Eschatology, a study of the future by Jack Kettler
This study on eschatology is simply an overview of differing views. This study is done to promote charity among brethren. There are people of good faith that can be described as conservative orthodox who hold to differing views of eschatology. If your eschatology leads you to deny the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ or deny the eternal punishment of the wicked, you are in danger. The millennial views surveyed below necessitate neither of these errors.
Eschatology can be defined as:
The study of what the Bible says about final things (or last things), including personal last events like individual death and the intermediate state; and corporate or general last events like the return of Christ, the final judgment, the millennial kingdom, etc..*
The study of the teachings in the Bible concerning the end times, or of the period of time dealing with the return of Christ and the events that follow. Eschatological subjects include the Resurrection, Resurrection, the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Binding of Satan, the three witnesses, the Final Judgment, Armageddon, and The New Heavens and the New Earth. In the New Testament, eschatological chapters include Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 17:1-37, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-17. In one form or another most of the books of the Bible deal with end-times subjects. But some that are more prominently eschatological are Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, 2 Thessalonians, and of course Revelation. (See Amillennialism and Premillennialism for more information on views on the millennium.). **
Old Testament verses that deal with future events:
“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” (Genesis 49:1)
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.” (Isaiah 2:2)
“The anger of the LORD shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly.” (Jeremiah 23:20)
“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” (Daniel 12:4)
“Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:5)
“But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.” (Micah 4:1)
New Testament verses that deal with future events:
“Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28)
“Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” (1 Corinthians 4:5)
“For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15)
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” (2 Timothy 3:1)
“Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” (Hebrews 1:2)
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts.” (2 Peter 3:3)
“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.” (1 John 2:18)
“How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.” (Jude 1:18)
Does the Old Testament the term “the last days” refer to the physical end of the world and second coming of Christ, or to the end of the Old Covenant order that God made with Israel? Are there different ways to understand the terminology “last days,” “latter days” or “last times” depending upon the context and relevant redemptive historical covenantal distinctives?
The following article will be helpful in trying to answer this question:
Last Day(s), Latter Days, Last Times
There are problems with the terminology of “the latter days” in that, for example, the King James Version quite often refers to “the latter days,” an expression not found in modern translations. Further, it is not always clear whether “the latter days” means a somewhat later period than that of the writer or the latest times of all, the end of the world. There are also expressions that locate the day being discussed in the time of the speaker. Care is needed as we approach the passages that use these terms.
There is another problem in that in modern times we find it difficult to think that the New Testament writers were living in “the last times.” Centuries have gone by; how could their times be the last times? We should be clear that the scriptural writers did not always use the terms in the same way as we would naturally do. For them the supremely great event had taken place in the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to effect the salvation of all believers. This was not just an event in history; it was the event. Because of what Christ had done everything was altered. From then on, however long it would be until God intervened and set up the new heaven and the new earth, people were living in “the last times.” The days in which it is possible for people to put their trust in Jesus Christ and to enter into the fullness of the salvation he has brought about differ from all the days that went before. They are days of opportunity, days when people can put their trust in the crucified, risen, and ascended Lord and enter into the salvation he won for sinners.
Present Happenings. The writer to the Hebrews tells his readers that “in these last days he (God) has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb. 1:2), and Peter says that Christ “was revealed in these last times for your sake” (1 Peter 1:20). In such passages the meaning clearly is that something has happened in recent times that is in sharp contrast to what occurred in earlier ages. Or in similar expression may look to the future of the recipients of the message, as when we read, “in later days you will return to the Lord your God and obey him” (Deut. 4:30), or in the reminder to the hearers that God gave them manna in the wilderness “to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (Deut. 8:16).
The point of such passages is to make it clear that God is at work in the passage of time here and now. His people are to bear in mind that in what happens in their lives and in the world around them God is working out his purposes. In this spirit the psalmist prays, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life” (Psalm 39:4), and in Proverbs we find that receiving instruction is the path to being wise in “the latter end” (19:20). Contrariwise Babylon is blamed for not remembering “the latter end” (Isa 47:7). By taking heed of what God is doing, his people will be strengthened in their faith and better able to appreciate the significance of the times in which they live. It is important that God’s people are never alone and that they will discern the outworking of the divine purposes if only they have eyes to see.
