Friday, March 21, 2008

The Two Main End-Times Views

Bryan asked a good question as a comment to my last post: Is anyone else a pre-mil (Pre-Millennialist) with him? To help you in deciding, here is my way too simplistic description to help you decide whether or not you are a Pre-Mil.


 

Read the first six verses of Revelation 20. It's a short read. Go ahead, I'll wait. J In this short section, it speaks of Jesus reigning 1,000 years on earth while Satan is bound. This earthly reign is after the Battle of Armageddon, and after Jesus arrives with His army and totally destroys the armies and leaders of the Anti-Christ (Revelation 19:11-:21). After this 1,000 year reign of Jesus and the saints, Satan is freed and deceives the nations of the saints, and gathers Gog and Magog in a second final battle, and Satan himself is defeated (Revelation 20:7-:10). Then the Great White Throne Judgment takes place of all the dead (Revelation 20:11-15). If You believe in the literal 1,000 reign between the defeat of Anti-Christ's armies and Satan's armies, You are likely a Pre-Millennialist.


 

If instead, You believe there are repeating cycles described the Book of Revelation (for example the 7 Seals (Revelation 6) is similar to the 7 Trumpets (Revelation 8-14), which is similar to the 7 Bowls (Revelation 16)), and You hold to the traditional view that believes the 1,000 year Millennium is not a literal period of time that will happen in the future, but is instead a description of the age of the Church Triumphant, then You may be an Amillennialist. Here is a little further description that I hope is helpful in understanding the difference between the two views:


 

    Jesus Christ plans on returning to set Creation back in order one day, even if there are serious divisions among Christians as to when this will take place. In studying the Book of Revelation, there are two main methods (each with different sub-groups) that theologians have used. There are intelligent and godly teachers in each camp who have different views in studying this Book. And so, my hope for you is that as you study and learn more about Jesus' Second Coming and the Book of Revelation, that you have an attitude of grace and humility for those who hold a different view than you. Phil 2:3. There are no trophies for whoever has the best understanding of Revelation at His return. The center-point of division over the interpretation of Revelation is focused on Revelation 20:1-:6, called the Millennium. The Millennium is commonly understood to be an ideal time with evil being defeated at the Battle of Armageddon, where Satan is bound, and the saints reign over the world with Jesus Christ.

    A. Pre-Millennialism.

    The first and today's most popular method used in studying Revelation is called Pre-Millennialism. Pre-Millennialists understand the Millennium to come after the three sets of Judgments of Revelation (the Scroll and Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls), and the Battle of Armageddon in Rev. 19:11-:21. In putting together a timeline of end-time events, Pre-Millennialists generally agree on the following sequence:

  1. A Secret Rapture of Believers from the Earth to go with Jesus;
  2. The Great Tribulation, 7 Years in length;
  3. Battle of Armageddon;
  4. Return of Christ with His Saints, The Second Coming;
  5. The 1,000 Year Millennium (Rev. 20:1-:6).

Such wonderful theologians/teachers holding the Pre-Millennial view include John MacArthur, C. I. Scofield, Chuck Swindoll; Hal Lindsay, Tim LaHaye, and John Hagee. Here are a few of the keys generally held in Pre-Millennial understanding:


 

  1. They hold to a sequential view of the Book of Revelation. Just as in the other books of the Bible, everything in the Book is to be understood as coming in the direct order and sequence that is contained in the Book;
  2. This means that the Revelation 20:1-:6 Millennium is a future event that is a 1,000 year earthly reign, that takes place before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and the coming of the New Jerusalem;
  3. Pre-Millennialists understand that there is seven years of Tribulation from Daniel 9:20-:27. This tends to match-up with the Tribulation period discussed in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:15-:28) and Rev. Chapters 6 through 16;
  4. Another area of dispute among Christians studying the end-times is when the Rapture of believers to heaven will take place. In the Pre-Millennial camp there are three major sub-groups. they are confusingly called: Pre-Trib (meaning the Rapture takes place before any Tribulation); Mid-Trib (Rapture takes place three and one-half years after the start of the Tribulation); and Post-Trib (local Pastor John Piper holds the Post-Trib view).

Yes, this means that you can be called Pre-Millennial, Pre-Trib; or Pre-Millennial, Mid Trib; etc. Yuck!

  1. To add to the confusion and exasperation caused by the use of excessively long nametags in eschatology, is that Pre-Millennialists also tend to follow the Biblical interpretational method of Dispensationalism. John Nelson Darby (of the Darby Bible fame) is the first to do a systematic articulation of Dispensationalism. This method understands that there a number of "dispensations" where God has different salvation epochs or eras for different groups. The clearest example is Israel being under the old covenant which was a dispensation of law, while New Testament believers are under the dispensation of Grace. The essence of Dispensationalism is the distinction between Israel and the Church. Newcombe, Jerry, Coming Again, But When? p. 33-34.
  2. Pre-Millennialists hold that God has not finished with the nation of Israel, and that one day, Israel will be restored. The motivating force for Israel's restoration is thought to be the Great Tribulation, also called "Jacob's Trouble" in Jeremiah 30:7, and that Israel will be "saved out of it". There is also an understanding that one day Israel will return to the practices under the Law, including the use of Old Testament sacrifices and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple. As such, the Church age is viewed as a "parenthesis" in the program of God and Israel;
  3. Pre-Millennialism tends to be pessimistic, viewing evil in the world as growing.


