I recently came across this excellent roundtable discussion on the three major views of eschatology: Pre-Millennialism, Amillennialism, and Post-Millennialism. The discussion took place about ten years ago at Bethlehem College and Seminary between Jim Hamilton, Sam Storms, and Doug Wilson, and moderated by John Piper who is also a Pre-Millennialist. Hamilton, an associate professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville, represented Pre-Millennialism, which is the view I have always held and is the perspective from which I wrote my commentary on Revelation, The Unveiling of Jesus Christ. Yet, my enjoyment of this discussion came not in hearing the view I agree with but from hearing the differing perspectives of Storms and Wilson.
Very often we have the tendency to only listen to those with whom we agree and if we hear anything about other perspectives, it is usually in the context of someone on our own side saying what is the other view. Consequently, this leads more often then not to us developing caricatures in our minds that are only made up of the extreme elements of a view and do not actually exist in the real world. Many of Storms’ arguments I found very convincing, though I am by no means persuaded to adopt Amillennialism; that is still a long way off because of other textual problems. I also was very encouraged by Wilson’s tactful attitude in explaining that Post-Millennialism is not the same thing as Dominionism, or “bringing in the Kingdom of God by carnal means,” as Piper described. In the words of Piper at the end, Wilson’s strategies for “conquering the world” feel just like the evangelism strategies of any pre-millennialist; you do not get a sense of dominionist theology at all, the gospel going forth into a hostile world and, like leaven, slowly but surely changing the world. Furthermore, I was also forced to acknowledge that my view – Pre-Millennialism – does have its’ own interpretive problems like the other views have their problems.
The first problem is the difficulty of harmonizing 1 Corinthians 15 with Revelation 20. Storms made an excellent point about this because the text does say, “For he must reign until he has put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26). Paul then goes on to quote the prophets Isaiah and Hosea in the context of the Lord’s return, “‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’ ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?'” (1 Cor. 15:54-55; cf. Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14). This is very strong support for Storms’ argument, that Christ is reigning in heaven until he comes to earth to end death once and for all. Storms also makes a good point that the end of Revelation 19 does seem to be very exhaustive and yet there must be some unbelievers who survive to live in the millennial age for the Satan’s rebellion to take place. Of course, Piper made the good point in response to this that babies would grow up and not all of them would of necessity trust in Christ; some may be deceived when Satan is released and follow him instead. Lastly, Storms’ contrast of Revelation 20 and 21 regarding the specific adjective “first” coupled with the word anastasis was very convincing as well. Of course, as a Pre-Millennialist, I went in agreeing with Hamilton and Piper but was very much edified by both Wilson and Storms as well.
Succinctly put, this is a very good discussion that gives Christians a lot to chew on in coming to an understanding of the truth. It is also a good display of Christian, brotherly love even while disagreeing, the discussion very passionate for the truth of Scripture but also filled with laughs and enjoyment of each others fellowship.
Premillennialism (represented by Jim Hamilton): The return of Christ happens before (pre-) the thousand-year reign of Christ, which is a reign of the risen Christ on the earth.
Amillennialism (represented by Sam Storms): The return of Christ happens after the thousand-year reign, a reign that occurs in heaven, in the intermediate state, and not upon the earth. Those who have died in faith and entered into the presence of Christ share his rule and reign during the current church age in which we now live.
Postmillennialism (represented by Doug Wilson): The return of Christ happens after (post-) the thousand-year reign, which corresponds to the Christian age, and the reign of Christ from heaven leads the church to triumph by and through the gospel to such an extent that the Great Commission will be successfully fulfilled, and the Christian faith will pervade all the cultures of all the nations of men. All Christ’s enemies will be subdued in this way, with the exception of death, which he will destroy by his coming.