A few months ago, Sam Storms wrote a blog article explaining that, unlike many of his fellow amillennialists, he came to embrace amillennialism because of Revelation 20, not in spite of it. According to Storms, the evidence in Revelation 20 is altogether persuasive that the millennial reign of the saints is “a reference to the experience of co-regency on the part of those believers who are now in the intermediate state with Christ.” For this reason, in contrast to the premillennial view that the thousand years of Revelation 20 will take place after the Second Coming, Storms believes “the millennium is a current phenomenon, in heaven, spanning the age between the two advents of Jesus Christ.”
In the remainder of the article, Storms offers ten reasons why Revelation 20 itself persuades him that amillennialism is true, all of which were also articulated in his recent book, Kingdom Come. In the fifth reason, Storms appeals to “the obvious parallel” between Revelation 20:1–6 and Revelation 6:9–11 (also see Kingdom Come, 457–58).
According to Storms, a careful comparison between the two passages reveals that they are clearly describing the same experience of martyred saints in the intermediate state:
Because of these parallels, Storms says it “seems beyond reasonable doubt” that these two visions are describing the same experience of the martyrs and therefore that Revelation 20:4–6 must portray life in the intermediate state, which is the amillennial view.
The problem with this argument is that the similarities listed by Storms merely prove that both visions refer to the same group of individuals, not that both visions describe the same experience of those individuals. In fact, John identifies the martyrs and what led to their deaths in Revelation 6:9 and 20:4a, but he does not describe the experience of these martyrs until Revelation 6:10–11 and 20:4b. For this reason, if Storms wants to demonstrate that Revelation 6:9–11 and 20:4 describe the same experience of these martyrs in the intermediate state, he must show clear parallels between Revelation 6:10–11 and 20:4b. But these are the very parts of the passages he ignores in his comparison.
The two visions are obviously related to one another, but their relationship is one of progression rather than simple identity (J. Ramsey Michaels, “The First Resurrection,” 107). More specifically, the progression from Revelation 6:9–11 to 20:4–6 is such that if the former refers to the intermediate state (as it clearly does), then the latter must refer to a subsequent stage in the experience of the martyred saints (Michaels, 107–08). In Revelation 6:10–11 the martyrs cry out to the Lord to avenge their blood because of the ongoing martyrdom of the saints (v. 10). In response to their anguished pleas, they are given white robes and told to wait until the full number of martyrs has been slain (v. 11), with the implied promise that vindication will come when this number has been reached. This is indeed the intermediate state.
In Revelation 20:4b, however, their number is now complete (cf. Rev 13:15; 18:24) and their prayers for vindication have been answered, for the Lord has returned in judgment (Rev 19:11–21). The wait for divine vengeance described in 6:9–11 is now over, and the entire group of martyrs comes to life and reigns with Christ for a thousand years (Rev 20:4). This distinction between the two passages is reflected in the fact that the experience of the martyred saints in Revelation 6:9–11 lasts for a short time (“a little while longer” in v. 11), whereas the experience of the martyred saints in Revelation 20:4–6 lasts for a long time (“a thousand years” in v. 4) (William J. Webb, “Revelation 20,” 32). The two passages are clearly not describing the same experience or period of time.
Storms and other amillennialists may disagree with this reading of the Book of Revelation, but the consistency of this progression between the two passages demonstrates the compatibility of Revelation 6:9–11 with the premillennial view of Revelation 20:4–6. In doing so, it also demonstrates that Revelation 6:9–11 fails to provide compelling evidence that Revelation 20:4–6 describes life in the intermediate state. Storms may claim to be an amillennialist because of Revelation 20, but Revelation 6:9–11 provides no support for his argument.