Eschatology is the study of the “events” (or periods of time) during the end times. In this series I will attempt to show why it is important let the Bible speak for itself regarding the timing, the nature, and the purpose of these “events.” A proper understanding will allow us to:
see where we are in the prophetic timeline.
know how we should prepare for what is coming.
understand God’s purpose and thus, know what He is doing in every “event” in the timeline.
If we let Scripture (especially Revelation, Matthew 24, and Daniel 9) speak for itself, the major future “events” are in this order:
Rapture →Tribulation→Second Coming→Millennial Kingdom→New Heaven & New Earth
This timeline assumes that these “events,” which are all identified and described in Revelation are in chronological order, which they appear to be. Here are the applicable chapters and verses in Revelation describing each “event.”
Tribulation: Ch. 6-18
Second Coming: Ch 19
Millennial Kingdom: Ch 20
New Heaven and New Earth: Ch 21
Examining the Claims
In this series I will present several views representing different interpretations of the passages describing these end times “events.” These different interpretations result in some claims that I believe are wrong because they are at odds with Scripture.
Here are some of the claims I will to my best to refute in this series:
The Church has replaced Israel
The Church will go through the Tribulation
There is no rapture (in which believers are “caught up” from earth to meet Christ in the clouds),
To make such claims, I believe one must ignore two of the basic rules of hermeneutics (the methodology of interpreting a text). The first rule is to interpret every passage literally unless there is good reason not to do so. The second rule is to interpret the unclear passages in light of the clear ones. Peter warned us against giving a personal interpretation of God’s clear words:
But know this first of all that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).
Peter also had some wise words for those (us) who would need some encouragement as things heated up:
…fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).
Without a correct understanding of the nature and timing of this “revelation,” our hope will be misplaced. Since our hope is to be completely set on this, we had better get it right.
To keep things as simple as possible, here are what seem to be the two most basic “camps” representing the opposing views regarding the end times “events.” While I don’t like being put into a “camp,” I find that my views, based on Scripture, have many things in common with the first and nothing in common with the second.
This view says that Israel and the Church are two distinct peoples and entities with different futures. Israel’s future is an earthly one, while the Church’ future is a heavenly one. God administers the history of redemption through seven successive dispensations (redemptive economies). The three most important are law, the gospel and the kingdom. There is a literal rapture and a 7-year period known as the Tribulation (the 70th week of Daniel) in which God resumes His special purpose for Israel. The Millennial Kingdom is a literal 1000-year period in which God fulfills His promises to Israel despite her disobedience.
Reformed Theology (Covenant Theology)
This view teaches that there is a unity and consistency of God’s redemptive program throughout history. There is no ultimate separation between Israel and the Church. Jesus is the true Israel, not believing Jews. Since believers are in Christ, the Church is the true Israel. What was called Israel in the Old Testament is called the Church in the New Testament.
As you can see, these two views have nothing in common. Additional support for the first is found in the following verse in which the Greek word for “administration” means “dispensation.” The verse speaks of a time, different from other times, when the summing up of all things will be possible and evident:
With a view to an administration (dispensation) suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth (Eph. 1:10).
To me, one of the clearest examples of the existence of different dispensations with different conditions and effects is found once Christ breaks the seals of the scroll in Revelation 6. This begins a period when the time of grace suddenly and drastically switches to judgment, with no more offers of salvation to the unrepentant.
Another sudden monumental switch is found in Romans 3:21 which begins with “But now,” showing that something different has happened. In essence, the difference is that righteousness by works has been replaced by righteousness through faith (in Jesus). This new “economy” is clearly a different economy than the one under which the entire world had been operating.
Also, the entire Church Age is like a giant parenthesis with a totally different “economy” between the 69th and the 70th week of Daniel’s 70-week prophecy in Chapter 9. The Church Age resulted from Israel’s rejection of her Messiah, opening the door for salvation to come to the Gentiles to whom God gave the responsibility to make the Jews jealous so they would desire salvation for themselves. Most Gentiles in the Church have failed miserably by ignoring this mandate, and some have done the opposite by claiming that they have replaced Israel whom God had forsaken. In doing so, they fail to understand that everything they have received is by God’s grace not their superiority.
Further support for the first is found in 2 Peter 3:3-7 where Peter refutes the idea that everything has continued in a constant unbroken flow from creation to the present:
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue just as they were from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed by being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly people..
The Order is Clear
To change this order (explicitly shown in Revelation) requires that Scripture’s clear words be ignored, and we must assign a meaning to each “event” that differs from Scripture. For example, many of Israel’s prophets spoke of the coming kingdom when Israel’s Messiah would right all the wrongs (including those done against Israel) and restore righteousness to the earth.
Post-Millennialists place Christ’s Second Coming after the Millennial Kingdom. I believe this view elevates man into the position reserved for Christ. Only He is able to bring righteousness. Apart from Him and His righteousness, man has none. One of the purposes of the Mosaic Law was to demonstrate this. Here’s the sequence according to this view:
Church goes through Tribulation → Mill. Kingdom → Second Coming → Rapture
Even though the Bible explicitly says the Millennial (which means 1,000) Kingdom will last for a thousand years (Rev.20:4), the Post-Millennial view interprets this to mean simply a period of time.
A Wrong Interpretation of Zechariah 12:10:
And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and of pleading, so that they will look at Me whom they pierced; and they will mourn for Him, like one mourning for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
While these views don’t deal directly with salvation, Reformed/Covenant Theology will cause you to attribute verses that apply to Israel to the Church. For example, Zechariah 12:10 is one of the most important verses in the Old Testament because it describes the moment Israel, God, and Jesus had been anticipating for a very long time. Israel had been waiting for her Messiah to appear. Having missed Him the first time. This verse describes the moment when He opens their eyes, enabling them to recognize Him as the One whom they had pierced.
God had been waiting for the moment when Israel would finally recognize God as “their God.” In this verse, He makes this happen by pouring out His Spirit on them and giving them new hearts in fulfillment of Ezek. 36:26-27. This was part of His New Covenant He had made with His chosen nation—the covenant under which Israel would live throughout the 1000-year Millennial Kingdom. To Make Zech. 12:10 all about the Church
Jesus had been waiting for the day when His people would finally recognize and accept Him as their Messiah. This is a huge moment for multiple reasons and it’s all about the fulfillment of Prophecy and God keeping His promise to Israel despite her rebellion. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with the Church. The entire book of Zechariah is all about Israel, her temple, and her Messiah. Zechariah means Yahweh remembers, and the theme throughout this book is that God will bless Israel (not the Church) because Yahweh remembers the covenant He made with the fathers.
In conclusion, I believe if you sift every verse through a Reformed/Covenant Theology filter, you end up with a vastly different meaning than the intended one.
ON THE LIGHTER SIDE
Time is God’s way of keeping everything from happening all at once.
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