Future Happenings. Quite often “last” or “latter” is used of times other than the end of all things. The prophets could speak of a “day” when the Lord would act, sometimes in punishment of evil, sometimes in bringing blessing. Especially important are passages that speak of “the last day(s), “which point to the future but without being specific. In such passages it may mean “later in the present scheme of things,” that is, later in the life of a person or, more often, later in the history of the world. For the former use we might notice the warning in Proverbs that a misspent life means that you will groan “at your latter end” (Prov. 5:11). For the other use Jacob summoned his sons to tell them what would happen to them “in the latter days” (Gen 49:1). This clearly refers to the distant future, but not to the end of the world. So with Moses’ prophecy that after his death Israel would turn away from the right with the result that evil would befall them “in the latter days” (Deut. 31:29). We might say something similar about Daniel’s prophecy of things that would happen “in the latter time of wrath” (Dan 8:19 ; the references to the kings of Media, Persia, and Greece show that there is a reference to what we would call antiquity, not the end of the world ). Hosea looks forward to the Israelites coming trembling to the Lord “in the latter days” (3:5).
So also Jeremiah looks forward to people understanding the working of the divine wrath “in the latter days” (Jer. 23:20; 30:24). He also looks for blessing in those days, for the Lord will restore Moab (48:47) and Elam (49:39). We usually look for blessing on Israel, and it is interesting that Jeremiah sees the divine blessing as coming also on these Gentile nations. Similarly Daniel says that God has shown Nebuchadnezzar what is to happen in “the latter days” (2:28; for other examples of his use of the expression, see 8:23; 10:14; 11:29).
In the New Testament it is not so much a question of what will happen to nations, as of the way God will work out his purpose in the affairs of the church and of individual believers. Peter says that the coming of the Holy Spirit on the infant church fulfilled a prophecy of what would happen “in the last days” (Acts 2:17). In the same spirit we notice a statement in Hebrews: Christ “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:26). The great events concerning the coming of the Savior and the establishment of salvation are linked with “the last days.” So also is the opposition of evil to all that is good. In those days “The Spirit clearly says that some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Tim 4:1). There is a sense in which the church has always lived in “the last days.”
The Final Situation. The major topic in Jesus’ teaching was “the kingdom of God.” Sometimes this appeared as a present reality, sometimes as a future happening. The most significant feature is that it is intimately connected with Jesus himself; he could tell his hearers that the kingdom was there, among them, in his coming (Luke 17:21). In one sense the kingdom awaited the distant future; in another the coming of Jesus meant that it was already there. The appearance of Jesus was the decisive happening; it changed everything.
The New Testament makes it clear that the coming of Jesus Christ was the critical event. His atoning death was God’s final answer to the problem of human sin and once that had been accomplished nothing could be the same again. For our present purpose the important thing is that Jesus ushered in a new state of affairs. He wrought the atonement that made it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to enter God’s kingdom and to be fitted to take their part in God’s final kingdom. That gives a different quality to all time after the coming of Jesus, and the scriptural writers bring this out by referring to all that is subsequent to the coming of Jesus as “the last times” or the like.
Sometimes the New Testament speaks of the end of all things as though it were very near and sometimes there seems to be a long interval. We must bear in mind that “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (2 Peter 3:8). It is not always easy to be sure whether a passage is speaking of the end of this world and its affairs or of something that will happen prior to that. We should exercise due caution as we approach difficult passages. But what is abundantly clear is that God is working his purpose out and that this involves a final state of affairs in which his will be perfectly done.
