The Lord's Second Coming
Amessagefrom the author
This Bible study is the sixth in aseriesdesigned to teach you the basics of the New Testament. It is ourprayer that it will fit into its proper place and accomplish itspurpose.
The conclusions reached in thisstudy are asfollows:
- Jesus is coming soon.
- He is coming in the clouds andevery eye shall see Him.
- No one knows the day or thehour of His coming; He will come like a thief in the night.
- At His coming all the dead(good and bad) shall rise.
- The present heaven and earthwill be destroyed by fire at His coming.
- The judgment will begin at Hiscoming.
We also examined pre-millennialism(whichpresently is the commonly accepted system of thought concerningthe Lord’s return) and compared its teachings to the Bible.We reached the following conclusion: Pre-millennialism is basedon a false method of interpreting the Bible. The covenant whichGod made with Abraham was the Christian covenant. The templeprophesied in the Old Testament was the church of Christ.Christians have already experienced the first resurrection inChristian immersion, and are reigning with Christ in the 1000years (which merely means a long period of time). When Jesuscomes again, it will be to judge the world, not to establish Hiskingdom.
And Jesus’ second comingmotivates theChristian to be alert, ready and anxious for the Lord’ssurprise return.
We remind the reader that theauthor of thisbooklet is a human being subject to error, ignorance, andmisunderstanding. You yourself must study "to see if thesethings are so."
The New American Standard Versionof the Biblewas used in preparation of this study and is quoted throughout.
"TheBible only...makes Christians only..."
"Andinasmuch as it isappointed for men to die once and after this comesjudgment, so Christ also, having been offered once tobear the sins of many, shall appear a second time for salvationwithout reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him." (Hebrews9:27,28).
Make no mistake about it - Jesusis comingagain. That second coming is something that will be known andvisible to everyone, and terrifying to some.
Not only that, Jesus is comingespecially forthose who are eagerly awaiting Him. One of thepurposes ofthis study is to present the facts about Jesus’ secondcoming as they are expressed in the Bible in such a way as tomotivate you to be eagerly expecting Him. The apostle John wrote:"And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when Heappears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him inshame at His coming." (IJohn 2:28).When we eagerlyexpect Him, our lives are soon placed in order, so that when Hedoes appear we will not shrink back in shame - we will lookforward to His telling us, "Well done, good and faithfulslave" (Matthew25:23).
In this study we will also beexamining thewidespread doctrine of pre-millennialism and comparing it toBible teaching. Not only is it important to study and understandpre-millennialism in its connection with Jesus’ secondcoming, but an understanding of these other items is also atstake:
- Basic principles of Bibleinterpretation.
- The interpretation andunderstanding of much of the Old Testament, especially the prophets.
- Understanding the New Covenantand the kingdom of God.
- The relationship of the Jews toChrist.
- The importance ofChrist’s church in God’s plan.
Thepurpose of thisstudy is to stir up hope in those Christians who trulylabor and slave in full knowledge of the truth, and to reviveamong us the rallying cry of the early Christians:"Maranatha [0 Lord come]!" (ICorinthians 16:22).
Even so. Come, Lord Jesus!
This study consists of three majorsections:
- Basic teachings concerningJesus’ second coming.
- An examination ofpre-millennialism
- The effect of the second comingon the lives of Christians
I.BASIC TEACHINGSCONCERNING JESUS’ SECOND COMING
In this particular section we aregoing todiscuss six basic points about Jesus’ second coming. It isimportant that we fix each of these basic points in our minds, sothat when we proceed deeper into the study, we have some fixedreference points to look back to. We all need some basicreference points in our minds, and it is from these that we areable to examine and analyze further teaching. This isparticularly true in understanding Jesus’ second coming.
JESUSIS COMING SOON
Itis written: "He whotestifies to these things says, ‘Yes,I am coming quickly.’ " (Revelation22:20). One of thecentral points of the Bible is that Jesus’ second coming is soon- Jesus is coming soon!
Thesame point is stressedin James: "Bepatient, therefore,brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waitsfor the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it,until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient;strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is athand" (James5:7,8).
AndJesus told the churchat Philadelphia, "Iam comingquickly; hold fast to what you have, in order that no one takeyour crown" (Revelation3:11). Once again,the Bible emphasizes that Jesus is coming quickly and we are tohang on to what little faith and achievement we have in the Lord,to endure until He comes.
HEIS COMING IN THE CLOUDS AND EVERY EYE SHALL SEE HIM
"Behold,He is coming withthe clouds, and every eye shall see Him,even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of earth willmourn over Him" (Revelation1:7). It is veryobvious here that when Jesus comes back in the clouds every eyeshall see Him; not only those who are alive, but also those whoare dead - for even those who pierced Him will see Him.
In Acts1:9-11, Lukerecords Jesus’ascension. Jesus gathered His apostles togetherfor some last minute instructions. "And after He had saidthese things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And asthey were gazingintently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men inwhite clothing stood beside them; and they also said, ‘Menof Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus,who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just thesame way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’" Theapostles’ watching Jesus ascend into heaven would be muchlike our watching a jet airplane take off. In the same way as anairplane lifts off the earth and suddenly disappears through theclouds, so did Jesus in the presence of these eleven men ofGalilee. And just as an airplane returns by suddenly droppingthrough the clouds and becoming visible, so Christ also, when Hemakes His return soon, will drop through the clouds and suddenlybecome visible to all of us.
Pauladds to ourknowledge:"…when the LordJesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels inflaming fire…" (IIThessalonians 1:7). WhenJesus does become visible - revealed - He will be with His mightyangels in flaming fire.
When Jesus comes again, it is notgoing to besomething secret! It is going to be something everyone knowsabout. When He comes through the clouds, every eye shall see Him,even those who pierced Him.
NO ONEKNOWS THE TIME OF HIS COMING
Jesusmakes it veryclear in Matthew24:35-44 that no oneknows the day or the hour of His coming; He will come like athief in the night. Not even the angels in heaven, nor theSonHimself, knew the time of His return.
It is always interesting to methat peoplealways want to know when Jesus is coming again. The Bible revealsanswers to many questions - what must I do to be saved?; whatkind of life should I live?; should I work with a localcongregation in doing the Lord’s work? But there is onequestion which the Bible does not answer - when is Jesus comingagain? So what is the one question that everyone wants an answerto? You guessed it - when is Jesus coming again? Jesus Himselfdid not know when He was coming again. No one knows the time ofHis coming!
"Butof thatdayand hour, no one knows, noteven the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Fatheralone" (Matthew24:36). "Now asto the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need ofanything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full wellthat the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in thenight. While they are saying, "Peace and safety!" thendestruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon awoman with child; and they shall not escape" (IThessalonians 5:1-3).
Somehave given themistaken impression that early Christians such asPaul expected the Messiah to return shortly after the churchbegan; and when He didn’t come, they gradually changed theirstory. However, Paul makes it clear in II Thessalonians (which isone of the oldest books in the New Testament) that he knew - andwanted Christians then to understand - that the Lord would notreturn until there was a general falling away, or apostasy, fromthe original faith. "Now we request you, brethren, withregard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gatheringtogether to Him, that you may not be quickly shaken from yourcomposure or be disturbed either by a spirit or message or aletter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord hascome. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not comeunless the apostasy comes first…" (IIThessalonians 2:1-3).
Finally,we are warned byJesus: "Behold, I am coming like a thief.Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his garments, lesthe walk about naked and men see his shame" (Revelation16:15). Jesus warnsus that He is coming like a thief and He wants us to be ready.
ATHIS COMING ALL THE DEAD SHALL RISE
Paulinformed the churchat Thessalonica, "For this we say toyou by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remainuntil the coming of the Lord shall not precede those who havefallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven witha shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet ofGod; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who arealive and remain shall be caught up together with them in theclouds to meet the Lord, and thus we shall always be with theLord" (IThessalonians 4:15-17). Paulmakes it very clear that when Jesus returns, He will bring withHim those who have fallen asleep in Jesus - those Christians whohave died a physical death on earth. Then we who are so fortunateas to be alive and remain at His return shall be caught uptogether with them in the clouds. The main point here is that theChristian dead will be resurrected at Jesus’ return.
Inconnection withJesus’ second coming, John informs us:"Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has notappeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears,we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is" (IJohn 3:2).When Jesus comesback, we Christians shall be changed. We don’t know what weshall be changed into for it has not appeared as yet what weshall be but we know that we shall be like Jesus when He comes.Paul makes the same point: "For our citizenship is inheaven, from which we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord JesusChrist; who will transform the body of our humble state intoconformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of thepower that He has even to subject all things to Himself" (Philippians3:20,21). Ourbodies will be changed, if we are Christians, to be like His whenHe returns.
Inhis gospelaccount, John quotesthe Lord Jesuswith regard to the resurrection from the dead: "Do notmarvel at this; for an hour is coming in which all who are inthe tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; thosewho did the good deeds, to a resurrection of life, those whocommitted the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment" (John5:28,29).Not only arethe Christian dead going to be resurrected at the Lord’sreturn, but all who are in the tombs. And Jesus said this wouldoccur in an hour."
Knowingthis, the words ofPaul to the Corinthians take on a meaning notclearly indicated in their context: "Behold, I tell you amystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, ina moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet; for thetrumpet shall sound, and the dead will be raisedimperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable mustput on the imperishable, and this mortal must put onimmortality" (ICorinthians 15:51-53). Paulhere does not qualify the dead as he did in writing to the churchat Thessalonica; here he indicates (consistently with theteaching of Jesus in John5:28,29)that all thedead will be raised - Christian and non-Christian - when the lasttrumpet sounds. Those whom Jesus calls "good" live in aresurrection of eternal life; those whom Jesus said did"evil" live in a resurrection of eternal judgment. Thiswill occur when Jesus returns and the earth is destroyed.
THEPRESENT HEAVEN AND EARTH WILL BE DESTROYED BY FIRE AT HIS COMING
Peterwrote: "But the dayof the Lord will come like a thief,in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elementswill be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its workswill be burned up" (IIPeter 3:10). When the dayof the Lord comes - and the day of the Lord of which he isspeaking is the one which comes like a thief in the night - inthat day the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by fire.
Jesus is not coming to set up anearthlykingdom. When He comes, everything on this earth - everything inthis universe - is going to go up in smoke.
