I have been studying eschatology for a few years now and I have been blessed in my efforts to understand the biblical theme of the “last things”. The reason I have spent a few years is, as anyone who has studied eschatology knows, that the bible is absolutely saturated in looking forward to blessed events where God will act and there are numerous interpretations of what the bible says about it. This was true of the Old Testament with the expectation of a future Messiah who would sit on the throne of David, set up the Kingdom and redeem God’s people in a climactic way. It is also true of what the 2nd coming of Christ will bring at the end of the age.
I have read numerous books on the subject of eschatology (many can be found on my eschatology page on this website) from various points of view. Each book tended to answer some of the questions that I had accumulated over the years but quite honestly they also seem to present even more questions. With that said, I just finished reading Sam Storm’s “Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative”[i]. This is probably one of the first times that I have honestly had more questions answered than had been accumulated[ii]. While I am convinced that the Amillennial position is the closest to being faithful to the biblical evidence, it sometimes is a difficult position to explain particularly to someone who has been entrenched in premillennial thinking especially from the Dispensational Perspective. Sam Storms is in a unique position to write such a book that is helpful to present the Amillennial position in a clear fashion. Sam is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary and he was a student of great dispensational thinkers such as John Walfoord, J. Dwight Pentecost and Charles Ryrie. Storms understand dispensationalism and eschatology as a whole to which he has dedicated many years of study to. He is able to present his position in light of other positions much more effectively because he’s been there! Here are a few thoughts in regards to the book.
The book is an affirmation of the Amillennial position with some critiques of other positions such as dispensational premillennlialism and postmillennialism. I will elaborate more on some of the topics he addresses below but firstly, I would like to simply say a few general words in regards to this volume. The book is a reasonably hefty volume close to 600 pages in length with only a few footnotes hence Storms spends some decent time developing his thesis. I have yet to experience someone write on the topic of eschatology with such a care for his readers. Storms really makes a tremendous effort to explain himself in such a way as to give his reader a full understanding of terminology especially when mentioning positions that are not in agreement with his own. He also doesn’t brush off arguments from other eschatological positions and spends time answering the critique of those who are opposed to his understanding of prophecy. The reader may not be in complete agreement with everything Storms says but he/she will respect the time and care Storms places upon each topic he addresses. What is probably the strongest feature of the book is Storms’ relentless effort to build his arguments from the text of scripture. This is not a philosophical book nor is it simply a systematic eschatology but it is strongly focused upon interpreting key biblical texts that deal with eschatology.
Storm’s gives us a brief introduction to the topic of eschatology, his background and how he came to embrace the Amillennial position in his introduction. The first chapter deals with the hermeneutics of eschatology. I found this section very useful prior to beginning the book since Storms lays out his interpretive principles from the get go. One that was worth mentioning was point 4 (of 5 points) where Storms explains how those who were writing the texts of future prophecies were doing so in a context of what made sense to them in the present. Their expression was based upon their culture and experience while attempting to describe what it was that they were seeing. Understanding this is helpful when attempting to “grasp the distinction often drawn between what is literal and what is figurative. I found this especially enlightening when he applies this to the text of Isaiah 65. The second chapter is a definition of dispensational eschatology which would be tremendously useful to those who are not familiar with this understanding of the end times. Chapter three is a focus upon Daniel’s 70th week. Storms would hold to the same position as Philip Mauro and many others who view the fulfilment of the 70th week in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also provides a good response to the dispensational notion that the 70th week is still in the future. Chapter 4 continues to look at the book of Daniel in regards to key texts that are important to grasp prior to addressing New Testament prophetic texts.
Chapter 5 is a critique of Premillennialism in general whether dispensational or historic. I truly enjoyed this chapter because I have heard many scattered assertions and arguments in regards to the problems with Premillennialism but Storms was able to lay out his case by founding his arguments on the exegesis of key texts that explicitly show that Premillennialism contradicts the testimony of scripture in regards to the timing of the 2nd coming of Christ. He goes through a very thorough exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 8:18-23, 2 Peter 3:8-13, Matthew 25: 31-46 and John 5:28-29. At the end of this chapter, he responds to some main arguments posited by Premillennialists against the Amillennial position.
Chapter 6 is a chapter titled “Who are the People of God?: Israel, the Church and Replacement Theology. It deals with the misunderstanding that the people of God consist of two groups of people mainly the church and Israel. Storms argues that the people of God are one and that the promises to OT Israel will be fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ and His Church. These arguments that Storms presented were nothing really new to me but might be useful to anyone who is not familiar with the issues at hand.
Storms then spends two chapters on the exegesis of the Olivet Discourse. Obviously one cannot address New Testament eschatology without spending time in the text of Matthew 24, Luke 21 or Mark 13. Storms would hold to a very similar exegesis of Matthew 24 as Kenneth Gentry and Gary Demar where he views the texts from 1-35 are speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. I felt that Storms had really addressed the topic with sincerity and I found many of his arguments compelling. One point I have always struggled with is a disassociation that I have in my mind between vs. 32-33 and vs. 1-31/35. I see that v. 35 is speaking of those who were alive when these words were uttered and the rest of the chapter but I have always struggled with how vs. 32-33 fit in with this. Storms does attempt to link all these texts together and while I’m not completely convinced he has given me some information to ponder.
The next two chapters deal with the restoration of Israel in which Storms gives us a chapter on the book of Acts and especially a lengthy chapter on the famous Romans 11 passages. He would argue much in the same way as O. Palmer Robertson did in his book “The Israel of God” seeing the arguments of Romans 11 are not on a future restoration of the nation but on the current and future restoration of Israel through the church age in the reception of those Remnant Israelites who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah.
The next two chapters are focused upon the Kingdom of God to which Storms explains his understanding of the Kingdom (similar to George Eldon Ladd) and a critique of the Postmillennial understanding of the Kingdom. While Storms doesn’t agree with the Postmillennial view, he does appreciate that they have very good arguments for their view however he was not persuaded (just yet) of their argumentation.
Chapters 14,15 and 16 are devoted to the Book of Revelation. While this was definitely a quick exegesis of the texts in Revelation (in comparison to Beale or others), I felt that Storms built a good case for his idealist view of the book. He refers to it as progressive parallelism which sees the book divided into parallels communicating the truth of God’s victory over evil in redemptive history. Storms deals specifically with the various judgments (seal, trumpet bowl) in one chapter while spending two chapters on Revelation 20. I found his arguments against the premillennial understanding of two resurrections in this chapter very convincing and I recommend reading his thoughts on this portion of scripture.
Finally, Storms finishes the book with his understanding of the subject of the antichrist. He goes through the various chapters and texts that deal with this often confusing topic. I was less “convinced” of his arguments in this chapter (they are similar to Kim Riddlebargers in his book “Man of Sin). This is a subject that is extremely difficult to decipher especially if we are honest with the information that is provided to us in scripture. Finally in the last chapter he summarizes why he is an Amillennialist.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in exploring what the bible has to say about the “last times” and for those who want to know more about the Amillennial position. While there are variations in Storms’ thinking with other Amillennialists, he does present a sound representation of Amillennialism. I’m still left with many questions to ponder but I feel that this book was a tremendously useful tool to better understand the bible. I hope to read it again in the near future.
[i] Sam storms is the lead Pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the president of Enjoying God Ministries. You can view Sam’s website at www.samstorms.com.
[ii] With the exception of Anthony Hoekema’s “The Bible and the Future”