Sometimes the scriptural writers look beyond the present system to the final state of affairs when they use the “latter days” terminology. This happens in a wonderful passage in both Isaiah and Micah in which these prophets look forward to the Lord’s house as being established above the hills and of many nations as coming to it to find God’s teaching so that they may walk in his ways ( Isa 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-5). A very different picture is given in Ezekiel’s prophecy that in “the latter days” Gog, the chief prince of the forces of evil, will come against Israel and be defeated (chaps. 38-39). This is not to be thought of as a contradiction of the former passages. There are other references both to final bliss and to the final rebellion of the forces of evil. It means that in the end all evil will be decisively overthrown and God’s kingdom established forever.
That there will be an upsurge of evil in the last days is made clear by a number of passages. Sometimes this relates to the daily life of the believer, as when Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22). But evil will be more widespread than that, for “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud” (2 Tim 3:1). “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Peter 3:3). In the Olivet discourse there is difficulty in being sure whether some of the items refer to the life of the believer set in the midst of the ungodly or whether they refer to the end time, but there is surely a reference to the end when Jesus says, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:13). This will be the point also of his explanation of a parable, “The harvest is the end of the age” (Matt 13:39). Similarly Peter speaks of salvation as “ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). We should notice here the references to “the seven last plagues” (Rev. 15:1; 21:9) which point to troubles in the last times.
In John’s Gospel there is also the thought that God will take care of his own in those troubled times. Jesus repeatedly said concerning those the Father “has given” him that he will “raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39 John 6:40 John 6:43 John 6:54). John is the only New Testament writer to use the expression “the last day,” an expression that points to Jesus’ activity right to the end of time. It also makes it clear that Jesus’ care for his own extends right through time to the ushering in of the final state of affairs. On the negative side, the person who rejects Jesus and his teaching will find that that teaching “will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48).
That evil will continue to the end is clear, as many passages testify. There are problems, such as the difficulty of being sure what parts of Jesus’ discourse on the Mount of Olives toward the end of his earthly life refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and what to the end of the world. But he makes it clear that, while his followers will hear of “wars and revolutions” which must happen, “the end will not come right away” (Luke 21:9). Believers will encounter troubles throughout this world’s history and this will persist right to the very end. Peter can speak of “the end of all things” as “near” (1 Peter 4:7). The coming of Christ means that salvation is now made available and this transforms all things. But the New Testament writers were clear that this was but the prelude to God’s final state of affairs and that, in the perspective of eternity, that final state was not far off. Then believers will enter into the fullness of “eternal life” (Rom 6:22-23).
Very important is the fact that the final, great day will see the triumph of God. This is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, for example, in the great passage in which Job says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26). There are problems in this passage but plainly there is the clear expectation of God’s final triumph. Before Jesus was born the angel told Mary that the child she was to bear “will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:33). And in his great passage on the resurrection Paul says that Christ will come with “those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24). The apostle goes on to speak of the raising of the dead in a different form, one in which they will be “imperishable” (v. 52). Again and again the New Testament brings out the truth that when Jesus returns all evil will be defeated and the redeemed will know the fullness of everlasting life.
For the New Testament writers the coming of Jesus Christ into the world to bring about our salvation was the decisive happening in the entire history of the world. That set in motion the train of events that would bring about the salvation of sinners and eventually see the setting up of God’s kingdom, as Revelation makes so clear. This did not mean that all evil would immediately disappear; both the New Testament writings and Christian experience make it plain that evil continues. But the important thing from the Christian point of view is that the saving work of Christ has altered everything. Sin has been decisively defeated and believers have already entered into salvation. However long or short a time it will be before the end of this world as we measure time, we are living in the last times as the New Testament writers understand it.as Leon Morris. See also Day; Day of the Lord, God, Christ; Second Coming of Christ. (1)
For those coming from a Pre-Millennial Dispensational point of view, what has been said in the above article is not liberalism. Unfortunately, there are some Christians who have never been exposed to different views of eschatology. Hopefully, the following definitions and chart will be helpful.
Four Views on the Millennium:
For starters, the word millennium does not appear in the Bible. Revelation 20:2 is where we read about the period of a “thousand years,” which means millennium.
