A Reformed Approach to Eschatology

11 October 2021 by Wes Bredenhof

A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Kim Riddlebarger, Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003.  Paperback, 271 pages. 

Books and other resources dealing with the doctrine of the end things (eschatology) from a Reformed point of view are relatively scarce.  This area simply hasn’t received a lot of attention from Reformed theologians.  The same can be said for Reformed pulpits.  Few of us, for instance, have probably ever heard a series of sermons on the Revelation that went beyond chapter 3.  On the other hand, there are scads of books and other resources out there in the broader Christian context which teach defective eschatologies.  As a consequence of this imbalance, Reformed believers sometimes adopt these other perspectives by default, mostly because they haven’t been taught a Reformed perspective.

Dr. Kim Riddlebarger (a retired URC pastor in Anaheim, CA) grew up as a dispensationalist and became Reformed later in life, not only in terms of how he views salvation, but also in how he views eschatology.  Riddlebarger is one of the foremost expositors of Reformed eschatology in our day.  He’s led numerous conferences, appeared on various radio programs (including the White Horse Inn), and has written two books on the subject. 

This particular book is a detailed exposition of Reformed amillennialism.  This position maintains that the 1000 year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20:1-10 is a present reality.  This contrasts with premillennialism (Christ will return and establish a 1000 year reign on earth) and postmillennialism (a 1000 year reign is coming and then Christ will return).  There’s far more to amillennialism than a position on the millennium, but to find out the details, you’ll need to read the book.

One of the strengths of this book is its insistence that the disagreements between amillennialists and premillennialists (and to a lesser degree, postmillennialists) boil down to how one reads the Bible.  Does one read the Bible on its own terms or on our terms?  Your theory of Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) will have an enormous bearing on your eschatology.  Another strength is how Riddlebarger fairly represents the positions with which he respectfully disagrees.  Further, Riddlebarger provides extensive expositions of the key biblical texts:  Daniel 9:24-27, Matthew 24, Romans 11 and Revelation 20:1-10.  Finally, he also presents some interesting thoughts on why amillennialism is not widely accepted in the broader, non-Reformed, Christian context and some critical analysis of how amillennialism has been argued by Reformed theologians in the past.  For instance, he notes how Louis Berkhof and Herman Bavinck pointed to the fact that there was no new nation state of Israel as proof that dispensationalism was wrong (p.243).  This view is obviously problematic today in view of the establishment of modern Israel in 1948.

A Case for Amillennialism puts forward a good overview of what the Bible teaches on a neglected, but important subject.  If you want to brush up on a Reformed view of the end times, this would be an excellent primer.  Once you’re finished, I can also recommend Riddlebarger’s related book, The Man of Sin: Uncovering the Truth About the Antichrist (Baker, 2006).

N.B.: the review above was originally written in 2008 and is based on the first edition published in 2003. In 2013, a second, expanded, edition was published. It includes two new chapters on the Antichrist and Signs of the End. You can also find Dr. Kim Riddelbarger online at his website here — it has many more eschatology resources.