An Evening of Eschatology

Bethlehem College and Seminary

Twin Cities, MN

In the following introduction, John Piper summarizes this event and the corresponding viewpoints of the participants. A full transcript of the discussion follows.

On September 27, 2009, Desiring God and Bethlehem College & Seminary hosted “An Evening on Eschatology” at the Downtown Campus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It was attended by about 800 people who sat in the darkened sanctuary while six cameras were trained on the brightly lit roundtable where the four participants sat in a circle.

For two hours I moderated, more or less, a discussion among Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho).

The discussion was intended to focus on the relationship between the thousand-year reign of Christ mentioned in Revelation 20 and the return of Christ to this earth visibly and physically to reign. This thousand years is usually called “the millennium.” Revelation 20 is the only place in the Bible where the length of this period is mentioned.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. . . . Those who had not worshiped the beast . . . came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. . . . And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations. (Revelation 20:1–4, 7–8)

Concerning this thousand years (millennium), there have been three major views in the history of the church. Each of these views was represented in the discussion by an advocate who believes the view to be true.

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.

None of the views insists that the “thousand years” is an exact number, but all of them allow that it may be symbolic of a very long time (from a human standpoint).

As moderator, I tried to see that each view was fairly represented and defended. My own view is the one represented by Jim Hamilton — historic premillennialism. I think amillenialism is the next most plausible view. Postmillennialism has a long and respected history. In fact, the most influential dead theologian in my life, Jonathan Edwards, was a postmillennialist. Indeed, most of the early missionaries of the modern missionary movement, like William Carey, shared this view as well — the strong conviction that the gospel would triumph in all the world and subdue all other religions, with gospel power, not military power.

There are biblically attractive things about each of these views, and none of them, in their best representation, bears such marks as to suggest the advocates are undermining the precious gospel of Christ. On the contrary, each of them has strengths that specifically honor parts of the Bible that the others seem to honor less.

Postmillennialism seems to honor the power of the gospel and the promises in the Old Testament for the triumph of God’s people over all the nations. Amillennialism seems to honor the warnings of bleak end times as well as the seamlessness between Christ’s coming and the immediate destruction of death, the removal of the enemies of the cross, and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth. Premillennialism seems to honor the plainest meaning of Revelation 20 and the seemingly literal meaning of many Old Testament promises.

All of these views are upheld by teachers who warmly embrace the inspiration, authority, and inerrancy of the Bible. This is especially true of the roundtable participants. We were glad to host this event with a view to showing that across these differences of interpretation (which were vigorously defended in the discussion) there is a profound brotherhood in the gospel.

What do we hold as crucial in regard to death, resurrection, and the second coming of Jesus? Section 14 of the Bethlehem Elder Affirmation of Faith gives our answer:

14.1 We believe that when Christians die they are made perfect in holiness, are received into paradise, and are taken consciously into the presence of Christ, which is more glorious and more satisfying than any experience on earth.

14.2 We believe in the blessed hope that at the end of the age Jesus Christ will return to this earth personally, visibly, physically, and suddenly in power and great glory; and that He will gather His elect, raise the dead, judge the nations, and establish His kingdom. We believe that the righteous will enter into the everlasting joy of their Master, and those who suppressed the truth in unrighteousness will be consigned to everlasting conscious misery.

14.3 We believe that the end of all things in this age will be the beginning of a never-ending, ever-increasing happiness in the hearts of the redeemed, as God displays more and more of His infinite and inexhaustible greatness and glory for the enjoyment of His people.

I want to publicly thank Jim, Sam, and Doug for their energetic and truth-pursuing participation in the roundtable. It was, and is, a deep joy to be a part of this brotherhood.

Eager to understand more,

Pastor John

John Piper: I’m John Piper and it’s September 27th, 2009. We’re in Bethlehem Baptist Church, and I am surrounded by friends here. But before we introduce them and talk to them and with them, I want to pray.

John Piper: To my left is Jim Hamilton, Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of Kenwood Baptist Church. Is that right?

Jim Hamilton: That’s correct.

John Piper: So you’re both professor and pastor.

Jim Hamilton: Yes, sir. I’m a bivocational pastor.

John Piper: I don’t know how you do that. Jim went to Dallas Seminary for his ThM, and got his PhD from Southern Seminary and is teaching there. Now, I won’t go into the books that these men have written, but they are all significant.

Straight across from me, Doug Wilson, is the pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, the founding board member of Logos school, trustee senior fellow of theology at New St. Andrew’s College, and the editor of Credenda/Agenda. He received his MA in philosophy from University of Idaho, etc.

And to my right, Sam Storms, is the pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, president of Enjoying God Ministries. He has a ThM from Dallas Seminary, and a PhD from University of Texas. He was a professor of theology at Wheaton, but has been in the pastoral ministry now for what, 30 years total?

Sam Storms: About.

John Piper: That’s the same as me. Well now, I’m older than you are. In fact, I’m older than all of you.

Doug Wilson: But not put together.

John Piper: There’s a certain respect that goes with age here, okay? Maybe. We’ve called this an evening of eschatology. That’s a bit broad because it bears the marks of the situation we’re in. It really should be called “an evening of millennial discussion”, even though I’m sure it will go wider than that, which accounts for some of who we are here.

This is kind of a historical accident that we’re here because of the conference that was just held and some other things. There are going to be people watching this, probably, who don’t even know these terms, so we’re going to unpack them: premillennialism, amillennialism, postmillennialism. Those are the three historic views of the so-called Millennium, and they’re all represented at this table, unless you want to qualify that title and pick another one. So that’s one of the reasons that we are here.

Before we jump to definitions of that, I think it would be good to articulate something, and you might even want to try relating it to eschatology. Somebody give me a definition of eschatology. We probably should start there. Just jump in. When we say an evening of eschatology, give a thumbnail definition.

Jim Hamilton: It’s the study of last things.

Doug Wilson: Yes, though sometimes eschatology refers to the doctrine of heaven and hell outside human history, past the final judgment. We’re talking about the last things of human history leading up to the final judgment. And then a more difficult angle — I think all of us would agree — is that in a fundamental way the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the middle of history is an eruption of the last things in the middle of history, which has sort of thrown a spanner into everything.

John Piper: Yeah. I want to come back to that. Do you want to add to that anything, Sam?

Sam Storms: I would just say I agree with everything they’ve said, that since the New Testament teaches that the last days began with the exaltation of Christ at the right hand of the Father, and we have been in the last days since that time until his return, that it does refer to more than just what typically people think of — namely, the last few years of activity upon the Earth. It does really encompass the whole of redemptive history, but especially from the time of Christ’s exaltation until the time of his second coming.

John Piper: Yeah. Let’s say more about that later, that idea of we’re in the last days and how that relates to the so-called “very end.” So there’s a definition that we’re all okay with: eschatology is the study of last things, including where we are right now as the last days since the resurrection of Jesus. Everybody okay with that? I mean, since Jesus.

What about the gospel? We are united here with a passion for the gospel. Let’s make an attempt. You didn’t know we were going to go here. Let’s make an attempt for just a short time to celebrate what makes us so excited to link arms in ministry here. Somebody make a stab at a uniting statement of the gospel.

Doug Wilson: The gospel is the proclamation of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the sins of his people and his exaltation at the right hand of God the Father. That’s the good news of God’s salvation. In Christ, God is remaking humanity, restoring the image of God, and Christ is that image of God that we are being restored into. And that’s the good news.

John Piper: Yeah. And the bad news? State the bad news that answers.

Jim Hamilton: Though God created us in his image and put us in a perfect world, we rebelled against him in our first father, Adam. We incurred his sin, and for that we deserve his just and righteous wrath. That’s the bad news.

John Piper: So everybody deserves wrath because of being sinful and being actively a sinner, and God is angry at us for that and will punish us forever if something doesn’t solve the problem. And you said “Christ died for us.” Unpack just a little bit about that transaction. What happened when that happened?

Sam Storms: He died as a substitutionary sacrifice in our stead, in our place, enduring the wrath of God that we deserved, absorbed it in himself, exhausted it, satisfied the holiness and the wrath of the Father. At the same time, as our guilt was imputed to him and the wrath of God fell on him for that reason, and his righteousness is imputed to us that we receive by faith. So we stand declared righteous in the sight of the Father. That’s the good news of what he accomplished that we receive through faith alone.

John Piper: So it’s possible for a damnable, corrupt, sinful human being to stand before an all-holy God absolutely safe and happy in God because of what Christ did through faith alone.

Sam Storms: Amen.

John Piper: Everybody is okay with that?

Doug Wilson: Absolutely.

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

Doug Wilson: Christ did not die so that we might live. Christ died so that we might die. He lives so that we might live, so that we’re united with him in his death. If we’re united with him in his death, we’re united with him in his resurrection. The good news is God enables sinners to die with a prospect of resurrection. It’s necessary for sinners to die. All sinners must die. That’s not negotiable. What the gospel does is enables sinners to die and come back from the dead in Christ. If they die in Christ, they’re raised in Christ. If they die outside of Christ, they die outside of Christ and perish eternally.

John Piper: So this is good news, incredibly good news, and we stand there together.

Doug Wilson: That’s pretty good so far.

John Piper: It gets more difficult. I’m concerned about the complexity of this matter for people. And so I want us to say something about why we’re doing this and why talking about end times matters. I know this might force you into your statement of where you are, but see if you can hold that back for me. I’m going to let you all talk about what you believe about anything. But why would you think that people should care about trying to come clear on eschatology, on what’s going to happen?

Sam Storms: Well, I’ll take a stab at that. It would be like somebody saying, “I want to embrace the doctrine of election, but I don’t want to think about whether it’s conditional or unconditional or based on God’s goodness or foreseen faith or how it relates to the creation of saving faith in the human heart. I just want to affirm election.” Or it would be like someone saying, “I want to affirm the incarnation of Christ, but it really doesn’t help me to think that much about how the two natures relate in the one person and how he could live a sinless life and yet learn obedience.” Or it would be like saying, “I just want to affirm the death of Jesus but never bother to think about how his death saves me, what actually occurred in it, and what the implications are of it.”

So I would say the same thing. It would be like somebody saying, “Well, we just want to affirm the second coming of Christ, but that’s all. And we don’t want to learn what has led up to it and what its purpose is and how it relates to God’s overall plan in redemptive history.” it seems to me that we should want to know all of the implications, both the preceding events, the consequences, the timing, and all of the associated realities with Christ’s second coming as much as we would about his first coming, as much as we would about his incarnation and his death on the cross.

So it provides us with, I think, deeper insights into the nature of God, into how he works, into what his purposes are and how he’s glorifying Jesus. Ephesians 1:10 is correct and it is that “all things are being summed up in Christ.” How is that happening? What is the mechanism? How is God showing his manifold wisdom, the beauty and the majesty of his character, the complexity of his ways? And I think as we explore eschatology, we see that. So that’s why I think it’s important.

Doug Wilson: Another reason for the importance of this discussion is in Ephesians 5:27, the Holy Spirit is building up his church, and this is an eschatological reality that “the bride is going to be presented without spot or wrinkle or any such blemish” In Ephesians 4, there is a given unity and we are told, “Be careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace by not quarreling and being sinful toward one another” (Ephesians 4:2–3). But then he says, “Until we all grow up into a perfect man, until we all grow up into the unity of the faith” (Ephesians 4:13). So there’s a unity that’s given and there’s a unity we must grow up into, and that unity that we’re growing up into is an eschatological unity. So you can’t grow up into that in a fit of absent-mindedness. You have to talk about it and think about it and prepare for it.

The central thing that’s going to disrupt this coming unity is sinful disruptions of the unity that’s already granted. Many churches have divided, unfortunately, over eschatological issues, not realizing either the complexity of it or discovering you could create a sectarian mentality and consider everybody in the other camps to be bad or wrong. Two ministers were talking one time and one was trying to be charitable. He said, “We both serve God, you in your way and I in his.” That kind of thing can lead to people just getting cranked at each other. And someone once said that the Millennium is a thousand years of peace that Christians like to fight about. And what we would like to do is figure out a way to grow up into that thousand years of peace so that whenever it comes, however it comes, we are all sons that are worthy of it and of course, we’re only worthy in Christ.