Approaches to the book of Revelation:
There are differing views regarding the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Four common views are the historicist (a method of interpretation which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events), preterist (past fulfillment), futurist (future fulfillment), and the idealist (called the spiritual, allegorical, or non-literal approach) views. The book of Revelation belongs to a class of literature called “apocalyptic.” The bible uses many literary forms. For example, it uses genera’s such as; law, historical narrative, wisdom, poetical, gospel, didactic letters, or epistles, predictive, and apocalyptic literature.
In light of the fact that we are dealing with a special genera of biblical literature, namely, “apocalyptic,” and there are a least four major schools of interpretation that involve rather substantial differences, it is probably best not to use one passages from Revelation 20:2 to build an iron clad case of binding eschatological doctrine. Instead, we should look to the didactic portions of Scripture like the apostolic epistles.
Pre-Millennial: The belief that the Second Coming of Christ occurs before the millennium, which is a literal 1000 years. The resurrection of Christians occurs at the beginning of the millennium, the resurrection of the unsaved at the end of the millennium.
A-Millennial: The belief that the Second Coming occurs at the end of history, like postmillennialism, but there is no earthly millennium. The millennium is purely spiritual, applying only to heaven and the Church.
Post-Millennial: The belief that the Second Coming of Christ occurs after the millennium. There is an increase in the spread of God’s rule in every area of life during the millennium (a figurative concept referring to the entire New Testament age).
Dispensational Pre-Millennialism: The belief that history is divided into several distinct dispensations, or ages in which God relates to mankind in a different way. The most important distinction is between Israel’s Age of Law on the one hand, and the Church’s Age of Grace on the other. Dispensationalism is pretribulationist and premillennial. The Church Age ends and God’s plan for Israel resumes when the Church is raptured at the beginning of the Tribulation. The millennium is Israel-centered: It rules over all other nations and animal sacrifices are performed in the Temple as in the Old Testament. ***
After a number of years as a young Christian, I became frustrated by date setting regarding Christ’s return and the timing of the rapture. This led me to a broader study of eschatology. To my surprise, there were differing views on eschatology. After studying different views, I am sure that we should not falsely judge those who hold differing opinions. If you deny the physical return of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is heresy.
Please, brothers and sisters, have charity towards those who have a different view of eschatology! The next article will be extremely helpful in this regard.
Christ’s Return and the Westminster Confession of Faith by Gordon Clark:
No one knows the date of the Day of Judgment nor that of Christ’s return. Yet some people have foolishly attempted to set the date. What is more possible, though it has given rise to divergent views, is the attempt to list in chronological order the various events that immediately precede, accompany, and follow Christ’s return.
The Confession [Westminster Confession of Faith] has very little to say on Christ’s return. Its last chapter gives a relatively full account of the judgment, but only in the last few phrases of Section III. Is Christ’s return mentioned at all? Yet it would seem that there is more material in the New Testament on this subject than on the identification of the Pope as the antichrist. Historically this lack of balance is understandable; but theologically it is unfortunate. Because the struggle with Rome centered on justification by faith and the sole authority of the Bible, the order of events concomitant with the Second Advent was not a matter of discussion. Calvin, for example, though he wrote commentaries, wrote none on Revelation.
For the last hundred years, however, the details of eschatology have evoked a great deal of interest. Before World War I there was a theory widespread that the Gospel would permeate the world that nearly everyone would accept Christ, that therefore a millennium of righteousness would be introduced, after which epoch Christ would return to earth. This is the theory called postmillennialism. David Brown, last century, wrote The Second Advent in its defense. This seems to have been the view of St. Augustine also, as may be seen in the City of God, Book 22, last chapter, where he speaks of an age of rest following the present age but preceding the resurrection and the eternal state.
