Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bible Study Software

Bible study is a huge part of my life these days.  No surprise there considering my status as a seminarian.  While I use a great many resources in my studies, an important component, especially as I conduct research for term papers, is my computer.  Specifically my choice of Bible study software.  I have been using Logos since 2007 and recently upgraded to Logos 4.  It is the most powerful and complete package I am aware of on the market today.  Check out their video.


Logos has recently released a couple of updates to the software that smoothed some things out.  Of my study tools, this by far receives the most use. Upgrading from Logos 3 to Logos 4 is a good move though I would not necessarily advise anyone to upgrade right away.   Eventually though, upgrading will be necessary. 

Another thing I want to mention: a comprehensive package is rather pricey! Upgrading to Logos 4 is expensive as well.  Logos does offer payment plans for their products as well as discounts for seminary students.  Still, be prepared to part with some serious cash!  Overall, worth the investment.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 8 Conclusion

Conclusion

The view one takes concerning the Millennium essentially determines the answer to the question of whether or not one believes the Rapture is scriptural. An Amillennial or Postmillennial view excludes this possibility. There are exceptions to this but by and large is it the case. Both Amillennialism and Postmillennialism take a non-literal view of Scripture preferring instead to use symbolism and allegory as key part of their hermeneutic. While giving respect due to those scholars who support such views, a literal approach, except where literalness is obviously not intended, is preferred by the author.

If Premillennialism is accepted then one must consider the Rapture and the timing of the Parousia in relation to each other. Clearly there is biblical evidence to support such doctrine though the differing views have their own interpretations of many of the same passages of Scripture. Five views have been discussed in the preceding pages here with strengths and weaknesses offered at the conclusion of each view. The partial Rapture view has failed to win support over the years and has failed to be convincing during this study. Posttribulationism fails to answer adequately how the Rapture and Parousia can take place at the same time when elsewhere in Scripture we are told that the church will already be in heaven participating in the marriage of the Lamb to His Bride (Rev. 19:7-9).

The pretribulationist fails to explain how Christ could appear at any moment when there are clear teachings that there are certain events that must take place prior to the Rapture. Further, pretribulationism does not adequately explain how a secret Rapture could take place when such a public display seems to be indicated (1 Thess. 4:16).

The midtribulation view does offer some solutions to problems that exist with both the posttribulationism and pretribulationism. If one uses a hermeneutic approach that is literal except where a passage of Scripture is obviously using symbolism, the view that best harmonizes all of the relevant Scripture appears to be the Pre-Wrath position. While imperfect, the challenges with this view are far fewer when compared to the other views discussed. Ultimately, it is much easier to defend a hermeneutic that prefers a common sense, literal approach to one that prefers subjective interpretations of passages. The amount of subjectivity on the part of the interpreter can never be determined nor can the level of theological bias.

Coming from a denominational background that strongly supports the Pretribulation view, this has been an eye-opening journey. I must admit that I am having a paradigm shift in the process of completing this work. I will continue to study the various views and hope to have a spirit of grace when discussing this with others who disagree on a particular point (as surely we will). A final note: unlike the impression I got in reading the works of the Catholic authors, I do not believe that subscribing to one position over another changes ones standing with the Lord. If one has already determined that the premillennial view is the correct one, then these discussions do not change the underlying fundamentals of the faith. There is much in the Bible that most people will never understand. In fact, scholars who spend their lives studying God’s word can’t even agree on what large parts of it mean!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 7 Arguments Against The Rapture

Arguments Against the Rapture

In discussing the Rapture, a lot of theological ground has been covered. However, it would be inappropriate to conclude a work of this nature without first giving some mention to views that oppose the idea of the Rapture occurring at all. As has been demonstrated, there is a great diversity of views on this doctrine among those who accept the Rapture as Scriptural. It is only right to give voice to some opposing views.

