Eschatology is a Christian term that means the study of the end of history from a religious perspective. Christians generally hold various views concerning the end of the age. First of all, Christians agree with the immortality of the soul, acknowledging that man is composed of material and immaterial components. At death, the physical body dies but the immaterial essence of man, made up of his of his soul and spirit, lives in an eternal and conscious state either in heaven with Christ or in Hell, eternally separated from Him.
Secondly, the immaterial essence of man exists in an intermediate state awaiting the resurrection of the physical body, which will occur at a future time. Thirdly, the Bible teaches that at some appointed time, the physical body will be resurrected, transformed into its eternal state and united with the soul and spirit of the individual.
Fourthly, the Bible teaches that there will be a divine judgment at the end of the age when the righteous will receive their rewards and the unrighteous will be sentenced to the Lake of Fire. Furthermore, Christians agree that Christ will one day return physically to rule over the earth. Finally, all Christians look forward to the eternal state. Christ will one day create a new heaven and a new earth and judge evil once and for all. Afterwards, we will enter into the eternal state as described in Revelation 22.
These are some basic beliefs all evangelical Christians share in agreement. However, differences occur when attempting to interpret the millennial kingdom mentioned in Revelation 20:1-3(HCSB)Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for 1,000 years. 3 He threw him into the abyss, closed it, and put a seal on it so that he would no longer deceive the nations until the 1,000 years were completed. After that, he must be released for a short time.. Questions such as whether the thousand-year rule of Christ should be interpreted literally or symbolically begin to arise. This leads to an even bigger issue of how the book of Revelation should be explained. Are we to interpret the prophecies literally or allegorically? Are these future prophecies or do they describe events in church history?
As we approach this study, we must understand that these are in-house debates among Christians. Our eschatological views should not divide the body of Christ. We should encourage and challenge one another to study the Scriptures and present reasons underlying a given theological position. Below is an overview of the three major positions in eschatology: premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism.
The hallmark of premillennial eschatology is the literal interpretation of prophecy. Premillennial theologians teach that there will be a series of key events that occur before the millennial rule of Christ on earth. These events include the rapture of the church, a seven-year time of tribulation and the return of Christ to establish a thousand-year rule on earth. Premillennialists often adopt one of the three distinct rapture positions of pre-tribulation, post-tribulation or mid-tribulation.
Premillennialism: Christ’s Second coming before a literal one thousand-year period, known by some as a thousand-year sabbath, is preceded by a gradual deterioration of human society and behavior, and the expansion of evil through an endtime government or kingdom. This school of thought can be divided into three main interpretations: Dispensational, Mid-tribulation/Prewrath and Historic Premillennialism or Post-Tribulation viewpoint.
• Pre-tribulation Premillennialism or Dispensationalist View: The rapture of the church occurs just prior to the seven-year tribulation, where Christ returns for his saints to meet them in the air. This is followed by the tribulation, the rise of the Antichrist to world-rule, the return of Christ to the Mount of Olives, and Armageddon, resulting in a literal 1000-year millennial reign of the Messiah, centered in restored Jerusalem.
• Prewrath/Mid-tribulation View: The rapture of the church occurs in the midst of the seven-year period. Mid-tribulation view holds that the rapture occurs halfway through; Prewrath holds that the rapture occurs some time in the midst of the tribulation in the latter 3.5 years, but before God’s wrath is poured out upon the nations.
• Historic Premillennialism or Post-Tribulation View: The rapture of the church (the body of true believers) happens after a period of great tribulation, with the church being caught up to meet Christ in the air and will accompany him to earth to share in his (literal or figurative) thousand year rule.
Postmillennial theology teaches that the Church will be triumphant as a result of the Church Christianizing the world. After this, Christ will then return, upon which believers will enter the eternal state. Postmillennialists, therefore, apply a more allegorical approach to their interpretation of the book of Revelation. Postmillennialism is the doctrine which affirms that through the work of the Spirit in Christian preaching and teaching in the present time of the church (before the second advent) the world at large will eventually be evangelized and won to Christ. This will turn out in a world characterized by universal peace instead of strife, universal prosperity instead of inequality, godliness instead of evil, and so on, though the time period may be more or less than a thousand years (since, according to some postmill interpreters, the 1000 years of Revelation 20:4-7(HCSB)4 Then I saw thrones, and people seated on them who were given authority to judge. I also saw the people who had been beheaded[b] because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and who had not accepted the mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with the Messiah for 1,000 years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were completed. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! The second death has no power[c] over them, but they will be priests of God and of the Messiah, and they will reign with Him for 1,000 years. can be taken symbolically for an indefinite period of time) and evil will still be present to some limited degree. Thus there is a focus in postmillennarian thought on the present aspects of the kingdom of God with the result that through Christian influence many economic, educational and social ills will be resolved. Postmillennialism: Christ‘s Second coming is seen as occurring after the one-thousand years, which many in this school of thought believe is ushered in by the church.
