Sam Storms has a new 560 page book coming out, Kingdom Come, “a biblical rationale for amillennialism,” I shall read the book when it comes out and intend to review its arguments here. For the present, I am helped by the fact that Storms has written a short post on the subject of Why I Changed My Mind About The Millennium at the Gospel Coalition website. (TGC seems bent on representing “evangelicalism” whether many of us agree with them or not).
The essay is about converting over from dispensational premillennialism to covenant amillennialism. Hence, it describes how he used to believe the term “a thousand years” in Revelation 20:1-7 (Millennium) meant “a thousand years,” but now it doesn’t mean “a thousand years.” Well it does, but it doesn’t. I mean, if you mean a thousand 365 day, 12 month years, then it doesn’t. But if you mean “an indefinite period of time lasting at least nearly two thousand years” then it does (!). Got it? Anyway, one statement in Storms’ article caught my attention. He avers,
I came to see Revelation 20 as a strong and immovable support for the amillennial perspective.
That is quite a statement. “Immovable”? You mean six repetitions of the term “a thousand years” in which Satan is bound and imprisoned cannot mean, well, a thousand years in which Satan is bound and imprisoned (Rev. 20:2-3)? Why? What makes the rejection of those words and the acceptance of their opposites “immovable”? G. E. Ladd, who so influenced Storms, didn’t think it was immovable. Does Storms mean “immovable” like “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God” is “immovable”? He can’t, because he is asking us to believe Revelation 20 doesn’t mean what it says while presumably he believes 2 Tim. 3:16 does mean what it says. Confused? I’m sure Storms’ book will clarify.
I can’t wait to see how he handles Satan’s binding and imprisonment “for a thousand years” since Satan is called the “god of this age” who blinds unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:4), while at the same time being free to set upon believers (1 Pet. 5:8-9), which includes deceiving them (2 Cor. 11:13-15), or being behind those who try (1 Jn. 2:26). I’m sure these “problems,” and the matter of making the text say exactly the opposite of what it appears to say will be dealt with in unequivocal language. Okay, I’m not. Don’t hold your breath.
Here’s a mock conversation between a dispensationalist and an amillennialist over Revelation 20. The conversation never runs this way because the amil will always and persistently bring “reason” in to break up the continuity of the discussion. Just like Storms does with his “problems” for dispensationalists, the “what about…?” questions will intrude, just as they do when one is dealing with JW’s at the door. Still, this is the way the conversation ought to go:
Disp. “So Satan is bound right now right?”
Disp. “and he’s in the Abyss which is sealed by an angel right?”
Amil. “Figuratively yes”
Disp. “Figuratively? You mean Satan isn’t really sealed in the bottomless pit now?”
Amil. “No, it’s symbolic.”
Disp. “So is Satan really bound now or is that symbolic too?”
Amil. “Yes and no. Satan cannot deceive the nations any more.” (Rev. 20:3).
Disp. “What does that sentence mean? Is it symbolic of something else?”
Amil. “No, just that Satan can’t deceive the saints.”
Disp. “Umm, so when it says Satan can’t deceive the nations, you say that really means he can’t deceive the saints?”
Amil. “Well yes.”
Disp. “But the NT is very clear about the living and active threat of the Devil towards Christians: that’s why we have to put on the Armor of God. How can Satan be bound now?”
Amil. “It’s a long chain”
Disp. “Isn’t he bound and “imprisoned”?
Amil. “I said, that’s figurative.”
Disp. “So if my dog bites someone two miles away do you think the police will be placated if I assure them it was on a very long chain? Isn’t that totally laughable?”
Amil. “You’re too literal”
Disp. “Alright. When Rev. 20:4-5 says that John “saw the souls of those who had been beheaded” come to life as part of “the first resurrection,” does it mean he saw the souls of those who had been beheaded come to life as part of the first resurrection?”
Amil. “Yes. But what it means by this is that he saw the unsaved elect being regenerated.”
Disp. “But these are people who were dead and who were resurrected.”
Amil. “Yes, they were spiritually dead and they were regenerated.”
Disp. “But they were decapitated! And then they were resurrected, not regenerated. You can’t regenerate a decapitated person unless you first, you know, resurrect him.”
