Eschatologyby Rit Nosotro
Introduce the major views of eschatology since 70AD up through 1948 (e.g., Preterist, Dispensationalist, etc.). Summarize the millennialist doctrines (pre-, post-, a-) and rapture positions (pre-trib, mid-trib, post-trib). Include mention of covenants for national Israel and spiritual Israel (the Church).
What exactly is eschatology? According to Webster, it is “a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of mankind.” An in depth study of eschatology can be rather confusing due to different scriptures that seem to support one view or the other. Most theologians agree that the book of Revelation and other Scriptures predict the occurrence of four main events: The Millennium, or thousand-year reign of Christ; the Tribulation, a period of intense turmoil and destruction; Armageddon, a great war as part of the outpouring of God's wrath upon the earth; and the Rapture, Christ’s descent from heaven where Christians will meet with Jesus in the sky. The different eschatological views attempt to provide meaning and order to these events. For instance, is the Millennium actually a 1000-year reign, or is the number figurative? Does the Rapture happen before the Tribulation or sometime after the start of it? A closer look at the most prevalent views will show why there are differences in the interpretation of these Bible passages.
Of about six millennialist views, the most popular three can be grouped as follows: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism (also called Nonmillennialism). Premillennialism and Postmillennialism believe in a literal, one thousand-year Millennium; however, they differ in the timing of Christ’s return. As their titles suggest, Premillennialists believe that Christ will come before the Millennium’s beginning, while Postmillennialists assert that it will occur after. In contrast, the belief of Amillennialism holds that the Millennium is figurative, not an actual period of time. Amillennialists assert that we are now living in the Millennium as well as the Tribulation, which will be followed by the Rapture and Christ’s return. Some (preterist) Amillennialists view the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24 as a warning of the events which came to pass in 70 AD at the destruction of Jerusalem. Others consider the passage to concern events that will not be literal history. For example, the Antichrist is seen as a figurative concept.
In addition to the Millennialist views, there are also the beliefs of Dispensationalism (sometimes called Dispensational Premillennialism), Preterism, and No Millenialism. From a Dispensationalists’ viewpoint, the Tribulation will occur before Christ’s coming in Judgment, after which a literal millennium will be established. The popular "Left Behind" series of novels promotes this view.
The timing of the Rapture, however, differs among Dispensationalists. There are many theories about when the Rapture will occur such as the Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, and Post-Tribulation Rapture theories, often abbreviated as pre-, mid-, and post- trib, as well as Pre-wrath Rapture and Partial Rapture theories. The Pre-Trib theory asserts that the Rapture will occur before the Tribulation in order that the Believers will not have to endure wrath. The Pre-Trib position is the only position which teaches imminency of the Lord's return since the others have certain events which must occur prior to the Rapture. The Mid-Trib belief teaches that the Rapture will occur exactly 42 months after the Tribulation has begun, but before the great wrath of God is poured out on the Earth. The Post-Trib theory says that all Believers must endure the entire 7-year Tribulation, after which they are raptured.
The teachings of full Preterist position declare that the New Testament prophecies have been fulfilled. Preterism teaches that the war of Armageddon happened in 70 AD when Jerusalem’s temple was destroyed and Jews were slaughtered. Preterists also point to other events in the first centuries that fulfill the predicted events of Tribulation, Armageddon, and the Rapture. Thus, they believe that Jesus did not mean that the physical world would actually be destroyed, but rather the world as Jews experienced it would be destroyed. No Millennialism is a more liberal way of thinking. Followers of this theory believe that the books of Daniel and Revelation were not actually prophetic in nature and thus have no relevance to Christians today. Instead, they believe these books were comprised of wild dreams and possibly hallucinations. Some discount the possibility of such accurate prophecy by dating the writing of Daniel at the 2nd century AD, which would mean it was more of a historical recollection rather than a foretelling of future events.