Amillennialism can be deciphered by its title. “A” preceding millennium means this view teaches there is no future millennial earthly rule of Christ sitting on David’s throne. This stance also employs an allegorical interpretation and non-literal approach to prophecy. The events mentioned in the book of Revelation is being played out presently in the church age. Revelation reveals that the situation in the world will worsen before Christ returns. According to the amillennialists’ beliefs, Christ will one day return not to establish a millennial rule on earth but to usher in the eternal state. Amillennialists believe that God’s promises regarding the end times are figurative and will not be literally fulfilled, particularly the 1000 year reign of Jesus Christ on the earth. Non-literal “thousand years” or long age between Christ’s first and second comings; the millennial reign of Christ as pictured in the book of Revelation is viewed as Christ reigning at the right hand of the Father. Therefore, another name for it is “realized millennialism”, because it emphasizes an inaugurated future in the first coming of Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit in the Pentecost. It is the view held by the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches as well as by a number of the older Protestant denominations, such as the Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anglicans. Generally speaking, the term “amillennial” refers to the conviction, held by many godly and informed Christian scholars down through the ages, that there will be no future, earthly millennial period after Christ’s return. This, however, is to view the system from a purely negative point of view. Positively stated, amillennialism believes that the church is the expression of the millennial reign of Christ now, where “millennial” is understood to refer not to a literal thousand year period—though some reformers understood it this way but to the reign of Christ as experienced between his exaltation and parousia(word meaning presence, arrival, or official visit). This reign is over the new people of God, the church, which replaces Israel in the outworking of God’s eternal plan.
•Preterism: Many prophecies have already occurred in the past; This view denotes a 1st-century fulfillment concerning the literary text; real events have already transpired. Some events may be symbolic of other fulfillments, thus taking a symbolic interpretation of the text.
Pre-Trib Rapture debunked
1. Rapture doctrine is one of the most recent “new doctrines” in the history of the Church. The only doctrine more recent is the invention of the sinner’s prayer for salvation by Billy Sunday in 1930, which was made popular by Billy Graham in 1935.
2. The fact that John Nelson Darby invented the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine around 1830 AD is unquestionably true. All attempts to find evidence of this wild doctrine before 1830 have failed, with a single exception: Morgan Edwards wrote a short essay as a college paper for Bristol Baptist College in Bristol England in 1744 where he confused the second coming with the first resurrection of Revelation 20 and described a “pre-tribulation” rapture. However Edwards ideas, which he admitted were brand new and never before taught, had no influence in the modern population of the false doctrine. That prize to goes to Darby.
3. Prior to 1830, no church taught it in their creed, catechism or statement of faith.
4. Darby has had a profound impact on religion today, since Darby’s “secret rapture” false doctrine has infected most conservative, evangelical churches. While the official creeds and statements of faith of many churches either reject or are silent about Rapture, neither do they openly condemn this doctrine of a demon from the pulpit.
5. While not all dispensationalists believe in the Rapture. All those who teach the Rapture also believe in premillennialism. Both groups use Israel’s modern statehood status of 1948 to be a beginning of a countdown to the end.
6. All premillennialists, rapturists and dispensationalists alive today believe the Bible reveals the general era of when Christ will return. The date setters of the 1800’s (Seventh-day Adventists who are date setting premillennialists who reject the rapture, Jehovah’s Witnesses who have set many dates) based their predictions upon speculative arrangements of numbers and chronologies in the Bible. Today’s date setters without exception wrongly believe that Israel gaining state hood in 1948 fulfilled Bible prophecy and that Christ would return within one generation.
If you are a premillennialist, whether dispensational or not, there are several things with which you must reckon:
• You must necessarily believe that physical death will continue to exist beyond the time of Christ’s second coming.
• You must necessarily believe that the natural creation will continue, beyond the time of Christ’s second coming, to be subjected to the curse imposed by the Fall of man.
• You must necessarily believe that the New Heavens and New Earth will not be introduced until 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
• You must necessarily believe that unbelieving men and women will still have the opportunity to come to saving faith in Christ for at least 1,000 years subsequent to his return.
• You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally resurrected until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
• You must necessarily believe that unbelievers will not be finally judged and cast into eternal punishment until at least 1,000 years subsequent to the return of Christ.
