(^ Cool cover)
The Gospel Coalition has begun a new series asking pastors and theologians which doctrines they had changed their minds about, which should be interesting to follow. The first is from Sam Storms, who details his transition from Dispensational Premillennialism to Amillennialism and the reasons why he changed perspective.
As a quick but incomplete primer for those who aren’t familiar with these terms, the debate focuses on the timing of the Millennium, the 1,000 years in Revelation 20.
Dispensational Premillennialism holds that Christ will return and establish a physical reign upon the earth for 1,000 years in Israel before bringing a complete end to sin and death. Dispensationalism holds that this is how Old Testament promises to Israel can be fulfilled literally. The next event on the horizon is the Rapture, followed by a 7-year Tribulation, Second Coming, Millennium, and then eternity.
Amillennialism holds that the Millennium is a symbolic way of describing the period between Christ’s ascension and second coming. That is, they believe that the Millennium is now. The next event on the horizon is the Second Coming, followed by the establishment of New Heavens and New Earth.
For more info, Blue Letter Bible has a good summary of the Millennial positions.
Why Sam Storms Left Premillennialism
Back to Storms, here are the problems he sees with Premillennialism:
- You must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
- 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.
Here’s Sam’s Summary:
So what’s wrong with believing these things, asks the premillennialist? What’s wrong is that these many things that premillennialists must believe (because of the way they interpret Scripture), the NT explicitly denies. In other words, in my study of the second coming of Christ I discovered that, contrary to what premillennialism requires us to believe, death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the parousia, the natural creation is set free from its bondage to corruption at the parousia, the New Heavens and the New Earth are introduced immediately following the parousia, all opportunity to receive Christ as savior terminates at the parousia, and both the final resurrection and eternal judgment of unbelievers will occur at the time of the parousia. Simply put, the NT portrayals of the second coming of Christ forced me to conclude that a millennial age, subsequent to Christ’s return, of the sort proposed by premillennialism was impossible.
The second factor that turned me from premillennialism to amillennialism was a study of Revelation 20, the text cited by all premillennialists in support of their theory. Contrary to what I had been taught and long believed, I came to see Revelation 20 as a strong and immovable support for the amillennial perspective.
In his post, Storms never really supports his conclusions with Scripture. However, it loks that he has a substantial 560 page book coming out this year called Kingdom Come that will do so. Kevin DeYoung has called it, “the standard bearer for Amillennialism for years to come” and it has endorsements from G. K. Beale, Justin Taylor, and Tom Schreiner, who himself recently moved from Amillennialism to Premillennialism, though he still recommends the book.
If you are wanting to understand the Amillennial position better, this looks like it will be a good place to start.
On a related note, a number of years ago John Piper hosted a great debate between Doug Wilson (Postmillennialist), James Hamilton (Historic Premillennialist), and Sam Storms called an Evening of Eschatology. In the past I posted some resources for understanding Historic Premillennialism, maybe I’ll need to do the same with Amillennialism for those who are interested in understanding it better.