Jim Hamilton: And we would agree, too, that there’s a blessing in Revelation “on those who read and hear and keep what is written in this book” (Revelation 1:3). And so to keep it, we have to understand it, to have this blessing. I think also of texts like Isaiah 53 and Psalm 2 and those believing members of the Old Covenant remnant who read those texts and tried to put together what the outcome was going to be before Christ came, and then Jesus comes and on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24 says to these guys that didn’t put it together the way that it developed and didn’t understand that they were “fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken” (Luke 24:25). And we don’t want to be there. We don’t want to be fools and slow of heart to believe. So these are important things to discuss.

John Piper: What you said, Doug, about there being a continuity of a peace with the present unity and we’re moving toward the fullness of unity that has a consummating point brought to my mind that prayer. In fact, it’s at several points in Philippians. Paul says, “It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ . . .” (Pjilippians 1:9–10).

That’s a prayer for right now, for the day of Christ. I think that’s significant. Let’s go back to what you jumped on immediately in defining eschatology, namely that we’re in the last times. I think it would be helpful before we get to Millennium and define that and talk about it, to try to get some structural things. I don’t know if we can get any unity around this or not. We’ll see. I’ve got three texts written down here about two ages: this age and the age to come. What is that? What are those ages? I’ll read the texts. Here’s Matthew 12:32:

And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

Or Ephesians 1:21 says:

Far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

Would it help us just in general to get a structure of history in terms of this vocabulary of this age and the age to come? Or would that muddy the waters unnecessarily?

Doug Wilson: I don’t think it’ll muddy the waters, but I think it’ll probably lead to one of the first differences. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is talking to the Corinthian church and he’s talking about the experience of the Jews in the wilderness and he talks about how they tempted Christ and they murmured and they grumbled and so forth. And then in 1 Corinthians 10:11 he says, “Now all these things happened unto them for examples and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world (ends of the ages) are come.” So Paul is identifying the Corinthians that he’s speaking to and he himself as living at the end of the age. He says, “These things were written as an example for us on whom the ends of the ages have come.”

Now, my basic grid — and I’m just putting this out here now for definition’s sake — is that the New Testament era was an era where ages overlapped the way you have a baton exchange in a relay race. One runner is continuing to run and the other runner starts before the other runner stops. And then there’s a baton exchange. And I think that exchange on the track was the 40 years between Christ’s resurrection and ascension and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. So for about 40 years, the two ages overlap. There was the Judaic age — the age of types and shadows and the age of temple sacrifices. That was coming to an end, the author of Hebrew says, and it’s about ready to disappear (Hebrews 8:13). It’s about done, but it wasn’t quite done yet. And so it was coming to an end.

And the new age — I hesitate to say it this way — the good news age, the Christian eon, began at Pentecost. So the Christian eon began before the Judaic eon ended, and the first-century Christians were living in that wilderness period between these ages. They were living in that overlap. And Paul says, “We are the ones on whom the ends of the ages have come.” So the present age and the age to come I take to be the Judaic eon that’s coming to a close even in the time of the New Testament, and then the Christian eon, the age we’re in, the age to come, and then when the Lord Jesus comes again and the dead are raised, that’s the eternal state. So I’m not taking the age to come as the eternal state. Okay?

Jim Hamilton: So would you say that we live in the same kind of age that Paul lived in or that there was a fundamental change in AD 70?

Doug Wilson: I would say that Paul lives in the same kind of age that we live in because it was inaugurated. The difference was the old age had not yet run its course. Paul lived on the threshold of the Christian eon, and we’re well into it, and we’re not into an age that has a Judaic eon also running. So Paul lived in a unique spot that we’re not in, but he lived in the age that we’re in.

Jim Hamilton: I would want to formulate things a little differently.

John Piper: A lot differently.

Jim Hamilton: Yeah. I think the way I would go after it is I would point to the prophecies that the Old Testament prophets make, and I think if we summarize Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 and boil down their message, their basic message is, “We’re going into exile, but after the judgment, after exile, there’s a glorious eschatological future that awaits us past this judgment.” They describe this glorious eschatological future not only as a return to the land of Israel, but also as a return to an Edenic state. So it’s almost as though they’re dealing with two exiles, one from Eden and one from the land, and they’re describing the glorious bliss as though it’s all going to happen together. And then the way it seems to play out is once Jesus comes, it’s as though those blessings of the future reach back in and take hold of the present in an already not-yet kind of way.

John Piper: By future, you don’t mean post-70 AD?

Jim Hamilton: No. I mean post-second coming.

Sam Storms: So for you the age to come is the Millennium, primarily?

Jim Hamilton: Well, it’s interesting. There are these disputes among the rabbis about whether what they sometimes refer to as the Age of the Messiah or the Kingdom of the Messiah is going to be part of this age or the age to come. I think you would want to read that to fit your view, but I would read what they refer to as the Age of the Messiah as something like what I think John describes in Revelation 20, this Millennium, and I would read John in Revelation 20 as coming down on the side of those who argued that the Kingdom of the Messiah was going to come before the corruptible things were done away with and then we enter into an incorruptible new heavens and new Earth.

John Piper: Sketch your understanding of the two ages.

Sam Storms: Okay. I think it would help if we just clarified what’s just been said because the differences are clear and I would have a view different from both of them.

Doug Wilson: What?

Sam Storms: I think what Doug is saying, and correct me if I’m wrong, just for the sake of clarification, is that, for example, in the Ephesians passage you referenced, “Above every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come,” that when Paul says “in this age,” he’s talking about the old Judaic age.

Doug Wilson: Yeah.

Sam Storms: And that is gradually passing away and would terminate with 70 AD. And the age to come, as you understand it, Doug, is the age in which we’re currently living.

Doug Wilson: Correct.

Sam Storms: Jim, I think, would say that in this age is the entirety of the church era between the two advents of Jesus, and the age to come is primarily the Messianic reign described in Revelation 20 known as the Millennial kingdom?

Jim Hamilton: Well, I think what I would do is come down with those rabbis who say, “No, the Millennial kingdom is going to be part of this age,” and then the age to come is the new heaven and new Earth in Revelation 21 and 22.

Sam Storms: Well then, I’m closer to you than I thought because I would say that. And I appreciate Doug’s position. I think it’ll probably come out a little bit more later on, and I think he’s got some good arguments for it, just not totally persuaded yet. But I would see “this age” also as a reference, as Jim does, to the present church age in which we live. But you would include the Millennium?

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

Sam Storms: I would say the age to come is the new heavens and the new Earth which is inaugurated at the second advent of Jesus.

Jim Hamilton: And you would say that we’re in the Millennium right now, so that it’s realized, right?

Sam Storms: Yes, but we’ll have to define in what sense when we say we are in the Millennium. I believe the Millennium is simultaneous with the present age. I would not want to say that I am in the Millennium, and then perhaps we’ll explain that in just a moment.

Doug Wilson: I just want to make sure I heard this right, that you’re putting the new heavens and the new Earth post-resurrection at the end of the world?

Sam Storms: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Doug Wilson: Okay. What about Isaiah? What do people do in the new heavens and the new Earth in Isaiah? Well, one of the things they do is they die.

Sam Storms: Well, if we’re going to go that path, we can certainly do that.

John Piper: We must go there, but it might be premature to go there at this moment, so let’s wait.

Sam Storms: Okay. Yeah. It would be

John Piper: In Isaiah 65, the phrase “new heavens and new Earth” is used, and a baby grows up and dies at 100.

Doug Wilson: Sorry about that. I was immanentizing our eschaton here. I was rushing things.

John Piper: It’s all right. It’s all right. Now, the last text is Mark 10:30, which says:

[They will] receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

That doesn’t sound like post-70 AD. I mean, it sounds like the point where we get eternal life. How shall I inherit eternal life is my concern with this situation here, and he says you’re going to get it not in this age, but you’re going to get it in the age to come. Does that fit what you said?

Doug Wilson: Yeah. I’m in the age to come and I have eternal life, and so do you.

John Piper: But is that the intention here when he says “the age to come”?

Doug Wilson: I hope so.

John Piper: So they didn’t have eternal life until 70 AD?

Doug Wilson: Well, no. Well, starting at Mark 10:29–30, what you just read, “Jesus answered and said, ‘Verily, I say unto you, there is no man that has left house or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my sake and the gospel’s but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time . . .” So think for a minute about what Jesus is actually promising if this time is what age?

Jim Hamilton: Well, there’s what Jesus said, but then there’s what Mark intended to communicate, and Mark is writing for a Christian audience after the time of Jesus.

Doug Wilson: Right. But Jesus said this in the time of Jesus.

Jim Hamilton: Sure, right. But then Mark gives it to believers who live after the resurrection.

Sam Storms: Right. But the hundredfold, it seems to me, if you take it as a straightforward promise, is a high-octane health-and-wealth passage.

Jim Hamilton: Not for John, it isn’t.

John Piper: No, no, no, no, no. It’s not at all because a hundred mothers is pretty clear, right?

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: That is, it’s not literal a hundred mothers and a hundred sisters. That means I’ve got lots of friends who have lots of families and I won’t be destitute . . .

Doug Wilson: But he’s talking in very earthy terms: family, children, and lands. All right? And he’s talking to disciples who have given those things up for his sake.

John Piper: Right. And have lots of people around them . . .

Jim Hamilton: And we would interpret this the way that Paul speaks to the Corinthians, “Everything is yours. Everything belongs to you” (1 Corinthians 3:21).

Doug Wilson: Now, I agree with that, but I would include that everything that belongs to you includes the land and the Earth — all things are yours in Christ. So it’s not just spiritual blessings, though the spiritual blessing is preeminent. The spiritual realities are the governing thing, but it comes down to the level of family and relationship and land.

John Piper: We won’t press on this forever. It’s just when I’m trying to understand your view about how “this age” is up till 70 AD, overlapping from resurrection to 70 AD, and then “the age to come” begins there. My whole conception is that the age to come begins at the second coming.

Doug Wilson: Maybe this will help. When Jesus says at the end of Matthew 28:20, “Behold, I am with you to the end of the age,” I don’t believe that that means that Jesus will be with the disciples up to 70 AD and then “see you”. When Jesus says, “I will be with you to the end of the age,” we’re not to infer from that his promise is then null and void for the age to come. He’s simply saying, “I’m going to be with you up to the end of the age, and of course I’ll be with you in the age to come.”

I think what he’s saying here is, “If you surrender all things for my sake, I’m going to bless you; I’ll keep you; I’ll be with you.” And he will bless you in just the way it’s described here: family and lands and all of that. And he is saying, “And I will be with you.” He’s not saying that in this age you don’t have eternal life and the next one you will. And he’s not saying in the age to come, where you have eternal life, you won’t have spiritual family or blessings. Both things are true of both ages.

Sam Storms: It’s important, I think, just again for the sake of clarity, because I suspect that some who eventually watch this have never been exposed to what Doug is saying, that the age which the disciples anticipated would come to an end that is being referred to here is in what he is suggesting, the Jewish age, not the end of human history. Most evangelicals think the end of the age means it’s all over, the end of history. Time ends. We either go to the Millennium or eternal state. Doug is saying something altogether different. He’s saying that it’s the end of the Jewish age that came about in 70 AD because of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, and it was God’s judgment against the nation.

Doug Wilson: Right. And I see that as the inauguration of the new heavens and the new Earth. It’s a new creation. All things have been made new, and my central argument for that would be the fact that we worship on Sunday. If you look at what God says about the Sabbath and the everlasting nature of the Sabbath in the Old Testament, nothing would suffice to alter the Sabbath commemoration of the first creation short of a new creation. The reason we worship on the Lord’s Day is because there’s been a new creation. All things have been made new.

Now that doesn’t mean the kingdom of God, the new age, all of this stuff that arrives, arrives like the 82nd Airborne. It arrives like yeast that works through the loaf. It’s a gradual accumulation throughout history. So you wouldn’t be able to pop up in 80 AD and take a photograph of it and say, “See? See?” It’s a tiny rock that’s been carved out in Daniel. It’s a tiny rock that starts small. It’s a mustard-seed sized thing then. You can’t see it. You’re not going to be able to see it really clearly until 3,000 years from now.

Jim Hamilton: Do you want to talk about the millennium?

John Piper: Yeah. One more pre-millennium question. Do you all believe that the Lord Jesus is coming back physically, visibly, to reign some way or other on the Earth forever?

Sam Storms: Yes.

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

Doug Wilson: Yes. Well, then I guess that settles it.