Therehave always beenthose who have not believed God’s warningsabout destruction. But this is especially true in our day ofuniformitarian thought - when the great body of scientistsbelieve that the Flood never occurred, that the face of the earthwas shaped by the same gradual, continuous forces which are atwork today. In this same passage Peter lets us know what toexpect: "Know this first of all, that in the last daysmockers will come with their mocking, following after their ownlusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? Forever since the fathers fell asleep all continues just as itwas from the beginning of creation.’ For when theymaintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of Godthe heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out ofwater and by water, through which the world at that time wasdestroyed, being flooded with water. But the present heavens andearth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the dayof judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (IIPeter 3:3-7).
Thewriter ofHebrews compares thedestruction of theearth to the giving of the Law of Moses on Mt. Sinai. On that daythe people were terrified when the earth shook at the voice ofHim who uttered the Ten Commandments. The writer then warns us:‘See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. Forif those did not escape when they refused him who warned them onearth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warnsfrom heaven. And His voice shook the earth then, but now He haspromised, saying, "Yet once more I willshakenot only the earth but also the heaven"’ (Hebrews12:25,26).
These scriptures make it clearthat both theheavens and the earth will be destroyed on the day of the Lordwhich comes like a thief, which Peter calls the "day ofjudgment" (IIPeter 3:7).
THEJUDGMENT WILL BEGIN AT HIS COMING
"Andabout these alsoEnoch, in the seventh generation from Adam,prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with manythousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, andto convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which theyhave done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things whichungodly sinners have spoken against Him." (Jude14,15).
When the Lord comes back with Hismanythousands of holy ones, His angels, He is coming back to executejudgment, to initiate the Day of Judgment.
Thesame point ismade in II Thessalonians: "…when the Lord Jesus shallbe revealed from heaven with His mighty angels inflamingfire, dealing out retribution to those who do notknow Godand to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And thesewill pay the penalty of eternaldestruction,away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of Hispower, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day,and to be marveled at among all who have believed..." (IIThessalonians 1:7-10). Paulmakes it very clear here that on the day when Jesus comes to bemarveled at among His saints - when He is first seen by those whoare Christians - at the same time He is coming to executejudgment. He is going to deal out punishment to those who do notknow God or obey the gospel. On that same day He is going to berevealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire.
In Matthew13:36-43, in the parable of the sower, when Jesus interpretsit, He makes it clear thatat"the end of the age," at the end of this age, iswhen the harvest is going to occur. "Therefore just as thetares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at theend of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, andthey will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, andthose who commit lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnaceof fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing ofteeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in thekingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." Thesame point is made in Revelation14:14-20 that, atthe end of the age, the harvest of the earth will be reaped.
Apicture of thatjudgment is given in Revelation20:11-15. God sitson the great white throne and the dead are judged according towhat is written in the books. And if a person’s name is notwritten in the book of life, he is thrown into the lake of fire.
In Acts 17, in alecture to thecitizensof Athens, Paul offers proof of the coming Day of Judgment:"Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God isnow declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, becauseHe has fixed a day in which He will judge the world inrighteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, havingfurnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead"(Acts17:30,31).
The judgment will begin atJesus’ secondcoming, and that judgment will be just as sure as Jesus’resurrection from the dead.
Jesus is coming soon to claim Hissaints,destroy the earth, and initiate judgment. The day of His comingis not known - He will come like a thief in the night - but whenHe does come, He will come in the clouds and every eye shall seeHim. At His coming all the dead - Christian and non-Christian -shall be resurrected.
II.AN EXAMINATION OFPRE-MILLENNIALISM
In Revelation 20, a 1000-yearreign of Christis mentioned. The Latin word for 1000 years is millennium; hence,the reign of Christ is referred to by Bible commentators as the millennial period.
Pre-millennial refersto events beforethe millennium (pre - means before). Pre-millennialismis a system of thought in which Jesus’ second coming occursbefore the 1000-year reign of Christ begins.
In examining pre-millennialism, wefirst wantto consider its teaching and its perspective of the scriptures.Then we want to examine the base on which pre-millennial thoughtrests from a Biblical point of view.
BASICOUTLINE OF PRE-MILLENNIALISM
In order to understandpre-millennialism, andthe significant prophecies in connection with its viewpoint ofthe Lord’s return, it is absolutely necessary to understandthe general history of the nation Israel. Below is a briefoutline of Israel’s history as recorded in the Bible [datesadded], accompanied by a sketch of the area and an explanation ofthe points in the outline.
- Covenant with Abraham - 1876 BC
- Crossing the Red Sea, Law ofMoses - 1446 BC
- Entering Canaan - 1406 BC
- David becomes king - 1010 BC
- Kingdom splits - 930 BC
- Northern kingdom (Israel)destroyed - 722 BC
- Southern kingdom (Judah) nearlydestroyed - 605-585 BC
- Remnant of Judah returns - 536BC
- Judah rejects the Messiah - 30AD
- Jerusalem destroyed - 70 A
There is some dispute as to thedates listedabove, especially for the first five, but these are generallyaccepted as being "in the ballpark" by conservativescholars.
- Inapproximately 2000BC, God made a special covenant with Abraham regarding his seed (thecovenant was renewed with Isaac, and then with Jacob in 1876 BC. InGalatians 3:17, Paul emphasizes that the covenant with Abraham came 430years before the Law. A date of 1446 BC for the Law of Moses gives thedate of 1876 BC.) This covenant will be discussed at some length in thefollowing sections.
- In1446 BC Moses ledthe people of Israel out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, and gave thepeople the Ten Commandments (and all the other Old Testament laws) atMt. Sinai.
- Atthe death of Moses,the leadership passed to Joshua. For years the people of Israel hadwandered in the wilderness, and all but two men of those who were morethan 20 years old at the crossing of the Red Sea were destroyed duringthat period. Under the leadership of Joshua, the new generation ofIsraelites crossed the Jordan River and took possession of the land ofCanaan. The land of Canaan was then apportioned out to the twelvetribes, each tribe receiving a certain section of land which was to betheirs for as long as Israel existed.
- Forroughly 350 yearsthe nation of Israel was governed only by men and women who were calledjudges. These were those whom God raised up to maintain law and orderin the land in the absence of any central authority. The people beganto clamor for a king, however, in order to be like the other nationsaround them, so God grudgingly let them have a king. When the firstking, named Saul, went bad, God appointed David to be king. When Davidofficially became king in 1010 BC, a subtle split between the tribe ofJudah and the other tribes of Israel began to develop because David,being of the tribe of Judah, tended to favor Judah.
- Solomon,David’s son, taxed the people heavily. At his death, ten ofthe twelve tribes brokeaway, leaving only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin under the rule ofSolomon’s son Rehoboam. The ten tribes which broke awayretained the name of Israel, while the two remaining tribes took thename of Judah, since the tribe of Judah was by far dominant.Israel’s capital city was eventually established at the cityof Samaria, while Judah’s capital was at Jerusalem.
- WhenIsrael broke away,it also broke with divinely established worship, and began to worshipidols. Because of idol worship, and because of the extreme immoralityof the people, God had the Assyrians destroy the northern kingdom (alsocalled Ephraim and Samaria by this time) in 722 BC.
- AlthoughJudah retained an outward form of worship of God, she also lapsed intoidolatry and immorality. In605 BC God allowed Babylon to conquer Judah, and a number of residentswere carried captive into Babylon. In 585 BC, the Babylonianscompletely destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of God; and, basically,the only people of Judah who remained were those who were captive inBabylon or scattered elsewhere.
- In536 BC, in accordance with prophecy which Jeremiah had made some 70years earlier, thePersians conquered Babylon, and allowed the people of Judah to returnand begin to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. This small group thatreturned was known to the prophets as "the remnant."
- Thelast of the Old Testament prophets wrote in 430 BC. Until the coming ofJohn theImmerser, and the Lord Jesus, there was silence from heaven. The Jews,in accordance with Old Testament prophecy, put Jesus to death. With theestablishment of the church on the Jewish feast day of Pentecost, 30AD, a number of Jews repented and were immersed in the name of Christfor the remission of their sins. But large numbers rejected Jesus asthe Messiah.
- Inconsequence of the Jews rejection of the Messiah, in 70 AD God sent thearmies of Rome to destroyJerusalem. They burned the city, and leveled the Temple.
TheCovenant with Abraham
Pre-millennialism is based on whatits leadingproponents call the "literal method of interpretingscripture." The literal method allows for no figurative orsymbolic interpretation of any verse of scripture except inextreme cases.
Pre-millennialism begins with theliteralinterpretation of the covenant God made with Abraham. In Genesis15,God confirmed Hispromise to Abraham that his descendants would be as numberless asthe stars in the heavens by passing through two halves of thesacrifice Abraham had prepared for God. As He passed between thepieces in the form of a smoking oven and a flaming torch, Godsaid to Abraham, "To your descendants I have given thisland, from the river of Egypt as far as the great riverEuphrates" (Genesis15:18).
Later, in Genesis17:8,it is writtenthat God said to Abraham: "And I will give to you and yourdescendants after you, the land of your sojourning, allthe land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and Iwillbe their God."
The literal interpretation ofthese promises isthat God promised the land of Canaan to the people of Israelforever. "It is evident... that the physical seed of Abrahamwas promised eternal possession of the land" (J. DwightPentecost, Things to Come; Zondervan Press, GrandRapids,MI 49506; p.90).
The reasoning of pre-millennialismbegins here- God promised the land of Canaan to Israel as an eternalpossession. The promise to Abraham was confirmed to the nation ofIsrael just before they crossed the Jordan River under theleadership of Joshua (Deuteronomy30:1-10). Thesepromises were expanded upon in God’s promise to David thathis throne would be established forever (IISamuel 7:16). Someone ofDavid’s line would sit on David’s throne rulingoverthe nation Israel in the land of Canaan.
OldTestamentProphecies of Restoration
Following the capture of the landof Canaan,the people of Israel gradually lapsed into idolatry. Never in thehistory recorded in the Old Testament did they, according topre-millennial thinking, possess the land from the river of Egyptto the Euphrates River. So the promises given to Israel by Godthrough Abraham were yet unfulfilled when God destroyed Israel in722 BC and Judah in 585 BC.
Pre-millennialists draw the conclusion thatthese promises are to befulfilled in some future history of Israel. Pre-millennialistsfeel that this conclusion is justified by numerous Old Testamentprophecies. Typical of these is Jeremiah31:5,6: "Againyou shall plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the plantersshall plant and enjoy them. For there shall be a day whenwatchmen on the hills of Ephraim shall call out, ‘Arise, andlet us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.’"
