Eschatology Considered



In my eschatology (the study of the End Times), I'm a premillennial dispensationalist. I believe in a return of Christ before the 1,000 year Millennium in which Christ will rule the earth from Jerusalem. I also believe in a pretribulation rapture of the Church, where Christ will meet us, His saints, in the air. We'll return to Heaven for 7 years for the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. During this 7 year Great Tribulation the Antichrist and the Beast will terrorize the earth and God will show His mighty wrath upon mankind. Jesus came the first time as a suffering servant, as the meek Lamb of God; He was sacrificed for our sins. But when Christ returns at His Second Coming it will be as the King of Kings, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He will utterly annihilate His enemies and destroy evil once and for all, including Satan and his demons, as well as reprobate mankind. We dispensationalists believe Scripture is best understood under a framework of roughly 7 dispensations in terms of how God deals with mankind. This is in opposition to covenant theology which asserts that God works primarily through covenants. I have a blessed hope that Christ will come for us and we'll be snatched away, in the twinkling of an eye, to be with Him forever. The dead in Christ will rise first and then we who are alive will also be raptured out of the world, before the Antichrist appears on the world stage. I believe the rapture is imminent and could happen at anytime with no events needing to  happen before it will occur.

After talking about what I believe positively let me say a few words about what I reject. I reject amillennialism which teaches there is no 1,000 year Millennium of Christ on earth. In my understanding amillennialism (which was popularized in the 5th century by Augustine in his book City of God) spiritualizes the text to a degree not supported by sound hermeneutics. It sees Biblical events and prophecies as primarily alleghorical/metaphorical/symbolic. It's true that are things in Scripture which have a spiritual component and are best interpreted as allegorical, however that is not the case when it pertains to eschatology. The second major eschatological position which I reject is postmillennialism. Postmillennialism teaches the return of Christ to earth will happen after the 1,000 year millennium. Further, most postmillennialists believe that the Church will be able to subdue evil in the world to a high degree and that once the world is properly Christianized Christ will return. Any student of history can see how evil has been multiplying since Christ ascended to Heaven, and how things are generally getting worse overall and not better. The carnage of the 20th century alone disproves the postmillennial positon, or at the very least makes it untenable. I also reject the eschatological position known as preterism. Preterism teaches that most events of Bible prophecy in books such as Daniel and Revelation were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in 69AD by General Titus. Many amillennialists and postmillennialists are partial preterists. They believe many prophetic events such as the Great Tribulation, the abomination of desolation in the temple, and the reign of the Antichrist and the Beast system were already fulfilled by 69AD. They still believe in Christ's Second Coming and some of them believe in a literal Millennium, although most of them do not believe in a pretribulational rapture of the Church. Full preterism is heresy since it denies Christ's Second Coming and the New Heavens and New Earth.


Further I should mention that there are several different schools of thought on the nature and timing of the Biblical events:
 

1. PRETERIST

This school regards the predictions as fulfilled during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, when the church was under the pressures of imperial persecutions.

According to Preterism, all prophecy in the Bible is really history. The preterist interpretation of Scripture regards the book of Revelation as a symbolic picture of first-century conflicts, not a description of what will occur in the end times. The term Preterism comes from the Latin praeter, meaning “past.” Thus, Preterism is the view that the biblical prophecies concerning the “end times” have already been fulfilled—in the past. Preterism is directly opposed to futurism, which sees the end-times prophecies as having a still-future fulfillment.

Preterism is divided into two types: full (or consistent) Preterism and partial Preterism. 

2. HISTORICIST

In historicism biblical prophecies are interpreted as representative of literal historical events. Historicism looks at the whole of Bible prophecy as a sweeping overview of church history, from Pentecost to the end times. This approach involves interpreting symbols or figures in the Bible as metaphors for actual events, nations, or persons of history. Historicism was especially popular during the Reformation, when it was used to suggest that the Catholic Church was part of the end-times apostasy, with the pope as the Antichrist.

Here are some examples of how historicism usually interprets events in Revelation: the seven churches in Rev. 2–3 are symbolic of seven ages of church history, starting with the apostolic church (the church of Ephesus) and ending with the modern-day, lukewarm church (the church of Laodicea). The seals in chapters 4—7 represent the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The “little scroll” given to John Rev. 10 is a picture of the Protestant Reformation.

The beasts of Rev. 12 and 13 represent Catholicism and the papacy. Other passages in Revelation are linked to the invasion of the Huns, the spread of Islam, and the rise of the modern missionary movement.

