Eschatology, the study of last things, has been very popular in
Christian circles especially during times of social upheaval and
change. Most recently, for instance, eschatological topics were
common during the late 1960's and early 1970's; as we face the
end of a millenium, interest has once again peaked.
Hal Lindsey wrote a series of books that sold very well, his first being the most popular and most well known: The Late Great Planet Earth. Unfortunately, though popular, eschatology, more than any other area of theology, has been victimized by more trash and misinformation, shoddy hermeneutic, and special pleading than any other area of biblical study. The biggest danger has been for Christians to force Revelation and other apocalyptic literature to match current events. Thus, during World War II, Mussolini was "obviously" the Antichrist, and more recently, Henry Kissinger garnered the same accolade. And of course in the more fundamentalist circles, the Pope has always been a popular choice for Antichristhood, particularly if he happens to be well-liked.
What all Christians know for certain is that Jesus is going to come back to Earth someday. For instance, Acts 1:9-11 records:
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."
However, beyond this one point of agreement, there is nothing
but disagreement in Christian circles. Is Jesus going to come
back and usher in a time of prosperity and peace called the millennium?
Or is it the job of Christians to lead the world into a time of
peace and prosperity, after which Jesus will come again? Is there
going to be a tribulation of seven years or three years or who
knows how many years, or is that time of trouble better understood
as simply symbolic of the sufferings the church experiences at
all times? If there really is a tribulation period, does Jesus
come before it begins, in the middle, or at the end? Is the rapture
for everyone, or only for the "spiritual" Christians?
The questions go on and on, and whole books have been written
about them, from every imaginable viewpoint. The wise person might
better hold a wait and see attitude, taking comfort in the simple
knowledge that it will all work out in the end, with God and the
good guys winning.
As we begin looking at this topic, I want to examine one famous eschatological passage in Daniel and point out the difficulties faced in interpreting it, one possible explanation for what it is all about, and then the implications that derive from that explanation. It should serve as a good example of the difficulties interpreters face in this area of study. The student should beware of glib, "we know it all", answers regarding the future. We can know what the Bible says about the future, but understanding it and figuring out the meaning are something entirely different. Calvin, in writing about Revelation, called it the "darkest book". I see no reason to optimistically challenge his assessment.
Daniel 9:24-27 (my translation)
Seventy sevens are decreed for your people and your city:
to finish transgression,
to put an end to sin,
to atone for wickedness,
to bring in everlasting righteousness,
to anoint the most holy.
[General introductory statement: remember Hebrew style: topic statement, followed by expansion (i.e. newspaper style; expanded parallelism)]
[c. 445 BC] Know and understand:
from the issuing of a word to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, until an anointed one, a leader, comes
there will be seven sevens
[i.e. 49 years = c. 398 BC].
Then, during sixty-two sevens she will be rebuilt with streets and trench - but in times of trouble.
["streets and trench" is an idiom meaning "both inside and out". Trench = moat around the wall, or cut, to make the walls higher]
[c. 38 AD]
After sixty-two sevens [ i.e. 434 years], an anointed one will be cut down, and have nothing.
[notice "AN anointed one", not "THE" anointed one. Therefore this is a different person than vs. 25, though the context makes that clear enough, anyhow]
The people of the leader who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary
[Messiah is cut off; this is followed by a coming leader who destroys Jerusalem].
The end will come like a flood.
War will continue until the end;
desolations have been decreed.
[c. 66-70 AD]
A covenant will be forced with many for one seven, but in the middle of that seven, sacrifice and offering will be stopped. And the one who causes desolation will place abomination on a wing until the end that is decreed is poured out.
c. 445 BC
Artaxerxes I -- 7 sevens (49 years)
c. 398 BC
Ezra comes to Jerusalem -- 62 sevens (434 years)
c. 36 AD
Messiah cut off
c. 66-73 AD
Jewish war -- 1 seven (7 years)
An interesting and important point to note about this passage in Daniel was described by Lehman Strauss:
As early as 400 AD, Jerome discovered so many different interpretations offered by so many teachers that he wrote, 'Because it is unsafe to pass judgment upon the opinions of the great teachers of the Church, and to set one above another, I shall simply repeat the view of each and leave it to the reader's judgment as to whose explanation ought to be followed.' At the start of the fifth century, Jerome was already acquainted with nine interpretations.
The Jewish Revolt, AD 66-73
A few decades after the time of Christ, the Jews combined in revolt,
expelled the Romans from Jerusalem, and in the Pass of Beth Horon
overwhelmed a Roman Punitive force under Gallus, the imperial
legate in Syria (Autumn, AD 66). The Jews then established a revolutionary
government in Jerusalem that extended its influence throughout
the whole country.
Almost at once, the Roman emperor Nero sent Vespasian to crush the rebellion. He was joined by Titus, and together the Roman armies entered Galilee, where the historian Josephus headed the Jewish forces. Josephus' army was confronted by that of Vespasian and fled. After the fall of the fortress of Jatapata, Josephus gave himself up, and the Roman forces swept the country. On the 10th of the month of Av (Aug. 29) AD 70, Jerusalem fell; the temple was burned, and the Jewish state collapsed. AD 73 the revolt came to an unfortunate end at Massada, where the last rebels committed suicide rather than fall into Roman hands.
In light of this history, consider what Jesus said in Luke 21:5-28, noticing especially verses 20-28:
"When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars.
On the Earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."
The parallel passages in Mark 13 and Matthew 24 record the same
words of Christ, but are condensed, creating the impression that
the signs in the heavens and the coming of Jesus occur immediately
following the destruction of Jerusalem. Hence, the common interpretation
that there is a tribulation of seven years yet to come - and that
Daniel speaks of something beyond the Jewish Revolt (seven years
long) of AD 66-73. However, the passage in Luke should stand as
a firm corrective to this misimpression, since it explicitly positions
an indefinite span of years (the times of the Gentiles) from the
destruction of Jerusalem to the coming of Christ.
The conclusion would seem to be that Daniel 9 has already been fulfilled, and has little if any light to shed on the tribulation or Antichrist.
The point, therefore: don't believe that Hal Lindsey and others have the last word on the future. They aren't prophets; many, many other possible explanations and interpretations remain valid hypotheses. Generally, we lack sufficient data to arrive at final answers. Just take comfort in what is certain: God will win.
It looks like Daniel 9:24-27 has nothing to do with the end of
the world, and I would therefore suggest that it has nothing to
say regarding "the Great Tribulation" as popularized
by Hal Lindsey and as widely accepted in evangelical Christianity.
The implications of such an interpretation are incredible: the
repercussions rumble across eschatology like an invading army
or a shockwave, because if Daniel 9 hasn't anything to do with
any period past the destruction of the Jewish state c. AD 66-73,
then it is hard to see how traditional evangelical teaching regarding
a seven year tribulation can be maintained at all - which then
Frankly, there is no evidence that such a specific period of time called "the Tribulation" exists prophetically. In the NIV, the term itself appears only in Revelation 7:14:
I answered, "Sir, you know."
And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
The context doesn't preclude understanding this passage as a reference
to the Christians of all ages, with "tribulation" as
a description of the difficulties of life on Earth. Those places
where the Greek term might refer to a specific troubling era in
Matthew 24:21 and 29 and Mark 13:24 - particularly when compared
with the parallel passage in Luke 21:5-36 - do not seem to refer
to the end of time, but rather to the difficulties faced when
Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans (see Daniel again).
All the other occurrences of the term seem to refer to the general troubles Christians will face in this present age. Notice John 16:33 for example:
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble [tribulation]. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
See also Mat. 13:21; Acts 14:22; Romans 2:9, 3:13, 5:3, 8:35,
12:12; 2 Cor. 1:4, 7:4; 2 Thes. 1:4, 6; Rev. 1:9, 2:9, 10, 22.
Obviously then, if there is no "Great Tribulation" the question of when the rapture comes, whether it is Pretribulation or Postribulation becomes somewhat nonsensical, except to say that obviously the rapture will occur at the end of this current age, and in that sense then, after the tribulation.
All this raises several questions about the interpretation of the book of Revelation, since the majority of that book is believed to happen during the "Great Tribulation" - a period I've just relegated to the Twilight Zone. So when do the judgments described in Revelation occur and what are they? Should we understand these things to refer to the whole history of Christianity, from the time of the seven churches to the eternal kingdom, or does it focus just on the time right before the end of history? Or are we missing it altogether?
My personal preference is to view Revelation as principally a description and prediction of the end of Roman domination, with the ultimate triumph of God and Christ as the Christian's hope in this present age of suffering.