When Jeremiah prophesied thatthose living inthe northern nation of Israel (here called Samaria and Ephraim)would go up to Jerusalem to worship, the northern nation had longsince been destroyed. Jeremiah’s prophecy, according topre-millennialism, did not begin to be fulfilled until 1948 whenthe nation of Israel did once again become sovereign, possessingthe hills of Ephraim and the vineyards of Samaria.
Anothersuch prophecy isgiven in Amos9:11-15.God promised therebuilding of the tabernacle of David, and the return of thepeople to the land, from which they would never again be rootedout. (The tabernacle of David is the kingdom of Israel, accordingto some leading pre-millennialists - see Pentecost, Thingsto Come, pp.110, 111)
TheOld Testament alsoprophesied the rebuilding of the temple inJerusalem: "And I…will set My sanctuary in their midstforever" (Ezekiel37:26). Although thepeople have been restored to the land, the Temple (according topre-millennialism) has not yet been rebuilt. And it must berebuilt before the Antichrist can come.
Rejectionof Christ bythe Jews
When God sent His Son - born of avirgin - intothe world, the Jews rejected Him, and crucified Him.
With the rejection of Christ bythe Jews, Godinterrupted His program with Israel to interject the church age,designated by the pre-millennialists as the "mystery.""The existence of this present age, which was to interruptGod’s established program with Israel, was a mystery"(Pentecost, Things to Come, p.135). Furthermore,it isstated that "…this whole age existed in the mind of Godwithout having been revealed in the Old Testament" (ibid., p.137).
Oneof the purposes ofthis mystery age is to make the Jews jealous, sothat they will come to salvation. "I say, then, they [theJews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be!But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, tomake them [the Jews] jealous." (Romans11:11).
In pre-millennial diction, "therapture" occurs when Christians are lifted off the earth tomeet Christ as described in IThessalonians 4:16,17."For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; andthe dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive andremain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds tomeet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with theLord."
Pre-millennialism makes adistinction betweenthe "rapture" and the second coming of Christ. Therapture is sometimes termed "the translation," and thesecond coming is described as "the second advent." Inthe rapture, the church is silently lifted off the earth asdescribed in the bumper sticker - WARNING: IN CASE OF RAPTURETHIS CAR WILL BE UNMANNED. In the second advent, which occursseven years after the rapture, Christ returns to the earth withthe saints to reign over the earth out of Jerusalem.
There are three Greek words whichrelate to therapture and the second advent: parousia, apokalupsis, and epiphanea. John F. Walvoord,president of Dallas Theological Seminary,is quoted favorably by J. Dwight Pentecost: "It is theviewpoint of the writer that all three terms are used in ageneral and not a technical sense, and that they are descriptiveof both the rapture and the glorious return of Christ to theearth…" (Pentecost, Things to Come, p.156).
When the church is raptured offthe earth, theAntichrist (according to pre-millennial thinking) comes and takeshis seat in the Temple. Paul writes, that before the day of theLord would come, a general falling away would occur, and"the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,who opposes, and exalts himself above every so called god orobject of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple ofGod, displaying himself as being God" (IIThessalonians 2:3,4).
TheAntichrist is alsoreferred to as the "abomination ofdesolation" (Matthew24:15) who will standin the holy place (the Temple). The Antichrist is also sometimesdescribed as the second beast in Revelation13 (defined as the"false prophet" in Revelation19:20) whose number"666" is that of a man.
Many pre-millennialists view theAntichrist asa man who will come back to life (Revelation13:3), and who willtake his seat in the Temple.
Others, such as J. DwightPentecost, are forcedby the scriptures to say that "antichrist" refers to asystem or philosophy of religion rather than a specificindividual. He explains: "The word antichrist appearsonly in the epistles of John... A study of these references willreveal that John is principally concerned with an immediatedoctrinal error - the denial of the person of Christ. Theemphasis is not on a future revelation of an individual, butrather on the present manifestation of false doctrine..."(Pentecost, Things to Come, p.337).He closes outhis argument by stating that Satan and the first and secondbeasts of Revelation 13, "in their corporate unity,culminate lawlessness"; that is, the three operating as aunit constitute the Antichrist philosophy (ibid., p.330).
Inpre-millennial chronology,when the Antichrist controls the Temple ofGod following the rapture of the church, the earth is engulfed inthe "great tribulation" (Matthew24:21)."…this period is peculiarly the time when God’swrath and judgment fall upon the earth. This is not wrath frommen, nor from Satan, except as God may use these agencies aschannels for the execution of His will; it is tribulation fromGod. This period differs from all preceding tribulation, not onlyin intensity, but also in the kind of tribulation, since it comesfrom God Himself" (Pentecost, Things to Come, p.236,237).
Thetribulation lastsseven years. This iscalculated fromprophecy given in Daniel9:24-27. From apre-millennial perspective, all Old Testament prophecy relates tothe physical nation Israel, and there is no prophecy concerningthe church since the church constitutes the "mysteryage." Daniel9:24-27 speaks of 70weeks of years (literally 70 "sevens"). 69 of thosesets of seven were fulfilled in the preparation of the coming ofthe Messiah, the Prince (Jesus Christ). Before the 70th week isfulfilled, there is a gap created by the church age. But when thechurch is raptured, the mystery age is over and God again beginsto implement His program for Israel. With this implementation,the 70th week begins; it is therefore seven years from therapture until God closes the great tribulation by establishingHis kingdom with the return of Jesus.
The New Testament book ofRevelation fits intothe pre-millennial scheme as follows: Revelation chapter one setsthe scene for the message from Jesus. Revelation 2 & 3describe seven church "ages" beginning with the"Ephesian age" and culminating in the "Laodiceanage," the age of the "lukewarm church." Revelationchapters 4 though 18 deal with the events during the "greattribulation," ending with the return of Christ described inRevelation 19.
Pre-millennialists themselves are somewhatdivided. There are thosewhoview the rapture of the church as occurring following thetribulation (post-tribulationists); those who view the rapture asoccurring at the three and one-half year mark of the tribulation(midtribulationists); and those who view the rapture as occurringbefore the tribulation (pre-tribulationists). Strict adherence tothe terms of "literal interpretation" as defined bypre-millennialists would seem to force the "orthodox"to the pre-tribulationist position. The pre-millennialists’interpretation of Revelation depends upon their individual viewsof the rapture in regard to its relation to the tribulation.
Duringthe tribulation,Elijah the prophet will come and prepare the nation Israel forthe second coming of Christ."Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet beforethe coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord" (Malachi4:5)."As Johnthe Baptist preached ... to prepare Israel for the first coming,Elijah will preach to prepare Israel for the second advent"(Pentecost, Things to Come, p.237).
Asa result ofElijah’spreaching the good newsof the impending kingdom (along with 144,000 sealed Israelites),there is a mass turning of the Israelite nation to Christ."…a partial hardening has happened to Israel until thefullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will besaved; just as it is written, ‘The Deliverer will come fromZion; He will remove all ungodliness from Jacob.’‘Andthis is My covenant with them when I take away theirsins.’" (Romans11:25-27). The"times of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24) will be fulfilledat the Lord’s return, and this will mark the acceptance ofIsrael as a nation again in the sight of God.
Whenthe seven years oftribulation are completed (according topre-millennial doctrine), Jesus makes His return as described in Revelation19. As He returns,He brings with Him the saints who were "raptured" withHim seven years earlier; and He begins the 1000-year reign onearth.
WhenChrist returns, thesaints who lost their lives during the greattribulation are resurrected (Revelation20:4,5). This isthe first resurrection. (All the Old Testament saints areresurrected at this time also.) "Blessed and holy is the onewho has a part in the first resurrection; over these the seconddeath has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christand will reign with Him for a thousand years" (Revelation20:6).
Withthe return of Christ,Satan is bound for 1000 years (Revelation20:1-3), preparingthe way for the peaceful millennial reign of Christ.
Atthe resurrection ofthe tribulation saints, and the resurrection of theOld Testament saints at the second coming of Christ, thethousand-year reign of Jesus begins. In the pre-millennial systemof thought, this is the fulfillment of many Old Testamentprophecies (such as the lion laying down with the lamb, etc.),and the culmination of the plan of the ages. The following arethe characteristics of the kingdom:
- Thisis the kingdom whichwas originally offered to the Jews by John the Immerser and Jesus (Matthew3:2; 4:17). But (according to pre-millennialist thinking)when the Jews rejected Christ, the offer of the kingdom was withdrawn,and the mystery age of the church was ushered in until the Jews couldbe prepared to accept the Messiah (Pentecost, Things to Come, p.463-466).
- Because Satan is bound for the1000 years, the reign of Christ is characterized by peace, holiness,and justice.
- AlthoughJesus reigns over the earth, David will reign as king over Palestine(Pentecost, Things to Come, p.500).
- TheNew Covenant prophesiedby Jeremiah (Jeremiah31:31-34) now takes effect.
- Manyaspects of Old Testament worship are re-instituted, including animalsacrifices in the Temple.With the exception of the High Priest, the Old Testament priesthood isrestored in the sons of Zadok (Ezekiel40:46).
- Resurrectedsaints, those who lived through the tribulation, and babies born duringthe millennium all live together. Jerusalem is occupied by those whohave beenresurrected.
TheLoosing of Satan
Atthe end of the thousandyears, Satan is loosed for a little season (Revelation20:3-7). When he isloosed, he leads the world in revolt against the theocracy ofChrist. This is the final test of those who have been living inthe kingdom without possibility of temptation. Pentecost writes:"While those going into the millennium were saved, they werenot perfected. The progeny born to them during the millennial agewere born with the same fallen sin nature with which theirparents were born and consequently needed regeneration . . .many, whose hearts had not been regenerated, [gave] requiredconformity to the law of the King. There must be a test todetermine the true heart condition of the individuals in theage" (Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 549).
"Andthey came up on thebroad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp ofthe saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heavenand devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was throwninto the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and thefalse prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and nightforever and ever" (Revelation20:9,10).
TheGreat White ThroneJudgment
Followingthe destruction ofthe rebellious at the end of the kingdom, the greatwhite throne judgment, as described in Revelation20:11-15 occurs."And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it,from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place wasfound for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small,standing before the throne, and books were opened; and anotherbook was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead werejudged from the things which were written in the books, accordingto their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it,and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and theywere judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Anddeath and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is thesecond death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was notfound in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake offire."