John Piper: What is the final, final, final condition of the universe where we will spend eternity? Just describe it in a nutshell.

Jim Hamilton:It’s a new heavens and new Earth, incorruptible, and I think that the description in Revelation 21 and 22 matches and exceeds point for point what we find in Genesis 1 and 2, the description of the Garden of Eden. It’s a new and better Eden, where God and the Lamb are the temple. They will see his face. There will be no need of sun or moon. There’ll be no sea, no evil, and it will be a perfectly clean and holy of holy places.

John Piper: This Earth?

Doug Wilson: This Earth included. There’s going to be a reunification of heaven and Earth, but this Earth is not rejected. And I think the clearest place that’s taught is in Romans 8, where the whole creation groans waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, and we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. And there are three groans in that passage. The creation groans, we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan, and the Spirit helps us in our weakness with groans that are too deep for words.

And all of that groaning is teleological. It’s focused toward the same end, which is the revelation of our adoption as sons, which is the redemption of the body, the resurrection of the dead. So this created order, this old Earth, is longing for the day when Christians are manifested for who they are because our salvation will be this Earth’s salvation, and it will be swept up into this whole thing. As you were saying this morning, God’s going to blow the top off of it.

John Piper: So there’s not an annihilation of the present order and a new one, but rather, what? What would you call it?

Doug Wilson: Resurrection. There is a death and resurrection pattern for the created order just as for us.

Sam Storms: Yeah, there’s a continuity and discontinuity in terms of what will happen with us and our resurrection bodies. We will be raised in these bodies, but they’ll be gloriously changed. Sin will be eradicated, evil will be eradicated, and there will be new properties, new capacities, that we can’t even begin to grasp. We see a little bit of it in Jesus in his post-resurrection state upon the Earth. And there will be continuity, but also great discontinuity in moving from this Earth to the new Earth. But I would agree with exactly how Jim had described it just a moment ago. And I’d also say, I’m glad you read the Romans 8 passages because that’s one of the reasons why I’m amillennial.

John Piper: So you’ve tip your hand.

Doug Wilson: I’m sorry for stumbling you.

John Piper: So we’re all moving toward that. Doug, in your book, Heaven Misplaced, is that what it’s called?

Doug Wilson: Uh-huh.

John Piper: You have a phrase that I thought was provocative, which is not unusual: “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through,” and you changed it to something else. Do you remember?

Doug Wilson: No, I don’t.

John Piper: You said, “Heaven is not my home. I’m just a-passing through.”

Doug Wilson: Oh, yes. Right.

John Piper: Explain that. Or I will, if you can’t remember.

Doug Wilson: Yeah, I remember.

John Piper: I often don’t remember what I wrote.

Doug Wilson: I remember it now.

John Piper: This is important, because a lot of us here, I think in America and evangelicalism, think, “I’m going to heaven. Period. I’m in heaven, that’s it. And now I’m there,” and let’s clarify that.

Doug Wilson: And what they think about when they think of heaven, they get most of the theology of heaven from Far Side cartoons and pearly gates jokes. When someone dies, they go to be with the Lord. Paul says, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” So here we are.

John Piper: You believe that?

Doug Wilson: Absolutely. Paul said it.

John Piper: And it doesn’t mean something weird. I mean, discuss what he said.

Doug Wilson: Paul often means something weird.

John Piper: Okay.

Doug Wilson: But not there.

John Piper: All right.

Doug Wilson: So, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” means in 2009, if I die, then I’m with the Lord instantly. All right? But let’s say the second coming, for the sake of discussion, is 1,000 years out still. So what’s the condition of the departed saint between this date and the day of resurrection? Well, that’s the intermediate state — for want of a better phrase — of glory where you’re with the Lord, and many Christians have gone that far, which is good. I think the Bible teaches it.

John Piper: Like Philippians 1?

Doug Wilson: Yeah, absolutely.

John Piper: It is better. It’s better than here, right?

Doug Wilson: It’s better to depart and to be with Christ. It’s better.

John Piper: So if I have a church member who dies this year, I can say to them, “This is going to be so much better now.”

Doug Wilson: Absolutely.

John Piper: So keep going.

Sam Storms: Because you’re in the millennial reign of Christ.

John Piper: Save that.

Doug Wilson: Now he’s immanentizing the eschaton. So in that intermediate state, many Christians have accepted that intermediate state as our final hope. But in the creed, we confess that we believe in the resurrection of the dead, not in the immortality of the soul. Now we do believe in the immortality of the soul, but that’s not our final hope. Our final hope is that the dead are raised. And so in this intermediate state of heaven, many Christians have said, “That’s my final hope,” and they think that they’re going to die and go off into a 17th dimension floaty place. And this floaty place is something they can’t even begin to relate to, so they don’t think about it at all. They put it out of their minds because they can’t get the idea. They think, “Am I going to be a human being? What am I? Good grief.” So they don’t long for the day of resurrection.

But that’s different from what you were citing this morning: “When we see him, we’re going to become like him because we’re going to see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in himself, purifies himself even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2–3). So when we hope for the day of resurrection, that’s a sanctifying influence. And if we get stuck halfway in the intermediate state, we’re not setting our final hope where we ought to. So when I said, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through,” and I flipped it around to say, “Heaven is not my home, I’m just passing through,” I was referring to that intermediate state. We’re just passing through the intermediate state. And when we die and go to be with the Lord, it’s better than here in that intermediate state because you’re with Christ.

John Piper: That’s right.

Doug Wilson: But you still have something to look forward to.

John Piper: Yeah, a massive thing to look forward to. There is a resurrection of the body and all of its capacities to delight in Christ. So we’re still together, right? So we die and we go to be with Christ, whatever the time frame is, and we wind up on a planet, renovated? Is that word okay?

Doug Wilson: It’s kind of small — radically renovated.

John Piper: Radically renovated. No sea, you said. That’s going to disappoint a lot of people. Does that bother you? It bothers me.

Jim Hamilton: Well, the sea, I think, is a symbol of evil and a place from which the beast.

John Piper: Oh, so we can have a sea?

Jim Hamilton: Who knows?

Sam Storms: That’s good to hear him say that it’s a symbol, huh?

John Piper: You can’t let it go.

Jim Hamilton: I’m eager, Sam. Let’s talk all about symbols.

John Piper: You came prepared to do one thing. This one thing, I do. Harp on amillennialism. So at either rate, “no sea” means something.

Jim Hamilton: Mm-hmm.

John Piper: I think it means the ocean becomes a lake. Lakes are okay. Right? I really believe that. Seas are dangerous. They have leviathans in them and they have depths that are really scary, and you sink and it’s just horrible. But people go to lakes in Minnesota.

Doug Wilson: Certain things need to be mortified, man.

John Piper: Not the love of greatness. But anyway, it’s going to be different. It’s going to be good. We can tell our children. I remember nine years old, lying on top of my house looking into the stars and not wanting heaven to come. I was scared of heaven because it seemed so ethereal. So . . . what was that phrase you were using?

Doug Wilson: Floaty.

John Piper: Yes, floaty.

Doug Wilson: And I remember as a boy, growing up in a conservative evangelical situation, distinctly not wanting to go to heaven. I did not want to go to heaven because you couldn’t play football there. You couldn’t do anything. You didn’t have a body.

John Piper: The best answer to that is not that there’ll be football there.

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: However, Christ will be there. We need to grow into that. But probably football, right? Do you agree with that?

Doug Wilson: Yeah.

John Piper: Maybe golf.

Doug Wilson: Maybe.

John Piper: Remote possibility.

Sam Storms: Assuredly, baseball.

Doug Wilson: That’s right.

John Piper: So they get the idea. We get the idea that we’re all aiming toward a new Earth and a new heavens that are radically, gloriously 10,000 times better. No sun is needed. The moon was replaced by the Lamb who is the lamp and just stunningly attractive, and we’ll all want to be there. And test this one, because I really want us to agree on these massive things. All the capacities for senses have not been created to be thrown away. Taste, sight, touch, smell, hearing, music, art, and all the things that seem to enrich the life that isn’t just scraping out a living will be maximized there and Christ will radiate off from them.

Doug Wilson: Right. And the point about football and golf and those things, the subtext there is we will have bodies. We will be human beings. We’re not going to be ghosts. And many Christians have become agnostics. If you tell them that Jesus rose from the dead spiritually, they’ll fight you tooth and nail because that’s liberalism. But when you ask them, “What will your body be like?” They often say, “Body?”

I can’t tell you how many times when I’ve emphasized Jesus in his resurrection appearance people are confused. He goes into the kitchen and rummages in the fridge for some fish and honey, and he sets up a little barbecue on the beach in John and cooks some fish there. Christians know that Jesus had a body, but Philippians says that our lowly bodies are going to be transformed to be like his body. And many Christians don’t think that they will have bodies. And that’s the point of this. However glorious it is, it’s going to be further up and further in. I think this is one of the best things about Lewis is it’s going to be more solid, more material, more glorious, and more weighty, not a ghostly, ethereal existence.

Sam Storms: Amen.

John Piper: Now on the way there, what do we encounter? So now I want you guys to just take whatever amount of time you want within limits and just sketch your position: premillennial if you want to be called that, postmillennial if you want to be called that, amillennial if you want to be called that. So start and let the watchers of this thing know what that is and whatever else you want to say about it. Say why you like it, why you believe it, but it can’t be forever, okay? So just a relatively short amount of time.

Jim Hamilton: So I think the key question here, and the question that settles this discussion is, does or does not, John intend to teach that there is going to be this 1,000-year period between a first resurrection and a second resurrection?

John Piper: So can I just suggest this?

Jim Hamilton: Sure.

John Piper: Sketch your position, all of you, and then let’s go there, okay? We’ll go there in detail and read it.

Jim Hamilton: You want me to read this passage now?

John Piper: No, I want to do that after we get the sketches.

Jim Hamilton: After we sketch the position?

John Piper: Is that all right?

Jim Hamilton: Sure, sure.

John Piper: I mean, if you don’t like that, just tell me, “I don’t like that,” and we’ll do it another way.

Jim Hamilton: Well, my position is that revelation does communicate symbols, but we should interpret the symbols in relationship to one another. And that if we do that, it is clear that there’s going to be a resurrection of believers and then they will reign with Christ for 1,000 years. And then there will be another resurrection, a Great White Throne Judgment.

John Piper: The next thing on the agenda is that Christ comes.

Jim Hamilton: Christ comes. That’s right.

John Piper: That’s where the resurrection happens.

Jim Hamilton: All believers rise. The unbelievers do not rise in this first resurrection, and then the believers all reign with Christ for 1,000 years.

John Piper: Literally on the Earth?

Jim Hamilton: Literally on the Earth.

John Piper: Jesus is here?

Jim Hamilton: Jesus is here.

John Piper: In his resurrection body?

Jim Hamilton: Yes. And premillennialists often say that there are unbelievers who survive his first coming and enter into the millennium, and that they then have offspring and that not necessarily everyone is regenerated in that period. If this seems fantastic and difficult to believe, again, I just want to point to this being a plausible idea for contemporaries of the authors of these texts. So anyway, after this period, after this 1,000-year reign, there will be a release of Satan. He’s been bound for this 1,000 years. There will be a final rebellion. It will be put down, and then the Great White Throne Judgment will be set up.

John Piper: Then comes the renovation.

Jim Hamilton: And then comes the new heavens and the new Earth. That’s correct.

John Piper: Okay. I think that’s pretty clear. So you mentioned it in retrospect that when he comes, when Christ comes in the resurrection, there’s a binding and a pit thing there going on.

Jim Hamilton: Yes, that’s right. We’ll read that passage.

John Piper: Okay. So Christ comes, Christians are raised, unbelievers are not, and the millennium?

Jim Hamilton: It’s 1,000 years.

John Piper: Give or take?

Jim Hamilton: It says he’s going to reign for 1,000 years.

John Piper: Okay, there’s 1,000 years of reigning, the final judgment, and then the new heavens and new Earth. Doug, what's your take?

Doug Wilson: I’m happy to be called a postmillennialist, although I think it is unfortunate that all the major positions are named after a word that occurs in one chapter. I think it’s one of the most difficult chapters in one of the most difficult books of the Bible, and all the positions take their orientation from where do you think Christ’s coming is going to be with relation to that millennium.

