Replying to an Amillennial Argument

Hi Jim:

Hope all is well with you and your flock. I saw this on our reformed message board and I wondered if you could offer a response? It reads —

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.

The reason for this is that all Premillennialists must account for the rebellious and unbelieving nations in Revelation 20:7-10 who launch an assault against Christ and his people at the end of the millennial age. Where did these people come from? They must be the unbelieving progeny born to those believers who entered the millennial age in physical, unglorified bodies. Not only they, but also the believing progeny born to those believers will be subject to physical death (notwithstanding the alleged prolonged life spans experienced by those who live during the millennial reign of Christ).

• 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.

The reason for this is that all Premillennialists must concede that unbelievers will continue to populate and infect the earth during the millennial reign of Christ. Notwithstanding the presence of Christ himself, as Premillennialists argue, the earth will continue to be ravaged by war and sin and death, even if only at the millennium’s end (Revelation 20:7-10). As a Premillennialist, you must necessarily believe that the redemption of the natural creation and its being set free from bondage to corruption does not occur, at least in its consummate expression, until 1,000 years subsequent to Christ’s return.

• 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.

The reason for this is that, according to Premillennialism, countless millions of people will be born during the course of the millennial reign of Christ. Are Premillennialists asking us to believe that upon their attaining to an age when they are capable of understanding and responding to the revelation of God and the personal, physical presence of Christ Jesus himself, that none of them will be given the opportunity to respond in faith to the claims of the gospel?

• 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.

In my study of the second coming of Christ I discovered that, contrary to what Premillennialism requires us to believe (see above),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.
(Sam Storm)

Would appreciate it if you could respond to these points when you get time.

Thanks,
M.
___________________________________________________________

Hi M,

I’ve seen this argument before. It’s been floating around the Internet and posted on various boards as if it causes some irreparable harm to the premillennial position. But, it’s an argument based more on assumption than exegesis. Sam Storms is a amillennialist. You can read more about Sam Storms eschatology here:

http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/studies/eschatology/

http://www.enjoyinggodministries.com/article/the-amillennial-view-of-the-kingdom-of-god/

So, let’s get to his points.

First off, he states many of his objections as if the objection itself casts doubt on the validity of the position. The repeated use of the phrase “you must necessarily believe” makes it sound as if believing that point is somehow sub-biblical or without basis. It’s a subtle form of “poisoning the well.”

Storms writes:

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.

The reason for this is that all Premillennialists must account for the rebellious and unbelieving nations in Revelation 20:7-10 who launch an assault against Christ and his people at the end of the millennial age. Where did these people come from? They must be the unbelieving progeny born to those believers who entered the millennial age in physical, unglorified bodies. Not only they, but also the believing progeny born to those believers will be subject to physical death (notwithstanding the alleged prolonged life spans experienced by those who live during the millennial reign of Christ).

Jim:

Well, yes. We do believe in physical death after Christ’s return, especially considering that He will break the nations like potsherds and wipe out people with the two-edge sword from His mouth.

Rev 19:15 – From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

Regardless of your millennial view, if you believe Revelation 19:15, then you believe that death occurs after His return. And yes, premillennialists do believe that there will be a rebellion after the 1000 years have expired. But we only believe it because that is exactly and precisely what the Bible says —

Rev 20:7-9 – When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them.

So far we are being accused of actually believing the exact words of the text. Not much of an indictment.

Where do these rebellious people come from? Well, they are not (despite what Storm says “must be”) “the unbelieving progeny born to those believers who entered the millennial age in physical, unglorified bodies.” That’s just pejorative language with no biblical basis. The texts tells us where they come from. They are the descendants of unbelievers who survived the wars and spent the previous 1000 years under the rule of Christ on Earth without the interference of Satan. Storm seems to think that those who enter the millennium must be “believers,” however he defines that term. But, the believers in Christ — the church — took part in the first resurrection. So, his terminology and assumptions are confused. Once Christ returns in glory and sets up the kingdom promised to Israel by their prophets, Israel is believing. But, the Gentile nations are never spoken of as being converted. They are simply ruled over. And those ancient enemies of Israel return to their natural animosity once Satan is allowed to resume his activities.

Nevertheless, the essence of Storms’ argument is that death must remain after Christ’s return at the beginning of the 1000 years. Yes, we believe that … but only because the Bible says that.

Storms:

• 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.

The reason for this is that all Premillennialists must concede that unbelievers will continue to populate and infect the earth during the millennial reign of Christ. Notwithstanding the presence of Christ himself, as Premillennialists argue, the earth will continue to be ravaged by war and sin and death, even if only at the millennium’s end (Revelation 20:7-10). As a Premillennialist, you must necessarily believe that the redemption of the natural creation and its being set free from bondage to corruption does not occur, at least in its consummate expression, until 1,000 years subsequent to Christ’s return.

Jim:

Ummmm …. and?

Where in the Bible does it say that it is either un-scriptural or untenable to accept the Biblical description of the 1000 years? Yes, the natural creation will continue until the creation of the new heavens and the new earth. Since that cataclysmic change occurs in Revelation 21, after everything that’s described in Revelation 20, there’s no reason not to accept that the natural order will continue during Christ’s reign on Earth.

Once again, at the risk of being redundant, that’s simply what the Bible says. I know that’s a tough concept for some people who want to twist and contort the book of Revelation and insert theories of repetition and recapitulation, etc. But, to accuse the premillennialist of simply reading and believing what the book actually says isn’t really much of an argument.

