Kingdom come — the amillennial alternative
Christian Focus (Mentor)
559 pages, £19.99
Reading Kingdom come has been a delight. For those who glaze over at the mention of millennialism, there are two main positions: that Christ comes after the millennium (post-millennialism and amillennialism); or that he comes before the millennium (historic premillennialism and Dispensationalism).
Sam Storms is firmly amillennial, with an affectionate nod towards postmillennialism but a firm rejection of premillennialism in general and Dispensationalism in particular.
He describes briefly his own pilgrimage from Dispensationalism to an amillennial viewpoint. With a thorough knowledge of the system he is critiquing, he deals with each major issue in this complex area of biblical and theological scholarship.
He defines Dispensationalism and then tackles Daniel 9, before answering the central question: ‘Who are the people of God?’ Rejecting the emotive phrase ‘replacement theology’, he asserts that, ‘The church is the only holy nation that will inherit the promises of the covenant’.
Jesus’ discourse in Matthew 24 is discussed, with a preterist leaning but with an acknowledgement that the events of AD 33-70 ‘may function as a local, microcosmic foreshadowing of the global macrocosmic events associated with the parousia’ (his italics).
Storms does not see a future restoration of Jews in Romans 11, but argues for historical restoration in the present age.
There is a helpful chapter on inaugurated eschatology (the view that the kingdom has been inaugurated by Jesus, but not yet consummated) and a critique of premillennial views generally — one overwhelming objection being that they posit a return of Christ in his glory to an earth where, although it is far better than the present earth, there is still sin, suffering and death.
Key texts (such as Isaiah 65:17-25) are dealt with well. Postmillennialism is attractive to Storms, but found wanting in its failure to allow for the biblical picture of the presence of sin and tribulation up to the Second Coming.
Storms concludes with several excellent chapters dealing with Revelation 20 in which the various options are canvassed in detail, favouring the position that this passage is a description of the intermediate state, with the saints reigning in heaven during the present age and Satan bound in being not allowed to deceive the nations.
Storms is suitably humble in all this and realises that other views have their strong points, but believes that amillennialism does better justice to the New Testament teaching as a whole. To allow our understanding of eschatology to be governed by a certain understanding of Revelation 20 is to let the tail wag the dog. A final chapter gives, in 30 points, a cumulative case for amillennialism.
I have not mentioned yet the first chapter, which is perhaps the crucial one. Storms rightly recognises that much of the debate revolves around hermeneutics. He gives five principles of interpretation, beginning with the central one, that ‘the fulfilment of Israel’s prophetic hope … is found in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the believing remnant, the church’.
Jesus fulfils (for example) the temple, the feasts, the Sabbath and the ‘vine’ metaphor. The temple ‘is no longer, and never shall be again, where you go to meet with God’.
The problem with premillennialism, and in particular its Dispensational form, is that it undermines the finality of both Christ’s first coming fulfilling the hope of Israel and uniting the people of God, and his second coming bringing to an end to sin and all its consequences.
Sam Storms has shown us that the amillennial (with a friendly smile at the postmillennial) alternative is far preferable. Without commending every detail of Storms’ interpretations as a whole, this very readable book is highly recommended for all Bible students and especially Bible teachers.