PROMINENT RAPTURE AND MILLENNIAL VIEWS
“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” Matthew 24:44-46
This article profiles the multiple schools of thought regarding the Millennium, the Millennial Reign of Christ, and the Rapture. In general, teachings regarding the timing of the Rapture and Millennium fall into two categories.
Millennial positions (there are three primary positions)
Rapture positions (there are four primary positions)
- Amillennialism: This view holds that there will be no Millennial Reign of Christ. A general summary of the amillennial view is that the Kingdom began with Jesus’ first coming (his birth) and will continue until His Second Coming (the glorious appearing at the end of the tribulation period). This view holds that there will not be a 1000-year Millennial Kingdom on earth, and favors an allegorical system of interpretation to interpret prophetic events. For example, the material in the Olivet Discourse and the greater part of the book of Revelation is thought to point, symbolically, to past historical events. This position does not anticipate a Rapture but does anticipate the second coming of Christ at the end of the tribulation. This position holds that conditions in this world will continue to deteriorate up until the second coming of Christ. This view is usually traced back to Augustine (354-430 AD).
- Post-millennialism: This view holds that the Millennium is generally synonymous with the Church Age and is currently being experienced. The view holds that Jesus will return at the end of the Millennium, and that conditions on earth will improve until the second coming of Christ. This minor view originated in England and was advanced by Unitarian minister Daniel Whitby (1638-1726). This position does not support a literal interpretation of the 1000-year Millennial Kingdom noted in Revelation 20, and suggests the Millennial Kingdom will last an unspecified but long period of time.
In his book, “The Millennium,” Loraine Boettner (a post-millennialist) states: “The millennium to which the post-millennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, the Church Age.” This Millennial view does not suggest there will be a time on earth when every person will be a Christian, or that sin will be no more. But it does imply that evil in all its forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be embraced and be the rule in culture, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.” In general, this view holds that conditions on earth will continually improve and that we are currently experiencing the Millennial Kingdom.
- Pre-millennialism: This view holds that Jesus will return at the end of Daniel’s 70th week (the tribulation period) and reign for 1000 years. This 1000 year period is known as the Millennial Reign Of Christ. The primary subjects of this kingdom will be the surviving remnant of the world that come to faith during the tribulation. The pre-millennialists position does not fix the timing of the Rapture to a particular timetable but does place that momentous event before the 1000-year reign of Christ. It is my personal opinion that the majority of Bible Scholars today hold this view.
- The beginning of the tribulation period may not necessarily coincide with the timing of the Rapture.
- The tribulation begins with the signing of a ‘peace covenant’ (Dan. 9:27), not the Rapture.
- The word Rapture is not the Bible (the Latin, Hebrew or Greek text), but many believe the concept is present in Scripture. For example, in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 we read:
“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord, himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” 1 Thess. 4:14-17
- Implicit in the Rapture teaching is the thought that the church (Gentile believers) will be caught-up by Christ and thereby escape the fullness of God’s wrath on earth. There are many supporting verses.
- The church will be “kept from the hour of testing that shall come upon all the world.” (Rev. 3:10) The exhortation to be comforted by the “coming of the Lord” (1Thess. 4:18) is valid only in the context of the pre-view. It could even be a fearsome thing in a post-tribulation view.
- It is the Holy Spirit (which currently dwells in the hearts of believers) that currently holding back Satan: “And you know what restrains him [Satan] now…For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he [the Holy Spirit] who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way.…” (2 Thess. 2:6-7). The church is the body of Christ—believers. The Holy Spirit resides in the hearts of believers. It is the Holy Spirit which restrains Satan and is keeping him from destroying the earth. The Antichrist will not be able to take the world stage until the removal of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, which will happen at the Rapture (when the church/body of Christ is called to join the Lord in heaven). Paul speaks of a time when the time of the Gentiles [Church] will come to an end.
“Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:23-24; Rom. 11:25-26)A few additional support verses for the Rapture include (Matt. 24:30-31; John 14:2; 1 Thess. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:52)
Primary Rapture Views
- Pre-wrath view: The Pre-wrath position holds that a Rapture of the true church takes place near the midpoint of the tribulation (hence, this view is also known as the mid-trib view). The second half of the tribulation period is known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, The Great Tribulation and The Time Of God’s Wrath. The Apostle Paul writes that God has not destined his people to wrath (1 Thess. 5:9). “His people” are the church. Therefore, the Lord will remove His church before the commencement of the outpouring of God’s wrath. The outpouring of God’s wrath is said to take place during the Great Tribulation (the last half of the seven year tribulation period).
- Post-tribulation view: There are several schools of thought in the post-tribulation camp. The two most prominent are 1) the church is destined to exist in a preputial state of tribulation—the seven-year tribulation period is not future, but the past, present, and future. The church will be received by Christ when he returns at the end of the tribulation period. 2) The second (and dominant view in this school of thought) is that the seven year tribulation period is yet future, the Church will exist during the tribulation period, but the church will be sheltered by God’s protective hand through the tribulation period.
Some have supported this view by noting that although 1 Thessalonians 4:16 refers to a resurrection of the dead in Christ (a verse commonly quoted by pre-tribulationist), Revelation 20:1-6 speaks of the first resurrection. The argument is that if the Revelation 20 resurrection is the first resurrection, there cannot be a Rapture—and the 1 Thessalonians 4 and Revelation 20 resurrections are in fact the same.
- Pre-tribulation view: This view holds that the church will be raptured (caught up to be with Christ) at some point before the commencement of the seven-year tribulation period. Primary supporting arguments for this position include:
The tribulation describes a period of suffering unsurpassed, “such as was not since there was a nation, no, nor shall be” (Dan. 12:1). The tribulation period will be a time of wrath (Rev. 6:16-17, 11:18; 14:19; Zeph. 1:15, 18). However, we see in 1 Thess. 5:9 that the church is not appointed unto wrath, but unto salvation.
1 Thess. 4:13-18 seems to support the pre-tribulation view: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this, we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (precede) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
1 Cor. 15:51-55 seems to support the pre-tribulation view. “Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”
The primary purpose of the tribulation is to prepare the nation Israel for the Messiah. The focus of the book of Revelation and all tribulation period battles is Israel. Many Scriptures indicate the “Jewishness” of this time. It is said to be the “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” it concerns “Daniel’s people,” a “false Messiah,” the city of Jerusalem, the twelve tribes of Israel, the “son of Moses,” and a “flight on the Sabbath.” The church is not specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation after the judgments begin. It may be that the Gentile Church is simply outside the Hebrew focus/narrative of the book—many, however, believe the bulk of the book of Revelation does not mention the church because the church is raptured before the beginning of the tribulation.
- Jesus’ teaching on the end times in Matthew 24, often referred to as the ‘Olivet Discourse,’ seems to indicate that the timing of the Rapture is immediately after the ‘Birth Pains’ and before the tribulation:
“Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds…“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken, and the other left. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:29-44)
Eschatology is a weighty and solemn subject—but there is hope. It is possible to have peace in the midst of tribulation. The Apostle Paul wrote of a “peace that surpasses understanding” (Phil. 4:6-7). The first step toward experiencing this peace is to accept Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior and put your faith in Him. From that decision flows forgiveness, joy, hope, and the promise of eternity in heaven (presented at the end of this article are links to additional information on How To Be Sure Of Your Salvation).
The timing of some key future events may be unknown, but we can know that in the end Jesus will return and in the epic struggle of good verses evil, God will prevail. Until that time there will be unrest. There will be wars and rumors of wars and “troubles.” Are you ready? Will you commit to being ALL IN for Him (which means you are committed to making serving Him, growing in Him and witnessing for Him the priority of your life)? God expects believers to be active in well doing (Galatians 6:9). Be encouraged: A great reward awaits those found doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, at the right place, and with the right heart when the Lord returns.
“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.” (Matt. 24:44-46)
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