Postmillennialism and amillennialism do not acknowledge that the Rapture will take place. Both of these views approach the interpretation of Scripture by using allegory and symbolism. As such, both views look unfavorably on premillennialism, especially the doctrine of the Rapture. Paul Thigpen and David Currie, both former evangelicals who converted to Roman Catholicism, have authored books titled The Rapture Trap and Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind respectively. In these works, both rail against the Rapture in general and against the popular Left Behind series of Christian fiction books based on Pretribulation Premillennialism. While there are many Protestants who subscribe to the amillennial view of the Thigpen and Currie, they do so using the Bible. Thigpen clearly states in his introduction that the Roman Catholic Church is the God-given interpreter of Scripture.[1] Similar to other authors, he outlines his hermeneutical approach then set out to use this to argue against the Rapture. Using arguments familiar, he forcefully addresses the secret Rapture of pretribulationism[2] before attacking the hermeneutic that produces it.[3]

Currie’s work does mention the Left Behind series but only briefly instead preferring to systematically review the Scriptures used by the various Rapture proponents and offering a distinctly Catholic interpretation using a hermeneutic he calls Biblical Ground Rules.[4] For example, Currie interprets Rev. 12:1-6 to be the birth of Jesus Christ (12:2-5a) and his ascension to heaven (12:5b).[5] Most other interpretations made by Currie contradict the interpretations made by premillennialism. This is to be expected. The Roman Catholic Church has specifically stated that millenarianism is “intrinsically perverse”.[6]


[1] Thigpen, Paul. The Rapture Trap. (West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, LLC. 2001), 20-22.

[2] Ibid, 97-148. Thigpen devotes two chapters to the secrecy of the Rapture as taught by premillennialism.

[3] Ibid, 149-84.

[4] Currie, David B. Rapture: The End-Times Error That Leaves the Bible Behind. (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2003), 51-78.

[5] Ibid, 280-81.

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church. October 11, 1962. http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c2a7.htm (accessed December 17, 2009), 676.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 6 Partial

Partial

Premillennialists largely condemn this view but it should be mentioned in a paper of this nature. A small group of pretribulationists believe that only those who are most faithful to the church will be caught up at the beginning of the Tribulation period.[1] The worldlier will be caught up later in a series of raptures during or at the end of the Tribulation period as they are ready.[2] Scripture used to support this view generally include Matt. 14:40-51; 25:13; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 20:34-36; 21:36; Philippians 3:10-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:6; 2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:24-28; Revelation 3:3; 12:1-6.[3] Pretribulationists eagerly point out that these passages of Scripture, as used by the partial Rapture view, make no distinction between Israel and the church.

The exegesis used to arrive at partial Rapture does seem questionable. While seemingly well supported by Scripture, the view has serious problems. Among these are the division of the body of Christ and the fact that Scripture clearly teaches that all of those who believe in Christ will be translated (1 Thess. 4:14-17; cf. 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 2:19, 5:4-11; Rev. 22:12).[4] Walvoord states that this view is not accepted by any evangelical Protestant group and is outside the bounds of Premillennialism.[5]



[1] Clouse, R. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 985.

[2] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1230.

[3] Walvoord, John F. The Rapture Question, Revised and Enlarged Edition. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 99-112. Walvoord provides the most extensive critique of this position of the resources used for this project. He dedicates 16 pages of his book treating this subject whereas other sources merely mention the Partial Rapture view in passing.

[4] Ibid, 112-13.

[5] Ibid.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 5 Pre-Wrath

Pre-Wrath

A fairly new position in the discussion, advocates for the pre-wrath position insist on a common sense hermeneutic approach.[1] Unlike pretribulationists, the pre-wrath position does not view the seven year tribulation period as being the wrath of God. Rather, this seven year period is divided into three distinct sections: the first three and a half years of Daniel’s seventieth week is the beginning of sorrows; the second three and a half years is divided in half with the first being the Great Tribulation and the second being the Day of the Lord.[2] At first glance, one may assume that the pre-wrath position is simply a variation of the midtribulation view. Closer examination of this view shows this not to be the case.