3. FUTURIST

This is my position. In this view, we believe most of the events of Biblical prophecy will occur in the future. The basic premise of the futurist viewpoint is that the majority of the prophecies in Revelation still await a future, literal fulfillment. This view of interpreting Revelation is very popular today, particularly among dispensationalists. It is the method used by the authors of the bestselling Left Behind series. Those who hold this view generally believe that everything after Rev. 3 will be fulfilled in the future.

The futurist viewpoint often divides Revelation into three sections, which are defined in Rev. 1:19. There, the apostle John is instructed to “write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.” Following this three-part outline, Rev. 1 contains John’s vision of the risen Christ and represents the past (“what you have seen”). Chapters 2 and 3, which contain the letters to the seven churches, describe the present (“what is now”). Finally, chapters 4–22 describe events in the future (“what will take place later”).

This school believes that the central block of predictions applies to the last few years leading up to the second coming. It is therefore still future to us today, hence the label. It concerns the climax of evil control in the world, which will be the ‘Great Tribulation’ for the people of God (Rev 7:14; also referred to by Jesus in Matt 24:12–22).

All the events will be compressed into quite a short time – three and a half years, to be exact (explicitly referred to as ‘a time, times and half a time’ or ‘forty-two months’ or ‘one thousand, two hundred and sixty days’; 11:2–3; 12:6 and 12:14, quoting Dan 12:7).

There are differing viewpoints concerning the end times among faithful, Bible-believing Christians. We believe that the futurist viewpoint of Revelation is the one that is most consistent with a literal interpretation of the Bible overall and the one that best acknowledges the book’s own claim to be prophecy (Rev. 22:710). Whichever view one takes, all Christians should be preparing themselves to meet Jesus Christ and be waiting for His return (John 14:3).

4. IDEALIST

This approach removes all specific time references and discourages correlation with particular events. Revelation pictures the ‘eternal’ struggle between good and evil and the ‘truths’ contained in its narratives can be applied to any century. The battle between God and Satan is ongoing, but the divine victory can be experienced by an ‘overcoming’ church at any time. The ‘essential message’ can be universally applied throughout time and space. The main and perhaps only merit of this view is that the message of the book becomes directly relevant to all who read it.

This, however, is to treat Revelation as ‘myth’. It is spiritually true, but not historically true. These are fictional events, but the stories contain truths – as in Aesop’s fables or Pilgrim’s Progress. The truths must be dug out of the narrative before being applied. The cost of this ‘demythologising’ process is to jettison a great deal of material, dismissing it as poetic licence which belongs to the package rather than the content.

Behind all this is the Greek philosophy which separated spiritual and physical, sacred and secular, eternity and time. God, they said, is timeless. So truth is timeless, though it is also therefore timely. But it is not in ‘the times’. Their notion of history as cyclical cut out the concept of the ‘end-time’, the idea that time would reach a climax or conclusion.

This has serious consequences for ‘eschatology’ (the study of ‘the last things’, from the Greek word eschatos = ‘end’ or ‘last’). Events like the second coming and the day of judgement are transferred from the future to the present, from then to now. Eschatology becomes ‘existential’ (i.e. concerned with the present moment of existence, or it is said to be ‘realised’ (as in ‘realising’ investments – having the money to spend now). Of course, radical changes have to be made to the ‘predictions’ to make them fit the present – usually by ‘spiritualising’ them (a ‘Platonic’ way of thinking).

Summary

There are four different answers to the question: what period of time does Revelation cover?    

The preterist replies: the first few centuries AD.    

The historicist replies: all the centuries AD from the first to the second advent.  

The futurist replies: the last years of the last century AD.      

The idealist replies: any century AD, none in particular.

 

All of these different eschatological positions are allowed in my Facebook Eschatology group except for full preterism! Partial preterism is allowed in my Eschatology group, although I strongly disagree with it. 

Further, I believe covenant theology is deficient, and dispensational theology makes a better fit of the Biblical data into a comprehensive system of interpretation using a grammatical-historical hermeneutic while employing contextual literalism (the interpretation is literal unless the context of the Scriptures clearly shows it is not meant to be literal). 

If you're looking to better understand the premillennial pretribulation rapture position I highly recommend the book "Things to Come" by J. Dwight Pentecost and "Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries)" by John Walvoord.



If you'd like to join my Eschatology (study of the End Times) Facebook group please click >>>here<<< to join!

 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

depression redux

The Immaculate Conception of Mary Debunked

"2012: Ice Age" (2011) - film review