So on Revelation 20, there are a number of things that I haven’t sorted out yet, but I’ve sorted out enough to know that I believe myself to be what is commonly called a postmillennialist. And that is just something in the book of Revelation. Ambrose Pearson, in his book, The Devil’s Dictionary, said, “They defined the Apocalypse as a book in which Saint John the divine concealed all that he knew. The revealing is done by the commentators who know nothing.”

So with that as a warning to myself, my understanding of the map of redemptive history is that God created man in the edenic state. We rebelled and fell. God promised a Messiah. Through types and shadows and sacrifices he prepared the way, tilled the soil, and made the way for the restoration of Eden. When Christ came in the fullness of time, he was born of a woman, born under the law. He was crucified for the sins of all his people, buried, raised from the dead and ascended into heaven. And he gave his Holy Spirit. In 70 AD, that age of preparation came to a climactic, convulsive conclusion.

John Piper: Tell the people why. Not everybody here knows what happened in 70 AD.

Doug Wilson: Oh, in 70 AD the temple was destroyed by the Roman army. There was a revolt of the Jews against Rome. Nero’s persecution of the church lasted, interestingly, for 42 months, which is named in the book of Revelation as the period of time the beast would be attacking the saints. So I believe that this convulsive conclusion to the age of preparation came in 70 AD. Up to that time, it was possible for Christians to go to the temple and worship as Paul did. Paul would go there and preach. He took a Nazarite vow and he was still functioning in the structure of the temple because, as the author of Hebrews said, it didn’t end in 33 AD. It was fading away. It was about to be done.

At Pentecost the new age was established. The Christian eon was established, and I believe that postmillennialism in brief is this. It’s the idea that the gospel is going to grow and flourish and take over the whole Earth. Basically, the Great Commission will be successful. All the nations will be discipled, baptized, and taught obedience. The Great Commission will be successful on Earth in history. The world will be Christianized, then Jesus will come. All enemies will be subdued, brought under his feet. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand . . .’” That happened in the ascension. Jesus ascended into heaven and God told him, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool.”

So Christ’s enemies are made a footstool progressively throughout all history, and then he will come and judge the last enemy personally, death. So at the conclusion of the Christian eon — the millennium I take as a symbol of this Christian eon, this age of grace in which the Great Commission is being fulfilled — at the end of this Christ will come again and destroy the last enemy, death. The dead will be raised and we are ushered into the eternal state. So I believe that Judaic eon is past, and the new creation, the new heavens and Earth, the age to come is now.

Jim Hamilton: Is Satan bound now?

Doug Wilson: Yes, with regard to deceiving the nations.

Jim Hamilton: And Revelation was written before AD 70?

Doug Wilson: Yes, yes. Thank you. I believe the book of Revelation was written before 70 AD.

John Piper: All the other books in the New Testament?

Doug Wilson: The whole of the New Testament I believe was written prior to 70 AD. So I believe that John is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem. The Great Harlot, I take to be the city of Jerusalem.

Jim Hamilton: So when Paul tells the Thessalonians that they were destined to suffer, and when Peter says to the Christians that he writes to that they were called for this, to follow in Jesus’ footsteps suffering, that applies to those Christians before 70 AD or to us now too?

Doug Wilson: It certainly applies to them. That was the context in which that was being written. But the same thing applies to us as well.

Jim Hamilton: Even though we’re going to take over the Earth?

Doug Wilson: Well certainly, especially because we’re going to take over. So the point is when the gospel goes forth, it’s going forth into a hostile world. So we’re declaring that Christ is Lord, Christ is king. They don’t want him to be king. They want to deny that. So you’re going to see the same thing played out over and over again.

Jim Hamilton: But you’re saying that the gospel is going to take over and that we’re going to dominate the world, by which point the suffering would end.

Doug Wilson: Well, yes.

Jim Hamilton: I mean, you said a minute ago we’re in the millennium, right?

Doug Wilson: Right.

Jim Hamilton: So suffering has ended for you?

Doug Wilson: Well, I hate to break it to you.

John Piper: Not at this very moment, although you count it all joy?

Doug Wilson: I’m doing okay. So if you take the millennium there is a difference between some of the 19th century postmillennialists and some of the contemporary ones, as well as whether the 1,000 years is literal. Some say that the Great Commission is fulfilled progressively, finally gets to a certain tipping point, and then there’s a literal 1,000-year golden age before the end. Others, more contemporary postmillennials, generally take it as the entire church age . . .

Jim Hamilton: So can you explain to me how the suffering dynamic works?

Doug Wilson: The suffering dynamic and the way the golden age is ushered in is constant in all ages, and the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.

Jim Hamilton: So you never really realize the millennium where the gospel has taken over and suffering ends?

Doug Wilson: No, because, for example, Christ is not suffering now, but he has suffered so that you can enjoy the fruit of it.

Jim Hamilton: But I’m asking about the suffering that we do as we follow in the footsteps of Christ.

Doug Wilson: Right. As we suffer, as we sacrifice, as we send missionaries out to preach the gospel, as people give their lives away, not wasting their lives, as they do this sort of thing, God honors it. God blesses it. And when God blesses it, subsequent generations enjoy the fruit of that. And at some point in history, you have to enter into that possession.

Jim Hamilton: But I’m pressing this question because I think the New Testament is clear that Christians are going to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and conquer the way he conquered by being faithful unto death, not living their lives even unto death until he comes. And then there’ll be this millennium. But that’s clear from what I said a minute ago, and I don’t see how that fits in the postmillennial scheme.

Doug Wilson: But see, we’d all have the same problem, right? In the millennium, you still have followers of Jesus. You still have your regenerate people who aren’t being persecuted.

Jim Hamilton: But at that point, everyone who’s beheaded on behalf of Jesus gets raised and Christ now reigns the way that you say he reigns now, and there’s no more persecution of Christians because Satan is bound. I mean, according to the way that I would read Revelation 20.

Doug Wilson: So as a quick answer to this, I would say that if you take martyrdom and suffering as a bare minimum, that you can’t be a disciple unless it’s happening to you, that leaves a lot of North American Christians up a creek, right?

Jim Hamilton: Well, they may not be assaulting us physically, but they’re coming at us and telling us basically that our heads are in the sand or they’re in various ways telling us to be quiet at the Thanksgiving dinner.

Sam Storms: Some of it is in the way the recipients of Peter’s first letter did.

Jim Hamilton: Right, right. It’s verbal, not necessarily physical.

Sam Storms: Slander, ostracism, marginalization.

Jim Hamilton: That’s right. And it seems to me that your position would demand that all that’s over if we’re in the millennium and Satan is bound.

John Piper: Let me ask it this way. Just sketch out a little more the Golden Age. That’s never been clear to me from Edwards. People should know that you’re on the side of my favorite theologian.

Doug Wilson: I know. I was going to bring that up.

John Piper: This is a problem for me.

Doug Wilson: There’s two main arguments for postmillennialism. Number one, it’s a lot of fun. And number two, Jonathan Edwards believed it, and I’m tempted to rest my case.

Sam Storms: Believed it, past tense.

Jim Hamilton: Yeah, that’s right. He doesn’t believe it anymore.

Sam Storms: Not anymore.

John Piper: That’s right. That’s right.

Sam Storms: Not anymore.

Jim Hamilton: And I think John is a greater authority than Jonathan Edwards.

John Piper: And I want to argue eventually, although I’m the moderator, I’m supposed to be careful, that the very fun – I don’t like the word, but I know what you mean – that you have can be had by all three of these views, big time. I read you and I think, practically, how is this working out? We will go there. So I don’t get Edwards. You get Edwards, but I do get it. I get the fun.

Doug Wilson: Yeah, you can have fun.

John Piper: But I want him to sketch it out. How long does the Golden Age have to last? Five years? A year? And how do you know when you’re there? Is it 70 percent Christian? Or 80 percent? Or do you have any of that in your head?

Doug Wilson: Actually, that’s an easy one because the answer to all of that is, man, we don’t know.

John Piper: We don’t know.

Doug Wilson: How could we know that it does not yet appear if in the final end result it does not yet appear what we’re going to be like.

John Piper: Could it be right now? We’re in it?

Doug Wilson: Well, yeah, I suspect . . .

John Piper: Cool.

Doug Wilson: . . . Not

John Piper: Oh.

Jim Hamilton: Did they enter into it when they had the shining city on the hill here when they first came over and they had this society that was dominated by believers?

Doug Wilson: Yeah. I should say that from the Reformation, very early on, within the first few generations in the Reformation, down through Jonathan Edwards and men like Warfield, the postmillennial view has been very, very common in Reformed circles. It was the received view for a long period of time. And one of the temptations of postmillennials — and this goes off of your talk this morning about the new heavens and the new Earth and confusing the gift with the giver, and your talk last night — is that of getting cozy, settling down, and calling blessings that God really is giving to them as the final deal. But eye is not seen nor ear heard what God’s prepared for those who love him (1 Corinthians 2:9). And so what we do is we rush it.

Jim Hamilton: Well, go ahead.

Doug Wilson: With the shining city on a hill, you have a continent before you. You have able Bible teachers. You have Reformed life and worship. What else could there be? People were thinking, “Jesus has to be coming soon. This is the golden age.” We have a great opportunity to learn from that. A sage once said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

We really need to be humble about what it’s going to look like in the year 3500. I don’t have any idea of what it’s going to look like. I know that taking it in 500 year chunks, I believe that it’s going to be a whole lot better for the gospel and for the nations and for the people of God than now, just as our sufferings are nothing compared to what happened in the persecutions under Diocletian.

Jim Hamilton: Right, but there are people in Iran maybe or in Turkey who maybe have it as bad or worse.

Doug Wilson: Absolutely. Yeah. The 20th century was the century of martyrdom. There were more martyrs in that century, but in our stream we have it better than they did because of what they did. We’ve inherited that blessing. Now what I’m saying is that processes can occur in all nations at all times. And subsequent generations can receive the benefit of the faithfulness of previous generations.

John Piper: So you have a huge ambiguity in discerning what the condition at the end will be, and I do too. Mine is that I’m not sure what the reaching of all the nations will be in Matthew 24:14.

Doug Wilson: I prefer to call it principled ambiguity.

John Piper: Instead of huge?

Doug Wilson: It’s ambiguity on purpose.

John Piper: But it does leave open some remarkable possibilities, like he could come very soon, not like 1,000 years from now?

Doug Wilson: Yes.

John Piper: And the Global South events and the massive spread of Christianity in Latin America and Asia and Africa, as thin as it may be, the books that are being written about the new Christian and so on, are perhaps enough that he could come soon.

Doug Wilson: Right. I said earlier, I suspect not, but it’s certainly possible. And I think it’d be dangerous and arrogant to prescribe for God what he can and can’t do. And if this is his time, I suspect we’re still in the period of the early church. But if that’s wrong, I was talking to Sam earlier, I only met Rushdoony, the reconstructionist guy, one time. I saw him at a conference and he said something on this with regard to the pre-millennial option, which I would Amen heartily. He said, “I’m not opposed to changing my theology in mid-air.”

John Piper: So we’re all going to be in mid-air. I think we’re going to agree about that. Where do we go once we meet him in the midair?

Sam Storms: There is another view.

John Piper: Yeah, I know of course, Sam. You tried to jump the gun and now you’re having to wait.

Sam Storms: All right. I’ve always wanted to do penance.

John Piper: In 30 seconds, distinguish that. Give me the outline that differs.

Doug Wilson: The basic distinction is that all the positions are named with reference to where you place the second coming of Christ with regard to the millennium. So the premillennial view is that the millennium is 1,000 years of peace on Earth, and Christ comes prior to the millennium, so thus the name pre-millennial. Postmillennialism says that the millennium has an earthly manifestation and we can see the progress of the gospel in time and history on Earth, and Christ’s coming is after the millennium, so that’s the basic distinction between pre and post.

Sam Storms: Wow. There are so many things that they both said that I agree with. And many things that I disagree with.

John Piper: You’re representing which view?

Sam Storms: A view that I don’t like to label. It’s called amillennial but it suggests that I don’t believe in a millennium. I believe the millennium is literal, real, vibrant, and tangible, but it’s in heaven. And I think that what Doug described as the intermediate state, where your father is right now, where my father is right now, where Jonathan Edwards is right now, where Augustine is right now, those are the saints described in Revelation 20:4–6 who are reigning with Christ in the intermediate state, spanning the duration of the present church age between the two comings of Jesus. That constitutes the millennial reign.

