Feeling Prophetic: Sam Storms’ “Immovable Support for Amillennialism”

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?”

Amil. “Yes”

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.

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24 comments

  1. Thanks Paul! I had started a response to Storms (for use in my classes) but this is great! One more thing you might help me with: how do we answer the “self-satisfied, self-congratulatory” condescending (toward dispensationalists) (“I’ve soooo outgrown my silly immature pre-mil – dispy upbringing”) tone so prevalent in blog-postings, articles and books written by the “biblical-scholarly-illuminati” (a la G. Beale)?

    1. Dr. Zuber,
      I’ve been meaning to email you, but would you be interested in being interviewed in a written format for a series I have that celebrates Dispensational Presuppositionalism? I’m going to email you right now.

    2. Dr Zubar, from a layman’s perspective I believe we are probably at the cusp of witnessing the classical amillennialism lose steam and a revival of dispensationalism. There are two things in particular that could become a trend:

      1. It doesn’t matter what the supercessionists declare the true Israel is all in Christ or Jesus Himsels or the Church, that the question of whether the Jews are still God’s beloved and the significance of the modern state of Israel keep propping every year at Bible conferences organised by Reformed Christians in this part of the world. Obviously people aren’t buying into the standard answer.

      2. Sydney Anglicans are leading a movement towards discipleship through one to one Bible reading via Trellis and Vine written by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. I’m aware this book and Sydney Anglicans are atarting to get appreciated a lot in the worldwide Reformed circles. Once people get a chance to read nothing but the Bible itself, there will be questions, and I don’t see how Beale, Goldsworthy, Storm, Waldron, de Mar, etc can stop the floodgate of getting their theological presuppositions questioned by masses of newly equipped Christians.

      When you open the genie that is the witness of the Word of God itself from the bottle, you can’t put it back.

  2. I am dying here, laughing at the mock conversation! “You’re too literal”?!! LOL

    thank you! I hope you can get the book for free though. Actually, that’s an idea, Sam Storms should send you a free copy to review.

  3. I think you know everything you need to know about Sam Storms when you know that he said, in front of God and everyone, that if he became convinced that the apostle John was a premillennialist, he’d conclude that John was in error.

    Because he, Sam Storms, simply can’t be.

    1. Thanks for sharing that link Dan. Brilliant! Witty! I’ve experienced many of the same frustrations in various discussions and only wish I could be half as pithy — that article truly is a classic! 🙂

  4. Paul very good article you wrote dealing with Storms. I was shaking my head when I read Storm’s article on what he changed to Amillennialism. Hope you saw my long comments there on Storm’s blog that I believe almost all amillennialist ignored. Glad that you see the same exact problems that I did in his article.

  5. Here is my long comment that I left on Storm’s blog. 🙂

    Reading the comments from Amillennialist here make me wonder what form of amillennialism that they believe to be the true bibical form of it? Considering the number of variations of it that differ from one another. The common feature in all forms of amillennialism is their rejection of the premillennial position. After reading Dr. B.B. Warfield’s ( his views combines Amillennialism and Postmillennialism ) treatment of Amillennialism in his article called The Millennium And The Apoclypse in The Works Of Benjamin B. Warfield II Biblical Doctrine itself provided the necessary reasons for rejecting amillennialism for me. It was a very bad treatment of Revelation 20 in my opinion. To be fair I thought that Dr. Anthony Hoekema’s treatment of Revelation 20 was by far the worst I have seen. But in the end it was Dr. William Hendriksen’s commentary on the book of Revelation which showed me first hand directly that it can not be firmly established by any means of exegesis though he tried to in Revelation but failed in it.The most unusual thing at least for me is that John Calvin never wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation at all and oddly left out an exposition of Ezek 40 to 48 in his exposition of that book. Though in Institutes Of the Christian Religion he is outspoken againist premillennialism and seemed unaware of what it taught fully. Dr. Charles Hodge’s postmillennialism treatment in Dr. Charles Hodge Systematic Theology 3 Volumes did not do well at all either as a whole. The writings of Dr. Loraine Boettner did even worse defending Postmillennialism. Dr. George Ladd’s writings showed me at how unstable his claimed ” historical premillennialism ” really was in his writings. I do have to giggle at him calling his position Historical Premillennialism when he ignores much of the Old Testament for the belief in the Millennial Kingdom that is found. His arguments for premillennialism are very different from that of Justin Martyr who appealed to OT passages. One cant forget that Dr. George Ladd essentially ignores or downplays the historical premillennial work The Theocratic Kingdom By George N.H Peters. That was because it contradicted Dr. Ladd’s own concept of the millennial kingdom. Yet never answers it. Contrary to claims being made by some, the late Dr. John Walvoord did fully answer George Ladd’s writings in his review of Ladd’s books. I believe the book The Millennial Kingdom by Dr. John Walvoord is a great treatment of the premillenial perspective. 🙂 Dr. Walvoord in it interacts with Amillennialism and Postmillennialism and so called Historical Premillennialism. I would say that Dr. Walvoord’s commentaries on the book of Daniel and Revelation are a great read for the premillennial position. 🙂 Godly men are found on all sides of the issue. This should never be grounds for schism but rather for an intresting in house debate on eschatology.

