In a Gospel Coalition article, Sam Storms has a piece entitled “Why I Changed My Mind on the Millennium.” He says that it is now impossible for him to hold to premillennialism, having now switched to an amillennial position.
As a response, I would like to share why I cannot change my mind on a premillennial position.
Storms finds it impossible to believe in the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ on earth for 1,000 years for a number of reasons and concludes that “premillennialists must believe what the NT explicitly denies.” Major points that he insists that are a clear contradiction to NT teaching is that premillennialists must “believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.” He also insists that the “the New Heavens and the New Earth are introduced immediately following the parousia.”
Does the Scripture teach explicitly and without any doubt what Storms says that it does?
No, it does not. I wholeheartedly disagree with Storms on these points and other details he says the New Testament cannot teach regarding Christ’s literal earthly kingdom. Let’s consider these two points in further detail and then conclude with John’s chronology in the Book of Revelation, a chronology which contradicts Storms’ amillennialism.
In 1 Corinthians 15:54, Paul writes that when the rapture comes, “death is swallowed up in victory.” Paul nowhere indicates that this defeats death for all mankind at the moment of His Rapture or even His Revelation return. Revelation 6-19 tells us that many will die after the rapture during the Tribulation period. Revelation 20:9 tells us that many rebels will be devoured at the conclusion of the Millennium, which is 1000 years after His glorious return. The fact is, death is not destroyed until after the Great White Throne Judgement, Rev 20:14 “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is speaking to the church and promises that individual Christians and the corporate church will be raptured “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.” For them, death will be defeated (1 Corinthians 15:52). But Paul never states that death itself will be defeated at the moment of Christ’s return for the saints, only that Christ’s resurrection will ultimately put death to death for all who believe in Him.
Next, Isaiah 65:17-25 describes the Millennial Kingdom saying that there will still be sin and therefore death after the return of Christ: “For the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed” (v. 20). While the Millennium will be a period of unsurpassed righteousness and the curse of sin is beginning to be lifted, the Millennium will not be without any sin or disobedience. Unparalleled peace and long life will characterize the Millennium, but the earth will not be fully delivered from the curse of sin and even the presence of death until after the Millennium.
In Isaiah 65:17-25, the prophet shows a clear connection between the Millennium and the Eternal Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Isaiah often does not distinguish between the Millennium and the Eternal State, such as in Isaiah 60:19-20. Isaiah sees these two aspects of God’s rule together as one. Why? Because the Millennium, although it is 1000 years, is a brief period of time in comparison to eternity, yet both are a part of the eternal kingdom of Christ with the Millennium the first stage of His eternal Kingdom. However, this does not mean they are identical. One reason is that the Millennium clearly has a temple whereas in the eternal kingdom there will be no temple.
During the Millennium, the sacrifices will be offered in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, described (in much detail) by Ezekiel 40-48. For the first time, animal sacrifices will be offered by national Israel in faith with a full understanding of why they are being made: to remember and rejoice in the finished work of Christ. Therefore, animals will continue to die in the Millennial period.
Zechariah 14:17 indicates that some will not obey the Lord Jesus after His return and during the Millennium. Some will refuse to come to Jerusalem to worship the Lord Jesus Christ, and “upon them shall be no rain.” During this part of His Kingdom, Jesus will rule with a rod of iron, and He will punish all disobedience, smite the disobedient with a plague, and “smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.” (Zechariah 14:18-20)
Finally, the New Testament lays out a straightforward chronology in Revelation 19-22 of the things that will happen from the time of His coming to the eternal state. Storms says this is impossible to believe. The final eschatological events as given in Revelation 19-22 are as follows:
- The Second Coming of Christ in glory, Revelation 19:11-21
- The Binding of Satan and a 1,000 Year Millennium, Revelation 20:1-6
- The Final rebellion in battle of God and Magog, Revelation 20:7-9
- The Judgement of Satan and the Great White Throne Judgment of unbelievers, Revelation 20:10-15
(Including the destruction of death and hades as they are cast into the lake of fire, Rev 20.14)
- The Creation of the New Heaven and Earth and the removal of the curse, Revelation 21-22
If there is going to be a literal earthly Kingdom with Jesus Christ sitting on the throne of David for 1,000 years, how much more clear could Scripture be? Postmillennialists and amillennialists insist on allegorizing many Scriptures and replacing Israel with the church, including this concluding section of the Scripture. They also say that the 1000 years is not 1000 literal years, although this time period is explicitly referenced six times in Revelation 20:1-6.
Storms says that the natural creation continuing under a form of the curse of sin after Christ’s coming, is impossible. Nevertheless, Revelation 20, taken at face value, indicates that the New Heaven and Earth will not be created until after the 1000-year Millennial Rule. Those born during the Millennium will have the opportunity to witness the visible rule of the Lord Jesus Christ in fulfillment of all the OT and NT Covenant promises, and they like anyone else during human history must be born again to enter the eternal Kingdom of God. The natural creation will not be set free from its bondage until after the final rebellion at the conclusion of the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment. In all of what John writes in Revelation, and contrary to what Storms’ teaching, there is no indication that the Bible explicitly teaches that the New Heaven and New Earth must be introduced immediately following His Second Coming. Why would a clear reading of the Bible be impossible to believe?
Perhaps Storms would say that 2 Peter 3:4-14 is one such passage that bolsters his amillennial view that the New Heaven and earth immediately follow Christ’s second coming. After all, Peter places the two events of Christ’s coming and the New Heaven and Earth together. Nevertheless, Peter’s emphasis is not upon a fixed order of future events, but to challenge Christians to holy living now in light of all aspects of the eschatological climax of human history. Peter links our future hope with our daily conduct.
As one reads this passage, it is not at all improbable that the coming of Christ and the subsequent creation of the New Heaven and New earth will be separated in time by even a long period of time. Peter focuses the reader upon the Day of the Lord (2 Peter 3:8-14) and the end of human history upon earth and how this should cause us to live godly for His glory in the present time. Peter in no way establishes an order that requires the New Heaven and New Earth to immediately follow His coming. In fact, Peter’s overall emphasis in this passage is not upon the personal return of Christ but rather he emphasizes the extended period of time called the Day of the Lord which concludes with the creation of the new heaven and earth. It is also in this passage that he states, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Clearly this reminds us that a 1000-year Millennial Kingdom separates His glorious return from the making of the New Heaven and Earth. Peter is perfectly consistent with the order laid out by John in Revelation 19-22.
We must remember that Biblical writers may place two events right next to each other that may be many years apart. Isaiah 61:2 is a classic prophetic passage that tells us of two events listed beside each other but are separated in time by 1000 years. “To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD” fulfills Christ’s first coming. “And the day of vengeance of our God” fulfills His second coming.
The Millennial hope was the clear expectation of the early church and it remains the expectation of many godly, believing people. Let’s not let go of this incredible promise! Premillennialism rests securely upon the hermeneutic of a literal interpretation of Scripture that leads us to “be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:14). “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).