Amil. But this is symbolic language describing being born-again”
Disp. “Eh, right. It seems you think God doesn’t communicate very clearly”
Amil. “No, but you’ve got to understand apocalyptic language.”
Disp. “Really? But John calls his book a “prophecy” (Rev. 1:3 and four times more). furthermore people are blessed if they “keep” its words. How can they “keep” what isn’t plainly revealed? And where do you get the notion of ‘apocalyptic’ from?”
Amil. “From the Bible. It’s found in Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah, etc.”
Disp. “But those are prophecies. The Bible doesn’t call them apocalypses. That’s what liberal scholars started calling them. The only “apocalypse” is what we call “Revelation,” unless you are going outside the Bible to interpret the Bible. The word means an “unveiling” which reveals something, but it seems you are making it mean just the reverse: an obscure picture waiting for its message to be revealed. It’s words, it seems, don’t actually reveal the true meaning. Rather, they hide it. Are you saying the real meaning of large portions of the Prophets are also hidden?”
Amil. “The OT prophecies are types and shadows of NT realities.”
Disp. “Isn’t Rev. 20 a NT reality?”
Amil. “Well yes, but it’s apocalyptic”
Disp. “Well, it’s called the Apocalypse, which means…but I’m repeating myself. Just how much of the Bible is taken up with types, shadows, apocalypses, and whatnot?”
Amil. “A lot of it. About two thirds of Scripture.”
Disp. “So from simply discussing what Rev. 20 SAYS we have arrived at the view that most of Scripture means something other than what it appears to say? What about the clarity, and hence the sufficiency of Scripture?”
Moved yet? And on the charade goes…Storms then gives a list of things a dispensationalist must “necessarily believe.” Okay, but the only thing I need to “necessarily believe” is what the Bible says isn’t it? I need to necessarily believe that God is three persons in one do I not? Is Christ both God and man? Don’t I have to believe that whether I can comprehend it or not? What about eternal Hell? I don’t like that doctrine one bit, but I must believe it because the Bible teaches it in unmistakeable terms.
If you are a premillennialist, whether dispensational or not, there are several things with which you must reckon:
• You must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.
True. So what? Does the Bible say anywhere that there will be no death after Christ’s second coming? What about Rev. 20:7-10? No wait… So how does Storms know it won’t? I will tell you. He doesn’t like the idea so he infers it away. Zech. 8? Easy, apocalyptic. Isa. 65? same. Zech 14? more of the same. Rev. 20? symbolic.
• You must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the Fall of man.
True. Notice please the tacit admission that this world will have to become the New Heavens and Earth right after the second advent. No use for this world once Christ returns. No millennium (a – millennialism).
• You must necessarily believe that the New Heavens and New Earth will not be introduced until 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
Right. That’s what a “natural” reading of Revelation 20 and 21 reveals. Trouble is, God, as it turns out, doesn’t mean what He says more than half the time. In fact, about two thirds of the words which God speaks are equivocal – they appear to mean one thing but mean something less obvious.
This equivocating god problem will not be addressed by Storms’ book.
• You must necessarily believe that unbelieving men and women will still have the opportunity to come to saving faith in Christ for at least 1,000 years subsequent to his return.
So what? If someone born in the Millennium can be summoned by Satan to rebel against Christ at the end of the thousand years, surely there are a lot of unsaved people who need saving? Why is that a problem?
• You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
If that is what the Bible teaches why is that a problem?
• You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally judged and cast into eternal punishment until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
Same again. A straight forward reading of Revelation 20 leads to that conclusion. Don’t I have to believe it whether I can fully comprehend it or not? Is doctrine decided by reason over what the Scriptures plainly declare?
What do all these “problems” of Storms have in common? Is it a lack of scriptural evidence? No! Answer, Storms doesn’t believe them. They’re not reasonable (on a par with like the hypostatic union?). These are not problems with what the Bible says, but problems with what believing what it says leads to. If you don’t like where Scripture points, just say it doesn’t really mean what it says and you’re rocking. That is amillennialism. It is an eschatology of disbelief.
Okay, I’ve had my fun. I’ll wait for the book. See also this post by Fred Butler.