I want to stress that Revelation is not a wholly chronological book; note especially the celestial happenings and the "end of the world" descriptions. They seem to indicate more of a thematic arrangement perhaps; alternately, the apparently contradictory nature of these events may indicate they do not describe the same time period at all; gaps, perhaps large, need to be recognized between the outlined events:
I. Celestial Happenings:
6:12-14 (6th seal): The stars fall, the sun turns black, and the moon turns to blood; then the sky rolls up like a scroll.
8:12 (4th trumpet): A third of the sun, moon and stars are struck dark (with a third of the day and night).
16:8: (4th bowl): The sun scorches the people of the world.
II. End of the World Scenes:
Rev. 18: Lament over the fall of Babylon, i.e. Rome.
Rev. 19:17-21: Battle at the end of time, with the beast again.
Such odd structuring should not amaze us if we remember the nature of Semitic structuring techniques. An insistence on thinking the book was authored by a Greek would be a serious error. It was written by a Jew - specifically the apostle John whose Semitic structuring is very evident in his other NT writings (notice especially 1 John).
The term "antichrist" is used only by the apostle John in his letters: 1 John 2:18-19, 22, 4:3; and 2 John 7. In all these places, it is used of those who reject Christ, not of a specific eschatological figure, though the fact that there are "antichrists" - notice the plural - is viewed as a sign of the last times.
The beasts of Rev. 13 (cf. Daniel 7:7-8, 23-28) seem most likely to refer to nations or empires, not individuals. The beast would seem to be a symbol of Rome at the time of the fall of Jerusalem and thereafter. The second beast, the beast of the Earth with two horns, I would interpret as a symbol of the divided empire (East and West) which endured from 395 to 476 (about 1200 years from the traditional founding of Rome in 753 BC).
The harlot comes riding a beast (the empire) According to Rev. 17:18, the harlot is a city on seven hills, therefore most likely the city Rome.
An Overview of Interpretative Approaches
There are four main approaches that Christians have taken to the book of Revelation. Most Christians today seem to be aware of only one of them, the Futurist, as popularized by Hal Lindsay and others with a similar perspective. It needs to be understood that other possibilities exist. Moreover, how to understand the millenium is another area that has divided Christian opinion. All the possible views are going to be presented in the following pages; it should be understood at the outset, however, that the author of this work is himself a premillenialist and holds an essentially pretereist interpretation of the book of Revelation.
Also called the spiritualist view. Those with this perspective
would argue that the whole book must be interpreted "spiritually".
Accordingly, Revelation represents the eternal conflict between
good and evil which persists in every age. The symbols John employs
have no immediate historic connection with any definite social
or political events.
Richard Calkins in The Social Message of the Book of Revelation wrote:
If we understand the emergency which caused the book to be written, the interpretation of it for its time, for our time, and for all time, it becomes clear as daylight. In the light of this explanation, how far from the truth becomes that use of it which finds the chief meaning of the book in the hints it gives us about the wind-up of creation, the end of the world, and the nature of the Last Judgment....To use Revelation in this way is to abuse it, for the book itself makes no claim to be a key to the future.
Calkins summarizes the book in five general propositions:
1. It is an irresistible summons to heroic living.
2. The book contains matchless appeals to endurance.
3. It tells us that evil is marked for overthrow in the end.
4. It gives us a new and wonderful picture of Christ.
5. It reveals that history is in the mind of God and in the hand of Christ as the author and reviewer of the moral destinies of men.
To all these propositions almost any interpreter, no matter which school of thought he holds to, would have to agree. Those who belong to one of the other opinions would, however, argue that there is more to the book than what the spiritualist sees.
The historicist view is also called "the continuous historical
view". It argues that Revelation is a symbolic presentation
of the entire course of the history of the church from the close
of the first century to the end of time. The argument for the
view is founded on the fact that two termini are mentioned: the
day in which John the seer lived, and the ultimate day of God's
victory and the establishment of the Holy City. No point between
them can be identified with certainty as making a break in the
sequence. Therefore, historicists argue, the process must be continuous.
By this interpretation the various series of the churches, the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls are made to represent particular events in the history of the world that are related to the history of the church. For example, Eliot, in his Horae Apocalypticae holds that the trumpets (8:6-9:21) cover the period from AD 395 to AD 1453, beginning with the attacks on the Western Roman empire by the Goths and concluding with the fall of the Eastern Empire to the Turks.
The first trumpet: the invasion of the Goths under Alaric, who sacked Rome (410).
The second trumpet: the invasion under Genseric (Gal Seric 400?-477), who conquered North Africa (429). (But he also sacked Rome in 455).
The third trumpet: the raid of the Huns under Attila, who devastated central Europe (ruled from 434-453, when he died)
The fourth trumpet: the collapse of the empire under the conquest of Odovacar (Odoacer) in 476.
The fifth trumpet: the locusts were the Moslem hordes that poured into the west between the sixth and eighth centuries
The sixth trumpet: the growth and spread of the Turkish power was represented by the four angels bound at the Euphrates (9:14)
Although many of the advocates of this view agree among themselves
about the method, there is no general agreement about the details.
Many of the interpretations have been strained to preserve the
proper sequence of the events they are supposed to foreshadow.
Elliott, for instance, argues that the hail and fire of Rev. 8:7 must refer to the Goths because hail comes from the north, as did the Goths.
The historicist is constantly confronted with the dilemma of a far-fetched spiritualization in order to maintain the chain of historical events, or else if he makes the events literal in accordance with the language of the text he is compelled to acknowledge that no comparable events in history ever happened.
There has been some general agreement, however:
1. In the various judgments and woes are seen the rise and fall of nations and the persecutions and warfare of the church.
2. The beast is generally identified with Rome (political and ecclesiastical).
3. The harlot Babylon is identified with the apostate church.
Objections to the Historicist Position:
1. Exact identification of the events of history with successive
symbols has never been finally achieved, even after the events
occurred. That is, if some of the prophesy has been fulfilled,
one would think it could have been clearly identified by now.
2. Historical interpreters have not satisfactorily explained why a general prophesy should be confined to the fortunes of the western Roman empire. The historical interpretation stresses chiefly the development of the church in western Europe; it takes little notice of the East. Yet in the first few centuries of the Christian era, the church increased tremendously in the East, and spread as far as India and China, though it did not gain a permanent foothold in all sections of those countries. If a continuous-historical method is to be followed, one would expect a broader scope.
3. If the continuous-historical method is valid, its predictions would have been sufficiently plain at the outset to give the reader some inkling of what they meant. If the fire and hail of the first trumpet (8:7) really did refer to the Goths, it is hard to see how any first-century Christians would have understood the prediction in such a way as to give it any value for his thinking.
It may be conceded that sometimes the most obvious interpretation of a passage is not the correct one. The prophets did not always comprehend what the Spirit gave them. Daniel was told that the words were "shut up and sealed till the time of the end." (12:9). On the other hand, the seer of Revelation was commanded not to seal the words of the prophesy, because the time was at hand (1:1, 22:10)
The Futurist generally believes that all the visions from Revelation
4:1 to the end of the book are yet to be fulfilled in the period
immediately preceding and following the second advent of Christ.
This viewpoint originates from a comparison of Rev. 1:1, 19 and 4:1. Rev. 1:1 states that the book as a whole is concerned with "the things which must shortly come to pass" and which are thus identified as belonging to the future as far as the seer is concerned. Rev. 1:19 contains a threefold (or twofold) command:
"Write therefore the things which you saw, and the things that are, and the things that shall come to pass hereafter." (3 fold)
Or: "the things that you saw, both the things which are, and the things that shall come to pass hereafter." (2 fold)
In either case, the visions are divided into two general sections:
one, the things that fall within the lifetime of the prophet,
and the things that were future to him.
4:1 seems to identify the visions from that point on as being "future": "come up here and I will show you the things that must come to pass hereafter." Therefore the events of 4:1 through 22:5 are all future. Of course, everything past the day when John wrote was future, and so these things might still be past for us.
Many futurists believe Revelation 4:1-22:5 begins with the removal of the church from the world as described in 1 Corinthians 15:52-54 and 1 Thess. 4:13-18. Some even argue that the summons of the prophet to "come up" is a counterpart to the removal of the church in the rapture.
Most futurists interpret 1:9-3:22 the way historicists do the rest of the book of Revelation: that is, they see in the seven churches seven periods in the history of the church.