 

  1. Amillennialism.

The second major view in interpreting the Book of Revelation is Amillennialism, which literally means "no millennialism". It is a completely different view from Pre-Millennialism. Amillennialism is the traditional view of the Church, with both Roman Catholics and Protestant churches having held this view for over 1,400 years. Newcombe, Jerry, Coming Again, But When?, p. 33. At the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD the Church Council condemned as superstition the belief in a literal, future thousand-year reign on earth. S. Grenz, The Millennial Maze, p.44. The Amillennial view is not only held in the past by the major parts of the Christian Churches, but a similar view to Amillennialism was held by such wonderful Church Fathers as Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, as well as the current view of Amillennialism by current theologians such as G. C. Berkouwer, Kim Riddlebarger, (the late) D. James Kennedy, and J. I. Packer.

Amillennialism also has a similar, yet distinctive chronology, for the return of Jesus Christ.: After Jesus Christ's First Advent and His Ascension, the Church Age began. This was also understood as the beginning of the spiritual reign of Christ in the Millennium. As one writer describes Christ's Millennial reign: "…the kingdom of evil will continue to exist alongside of the kingdom of God until the end of the world…The so-called "signs of the times" have been present in the world from the time of Christ's first coming, but they will come to a more intensified, final manifestation just before His Second Coming. The Amillennialist therefore expects the bringing of the gospel to all nations and the conversion of the fullness of Israel to be completed before Christ's return. He also looks for an intensified form of tribulation and apostasy as well as for the appearance of a personal antichrist before the Second Coming." Sproul, The Last Days According to Jesus, p. 195, quoting Anthony Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, p. 174 (Eerdmans 1979).

Here are a number of the notable positions held by Amillennialists:

  1. The view understands Rev. 20:1-:6, the Millennium as being a time of spiritual reign by Christ. The Millennium is the time between the first and second advents of Christ, with the Church Militant and Triumphant (the concept coming from Saint Augustine, who was the first to make popular the understanding that the Millennium is between the first and second Advents of Christ) with the Church free to spread the Gospel. Satan is bound to prevent his deceiving of the nations (Rev. 20:3), and the Gospel is spread throughout the world. The period described as a 'Thousand Years' is a symbolic reference, not a literal time period;
  2. The Rapture takes place at the same time as the Resurrection. And there is only one Resurrection of believers and non-believers alike which happens altogether on the Last Day;
  3. There is a single Return Jesus Christ, visible to the entire world at His one and only Second Coming. Thus, the judgment of non-believers happens on the Last Day as well as the resurrection of believers. There is no separation of time in between Jesus returning for believers and non-believers;
  4. Things are getting better and worse simultaneously. Both the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness are growing simultaneously. Toward the end, evil's growth will accelerate.
  5. Replacement Theology. In the past, Amillennialists held the view that the Christian Church had replaced the nation of Israel, and that all of God's promises were now meant only for the Church. This has led to the charge that Amillennialists were anti-Semitic. Although, Replacement Theology is no longer part of mainstream Amillennialism, it is still used as a common attack against it by those in the Pre-Mil camp;
  6. Recapitulation. Amillennialists read the Book of Revelation as a series of recapitulations - Recapitulation means repetition with intentional progression. It is a strategy of describing the same events in different ways and with ever-increasing intensity. The triad of the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls in Revelation is an example of recapitulation, showing progressive intensification. R Lowery, Revelation's Rhapsody, Glossary of Terms. Another example is the Battle of Armageddon which is arguably described separately in at least four separate parts of Revelation: Rev. 13:7, Rev. 16:16, Rev. 19:11-:21, and Rev. 20:7-:10. This leads Amillennialists to understand Revelation properly read as repeating cycles, and so should not be read sequentially, as do Pre-Millennialists.


 

Whew! I know I've included a lot of information here. But please remember this is only intended as a basic summary with many parts left out, including the other sub-groups of each view. I hope it encourages you to want to study more on the subject. I have also left out discussing the view of Preterism (held by Hank Hanegraff and R. C. Sproul). Perhaps I'll discuss Preterism in a separate post. If anyone has any additions or corrections, or if you feel I have treated one of the views unfairly, please let me know. Thanks, and may God bless you with a greater appreciation of Jesus' sacrifice for your sin on the Cross this Good Friday.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tom,

Your question "Bryan asked a good question as a comment to my last post: Is anyone else a pre-mil (Pre-Millennialist) with him?" is a good one. Denise and I are currently studying Revelations. While the Bible doesn't use all of these theological terms, your descriptions were great. I appreciate all of the work you put into this. It certainly helped me. I wonder if generally only theologians understand these complicated terms, how are us lowly lay Christians ever going to understand the Bible? Obviously the answer is STUDY THE BIBLE and come to terms in your own understanding of what the Bible says. And certainly use what others have said to help you fill in the areas you don't understand.