In this century postmillennialism is not so popular. One reason for its decline in popularity is the disillusionment caused by two World Wars. The Christian missionary enterprise in Asia seems to have been a failure; Africa may go communist; and the moral collapse in the United States is no harbinger of a righteous society. If the Bible really predicts a rule of righteousness ushered in by the ordinary preaching of the Gospel before Christ returns, such an epoch must be located in the far distant future, contrary to devout hopes for an early advent. Of course, too, Scriptural material is used to convince us that there will be little or no faith on earth when Christ returns.
Premillennialism is a second view of the Lord’s return. It is simply that the course of history continues with its wars and rumors of wars, getting no better and very likely worse, until Christ comes in flaming fire to take vengeance on them that obey not the Gospel, and to set up a millennial kingdom of righteousness. This view was held by such scholars and exegetes as Alford and Zahn.
Dispensationalism is a species of premillennialism that has attracted more attention than the scholarly views of Alford and Zahn. In addition to the idea that Christ comes to initiate the millennium, Dispensationalism teaches that Christ comes again twice rather than once: he comes secretly and then seven years later he comes publicly. It also denies the doctrine of the covenant and holds that some men have been saved and other men will be saved apart from the sacrifice of Christ. Further, Dispensationalism teaches that the Reformation, instead of being the greatest spiritual awakening since the apostles, is represented by the church at Sardis in Revelation 3:1 and was an epoch of deadness and works that are not perfect. Obviously the present writer is a little less than enthusiastic about such a view; but what is particularly peculiar is this: even if some of the dispensational details should be true, how can people that honor the Bible put such tremendous emphasis on these details, while at the same time they pay little or no attention to some of the much more important doctrines? For a critical analysis of Dispensationalism we suggest 0. T. Allis’ Prophecy and the Church.
Because Dispensationalism has brought premillennialism into disrepute in some quarters, there is renewed interest in a third view, Amillennialism. This is the simple view that there is no millennium at all. Christ just comes and heaven ensues. The amillennialists claim that the Westminster Confession favors them, though one researcher asserts that the Westminster divines were postmillenarians. The Confession itself asserts neither the postmillennial or premillennial view. Nor does it assert Amillennialism. In the Larger Catechism there are phrases about a general resurrection that do not favor premillennialism. But whether the authors of the Confession individually accepted one view or another, they refrained in the Confession from either asserting or denying a future millennium.
The Reformers were in general opposed to premillennialism. Just as in the early church some people interpreted Christ’s death as the payment of a ransom to the devil, and so, illogically, brought the idea of ransom itself into disfavor with later liberal theologians; so too the extravagances of the chiliasts or millenarians in early Protestant times brought the premillennial idea into disfavor. The Westminster divines, however, were wise in avoiding a choice among these views: the subject was not ready, nor is it yet ready, for creedal determination. Loraine Boettner, whose book The Millennium is one fourth a defense of postmillenarianism and two thirds an attack against premillenarianism, makes a notable statement on page one, which ought to be reaffirmed by advocates of all three views:
“Each of the systems is therefore consistently evangelical, and each has been held by many able and sincere men. The differences arise, not because of any conscious or intended disloyalty to Scripture,”
But, may I add, because there are disagreements in exegesis.
Because there is much interest in and study of the subject at present, a few considerations and a little exegesis will be here appended. Of the three views the denial of a millennium seems least tenable. The Bible in four consecutive verses explicitly mentions a period of a thousand years. Further, the passage refers to conditions on earth rather than in heaven because during the period Satan cannot deceive the nations as he formerly did, and after the period he deceives them again. This period of time may come before or after Christ’s return, and the accompanying events may be in one order or another, but the Bible definitely predicts such a period in history.
Nor is it true that the idea of a millennium is found only in Revelation 20. The designation a thousand years is found only there, but predictions of a future rule of righteousness are frequent. For example, Psalm 72 says, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea . . . his enemies shall lick the dust . . . Yea, all kings shall fall down before him, all nations shall serve him.” Another familiar example is Isaiah’s prophecy about a time when the nations shall beat their swords into ploughshares and learn war no more. Such passages as these ill accord with the denial of a millennium of righteousness.