So, I don’t embrace the amillennial view, which I hear so often expressed, that it’s the reign of Christ over the hearts of his people in the church right now. I don’t believe that. I think the millennial reign is the reign of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus. He’s talking about those in the intermediate state between the two comings of Christ.

So I do believe very much in a millennium. In fact, it’s interesting. There was no such label as amillennialism, really, until about the early 20th century. All amillennials were called postmillennialists. I’m postmillennial in the way that Doug is, in the sense that I believe that the return of Christ comes post, or after, the millennium. His millennium is on the earth. It’s the progressive triumph of the church through the gospel and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe the millennium is in heaven that constitutes the reign of Christ with his saints in the intermediate state. So, I would agree with Jim that the problem that I have with Doug’s view is that when I read 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, and Romans 8, and elsewhere, I believe that the people of God on the earth will continue to suffer, that that’s a global phenomenon that may be more intense on one side of the earth than the other.

We don’t suffer here. We shouldn’t even be allowed to say that when we think of our brothers and sisters in China or in Iran or in Indonesia and other places. But suffering will continue. Good and evil will follow parallel paths. There will be the expansion of the kingdom of Satan and the intensification of his persecution of the church at the same time that there is an expansion of the gospel and the progressive triumph of Jesus, and these will be terminated, consummated in the second coming of Christ, at which time there will be the final judgment, the final resurrection, the inauguration of the eternal state, the new heavens and the new Earth. As you mentioned in the introduction, both Jim and I graduated from Dallas Seminary. So, there was a time when I embraced, very enthusiastically, the view that he articulated.

Jim Hamilton: But you held the whole dispensational view, right?

Sam Storms: Yes, when I was in Dallas.

Jim Hamilton: Right.

Sam Storms: It was a couple of years after I got out through George Ladd’s influence that I abandoned dispensationalism. And then, in about 1984 I became an amillennialist.

Jim Hamilton: So, you went from dispensationalist to historic premillennialist?

Sam Storms: To amillennial. And the reason I did, very simply, i’ll explain if I can.

Doug Wilson: He’s a pilgrim.

Sam Storms: That’s right. I’m a sojourner.

John Piper: And you think he’s almost there, don’t you?

Doug Wilson: That’s right. Just keep going.

Sam Storms: Here’s the reason why I moved from pre-millennialism to amillennialism, and I’ll state this probably in five minutes. I kept reading the New Testament, which seemed consistently, over and over again, to teach that physical death terminates with the second coming of Christ. When is the death of death? When does death die? When is it swallowed up in victory? I would agree with Doug on this point. At the second coming of Jesus, according to 1 Corinthians 15:50–58, it is when the Lord returns and we are changed incorruptible that death, citing the passage from Isaiah, is swallowed up in victory. I also kept reading the New Testament. It seemed to me — and here’s where I differ with Doug — that at the second coming of Christ is the inauguration of the new heavens of the new Earth, not a thousand years later.

I, also, in reading the New Testament, referring to Romans 8, came to understand that the curse is lifted from this present earth, that the natural order is redeemed and enters into the fullness of its regeneration simultaneously with that which occurs to the children of God. They are co-related, as Doug said, and so that the curse is completely lifted from the natural order at the same time it is lifted from us. And, therefore, I don’t see how you can have a thousand years after that in which unbelievers and, eventually, even Satan himself, wreak havoc upon this earth because that would say the curse perpetuates beyond the second advent.

Jim Hamilton: So, you’re saying that all these other texts in the New Testament control and determine your reading of Revelation 20.

Sam Storms: Largely. But let me finish. It’s not entirely, but largely. You’re right. But let me just make it clear because we’ll come to this. I’m not an amillennialist in spite of Revelation 20. I’m an amillennialist precisely because of it.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Sam Storms: I think it is enthusiastically clear on amillennialism.

Jim Hamilton: Well, I can’t wait to talk about the passage.

Sam Storms: Okay. Yeah, let me finish my point. I also believe, as I read the New Testament, that the second coming of Christ terminates all possibility of getting saved. It’s this age in which salvation is possible. But as Jim said, there are going to be countless, who knows, thousands, if not millions, coming to faith in Christ after the second coming. I don’t see that in the New Testament. Furthermore, it seems to me, and I agree with Doug on this, that at the second coming of Christ is the final resurrection for both the good and the evil. At the second coming of Christ is the final judgment for both good and evil. And so, I kept seeing the New Testament say that, at the second coming of Jesus, all these things terminate, consummate, conclude, which would preclude the thousand-year reign that I formerly believed, which says physical death continues, resurrections continue, judgments are continuing, and are separated and maybe even occur multiple times throughout the whole thousand years; people even keep coming to faith in Christ.

Jim Hamilton: Can I ask you a question?

Sam Storms: Sure.

Jim Hamilton: Okay. At the end of the Gospels, how does Judas die? How does he perish? How does his physical body die at the end of the Gospels?

Sam Storms: Is this a trick question?

Jim Hamilton: No, it’s not. I just want you to tell me the answer.

John Piper: Sounds tricky to me.

Sam Storms: Yeah.

John Piper: But I want to know.

Sam Storms: Well, in Acts where he fell forward?

Jim Hamilton: No, no, no. I’m asking about the Gospels. In the Gospels, he hung himself, right? Does that preclude what Acts tells us about how he dies? Because that’s the way you’re arguing.

Sam Storms: No, it’s not.

Jim Hamilton: Yes it is.

Sam Storms: He was dead when he hung himself. He died. He didn’t die again in Acts.

Jim Hamilton: But all Acts tells us is that he fell headlong and his insides burst out.

Sam Storms: Right.

Jim Hamilton: So you’re harmonizing.

John Piper: Yeah.

Jim Hamilton: You’re harmonizing.

Sam Storms: Well, sure I am.

Jim Hamilton: Why can’t we harmonize what Revelation 20 says with what all these other texts say about when death ends and when the resurrection happens?

Sam Storms: Because these texts don’t allow it.

John Piper: Just answer the question.

Sam Storms: Death dies at the second coming Christ.

Jim Hamilton: Well then why can’t we say the Gospels don’t allow the fact that he fell headlong and his insides burst out?

Sam Storms: But he only died once. He only died once. He didn’t die at the end of the Gospels and then die again in Acts. So, do you believe he died twice?

John Piper: No, no, no.

Jim Hamilton: No. I’m saying we’re harmonizing the two passages. We’re harmonizing the death of Judas from what the Gospels tell us and what Acts tells us. And I’m saying that we can do the same thing. See, it seems to me that your main argument against premillennialism is that the rest of the New Testament precludes that interpretation.

Sam Storms: Absolutely.

Jim Hamilton: And I’m arguing that that’s your problem, not the Bible’s problem. But the Bible gives us this information and it’s our responsibility to put it together.

Sam Storms: All I know is that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:51–53, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable . . .”

Jim Hamilton: So, putting that together with Revelation is our responsibility. It’s not the Bible’s problem.

Doug Wilson: But there’s harmonization.

Jim Hamilton: The Bible is not precluding this interpretation.

Sam Storms: But, Jim, wait a minute. Let me point something out. Earlier in 1 Corinthians 15:24–26, Paul says very clearly, talking about the resurrection, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Let me just finish. And then, in that same chapter, he then tells us when death dies, when that last enemy is put to rest — then he cites the prophecy from Isaiah — “Death is swallowed up in victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54–55). It happens at the second coming.

Jim Hamilton: But your view demands that it is an exhaustive revelation.

Sam Storms: So, my point is how then can millions of people continue to die physically after the second coming?

Jim Hamilton: Your view demands that what Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 is exhaustive. In other words, there’s nothing else to know.

Sam Storms: About the termination of physical death? Absolutely.

Doug Wilson: Well, it’s exhaustive. It’s exhausting for enemies. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Jim Hamilton: I think that I want to respond to you the same way that I suspect, maybe, Simeon, when he talks about the sword that’s going to pierce Mary’s soul, might’ve responded to some triumphant, messianic-conquering-king interpreter. Simeon, I think, would probably say, “Don’t you think it’s possible that the Messiah might have to suffer?” And I think that conquering Messiah person would say, “No, Psalm 2, Isaiah 9, and all these other texts preclude that interpretation,” just like you’re saying. And I think it’s possible that God can weave these things together. So, the question is, what does Revelation 20 teach?

Sam Storms: I don’t think it’s the same thing.

Doug Wilson: But, Jim, you’d have to come up with the Simeon thing, the discussion would say, “All right, you’ve got this triumphant Messiah and then you’ve got the Suffering Servant.” You’ve got a bunch of texts that would require the harmonization.

Jim Hamilton: Yeah.

Doug Wilson: In the situation here, what you would need is texts that talk about enemies to be subdued after the last enemy is subdued. And that’s the difficulty. So, there’s harmonization. In the Acts case, I think all of us who’ve gone through the Synoptics know what harmonization looks like. But there’s sometimes, I think we’ve all seen, well-meaning Christians harmonizing away places where there is too much there to harmonize.

Jim Hamilton: Again, I say the question is, what does Revelation 20 teach? And if it teaches that there’s a millennium, it’s our responsibility to put it together with the rest of the Bible. Not to say, “Revelation 20 can’t be teaching that,” and then to look for another way to read it.

Sam Storms: I would say if Revelation 20 teaches a premillennial view, as you articulate it, I have to abandon Biblical inerrancy.

John Piper: No, no, no.

Jim Hamilton: No, you don’t, Sam.

Sam Storms: Yes I do.

John Piper: Good grief, Sam. Don’t say that.

Sam Storms: No. Yes, I do. Because it would teach me something explicitly contrary to what Paul is teaching me.

Jim Hamilton: No.

John Piper: No, no.

Jim Hamilton: Then, you go reread Paul. You just need to reread that passage and be a little bit more creative and imaginative in your interpretation of it.

John Piper: I think I could give you a plausible interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:50–58 that would make room for the millennium. I think you’re absolutizing the death of death there when you don’t need to. If you’re required to let the millennium happen, you’d read that text and you say, “It’s not absolutized. My death is overcome. A decisive blow is struck, but it’s loose. It’s open to expansion and death decisively happens there.”

Sam Storms: Maybe, if that were all that Paul said about what happens at the second coming, but I believe he also says that that’s when the resurrection occurs for both the good and the evil. I believe he also says, as in 2 Thessalonians 1, that it is at that time that the lost are cast into eternal destruction, not a thousand years later.

Jim Hamilton: And the Old Testament prophets make it sound like when the Messiah comes the new age is going to dawn. The desert’s going to bloom, the Spirit is going to be poured out from on high, and we believe what’s happened . . .

Doug Wilson: It did.

Sam Storms: It did.

John Piper: Right. And death died.

Jim Hamilton: We believe Jesus came, and those blessings reached back and took hold of the present in an already not-yet kind of way. It has happened in many ways, but not yet like it’s going to be someday.

Sam Storms: Right. And see, Jim, I would tend to agree . . .

Jim Hamilton: And you can do the same things with what you’re talking about.

John Piper: I want to go to Revelation.

Jim Hamilton: Hallelujah.

Sam Storms: I will just simply say this. I believe that Revelation 20 confirms and supports the interpretation.

John Piper: Good. Well, let’s go there.

Jim Hamilton: Yes, thank you. Praise God.

Sam Storms: I believe in the inerrancy of Scripture. I believe John is consistent with Paul.

Doug Wilson: As we go to Revelation 20, I’d like to say something about it. And that is that you have a thousand years in Revelation 20, near the climax of the book, which is crammed full of symbols and numbers.

Jim Hamilton: So let’s interpret the symbols in relation to each other.

Doug Wilson: Right.

Jim Hamilton: Okay? And let’s interpret the numbers and the periods of time in relation to each other.

John Piper: Don’t relativize it too quickly.

Jim Hamilton: You can’t just flatten the symbols as though they don’t mean anything.

Doug Wilson: I’m agreeing with you.

John Piper: I want Jim to walk us through the text. And Sam, you say it is precisely because of the text that you are an amillennialist?

Sam Storms: Yes.

John Piper: And Jim, you say it’s precisely because of the text as well that you’re a premillennialist?

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

John Piper: So, we’re here, and we’ve got a half an hour roughly . . .

Doug Wilson: But I’d like to just throw out this hermeneutical principle: you interpret the unclear text in the light of the clear text.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Doug Wilson: Now, we all agree with that in principle.