Where pretribulationism and posttribulationism have apparent conflict in terms of the Scripture used to support their respective views, the pre-wrath view seeks to harmonize these Scriptures rightly believing that Scripture does not contradict Scripture (1 Cor. 14:33). There is substantial agreement in this view with that of pretribulationism. There is a seven year period at the end of the church age preceding the Parousia. There is also agreement that this seven year period can be divided into two halves where the beginning is marked by Antichrist entering into a treaty with the nation of Israel and the mid-point is marked by the breaking of that treaty three and a half years later.[3]

Disagreement arises concerning when the wrath of God begins. The pre-wrath view holds that the entire seven year tribulation period cannot possibly be part of the wrath of God since the intense persecution inflicted during the second half of this period is perpetrated by Antichrist. If the entire seven year tribulation period was part of the wrath of God then God would be responsible for this persecution which cannot be. Additionally, Scripture clearly teaches that the saints will not have to face the wrath of God but if, as the posttribulationist believes, the Rapture occurs at the end of the tribulation period then the church will be present during the wrath of God which is a contradiction of Scripture. (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9, Rev. 3:10).[4]

Further conflicts with posttribulationism include the posttribulationist belief that at the Rapture, the saints will rise to meet Christ in the clouds and then immediately return to earth to begin the millennial reign. Without the saints being taken to heaven, how then does the marriage of the Lamb to His Bride (Rev. 19:7-9) take place? These are conflicts that have been previously mentioned when comparing other views. Here however, the pre-wrath view claims to have a solution.

The pre-wrath position insists that the entire seven year tribulation period is not the wrath of God but, rather, that the persecution of the church at the hands of Antichrist is what pre-wrath refers to as the wrath of Satan (Rev. 12:12). This is the first part of the second half of the tribulation period referred to as the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21). The church will endure the wrath of Satan. Then, a sign will be given in the sun, moon, and stars indicating that the Day of the Lord is approaching (Joel 2:30-31; 3:15-16; Luke 21:25-26, 28; Matt. 24:29-30; Rev. 6:12-17).[5]

On the same day after the sign has been given, the Rapture will occur delivering the faithful from God’s wrath. This is similar to the way event unfolded in the days of Noah and the days of Lot (Luke 17:22, 26-30).[6] After the Rapture, on the same day, the Son of Man will be revealed beginning the Day of the Lord. The pre-wrath position believes that references to the end or the end of the age (as well as the Day of the Lord) refer to the same event, the wrath of God being poured out on the world.

Strengths of this position include the apparent harmonization of the Scriptures used by both pretribulationism and posttribulationism and what seems to be a common sense, cohesive hermeneutic approach that takes Scripture at face value. Weaknesses include the newness of the approach and the placing of the wrath of God beginning with the opening of the seventh seal. This assumes that the opening of the first six seals is not part of the wrath of God which is certainly debatable.



[1] Van Kampen, Robert. The Rapture Question Answered: Plain and Simple. (Grand Rapids: Revell: A Division of Baker Book House Co., 1997), 23-24.

[2] Ibid, 51-54.

[3] Ibid, 38-40.

[4] Ibid, 42-43.

[5] Ibid, 56-58.

[6] Ibid, 58-60.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 4 Mid-Tribulation

Mid-Tribulation

Midtribulationism is referred to by Erickson as one of several mediating positions between pretribulationism and posttribulationism.[1] Midtribulationism sees serious difficulties with the other views that include the secrecy of the Pretribulation Rapture as well as the revival that will be experienced during this time despite the removal of the Holy Spirit. It is difficult to understand how a secret Rapture could occur with our Lord descending from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God all being sounded. This fits a very public display rather than a secret occurrence. In fact, it is this public display that will get the attention of the unsaved people forcing them to realize that their Christian neighbors have disappeared.[2] It is this realization that will draw large numbers to Christ and cause the large revival anticipated during the Tribulation period.

As for the removal of the Holy Spirit, this does not actually occur.[3] Rather, the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit will be removed but it does not necessarily follow that the Holy Spirit departs. In fact, if there is to be a great revival during the Tribulation period, then the Holy Spirit will necessarily be present.

Agreeing with the pretribulationist idea of a seven year Tribulation, this view is influenced by the repeated mention of the three and a half years in Daniel 7, 9 and 12 as well as Revelation 11 and 12.[4] This influence leads midtribulationism to believe that the Rapture will occur in the middle of the Tribulation period allowing the saints to be delivered from God’s wrath.