If, now, the Scripture predicts a millennium, obviously Christ must return either before it or afterward. Of these a reason or two may be mentioned for preferring premillennialism. First, to return to the Book of Revelation, if this book allows any place at all for Christ’s return, it is chapter nineteen. An amillenarian interpretation that would deny any reference to Christ’s return, other than Revelation 22:7, 20, would be an incredible interpretation. It is impossible to believe that the Apocalypse never refers to the greatest of all apocalyptic events. The dispensational view that Christ returns between chapters three and four is a wild, unsupported speculation. Accordingly, if Christ’s return is mentioned in chapter nineteen, it comes before the thousand years of chapter twenty.
It is often objected that the book of Revelation is highly figurative and that therefore we must be guided by the literal passages in the other books. This is a sound principle. But regardless of how figurative it is, and how doubtful many of its identifications may be, the points mentioned are as clear as any literal language could make them.
After these positive considerations it may also be noted that objections to premillennialism often sound peculiar to the ears of its advocates. Without extending the discussion unmeasurably, overlapping objections by four gentlemen may be offered as samples.
The Lutheran theologian I.A. Dorner argues that premillennialism disparages the Gospel in that the victory of Christianity is not secured by what God has already given, but depends on events other than preaching. If this objection were sound, it would rule out Christ’s return altogether, and the resurrection of the saints as well, for these events are not the effects of preaching. Dorner, fortunately, is not consistent and does not use his objection to deny these events.
The Baptist theologian A. H. Strong, who explicitly puts the millennium before Christ’s coming, argues that the premillennial interpretation of Revelation 20 requires a literal, physical resurrection of the saints, whereas I Corinthians 15:44,50 “are inconsistent with the view that the resurrection is a physical resurrection …” This is a strange argument, for Strong himself says, “The nature of Christ’s resurrection, as literal and physical, determines the nature of the resurrection in the case of believers” (Systematic Theology, Vol. III, pp. 1008, 1011, 1012, 1018).
Charles Hodge also uses the same odd argument and contends that there cannot be a literal resurrection when Christ returns, after which the saints dwell on earth and share the glories of Christ’s reign here, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (Systematic Theology, Vol.111, p.843). But Christ in his glorified body walked on earth.
A. A. Hodge insists that the view is Jewish in origin and Judaizing in tendency. But, we recall, the idea of the Covenant is also Jewish in origin, and the Confession does not disguise its dependence on the Old Testament along with the New. In fact, so far as an alleged Judaizing tendency is concerned, the fault of many premillenarianisns, which fault we do not condone by any means, is rather an antinomianism that sharply contrasts with the legalism of the Judaizes.
It is no doubt true that the dispensationalists deny the present kingship of Christ and contradict the teaching of Ephesians on the unity of Jews and Gentiles in the Church, the body of Christ. But arguments against a heretical sect are irrelevant when applied to a view that is free from these unscriptural positions.
Now, finally, much is made of the Scriptural scheduling of many events at the return of Christ, and the conclusion is then drawn that all these events are simultaneous. But the Scripture does not speak of the coming of Christ in the ordinary English sense of an arrival. The Greek word is Parousia, and it means presence, rather than coming. It is used in pagan literature to denote a king’s tour of inspection. During the tour many things can happen at different times, and yet all are “at” his presence. Hence it cannot be insisted upon that all that occurs at Christ’s Parousia must be simultaneous. Various events can be placed at various times during the span of the millennium.
There is one advantage, however, that so-called Amillennialism has over the nineteenth century form of postmillennialism. By the assertion that there is no reign of righteousness in the far distant future, only after which Christ can return, Amillennialism allows us to hope that Christ will return soon.
This blessed hope, as the first few paragraphs of this chapter indicated, sustains one’s equilibrium and equanimity under the intolerable moral and political conditions of this century.
Peoples that have not emerged from savagery have a vote in the United Nations and help in their irresponsible way to control our lives. Communistic Russia was granted several votes in that unfortunate organization, but the United States has only one. Delivering China from the terror of Chiang Kai Chek to the beneficent rule of the Reds can be explained only as insanity sent by God to punish a disobedient people. Within the United States, republican government is breaking down under the impact of mob demonstrations. And the college population wallows in liquor and lewdness.