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

Doug Wilson: The devil is in the details.

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

Sam Storms: I think Revelation is clear.

Jim Hamilton: Yes.

John Piper: Amen.

Sam Storms: Revelation 20 is clear.

Jim Hamilton: Revelation 20:1 says, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.” And I just want to observe that there’s an angel coming down from heaven here. And if you look back at Revelation 9:1, it says, “And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.” Let’s say the angel is symbolic. Let’s say the shaft is symbolic. Let’s say the key is symbolic. In Revelation 9, they open the bottomless pit and all these demonic beings come rushing out. The opposite of that is about to happen in Revelation 20.

Doug Wilson: Right.

Jim Hamilton: Okay? So, let’s interpret the symbols in relation to each other.

Doug Wilson: Amen.

Jim Hamilton: So, this guy in Revelation 20:1 has the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. Note, he has the key and the chain. Revelation 20:2 says:

And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years . . .

Comment on the thousand years. We’ve got all these periods of time in Revelation. We’ve got an hour, we’ve got 10 days, we’ve got forever and ever, and a thousand years is different from all those symbols, right? An hour is a period of time that the beast is going to have authority in Revelation 17:12, 10 days is how long one of those churches is going to suffer back in Revelation 2:10, and a thousand years is a different symbol.

Sam Storms: No.

Jim Hamilton: It’s a different period of time than those other periods of time.

Sam Storms: No.

John Piper: It’s not 10 days.

Sam Storms: No, but you also have 42 months, along with other things.

John Piper: Right. He’s saying it’s different. I don’t know why you’re saying it. But, go ahead. Say why you’re saying.

Jim Hamilton: My point is, I would argue that those 42 month periods interpret the whole time between the two advents of Christ. And now, we’ve got a different period of time.

Sam Storms: Well, I agree with you.

Jim Hamilton: We’ve got a different period of time, a thousand years. That’s describing something different than that 42 month period.

John Piper: Right.

John Piper: Keep it symbolic. It’s just different.

Jim Hamilton: Yeah. It’s symbolizing something different. That’s what I’m saying.

Sam Storms: I think it symbolizes the same period.

Jim Hamilton: Well, we’d have to flesh out the details.

John Piper: Okay, keep going.

Jim Hamilton: Okay. So, he threw him into the pit in Revelation 20:3, and he shut it and he sealed it. And let me just observe there’s a key, there’s a chain, he seizes the dragon, he binds him, he throws him in the pit, and he shuts the pit. And he seals the pit over him “so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended” (Revelation 20:3). Now, if this is the same period as the church age, the 42 months, we look back at Revelation chapter 12:7–12 and I would argue we have a cosmic depiction of Christ’s triumph on the cross. Satan is thrown down to the earth, and he’s not bound. In Revelation 12:13–17 he sees that he has a short period of time, and he goes off to make war on the woman and her seed, which I think is persecution of the church. So, according to your reading, Sam, Satan is both making war on the church, the woman, and her seed (the church), and he’s bound and chained and cannot deceive the nations any longer.

Sam Storms: Absolutely. It’s perfectly compatible.

Jim Hamilton: And I think that is taking two symbols that are meant to communicate different ideas and flattening them and making them the same thing. That’s your view.

John Piper: You sound like we sounded about 10 minutes ago.

Sam Storms: Let me respond.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Sam Storms: First of all, talking about Revelation 12 and Revelation 20, we have two scenes here that are designed to describe manifestations of the victory of Christ through his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation to the right hand of the Father. In Revelation 12, we have this scene of a battle between Michael and his angels and Satan and his. We have this idea that Satan is cast down from heaven to earth. Well, we don’t mean that in a literal, spatial, geographical sense, because certainly you’re not going to say that Satan was never on the earth before because Jesus encountered him in the wilderness, and Job certainly had encounters with him. So, what’s the point? What’s the meaning of the symbols or the imagery? It is that by virtue of what Christ has accomplished, described in the first part of Revelation 12, Satan can no longer accuse the brethren with any degree of success.

Jim Hamilton: But that’s exactly what he does in Revelation 13, the next chapter.

Sam Storms: Just a second, just a second, just a second. The point is that, by virtue of what Christ has accomplished, the legal strength of his accusations against us are empty. Romans 8:33 says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” How is that portrayed with regard to Satan? It’s portrayed as a casting down to the earth. Well, guess what? He’s already been here. It’s not as if he never was before, and it’s not as if he isn’t in heaven, as well. So, he’s describing in Revelation 12 that manifestation of the victory of Christ over the enemy. In Revelation 20, he’s describing another manifestation with different symbolism. Now, he’s saying because of the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ, Satan is also restrained with regard to deceiving the nations, lest they provoke, as it were, a premature Armageddon. Because he says in verse seven that when he gets out of the abyss after the thousand years, what does he do? He goes forth to deceive the nations, to gather them together in a cosmic battle against the people of God.

Jim Hamilton: Right.

Sam Storms: So, we have two chapters, both of which are describing the effects of the life, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ on the powers of darkness. They’re using different symbolism, different imagery to describe different aspects of his victory. One, the accuser can no longer bring a successful charge against God’s people. Another, the accuser can no longer deceive the nations, prevent the gospel from going to the ends of the earth, or prematurely provoke Armageddon.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Sam Storms: They’re perfectly compatible. And I think they both refer to what happened in the first century in conjunction with the first coming of Christ.

Jim Hamilton: If I may? I think there are two reasons why you can’t read Revelation 12 as though it’s describing the same thing as Revelation 20.

Sam Storms: They’re not the same thing. I just said they’re different manifestations, different expressions . . .

Jim Hamilton: Of the same reality?

Sam Storms: Of the reality of the effect of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and his victory on the powers of darkness.

Jim Hamilton: Okay. And I would argue that the details of the two passages are too different. So, that, at the end of Revelation 12, Satan is making war on the saints. And in Revelation 13, he’s given authority for 42 months. Now, how can he have authority for 42 months while he’s seized and bound and shut and sealed in the pit?

Sam Storms: It’s very simple. You have to ask the question: seized and bound and shut up with respect to what? It’s with respect to deceiving the nations and provoking a global assault against the church.

Jim Hamilton: It’s with respect to exactly what he’s doing in Revelation 11–13. So, the other reason that I think your interpretation just utterly fails — with all love to you, I appreciate you and you know that I love you — is the literary structure of the book. I think we have to ask ourselves the question, why does the seventh trumpet come right in the middle of the book and not at the end of the book? And I would argue that the reason is because you have Revelation 11:15–19, where the seventh trumpet is blown and the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ. On either side of that, in the first part of Revelation 11 and Revelation 12 into the first part of 13, you have Satan making war on the church in those two passages. That’s the way I would read those passages.

Doug Wilson: Can I answer something in here?

John Piper: If it would be helpful. Go ahead.

Doug Wilson: I feel that it will be helpful. I think this is an illustration of the hermeneutical principle that I wanted to start with. You interpret the unclear passage in the light of the clear one. So, Matthew 28:18–20 says, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”

Jim Hamilton: Second Corinthians 4:4 says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ . . .” And so forth. First Peter 5:8 says Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

Doug Wilson: He’s the god of this age.

John Piper: Doug thinks that freedom of the devil stopped at 70 AD.

Jim Hamilton: Oh my.

Sam Storms: No, I’d agree with you. See, I would agree with you on that, Jim.

Doug Wilson We’re shifting alliances.

John Piper: That’s right.

John Piper: Where was Doug going? Finish your thought. I’ve lost control. Matthew 28. What was the point?

Doug Wilson: The point in Matthew is Jesus gives the church our marching orders. What’s unclear about it? He says, “I have all authority in heaven and on earth. It’s all mine.”

John Piper: Right.

Doug Wilson: And he says, on that basis, go, disciple the nations, baptizing them, teaching them obedience. This is a clear passage.

John Piper: It’s not clear about the implications of how free the devil is.

Doug Wilson: Well, it’s clear about what we’re told to do.

John Piper: Yeah.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Doug Wilson: All right? We’re told to disciple the nations, baptize them, and teach them obedience because Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. And there’s no symbolic numerology here. There’s no dragons or women or trumpets or rivers of blood.

John Piper: And so, the point with regard to the Great Commission?

Doug Wilson: The point is that, when I read Matthew 28 and I get the church’s marching orders, this is a clear passage. We’re told what to do. We’re told to evangelize the world.

John Piper: Right.

Doug Wilson: We’re told to disciple the nations. And Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and earth is mine.” That’s the basis for it. And this drives how we are to read Revelation. So, when we get to Revelation, we’re told that the time is short, the time is near. This is coming at you like a freight train. It’s almost on top of us. And then, in the very beginning of the book, it says, “And [he] hath made us kings and priests unto his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever” (Revelation 1:6). And then, in Revelation 5:9 it says, “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Okay? This is not a heavenly reign. This is “we shall reign on the earth.” Now, when I go through the book of Revelation, one of the things I try to do — and this is just like a principle to ambiguity earlier, I want to read through the book of Revelation sitting loose to the details. Because if I could quote Chesterton. He said, “Saint John the divine saw many strange monsters in his vision, but none so strange as any one of his own commentators.” And one of the things that I think that we need to do is say, look, I think the consensus of the Christian Church through 2,000 years is that the book of Revelation is not as clear as the book of Romans. The book of Revelation is not as clear as the book of Galatians. So, what do we hold? What should be the governing principle, the governing text?

I think our marching orders to evangelize the world, to preach the gospel to every creature, to exercise this spiritual authority through the gospel, and through the gospel only, should bring us to the point where we say, okay, now I come to the book of Revelation. I come to the 20th chapter and I read it in light of that. I agree with you that you’ve got time indicators — half an hour in heaven and 42 months and that sort of thing.

But you have a thousand, you have 144, you have 1,200 stadia as the lengths of the sides of the new Jerusalem, which is a perfect cube. All of these indicate that I’m dealing with apocalyptic literature.

Jim Hamilton: And it sounds like you don’t want to try to interpret it?

Doug Wilson: No, I want to try to interpret it. But I want to do it in a postmillennial setting where we have lots of time.

John Piper: We’ve been working on it for 2,000 years.

Doug Wilson: Yeah. And I believe that we will need lots of time in order to work through it. I do believe that it was a revelation, not a hiding. It’s an unveiling. It’s meant to bless us and reveal certain things to us. But I think we have to go to Revelation 20 knowing that that is going to be a harder nut for us to crack . . .

Jim Hamilton: Can we go back to Revelation 20?

John Piper: Yeah. Let’s let Jim keep cracking for a few more minutes.

Doug Wilson: All right.

Jim Hamilton: So, in Revelation 20:1–3 it looks to me like Satan’s activity is totally shut down.

Sam Storms: No.

John Piper: Just let him talk.

Jim Hamilton: No longer is the world, according 1 John 5:19, “under the power of the evil one.” Now, the evil one is in the pit and the pit is shut and it’s sealed. And then, Revelation 20:4 says, “I saw thrones and seated on them were those to whom authority to judge was committed. Also, I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus . . .” They were physically killed.

Doug Wilson: Right.

Jim Hamilton: It continues, “And for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast . . .” That’s what everybody was tempted to do Back in Revelation 13:5. The beast has these seven heads, and one of the heads has a mortal wound, and it came back to life. And I think the point is the beast has faked something like the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. So, the beast has done something that looks like what God has done, and the whole world worships it except for, Revelation 13:8, “those whose names are written in the book of life,” and so forth.

Doug Wilson: Who do you believe the beheaded are?

Jim Hamilton: The beheaded are those who didn’t worship the beast or its image in Revelation 20:4

Doug Wilson: But where do you place them in history?

Jim Hamilton: I would say all faithful believers throughout church history.

Doug Wilson: Okay, even though the beast is not throughout all church history?

Jim Hamilton: No, the beast has authority for 42 months. And it depends on how you interpret those 42 months. I would suggest that either those 42 months are the second half of Daniel’s 70th week or maybe the whole of Christian Church history.

Sam Storms: I tend to agree with that. I agree with that.

Jim Hamilton: Okay.

Sam Storms: By the way, Revelation tells us exactly who the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus for the word of God are. Earlier in Revelation 6:9 it says, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.” Precisely the same Greek language is used, and he’s talking about those in the intermediate state.

Jim Hamilton: No, no, no, no, no.

