I just finished an excellent theology book called Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative, by Sam Storms.
For many Christians in Evangelical America, to consider any end-times view other than the dispensational premillennial view is the same thing as spitting on your family heritage. From the beginning of our Christian lives, whether we can’t even remember the beginning of that life, or someone like me who didn’t begin a Christian life until I was seventeen, we are told that the Scriptures literally say that Jesus will come back for His church with the Rapture, in which all believers are removed from the earth by being taken up into the air, followed by a seven year period of ‘tribulation’, followed by the triumphal return of Christ and all of his followers, followed by a literal one thousand year reign of Christ on earth, and ending with the final battle between the forces of good and evil, with good triumphant. We are told that this is the only conclusion that a literal reading of the texts can bring us to. All other views are said to be the result of non-literal, liberal, slippery slope reading that will take you far away from anything resembling orthodox Christianity.
What if I told you…I’ve discovered that my dispensational teachers down through the years cannot back-up their claim.
Sam Storms comes from a dispensational background. As he dug into the Scriptures like he was taught, he found himself coming to different conclusions than what his teachers were telling him. Like many other dispensationalists who sincerely believed in the veracity of God’s Word, he found that he simply could not connect the logical dots that his teachers were telling him. He had to go back and reexamine the presuppositions that he was bringing to his study of the Scriptures. He came to some different conclusions than he had been told. Yes, Jesus is triumphant in the end. But how that victory come about looks radically different than he had been told. And how that victory comes about affects how Storms sees God working in the world today. And it turns out that it’s bigger and better and even more significant than what he had been taught.
I have to admit that I enjoyed the first 2/3 of the Kingdom Come more than the last third. I thoroughly enjoyed his examination of his own history with the topic; an examination of dispensationalism; an examination of the book of Daniel (particularly chapter 9); his examination of “Israel, the Church, and ‘Replacement’ theology”; the Olivet discourse; the books of Acts and Romans; the ‘Now’ and ‘Not Yet’ of eschatology. However, I got bogged down going through the minutia of three topics of Revelation. He did not look exhaustively at Revelation. He looked closely at the chronology of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments, the binding of Satan, and the first resurrection. I did work my way through it, but I would need to go back and study those chapters much more closely to say I grasp them well enough to pass the wisdom on to others.
My own experience with this disconnect between my teachers and my studying concerned the timing of the Rapture. As I read the scriptures in Thessalonians, I was reading about Jesus coming back for His church, His church meeting Him in the air, and immediately following this in Thessalonians comes the judgment my teachers were saying does not come until Jesus’ triumphant return seven years later. They were having to insert the seven year tribulation period into this text to fit their model. I was given their explanation of how this ties into that, and if you look back here in Daniel, then that means this, but I was not seeing it. I was left seeing a post-tribulational rapture in the Scriptures, but hoping my teachers were right about the pre-trib.
I’ve discovered that I was not alone in my questions that I could not get satisfactorily answered. Storms is one of them. So are Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Dr. Michael Horton, and many other former dispensational pastors and theologians who hold the Scriptures in just as high regard as our dispensational brothers and sisters.
One other important thing I’ve discovered…we cannot discuss this issue simply by trading Scriptures back and forth. That gets us nowhere. We need to take a step back and examine the rules, or presuppositions, we are bringing to the discussion. If we don’t do that, we wil just be taking past each other and never really understand each other.
Well…to be honest…I mean you will never understand me, my dispensational friends. I certainly understand your presuppositions, because I used to be there. So…let’s take a look at…hermeneutics! Next time…