Storms:

• 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.

Jim:

Yep. Because 21 comes after 20. That’s just the way numbers work.

Even if you remove the verse and chapter numbers, John’s continued use of conjunctions such as kai (and), kai houtos (and then) etc. make it grammatically impossible to ignore the sequential nature of the events he described.

Storms:

• 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.

The reason for this is that, according to Premillennialism, countless millions of people will be born during the course of the millennial reign of Christ. Are Premillennialists asking us to believe that upon their attaining to an age when they are capable of understanding and responding to the revelation of God and the personal, physical presence of Christ Jesus himself, that none of them will be given the opportunity to respond in faith to the claims of the gospel?

Jim:

At this point Storms has gone wwwaaaayyyy beyond the revealed text and has begun insisting on conclusions that the Bible never addresses. We do not know that “countless millions” will be born. We don’t know if in the Millennium Christ suddenly institutes an “age of accountability” such as Storm describes, considering that no such age of accountability exists in Biblical Christianity. We don’t know if people will be “given the opportunity to respond in faith to the claims of the gospel.” We don’t know any of that! The Bible gives us no information on such matters. But, that doesn’t stop Storms from attempting to create an argument against premillennialism based on his assumptions and extra-biblical conclusions. This is no way to make a solid argument.

Storms:

• You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.

Jim:

Yep. That’s what it says, alright.

Rev. 20:5a – The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.

This is easy. I just quote the text and it makes my argument for me.

Storms:

• 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.

Jim:

Once again, that’s exactly what the text says. To conclude anything other is to go outside of what the Bible actually says.

Rev. 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Notice that I am not arguing from a hermeneutic or eschatological position. My replies are simply what the text says. Storms is arguing in favor of a position. Therefore, he’s about to launch into a conclusion that is conveniently devoid of any supporting text.

Storms:

In my study of the second coming of Christ I discovered that, contrary to what Premillennialism requires us to believe (see above) …

Jim:

I love this sort of assertion. Okay, I don’t love it in any positive sense. But, when someone makes broad statements like this you can usually assume that the writer’s “discovery” is going to be well worth reading … for the entertainment value, if nothing else. By the way, in MY study, I’ve discovered that postmillennialism leads to wild speculation. But, that’s just me.

Storms:

… death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the Parousia,

Jim:

Text, please.

The only place where Paul employs this phraseology is in reference to the instantaneous change believers will undergo at the catching away.

1Cor. 15:51-58 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. “O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

What this passage DOESN’T say is that death is utterly defeated at the Parousia and therefore there can be no other death after this event. To draw such a conclusion, “you must necessarily believe” things that the Bible doesn’t actually say. Storms is reaching beyond the text in order to support his assumptions.

Storms:

the natural creation is set free from its bondage to corruption at the Parousia,

Jim:

Says who?

Paul did write, “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Rom. 8:22) But, no NT author says that the creation is set free from its bondage to corruption at the Parousia. Once again, it would have been very helpful it Storm would provide chapter and verse to support his contentions.

Storms:

the New Heavens and the New Earth are introduced immediately following the Parousia,

Jim:

Not according to any Biblical text that actually mentions the new heavens and the new earth (Isa. 65:17, 66:22, 2 Pet. 3:13, Rev. 21:1). NONE of those texts connect the parousia with the new heavens and new earth.

Storms:

all opportunity to receive Christ as savior terminates at the Parousia,

Jim:

Stunning.

There’s nothing in the Bible to prove this contention. Again, text would have been nice — if not absolutely required — to make such a statement.

Look, I’m not saying that I know for certain that the “opportunity” to receive Christ does not terminate at Christ’s appearance, I’m just saying that the Bible does not give us sufficient clarity to state either position didactically. And unsupported assumptions simply do not — and indeed cannot — undermine the premillennial adherence to what the text does indeed say.

Storms:

and both the final resurrection and eternal judgment of unbelievers will occur at the time of the Parousia.

Jim:

Both the amil and postmil advocates make this claim. Under the mantra of “the less-clear passages of the Bible must be understood in light of the clear passages,” they identify Revelation 20 as a “less-clear passage” (despite the fact that it employs no difficult words or hard-to-understand phrases), and defer to the separation of sheep and goats in Matthew 25 as their “clear text.” Then, by concluding that the judgment of the just and unjust occurs simultaneously, they argue that there’s no room for 1000 years in the “clear text.”

Voila!

Of course, they ignore that what Jesus described in Matthew 25 is a division of nations, not individuals.

Mat 25:31-33 -“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

In that case, the “brethren” of Christ would be Israelites, not all believers.

I agree with the NET Bible’s note concerning Revelation 20:5, which reads:

The “resurrection of the just” is mentioned in Luke 14:13-14, and the resurrection of “life” distinguished from the “resurrection unto damnation” in John 5:29. We here learn for the first time what interval of time separates these two resurrections.

Storms:

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.

Jim:

Well gosh. Considering the lack of scriptural support and evidential proof, I’m really wondering what “discoveries” forced Sam to conclude such extra-biblical things! And I equally wonder how it is “impossible” to believe what the Bible actually says concerning the Millennium.

It must be some sort of magic. In the words of Bullwinkle J. Moose, “Hey Rocky! Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Nothing up my sleeve. Presto!”

This sort of argumentation, devoid as it is of Scriptural support, really does no harm to the premillennial position whatsoever.

Grace and peace,

Jim Mc.

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