Sam Storms: Yes, he is. He’s talking about those in the intermediate state.

Jim Hamilton: But look what happens to them after the intermediate state at the end of Revelation 20:4. It says, “They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” So, first the beast, Revelation 13:5, has authority for 42 months. In Revelation 13:8, he kills, he makes war on the church, and beheads these people. And then, after the intermediate state, they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. And then, in Revelation 20:5 it says, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.” There are two resurrections, one on each side of the thousand years. And then, at the end of verse five there, this is the first resurrection.

N.T. Wright, whom you love, looks at all of the uses of anastasis and related terms all through Greek literature leading up to Revelation 20. And he says that for this to mean something other than bodily life after death, your intermediate state, would be a radical innovation. And he says it would stretch the usage beyond the breaking point. I’ve got the page number in Resurrection of the Son of God, if you want me to give it to you.

Sam Storms: I am going to have a chance to respond to this, I’m sure.

Jim Hamilton: And then, he says, “lest we be projected into premillennial literalism” — which I think is him just saying, ‘I don’t want to be a premillennialist’ — “What we have here is, essentially, a radical innovation in the use of resurrection language.” I think he’s doing violence to that text.

Doug Wilson: But let’s back up. We have to back up to Revelation 20:4, if I could come galloping in with some literalism here. That’s my job as the postmillennialist. The beast, these people who are beheaded in verse four, are beheaded by the beast. The beast is a seven headed beast. The seven heads are seven hills. The seven heads are also seven kings. So, the head of the beast that’s reigning is Nero.

Jim Hamilton: Right.

Doug Wilson: You start with Julius Augustus.

Jim Hamilton: I would argue that this is a typological use of the world power at the time, and that it’s going to be that way. That pattern is going to follow all through church history.

Doug Wilson: Now, I agree that the pattern follows all through church history, but it happens that Nero persecuted the church from AD 64 to AD 68.

Jim Hamilton: But your view demands that this book be written before 70 AD, which is a very difficult case to make in view of the external evidence.

Doug Wilson: Well, it’s easier than you think.

Jim Hamilton: Well, if you want to believe that it’s easy.

Doug Wilson: But we don’t have time for it. Now the point is that Nero, who occupied the right place on the number of heads of the beast, persecuted the saints of God for 42 months. From 64 AD to 68 AD was 42 months. He persecuted the church for 42 months. The beheaded, on your system, means you have to press the literal 1000 years, but you’re not pressing the beast or the ones beheaded by the beast.

Jim Hamilton:* I’m not pressing anything. I’m saying that the beast’s opposition to believers and his beheading of them is typical of the way the wicked world powers persecute the church, whether they behead us or not. Let’s continue.

Sam Storms: Wait, let me give you a response.

John Piper: Let Jim finish and then you can respond to all the arguments. Just get the whole paragraph in front of you.

Jim Hamilton: Okay, so you’ve got these people who are physically killed and then when Christ comes, they’re brought to physical life. That’s what the first resurrection refers to. It’s physical life after death, after the intermediate state. They reign with Christ for 1000 years. That’s the first resurrection. Revelation 20:6 says, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection, over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” And then Revelation 20:7 says, “And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison,” and then he comes out, he deceives the nations, and they make war on Christ. Christ puts down the rebellion, and then the great white throne is set up.

So I think you have a sequence here of a resurrection, 1,000 years of bliss reigning with Christ on earth. And then at the end of the 1,000 years, Satan is let out of that pit and he’s loosed from those chains. And so like what we saw in Revelation 9:1 happens again. Somebody opens the shaft of the bottomless pit, lets him go, and then he does this work. There’s a final rebellion and it’s ended. And then the great white throne is set up and then after the judgment we enter into the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation 21 and 22.

Sam Storms: And now let me explain why I think that’s wrong. My understanding is this. You used the phrase “Satan’s incarceration” in the abyss. Totally. You’re universalizing what John explicitly restricts. He says that with regard to Satan’s capacity during the 1,000 it is in reference to deceiving the nations he is totally restrained. And I agree with that. But with regard to all of his other activities . . .

Jim Hamilton: Revelation 13:7, “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.”

Sam Storms: Jim, let me finish.

Jim Hamilton: In the 42 months Satan has authority over the nations.

Sam Storms: Jim, let me finish. Let me finish. You don’t believe that means that Satan can prevent the gospel from going to the nations and bringing conversions.

Jim Hamilton: Right.

Sam Storms: Then we agree.

Jim Hamilton: But I believe that Revelation 20:1–3 is describing something different than the gospel going to the nations.

Sam Storms: Well then we’d have to go back into Acts 26, we’d go back into Colossians 2, and we could go back into other texts.

Jim Hamilton: But in the terms of this book . . .

Sam Storms: Let me finish please.

John Piper: Let him finish.

Sam Storms: Thank you.

John Piper: Order. Order in the courtroom.

Sam Storms: That’s precisely what Paul testified when he said that Christ had commissioned him to turn the nations from the darkness of Satan to the light of God’s kingdom. During the time of this present inter-advent age, Satan cannot prevent the gospel from succeeding and bringing souls globally to faith in Christ. He can persecute the church, he can blind the minds of unbelievers who are recalcitrant in their rejection of Christ and the non elect. He can tempt and he can swallow up if we give him ground. But when it comes to deceiving the nations with regard to the gospel and to orchestrating this global cosmic resistance to the church of Christ, he is prevented thoroughly and totally. Now let me finish, because you had all the other statements you made. Let me finish.

Doug Wilson: I agree with that.

Sam Storms: Secondly, he says, “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and the word of God” (Revelation 20:4). As I said in Revelation 6, those are identified as those in the intermediate state. It’s also interesting that in Revelation 2:11, Jesus says to the church at Smyrna, “Be faithful unto death.” He’s talking about their martyrdom under the authority of the beast. He continues, “And I will give you the crown of life.” He’s saying, “You’re going to die physically and you’re going to come to life, and the second death will have no power over you.” That’s precisely what we are told here. They are martyred physically, and they come to life in the intermediate state, and the second death has no authority over them.

Now one more thing quickly. You said you appeal to anastasis and the concept of resurrection and you said everywhere it refers to physical bodily resurrection. I agree with you. I’ll go on record saying that’s the single strongest argument for pre-millennialism, but it’s not persuasive for this reason. You’re making a case that we have to take the word anastasis in the way it is used consistently outside the book of Revelation. By the way, this is the only place it’s used in Revelation, only here, nowhere else. Why do premillennialists conveniently ignore the word thrones, which is used 47 times in Revelation, 40 of which are relevant, sometimes referring to the throne of Satan or the throne of the beast. Every single time without exception thrones are heavenly. They are never on the earth. That’s also the case with every single use of thrones outside the Book of Revelation.

Then finally, on the issue of the first resurrection, I admit, I concede to you, Jim. Obviously, it’s easy to prove that N.T. Wright was correct. Anastasis refers to physical resurrection outside the book of Revelation. This is its only occurrence inside the Book of Revelation. But notice if you would, this is the only place in the entire New Testament where it’s called the “first resurrection”. And we have here, in Revelation 20 and 21, descriptions of what is first and old, pertaining to the present transient order of things. And then we also have reference, especially when we come to Chapter 21, to that which is second and new, which is a reference to the eternal, permanent, consummate state of things.

So I think it’s clear as you read sequentially through this passage that he’s not describing a resurrection that is then followed by the same kind of resurrection, a first and a second. He’s contrasting the resurrections, in the same way that he contrasts the first with the new and the old with that which is second. And so the point is there is a first resurrection that is a coming to life in the intermediate state. It’s called first, the only place where it is, indicating we’re dealing with something very unique here. The millennial reign transpires throughout the whole course of this present age. The saints are reigning with Christ in the intermediate state. He identifies them who they are. At the second coming of Christ, the rest of the dead are raised. That’s a physical resurrection of unbelievers at which time they are judged and cast into the lake of fire as Matthew indicates, and as Revelation indicates as well.

Jim Hamilton: Can I reply?

Sam Storms: Sure.

Jim Hamilton: Okay. Your view demands what’s happening in Revelation 13:5–8 is precisely that the beast is deceiving the nations. And Revelation 13:7 says that authority was given to the beast over every tribe and people and language and nation. So your view demands . . .

Sam Storms: He’s deceiving them with regard to what? Define that.

Jim Hamilton: They’re worshiping the beast.

Sam Storms: So nobody is coming to faith in Christ in the present age?

Jim Hamilton: No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that what Revelation 20:1–3 says isn’t happening, is happening in Revelation 13:5–7. He is deceiving the nations. That’s one thing I want to say. And then I want to respond to something that Doug said earlier and that you kind of hinted at or are hinting at when you talk about this one passage and this one reference to 1,000 years. And I just want to ask some questions.

How many texts in the Old Testament explicitly name the new covenant? There’s one. It’s Jeremiah 31. It’s the only place where that phrase is used, I think. How many texts in the Old Testament explicitly refer to the future royal ruler as a messiah? There’s one that’s undisputed, Daniel 9:25. How many texts in the Old Testament say that the seed of the woman is going to crush the head of the serpent? There’s one, Genesis 3:15. And I think I would want to ask Doug how many texts in the whole Bible say we should baptize babies?

John Piper: Or give them communion?

Sam Storms: Don’t go there. Don’t respond to that.

Doug Wilson: Does everyone see my restraint?

John Piper: Yes, we do.

Jim Hamilton: So I don’t think that the fact that this is one passage is problematic for us.

Sam Storms: Oh, I agree totally with everything you just said. The fact that this is one passage that talks about the millennium, I’m happy with it. I think it’s talking about the intermediate state. So I have no problem in saying there’s one passage that’s describing 1,000 years. I believe that. But real quickly here, one more thing.

I do have a question as well. You say that here in the beginning in Revelation 20:1–3 at the second coming of Christ, after Christ has returned, the devil can no longer deceive the nations and he’s in the abyss so that won’t happen. I just want to know where the heck these nations came from, because according to your reading of Revelation 19, “the flesh of kings, captains, mighty men, horses, riders, flesh of all men, both free and slaves, small and great are consumed and the beast, the false prophet, are thrown in the lake of fire, and the rest . . .” The rest of who? The rest of the nations who were gathered in this battle were slain by the sword. The nations that you say Satan is now having to be incarcerated for in order that he can’t deceive them have all been killed at the time of the second coming of Christ. There are no nations left that he can deceive.

Jim Hamilton: And I would say evidently it’s not comprehensive.

Sam Storms: Why not just take the plain literal meaning?

Jim Hamilton: I would also observe that at the end of Revelation 19, the beast and the false prophet, thanks for reminding me of this, are thrown into the lake of fire. That’s in Revelation 19:20. And then, down in Revelation 20:10, the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were already. And so it seems like there’s one defeat and then there’s this intervening period, and then there’s a defeat of the dragon and he’s thrown in where the beast and false prophet already are.

Sam Storms: Yeah. Let me explain why that can’t be the case. Because what we have between Revelation 19 and 20 are parallel accounts of the same span of time, namely the church age or the millennial kingdom. And the fact of the matter is, you’ll notice there in Revelation 20:10, the devil who had deceived them was thrown to the lake of fire and sulfur where, literally this is what it says, “the beast and the false prophet . . .” There’s nothing after that. And it makes far better sense to supply the verb, not where the beast and the false prophet “are”, but where the beast and the false prophet “were thrown”, directly taken from Revelation 19:20.

Jim Hamilton: You’re making my case.

Sam Storms: No, the point is Revelation 19 describes the end of human history, what’s called the battle of Armageddon, where the beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20 recapitulates to describe the whole present age again, the consummation of which is Satan is now thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and the false prophet also were thrown.

Jim Hamilton: And I think that takes different symbols and flattens them out so that they all have the same meaning.

Sam Storms: It doesn’t flatten them out. It’s parallelism. And the ellipsis here, which does not supply a verb, is far better supplied from Revelation 19:20 than it is just saying where they “are”.

Doug Wilson: Tag one other thing on this, and this is from within the text that you went through.

John Piper: And when you’re done I’m going to do some summing.

Doug Wilson: All right. In Revelation 20, I believe, Jim, the difficulty that I have with what you’re saying is that you have a very specific binding of Satan, a very specific 1000 years . . .

Jim Hamilton: John has that.

