest and most comprehensive, single statement of the New Testament’s “two-age” eschatology is found in Luke 20:34-36.  For this reason it has become foundational to contemporary Amillennialism’s critique of Premillennialism.  Waymeyer focuses on this passage on pages 102-105 of his book.  Here is the passage: “Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”

The Amillennialist treatment of this passage assumes that the meaning is straightforward and clear.  It contrasts the two ages at four points.  This age is characterized by marriage, but the age to come by no marriage.  This age is characterized by death and dying, but the age to come by no death and dying.  This age is characterized and inhabited by natural men, but the age to come by resurrected men.  Finally, this age is characterized by righteous and wicked men co-existing, but the age to come by the fact that its inhabitants are exclusively sons of God.

Waymeyer acknowledges, as I have previously pointed out, that this passage—taken alone—naturally suggests these contrasts and the polemic against Premillennialism which may be based on them. (105)  How does he seek to evade what appears to be the natural force of this passage?

He begins by noting that the context of its assertions is a debate between Jesus and the Sadducees over the reality of the resurrection (Luke 20:27f.).  (103) He is, of course, correct in this.  His argument is, then, that the passage is not so much about the age to come, but about the resurrection and that it is unnecessary to apply everything Jesus says about the resurrection to the age to come.  (104)  In a footnote he seeks to buttress the implicit distinction he makes here between the resurrection and the age to come by noting that the passage speaks of “that age and the resurrection of the dead.”  (103-104) He takes the conjunction (kai) to mean that there is some distinction between the age to come and the resurrection of the dead.

What is wrong with this reading of the passage?

First, it begs the question as to why Jesus introduces the concept of the two ages and the contrast between them at all.  As Waymeyer rightly points out, the context is about the resurrection.  Why, then, does Jesus introduce the two ages?  It seems to me that, once this question is asked, that the natural and even necessary answer to it must be that the concept of the two ages is simply Jesus’ own way of speaking of the contrast between the age of resurrection and the present age.  If this is not the case, then Jesus introduces an extraneous and irrelevant distinction into this discussion which only confuses the issue.  The age of resurrection is, in other words, the age to come; and the age to come is the age of resurrection.  To distinguish the two is to miss Jesus’ whole point.

Second, everything about the passage and its contrast between the two ages conspires to confirm this.  Everything about Waymeyer’s distinction, on the other hand, tends to confuse and corrupt the clarity of the passage.

Third, everything about the parallel passages in the New Testament tends to contradict Waymeyer’s attempted distinction.  Passage after passage associates the age to come with eternal life in the eschatological and resurrected sense (Matt. 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; 1 Timothy 6:17-19).  Passage after passage concludes the present age with the Second Coming of Christ (Matt. 13:40, 49; 24:3; Titus 2:12-13); and Christ’s coming brings the transformation of the new body to all of His people including especially all of those who survive until His return (1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).  Thus, the age to come is the age of resurrection for all of Christ’s people.

Fourth, what is true of the New Testament parallels in general is especially true of the closest parallel to Luke 20:34-36.  Here I refer to the teaching of Jesus in the parable of the wheat and weeds explained in Matthew 13:36-43.  In that passage there is the same contrast between two periods of time—the age of sowing and the age of reaping.  There is the same contrast between the present mixture of good and evil men in the world and a future period in which wicked men are rooted out of Christ’s field.  There is the same contrast between the natural character of the present age and the supernatural character of the future period in which the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt. 13:43)—a clear reference to Daniel 12:3 and the resurrection of the righteous.  All this is clearly parallel to the teaching of Jesus in Luke 20:34-36.  What is devastating, however, for Waymeyer’s exegesis of Luke 20 is that it specifically contradicts his notion of a distinction between the age to come and the resurrection.  At Christ’s coming all the wicked are rooted out of His field-kingdom-world; and all the righteous enter the glory of the resurrection.  The coming of the future age of reaping brings the extirpation of the wicked from the world by the Second Coming and the glorification of the righteous.  The passage is incapable the distinction that Premillennial reads into Luke 20:34-36.

Fifth, Waymeyer’s footnote emphasizing the kai conjunction ignores a well-known alternative use or meaning of kai known as the epexegetical or appositional use.  In this construction which is common in the New Testament the kai explains or expounds the previous words.  It is simply misleading and unacceptable for Waymeyer merely to assume his own understanding and not to mention or discuss the epexegetical or appositional meaning which would destroy his thesis of a distinction between the age to come and the resurrection.  Everything, on the other hand, that we have seen above points to the epexegetical meaning as the right understanding of the kai.

Here in Waymeyer’s treatment of Luke 20:34-36 we see a constant feature of his exegetical work which should disturb the reader.  The result of his Premillennial approach is to create confusion in passages which appear at first clear to the straightforward reader of Scripture.  Distinctions are imposed on passages which are not obvious in any way in the passage itself and which actually contradict the most natural reading of the passage.  We have seen this in Matthew 25.  We observe it again here in Luke 20.  We will see the tendency of Waymeyer’s Premillennial hermeneutic to undermine and erode the clarity of Scripture again in 1 Corinthians 15.

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