1. Ephesus: apostolic church
2. Smyrna: the martyr church
3. Pergamum: the worldly church
4. Thyatira: the apostate church
5. Sardis: the church of the Reformation
6. Philadelphia: the live church
7. Laodicea: the lukewarm church
Objections to the Futurist Position:
Although certain broad parallels with the successive epochs
of church history may be drawn, the letters to the seven churches
to not call for such an alignment of periods, but seem to depict
naturally seven contemporaneous churches of Asia Minor whose internal
affairs were singularly well known to the prophet.
Their significance did not end at the end of the apostolic age, and they are seven different types of churches that may be found in any period of the world's history since Pentecost.
If they are understood as trends that divide the church age horizontally rather than as eras that divide it vertically, fewer difficulties will be encountered in interpreting them.
The preterist view argues that Revelation is a picture of the
Roman Empire in the first century. Tenny wrote that the author
of Revelation "saw the empire as a gigantic machine, the
opponent of the gospel in the social, political, and religious
realms, and bent on stamping out the Christian movement. In the
apocalyptic symbols of this book he voiced his protest against
the whole system of evil, and his hope of ultimate victory."
(cf. Dan. 12:9 and Rev. 1:1, 22:10).
The first systematic presentation of the Preterist point of view came with Alcazar in the 1600's. He was a Jesuit friar who had an ax to grind. The Protestant Reformation had identified "Babylon" with the Roman Catholic Church and had succeeded in making the book of Revelation a powerful weapon against Catholicism.
Alcazar responded by pointing out that Revelation could be split into two parts, chapters 1-12 and chapters 13-19. He said that 1-12 concerned the church's conflict against Judaism and 13-19 concerned its conflict with paganism.
In modern times, the Preterist interpretation has become dominant. It stresses the historical background of Revelation, arguing that it was a document for its times, and that its focus and emphasis is on the conflicts and problems the church experienced in the first few decades of its existence, offering hope to a persecuted church that its persecutors would be destroyed, and that God's victory was assured.
Tenny writes, "The preterist position acts also as a sane balance for those who might make the Revelation a vehicle for all kinds of wild schemes concerning the future. It establishes the continuity of Scripture and ties the voice of revelation to the living church."
Another point that should be made is that the Preterist viewpoint seems more consistent with the interpretive approaches to the other books of the Bible, prophesy or not. That is, the prophesies of Isaiah, for instance, for the most part are dealing with issues and problems that are immediate, not at some unforeseeable and unapproachably distant future.
"For the preterist view one may say that the book of Revelation begins with "the things which are" (1:19). The seer was writing for the immediate use of his own generation, represented in seven actual churches of Asia whose locations and characteristics are adequately described by the text. There can be no doubt that this book is rooted in a concrete historical situation. The island of Patmos, the cities where the churches were located, the commerce, corruption, and power of Rome, the "kings of the east" beyond the mysterious border of the Euphrates (16:12), the use of a seal to enforce economic sanctions (13:16-17), governmental insistence on united worship of the head of the state (13:12) were all common in Domitians's day. Insofar as he contends that contemporary conditions illustrate the Apocalypse and give it a field of immediate application the preterist is right."
Objections to the Preterist Position:
The terminal limitation of the prophesies is problematic. It seems obvious that the judgments have not been fulfilled, Christ has not returned, and the Kingdom of God has not been established; therefore, the book of Revelation cannot be dealing entirely with things that are past tense for us today.
It is a theological position which affirms the second coming of Christ comes after the millennial period. In that sense, therefore, it is postmillenial. The term "amillennialism" means "no millennium" and therefore it is something of a misnomer. Amillennialists do believe in a millennium, though not in a literal one: rather they believe it is spiritual and heavenly.
1. Spiritualization of Scripture
2. OT promises to Israel are fulfilled in the church.
3. The millennium, which is found nowhere else in the Bible but Revelation 20, should be interpreted spiritually. After all, the book of Revelation is a book of signs and symbols throughout.
Nature of the Millennium and its Relation to World History
The millennium is a figurative expression of the complete present period from the resurrection of Christ to his second coming. During this time, Jesus is reigning on his throne in a spiritual kingdom with the disembodied spirits in heaven:
Acts. 2:30, 34
The souls of Rev. 20:4 are interpreted to mean the disembodied
spirits of people in heaven. Amillennialists argue that 100 out
of 105 times the word "souls" refers to disembodied
They interpret the first resurrection in Rev. 20 as the new birth of the believer. The believer, in accepting Christ begins to reign with him on Earth in a spiritual sense; this concept seems consistent with the following:
1 Thes. 2:12
Rev. 1:6, 9
At death, Amillennialists argue, a believer continues to reign with Christ during this present age as a disembodied spirit in heaven:
1. Nature of the Kingdom:
The kingdom is spiritual and heavenly, not political and Earthly;
a. Repentance and new birth are necessary for entrance into the new kingdom
John 3:3, 5
b. Forgiveness, meekness, humility, unselfishness, and so on characterize the kingdom (Mat. 5-7, Sermon on the Mount)
c. Christ's kingdom is in heaven, not Earthly Jerusalem.
John 18:36 - not of this world
John 6:15 - refused to become king
Mat. 22:21 - not interested in overthrowing Roman rule
d. Kingdom prophesies of the OT given to Israel are fulfilled in the Church as the true Israel, since national birth for an Israelite does not guarantee spiritual blessings.
2. Establishment of the Kingdom
The kingdom began at Christ's first coming, since Christ said that the kingdom was already present in his time
The kingdom is present and universal, established in the heart of believers
a. Jesus and John the Baptist announced the kingdom is "at hand"
b. Jesus announced a world-wide kingdom
John 1:19-4:45; see 3:16
c. The kingdom is to the gentiles as well as the Jews Mat. 4:15-17 Luk 2:30-32
3. Growth and final form of the kingdom
Amillennialists interpret the parable of the wheat and the weeds
as describing the condition of the kingdom in the world during
the present age. Good and evil, represented by the wheat and tares,
will grow together until the judgment. The tares are the unbelieving
children of the devil; the wheat is the invisible believing church,
or members of his spiritual kingdom. Evil will grow progressively
worse, violating and persecuting the good. At the end of this
present age evil will climax in a super political, economic, and
religious force under Antichrist who will persecute and kill great
numbers of believers in a time of great tribulation.
At the second coming of Christ, the wicked will be gathered "out of the kingdom". Then "shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father," that is, in the eternal kingdom of God (Mat. 13:14)
Relation of the Millennium to the binding of Satan
Since the millennium of Rev. 20 describes the present period between the first and second comings, it follows that Satan is bound. Again, this seems supported by the following:
Christ bound Satan by:
1. resisting him in the wilderness
2. paying the penalty to redeem humanity
3. destroying the power of death in his resurrection
4. offering salvation to the Gentiles, making it impossible for Satan to deceive the nations anymore. (Rev. 20:3)
Although it is possible for Stan to deceive individuals, he no longer can deceive nations. (1 Peter 5:8)
Relation of the Millennium to the Jews
Amillennialists affirm that the Jews have been promised no future Earthly kingdom. The will be saved only within the Church during this present age, or they will be saved when Christ returns and they look on Him whom they have pierced.
Relation of the Millennium to the Great Tribulation
Immediately preceding the second coming of Christ, Satan will be loosed for a little while to deceive the nations again. He will cause the preaching of the Gospel to stop, and will persuade the nations to believe a lie. He will gather the nations under Antichrist to war against the saints. When Satan and his hosts arrive almost at the point of victory in the battle of Armageddon, Christ will come the second time to judge the both the Earth and Satan, destroying the Antichrist at his appearance (Rev. 20:7-9, cf. Rev. 19:11-18, 16:18).
Relation of the Millennium to the Second Coming, Resurrection, Judgment, and Final Consummation
Amillennialists hold that at the close of the thousand years of Rev. 20, Christ will return to Earth. At that time, there will be a general resurrection of all the dead.
The living saints will be transfirgured in the air, meeting Jesus in the Rapture:
1 Thess. 4:13-17
After the rapture Christ and his Church either return to Earth or remain in Heaven for the judgment of the great white throne. The wicked will be judged and consigned to everlasting punishment.
Mat. 25:34, 41, 46
The old Heaven and old Earth will pass away and the eternal kingdom of God will be established in a new Heaven and a new Earth, which will be characterized by righteousness and God will be all in all:
1 Cor. 15:24-28
Amillennial Interpretation of Rev. 20
Amillennialists assert that this passage describes the souls of the saints in heaven between the first and second coming of Christ. The "first resurrection" is the new birth of the believer. The other resurrection is the general bodily resurrection of Christ's return. Believers begin to reign with Christ at the time of their regeneration in a spiritual sense.