The Rapture occurring at the midpoint of the Tribulation allows for the events that Christ himself said would precede the Rapture. Peter was to grow old and become a martyr before the Rapture (John 21:18-19) which is thought to have taken place circa A.D. 67.[5] Paul was told by Christ in a vision that he would testify for our Savior in Rome after his arrest in the Temple in Jerusalem. There could not have been Rapture before Paul arrived in Rome around 63 A.D. The destruction of the Temple foretold in the Olivet Discourse did not occur until 70 A.D. (Acts 21:24).[6] The second half of this verse makes it clear that Jerusalem would be subjugated by the Gentiles until “the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Acts 21:24, KJV). Not until 1967 did the nation of Israel gain full control of the city of Jerusalem![7]

A key strength of midtribulationism, while seemingly very similar to the position of pretribulationism, is that it seems to allow the opportunity for a better harmonizing of Scripture. Clearly, with the Rapture taking place mid-Tribulation, the church will be in heaven for the wedding of Christ to His bride (Rev. 19:7-9) and will avoid the wrath of God (Dan. 11:36). Weaknesses include the view by midtribulationism that the Rapture occurs between the breaking of the fifth and sixth seals in Revelation though a comparison of that text with Matthew 24:29 would seem to indicate that the breaking of the sixth seal occurs after the Rapture. There are other issues that could be pointed out but here, as with the pretribulational and posttribulational views, midtribulationism has difficulties to overcome and does not seem to adequately support its case.



[1] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1230.

[2] Clouse, R. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 984.

[3] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 126-28.

[4] Clouse, R. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 984.

[5] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 130-31.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 3 Post-Tribulation

Post-Tribulation

Posttribulationists believe that Christ will come for his church after the Tribulation. They avoid using the term Rapture because they believe it to be unbiblical and that it suggest that the church will escape from the Tribulation which is contrary to their beliefs.[1] However it is referred to, posttribulationism teaches that the Rapture and the Parousia will occur at the same time. The church will, therefore, go through the Tribulation though will be protected from God’s wrath and judgment (1 Thess. 5:9).

Scripture verses concerning the end times are interpreted less literally in this view compared to pretribulationism. Where pretribulationism teaches that the Tribulation will be seven years, posttribulationism believes this period will last a substantial amount of time.[2] Additionally, Revelation 3:10 has a different meaning for posttribulationism. In their interpretation, the verb τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) means to attend to carefully; to keep on in the state in which he is.[3] Posttribulationism points out that the verb αἴρω (airo /ah·ee·ro), which means to raise up or take up[4], could have been used in Revelation 3:10 as it was in John 17:15 had John intended to teach that Jesus would “rapture” the church. It would seem that John had in mind in Revelation 3:10 the same idea he expressed in John 17:15 that this would be a guarding of believers rather than removing them from the presence of danger.[5]

There is further biblical evidence to support the belief that the church will go through the Tribulation. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, there is mention in 11:36 of divine wrath during a period of intense persecution but nothing is said about the extent of this wrath and is does not indicate that this wrath falls on the saints.[6] Daniel does not make mention of the objects of the Tribulation wrath but a related text, Isaiah 26:20-21 does describe the selective nature of God’s wrath. If this passage of Scripture refers to the Tribulation then it is a clear indication that the saints on earth will be protected from God’s wrath. If this passage does not refer to the Tribulation, as some may argue, then there is a principle of a selective wrath of God that remains and may apply.[7]

Posttribulationism is certainly a less complex approach to eschatology. Since the Rapture and the Parousia occur at the same time in their view, there is no need for what they see as two second comings. There is also no need for more than two resurrections as pretribulationism teaches. They see only the resurrection of believers at the end of the Tribulation and the resurrection of the ungodly at the end of the millennium.[8]

Being less complex does not leave posttribulationism without problems of its own. Strong evidence of a two-phase Parousia are seemingly ignored rather than addressed head on. Additionally, rather than addressing ρπάζω (harpazo), posttribulationism seeks instead to focus on τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) in Revelation 3:10. While the argument for the use of αἴρω (airo /ah·ee·ro) in place of τηρέω (tereo /tay·reh·o) seems compelling, the fact remains that ρπάζω (harpazo) means what it means and this is to be caught up.

The timing of the Rapture in this view necessarily means that the church will experience the wrath of God contrary to Scripture. This is an obvious problem. Yet another issue is that since the church merely meets Christ in the air and then returns to earth with Christ in this view, how then is the church to be in heaven for the marriage of the Lamb to His bride (Rev. 19:7-9)? There are other issues but the point seems clear: posttribulationism does not harmonize the conflicting passages of Scripture any better than pretribulationism.



[1] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1226.

