On my last blog post, I discussed the Day of the Lord as it relates to the end of the age and that based upon scripture, we believers are currently living in the millennial reign of Christ. Most professing Christians subscribe, generally speaking, to one of five end-time views. Let’s discuss each one briefly. However, let’s clarify some terms, because they can be confusing.
Millennialism – a reference to the reign of Christ for a specific period of time. All believers fall into one category of Millennialism – Pre, Post, Historic, Futuristic or Realized. Views vary as to the length of time and will be discussed below.
Tribulational – a reference to a literal seven year period of tribulation, according to its adherents. There are various views as to the timing of the rapture.
Rapture – the unknown date of when Christ transforms the bodies of the saints to imperishability. There are various views as to when the rapture will take place (pre-,mid-,prewrath, post-; all in relation to the tribulation period). Often, the rapture is understood to be the resurrection as the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous or simply as the resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked on the Day of the Lord (also known as the Last Day or That Day). Dispensationalists uniquely use the term “Rapture” as the First (Pre-tribulational) Resurrection of the Righteous, while all other end-time scenarios call it the “Parousia” or “Resurrection”.
New Heaven and New Earth – often referred to, depending on which end-time scenario one believes in, is also referred to as “the final state” or “eternity” or “the eternal state”.
Last Judgment – often referred to as the Final Judgment, and depending on your end-time scenario, it is either the Judgment of the Wicked (or Unrighteous) by the Pre, Mid, Pre-Wrath or Post Tribulational Dispensationalists or the Judgment of the Wicked AND the Judgment of the Righteous (often called the Bema Seat of Christ – a judgment to determine the rewards to each of the elect) for all the other end-time scenarios.
This chart is general in nature, and each adherent to the end-times may have slightly different views as to the timing of certain events. But generally speaking, your belief in the end-times will fall into one of these five categories.
Let’s briefly review each view:
- Post-tribulational premillennialism – the adherents to this view:
- Believe in the literal 7 year tribulation period and the literal 1000 year reign of Christ.
- However, they place the rapture after the conclusion of the tribulation period, so in effect, the rapture is the first stage of the resurrection of the righteous.
- The second stage of the rapture is a second resurrection of the tribulation saints at the end of the millennial reign of Christ as well as the resurrection of the wicked to face judgment and then the New Heaven and New Earth.
- Pre-tribulational premillennialism (commonly known as Dispensationalism) are similar to the post-tribulational premillennialism…
- With the exception that the rapture occurs before the tribulation period.
- There are variants to the pre-trib position – there are mid-tribulationalists (the rapture will occur exactly at the mid-point of the tribulation, that is, three and one half years into the seven year tribulation) and…
- There are pre-wrath tribulationalists (the rapture will occur sometime around the halfway point of the 2nd half of the tribulation period in relation to a specific time prior to the breaking of the seventh seal in Rev 8-9).
- Their detractors often claim that all Dispensationalists hold to a “secret rapture” theory.
- Often, Dispensationalists will claim that all the early church fathers were dispensationalists. That is far from the truth, since the term “Dispensational” did not come into usage until the mid-1800s. And there are Dispensationalists that claim Paul held to the pre-trib rapture based upon their interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5. However…
- A few of the early church fathers were “Chiliasts” (the Greek term for Millennial and today the term in common usage would be Millennialists) and there are still many arguments among theologians concerning whether those few early church fathers were pretribulation or post-tribulation, however, it appears that only two church fathers, Justin Martyr (of which we have his writings) and Papias (of which we DON’T have his writings, though he has been referenced by other church fathers as possibly holding that opinion) may be the only pre-trib premillennialists among the early church fathers, while the other early church fathers that held to premillennialism were post-trib.
- The majority of the early church fathers, according to today’s definitions of end-time views, would be regarded as either Post-Millennial or Amillennial.