1 Thes. 2:12
Believers continue to reign with Christ at their death as disembodied spirits in heaven.
Postmillennialists affirm that the second coming of Christ is after the millennial period. Boettner wrote that:
"Postmillennialism is that view of the last things which holds that the kingdom of god is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the Gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually will be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the millennium....It should be added that on postmillennial principles, the Second Coming of Christ will be followed immediately by the general resurrection, the general judgment, and the introduction of heaven and hell in their fullness."
Method of Interpretation
1. Figurative language is used in Scripture
2. OT prophecies are spiritually fulfilled in the NT
Gal. 3:29 (Where the gentiles of Galatia have become the spiritual, not the literal physical descendants of Israel)
3. Scripture itself contains allegories
Nature of the Millennium and its relation to World History
The millennium is a literal period of a thousand years of peace and righteousness in this age preceding the second coming of Christ. The Millennium period is characterized by:
1. Universal Peace and Righteousness
2. Universal preaching and reception of the Gospel
3. An unusual realization of the kingdom of God
a. Nature of the kingdom
Postmillennialists believe the kingdom of God is a state of society in which the will of God is done in the hearts of "born again" believers. This kingdom is spiritual since Christ himself said that his kingdom is not of this world or his servants would fight for it. (John 18:36) and that the condition of entrance is the new birth (John 3:3, 5; Mat. 18:3; Col. 1:13-14). The kingdom of God is a state of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). No distinction is made between the kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, kingdom of Christ and the body of Christ. They all refer to the same rule of Christ in the hearts of believers.
b. Establishment of the Kingdom
Postmillennialists believe that the kingdom of God has been in existence from the beginning of the world. Christ came to reveal it more clearly and to extend it throughout the world.
c. Growth of the kingdom
The kingdom is extended by the preaching of the gospel, by the use of the church's ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper, and by other agencies of the organized church which are energized by the Holy Spirit.
The growth of the kingdom will be mixed, as illustrated by the
parable of the wheat and the tares (Mat. 13:24-30)
It will be extensive as illustrated by the parables of the leaven and the mustard seed (Mat. 13:31-33). It will be long and slow (Mat. 25:19; 2 Pet. 3:8, 9). It will be attended with great crises, yet these will never break the principle of continuity (John 16:33)
d. The final form of the kingdom
Postmillenialists affirm that this growth will continue until the world is practically Christianized. Evil will not be wholly eradicated from the world even at the height of this period, nor will the world under the preaching of the gospel be converted down to the very last man, but the world will become a great field of good grain, though mingled with some tares of evil. At the very end of this period there will be a reactionary outbreak of wickedness known as the period of the Great Tribulation.
Relation of the Millennium to the Binding of Satan
During this millennial period of gospel prevalence, Satan will be bound. The binding of Satan has already taken place in the measure that the Gospel influence has spread throughout the world. The initial binding of Satan was announced by Jesus.
John 16:8, 11
The binding of Satan will be realized in its most complete sense during the millennium (Rev. 20:2-3)
Relation of the Millennium to the Jews.
Postmillennialists believe the Jews will be converted either at the beginning or sometime during the thousand years:
There will be no national regathering of Israel to Palestine in literal fulfillment of OT prophecies. Their return is merely an accident of history. Christ's kingdom, being spiritual, is not confined to the Jew alone. Converted Gentiles are also to be "sons of the kingdom."
The body of Christ is one, consisting of both Jew and Gentile:
John 17:2, 20, 22
Israel as a nation has no future history; only the Israel of God which is one and the same as the Church has something to look forward to:
Relation of the Millennium to the Great Tribulation
At the end of this millennial period and just before the second coming of Christ, Satan will be loosed for a little season. There will be a brief period of apostasy and violent conflict between the kingdoms of light and darkness.
Mat 24:14, 21
1 Tim 4:1-3
Postmillennialists believe that Christ will return at the close of this millennial period after a brief period of tribulation. At his coming there will be a general resurrection. The whole Church of God will be "made alive" at once, their "mortality being swallowed up of life."
1 Cor. 15:22-24
Christ will also deliver up the kingdom to the Father, and the "righteous ones will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father (Mat. 13:43; cf. Dan. 12). The wicked will also be resurrected and will be judged together with the righteous at the second coming.
Mat. 25:31-32; cf. Rev. 20:11-15
The present Earth and Heaven will be dissolved by fire giving way to a new Heaven and a new Earth which will be characterized by righteousness unmixed with any evil.
2 Pet. 3:10
Postmillennial Interpretation of Rev. 20:1-6
This is exclusively a martyr scene. John had seen the souls of
the martyrs under the altar in Rev. 6. Now he sees them on thrones
reigning with Christ during the millennial period. Earlier they
had been told to wait until all would be avenged and judged (Rev.
6). Now they are present at the time of the great judgment.
Postmillennialists affirm that a literal interpretation of Rev. 20:1-6 would exclude all the righteous from the great white throne judgment. This, they say, cannot be since "the book of life" is opened at the great white throne judgment. The first resurrection, therefore, is spiritual in nature; it is the regeneration of the soul into eternal life.
Eph. 2:1, 5, 6
The second resurrection is of the body. This is the general resurrection in which all the dead participate. It happens immediately before the great white throne judgment.
Reconstructionism is essentially identical with Postmillennialism; it is, in some ways a new incarnation of the older theology, with perhaps a heavier emphasis on political involvement for the purpose of "Christianizing" the world, mixed with the thought that if society becomes "better" it will be easier to evangelize the lost. Therefore, for true evangelism to occur, the institutions and structures of society must be cleansed and reconciled to God. The religious right would seem to be dominated by this theological position.
The second coming precedes the establishment on Earth of a glorious kingdom of peace and righteousness that will endure a thousand years. Jesus will personally reign from Jerusalem with his saints.
Method of interpretation
They claim to be strictly literalistic, holding to the grammatical-historical interpretation, though there are convenient exceptions to this rule. (seventy weeks of Daniel, Beast, Whore of Babylon, etc.)
Nature of the Millennium, Final Form of the Kingdom, and Its Relation to World History
Premillennialists believe the thousand years are the duration of a personal reign of Christ from Jerusalem over the nations of the world immediately following his second coming. The prophesies of the OT and NT concerning the Messianic Kingdom are interpreted as finding their fulfillment in this future millennial kingdom.
1. Nature of this Messianic Kingdom
a. A universal Theocracy
Christ himself shall rule as king over all the nations of the Earth, with Jerusalem rebuilt, enlarged, and adorned as the capital. The prophesy given to David that his kingdom would be established forever is interpreted as referring to Christ's kingdom, since Christ is in the line of David.
2 Sam. 7:16
cf. 110:1,2; Isa. 55:3-5; Act. 2:29-31
b. An era of universal peace and righteousness to all nations
c. Restoration of all nature.
d. Christianity will be the universal religion and the only religion
2. Establishment, growth, and final form of the kingdom
Premillennialists believe that since the OT prophesies are not yet fulfilled, their literal fulfillment must of necessity be future. Daniel prophesied the establishment of this kingdom after the kingdoms of the world are destroyed (Dan. 2:44, 7:26-27). Concerning the kingdom, Christ taught in the parable of the talents that he would return "having received the kingdom" (Luke 19:15). This cannot refer to the end of the world, for at that time Christ will deliver up the kingdom of God to the Father (1 Cor. 15:24). Therefore, these passages affirm that the kingdom must be established between Christ's second coming and the "end" when he delivers up the kingdom to God the Father. This seems also the clear teaching also of Rev. 20 when interpreted literally.
This millennial kingdom was not established at Christ's first coming:
1. It was not established in Christ's day
a. Joseph of Aramathea understood it to be future (Mark 15:43)
b. The thief on the cross understood it to be future (Luke 23:42 - although Jesus said "today")
c. Christ taught the disciples to pray for the kingdom to come (Mat. 6:10)
2. Paul looked to the future for its fulfillment. (2 Tim. 4:1)
3. The NT elsewhere teaches the establishment of the kingdom to be at Christ's second coming. (Rev. 11:15-18)
Some Premillennialists believe Jesus offered the kingdom to the
Israelites at his first coming; they say they Jews rejected him
and his kingdom, whereupon the kingdom was postponed until the
second coming, when it will be realized.