Each of the Tribulation theories can be backed up or refuted with different scriptures. Of course, each position has a scriptural counter argument to cover the weakness of their position. For instance, an argument against the Pre-Trib Rapture exists in Mark 13: 19, 24-26 (NAS)
“For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will... But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory” (emphasis added).However, Pre-Trib theorists interpret this coming of the "Son of Man" as distinct from the Rapture which takes place "like a thief in the night" before the Tribulation.
Similarly, both the Post-Trib and Mid-Trib theories have their flaws. Both of these set a specific point in time for the Rapture’s occurrence. Post-Trib says the Rapture will occur after the 7 year Tribulation, and Mid-Trib says it will occur 42 months into the Tribulation. The problem with these assertions is found in verses such as Matthew 24:42 (NAS), "Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming" and Mark 13:33 (NAS), “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.” The Bible says that man does not know the time of the Lord’s coming, and thus seems to contradict the Post-Trib and Mid-Trib theories. Again, interpreting a passage as the coming of Christ to meet his Bride (the Ratured church) in the air or the second coming of Christ who returns to Earth in Judgment, are open to debate.
Two other theories concerning the timing of the Rapture are called the Pre-wrath theory and the Partial Rapture theory. The Pre-wrath Rapture theory is relatively new and asserts that all believers must endure some of the tribulation but will be raptured before the worst destructions are poured out. The Partial Rapture theory teaches that the older, more established Christians will be raptured right before the Tribulation’s beginning, while the new believers must wait until the Tribulation has begun or possibly even until its end.
The topic of Israel is also one aspect of eschatology that differs with each view. Some believe that the actual, physical nation of Israel is set aside by God to receive a special covenantal blessing. They believe that only the descendents of Abraham through Isaac and then Jacob make up the “chosen race” of Israel. Others say that “Israel” refers to a spiritual Israel of the Church, where there is neither Jew nor Greek. These have acquired the promises and position of the Old Testament Israel in a type of "Replacement Theology".
In the midst of so many differing theories, how does one sift the wheat from the chaff and know the truth? Well, there is no way to tell exactly which theory is absolutely correct, although experts will argue that some contain less flaws than others. Unless Christians are caught up to meet Christ in the air, they will die. Death for them will have no sting because of the debt that Christ paid on the cross. It is appointed once to die and then the judgment. Since even suicide attempts sometimes fail, no one knows the moment that they will pass from this life into heaven or hell. This is what Christians agree on. For them, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. As for prophesy of the end times, Christians are blessed when they read the Revelation of John, but they also know 1 Corinthians 13:9-10, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” The practical part of eschatology is that an attitude and behavior of righteous living is enhanced by knowing God is not slow in His promised return (1 Peter 3).
1. Which theory does NOT believe in a literal one thousand year Millennium?
2. Which event is not prophesied in the book of Revelation?
B The Rapture
C The Tribulation
D A seven year Famine
3. Which doctrine asserts that the book of Daniel was not prophetic?
B No Millennialism
C Dispensational Premillennialism
4. Why are there so many theories regarding the Millennium and the Rapture?
A Experts simply like to argue their belief.
B The Bible gives several different scenarios.
C Prophesy is part until the perfect comes.
D Not everyone will experience the same things in the end.
answers: 1. C, 2. D, 3. B, 4. C
Middleton, Darren R. "A Critique Of Dispensationalist Eschatology ." 8 Jun 1999. A Critique of Dispensationalist Eschatology. John Mark Ministries. 01 May 2004. <http://www.pastornet.net.au/jmm/articles/9105.htm>.
Merriam-Webster OnLine. 1 May 2004. http://www.m-w.com.
Robinson, B. A. . "Eschatology, end times, and millennialism: competing theories." 21 Mar 2004. A Critique of Dispensationalist Eschatology. Religious Tolerance. 01 May 2004. <http://www.religioustolerance.org/millenni.htm>.
Spargimino, Larry. "Premillennialism." 19 Feb 2003. Questions and
Answers. Southwest Radio Church Ministries. 01 May 2004. <http://www.swrc.com/qanda/premillennialism.htm>.
50 Evidences for the Pre-Trib Rapture", Dec 2005, <http://www.linkjesus.com/50rapture.htm> .
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