Don’t be scared, it’s alright I promise.
On our Facebook page this summer we have been asking what kinds of posts you would like to see. One suggestion was our view on Eschatology. It seemed natural to write on this subject first, since we wrapped a study on Revelation a few weeks ago.
Eschatology a broad topic. There are areas in which all Christians agree on eschatology. GCC’s statement of faith says this on the last resurrection and the last judgment:
XIX. The Resurrection.
The bodies of men after death return to dust, but their spirits return immediately to God — the righteous to rest with Him; the wicked to be reserved under darkness to the judgment. At the last day, the bodies of all the dead, both just and unjust, will be raised.
XX. The Judgment.
God hath appointed a day, wherein he will judge the world by Jesus Christ, when every one shall receive according to his deeds; the wicked shall go into everlasting punishment; the righteous, into everlasting life.
These are points which most Christians readily agree on. There is little disagreement among Christians as to Jesus coming again, our bodies being resurrected, and the last judgment. Why, then, is eschatology such a heated subject?
Let’s begin by defining eschatology. Eschatology refers to the last things. We could define it as what happens at the end of the world, a bit simple but it helps. Eschatology, ultimately, is what the Bible teaches on the second coming of Christ and what will surrounded that second coming.
While eschatology can be a heated and divisive subject, all of us must remember that while this issue is important it is not ultimate, the Gospel is. I grew up in a background where some people, not all, thought eschatology was ultimate. If you did not hold to their view of eschatology, then you were outside of the children of God. The Gospel is ultimate. We are free to disagree on eschatology; you may not agree with me, and that is fine. We are not shut out from fellowship with one another.
There are many paths we could go down but I want to give an overview of the three major millennial views, although there are more. We could trace other thoughts such as preterism, idealism, and futurism. We will just break down the main three views here.
Classic Premillennialism states that before the millennium, which is either a literal of figurative number, Jesus will return. At the end of the Church Age (the time in which we live now) Christ will return and will reign on earth for a millennium. During this time Christ is physically present on Earth.
After the millennium, the resurrection of unbelievers happens and the last judgment happens. There is disagreement among those who hold this view as to when the New Heaven and New Earth are inaugurated. Some believe it is during the millennium and others after.
Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology, points out that this view has tended to increase in popularity as the church has experienced persecution and as suffering and evil have increased on Earth. He wisely points out that the validity of our view should not be based on popularity, but on Scripture.
The last two views are very close to each other. In Postmillennialism Jesus returns after the millennium. The millennium is the Church Age, right now. When Jesus comes back the resurrection of believers and unbelievers will happen. The last judgment will happen and the New Heaven and New Earth are inaugurated and the eternal state begins.
One very attractive thing about Postmillennialism is its optimistic view of the power of the Gospel. Those who hold this view believe the Gospel and the church will increase, so a larger and larger portion of the Earth’s population will be Christian. The millennium is a long period of time, not a literal 1,000 years.
This view increases as the church experiences great times of revival. The same reminder from Grudem serves well.
Amillennialism is similar to Postmillennialism in that it believes there is not a future millennium but the millennium is the Church Age, the time in which we are living.
Amillennialsim sees the Church Age, from Revelation 20, as a time when Satan’s influence over the world has been greatly reduced so the Gospel can be preached to all nations. Like Postmillennialism, it hold that all things will happen at once. The millennium is not a literal 1,000 years but a figurative number for a long period of time. Christ’s reign happens in heaven and is not an earthly reign.
The difference between Postmillennialism, in its basic form, is the optimism factor. Amillenilaist’s believe the Gospel is powerful and triumphant, but they do believe persecution will increase the closer we get to the return of Jesus. The Gospel will triumph in this atmosphere because God’s children will cherish it ever more.
Now, you are a discerning reader and you may have noticed I have not given our church’s view. You are right. We believe eschatology is important. I (Ben) hold to Amillenialsm view while some of our members are still thinking through these views and analyzing them through Scripture. In this discussion we still have unity in the Gospel and enjoy close fellowship with one another.
Let me leave you with a few resources you can check out to study eschatology further on your own:
This resource is from Desiring God and is very helpful. All three views are represented in this video discussion and the proponents are clear and interact with each others arguments.
This is a helpful book where all three views are represented. Each contributor gives his view and the other two respond to it according to their view.
Coming from an Ammillennial view, this resource is still helpful in giving an overview of eschatology.
Any good Systematic Theology will be of value for the interaction they have with each view. I would highly recommend Wayne Grudem’s to you.
The End Result of Study:
As you study eschatology you should be driven to love God even more. Eschatology is God working for His people and coming to dwell with them forever. This is a great encouragement to Christians and we long for this day. As we study may we be driven to say with the Apostle John:
Amen! Come Lord Jesus!