[2] Ibid, 1227.

[3] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G5083.

[4] Ibid, G142.

[5] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1228.

[6] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 173-74.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid, 1229.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hannah Has Accepted Christ

This past Sunday, Hannah came forward and accepted Christ as her Saviour! We are so excited about her decision and give glory to God! She will be baptized this coming Sunday!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 2 Pre-Tribulation

Pre-Tribulation


The Pretribulation view is a fairly new point of originating in the 1800’s. Pretribulationists believe the Rapture of the Church, including both dead and living saints, will take place before the seven-year Tribulation beginning before the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27.[1] The Rapture is a secret coming of Christ for his Church that could occur at any time. There are numerous passages of Scripture to support the idea that Christ could return at any time which include: Matt. 24:42-44; 24:50; Mark 13:32-37; Luke 12:40; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 5:2; Titus 2:12-13; Heb. 10:25; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7; Rev. 1:3; 22:7; 22:12; 22:20.

Specifying that the Tribulation is to be seven years is important because some midtribulationists believe that the Tribulation refers only to the last three and a half years of this period. So for Pretribulationists, the seventieth week of Daniel 9:24-27 takes place between the Rapture and the Second Coming. This is supported by the notion that the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit must be removed before the Antichrist can be revealed as found in 2 Thessalonians 2:6-7.[2]

The meaning of Revelation 3:10 where the risen Lord promised the church at Philadelphia they would be kept from the hour of trial is the most debated verse in the Rapture discussion[3] and warrants some attention here.
“Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of
trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (Rev 3:10, ESV).

Jesus seems to be saying that the church would be kept from the hour of trial, not protected while in the hour of trial. This does add weight to the notion of a Pretribulation Rapture as interpreted by pretribulationism.

As stated previously, the word rapture comes from the Latin rapio meaning caught up. The Greek word is ρπάζω (harpazo) and means to catch up or snatch away. This word is used elsewhere in Scripture describing how the Spirit caught up Philip near Gaza and brought him to Caesarea (Acts 8:39) and describing Paul’s experience having been caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:2-4).[4] Given the use of ρπάζω (harpazo) in other parts of Scripture that clearly mean “caught up”, there is little reason to question Paul’s meaning in 1 Thess. 4:16-17.

The pretribulational view is not without problems. While it is true that there are many passages of Scripture that indicate Christ could return at any time, there are also passages that indicate there are signs that will precede Christ’s return. Among these signs are the preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mark 13:10; cf. Matt. 24:14); false prophets working signs and wonders (Mark 13:22; cf. Matt. 24:23-24); signs in the heavens (Mark 13:24-25; cf. Matt. 24:29-30; Luke 21:25-27); and the salvation of Israel (2 Thess. 2:1-10).[5] With such clear teaching from Scripture, at a minimum there is a blunting of the idea that Christ could come at any time. Another issue with the pretribulational view is the separation of national Israel and the Church. It is difficult to find in Scripture where Israel and the Church must remain separate entities as seems necessary to sustain this view.

[1] Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1986, 1999), 562.
[2] Clouse, R. G., (Elwell, Walter A., ed.). Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 984.
[3] Archer Jr., Gleason L., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter. Three Views on the Rapture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984, 1996), 63.
[4] Ibid, 537.
[5] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1097-99.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Differing Views of the Rapture: Part 1

What is the Rapture?


One of the first things I learned as a seminarian is that there are differing views of almost every Christian doctrine. The Rapture is certainly no exception. The major differences among those with a premillennial point of view center on the timing of the Rapture as it relates to the Tribulation. The word rapture comes from the Latin rapio meaning caught up. The Greek word is ἁρπάζω (harpazo) and means to catch up or snatch away.[1] The phrase “Rapture of the Church” is used by Premillennialists to refer to the event during the second coming of Christ where believers are united with Christ.[2] Since this is a discussion about the Rapture, the premillennial position is assumed.