From a pre-millennial point ofview, all of thelost are resurrected to stand before the throne - none of thesaved go to judgment, having been resurrected 1000 years earlier.None of the lost’s names are found written in the book oflife, and they are thrown into the lake of fire, which is thesecond death, or eternal separation from God.
When the lost are judged, a newheaven and anew earth are created, as described in Revelation21:1-22:7, as ahome for the saved.
Figure 1. AChart ofPre-MillennialistDoctrine
ASECOND LOOK AT THESCRIPTURES
At a casual glancepre-millennialism may seemreasonable, and may even seem to be backed by the Bible. Butcertain conclusions reached by the "literal method ofinterpretation" just do not make sense. Among these are:
- That the NewCovenant does not take effect until Jesus comes back. Hebrews9:16,17 (and all of Hebrews8,9, & 10) make it clear that Christ’s willorcovenant took effect at His death.
- That there is a distinction between the"rapture"and the Lord’s second coming. We have already quoted frompre-millennialistscholars in regard to the usage of the Greek words describing the"rapture" and the second advent (p. 14) and noted that the Bible itselfnever makes any distinction between the return of Christ for the church(the "rapture") and His second advent.
Because the Bible insists that Jesus is coming back for Christians onthe day of the Lord which comes like a thief in the night (IThessalonians 4:13-5:3), and that on that same day of theLord whichcomes like a thief the universe will be destroyed (IIPeter 3:10), pre-millennialists are left no room for theircherished tribulation and 1000-year reign on earth. So at this pointthey abandon their "literal method of interpretation": "…theterm Day of the Lord or that day, isnot a term which applies to a twenty-four hour period, but rather thewhole program of events, including the tribulation period, the secondadvent program, and the entire millennial age" (Pentecost, Thingsto Come, p. 174). In other words, a day somehowbecomes a period of time in excess of 1007 years.
- That the church is a "mystery age" ofwhich nothingis spoken in the Old Testament.It can be shown that the church is the fulfillment of the Old Testamentprophecies concerning the kingdom (seethe study Christ’s Church, the sectiondealing with "The Church as the Kingdom"). It can also beshown that the church is theculmination of God’s plan to save the Gentiles (see thestudy Proof that the Bible is the Word of God, thesection entitled "The Plan").
- That there is more than one generalresurrectionfrom the dead. Jesussaid that "an hour is coming, in which all [bothgood and bad] who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall comeforth" (John5:28,29).Jesus also spoke of raising Christians on the last day! (John6:39,40,54).
- That Jesus is coming a second time toestablish Hiskingdom. The Bibleinsists that He is coming back to execute judgment (Jude14,15)and that the judgment will be eternal destruction for the ungodly onthe day that Jesus comes to be marveled at among His saints - the daythat He is revealed from heaven (IIThessalonians 1:6-10).
- That the sacrifices are again offered inthe Templeduring Christ’s millennial reign. The whole tenor of the NewTestament is that theLaw made nothing perfect, but that the gospel of Christ, founded uponHis perfect sacrifice, did what the Law could not do (Romans8:3,4).It seems ridiculous to go back to an imperfect system during the"culmination of the ages" - the 1000-year reign of Christ.
Although we have many other piecesof evidencewe could marshal on our behalf, these six questions aresufficient to cast grave doubts upon the "literal method ofinterpretation" as enforced by pre-millennialists.
Now, before some rudely cast us tothe winds ofheresy, let us state that we believe - more than believe, we know- that the Bible is inspired by God. Every word in the originallanguages in which it was written is God-breathed; and anytranslation faithful to the original languages carries the sameweight of inspiration as the original.
But the question is: which versesof scriptureare to be interpreted literally, and which may have a symbolicmeaning? Pre-millennialists insist that terms such as"Judah," "Israel," and "1000 years"are to be interpreted literally, but "day" and"hour" have a broader meaning. In the pages to follow,we are going to insist that, in the passages in question, thereverse is true.
Ourfirstworking principle is this: aplain statement of fact in the New Testament isjust that- a plain statement of fact. For instance, on the day ofPentecost, 30 AD, when the people asked what they must do, Petertold them to repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christfor the forgiveness of their sins, and they would receive thegift of the Holy Spirit (Acts2:38).That is a plainstatement of fact - repentance and immersion arenecessaryto receive forgiveness of sins. All other scripture (since thereare no contradictions in the Bible) must be interpreted in thelight of this plain statement in the New Testament.
Ournextprinciple is this: althoughGod uses words in connection with their common usage, He defineskey words and concepts by example and His own usage. For example,Jesus defines love for us by dying on the cross. God defines"immersion in the Holy Spirit" by describing for us theevents on the day of Pentecost, and the events surrounding theconversion of the household of Cornelius (Acts1 & 2; Acts 10 & 11). He defines the meaningof the kingdom of heavenbythe manner in which apostles such as Paul used it to describe thechurch in the book of Acts and the epistles. Once the meaning ofone of these key terms can be established by New Testament usage,it is then possible to understand what is meant by the term whenit is used in the Old Testament, or in other places in the NewTestament where its meaning is unclear.
Ourthirdprinciple is this: principlesfor the interpretation of indirect statements, symbolic orfigurative language, and parables are given in the New Testament.For example, Jesus gave many parables about the kingdom ofheaven. Of these, He interpreted two. From careful study of themanner in which Jesus interpreted the two, we have workingprinciples for interpreting others.
Ourfourthprinciple is this: OldTestament scripture is to be interpreted from principles given inthe New Testament. The New Testament quotes fromthe OldTestament in many places, and the Holy Spirit who inspired theNew Testament authors certainly knows how to interpret the OldTestament which He also inspired. For example, the first fourverses of Hosea 11 seem to be talking about the nation of Israelcrossing the Red Sea as they left Egypt. "When Israel was ayouth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The morethey called them, the more they went from them; they keptsacrificing to Baals and burning incense to idols" (Hosea11:1,2).Matthew,inspired by the Holy Spirit, draws a meaning from this that weprobably would not have expected. When Jesus was born, and Heroddetermined to destroy this rival "king of the Jews," anangel of the Lord told Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt. "Andhe arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departedfor Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that what wasspoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled,saying, ‘Out of Egypt did I call My Son’" (Matthew2:14,15). Matthew saysthat the reference in Hosea11:1is not to Israel,but to Jesus. A careful examination of the manner in which theNew Testament authors quoted from the Old Testament will give usworking principles for interpreting it, and we won’t have tolean on our own understanding.
Atthis pointsomeone will ask,"You mean thatthose who read the Old Testament without the benefit of the Newdid not understand what they read? You mean to say that those OldTestament scholars were unable to understand the meaning of theirbook without the benefit of the New Testament to guidethem?" I will go even further than that; I will say thateven those prophets who wrote them did not understand many thingsof which they wrote. "As to this salvation, the prophetswho prophesied of the grace that would come to you madecareful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person ortime the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as Hepredicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. Itwas revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, butyou, in these things which now have been announced to you throughthose who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent fromheaven - things into which angels long to look." (IPeter 1:10-12).
Peter makes two things clear:
- The Old Testament prophets didprophesy the church age of grace. This wrecks the pre-millennialconcept that all Old Testament prophecy relates only to the physicalnation Israel.
- The Old Testament prophets didnot understand what they prophesied, even though they made carefulsearch and inquiry. If the literal method advocated bypre-millennialists was the correct one, these Old Testament prophetswould have understood what they wrote.
As we begin to re-examine thebases on whichpre-millennialism rests, we shall apply the above principles,using the New Testament as our guide to the past, present, andfuture.
In Genesis 15, God made a covenantwith Abrahamin which He promised to Abraham and his descendants (literally,"his seed") the land of Canaan forever. This covenantwas reaffirmed in Genesis17,and later to Isaacand Jacob. This, on the surface at least, looks like a promise tothe nation of Israel, and a promise to be fulfilled physically.
Butwhat does the NewTestament say? Paul writes: "Brethren, I speakin terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’scovenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside oradds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abrahamand to his seed. He does not say, ‘And toseeds,’as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ. WhatI am saying isthis: the Law,which came four hundred and thirty years later, does notinvalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as tonullify the promise." (Galatians3:15-17).
Paulis comparing thecovenant with Abraham to the Ten Commandments whichwere given on Mt. Sinai some 430 years later than His ratifyingAbraham’s covenant with Jacob. Paul, inspired by the HolySpirit, insists that the covenant with Abraham was with Abrahamand Christ - not with Abraham and the physical nation Israel! Hethen adds, "And if you belong to Christ, then you areAbraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise." (Galatians3:29).
It is clear from this that thecovenant whichGod made with Abraham was the Christian covenant, and the Law wasmerely a means of preserving a measure of faith until the timewas right for Jesus to come. "Why the Law then? It was addedbecause of transgressions, having been ordained through angels bythe agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom thepromise had been made" (Galatians3:19).
Whatabout the landof Canaan which was promised to Abraham and his seed? The writer ofHebrews gives us some insight intothenature of that land: "All these [Old Testament greats,including Abraham] died in faith, without receiving the promises,but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance,and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on theearth. For those who say such things make it clear that they areseeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had beenthinking of that country from which they went out, they wouldhave had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire abetter country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is notashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city forthem" (Hebrews11:13-16). The countryfor which Abraham sought was not the physical land of Canaan; itwas a heavenly country, which we sometimes designate by"heaven." It is to this land we refer when we sing,"On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,/ and cast a wishfuleye/ to Canaan’s fair and happy land/ where my possessionslie."
Thecovenant which Godmade with Abraham, and His promise concerningthe land illustrate God’s way of dealing with mankind. Heoften fulfills promises in a physical way to the nation Israel;but His real meaning is the spiritual application to the church.The church is the true tabernacle; the physical tabernacle ofIsrael was only a shadow of the church to come (Hebrews8:1-5). Christians arethe true offspring of Abraham.
RebuildingtheTabernacle of David
Amos prophesied in 750 BC therebuilding of thetabernacle of David and the return of Israel to the land (Amos9:11-15).Pre-millennialists view this prophecy as the restoration of thekingdom to David and the return of the nation Israel to thephysical land of Canaan, which began to occur in 1948, but whichwill not be fulfilled until Jesus comes again and rules over theearth as David reigns as co-regent in Jerusalem.
This prophecy of Amos is quoted inthe NewTestament book of Acts. How did the inspired leaders in the earlychurch view this prophecy?
