(Acts 15:16-17) Why does James cite Amos 9?

CLAIM: Amillennial theologians believe that Amos’ prediction of rebuilding the Temple is fulfilled in the church. Amos writes, “In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:11). Since believers are the new Temple (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19), James was claiming that the church replaces or fulfills this promises. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: In Acts 15, the Jewish believers were claiming that Gentiles needed to become Jews to be true believers (Acts 15:1). However, James cites this passage in Amos 9 to demonstrate that this isn’t the case. The context of Amos 9 is important to James’ citation. In this chapter, God tells the Jewish people that he had also rescued Philistines and Arameans—just like he saved them in the Exodus (Amos 9:7). But now, he is going to turn on his own people, because they were in deep rebellion from him (Amos 9:8). Thus, according to Amos 9, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or a Gentile; what matters is if you love God.

It is in this context that Amos explains that God is going to rebuild the second Temple (Amos 9:11-12). By citing this passage, James isn’t saying that this is being fulfilled in his time, because the second Temple hadn’t even been destroyed yet! How could Amos 9 be fulfilled if the Temple isn’t even destroyed?

Instead, James is using a partial fulfillment or an argument from comparison. He is noting that eventually, in the millennial kingdom, both Gentiles and Jews will find salvation. There is nothing in this text which states that Gentiles will need to become Jews (i.e. circumcised). Instead, the Gentiles will remain Gentiles, the Jews will remain Jews, and all people will come to the Temple to worship God. James is noting that the same thing is happening in his day.