- Currently, there is a movement within Dispensationalism called Progressive Dispensationalism and those theologians are beginning to address the “Seven Dispensations” of classic Dispensationalism in contrast to the Reformed position (among other issues) and are beginning to modify their opinions since the Reformed camp adheres to the same progressive view of prophecy and the covenantal promises of God (as opposed to the “Seven Dispensations”).
- Post Millennialism – the adherents to this view:
- Believe that there will be a reign of Christ in this present age, but starting at an unknown date (there are different views as to when the millennial reign of Christ will start) for a thousand years (or more, according to some post-millennialists);
- And then leading up to the end of the age, after which the Second Coming takes place, everyone is resurrected, the final judgment takes place, some to everlasting glory, others to eternal condemnation and then the New Heaven and New Earth.
- Similar end-time scenario as the Amillennialists since the Amillennialists are more precise in assessing the end-time scenario.
- Historic Premillennialism –
- Basically, from the birth of Christ to the ascension, the Kingdom is manifest;
- From the ascension of Christ through the return of Christ (they do not count this as the Second Coming, though their detractors consider it to be similar to the “secret rapture” that Dispensationalists are often accused of), the Kingdom remains present through the Holy Spirit and the first resurrection will occur at the end of this period after a seven year tribulation period;
- Then the Millennial Reign of Christ, i.e. the Kingdom is consummated;
- Then the Second Coming of Christ and the Final Judgment;
- And then the New Heaven and New Earth.
- Futuristic Premillennialists do not necessarily subscribe to the Dispensational view of the “Seven Dispensations” though on the surface they appear to share the same end-time scenario; however there is currently much discussion among Futuristic Premillennialists as they appear to be modifying their views even more since some have adopted some facets of Amillennialism.
- Amillennialism – the adherents to this view believe…
- That the millennial reign of Christ is the entire period between the first and second comings of Christ, that is, the more commonly called “the church age” or “the age of grace”.
- The Parousia or the Resurrection takes place at the second coming of Christ, after which the final judgment takes place, some to everlasting glory, others to eternal condemnation.
- And then the New Heaven and New Earth.
- Detractors of this view erroneously declare that Amillennialists do not believe in the millennial reign of Christ because the prefix “a” in “amillennialism” generally means “none”. But that is not the case, since the original intent of using the prefix “a” in the word “amillennialism” is the fact that adherents to this view do not believe in a literal 1000 year reign, but a reign that will last between the two advents, therefore, no specific time can be determined – after all, the number 1000 apocalyptically infers a long period of time and not necessarily and specifically 1000 years. You can read more about this in my previous blog post here: The End of the Age and the Age to Come.
- Frankly, because of this confusion among the other four end-time views (and the desire from some of them to disparage Amillennialism), many Amillennialists today prefer to call themselves “realized” or “inaugurated” millennialists. Amillennialism and Post-Millennialism, generally speaking, are the historic Reformed Protestant view of the last 500 years. Though the views of the Reformers may have been called other names, the general outline of the end-times have not changed.
I hold to the amillennial position based upon the facts I have previously detailed in my earlier blog posts and I will further expound in future blog posts as well, since there are other factors that were part of my decision to reject pretribulational dispensationalism and embrace amillennialism. Of the five end-times view, amillennialism is, in my humble opinion, the easiest to grasp and aligns more closely to scripture than any other end-time view. It’s not perfect, but then, neither are the other four end-time views. And I hope that I can demonstrate that amillennialism is the best understanding of the end-times in future blog posts.
On my next blog post, before discussing the Amillennial view of Daniel 9 – The Seventy Weeks and starting a series on Matthew 24 and 25 (with a comparison of the Amillennial view to the Pretribulation Dispensational view), I will address the controversial Dispensational claim that Reformed followers believe that the church has “replaced” Israel and as a consequence, “discarded” Israel. That is so very far from the truth, and I must address it, especially considering that I myself am of Jewish descent and frankly offended with that dispensational notion. I pray that you will join me in my quest of discovery.