In Acts15aconference whichtook place in Jerusalem is recorded. Leaders ofthe church met to discuss the relationship of Gentile Christiansto Jewish Christians in regard to the Gentiles keeping the Lawand being circumcised. After men such as Paul spoke, and Peterexplained how God showed him that the Gentiles were acceptable toGod, James - an elder in the church in Jerusalem - had the finalsay. "Simeon [Peter] has related how God first concernedHimself about taking from the Gentiles a people for His name. Andwith this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written,'"After these things I will return, and I will rebuild thetabernacle of David which has fallen, and I will rebuild itsruins, and I will restore it, in order that the rest ofmankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who arecalled by My name," says the Lord, who makes these thingsknown from of old'"(Acts15:14-18).
Jamesquotes this veryprophecy from Amos as already beingfulfilled! The tabernacle of David would be restored before theGentiles could be saved. Since the church is referred to as thetrue tabernacle (Hebrews8:1,2), and the realtemple of God (Ephesians2:19-23), it isclear that this prophecy of Amos was in reference to thechurch! The church was established on the Jewish feast dayofPentecost, 30 AD, with those of Jewish background. Some 10 yearslater salvation was extended to the Gentiles in order that whatwas spoken by Joel the prophet might be fulfilled: "And itwill come about that whoever calls on the name ofthe Lordshall be saved" (Joel2:32; Acts 2:21). Thetabernacle of David was rebuilt on the day of Pentecost, 30 AD,in order that the rest of mankind might seek the Lord.
The questions now come: "If allthe deadare raised at the second coming of Christ, what is the meaning ofthe first resurrection of Revelation20:5,6? If thechurch is the kingdom, and is the fulfillment of Old Testamentprophecy, then what about the 1000 years? If Jesus is coming toexecute judgment, and not to reign 1000 years on earth, what isthe meaning of Revelation 20? What is the meaning of Satan’sbeing bound for 1000 years, and being loosed for a littleseason?"
Let’sbegin with Revelation20:6. There aresome things in this verse for which there are definite statementsin other portions of the New Testament, and we can begin here andwork backward. Revelation 20:6 reads: "Blessed and holy isthe one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these thesecond death has no power, but they will be priests of God and ofChrist and will reign with Him for a thousand years." Thisverse speaks of those over whom "the second death has nopower." Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he whohears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternallife, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out ofdeathinto life" (John5:24).Christianscertainly fit the category of those over whom the second death(which is eternal separation from God) has no power.
John further speaks of those overwhom thesecond death has no power as being priests of God and of Christ.Again, this refers to Christians: "But you are a royalpriesthood" (IPeter 2:9)"And He hasmade us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father" (Revelation1:6).
Not only is every Christian apriest, but he isalso a king. This can be inferred from IPeter 2:9where Christiansare called "a royal priesthood," and from the statementthat Christians are anointed (IJohn 2:27).But it is statedplainly in Ephesians 2:4-6: "But God, being rich in mercy,because of His great love with which He loved us, even when wewere dead in our transgressions, made us alive togetherwith Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up withHim and seated us with Him in the heavenly placesinChrist Jesus." Notice the tense of those verbs - past tense!Christians have already been seated with Christ on the throne.Christians live and reign as kings with Christ now!
Itis apparent that Revelation20:6 is describingthose who are Christians - who are already priests and who arealready reigning with Christ, and who have already been set freefrom second death. It is affirmed that these who are priests ofGod, etc., have already had a part in the first resurrection.
What first resurrection haveChristiansundergone that non-Christians haven’t? What does everyChristian experience that might be called a "firstresurrection"? The answer: immersion in water!
But let the scriptures speak forthemselves."…having been buried with Him in immersion, in whichyou also were raised up with Him through faith intheworking of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Colossians2:12)."Therefore we have been buried with Him through immersioninto death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead throughthe glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness oflife. For if we have become united with Him in the likenessof His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness ofHis resurrection…" (Romans6:4,5).
The great message of immersion isthat not onlyis the old man crucified, but a new man is resurrected - with thecapability of being like Christ Himself (Romans6:11)!So immersionsaves us by the resurrection of Christ (IPeter 3:21).(Formore on this subject, seethe entire study booklet The New Creation.)
Havingestablished,then, that immersion in water is the first resurrection, we askthe next logical question: "When did the first ‘firstresurrections’ occur?" Answer: On the day of Pentecost,30 AD. Question: Have those who were "resurrected" atthat time been reigning with Christ since then - for nearly 2000years? Answer: Yes.
Question: Does this mean that the1000 years ofRevelation 20 is not a literal 1000 years, but refers to theentire church age? Answer: We are forced to that conclusion, arewe not?
Question:Satan mustbe bound now, if we are truly in the 1000 years? Answer: Yes, hemust be. Question:How is he bound?Answer: The word bound means to be limited, orimprisoned,much as boundaries limit action on a football field, or prisonwalls limit the range of activity for those incarcerated. Satanis definitely bound. Jude writes: "And angels who did notkeep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He haskept in eternal bonds under darkness for thejudgment ofthe great day" (Jude6).One of the ways inwhich Satan is bound is that he is limited by God as to theextent to which he is allowed to tempt Christians. "Notemptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; andGod is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyondwhat you are able, but with the temptation will provide theway of escape also, that you may be able to endure it" (ICorinthians 10:13). One ofthe greatest elements of the good news is that even though thewhole world lies in the power of the evil one, we as Christianshave been set free from slavery to corruption. Greater is He whois in us than he who is in the world. But the general thrust ofthe passage is that Satan’s ability to function on earth islimited for the church age, but at the close of the church age,"he must be released for a short time."
Question: The rest of thedead’s coming tolife mentioned in Revelation20:5 must betalking about the non-Christians who are resurrected at the endof the church age for judgment? Answer: That is correct. Andisn’t that consistent with the teaching of the New Testamentconcerning Jesus’ second coming - that all the dead areresurrected at His return, and that He will execute judgment atthis time. And listen carefully to the words of Jesus as He spoketo Martha, the sister of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead:"I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Meshall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believesin Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John11:25,26). We who areChrist’s shall live even if we die, for we shall beresurrected to life (John5:29).And we who areChrist’s shall never die, for we have passed out of deathinto life (John5:24).In a sense we willbe bodily resurrected if we bodily die; in the other sense weshall never die in that we shall never lose our fellowship withthe Father and His Son, for it is better to be absent from thebody and present with the Lord. Christians are already alive andresurrected in a sense; non-Christians will not be alive norresurrected in any sense until Jesus calls them out of theirtombs at His coming.
Question: So those who aredescribed in Revelation20:4 as coming tolife and reigning with Christ are Christians, even though some ofthem have been beheaded in body? Answer: Yes. Those who refuse tofollow the course of this world come to life in their immersion,and continue to live beyond the grave, if they overcome in thislife on earth.
Question:What aboutSatan being loosed for a short time at the end of the 1000 years? Ithought that the 1000 years ends at the secondcomingof Christ; how is there room for Satan being loosed even for ashort period of time? Answer: That is a difficult question, butI’ll do my best to answer it on the basis of the scriptures.What is the "camp of the saints and the beloved city"of Revelation20:9? Is it not thechurch, for the scripture informs us that we have already cometo Mount Zion and to the city of the living God - the heavenlyJerusalem (Hebrews12:22). At the loosingof Satan, the forces of evil come up on the broad plain of theearth and surround the church. Since the church cannot be definedas being in one location, its depiction as being surroundeddescribes the end of progress for the church - it simply is notable to continue to accomplish its task of seeking and saving thelost. Perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about when Hedescribed conditions at His return as it was in the days of Noah(Matthew24:37) and in the daysof Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke17:28,29); and again,"However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith onearth?" (Luke18:8).
SummaryofRevelation 20:1-10: Wehaveestablished, by beginning from what we did know from plain NewTestament teaching and working toward what we didn’t know,the following points:
- Christians are kings andpriests who are free from the power of the second death; they live andreign with Christ now.
- The first resurrection isconnected with Christian immersion. When a person is buried with Christin immersion, he is resurrected to walk in newness of life.
- Since the first "firstresurrections" began in 30 AD with the establishment of the church, wehave been in the 1000 years. The one thousand years merely denotes theentire church age.
- Satan is bound (limited) forthe church age.
- At the close of the church age,Satan will again run rampant, and the church (the camp of the saintsand the beloved city) will not be able to make further progress. Atthat time Jesus will come and initiate judgment.
- The non-Christians will receivetheir resurrection to judgment at the Lord’s return;Christians’ bodies will be resurrected to life at this point,although in their immersions while on earth, they were passed fromdeath to life - they were born again.
In Matthew24wars and rumors ofwars, famines and earthquakes are mentioned in connection withsomething Jesus called "the end." Many casual readersof scripture immediately assume that Jesus here is talking aboutthe end of the world, and begin to draw some erroneousconclusions. A study of Matthew 24 and its companion passages in Mark13and Luke21help to clear up someconfusing and difficult portions of the word of God.
AsJesus and Hisapostles left the Temple one day shortly beforeJesus’ crucifixion, His disciples began to point out howbeautiful and wonderful the Temple buildings were. Jesus answeredand said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly Isay to you, not one stone here shall be left upon another whichshall not be torn down" (Matthew24:2).
Later the disciples questionedJesus privatelyabout this statement. It is important to note that the disciplesasked Jesus two questions: 1) When will the Temple be destroyed;and 2) What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end ofthe age? (Matthew24:3).Many people,including pre-millennialists, automatically assume that Jesusbegins talking about His second coming, and ignore the firstquestion about the destruction of the Temple. In fact, acomparison with Mark13:4and Luke21:7indicates that eventhe apostles’ second question (from their perspective) hadto do with signs concerning Jesus’ judgment upon the Templeand the end of the Jewish era rather than His second coming atthe end of the world.
Warsand rumors ofwars, earthquakes, etc.: Everytime a major earthquake occurs, or war threatens, some preachersomewhere brings out his trumpet and blows that Jesus’second coming is now indeed imminent. I’ve heard preacherssay that reading Matthew 24 is like reading your newspaper - allthe bad news is prophesied (they say) in Matthew 24:4-14 aboutJesus’ second coming. But a careful examination of theseverses will show that these are signs referring - not to theLord’s second coming - but to the destruction of the Temple.Even that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in thewhole world before the end (vs. 14) was fulfilled before thedestruction of the Temple. Paul writes:"…you…heard…the word of truth, thegospel,which has come to you, just as in all the world it is constantlybearing fruit and increasing…" (Colossians1:5,6). Again,"the gospel…was proclaimed in all creation underheaven" (Colossians1:23). And again,it is written: "But I say, surely they have never heard,have they? Indeed they have: ‘Their voice has gone out intoall the earth, and their words to the end of the world.’" (Romans10:18).It is clearthat by the time Paul was writing his letters, the gospel wasgoing into all the world. Before the destruction of the Temple in70 AD, the word had gone to the end of the world.