Most believe, however, that Christ had no intention of establishing an Earthly political kingdom at his first coming; instead, his whole purpose in coming was to die for the sins of the world. It is at the second coming that he will bring the material realization of the Davidic kingdom promised in the OT. Christ will then reign in his kingdom with those who have followed him in regeneration (Mat. 19:28; 2 Tim. 2:12). Those who believe this way say that scripture teaches the following:
1. The present state of the kingdom of God is a state of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17)
2. John the Baptist, Christ, and his disciples at the first coming preached repentance as necessary for entrance into the future kingdom (Mat. 3:2; John 3:3, 5)
3. The kingdom of heaven was offered to all, being proclaimed to Israel first since they were Christ's own kindred and bearers of the promises. (Luk 2:30-32, Mat. 10:5-7, John 4:39-42, 10:16, Rom. 9:4-5, 10:11-14, Isa. 49:6)
4. The terms "kingdom of heaven" and "kingdom of God" are used interchangeably (Mat. 19:23-24, 13:24, 4:17, Mark 1:14)
5. This kingdom will be realized in an Earthly, political sense at the second coming (Mat. 25:31, Luk 19:12-15, 21:31, 2 Tim. 4:1)
Relation of the Millennium to Israel and the Church
The church of the NT includes both Jews and Gentiles. Israel as
a nation, so the argument goes, is never referred to as the Church.
Believers are the spiritual seed of Abraham since they have been
blessed in Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham.
(Gal. 3:7, 14, 28, 29, Rom. 4:16)
The church does not absorb in a spiritual manner the national promises also given to Abraham and his seed after the flesh. Abraham's seed, after the flesh, was never completely cast off by God, in spite of its rejection of Jesus. But blindness in part has happened to the nation of Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come:
When Christ comes again, those of the nation of Israel will look on the one they pierced and will be saved:
The nation Israel will be regathered and restored to the land of Palestine:
Jer. 32:37, 44
No longer will it be a divided nation; Israel and Judah will be
reunited (Isa. 11:13; Jer. 3:18; 50:4). The land of Palestine
will be distributed again among the tribes (Ezek. 47:13-23; 48).
Israel will be exalted as chief among the nations (Isa. 14:1-2;
60:1-22; 61:5; 66:12; Zech. 8:23)
Some premillennialists believe Israel will govern the world during the millennium.
Some believe the resurrected saints - the church - will reign with Christ.
Some believe they will be in heaven during the millennium and will govern the world with Christ from heaven.
Some believe the resurrected saints who were martyred will be the ones who reign.
Some believe the church will preach the gospel in all the world for a witness before the end (Mat. 24:14 - but cf. Ps 19).
Some believe the church will go through the tribulation. Some do not. Some see the 144,000 of Revelation as being Jewish evangelists during the tribulation (Rev. 7). Many who think this way are pretrib.
Relation of the Millennium to the Binding of Satan
At the beginning of the Millennium Satan and his demons will be
bound and cast into the bottomless pit for the thousand years.
Satan will no longer deceive the nations (Rev. 20:1-21; Isa. 24:21-22;
At the end of the thousand years Satan will be loosed for a little while, will deceive the nations. He will organize Gog and Magog to besiege the camp of the saints and Jerusalem. Fire will come out of heaven and destroy them (Rev. 20:7-9). Then Satan will be judged and cast into the lake of fire and brimstone to be tormented day and night forever.
Relation of the Millennium to the Great Tribulation
Immediately preceding the second coming of Christ there will be a brief period of great tribulation on Earth during the manifestation and reign of the Antichrist. At the close of this period, under the leadership of Antichrist and the false prophet, the kings of the Earth will assemble at Armageddon to make war against the Lord. Then Christ will return to Earth and destroy them, after which he will set up the millennial kingdom.
Dan. 2:34, 35, 44
Rev. 19:15, 19, 16:16
Relation of the Millennium to the Second Coming of Christ, the Resurrections, judgments, and the Final Consummation
When Christ comes to establish the millennial kingdom, the first resurrection will take place, which includes the martyred saints and those over whom "the second death hath no power" (Rev. 20:6). All living believers will be transfigured and raptured to meet the Lord in the air.
1 Cor. 15:51-52
1 Thes. 4:16-17
The second resurrection, of the wicked dead, does not occur until after the millennium when they shall be judged at the great white throne.
Rev. 20:5, 11-15
Since believers will act as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel,
the world, and of angels, there seems to be a separate judgment
of their works before they themselves become judges (Mat. 19:28;
1 Cor. 6:2-3; 2 Cor. 3:10; 1 Cor. 3:13-15)
Believers' rewards will be given at the judgment seat of Christ. The Bible lists the following:
1. An incorruptible crown - to those who strive for the mastery in all things (1 Cor. 9:25)
2. A crown of righteousness - to all those who love the Lord's appearing (2 Tim. 4:8)
3. The crown of life - to the man who endures temptation and to those who are faithful even to death (James 1:12, Rev. 2:10)
4. A crown of glory that fades not away - to the shepherds of the flocks who were examples to their flock (1 Pet. 5:4)
At the end of the thousand years a new Heaven and a new Earth will be established. The old Eeaven and old Earth will be destroyed with fire (2 Pet. 3:10; Rev. 20:11; 21:1). At that time Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father. Then the Son also will be subject to Father, who made Christ ruler, and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:24, 28). (Cf. Eph. 5:21ff)
Among premillennialists, the biggest point of contention centers around the timing of the rapture and the second coming of Christ - and whether they are two events or one. Four major positions can be outlined, though there are many disagreements over details within each of the four positions.
Those who affirm this position usually divide the second coming
of Christ into two phases:
Christ will come for his saints (the rapture, the parousia, or presence); afterwards, He will come with his saints (the revelation, epiphany, or appearing of Christ).
1 Thes. 4:13-17
Pre-tribulationists believe that the Church or those believers living at the time immediately preceding the tribulation, along with those dead in Christ, are to be raptured before the tribulation period. The following reasons are given that the Church will not be on Earth during the tribulation period. These arguments are believed to give cumulative evidence; the system is not dependent upon any single point.
The Church Will Not Go Through the Great Tribulation
Arguments for a pretribulational rapture may be classified under three main headings:
A. The Great tribulation is the punishment of the Christ-rejecting nation of Israel, not of the Christian Church
B. The Nature of the Christian Church forbids its going through the great tribulation.
C. An interval of time is necessary between Christ's coming FOR and WITH his saints.
A. The Great Tribulation is the punishment of the Christ-rejecting nation of Israel, not of the Christian Church.
1. The Great Tribulation is a visitation of the wrath of God upon those who dwell on the Earth and on Israel who rejected Christ. It is the time of "Jacob's trouble". It does not concern the Church.Jer. 30:6-7
Rev. 3:10 (the word "Earthdwellers", those "who dwell upon the Earth" is held to have the idea of permanence, and thus to signify those who seek to make Earth their permanent dwelling place.)
2. The Scriptures dealing with the tribulation have particular reference to the Jews. The sections in Mat. 24 and Mark 13 which relate to the tribulation and Christ's second coming were spoken to the disciples not as representatives of the Church, but as representatives of the Jewish nation (Mat. 24:1-31; Mark 13:14)a. The setting is Judea
b. They were to pray that their flight not be on the Sabbath. Christians do not celebrate the Sabbath.
c. The abomination is set up, which was prophesied by Daniel concerning the Jews.
d. The appearance of the word "elect" must, therefore, refer to the Jews here, and not the Church which is also sometimes so called.
Luke 21:36 is interpreted also as referring to the disciples as representatives of the Jews.a. That the section is Jewish is evident from the expressions:
"this generation" (32)
"great distress in the land" (23)
"Jerusalem trodden down" (24)
"Your redemption" (28)
"Kingdom of God nigh at hand" (31)
b. The Church is not mentioned.
c. Christ is never called Son of man in relation to the Church and His coming again.
d. The believers do not stand before Him; they sit on thrones with him.
3. The tribulation is characterized by gross darkness when there will be no one who has faith. The situation is not true of the faithful Church.Isa. 60:2; cf. Jer. 13:16
Col. 1:13; cf. 1 Pet. 2:9; Zech. 12:10-13:1; Eph. 5:8
4. Satan persecutes the woman (Israel) during the tribulation (Rev. 12). The Church must be removed, otherwise, the Church, being the very body of Christ, would be more likely to be persecuted than Israel.