So what’s wrong with believing these things, asks the premillennialist? What’s wrong is that these many things that premillennialists must believe (because of the way they interpret Scripture), the NT explicitly denies. In other words, in my study of the second coming of Christ I discovered that, contrary to what premillennialism requires us to believe, death is defeated and swallowed up in victory at the parousia, the natural creation is set free from its bondage to corruption at the parousia, the New Heavens and the New Earth are introduced immediately following the parousia, all opportunity to receive Christ as savior terminates at the parousia, and both the final resurrection and eternal judgment of unbelievers will occur at the time of the parousia. Simply put, the NT portrayals of the second coming of Christ forced me to conclude that a millennial age, subsequent to Christ’s return, of the sort proposed by premillennialism was impossible.
The second factor that turned me from premillennialism to amillennialism was a study of Revelation 20, the text cited by all premillennialists in support of their theory. Contrary to what I had been taught and long believed, I came to see Revelation 20 as a strong and immovable support for the amillennial perspective.
I do not believe in the rapture. I believe what Jesus taught. There is 1 second coming, not a second coming for the church then another second coming after the tribulation. The purpose of Christians on this earth is the great commission, to proclaim the gospel to the lost, to reach people for the kingdom. If Jesus “raptures” the church(the ekklesia, the bride, the Christians) then there is no more need for any people to be left on earth since the very essence of what we the church is here for is now removed. Pretrib, post trib, mid trib rapture is not biblical, it is not what the whole bible is about. I call it escapism mentality, the mentality that we will escape the evils of this world. If that was true and that was God’s design for humanity then the minute we would accept Christ he would “rapture” us up.
Matthew 13:24-30(HCSB)24 He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds[a] among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. “‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him. 29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”
It is so clear that we need not second guess what is going to happen. So what are we told in the pre-tribulation rapture theory? We are told that Christ will “gather” His people BEFORE the tribulation and separate the “wheat and the tares” BEFORE the harvest. And yet what does it clearly state in the Bible verse above? That the separation only takes place AT the harvest.
According to those who hold to the pre-trib rapture theory, the harvest takes place BEFORE the tribulation and BEFORE the end of the world. This is clearly what they believe because according to this teaching, the world continues for another 7 years and then another 1000 years AFTER the rapture. Well, what does Christ Jesus our Teacher say about this?
Matthew 13:38-40(HCSB)38 the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.
The church and the wicked continue to live together on earth until the END OF THE WORLD. And it is only at the end of the world that the separation takes place. The pre-trib rapture theory is now blown to bits by the Word of God!
Please understand that VITAL point. The rapture theory teaches a separation BEFORE the end. But the Bible clearly teaches that there is NO separation before the end.
This also proves the mid-tribulation rapture teaching to be false
Those who hold to the mid-tribulation rapture theory, believe (just like the pre-trib teachers), that the separation takes place BEFORE the end of the world. But as we have shown from the Bible above, the separation takes place ONLY at the end of the world. Need more proof? Take a look at these Bible verses and you will notice that the focus is NOT about the church being taken away before the end, but rather AT the end of the world and the LAST DAY.
Eternal life is given on the LAST DAY. The resurrection happens on the LAST DAY. Judgment is given on the LAST DAY.
Notice also what Jesus says in Matthew 28:20(HCSB) teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”… Now why would Jesus reassure us that He would be with us until the END OF THE WORLD, if we were to be raptured away BEFORE the end of the world?
Matthew 24:37-42(HCSB)37 As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. 39 They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. So this is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be: 40 Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and one left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and one left. 42 Therefore be alert, since you don’t know what day your Lord is coming.
This is such a misunderstood passage of scripture today. Take a look at the context of the above Bible verses. Do you see that Jesus is telling us that His second coming will be like what happened in Noah’s day? And what happened in the days of Noah? The above verse tells us. The flood DESTROYED the earth, taking away the wicked and leaving behind God’s people (Noah’s family). Who was “taken away” and who was “left behind” in Noah’s day? Take a look at the above verses again. It was the wicked who were TAKEN and Noah was LEFT BEHIND! And this is what Christ is pointing us to. He is saying that the day is coming when the earth will be destroyed again and the wicked will be TAKEN and the saints will be LEFT BEHIND.
Jesus is pointing to the “END OF THE WORLD”. Just like it was the “end of the world” in Noah’s day when the flood came.