TheAbomination ofDesolation: Jesus, asrecorded in the gospel of Matthew, warns Jews of a time when whatHe called "the abomination of desolation" would standin the holy place (in the Temple).
What is an abomination? It issomething likebreaking a taboo. An abominationis something thatis forbidden on strictest religious grounds.
The abomination that Jesus wasspeaking of wassomething that would stand in the Temple which was not supposedto be there, and something that would make things desolate(abandoned, ruined). Luke describes the abomination in theseterms: "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies,then recognize that her desolation is at hand" (Luke21:20).The abominationof desolation is an army which would surround Jerusalem, andwhich would eventually stand in the holy place of the Temple(where no Gentiles were allowed to go, or even the men of Judeaexcept the priests), and would make the city and the Templedesolate.
By 69 AD the army of Titus of Romesurroundedthe city of Jerusalem. After a long siege, Jerusalem was taken,and the city and the Temple were completely leveled, and most ofthe citizens were killed. Thus the words of Jesus were fulfilled:"... not one stone shall be left upon another, which willnot be torn down" (Matthew24:2).Had the Jewslistened to the words of the Great Prophet, they would haveknown. "Let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains;let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things outthat are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turnback to get his cloak" (Matthew24:16-18).
TheGreat Tribulation: In connection with thecoming of the abominationwhich makes desolate, Jesus said, "But pray that your flightmay not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for there will be a greattribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning ofthe world, nor ever shall" (Matthew24:20,21). In 7O ADthe Romans made it a point to ruthlessly wipe out every Jew theycould possibly get their hands upon. Starvation, famine, and thesword destroyed the Jewish nation; and essentially only those whowere scattered elsewhere survived the greatest tribulation thathas ever come on the face of the earth. As Jesus said, "Andunless those days had been cut short, no life would have beensaved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cutshort" (Matthew24:22).
Jesus had warned of the greattribulation inother ways. In Matthew22:1-14, He haddescribed how the Jews would refuse to come into the kingdom ofGod (the church). As a result of their refusal, "the kingwas enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers,and set their city on fire" (Matthew22:7).In Matthew21:33-41, Jesuscompared the kingdom of heaven to a vineyard. When the Jewskilled the son of the owner, the owner would "bring thosewretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard toother vine growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the properseason" (Matthew21:41).
The entire book of Hebrews waswritten toencourage Jewish Christians who were about ready to sufferthrough the great tribulation. The theme of the book is to showthe superiority of the entire Christian system over the Jewishsystem, and to encourage these Hebrew Christians to have faith inthe High Priesthood of Christ and His tabernacle rather than theobsolete things of the Old Covenant which was "ready todisappear" (Hebrews8:13).
FalseChrists, and thereturn of the real one: Withthe coming of the great tribulation, the only hope that theJewish nation would have would be in the coming of thelong-awaited Messiah. The problem, of course, wasthat theMessiah had come some 40 years earlier, and they had rejectedHim. But many false Messiahs would arise during this time oftribulation, and the hopeless Jews would follow them todestruction. As Jesus had said some forty years earlier, "Ihave come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; ifanother shall come in his own name, you will receive him" (John5:43).So as Jesus spokeof the destruction of the Temple, He made a "last ditchattempt" to warn the Jews against the false Christs."Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is theChrist,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believehim. Forfalse Christs and false prophets will arise and will show greatsigns and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.Behold, I have told you in advance" (Matthew24:23-25).
For thousands of Christians caughtup in thisseries of circumstances, who believed that the Messiah had comethe first time and who now believed in His instant return, therewould be a different sort of problem. There would be rumors that"He is in the wilderness," or "He is in the innerrooms" (Matthew24:26). But ofJesus’ return, He Himself said, "For just as lightningcomes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall thecoming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew24:27).
The soon return of Christ afterthe tribulationis stressed to those Christians going through the tribulation:"But immediately after the tribulation of thosedaysthe sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light,and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of theheavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man willappear in the sky, and then all the tribes of earth will mourn,and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the skywith power and great glory. And He will send forth His angelswith a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect fromthe four winds, from one end of the sky to the other" (Matthew24:29-31).
Thepassing of"this generation": Jesus’attention is still focused on the events surrounding thedestruction of the Temple, although He has talked about Hissecond coming in an effort to make sure that those going throughthe tribulation are not led astray during this time by falseteachings about the return of the Messiah. It is in connectionwith the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem that Jesus usesthe illustration of the fig tree.
"Now learn the parable from thefig tree;when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth itsleaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when yousee all these things, recognize that it [alternate reading] isnear, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation willnot pass away until all these things take place" (Matthew24:32-34).
There are no signs of the secondcoming; He iscoming like a thief in the night. But there were to be signs ofthe destruction of the Temple, and it is to this that Jesusrefers in the parable of the fig tree.
In vs.33,many translations havestated that "He is near, right at the door." Anexamination of the Greek language in which this was written showsthat the word could have been translated it ratherthan He. Most translators assume that this passageof scripture istalking about Jesus’ second coming rather than thedestruction of the Temple, and render their readings accordingly.
The generation Jesusrefers to is theone which lived in the days when Jesus walked on earth, and allthe things concerning the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalemwould take place before that generation passed away.
Thetime of the secondcoming: Having answered theapostles’ first question about the destruction of theTemple, Jesus then begins to answer the second: "And whatwill be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?"(Matthew24:3).Using the factthat the generation to which He was speaking would pass away as aspringboard, He then states that heaven and earth would also passaway, "but My words shall not pass away" (Matthew24:35). It is one ofJesus’ characteristics that He often used the temporal incontrast to the eternal in order to focus our attention upon theeternal; and this is the technique He uses here.
Then of the passing of heaven andearth, Hesaid, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even theangels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Matthew24:36). When is theLord coming again, as earth and heaven pass away? The answer isclear - no one knows; not even Jesus in the flesh knew. And Jesusillustrated that there are no signs of His second return in theexamples which follow.
Asit was in the daysof Noah: "For thecoming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. Foras in those days which were before the flood they were eating anddrinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until theday that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand untilthe flood came and took them all away; so shall the coming of theSon of Man be." (Matthew24:37-39).
There are some things in thispassage which areeasily missed. Let me illustrate by asking a couple of questions.In the days of Noah, who did the Flood take away? Answer: All theunrighteous. Question: Who was left? Answer: Noah and his family.So it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man. "There shallbe two men in the field, one will be taken, andone willbe left. Two women will be grinding at the mill;one willbe taken, one will be left" (Matthew24:40,41). Who wouldbe taken, and who would be left? Answer: As it was in the days ofNoah, the unrighteous will be taken, and the righteous left!
Pre-millennialism teaches that therighteous -the saints of the church - will be taken off the earth in therapture, and the unrighteous left. But all the scripture of theNew Testament consistently points to the unrighteous being taken,and the righteous being left. "The Son of Man will sendforth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom allstumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will castthem into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall beweeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteouswillshine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matthew13:41-43). All theparables of the kingdom are consistent in this presentation ofevents. In the parable of the dragnet for example, the angels arespoken of as taking "out the wicked from among therighteous" (Matthew13:49).
Even in the description of thesecond cominggiven in I Thessalonians, this thought of the unrighteous beingtaken and the righteous being left is subtly brought out:"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; andthe dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them inthe clouds to meetthe Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with theLord." (IThessalonians 4:16,17). Paulhas in view the Christian dead as compared to the Christian aliveat the Lord’s coming, pointing out that the Christian deadshall rise before the Christian alive. But he describes theChristian alive as those who are "alive and remain!"There were some others who were alive at Jesus’ secondcoming who did not remain! The non-Christian aliveweretaken first, and the Christian alive left as described inMatthew.
So there will be no signs of theLord’sreturn. People will be eating and drinking, marrying and givingin marriage, doing business as usual when the Lord returns andthey are all carried away. The only sign will be that ofGod’s messengers warning them that "the day of the Lordwill come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away witha roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, andthe earth and its works will be burned up" (IIPeter 3:10).
SummaryofMatthew 24: The disciplesasked Jesus two questions: 1) When would the Temple and Jerusalembe destroyed? and 2) What would be the sign of Jesus’coming, and the end of the age?
In Matthew24:1-34, Jesusanswered the first question. Before the destruction of Jerusalemthere would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes,etc., and the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in all theworld before that destruction. Then the armies (of Rome) wouldsurround the city, would make the city desolate, and would standas an abomination in the holy place of the Temple. Those who werein Judea were to flee to the mountains, for the great tribulationwas the worst that ever was or ever would be (in 70 AD thisoccurred). During this time, they were not to give up hope, notto be led astray by any false Christs, or any false hope of thereturn of Jesus. When He came back it would be obvious to thewhole world. But His generation would not pass away before thesethings concerning Jerusalem and the Temple would occur.
Then, in verses35-51,Jesus answeredthe second question. Of the passing of heaven and earth - the dayof the Lord’s return - there would be no sign. Just as itwas in the days of Noah, those who listened to the messagepreached, and believed it, would be forewarned of the event, andcould be prepared for it. Those who refused to listen or tobelieve would be unprepared. Just as the unrighteous were takenin the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son ofMan - non-Christians will be taken, and Christians left. ThoseChristians are warned to be prepared, for He is coming like athief in the night.
Pre-millennialists generallybelieve that aperson called The Antichrist in the scripture willcomeand actually set up his throne in the Temple in Jerusalem,although Pentecost in his book Things to Come tendstobelieve in what he calls an antichrist philosophy, as notedearlier. Pre-millennialism generally teaches that the greattribulation will occur after the church is taken out of the worldin the "rapture," and that during the tribulation timewhich follows the "rapture," The Antichrist will reignover the earth from Jerusalem. That is one of the reasons whymany believe that the Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem, sothat the Antichrist has a temple to reign out of when he comes.
The Antichrist is commonly thoughtof as theabomination of desolation prophesied in Daniel, and referred toin Matthew24.This concept ofthe Antichrist draws upon the teaching of Paul in IIThessalonians 2:1-12 wherethe man of lawlessness takes his seat in the temple of God, and Revelation13:11-18 where thesecond beast has the number "666."
