STUDIES ON THE SECOND COMING
DIFFERENT VIEWS ABOUT THE SECOND COMING
- The On-Going Conflict Between Good and Evil
- A More Detailed Look at the Christian View of History
- The Second Coming Completes What God has Already Started
- Different Views About the Second Coming
- The Identity of the Antichrist
- The Timing of the Rapture
- The Purpose of Christian Suffering
- The Main Implication of the Second Coming: Judgment
At this point we come to the controversial part of any study of the second coming. More relationships have busted up over this topic than over nearly any other topic in the Bible. As we look at this issue though, we need to keep 2 things in mind:
As a result of this, we need to keep in mind what I said at the beginning of this study: we need to approach this study with great humility and graciousness. You and I may think we've got it all figured out, only to find out later we were really off target!
- Not all conservative Christians agree which of the 4 views is true. Conservative Christians in the 19th century, such as B. H. Carroll (founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) basically endorsed the first view (postmillennialism), while most conservative Christians in America today endorse the 3rd view (the pre-trib rapture premillennial view of Christ's return). One of the finest conservative scholars to come out of Baylor University, Dr. Ray Summers, agreed with the Roman Catholic view of the second coming. Whichever view you adopt does NOT determine whether or not you are a "conservative" Christian. The fact that you believe in the bodily return of Jesus makes you a "conservative, Bible-believing, God-fearing" Christian, and not which view of the second coming you believe.
- Next, the view you believe does not indicate how smart you are. I definitely adhere to the 4th view on the second coming, historical premillennialism; however, I wouldn't even begin to think that I was as smart as St. Augustine, the author of the second view. He was so brilliant and so rich in thought that he was basically the father of Protestantism AND Roman Catholicism! Few people can make such a claim as that. I still believe he was wrong; however, if he is wrong, it is not because he was dumber than me--or you.
THE FOUR VIEWS
This view is basically a dinosaur today, a genuine theological fossil. I know of only one scholar at the most who actually believes this view; however, in the 18th and 19th centuries, many if not most conservative Christians held to this view. Moreover, you may just accidentally one day make contact with one of those dinosaurs.
This view basically taught that society and mankind would just keep getting better and better until finally one day we will enter a new era in which righteousness and peace will flood the world. Now the world won't be perfect; however, it will be utopia for 1,000 years. During those 1000 years Christ will be reigning FROM HEAVEN, not on earth. At the end of the 1,000 years (a millennium), Christ will come, that is "post" or after the millennium. Because Christ comes post of after the millennium, this view is called postmillennialism.
Two problems with this view:
Other than affirming that Christ actually is going to return bodily, there is basically nothing which recommends this view as being true.
- This does not seem to agree with the NT description of the end times. Every passage which speaks about the coming of Christ has a period of great tribulation and stress preceding the return of Christ. In fact Paul, Jesus, and John all agree that Antichrist precede the coming of Jesus.
- After at least 6,000 years of human existence, does anybody really even entertain the idea that mankind is getting better and better? The devastating wars of the last century basically destroyed this view. It is hard to see man as getting better when civilized Germany killed 6m. Jews and 12m. other non-Aryans. These numbers do not even take into account the carnage of WW1, Viet Nam War, the killing fields of Cambodia, the slaughter of non-Communists in China, S.E. Asia, and Stalinist Russia.
The word "a" as a prefix means "no" or "not," while "millennium" means "1,000." A-millennialism means then "no thousand-year reign of Christ." This view basically teaches that all the events in Rev. 1-20 have already taken place. The Antichrist in Revelation then would be the Roman emperor Domitian and the people he persecuted would be Christians living at the end of the 1st century. When John has the Christ defeating the Antichrist in Rev. 19, he is referring to Jesus taking down the Roman Emperor Domitian and the triumph of the church over the pagan, hostile Roman machinery. The church is triumphant! The 1,000 reign of Christ of Rev. 20 is actually the triumph of the church over the world after the destruction of the paganism of the Roman Empire. We have been living in that "1000-year" reign for the past 2,000 years. At the end of human history Christ will return and bring us the new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21-22). This view was begun by the Christian thinker Augustine, (354-430 A.D.).