B. The nature of the Christian Church forbids its going through the great tribulation.
1. The nature and character of the Church forbids her going into the tribulation, since the tribulation is a day of judgment upon the Christ-rejecting world, both Jewish and Gentile, but more particularly a day of judgment on Israel. The Church is a heavenly people with a heavenly calling and destiny. Israel is an Earthly people, with promise of Earthly destiny and inheritance (Deut. 28:1-14).a. The Church was chosen before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4)
b. The Church is not of the world (John 17:14; Phil. 3:20).
c. The Church is raised with Christ to sit in the heavenlies (Eph. 1:3; 2:6)
d. The Church is foreordained to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29)
Those who hold the pre-trib view also distinguish between the coming of Christ FOR his Church (John 14:1-2) and the coming of the Son of man with the angels in glory (Mat. 25:31). The passage in John states that Christ will come in person to receive the Church to himself; the passage in Matthew indicates that He commissions angels to escort the Church. When Christ comes for his Church, He will come alone, just as he ascended alone into heaven. That Christ comes alone for the Church is evident also from 1 Thes. 4:16-17: "The Lord Himself shall descend...."
2. The glorification of the Church requires a resurrection previous to the manifestation of the wrath of the Lamb in Rev. 6:17.Rev. 9:23
3. The Church is promised deliverance from wrath. Believers have no part in the day of judgment (Rev. 3:10).
"Out of" may be understood to mean complete exemption from the tribulation according to the context and other references requiring this meaning. "Hour" means not merely from temptation as such, but from the hour itself, the period of time in which the temptation takes place.Luke 21:36; cf. 21:25-35
4. There will be some who are "alive and remain" at the coming of the Lord, according to 1 Thes. 4:15. Since all those who do not worship Antichrist during the tribulation are slain (Rev. 13:7-8, 14, 15; 16:2; 19:20-21; 20:4), no believers would be "alive and remain" if the Church should go through the tribulation.
5. The Scriptures urge an attitude of constant expectation of Christ's second coming. If the Church goes through the tribulation, then believers would be looking for tribulation signs and events rather than Christ's return.Rom. 8:23
1 Cor. 1:7
6. God has always protected His people before judgment fell. By analogy, illustration, and type, the Church too will be delivered before the final judgment.a. Enoch was translated before the judgment of the flood.
b. Lot was taken out of Sodom before the judgment fell. Lot is a type of the Church (2 Pet. 2:6-8)
c. Noah was in the ark before the judgment of the flood. Noah is a type of the nation Israel, as being not kept from it, but saved while going through it (Jer. 30:7).
d. The firstborn among the Hebrews in Egypt were sheltered by the blood of the Paschal lamb before judgment.
e. Spies were safely out of Jericho and Rahab was secured before the judgment of Jericho.
f. The Man-Child (Christ) in Rev. 12, who is caught up, is a symbol of the mystical Christ, the Church, being raptured.
7. Those of Paul's epistles written primarily for the instruction of the Church contain no warning to the Church that she must go through the great tribulation
8. If the Church goes through the tribulation, then the Jews as well as the Gentiles of the tribulation period would become part of the Church. After the tribulation, the Jewish remnant would go on into their promised Earthly millennial glory, whereas the Gentile element of the Church, having no expectation of Earthly glory, would be caught up to be with Christ. This would dismember the body of Christ, which is inconceivable (Eph. 5:27)
9. Why would the Thessalonians be concerned that those who died would be at a disadvantage, if those who were alive had to go through a time of wrath? Better would it be that they died also.
10. The seven churches of Rev. 2 and 3 represent in some respects the seven periods of Church history from Pentecost till the end of the age. The Laodicean church, being last, could never go through the tribulation and still be called "luke-warm". For tribulation, as history has shown, has generally resulted in an ice-cold or red-hot church.
11. The message of the Church is a Gospel of grace. During the Tribulation period two witnesses, not of the Church, but of the Jews (as indicated by the sackcloth they wear), take up a message of judgment. Two different messages, one of grace and another of judgment cannot exist side by side. Some say that the gospel of the kingdom (millennial) and of judgment is also preached by the 144,000 Jewish remnant (Rev. 11:3; 7:4-8; 12:17; 19:10; Mat. 24:14)
12. Iniquity or lawlessness cannot set in in fullest measure until that which restrains is removed. The restrainer is the Holy Spirit who manifests Himself to the world in and through the Church. Hence, before the revelation of the Antichrist, who is the "lawless one", the Church must be removed.
13. The Church cannot possibly be on Earth during the tribulation and be slain for its testimony since the Church is instructed to pray for God's blessing on those in authority (1 Tim. 2:2). Those who were slain during the tribulation pray for the destruction of those in authority (Rev. 6:10).
These then are Jews praying vengeance on their enemies, as David prayed in the imprecatory Psalms (cf. Ps. 31:17-18)
14. Christ's coming for his Church is unconditional. His coming to Earth, however, is conditioned by the sign of the setting up of the abomination of desolation three and a half years before His coming. The Church will be raptured before any definite sign.John 14:3 (the text does not say "where you are, down on Earth," but "where I am, up in heaven.")
15. The inspired division of Revelation indicates the removal of the Church. Rev. 1:9 divides the book into:a. things which John had seen: (1)
b. things which are at present (2-3)
c. things which shall be after these things (4-22)
The expression "after these things" (4:1) means after the things of the Church in 2-3 are historically past. There is no mention of the Church after 2-3.
16. The multitude in Rev. 7 cannot be the Church because of #15 above and also because Rev. 7:15 states concerning this multitude that "He that sits on the throne shall tabernacle (lit.) over them" whereas the place of the Church is on the throne.
17. The Church is seen in Rev. 4 as already in heaven represented by the 24 elders. Their rapture to heaven was prefigured by John's transportation there. That the Church is represented by the 24 elders is supported by the following:a. They wear crowns, which speak of victory in conflict. Coronation time is at the resurrection. The redeemed alone are promised crowns (1 Cor. 9:25; 1 Thes. 2:19; 2 Tim. 2:12)
b. They are clothed in white raiment: "fine linen is the righteousness of the saints" (Rev. 19:8). White garments are promised the redeemed (Rev. 2:10; 3:11; Isa. 61:10)
c. They sing a redemption song (5:9, 10): "You have redeemed us". This text is supported by the Textus Receptus (16th century), Codex Sinaiticus (4th century), Codex Basilianus (8th century), Miniscule 1 (of uncertain date), and several other miniscules of late date, the Coptic, Latin, and Armenian (5th century) versions, and quoted by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (AD 248) and by Primasius (6th century).
"And have made us..." (v. 9) this is supported by the Textus Receptus (16th century), Codex Fuldensis (sixth century Latin version), Codex Coislinianus (10th century), and quoted by Arethas, Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia (10th century).
"And we shall reign on the Earth..." (10) This text is supported by Textus Receptus (16th century), Mss. Demidovianus (12th century), Mss. Lipsienses (14th and 15th centuries), and quoted by Arethas (10th century), Primasius (6th century), Julius Firmicus (AD 345), Idacius (the name under which Vigilius of Thapsis, AD 484 published his work).
d. Even if the elders didn't sing "You have redeemed them", as some manuscripts read, the elders could sing of themselves objectively in the third person as the Israelites sang of themselves in their redemption from Egypt (Ex. 15:13, 16, 17)
e. They were from "every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation" (5:9)
f. They are already in heaven when heaven received the multitude out of the great tribulation (7:14)
g. They are distinguished from the angels and from the four living creatures (5:11, 7:11)
h. The word "elders" is used in a representative sense in the NT with respect to the Church (Titus 1:5)
i. The number 24 would indicate their representing both OT and NT believers. Twelve for the tribes of Israel and twelve for the number of the apostles. This interpretation is suggested by the analogy with Rev. 21 where names of the twelve tribes are written on the gates of New Jerusalem; and the names of the twelve apostles, on the twelve foundations.
j. John, as a symbol of the raptured Church, was only an onlooker of the events transpiring during the tribulation. He did not participate in the events, which followed his being raptured to heaven.
18. Christ's relation to the Church is as the "bright and morning star" (Rev. 22:16). His relation to Israel is as the "Sun of righteousness" (Mal. 4:2). Christ's coming for His saints is like the morning star, which is seen by few, whereas His revelation to the Jews is like the sun, which is evident to all.
19. The last trump, mentioned by Paul (1 Cor. 15:52), refers to the rapture of the believers. The last of the seven trumps in Revelation introduces the last half of Daniel's week. The two are not identical because:a. Paul speaks to the Church, not to Israel, in the Corinthian epistle.
b. The seventh trump in Rev. is last only in its relation to the series.
c. Paul speaks of "last" in Corinthians as the trump which brings to a close the Church age.
d. Paul's trump is "the trump of God"; the trump in Revelation is sounded by an angel.