This whole concept of theAntichrist is flawedfrom the beginning because of the erroneous concept of the greattribulation. What Jesus called "a great tribulation"occurred in 70 AD in the destruction of the Temple; it is not afuture event. The physical Temple of Jerusalem is meaningless;the temple of the New Testament is the church.
Sowhat is antichrist?"Children," says the apostle John"it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist iscoming, even now many antichrists havearisen; fromthis we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, butthey were not really of us; for if they had been of us, theywould have remained with us; but they went out, in order that itmight be shown that they all are not of us. But you have ananointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not writtento you because you do not know the truth, but because you do knowit, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but theone who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son" (IJohn 2:18-22).
The scripture does not refer to TheAntichrist. Even in John’s time, which he calledthe"last hour," many antichrists had arisen, with thecharacteristic that they came out of the church! They ended updenying that Jesus was the Christ; this is the antichrist.
"Beloved,"says the agedapostle in another place,"do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to seewhether they are from God; because many false prophets have goneout into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: everyspirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is fromGod; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not fromGod; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, ofwhichyou have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in theworld" (IJohn 4:1-3).This refers tothe heresy that Jesus did not ever take on a physical body; thatis, He did not come in the flesh. This heresy is the antichrist.
"For many deceivers have gone outinto theworld," John informs us in his second epistle, "thosewho do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. Thisis the deceiver and the antichrist" (IIJohn 7).Again, antichrist is a reference to a falseteaching about the nature of Jesus,and not a reference to some specific future person.
The antichrist philosophies areall around ustoday. Watch out for them; but do not fall into the trap ofwatching for the rebuilding of the physical temple in Jerusalemas the place for the coming of The Antichrist!
ThePhysical Nation Israel
One of the cardinal points ofpre-millennialismis that the people of the physical nation Israel are God’schosen people. Many who are not pre-millennialists are alsolooking for a mass turning of today’s Jews to Christ justbefore Jesus’ second coming. What is the relationship of thecurrent Israel and Jerusalem to God?
Because of the Jews’rejection of Christ,God rejected them. Jesus said, "The kingdom of God will betaken away from you, and be given to a nation producing the fruitof it" (Matthew21:43). In a stagewiseprocess set forth in the book of Acts, the gospel moved frombeing first directed to the Jews to being specifically aimed atthe Gentiles. "Many shall come from east and west,"said Jesus, "and recline at the table with Abraham, andIsaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of thekingdom shall be cast out into the outer darkness; in that placethere shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew8:11,12). TheGentiles, described as coming from east and west, would enter thekingdom; but the sons of the kingdom, the Jews, would instead becast into the outer darkness.
Theapostle Pauldiscussed the plight of the Jew in Romans9, 10, and 11. The Jewsnot only rejected Christ, but also became violent persecutors ofChristians. In spite of this, the apostle Paul said, "Godhas not rejected His people, has He? May it never be!" (Romans11:1).In view ofJesus’ comments about the kingdom being removed, and theJews being cast out into outer darkness, what does Paul meanabout God not rejecting His people?
Paulalways makes itclear how much concern he personally has forthe Jews. He always took the gospel to the Jew first, then to the"Greek" [an expression for the Gentiles]. He wascareful to point out that he had great sorrow for the Jews,wishing himself separated from God for the sake of his"kinsmen according to the flesh" (Romans9:3),so that theycould be saved. He also explained that all the things of Godbelonged to Israel - the adoption as sons, the covenants, thegiving of the Law, and the promises, etc. But, as Paul put it,"For they are not all Israel who are descended fromIsrael" (Romans9:6).The Israel thathe speaks of as being saved are those Jews who would followChrist; for the rest, he says, "Let their eyes be darkenedto see not, and bend their backs forever" (Romans11:10).The Jews whobecame the real Israel were "the remnant."(Romans11:5)
Theapostle makes thesame basic point in his letter to the churches ofthe Roman province of Galatia. Comparing the physical nationIsrael to Ishmael, Abraham’s son by his wife’shandmaid(whose name was Hagar); and comparing the church - spiritualIsrael - to Isaac, Abraham’s son by his wife Sarah, hewrites: "But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out thebondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not bean heir with the free woman.’ So then, brethren, we are notchildren of a bondwoman, but of the free woman" (Galatians4:30,31). Just asIshmael was sent away ("cast out") from Abraham so asnot to be in competition with Isaac, so physical Israel was sentaway from fellowship with God so as not to be in competition withthe church.
God gave physical Israel 40 yearsto recognizethe Messiah. As mentioned earlier, the destruction of the Templein 70 AD was God’s "last ditch effort" to reachthe Jews. Those who rejected Christ were cut off from God’speople. As Peter said, "Moses said, ‘The Lord God shallraise up a prophet like me from among your brethren[prophetically referring to Christ]; to Him you shall give heedin everything He says to you. And it shall be that every soulthat does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed fromamong the people’" (Acts3:22,23).The end of theTemple, the end of the sacrifices, and the end of the priesthood[for it was on the basis of the priesthood that they received theLaw - Hebrews7:11]signaled thetotal end of Israel as forecast by the Old Testament prophets,and indicated to them that they had missed the Messiah.
"God has not rejected His people,has He?May it never be," says Paul. "For I too am anIsraelite, a descendent of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Godhas not rejected His people whom He foreknew" (Romans11:1,2). Paul useshimself as an example. He was at first disobedient, a violentpersecutor; then he became a powerful apostle. The Jews, as Paul,were partially hardened and persecuted the church as the fullnessof the Gentiles was coming in. But those Jews who were honestenough to see turned to Christ as God brought His great judgmenton in successive stages, and thus all Israel [the real Israel -not just physical - the remnant] was saved!
Physical Israel today means nomore or no lessto God than Arabia, the Soviet Union, Red China, or the USA.There is no special program for Israel; the people are lost justas the people of the other nations are lost, and desperately needto hear the gospel as set forth in the New Testament proclaimedand explained.
We have not attempted in thissection to refuteevery minor point propounded by pre-millennialists - it wouldtake a good-sized book to do so. Rather, we have laid out thegeneral ground work of Biblical principles of interpretation,showing that the way to understand the Old Testament is throughthe eyes of the inspired New Testament authors. With thisbeginning point, we showed that the covenant with Abraham waswith Abraham and Christ, not with Abraham and the physical nationof Israel. The land which was promised to Christ was not thephysical land of Canaan, but the promised land of heaven. We nextestablished that the church was indeed the temple or tabernacleprophesied in the Old Testament, and had to come into existencebefore the Gentiles could be saved as prophesied by Amos.
After examining the things fromthe OldTestament, we began to try to understand New Testament teaching.In Revelation 20, we showed that the reference to the firstresurrection was to Christian immersion, and that Christiansactually live and reign with Christ now. From that we were ableto establish that the 1000 years is the entire church age, duringwhich time Satan’s activity is limited. From Matthew 24, weestablished that what is considered by many to be the Antichristyet to come was actually the Roman army in 70 AD. The greattribulation still expected by many was the destruction of theTemple by the Roman army under the leadership of Titus, son ofEmperor Vespasian. There is no such thing as The Antichrist; antichristis any anti-Christian doctrine, specifically focused on thedenial of Christ physically coming in the flesh in John’sepistles. And, finally, we established that physical Israel hasnow no special part in God’s overall plan. With thedestruction of the Temple in 70 AD, Israel ceased as a nation,and any of the "remnant" who were partially hardenedhad turned to Christ by that time.
It is clear that the basicteachings concerningJesus’ second coming as emphasized in the first section ofthis study stand:
- Jesus is coming soon.
- He is coming in the clouds, andevery eye shall see Him.
- No one knows the day or thehour of His coming; He will come like a thief in the night.
- At His coming all the dead(both Christian and non-Christian) shall rise.
- The present heaven and earthwill be destroyed by fire at His coming.
- The Judgment will begin at Hiscoming.
It is also clear from examiningthe NewTestament that the day of the Lord is indeed oneliteralday (instead of a spiritual day, as pre-millennialists would haveit), and that the hour of resurrection for all who are in thetombs is in fact a literal hour (and not with a 1000-year gap asin pre-millennialism). On the other hand, it becomes clear thatthe 1000 years of Revelation is not a literal 1000 years, butrefers instead to a long period of time. And such terms as Israel are clearly, from their New Testamentapplication, referringto the church; and the seed of Abraham to Christ,andthrough Christ to those who are His.
The detrimental effects ofpre-millennialismare not so important in regard to the second coming as in otherthings - Christ is coming, and the important thing is to beready. But pre-millennialism does the following things:
- It denies the bride of the LordJesus the glory that rightfully belongs to her. Pre-millennialism saysthat the church was only a stop-gap until God could get His programwith Israel back into full swing. The scriptures make it clear thatIsrael was the stop-gap, and that the church was the purpose and planof God from the beginning.
- Pre-millennialism makes the OldTestament prophecies closed books. Peter said that the prophetsprophesied the grace that was to come to the church (IPeter 1:10-12); pre-millennialists would apply all of thoseprophesies to Israel rather than the church. Hence pre-millennialistsview all those prophecies as yet to be fulfilled, whereas theprophecies are in fact being fulfilled now in the church.
- Pre-millennialism totallymesses up the concept of the New Covenant. The literal method asenforced by pre-millennialism (in order to make the scriptures fit intoits system) force one to say that the new covenant is not yet ineffect, for God was going to make that covenant with the literal houseof Israel and the literal house of Judah (Jeremiah31:31). But according to the New Testament, the newcovenant took effect with the death of Christ (Hebrews9:16,17), and now we live and are governed under the termsof the new will of Christ.
- Pre-millennialism confuses muchof the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Much of what Jesus saidwas about the kingdom of God, which is the church according to theBible. But pre-millennialism applies it to the 1000-year reign ofChrist which in their context is yet to occur. Hence, to mostpre-millennialists, the things which Jesus said do not apply directlyas yet. But the teachings of Jesus do apply to the church, and are veryimportant to our understanding of His will.
- Pre-millennialism denies theimportance of the new creation (Galatians6:15). The scriptures make it clear that the purpose ofJesus’ dying on the cross was so that the Holy Spirit mightcome to the Gentiles (Galatians3:13,14). The Holy Spirit is the promise spoken of in manyscriptures (Acts2:38,39; Galatians 3:22; and Hebrews 11:39,40, for example),and He is the means by which webecome new creations (IICorinthians 5:17). But pre-millennialism teaches that theHolySpirit age - the church age - is only something temporary, and a muchgreater age - the millennium - is yet to come. This in effect says thatthere is something more than the new creation.