Positive things about this view:
Some issues with this view:
- It takes seriously the historical background of Revelation. It is almost impossible to read Revelation and not see it referring to the persecution of Christians during the last part of the first century A.D.
- I do not agree with this view; HOWEVER, it must be noted that this is the dominant view among Christians. It is the view of the Roman Catholic Church which accounts for 1.2b of all Christians (2b. in all).
- This view looks only at Revelation. The problem with focusing only on Revelation is that it fails to take into account what John, Paul, and Jesus say elsewhere about the second coming.
- In other passages which have NOTHING to do with the Roman empire (Matt. 24, Mark 13, 2 Thess. 2, 1 John 2:18), a time of great stress immediately precedes the coming of Christ. In fact according to Jesus the abomination of desolation performed by the sinister figure of the Antichrist is THE sign He is about to appear, not 2,000 years later, but immediately.
The Two Premillennial Views
"Pre" naturally means "before," while "millennial" refers again to "1,000" years in which Christ reigns. Premillennialism is split into 2 camps. Both camps teach the following about the end of human history:
- There will be a period of 7 years in which great stress will fall upon the earth.
- During that time the Antichrist will emerge and will persecute the people of God.
- At the end of the 7 years Christ will return and defeat Satan and his Antichrist at the battle of Armageddon.
- Christ will then reign for 1,000 years upon the earth.
- At the end of that reign Satan will launch one last attack against Christ. He will be utterly defeated and thrown into hell.
- At that time the new heaven will come down to a radically transformed earth so that God the Father Himself may come and be with us forever.
Premillennialism is split up into 2 camps. The first camp claims that Christ will return and rapture the church BEFORE (pre) the tribulation. The second camp believes that Christ will rapture the church AFTER (post) the tribulation. The first view is then called pre-trib rapture premillennialism, while the second is called post-trib rapture premillennialism. (The second view is also called "historical premillennialism." Why we shall see later.)
Which camp is right? I agree with the second camp called the post-trib rapture premillennial view. Why? For 2 major reasons.
EACH VIEW TAPS INTO THE TRUTH
- As I look at all the passages which describe the return of Christ, if they speak about the rapture they ALL place the rapture AFTER the tribulation and not BEFORE it (e.g. Matt. 24:29-31). This reason alone for me is decisive.
- This is the view which was believed by the Christians who were taught by the apostles. For this reason it is called "historical" premillennialism. The second view which teaches that the rapture precedes the tribulation was unheard of until the early 1800's. I just fail to see how those taught by the apostles got it wrong. Maybe they did, but I find that hard to swallow, especially in light of the fact that the NT writings place the rapture at the end of the tribulation.
As I said earlier, each view has tapped into the truth:
A SIDE NOTE
- Postmillennialism affirms a literal return of Christ
- Amillennialism helps us to understand the historical nature of the documents (for example, it is hard not to see that Revelation deals the persecution of Christians by the Romans at the end of the 1st century and to see Matt. 24 in light of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.)
- Pre-trib rapture: really re-introduces the Jews back into the study. Many Christians believe that the Jews have absolutely no role in the second coming. We shall go into more detail later about the role of the Jew before the return of Christ.
- Post-trib rapture helps us to understand that tribulation and terrible suffering do fall upon God's people. It helps us understand the meaning of life: that many times what is going on in human history is actually the result of the on-going conflict between Christ and Satan, between Christians and antichrists.
Whether Christians are raptured before or after the tribulation is something we will go into more detail later. I do want to deal though with an assumption which many times is used to support the belief that the rapture precedes the tribulation. Many Christians claim that God would never let His sons and daughters go through such a terrible ordeal! Now where in the world did they ever get such an idea? Not from scripture and definitely not from the history of the church. Bernie Thompson is our resident expert on Christians suffering in the world today. I almost got sick one day as he began to describe what many Christians are undergoing today--even in so-called civilized nations like India. Moreover, if God let His own Son Jesus suffer the way and to the extent He did, what makes you think you are immune from terrible suffering? Even if you do go through the tribulation, you will not suffer more than Jesus did that Friday. His sufferings, His tribulation was the ultimate tribulation, truly THE Great Tribulation. Now I may hope I never go through the Great Tribulation; however, if we don't go through it, it won't be because God won't let His sons and daughters suffer horrible things.