And what did we already confirm would happen during the harvest at the end? Let’s read(Matthew 13:24-30(HCSB) He presented another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds[e] among the wheat, and left. 26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also appeared. 27 The landowner’s slaves came to him and said, ‘Master, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this!’ he told them. “‘So, do you want us to go and gather them up?’ the slaves asked him. 29 “‘No,’ he said. ‘When you gather up the weeds, you might also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest time I’ll tell the reapers: Gather the weeds first and tie them in bundles to burn them, but store the wheat in my barn.’”) … The wicked are “taken” first and the saints are left behind to then be “gathered into My barn” (taken to heaven).
The whole context of Matthew 24 is a warning for us to “watch and be ready” so that the “sudden destruction” that is to come upon the world (1 Thessalonians 5:3(HCSB)3 When they say, “Peace and security,” then sudden destruction comes on them, like labor pains come on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. will not TAKE US by surprise. Just like what happened in Noah’s day. Who were taken? The wicked. Who were left behind? Noah and his family!
Many people in these churches take for granted that this is what the Bible teaches. They may be surprised to discover that no biblical text specifically and unambiguously mentions believers being removed before the final tribulation. That limitation may be why we have no clear record of any interpreter noticing the view in the Bible before 1830. The view was held by none of the church fathers, none of the Reformers such as Luther or Calvin, none of the leaders in various evangelical revival movements such as John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, or even heretic Charles Finney. I am reasonably certain that today the majority of evangelical biblical scholars (as well as virtually all other Christian biblical scholars) reject it.
Passages in the Bible do teach that Jesus will return, that he will gather his followers, and that he will bring justice by punishing those who chose evil rather than truth. Passages also promise a subsequent future of justice and peace. By showing that God values justice and peace, such passages also invite his followers to work for such values now. Some New Testament passages further share the ancient Jewish expectation of a period of end-time tribulation, although scholars debate what this means. (Many of us address these questions more fully in our Revelation commentaries; to remain concise, I simply summarize here.)
But no scripture passage that is interpreted correctly supports Christians being “raptured” before the tribulation. The Book of Revelation describes sufferings, many of which characterize much of the world we live in. But while Revelation depicts God protecting at least some of his people from his own judgment, it nowhere mentions Christians being removed. Revelation’s first full description of Jesus’s coming, as well as its first mention of what many construe as Christians’ resurrection (“the first resurrection”) appear toward the end of the book (Revelation 19:11-16; 20:4-5). Throughout Revelation’s middle section, God’s servants suffer on earth and, after death, worship in heaven.
To argue that a rapture precedes Revelation’s tribulation, some appeal to Revelation 4:1, where a voice invites John, “Come up here!” But this voice invites John’s vision, not the church’s rapture (compare 17:1; 21:9). More persuasively, some appeal to Jesus’s promise to some Christians in 3:10: “I will keep you from the hour of testing.” The wording, however, can mean “protect from while there” (as in John 17:15)–an understanding that better fits the rest of Revelation.
Many counter with 2 Thessalonians 2:3-7, where a restrainer is removed before the coming of the ultimate wicked ruler (what many call the “antichrist”). Readers propose a vast range of interpretations here, but one view that context prohibits is that the passage describes Christians’ “rapture.” The wicked ruler comes before Jesus’s coming to gather his people (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3(HCSB)Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him: We ask you, brothers, 2 not to be easily upset in mind or troubled, either by a spirit or by a message or by a letter as if from us, alleging that the Day of the Lord[a] has come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. For that day will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction., when Jesus will destroy that wicked ruler (2 Thessalonians 2:8(HCSB)8 and then the lawless one will be revealed. The Lord Jesus will destroy him with the breath of His mouth and will bring him to nothing with the brightness of His coming.. Further in the context, Jesus’s followers do not receive final exemption from sufferings until his public return to judge the world.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-10(HCSB)5 It is a clear evidence of God’s righteous judgment that you will be counted worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you also are suffering, 6 since it is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you 7 and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, 8 taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength 10 in that day when He comes to be glorified by His saints and to be admired by all those who have believed, because our testimony among you was believed.
Finally, some contend that Christians will escape God’s “wrath” (citing Paul in 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 5:9). But elsewhere in Paul’s letters deliverance from God’s wrath means that Jesus’s followers are forgiven because of him (Romans 5:9). It does not refer to escaping tribulation. Even when Revelation uses the Greek term that Paul uses here, it refers to final judgment, not a preceding tribulation. (Revelation may use a different Greek term for God’s anger during tribulation, but even that Greek term refers more often to the final judgment.)
I would challenge the view’s advocates to reread the Bible as honestly as possible with this question in mind: If you had never been taught either way, would you recognize a clear gathering of believers before a future tribulation, or would you identify that gathering with what happens at Jesus’s return after tribulation (e.g., Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:24-27)?