- Pre-millennialism denies theimportance of Christianity’s way of worship.Pre-millennialists are forced by their system of interpretation of theBible to say that during the millennium animal sacrifices will bereinstituted in the Temple. This denies the "new and living way"in which Christians worship God in Spirit with clean consciences.
Figure 2. AChart of BibleDoctrine on theSecond Coming
SUMMARY OFTHE EXAMINATION OFPRE-Millennialism
Pre-millennialism is based on afalse method ofinterpreting the Bible. The covenant God made with Abraham wasthe Christian covenant. The temple prophesied is the church ofChrist. Christians have already undergone the first resurrectionin Christian immersion, and are reigning with Christ in the 1000years. Satan is bound, or limited. When Jesus comes again, itwill be to judge the world, not to establish His kingdom.
III.THE EFFECT OF THESECOND COMING ON THE LIVES OF CHRISTIANS
The fact that Jesus is coming soonto executejudgment upon all the ungodly, and to reward the righteous shouldgreatly motivate us. There are many sections of scripture devotedto the effect that the second coming should have on our lives.
BE ALERT;BE PREPARED
AsJesus warned thedisciples about His second coming, He said,"Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which dayyour Lord is coming" (Matthew24:42). To illustratethe uncertainty of the time, Jesus told a number of parables.
The first was about His cominglike a thief inthe night: "But be sure of this, that if the head of thehouse had known at what time of the night the thief was coming,he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed hishouse to be broken into. For this reason you be ready too, forthe Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think Hewill" (Matthew24:43,44).
The next parable cautions aboutgiving up allhope. Jesus describes a good slave who was put in charge of allhis master’s household. If that slave was faithfullydischarging his duty when his master returned, he would be put incharge of all the master’s possessions. "But if thatevil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for along time,’ and shall begin to beat his fellow slaves andeat and drink with drunkards; the master of that slave will comeon a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he doesnot know, and shall cut him in pieces and assign him a place withthe hypocrites; weeping shall be there and the gnashing ofteeth" (Matthew24:48-51).
AgainJesus told theparable of the prudent (wise) and foolishvirgins, who were waiting for the return of the bridegroom. Theprudent virgins made sure that they had enough oil for theirlamps to last until the return of the groom; the foolish werehoping to get by on a minimum of oil. The foolish did not haveenough, and were unable to be ready for the bridegroom. Themessage for us: Have oil; be prepared for His return no matterwhat it takes. "Be on the alert then, for you do not knowthe day nor the hour" (Matthew25:13).
Jesus also told the parable of thetalents. Toone slave was given five talents [approximately 100 pounds each]of silver or gold, to another was given two talents, and to athird slave was given one talent. Those who had the five and twotalents, respectively, used their money to make more money fortheir lord; the third buried his in the ground. When their lordreturned after a long journey, he praised the two who had usedtheir money wisely, but to the one who buried his talent, thelord said, ‘You wicked, lazy slave" (Matthew25:26). The two goodslaves entered into the joy of their master, but the other wascast into the outer darkness. The message: be good stewards ofthe time, money, energy, and the ability God has given us, for weshall give an account at the Lord’s return.
Finally, Jesus told about thereturn of theKing, who will separate the sheep from the goats. The sheep arethose who fed the hungry, gave the thirsty something to drink,visited the sick and those in jail. The goats are those who didnot do such things. At the separation, the sheep go into eternallife; the goats into eternal punishment. The message: be busydoing good for others, for it was for this purpose we were bornagain, and we must be doers of the word, not merely hearers (Matthew25:31-46).
The parables Jesus told about Hiscoming againmust motivate us to expect Him at any time. We must be activelyinvolved in doing His work, expending our time and energy for Hisglory in service to others. If we are found so doing when Hereturns we shall be rewarded; but if not, it is the outerdarkness for us.
Holiness, or sanctification, isthe result ofbeing set aside for God’s purposes only. In the OldTestament, holy or sanctified vessels were the only onespermitted for use in the offering of sacrifices, for example.Furthermore, these sanctified instruments were to be used only inthe religious rituals, and never for common use. In the NewTestament, Christians are to be holy - they are to be set asidefor God’s use only. "Present yourselves to God as thosealive from the dead, and your members as instruments ofrighteousness to God" (Romans6:13).The Lord’simpending return should motivate us to be holy.
"Beloved,"says John theapostle, "now we are children of God, andit has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, whenHe appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as Heis, and everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself,just as He is pure" (IJohn 3:2,3).
We can perform a test upon ourspirituality; wecan analyze our Christianity. The test is: if we have reallyfixed our hope on Jesus’ glorious return, we are in theprocess of purifying ourselves. If we are not purifyingourselves, we really do not have our hope fixed on His return.And remember, He is coming for those who eagerly awaitHim(Hebrews9:28).
Worldlypossessions, desireto keep food on the table for the family,public pressure, and many other things of this world oftencombine to keep the Christian from being as holy and committed toGod as he should be. Peter describes the destruction of thisphysical universe, and challenges us: "Since all thesethings are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people oughtyou to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for andhastening of the coming of the day of God" (IIPeter 3:11,12). Goodquestion: what sort of people ought we to be? The answer clearlyis that we should be holy and godly, because all the things thatmake our mouths water and our lives more comfortable are going toburn anyway.
AndPaul instructs us:"For the grace of God has appeared, bringingsalvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness andworldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly inthe present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing ofthe glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus; who gaveHimself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deedand purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealousfor good deeds" (Titus2:11-14). We need toconsider carefully the words "instructing us to denyungodliness and worldly desires." This seems to be the curseof this present age, and keeps us from burning commitment toChrist and His church. And again, we are instructed that ourholiness has something to do with looking for the blessed hopeand the appearing of our Savior.
The second coming of the LordJesus shouldfocus our attention on eternal things rather than the things ofthis world. We are instructed to deny our worldly desires and tolive as a special sort of people since this universe is going toburn. The test of whether we really hope for the Lord’sreturn is whether we live holy, pure lives - if we do not, wereally do not have our hopes fixed on Him.
KEEPDOING GOD’S WILL AND YOU WILL BE REWARDED
Human beings are motivated bysomething we call"incentive." From the time we are small children we areoffered incentives to make us be good, and to motivate us toclean up our rooms, and so forth. Incentives are used, bothpositive and negative, because they work.
Whatkind of incentivesdoes God offer us? He tells us to"keep the commandment without stain or reproach until theappearing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (ITimothy 6:14). But whatincentives does He give us to motivate us to keep thecommandment?
Paulwrote: "For I amalready being poured out as a drinkoffering, and the time of my departure has come. I have foughtthe good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept thefaith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown ofrighteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award tome on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who haveloved His appearing" (IITimothy 4:6-8). Paul knewwhere he stood with God. He knew that he had run his race, andhad qualified for the crown of righteousness. And he lookedforward to receiving his reward. That same reward is available toany of the rest of us who will fight the good fight, who willkeep the faith, and who will finish the course. If we truly loveHis appearing, our behavior will show, and we are guaranteed thegreatest of all rewards.
Butfor those of us whodo not try to live as we should, who do notrespond to the positive incentives for us, there is the negativeside also: "And now, little children, abide in Him, so thatwhen He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away fromHim in shame at His coming" (IJohn 2:28).Our goal must beto develop that confidence, so that we know exactly where westand with Christ. What a terrible thing, to shrink away from Himin shame, like a dog with its tail between its legs, at Hisreturn. Incentive? Yes! I’m more than a dog; I am a man; Iam a new creation by virtue of the grace of the King, and Iintend to be able to act like one of His when He comes!
Christ offers all of us incentiveto do what isright because it is right. He offers us the crown ofrighteousness if we keep the commandment without stain orreproach, but He offers us shame if we do not abide in Him.
THENEARNESS OF HEAVEN AND HELL
If it matters when Jesus comes, itmatters now;if it does not matter when Jesus comes, it does not matter now.Spilled milk is not important; a soul that is starving to deathbecause of lack of spiritual milk is very important. We have areal tendency to get physical things and spiritual thingsreversed in our priorities because physical things have a way ofseeming more pressing. To set our thinking straight we need avision of the nearness of heaven and hell.
The Bible offers us clear picturesof heavenand hell. We need to fix these pictures firmly in our minds,playing continually on the screens of gray matter inside ourskulls.
Jesusis coming quickly (Revelation22:20). When Hecomes, each of us will reap our rewards. "He shall wipe awayevery tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be anydeath; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain;the first things have passed away" (Revelation21:4). "I willgive to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of lifewithout cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and Iwill be his God, and he will be My son. But for the cowardly andunbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons andsorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in thelake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the seconddeath" (Revelation21:6-8). Therewards of heaven are firmly impressed upon our minds with thepictures of God’s concern for us; and the nearness of hellis driven home with the vision of fire and brimstone for cowards,liars, and the like.
Thenearness of hell isstressed in the vision of Judgment before the greatwhite throne; the nearness of heaven is emphasized in the visionof heaven as the return to Paradise, the Garden of Eden (Revelation22:1-4).
With these visions firmlyimplanted in ourminds, we will be motivated to get on God’s side to obey Himin repentance and Christian immersion, and to continue to endureto the end.
Jesus’ second comingmotivates a Christianto be alert, to be ready for the Lord’s surprise return. Heis motivated to live a holy life, in order that he might berewarded with the crown of righteousness at Christ’s coming.Visions of the nearness of heaven and hell are implanted in hismind, that he may overcome the weaknesses of his flesh, and reapthe rewards of being a son of God.
IV.SUMMARY OF ENTIRE LESSON
- Jesus is coming soon!
- He is coming in the clouds, andevery eye shall see Him.
- No one knows the day or thehour of His coming; He will come like a thief in the night.
- At His coming all the dead(good and bad) shall rise.
- The present heaven and earthwill be destroyed by fire at His coming.
- The Judgment will begin at Hiscoming.
We also examined pre-millennialismand comparedits teachings to the Bible. We reached the following conclusion:Pre-millennialism is based on a false method of interpreting theBible. The covenant God made with Abraham was the Christiancovenant. The temple prophesied in the Old Testament is thechurch of Christ. Christians have already undergone the firstresurrection in Christian immersion, and are reigning with Christin the 1000 years (which merely means a long period of time).Satan is bound, or limited. When Jesus comes again, it will be tojudge the world, not to establish His kingdom.
Finally, Jesus’ secondcoming motivatesthe Christian to be alert, ready and anxious for the Lord’ssurprise return.