One of the topics I have always enjoyed is systematic theology, but for many years I avoided eschatology (end times). I avoided it because I was confused. It was not that I thought (with many other Christians) that eschatology did not matter, I was just scared of it. In seminary I realized I had to turn my attention to the subject and began to study it seriously. It is wrongheaded for a Christian to think that eschatology does not matter and just claim the mantra, “In the end Christ comes back and wins and that’s all that maters!” This was not the view of the writers of Scripture or Jesus and it should not be the view of any Christian who takes the Bible seriously. If we want to understand God, Christ, Scripture and our “so great salvation” more, we need to devote ourselves to the understanding of eschatology. The Bible is pointing not only to someone (Christ) but also somewhere –- the future coming kingdom of Christ.
Sam Storms’ background
There are a lot of books defending the various end times positions. Most people hold to the eschatological view point they were taught by their parents, teachers or church when they were younger. Systems of belief are hard to change and when it comes to Christian theology, eschatology is among the hardest. But it does happen and it happened to well regarded pastor and author Sam Storms. In 1977 Storms graduated with his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary which has been the flagship seminary for premillennial dispensational theology for decades. He was taught by some of the greatest dispensational theologians such as Walvoord, Ryrie and Pentecost.
After graduation, having become enamored with all things eschatology, Storms read the highly influential book The Presence of the Future by George Eldon Ladd. For Storms, like many others before and after him, this book became the catalyst to setting him on a journey from premillennial dispensationalism to amillennialism. After years of reading, writing and teaching on the subject, Storms has written his own contribution to the eschatological discussion in Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative which was published last year with Mentor (Christian Focus).
Storms’ unique contribution
This is not a thorough, critical review of the book, and such is not necessarily warranted given that Storms is not presenting a different case for amillennialism though he does present the case differently. Though Storms’ work compares well with other works which champion his view such as Anthony Hoekema’s The Bible and the Future or more recently Kim Riddlebarger’s A Case for Amillennialism, what sets this book apart from these and others is that Storms makes his case for amillennialism along with presenting the dispensational view and what he believes to be its weaknesses and failings. While others try to do this in their books to some extent, most of them do so from the outside looking into dispensationalism and none to the extent of Storms. This does not mean they cannot do it sufficiently. However, Storms has the advantage of having been taught by some of dispensationalism’s best. He can do so as someone who once was but now is not. To dismiss Storms’ change under the rubric of “he must have never really understood dispensationalism or else he would not have changed,” will not do. That would be simplistic and naive. Rather,Storms’ unique contribution needs to be heard and taken seriously, even for died-in-the-wool dispensationalists who will not change.
Of particular interest to dispensationalist’s will be chapter two “Defining Dispensationalism,” and chapter five “Problems with Dispensationalism” in which Storms offers devastating critiques of dispensationalism and reveals weaknesses, some of which, cannot be overcome. For instance, regarding dispensationalism’s interpretation of Ezekiel’s vision of the rebuilt temple, Storms says, “It wold be an egregious expression of the worst imaginable redemptive regression to suggest that God would ever sanction the rebuilding of the temple” (21, emphasis original). Though admittedly a strongly worded statement, I was jarred when I read it and paused for awhile to mull it over. Or, in response to the dispensational view that there are two “peoples of God” Storms states that:
Not one single ethnic Jew who believes in Jesus Christ as the Messiah has been ‘replaced’ or lost his/her inheritance in the blessings of the covenant. Rather, every single ethnic Gentile who believes in Jesus Christ as the Messiah has been ‘included’ in the commonwealth of Israel and grafted into the one olive tree. Thus, the true Israel, the true ‘seed’ of Abraham, which is to say, any and all who are ‘in Christ’ by faith, regardless of ethnicity, will together inherit the blessings of the covenant.” (207)
I myself was brought up under the same teaching as Storms regarding eschatology. On the highway of eschatological views I have exited onto historic premillennialism and am not sure when, if ever, I will get off and move on. As such I am in agreement with a number of Storms interpretations, hermeneutical principles and dispensational critiques, such as his understanding of Daniel 9, the relationship between Jesus and the OT prophecies, much of his understanding of the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments and the relationship between Israel and the Church. On the other hand, amidst several points of disagreement I have with amillennialism, the greatest that remains is its interpretation of Revelation 20 and the 1,000 years and its attending events. Storms wants to read the 1,000 years in light of the rest of preceding Scriptural understanding of eschatology instead of the other way around. He also points out the symbolic nature of numbers in the rest of Revelation as support for why the 1,000 years does not have to be taken “literalistically”. I am sympathetic to his concerns but I still cannot shake myself of a future millennial kingdom preceding eternity, rather than one that is coexistent with present history.
All in all, Kingdom Come is a worthy read for anyone interested in eschatology and I suspect it will be a go-to-book in defense of amillennialism and in response to premillennial dispensationalism. The writing is clear and well organized. Storms’ critiques can come across strong and passionate at times but his tone should not distract from the force of the arguments he advances. Eschatology can be daunting and confusing but Storms has brought some clarity that will surely help many to come. This is a good book for those interested in eschatology in general and for those who want a contemporary defense of amillennialism. This is as much a book for dispensationalists who are looking to refine their position in the face of critique as for those who have doubts about their position and are looking for someone who can better articulate what they are thinking.
Craig Hurst received his BA in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College and is pursuing the MA in theology at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He currently lives outside of Grand Rapids, MI and attends Grace Community Church, where he serves as a volunteer youth worker (along with his wife), and teaches some elective classes. He blogs at Theology for the Road.