In two earlier posts, I gave some introductory remarks responding to Sam Storms’ blog entry entitled “Why I Changed My Mind About the Millennium” along with my initial response to his first reason why he can’t hold to the premillennial position – the idea that death in the kingdom, from Storm’s point of view, can’t be harmonized with the alleged truth that Jesus ends death at the Second Coming. I will deal here with his second reason. It is somewhat helpful that Sam Storms’ book Kingdom Come has recently been released. Although a more complete analysis will come later, it will prove helpful here at filling in more detail than his outline given in the blog at the website of the Gospel Coalition.
The second reason that Storms gives is that if you are a premillennialist, “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.” He goes on to affirm that, in conjunction with this idea, “the natural creation is set free from its bondage at the parousia.”
The basic idea is that premillennialism cannot be right since it teaches that Christ’s Second Coming does not end the curse on the natural created order. This particular argument is actually a variation of the one I responded to in my last post about the end of death since death is the primary result of the curse.
In his book Kingdom Come, Storms gives a decent summary of the premillennial position of some premillennialists (I might tweak some of his earlier summary but provide what I think is good here):
“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 (Rev. 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” (p. 136).
So the question becomes, “Are there clear passages that teach that Christ’s Second Coming will remove the curse on nature?” Storm thinks so. The main passage in this regard is Romans 8:18-23 (see p. 152-54). He takes the passage to teach that the created order will be set free from bondage (v. 21) at the exact time when Christ returns (from a premillennial point of view at the end of the tribulation) to manifest or make known the sons of God in resurrection (v. 19, 23). In light of the continuing curse in the millennium for premillennialists (Rev. 20:7-10) and the removal of the curse after the millennium (Rev 21:4), Storm believes this is an insurmountable problem for premillennialists.
Now let me say initially that there are some good things Sam has said here. In fact, I will concede that his approach to this text is a possible and reasonable interpretation. I can understand where he is coming from. However, I do not believe it is the only reasonable way to take the text. The text does not clearly give the timing of the removal of the curse on creation. It only says that the creation looks for the revealing of the sons of God and that creation will one day be delivered from bondage. To assume that these two things match chronologically is a reasonable deduction from the text but not a necessary deduction from the text.
When I checked a few premillennial commentaries, I found two basic approaches to the passage. There is one group (e.g., Ironside, Harrison) that is willing to assert in agreement with Sam that the Second Coming is when the creation is set free from bondage. The changes to nature at the beginning of the millennium justify this conclusion (Zech. 14, Isaiah 11). Such interpreters would no doubt acknowledge if asked that the release from bondage is a beginning and not a consummation (this is something amils discuss but I will save debate on it for another time and place).
A second group of premillennialists (e.g., Blaising, Kroll) seem to suggest that the time of the release of creation from bondage is not at the Second Coming but when the New Heavens and New Earth come at the end of the millennium. In this approach, it is possible to see Romans 8:18-23 teaching that the created order longs to see the manifestation of the sons of God at the Second Coming because it is a reminder that its redemption is on its way although at a later time. The syncing of the two chronologically is not necessary. The necessary linkage is the shared hope for redemption. I lean toward this last interpretation. It is not an unreasonable one unless one assumes an amillennial understanding at the outset.
In my next post, I will deal with Sam’s third reason for changing his mind about the millennium.