20. The entire Church, and not only a more faithful and vigilant part, will be raptured before the tribulation because:a. the Church is Christ's Body which cannot be dismembered
b. The Church is Christ's bride. Will any part of his bride be left?
c. There will be some who are ashamed of His coming. This indicates that even faithless and carnal believers will be raptured, along with faithful ones (1 Cor. 3:15; 9:27; 1 John 2:28)
d. If only the faithful, vigilant believers are taken, then those asleep in Christ who were faithful and vigilant have no advantage, for all the dead in Christ without discrimination are caught up. (1 Thes. 4:14)
21. The Lord does not come to Earth, but meets the saints in the air (1 Thes. 4:16). His coming for Israel at the end of the tribulation will be to the Earth to set up his kingdom. (Zech. 14:4, 9)
22. The coming of the Lord is at a time of "peace and safety" (1 Thes. 5:3). In Rev. 5 at the opening of the first seal, the day of the Lord, the day of wrath, begins, and the day of grace ends. Therefore, the Church was raptured in Rev. 4 at the beginning of the day of the Lord when there was "peace and safety".
23. The rapture will be secret. The manifestation or public showing of his parousia (presence) takes place after the tribulation when Antichrist is destroyed (2 Thes. 2:8)
24. The rapture symbolized in the parable of the wheat and tares (Mat. 13) does not apply to the Church, but to Israel. The parable concerns the tribulation period. The good seed of the parable are the 144,000 Israelites, the children of the kingdom, who are sown by God at that time. The harvest will be the ingathering of Israel.a. The Church is never called children of the kingdom. The parable of the Sower represents the Church age with God sowing his Word; the parable of the wheat and tares represents the tribulation period with God sowing the 144,000 Israelites.
b. Angels do not gather the Church at the rapture. Christ comes alone.
25. The character of God as a God of grace demands that the Church escape the tribulation. The great majority of the Church have already escaped by dying and going to heaven. Why then should a small group left at the end times be subjected to this awful tribulation.
26. The Church age must be ended and the Church raptured before God begins to deal with the Jews. In Daniel's seventieth week, which records the history of God's dealing with Israel, there is no mention of the Church.
C. An interval of time between his coming for and his coming with his saints is required for the judgment of the believers and the marriage supper of the Lamb to take place.
These two events will take time, which is allowed by the Church's rapture before the tribulation.
Those who affirm this view of the time of the rapture hold essentially the same position as the pretribulationists with the exception that the interval of time between the Lord's coming for his saints and His coming with them is shortened. Instead of placing the rapture in Revelation 4, midtribulationists place the rapture between the second and third woes in Revelation. Their reasons are as follows:
1. The last trumpet of Paul and the seventh trumpet of Revelation are identical. They sound in the middle of the tribulation period (the seventieth week of Daniel) since both announce a resurrection. Therefore, the rapture must be at the same time (1 Cor. 15:52; Rev. 11:15; 1 Thes. 4:16-17).
2. The great tribulation is only the last half of Daniel's seventieth week (Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14).
3. "A little book" in the hand of the coming Lord in Rev. 10:1-2 is the introduction of these events which close the Jewish age. The seven seals and trumpets fulfilled the Church age before the rapture. At this point John is no longer an onlooker, but participates in the coming scenes; he is required to eat the little book; his eating symbolizes what Israel is to experience.
4. The seals are not direct judgments, but according to Matthew 24:3-12, indicate simply the "beginning of sorrows" which precede the great tribulation.
5. To pretribulationists John's rapture to heaven is symbolic of the Church's rapture (Rev. 4). To midtribulationists the resurrection of the two witnesses is symbolic of the rapture of the Church (Rev. 11:3-13)a. The two witnesses are called two olive trees (Rev. 11:4)
b. The olive trees represent Old and New Testament saints (Rom. 11:13-25)
c. All witnessing, the distinctive mission of the Church, ceases with the rapture of the two witnesses.
6. The Day of Wrath is mentioned as at hand in Revelation 11:18; therefore, the preceding seals and trumpets were not events of wrath.
Some hold that the time of the rapture is revealed in Rev. 14:14-16
First, of the similarity of this passage with 1 Thes. 4:16-17 which definitely refers to the rapture.
Second, the Church, according to the promise of Rev. 3:10, will escape, not the "day" but the "hour" of judgment which arrives in Rev. 14:7 prior to the outpouring of the wrath of God in the seven bowls of Rev. 15 and 16.
The partial rapture view is very much a minority position, even less widespread than the midtribulational position. It essentially argues, based on the story of the virgins, that only those Christians who are spiritual -- that is ready -- will be raptured. Those that are not prepared will be left behind to endure the tribulation, during which time they will be "purged" and made worthy. There is some controversy in partial rapture circles as to whether their ultimate redemption is actually in question.
"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'
"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'
"'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'
"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.
"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'
"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 25:1-13)
The partial rapture position is popular only in legalistic circles; it is inconsistent with the nature of salvation by grace as expressed in Ephesians 2:8-10 (and elsewhere) and as illustrated by such individuals as Lot, who, though not an overly spiritual individual, is rescued from God's judgment from Sodom. Sodom is used in the rest of Scripture as a picture or type of God's judgment on the world.
Those who affirm this view of the time of the rapture believe
that the second coming of Christ and the rapture are parts of
the same event. The second coming of Christ will be a day of judgment
for the beast, the false prophet, and the armies of the nations.
For the church and repentant Israel it is a day of glory. Atribulationalism
(mentioned previously) is a varient of this position, differening
from it only in arguing that the tribulation is not a specific,
seven year period, but rather descriptive of life on Earth from
the time of Christ's death till his return.
There are various expressions used in the Bible for the coming of Christ:
parousia, or presence
the day of Christ
the day of the Lord Jesus Christ
the day of the Lord
the epiphany or appearing
the coming of the son of Man
According to pretribulationalists, the Church will not be raptured
until the manifestation of Christ at the end of the tribulation
period. While believers will not be subject to the outpouring
of God's wrath, being sealed in protection, they may be exposed
to the persecution of Antichrist during the tribulation.
Those who believe in a post-tribulation rapture generally affirm the following:
1. The rapture of the church (both living and dead) will be a public revelation of Christ at the end of the tribulation period.
a. The resurrection of OT believers (Isa. 26:19) takes place at the day of the Lord (Isa. 24:21, 26:1), after the great tribulation (Isa. 24:16-25:9), at the conversion of Israel (Isa. 25:90; 26:12-15), at the establishment of the Messianic kingdom (Isa. 25:6-8; 26:1-9), and at the time of signs in the heavens (Isa. 24:23)
b. The resurrection of OT believers takes place after the great tribulation (Dan. 12:1); at the time when Antichrist is destroyed (Dan. 11:45); at the time when Israel is delivered from her trouble (Dan. 12:1).
c. Daniel's personal resurrection will take place at the "end", which evidently refers to the "end" mentioned so often in the book of Daniel: the end of Antichrist and his career (Dan. 7:26; 9:26) and the end of the time of the Gentiles (Dan. 8:17, 19).
d. The resurrection of believers takes place "at the last day" of this present age, before the kingdom age (millennium) (John 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 11:24). The NT recognizes only two ages: one, the present, pre-Kingdom or pre-Messianic age (Mark 10:30; Rom. 8:18; 1 Tim. 6:19; Gal. 1:4) and, two, the age to come, the future Kingdom age, or Messianic age (Luke 20:35; Mark 10:30; Mat. 13:32; Heb. 6:5)
e. The millennial age and the resurrection are linked together (Luk. 20:34-36)
f. The transfiguration of the believers occurs at a time when sinners and stumbling blocks are rooted out of the kingdom (Mat. 13:41-43)
g. The resurrection is mentioned in connection with eating bread in the millennial kingdom (Luk. 14:14, 15)
h. The resurrection at the last trump and the transfiguration that takes place then is the fulfillment of Isa. 25:8: "Death is swallowed up in victory." The context of this passage states that the resurrection occurs at the day of the Lord, at the conversion of Israel, after the great tribulation, and at the establishment of the Messianic kingdom (1 Cor. 15:50-54).
i. The resurrection is linked with the conversion of Israel, which is generally held to be at the end of the tribulation (Rom. 11:15)
j. The dead in Christ will be at no disadvantage but rather will be raised first, and then the living believers will be caught up with them to meet the Lord. Both OT and NT believers will be raptured, thus, at the same time (1 Thes. 4:13-18)
k. The order of the resurrections:Christ, the firstfruits
The redeemed - at Christ's return
Then the END (which, because of the preceding context, refers to the last or third phase of the resurrection, namely, the wicked dead (Rev. 20:5). Thus, there is no room for two resurrections of believers: a resurrection of the redeemed at the beginning and another resurrection of the redeemed at the end of the tribulation period (1 Cor. 15:21-26).
l. The first resurrection takes place at Christ's return when He destroys Antichrist and the armies of the world, when Satan is bound, and when Christ inaugurates the millennial kingdom (Rev. 20:4-6). At this time three groups of believers are resurrected:1. those who sat upon thrones
2. the souls of those beheaded for their testimony
3. those that did not worship the beast
There seems to be a significant problem with this "first resurrection" for pretribulationalists which doesn't exist for posttribulationalists: if a resurrection seven or more years before the millennium occures (as would be required if the rapture occurs before the tribulation), then why did John call this one at the beginning of the millennium the first one?