Now the question at hand, am I a pre-mil. In short, the answer is yes. I am not through my study yet and there are areas that certainly need further study. I know that I do take the Bible at its "word" for what it is telling me. God has provided us with the Word, Jesus is the Word and the Word is truth.

Bill

Bryan & Meggan said...

Dad,

it is possible to be a covenantal premil, like Al Mohler is, and I believe John Piper is as well.

I actually currently lean (and really, it is only a slight lean because I have a lot to study on the topic) for a post-trib rapture. So, in the proper theological terminology, I am a premil. post-trib. dude.

The chief reason I am premil. is because I believe in the literal fulfillment of the prophecies made to/of ethnic Israel. The other aspects, at least for now, come along as baggage for me.

But, thankfully, in the end we will all find out together!

bry

Anonymous said...

Bryan,

I fully agree with you on the literal fulfillment of the prophecies made to/of ethnic Israel, and thusly as I understand it premil. As far as the rapture, I still maintain my pretrib status but could be convinced of midtrib. I don't agree on the posttrib position. When I read Revelations, I understand that Christians will be around for virtually all of the different judgments, however, I believe that these are converted folks that have not taken the mark.

Dad

Central Bible Chapel said...

One slight correction to your very helpful descriptions; I believe it is safe to say that most dispensationalists do NOT see God saving sinners in different ways in th differing dispensations, but rather deals with men in differing ways, each one more expressive than the last. Most dispensationalists see men saved the same way in every dispensation: by faith. "For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness." Rom 4:3

tom wolff said...

Thank you Central Bible Chapel for the correction. I will fix the description in any future handouts I have on this topic.

edward oleander said...

Still wanting to know what the stakes are in knowing which interpretation is correct... Is this all just a mental exercise which will help in learning how to interpret other, more immediately relevant Bible teachings, or is there an actual practical benefit to getting THIS particular thing right?
~E~

tom wolff said...

Hey Ed,

I am not ignoring you. But my computer is out, which makes my computer time more limited. There is an important aspect of how one interprets the Bible through one's end-time view. (Maybe I'll discuss this in a future blog post). But I think the most important item that is at stake in this debate is the following: what should Christians do to speed our Lord's coming back?

While that may seem lke a pretty bland question on its face, let me draw this out as follows: The traditional Christian attitude is that we should keep spreading the Good News and evagelize all people possible. Only when all people that are going to receive the Gospel have actually received it will Jesus return.

But I think there is the possibility of danger with the Pre-Mil position. (Remember the Pre-Mil position is best shown in the 'Left Behind' book series.) First, from my short time looking at this topic, it seems to me that Pre-Mils are more interested in seeing world events as part of the "signs of the times", than in preaching the Gospel. I have a specific example of this that I will not share here, but if anyone wants to call me, I will explain why I am saying this.

But here is one really large example of the danger that the Pre-Mils can cause from their end-time view: rebuilding the Jewish Temple. While most Amillennialists do not see the Jerusalem Temple as having any part of the end-times' required events, and so it is not an important topic to them. But for Pre-Mils, they see the rebuilding of the Temple as the next Big Thing that will take place on the end-times calendar.

The problem is that there is currently a Muslem Mosque on this site. So should Pre-Mil Christians do anything and everything possible to remove the Muslim Mosque, to help move things along? It is possible that Christians could do something very stupid here, that results in a lot of bloodshed and violence in the Holy Land. I do not agree that Christians should be involved in the Jerusalem Temple issue. And certainly they should not attack the Muslim Mosque that is on the old Jerusalem Temple site. But I'm not so sure that most Christians agree with me.

So that's my take on what is at stake in this discussion. I think it's an important one to talk about. I hope this answers your question.

edward oleandeer said...

Thank you, Tom! It wasn't as complete an answer as I had hoped, but combined with your latest post about what needs to happen for the 2nd coming, it did give me a good road map to figuring out most of my remaining questions there...

Your words there did give me something of an exciting (and at the same time alarming) Zen-like epiphany regarding how the context of Faith affects the questions I ask, and the answers you give. I think it was the idea of Christians actively seeking the return of Jesus. Not a new idea at all, of course; we have all heard of this concept for all our lives. But just the way you said that kind of jolted my mind into a new level of awareness. You have just justified every Zen master who ever lived, which is a compliment, even if it probably makes no sense to someone who isn't into Zen philosophy...

It will take some time to see where this new insight into the Christian mind leads, but already some questions arise which I'll work in over the next several blog entries...