  6. Thanks for the post. I am not sure the last section really represents Sam’s view. He would say that Paul and Peter leave no room for a milennium since Paul has the last enemy death defeated at the parousia in 1Cor 15:24ff, 50 therefore death will not exist after Jesus returns and Peter has Jesus returning and then begins the renovation of heaven and earth by fire without a milennium. Since the thrones in Revelation are always in heaven and when they are setup for those who reign on them it could be that their reign is in heaven. He does admit difficulty with anastasis so he defaults to the fact that Paul and Peter are clearer than Revelation therefore he is inclined to be amillennial. This is Storms’ view summarized.

  7. Here was the quote from Storms on the thrones in heaven.

    “John could hardly have been more explicit concerning the location, and therefore the nature, of the millennial rule of the saints when he said that he saw “thrones” (thronous). Where are these thrones upon which the saints sit, which is also to ask, what is the nature of their millennial rule? Let’s begin with several observations about the use of the word “throne” (thronos) in the book of Revelation.

    The word thronos appears 62x in the New Testament, 47 of which are in the book of Revelation. Twice (Rev. 2:13; 13:2) it refers to Satan’s throne (being synonymous with his authority or power) and once to the throne of the beast (Rev. 16:10). On four occasions it refers to God’s throne on the new earth in consequence of its having come down from heaven (Rev. 21:3, 5; 22:1,3). In every other instance (40x) thronos refers to a throne in heaven, either that of God the Father, of Christ, of the 24 elders, etc.

    Why, then, does the Premillennialist argue that anastasis (“resurrection”) must mean physical resurrection, although it occurs nowhere in Revelation outside chapter 20, but ignores thronos which never in Revelation refers to anything other than a heavenly throne (and that, in 40 texts!)?

    Consider the use of thronos in the rest of the NT. Of the fifteen occurrences of thronos outside Revelation, seven are explicitly heavenly. In Luke 1:52 it refers figuratively to the power and authority of earthly rulers. In Col. 1:16 it refers to angelic (demonic?) beings. In Luke 1:32 the angel Gabriel refers to the “throne” of David on which the coming Messiah will sit in fulfillment of the divine promise, to which Peter makes explicit reference in Acts 2:30. In the verses which follow it is clear that Peter envisioned Christ’s resurrection and exaltation to have resulted in his enthronement at the right hand of the Father in fulfillment of Gabriel’s declaration.”

    1. Do you believe in a physical resurrection ? Your argument back fires if you hold to some sort of physical resurrection. The general Amillennial and Postmillennialist view the first resurrection as regeneration while the second resurrection as being physical. The word ” live ” is used two times in Rev 20:4-6 and must be the same thing if used in the same sentence. It is either 2 physical resurrections one of believers and another of unbelievers separated by 1,000 years. Or both are 2 spiritual resurections one of believers and another of unbelievers. Rev 5:10 finds it’s fulfillment in Rev 5:10. In Rev 5:10 it specifically states over the earth. The most evident objection to they lived as refering to regeneration is the fact we are regenerated when we have faith in Jesus Christ and not AFTER PHYSICAL DEATH. That make fit fine within Roman Catholicism which has that view but not within Reformed theology as it defines regeneration. The word throne does not find support for Amillennialism. It can be used of a throne on earth or in heaven and you are being very misleading in that. A word study of thone in itself wont determine the issue. What is involved is a detailed OT and NT treatment and discussion of the ” Kingdom ” in Scripture which relates to God and more specifically the Lord Jesus as it deals with heaven and the earth. Your major error is on anastasis as well. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has it used several times relating to physical resurrection. a ) of Christ Acts 1:22; 3:31; 4:33; Rom 1:4; 6:5; Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 1:3; 3:21 b ) those of Christ coming Luke 20:33; 35; 36; John 5:29; 11:24; Acts 23:6; 1 Cor 15:21; 42; 2 Tim 2:18; Heb 11:35 aside from Rev 20:5. So there is very strong evidence of it being a physical resurrection. Plus Rev 19 has the beast and false prophet placed in to the lake of fire at Jesus second coming and in Rev 20:10-15 we have satan then being placed in to the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet have already been at for 1,000 years. Also the unbelieving dead whos names are not written in the book will be placed there too.

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