2. The parable of the wheat and tares of Matthew 13 shows the position of the Church in the world at the end of time:a. "Wheat" = Christians, the sons of God
"Tares" = unbelievers, the sons of the evil one
b. Both grow together until the harvest, which is the consummation of the age (13:39)
c. The consummation of the age is the time of Christ's second coming (Mat. 24:3). Post-tribulationists cite the omission of the article preceding "end" in Mat. 24:3 in support of their view. the omission of the article would indicate the identity of His coming and the consummation of the age. "End of the age", they affirm, cannot mean an indefinitely lengthened period since "the harvest" is the end of the age. the angel reapers cast the things which offend into a furnace of fire; there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. It would be very unlikely that Antichrist would arise after this. Also, at the end of the age "the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
3. The great commission (Mat. 28:19-20) indicates that the Church will be in the world at the consummation of the age. This commission is for the Church and not a Jewish remnant, as represented by the disciples because:a. The commission was given after Christ's resurrection
b. Christ revealed himself after the resurrection only to believers who were redeemed by his blood and in union with him. To these He promised his glorified, risen presence even until the end of the age.
4. The word "end" meaning final end of the age, appears in the NT epistles in connection with the Church.
This is further evidence that the Church is in the world at the end of the age. The "end" is in connection with the revelation and day of Christ toward which the Corinthian Church would be confirmed (1 Cor. 1:7-8; cf. Heb. 3:6, 14; 6:11). Also, believers who are victorious over trials and who keep Christ's works to the "end" will be rewarded (Rev. 2:26). This promise is given in context of his coming in the clouds, immediately preceding the millennial kingdom (Rev. 2:25; 1:7; 2:27).
5. The Church will be on Earth until His public coming at the end of the tribulation, referred to variously as the epiphany or manifestation or revelation of the Lord. These various words or phrases used in reference to Christ's coming all refer to the same event. They simply represent varying aspects of the same happening; epiphany, manifestation, revelation, parousia, the day, that day, the day of Jesus Christ, the day of the Lord Jesus, and the day of the Lord.
Christ's epiphany takes place when He comes at the end of the tribulation period to destroy the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:8). His epiphany ends the service of the Church, since the Church is urged to keep the commandment until that event (1 Tim. 6:14). His epiphany marks the time of the judgment of the living and dead and the inauguration of His kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1). His epiphany is the glorious hope of the Apostle Paul and all others who love His appearing (2 Tim. 4:8). His epiphany and "the blessed hope" are identified by the use of a common article, i.e. "the (blessed hope and appearance)" (Titus 2:13).
Concerning another of the words used of His coming the revelation, both pre- and post-tribulationist agree that this event occurs at the end of the tribulation. Revelation is used interchangeably with "end" and "day" (1 Cor. 1:7). The revelation of Christ brings relief from suffering to the Church (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Those that do not know God, who disobey the Gospel, are punished at His revelation. The revelation of Christ affects the regeneration of nature (Rom. 8:18-23).
Parousia, another word used frequently in connection with Christ's coming, was used technically in classical writings to denote the arrival of a king. In the New Testament parousia is associated with:a. The giving of crowns and rewards (1 Thes. 2:19)
b. Christ's coming with His saints (1 Thes. 3:13)
c. Christ's coming for His saints and the resurrection of the dead in Christ (1 Thes. 4:19)
d. The holiness of the Church in preparation for the day (1 Thes. 5:23)
e. The gathering of the elect (2 Thes. 2:1)
f. The overthrow of Antichrist and the manifestation of Christ (2 Thes. 2:8)
g. The resurrection and transfiguration of the redeemed when the kingdom is established (1 Cor. 15:23, 50-52);
h. The coming and kingdom of the Son of man (2 Peter 1:16; cf. Mat. 16:28-17:8)
i. The day of God (2 Peter 3:12)
j. The public manifestation of Christ (1 John 2:28)
Other words that refer to His second coming are used less frequently than epiphany, revelation, and parousia. At the day unbelievers will be taken by surprise, but believers will be expecting Christ (1 Thes. 5:4). At the day also the works of saints will be judged, an event recorded as happening at:a. His manifestation and kingdom (2 Tim. 4:1-8)
b. The parousia (1 Thes. 2:19-3:13)
c. The last trump (Rev. 11:18)
d. The last day (John 6:39-54)
e. His coming as Son of Man (Mat. 16:27)
Appearances in the New Testament of the other words referring to His second coming are as follows: that day (2 Thes. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8); the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16); the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 1:7, 8; 2 Cor. 1:14); the day of the Lord (1 Thes. 5:2; 2 Thes. 2:1-3). Concerning this last reference, there are two signs given by Paul which must take place before the day of the Lord: the "falling away" and the revelation of the Man of Sin. The Thessalonians worried that they had missed the day of the Lord. Paul corrected their misconception by reminding them of the two events which precede Christ's coming. From this passage it is evident that the Thessalonians still awaited the day of the Lord even after they read 1 Thes. 4:14, which is supposed to teach a secret rapture preceding the day. Why did not Paul soothe their laments by referring to that rapture as a necessary precursor of the day of the Lord instead of referring to the Apostasy and the Man of Sin as precursors?
6. The promise of deliverance - "keep thee from the hour of temptation" (Rev. 3:10) does not necessitate a rapture of the Church to heaven for fulfillment (Alexander Reese, Norman McPherson).
a. The word "out of", translated from the Greek preposition ek, is not conclusive, as admitted by all Greek scholars. Ek means "out of the midst" of the interior of a thing. The Greek preposition apo would have been better used to express immunity, for apo means "away from" the side of a thing.
b. "Them that dwell on the Earth." The intensive form of "dwell" in the original cannot be conclusive evidence that these people deliberately chose the Earth as a permanent abode rather than heaven. The same word is used of our Lord "dwelling" in Capernaum (Mat. 4:13).
c. Deliverance from the wrath of God can be accomplished even in the sphere of that wrath. The locusts of the tribulation period are forbidden to touch the sealed ones (Rev. 9:4). Deliverance from divine wrath does not necessarily confer deliverance from Satanic wrath.
d. If the Church is not here at the time of the tribulation period, then why the promises in verses 11 and 12?
7. Christ's coming is not imminent, but contingent on the fulfillment of certain events:a. The great commission; the Gospel preached in all the world for a witness (Mat. 28:19, 20; 24:14)
b. The parables of Matthew 13
c. Jesus' prediction of Peter's martyrdom (John 21:19-23)
d. Paul's provision for permanent organization of the Church and its continued ministry
e. The rise of apostasy (2 Thes. 2:8)
f. The revelation of the Man of Sin (2 Thes. 2:8)
8. Heaven received Christ until the restitution of all things (Acts 3:21), which will take place after the tribulation, according to both pre-tribulationists and post-tribulationists.
9. The Marriage Supper takes place at the end of the tribulation after Babylon is destroyed if Revelation is in chronological order.
10. The twenty-four elders are heavenly kings who lead the worship in heaven, not a group representative of the Church in heaven.
a. John saw the elders sitting there in heaven when he ascended to heaven. They had not just sat down when John first saw the vision.
b. They do not sing a redemption song, but sing about others, from every tribe, tongue, and nation who have been redeemed, according to the best manuscripts: "You have redeemed us...." The word "us" is omitted by Codex Alexandrinus of the fifth century. "...and made them to be a kingdom and priests to God, and they shall reign upon the Earth." This is supported by Codex Sinaiticus (4th or 5th century), Codex St. Petersburg (9th century), Codices Lipsienses (14th or 15th century), Mss. Amianthius (AD 551-700), Mss. Fuldensis (6th century), Mss. Harleianus, No. 1772 (9th century), Mss. Toletanus (8th century), Coptic and Latin versions, and as quoted by Andreas and Arethas.
c. Those who interpret these elders other than as literal must have scriptural proof for their symbolism rather than mere conjecture.
d. If the elders are symbolic, by the same reasoning, then also are the four living creatures symbolic, and so on, ad infinitum.
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