Sam Storms is Lead Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, OK, and the President of Enjoying God Ministries. He received his Th.M. at Dallas Theological Seminary, known for it’s dispensational, premillennial bent on theology. And Sam Storms… is an Amillennialist. What this means is that he believes we are in the millennium now. In fact, he believes the “1,000 years” spoken of in Revelation 20.2-7 aren’t literally 1,000 years. Interested now?
Amillennialism (referred to here as “Amill-“) has been around since the early stages of Christianity, but is becoming more popular due to the works of guys like G.K. Beale, Johnson, Kim Riddlebarger, and Sam Storms (to name a few). So what’s in this book? What is “The Amillennial Alternative”?
There are 17 chapters total, but various topics covered are a definition of Dispensationalism, the Disp- view of Daniel 9, Problems with Premill-, who the people of God are (Israel? Church? Both?), the Olivet Discourse, Romans 11 and the “future” Israel, the chronology of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments in Revelation, the binding of Satan and the first resurrection in Revelation 20, and the Antichrist in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13 and 17. There are a few more chapters, but these represent the beef of the book.
The Chocolate Milk
Besides a few special points here that may lower one’s guard against Amill- theology, I found Storms’ work very persuasive. While he understands he can’t cover every facet of the Bible, Storms is quite thorough in his exposition. A few disagreements can be found in the TSM section.
He understands the Disp- Premill view (helpful terms when reading this book out loud to your wife. Trust me.) because he grew up holding to that theology. So, importantly, the first chapter gives “five foundational principles for the interpretation of prophecy.”
When we come to symbolic passages, how do we strike a balance between “objective photographic precision” and “a slippery subjectivism that treats the Bible like an impressionist work of art”? Storm’s briefly writes that Jesus fulfills the OT (temple, feasts, Sabbath rest, etc), the NT unpacks OT expectations, there is an overlapping of the ages, what many refer to as “Already” and “Not Yet,” the OT authors really did use metaphors in their writing, and typology (which is not allegory). These do help to provide the argument that Storms will read the Bible properly (though not as “literal” as some would like).
No Replacement Theology
Storms shows the contrast between the Amill- position and that of Replacement Theology [RT], proving that they are not one in the same. Whereas RT uproots the Romans 11 Israelite tree and replaces it with the church, Storms points to Scripture and shows that the Gentiles are grafted in. There is no replacing, but a unifying in Christ.
Storms answers the question about which end-time view the church fathers held. None of the early church fathers believed in dispensational theology, but there was a mixture of both premill- and Amill- positions held among them. Yet, in the end, it remains inconclusive. One can’t prove their end-time beliefs based on the church fathers. We must look to the Bible.
The Spoiled Milk
You Won’t Read This in Kindergarten
This book is not for the average church goer, and Storms never claims that it should be. This is a book that will take time to process. It’s not a reading-out-loud, easy-listening kind of book (trust me, my wife and read it out loud. It ain’t easy). Storms says repeatedly, “In other words,” “In summary,” “In sum,” and, “Let me try to put this in easier and more intelligible terms.” I’m curious to know how much shorter this book (544 actual reading pages) would be if much of the wordiness would have been left out.
On the other hand, “clearly” is seen often throughout this book. In quoting Isaiah 13.9-10 Storms says, “Clearly these statements about celestial bodies no longer providing light is figurative for the convulsive transformation of political affairs in the ancient Near East, on earth. The destruction on earthly kingdoms is portrayed in terms of heavenly shaking” (264). This is only so “clear” because of the information he provides the reader in the previous page that “such language was used to portray not what is going on in the heavens but what is happening on the earth” (263). While I agree, I don’t think it’s always so clear, especially when it deals with the ancient Near East.
The Olivet Discourse
While his preterist view of the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 is persuasive, I not only disagree with his stance but would like to know what the other amill- positions are. Granted, Storms can’t cover every base and position (you’ll have to head over to Menn’s book for that), but he has enough appendices at the end of many of his chapters that one here would have been preferred. Simply put, Storms gives the preterist position and I’d like to know what the general amill- position is.
Although difficult to read, Storms’ book is highly informative. Guys like Storms, Riddlebarger, and Menn whose books explain Amill- theology are a welcome edition to the evangelical library. Many Christians need to recognize that Amill- (and Postmill-) theology is not “the chosen perspective of humanistic liberalism and unworthy of evangelical consideration” (361). Rather than being a liberal threat to Christianity, Storms clears the path away from the theology of the TV personality, the New York Times, and Left Behind and points the reader to the Word of God.
Of course, many will disagree with Storms at some (or all) points, but his books presents a case for Amill- theology that needs to be reckoned with. Since this book is only two years old, it’s quite up to date. With the points Storms has made in his book, it appears that both Disp- and Historic Premill’s have some work to do. But if nothing else, I hope this book will serve to show just how difficult the discussion about the end-times really is. Deciding which position you really align yourself with isn’t quite as easy as one might think. Pick up this one, pick up your Bible, make a spot on the couch, and sit there for a long, long time.
[Special thanks to Derry at Christian Focus for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]