The world is very evil; the times are waxing late.
Be sober and keep vigil; the Judge is at the gate:
The Judge that comes in mercy, the Judge that comes in might,
To terminate the evil, to diadem the right.
We look forward to and hope for the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall have dominion from sea to sea, when his enemies shall lick the dust, when all kings shall fall down before him and all nations serve him. Even so come, Lord Jesus. (2)
As Clark noted in the above essay, the Westminster Confession of Faith is guarded and circumspect in regards to what is considered confessional, i.e., required for a profession of faith.
Westminster Confession of Faith; Chapter 33 – Of the Last Judgment:
Section 1.) God hath appointed a day, wherein He will judge the world in righteousness by Jesus Christ,(1) to whom all power and judgement is given of the Father.(2) In which day, not only the apostate angels shall be judged,(3) but likewise all persons that have lived upon earth shall appear before the tribunal of Christ, to give an account of their thoughts, words, and deeds; and to receive according to what they have done in the body, whether good or evil.(4)
(1) Ac 17:31 (2) Jn 5:22, 27 (3) 1Co 6:3; Jude 6; 2Pe 2:4 (4) 2Co 5:10; Ecc 12:14; Ro 2:16; Ro 14:10, 12; Mt 12:36, 37
Section 2.) The end of God’s appointing this day is for the manifestation of the glory of His mercy, in the eternal salvation of the elect; and of His justice, in the damnation of the reprobate, who are wicked and disobedient. For then shall the righteous go into everlasting life, and receive that fullness of joy and refreshing, which shall come from the presence of the Lord; but the wicked who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments, and be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power. (1)
(1) Mt 25:31 to the end; Ro 2:5, 6; Ro 9:22, 23; Mt 25:21; Ac 3:19; 2Th 1:7-10
Section 3.) As Christ would have us to be certainly persuaded that there shall be a day of judgment, both to deter all men from sin; and for the greater consolation of the godly in their adversity:(1) so will He have that day unknown to men, that they may shake off all carnal security, and be prepared to say, Come Lord Jesus, come quickly, Amen. (2)
(1) 2Pe 3:11, 14; 2Co 5:10, 11; 2Th 1:5-7; Lk 21:7, 28; Ro 8:23-25 (2) Mt 24:36, 42, 43, 44; Mk 13:35-37; Lk 12:35, 36; Rev 22:20
Food for thought quote:
“Eschatology is not just a discussion of “last things” or signs of the end. The question of last things is tied to our basic understanding of how to read the Bible. I believe the Bible is a Christ-centered book, and that a truly biblical eschatology must be centered around the person and work of Jesus Christ.” – Kim Riddlebarger
The goal of this study is to help us magnify the Lord God for his marvelous grace that made us children of God through no merit of our own. It is my prayer that this goal has been attained.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. Walter A. Elwell, Editor, Baker, Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapid, Michigan, Baker), pp. 1310-1311.
2. Gordon H. Clark, What Do Presbyterians Believe? (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 1965), pages 268-273.
“To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
* For a great source of theological definitions go to Rebecca writes at Rebecca Writes: http://www.rebecca-writes.com/theological-terms-in-ao/
** CARM theological dictionary
*** Additional definitions of millennial views from Christian Civilization by Mike Warren: http://www.christianciv.com/eschatology_bs_Sect1.htm
A good summary of the different millennial views: https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/mill.cfm
All Millennial Views https://www.monergism.com/topics/eschatology/all-millennial-views
A Comprehensive introduction to the Four Views on the Millennium by Mike Warren:
Order this next book to see eschatological debates should be handled with professionalism and charity.
The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views
by Robert G. Clouse (Editor), George Eldon Ladd (Contributor), Anthony A. Hoekema (Contributor), Herman A. Lloyt (Contributor), Loraine Boettner (Contributor)