Eschatology is the study of the end-times. Despite the overwhelming biblical data on the subject, there are different errors that Christians have made:
1. IGNORING THE SUBJECT – Question: How many sermons have you heard in your lifetime? How many have you heard about the subject of the end times? If the Bible speaks of it, we should study it.
- One out of every 30 verses in the Bible mentions the subject of Christ’s return or the end of time.
- Over 1,800 references appear in the Old Testament, and seventeen Old Testament books give prominence to this theme.
- Of the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are more than 300 references to the Lord’s return.
- Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to this great event. Three of the four other books are single-chapter letters written to individuals concerning a particular subject, and the fourth is Galatians, which does imply Christ’s coming.
- For every prophecy on the first coming of Christ, there are eight on Christ’s Second Coming.
2. EMPHASIZING THE WRONG THINGS ABOUT END-TIMES – Without a doubt, eschatology is central to all of Scripture. It is difficult to over-emphasize the themes of the Kingdom of God and the Day of the Lord and the renewal of the universe. Some, however, have emphasized the wrong things about the end-times – making their interpretation a test of fellowship; building elaborate doctrines around a questionable interpretation; making their interpretation central to understanding the Bible.
3. IGNORANCE OF OTHER VIEWPOINTS – Some don’t even know that there are other views on the end-times!
What We Agree On
All positions agree on the following:
- The personal, visible return of Jesus Christ.
- The resurrection of believers and unbelievers to judgment
- That believers will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of their service to the Lord and receive his rewards
- That God will create a new heaven and a new earth
- That the wicked will enter into conscious, eternal punishment, suffering beyond any experience of misery found in this world
- That believers are to be watchful and prepared, anticipating Christ’s coming
The Meaning of the Millennium
The word millennium means “one thousand years” (from Lat. millennium). The term comes from Revelation 20:2-7:
- (Revelation 20:2) He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.
- (Revelation 20:3) He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.
- (Revelation 20:4) I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
- (Revelation 20:5) (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection.
- (Revelation 20:6) Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.
- (Revelation 20:7) When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison
Five Major Questions to Tackle
- Is teaching on the millennium intended literally or symbolically?
- To what do the resurrections of Revelation 20:4-6 refer – spiritual or physical resurrections?
- Is the millennium future or present?
- Is there any basis for an optimistic future on earth?
- Will the church escape the great tribulation?
Four Major Views
- Amillennialism (Realized millennialism) – The view that the millennium is currently happening; that the present church age will continue until the time of Christ’s return.
- Postmillennialism – The view that Christ will return after the millennium.
- Dispensational (pretribulational) premillennialism – The view that Christ will return before the millennium and before the great tribulation.
- Classic, simple, or historic (posttribulational) premillennialism – The view that Christ will come back before the millennium, after the great tribulation.
The Goals of This Class
- That you will understand the four views
- That you will make an intelligent decision as to which view you hold
Amillennialism (Realized millennialism)
Amillennialism is the simplest of the four views, teaching that there is no future millennium. The millennium is taking place now. It is the view historically held by Clement, Origen, Augustine, and the reformers. (The Reformers believed that the Beast of Revelation is the papacy.)
CHURCH AGE ->
SECOND COMING ->
What Amillennialism Teaches:
- The “thousand years” of Revelation 20 is to be taken symbolically. We can’t know the exact duration of the millennium. (Postmillennialists agree with this statement.)
- Christ’s reign during the millennium is not a bodily one on earth, but the heavenly one spoken of in Matthew 28:18: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” This reign is now.
- The millennium is a time in which Satan’s influence is reduced, so that the gospel can be preached to the entire world (Revelation 20:3). That time is now.
- Those who are said to be reigning with Christ for the thousand years (Revelation 20:6) are Christians who have died and are already reigning with Christ.
- The present church age will continue until the time of Christ’s return, which will bring the resurrection of believers and unbelievers, judgment, and the new heaven and new earth. This will lead to the eternal state.
- Revelation does not teach only about the last period in history. It covers and elaborates the entire history of the church.
Arguments for Amillennialism
- Only one passage (Revelation 20:1-6) appears to teach a future earthly millennial reign of Christ, and that passage is obscure. It is unwise to base a major doctrine of Scripture on one passage of uncertain interpretation.
- Neither Jesus nor Paul taught about the millennium. The millennium is not mentioned in the Bible outside of Revelation.
- Scripture only teaches one resurrection, in which both believers and unbelievers will be raised, not two resurrections – John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15; Daniel 12:2. (The premillennial view requires two separate resurrections, separated by a thousand years.)
- A number of Scriptures teach that Satan is presently being restrained – Matthew 12:28-29; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; 2 Thessalonians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:15; Revelation 12
- Revelation is a symbolic book. The “thousand years” or Revelation 20 signifies the idea of perfection or co mpleteness, representing the completeness of Christ’s victory over Satan, and the perfect joy of the redeemed in heaven.
- Scripture seems to indicate that all the major events to come (resurrection of believers and unbelievers, final judgment, establishment of new heaven and earth, eternal state) will happen at once (Matthew 24-25; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 2 Peter 3:10).
Responses to Amillennialism
- Even though only one passage teaches a future earthly millennium, the Bible only has to say something once in order for it to be true and something we must believe.
- Some other passages appear to teach about a time that sounds like the millennium (Psalm 72:8-14; Isaiah 11:2-9; 65:20; Zechariah 14:6-21; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Revelation 2:27; 12:5; 19:15).
- Revelation 20:4-6 clearly teaches that there are two resurrections, not just one. It teaches a first resurrection, and then that the rest of the dead will come to life at the end of a thousand years. These resurrections both appear to be physical resurrections. The passages amillennialists claim to support the view that there is only one resurrection do not exclude the idea of two resurrections. In fact, John 5:28-29 hints at the idea of two resurrections.
- The imagery of throwing Satan into a pit and shutting it and sealing it over (Revelation 20:2-3) suggests more than the binding mentioned in the other passages. Satan still obviously has influence on the earth. He “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8; see also Acts 5:3; 1 Corinthians 10:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 6:12; 1 John 4:3; 5:19).
- While Revelation is a symbolic book, we do not have enough evidence to conclude that the “thousand years” of Revelation 20 is symbolic.
- Revelation 20 appears to teach that not all major events will take place at once. There will be two resurrections and two judgments.