There is an interesting phenomenon that we all participate in. We occasionally like to go to our refrigerators, open the door and just gaze at the contents for a minute. Sometimes we grab something, but sometimes we just close it and walk away. What are we looking for? Why are we looking? It’s usually our way of seeing if there is anything new in there or anything that appeals to our appetite. It’s a funny behavior.
When it comes to the topic of “Eschatology,” the study of end time events, we tend to do the same thing. We open the Word of God, a book, a link, or a blog on the doctrinal stances that surround the return of Christ, looking for something new or appealing. Sometimes we find a helpful nugget of encouragement about the return of Christ, or sometimes we scan the same content and positions that we are familiar with and move on.
So, for those who have a degree of familiarity with end time doctrine, enjoy gazing in the fridge as I briefly summarize some of the main theological stances for those who may be unfamiliar or need a refresher.
The foundation of where you land on the coming of Christ depends heavily on your interpretation of Scripture in relation to the millennium. The word millennium means “one thousand years.” This is a large piece of our eschatology because as God is revealing the future to John the Apostle in the book of Revelation, John sees the devil bound for a thousand years (Rev. 20:2), he speaks about a resurrection of faithful saints who will reign with Christ for the thousand years (Rev. 20:4), and a final resurrection of the dead after the thousand years (Rev. 20:5). When is this thousand years to take place? Here is a brief summary of the three primary historical views on the millennium in the Christian faith:
- Amillennial View – There is not a literal thousand-year reign, and the language in Revelation 20 is symbolic. Those who will reign with Christ, as referred to in Revelation 20, are believers who have died and are currently reigning with Christ now in heaven while we currently live in the church age waiting for the second coming of Christ which will usher in all of the end time events at one time followed by our final state of eternity with Christ and His kingdom.
- Premillennial View – The millennium is a literal span of a thousand years and will take place following the great tribulation and the second coming of Christ. Upon Christ’s return, Jesus will personally and bodily reign on earth over His kingdom and it will be an era of peace and righteousness. Satan will be locked up for the thousand years and the believers that are raised from the dead will join the believers that are alive during Christ’s return and reign with Christ during the millennium. After the thousand years is up, Satan will be loosed from his captivity and will lead one last rebellion against Christ with many unbelievers who are alive at the end of the millennium but will be defeated. Jesus will then resurrect all unbelievers for the final judgment in which both believers and unbelievers will then enter their final eternal states.
- Postmillennial – The view that the millennium will be ushered in by the church through growth and evangelism during this church age. As more people are increasingly converted to Christ and as the righteousness and peace of God’s people becomes more prolific on earth, then Christ will return after the millennium to then resurrect all believers and unbelievers for the final judgment and their eternal states.
Jesus taught about a coming time of great tribulation, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be (Matt. 24:21 – ESV). He also said that this tribulation would come right before His second coming (Matt. 24:29-31). In the book of Daniel, the tribulation is prophesied to be seven years long (Dan. 9:24-27). So, when will this tribulation be and will the believers in Christ alive at the time go through it? There are three primary views related to this part of end time doctrine as well:
- Pre-tribulation view – Jesus will appear before the tribulation begins to “rapture” the church (1 Thess. 4:17) and spare believers from God’s wrath during the tribulation. His second coming will then take place following the Tribulation when Christ appears to establish His forever kingdom. Believers in Christ will not be present during the tribulation.
- Mid-tribulation view – This view takes the distinction in Daniel 9:27 between the first half of the seven-year tribulation and last half (great tribulation) and believes that Christ will “rapture” the church in the middle of the seven-year tribulation after the first three and a half years, when man’s wrath ends and the wrath of God begins. Then, following the tribulation, Christ’s second coming and kingdom will occur. Believers in Christ will be present for only part of the tribulation.
- Post-tribulation view – This view sees the rapture and the second coming as one simultaneous event following the seven-year tribulation. Believers will welcome Christ as their coming King, who comes and sets up His forever kingdom. Believers in Christ will go through the tribulation and need to prepare to endure suffering. In this view, believers will be present during the tribulation. The saints rise to meet the Lord in the air and accompany him back as the rightful King of the earth. This implies that the church will go through the tribulation on the earth.
So there you have it. Some of you are having a refrigerator moment. After reading this blog you will close the door dissatisfied because nothing new is in here, or you craved something that wasn’t present.
Please keep in mind these are simplified summaries of these primary views. There are numerous versions, combinations, and interpretations of end time events. For two thousand years credible, reliable, and biblical leaders have arrived at different views based on the interpretations of the same passages that they mutually see as God’s infallible and inerrant Word.
As you take these doctrines into consideration, and as a self-feeder, take on further study of them, keep in mind that we major on the major (Christ is coming back suddenly, literally, and bodily) and minor on the minors (when He returns, what events transpire pre or post His return). I encourage you to align with a view, but hold it loosely. We can’t be dogmatic or unloving to others for the sake of our favored positions. We must remember and live a great principle of our faith – In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.
With that being said, in my next post I will share where I personally lean and why. I may also share where a few of our other Cuyahoga Valley Church pastors lean as well.