Differing Views of the Rapture


There are five differing views of the Rapture that will be discussed in here. They are Pre-Tribulation, Mid-Tribulation, Post-Tribulation, Pre-Wrath, and Partial. Each view shares a number of things in common but each view also has significant differences. As will be demonstrated, a case can be made for each of these views though each has its own problems as well. Views that see the Rapture occurring separately from the Second Coming of Christ, either before the Tribulation or in the middle of the Tribulation, struggle to find this distinction anywhere else in the writings of the Apostle Paul.[3] Further, those points of view that link the Rapture and the Second Coming are forced to defend the view that Paul had in mind Christians would return to earth with Christ rather than the assumption of Christians directly into heaven.[4] Christians being taken to heaven is necessary for the marriage of the Lamb to His bride, the church (Rev. 19:7-9). As stated, a case for each view can be made but each view has challenges to overcome as well.

[1] Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order (electronic ed.). (Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996), G726.
[2] Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001), 983.
[3] Zuck, Roy B. A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), 294-95.
[4] Ibid.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

MILLENNIAL VIEWS: Part 3 - Premillennialism

Premillennialism

Distinctly different from both the amillennial and postmillennial views, Premillennialism teaches that Christ will return physically, visibly in power to reign over the earth for approximately a thousand years.[1] From the point of view of the premillennialist then, the millennium is seen as still to come sometime in the future. Further, Premillennialism also teaches that the visions in the book of Revelation must be interpreted sequentially and that this sequence of events demands that the millennial reign of Christ be understood as a real and future event following Christ’s return.[2]
Lewis Sperry Chafer points out that during the millennium, Christ will judge perfectly and immediately (Isa. 11:1-16). Chafer further states that we should remember that the millennial reign is not the new earth which God will later create (Isa. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1).[3] It should be noted that Chafer was a leading proponent of Dispensationalism and Dispensational Premillennialism that will be discussed in detail later.
While there are divisions of the previous millennial views mentioned here, there are two forms that Premillennialism most often takes that requires a brief explanation of each for this discussion; Classic or Historic Premillennialism and Pretribulational Premillennialism.

Classic or Historic Premillennialism

According to Classic Premillennialism, also known as Historic Premillennialism, the church age will continue until some point in the future. As this age draws to a close, a period of great tribulation and suffering will occur finally ending with the return of Christ to establish his millennial kingdom.[4] This is a physical return of Christ in his resurrected body where he will personally reign over the earth. Of note with this view is that Christ’s return is after the tribulation period. Those dead in Christ will be raised from the dead and their bodies will be reunited with their spirits. Next, believers living during the Second Coming will be caught up and return to the earth with Christ and the resurrected.[5] Many, but not all, of the unbelievers living on the earth during this time will turn to Christ and be saved.
At the beginning of this period, Satan will be bound and thrown into a pit:
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while” (Rev. 20:1-3, ESV).

In Classic Premillennialism, a distinction between the church and Israel is not maintained as it is in Pretribulational Premillennialism. As such, Classic Premillennialists believe that the church will go through the Tribulation.[6] Further, though the church is on the earth during the Tribulation, it will not be forced to endure the wrath of God; from this perspective, God’s wrath is clearly reserved for unbelievers.[7] How this will occur is one of the points in the debate.
Strengths of this view include the fact that it is the view held by the early church during the first four centuries, the book of Revelation is taken literally, and it sees the final culmination of Christ’s kingdom as fulfilled by Christians.[8] A weakness of this view is the fact that this is a rather complicated view that is not clearly presented in any single passage of Scripture.[9]

Pretribulational Premillennialism

Another variation of Premillennialism, also known as Dispensational Premillennialism, holds to a literal interpretation of Scripture. Though similar to the Classic view, there is one very important difference. Using the following Scripture verse as primary support for their belief, this view believes that Christ will come before the Tribulation and secretly take believers out of the world:
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thes. 4:16-17, NASB).

While appropriate to make brief mention of the Pretribulational Premillennial view here, a fuller discussion will follow in the Differing Views of the Rapture section of this autograph. Strengths of this view include that this is the most attractive view emotionally and psychologically and this is the most literal approach to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies concerning Israel. Weaknesses include the complexity of this view and the fact that it is the most recent of the views discussed originating in the 1800’s with Darby.[10]

[1] Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology 2nd Edition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1998), 1214.
[2] Elwell, Walter A., and Phillip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 896.
[3] Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology, Vols. 7 & 8. (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1948, 1976), 238.
[4] Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1111-12.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Enns, Paul P. The Moody Handbook of Theology. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 387.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Kendell, Easley H. Revelation, Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference. (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 6.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid, 7.