Doug Wilson: Yes, John has some other stuff coming up too. It’s a very specific Satan, a very specific 1,000 years, and the historicity of it is being affirmed at a very specific point in time. But then in order to populate this very specific millennium, you appeal to generic martyrs martyred by a generic beast throughout all history.

Jim Hamilton: Well we read about it in Revelation 13.

Doug Wilson: Well, the beast that we have in Revelation, this goes back to what I said at the beginning of the book. It says that these things are soon to happen. It’s right on top of you. It’s at the door. Daniel is told, for example, to seal up the words of the prophecy because the time is not yet and the events were 400 years out.

Jim Hamilton: Okay, so if these are the people martyred under Nero have they come to life?

Doug Wilson: In Revelation he’s told, “Don’t seal the words, because it’s right on top of us. Don’t seal the words, because it’s right on top of us.” And yet here we are 2,000 years out. So Daniel is told to seal the words of the prophecy because it’s a while yet, and the fulfillment of that was 400 years later. I take that the Book of Revelation as right on top of the first century church. It’s at hand, it’s near, it’s now, and it was immediate. Nero, the beast, the persecuting beast, all of this was alive for the recipients of the letter. So when John says, “Here, the number of the beast is this,” and he says, “This is for the guy who has wisdom,” John knows who it is, right? John knows who it is and he expects some sharp sophomore in college to be up late that night figuring it out. It says, “Let him who has wisdom figure this out.” John knows who it is. He expects some of his first century readers to figure it out. And I can’t imagine Demetrius in Ephesus figuring it out saying, “Who the heck is Henry Kissinger?”

Jim Hamilton: Nobody’s arguing that.

Doug Wilson: I can see someone in the first century saying, “Nero. The number of the beast is 666, Nero, beast, persecuting.” I believe that the beast and the martyrs are very specific in history and you’ve got a very specific millennium at the end of history but you have to make the martyrs and the beheading and the process that populates the saints for that generic. And I think that you should do one thing or the other through the text.

Jim Hamilton: And I would disagree with what you’re saying I’m doing.

Sam Storms: I’m going to make one more comment and I’m going to leave it there. And I love Jim too. But when I read Revelation 19:18, which says to the birds of the heavens, “Come, gather for the great supper of God, to eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all men, both free and slave, both small and great,” and then it says the beast and the false prophet are killed who had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image, you’d think, “Wow, that’s just about everybody, isn’t it?” And if that’s not enough, Revelation 19:21 says, “And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse.” That’s Jesus at his second coming.

So I’m saying if you can extract out of that kind of rather extensive, exhaustive slaughter of all unbelievers at the second coming of Christ, this remnant who survived to enter into the millennium because you got to have them to propagate, to constitute the nations, and so on. I have nothing more to say. I don’t know what I could say to that. I don’t know how you have Satan deceiving nations that all just got slaughtered. They don’t exist. They’re killed by the second coming of Christ.

John Piper: And you can’t conceive of any way unbelievers could?

Sam Storms: You read Revelation 19. If you can conceive of it, you convince me, and then I’ll repent.

John Piper: What about babies?

Doug Wilson: We baptized them.

Jim Hamilton: I think, Sam, we could just say the rest of those who were present at that moment, the rest who were there when this happened.

Sam Storms: There, on the globe, on the Earth?

Jim Hamilton: That’s the way you’re reading it.

Sam Storms: Well, yeah, that’s way I’m reading it.

Jim Hamilton: But you wanted to read it as though we couldn’t put Paul and John together.

Sam Storms: And I would say, Jim, I agree if you can read it differently and in good conscience say that there are therefore nations leftover of unbelievers in natural, unglorified bodies that enter this purported millennial kingdom, then I just say, God bless you and we’ll disagree.

John Piper: So you said that the biggest problem for amillennialism is the meaning of anastasis in Verse Six, is it?

Sam Storms: Yeah, it’s consistent. And I can see that.

John Piper: And would you say that getting natural bodies and unbelievers into the millennium is the biggest problem for pre-millennialism?

Jim Hamilton: Probably so, yes.

John Piper: What’s the biggest problem for post-millennialism?

Sam Storms: Baptizing babies? No, I’m sorry.

Doug Wilson: I would say I alluded to the biggest. I think the biggest problem for postmillennialists is grabbing too soon, triumphalism.

John Piper: No, I don’t mean the problem if you believe it, what to do. I mean whether it’s true or not?

Doug Wilson: Actually the biggest problem I have is in harmonizing 1 and 2 Thessalonians. That would be the biggest problem.

John Piper: We didn’t go there, but 1 Thessalonians 4:13, you take to be the second coming of Christ?

Doug Wilson: Yes, correct. But I also take the man of sin, the man of lawlessness, as the Roman emperor.

Sam Storms I do too.

Jim Hamilton: And he’s already arisen and the rebellion has already happened?

Doug Wilson: Well, like I said, it’s a problem.

John Piper: That’s your problem.

Sam Storms: No, actually it’s not, but okay. But we’ll stop.

John Piper: That’s for another night. I think it would be helpful to take a few minutes even though our time is up and go back where we started and ask about the practical implications of these three views. You were all very animated, more than I expected you to be. I didn’t expect you to feel as strongly as you do. So that’s energizing to me. I love it. That’s why I like you guys a lot because you care about the Bible and care about truth, even this one.

So now here’s the issue. Doug, you said — let’s start here and then take maybe five minutes on this — our marching orders are from Matthew 28:19–20. He has all authority in heaven and on earth right now. Whatever freedom Satan has, Jesus has all authority. He says, “Go make disciples of all the nations.” Just say something positive about why we can work together with these views, and why the other view, if you think this, doesn’t undermine doing what we’re called to do.

First, when I read postmillennialism, I fret over the first problem you said, Doug, namely that it will become dominion, theonomy, takeover with carnal means.

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: You refresh me by insisting it will be spiritual means, it’ll be worship, and the right worshiping of God. And when I read your strategies for conquering the world, they feel just like mine.

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: Even though I don’t expect the world to be conquered in the same way you do, my pattern of life and ministry doesn’t pick up the sword and you’re not picking up the sword. It’s unclear to me, like we talked in the panel, about when the Christian congress might pick up the sword, but that’s not where you are.

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: And you don’t want to think that way, it sounds to me.

Doug Wilson: Right.

John Piper: So that would be one example of what I’m fishing for is that I hear his strategies in the triumphant spread of the gospel being exercised in ways very much like the way I live my life. What more like that can we say? How do pre and amillennial views relate like this?

Jim Hamilton: I want to make what you said more explicit, that it’s very comforting that you say we conquer the same way Jesus did in a death and resurrection kind of conquering. So I appreciate that very much. And you and I have agreed a lot tonight and I think we’ve agreed on a lot of interpretive matters, and I think that we would both say that the gospel is going to advance and God is going to prosper the preaching of the gospel. I think we would all say that. And so I think we can all affirm those things.

Sam Storms: Yeah, I think in terms of, I’m not trying to align up against Doug here, but it just is in terms of how it affects our expectations for the future and how the church lives out its life that Jim and I would probably be in more agreement-

Jim Hamilton: We’re going to suffer until the end.

Sam Storms: Yeah, I think suffering is actually going to increase, intensify, and spread. And I think the way the church conquers is Revelation 12:11. They conquered Satan, the enemy, the beast, by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony, by not loving their lives to death. They died physically and by dying physically under the oppressive power of Satan, the beast, they won. That’s the victory that is secured by the church in this age. And I think Jim and I would agree that there is going to be this increase of oppression and persecution of the church that is not going to abate until the second coming of Jesus. And I think Doug would say he believes, he has confidence, that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the spread of the gospel, there will be a slow and progressive, but yet decisive and at some point visible, manifestation of a more widespread victory that can be more cultural, governmental, political, and economic in nature. I would say I don’t see that in Scripture. He does. And I know the verses he uses in the Old Testament, primarily in the Psalms. They’re tough to answer. He’s got a good point.

Jim Hamilton: Not if you’ve got a millennium.

Sam Storms: But I wish that he had time to defend those texts.

John Piper: Tomorrow, and in the coming year, we four will all be preaching the gospel in public, sending missionaries to the nations, saying, “Hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come,” and meaning something a little bit different, but the same thing at the center. And then we will broaden it out differently. And we will be willing to lay down our lives so that people might see the supreme glory of Jesus Christ. The only way they can come to know him, come to be saved, is by believing in him. The nations need to hear the gospel. All that’s true. Is that correct?

Jim Hamilton: Amen.

Sam Storms: Yes.

John Piper: Give a closing minute exhortation to the watchers of this about where to go from here. Because some people are going to say, “I just give up. I just give up. These guys are so smart and they’ve got doctorates and they cannot agree on the interpretation of the first six verses of Revelation 20.” So say something of guidance to the frustrated layman right now who would like to have some sense of what’s coming at him and he doesn’t feel like he’s nearly as competent as you guys are. Just give a minute or two each as we close about something encouraging and helpful for the watchers.

Jim Hamilton: “You have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2), so I would say just keep reading the Bible worshipfully. Keep asking the Lord to give you insight into the texts. And if there seems to be a meaning that is natural and it seems to fit the terms of the Book, believe it. Just keep reading the Bible for yourself. And if you’ve got the Bible, you have an Archimedian point on which to stand and a lever and a place to lodge that thing and you can move scholarly opinions in your own ability to arbitrate them, if you’ve got your arms around texts.

Doug Wilson: I would say keep the gospel central. Always keep the gospel central — the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, our imitation of Him, and following that. As we interpret Scripture, as we lay down our lives for others, as we preach the gospel, keep the gospel always and everywhere central. And know that with all of this, these disagreements, the fact is that the church for 2,000 years has only come to one central eschatological agreement, and that is Jesus Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead. That’s as far as the church has gotten. The church broadly has gotten that far. And when we look at the world and how the gospel’s progressing through the world, and I look at South America and Africa being overrun by premillennialists, I think it’s the coolest thing in the world. That’s just the kind of thing that God would do.

Jim Hamilton: Yes, have people believe the Bible. Hallelujah.

Doug Wilson: Yeah. So if we say, “Look what’s happened.” The church I think is well established far more deeply rooted and established in the world today than it was 1,500 years ago or 2,000 years ago. And the vast majority of the sacrifices and the missionary efforts and the martyrdoms, the vast majority of people who did that, did it through love of the same Jesus, but with a different eschatology than mine. And so, good grief, keep a sense of proportion, keep the gospel central, and keep a sense of proportion and let every man be fully convinced in his own mind.

Sam Storms: Well, certainly I’d echo both of those. I don’t think I can add anything to them. I would simply say to people who are watching this who probably some of them are tempted to say, as you said, John, “Goodness. I’ll never understand that. And if that’s what studying the Bible does, I’m going to avoid it.” And I would say, “Please don’t do that.”

Doug Wilson: You might not turn out like us.

Sam Storms: What we did tonight was really good. This is healthy. Really, I’m a sick sort of guy. I loved this. I know some other people out here were very nervous and they were sitting on edge and they think Jim and I don’t love each other. And I love this because he’s refining my thinking. Doug’s refining my thinking. I might go back and look again. And I hope I’ve given them some thoughts as well. And I think God is honored when we take this Book seriously enough to do this that we care about truth.

John Piper: Yes. Yes.

Sam Storms: We believe that there is objective, real truth here about what God is doing in history. And he says, “Wow, they care enough about my word. They believe it is errant and infallible enough that they’re willing to go toe to toe with each other in the love of Christ to try to arrive at some understanding.”

If in the final analysis, Jim’s right, that won’t affect my relationship with Jesus one bit and I won’t be disappointed. I’ll be saddened that I misled people through my teaching gift. If Doug turns out to be right and I’m wrong, I won’t be disappointed. I kind of hope he’s right, by the way, just between us.

Doug Wilson: Me too.

Sam Storms: If he turns out to be right, again, my regret will be that I would’ve used the gift God has given me to mislead people, which is a weighty thing (James 3:1). We all have to take that into consideration. But in order to become a better teacher, I need these guys. I need all of you. I need the whole body of Christ to call me back to the text, force me to look at things in a new way. So I think that’s what I take away from it.

John Piper: I think that we will not ask you what people should read, but maybe get that information. And when this goes onto the web, we’ll put up some readings in premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism, for people who want to follow on. Thank you. Thank you all so much for your willingness to do this.

Sam Storms: Well, thank you for taking the risk of hosting this.