Earlier this year (2013) I was given five questions by an intermediate student from our church on the subject of Revelation and “End Times.” I was to answer the questions giving “my view.”
There is hardly a subject that stirs up more heat from some Christians than this subject. I find that very sad (even sinful, at times) and therefore attempted to answer his questions in a way that showed grace toward those with whom I might disagree.
My desire was to represent all views accurately while, in the end giving “my view” humbly. This is certainly not exhaustive and was intended to be a simple and clear explanation.
1. What do the seven letters to the seven churches represent?
I believe the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation 1-3 should be understood as actual letters to seven historical churches.
Some Christians have understood them to represent seven periods in the history of the church leading from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem to the return of Christ.
The main reason I do not see these letters are representing periods in church history is that, to be consistent with the rest of the New Testament, I would expect each letter to describe a progressively worse situation until the end and they do not seem to do this.
Ok, that was the simplest and least controversial of these questions! J I will attempt to answer the following questions both outlining my thinking at the moment and the main views Christians who take the Bible seriously will hold.
This is an area of doctrine and theology which I am still working through and expect to be for years to come. It is one that many Christians who love Christ and love His Word differ on and though these things are important they are not essential for one’s salvation and therefore I am happy to disagree with brothers & sisters-in-Christ.
2. What is the time of the tribulation?
3pm on Thursday! Just kidding…
This is closely related to the next question.
Some believe there is no time period actually called “The Tribulation” but that there are many tribulations and they have been on-going since the ascension of Christ and will continue until he returns. Those who hold to this would also believe the Millennium is figurative and is not a distinct period of time, but “blends” into the Eternal Kingdom after the return of Christ.
Some believe there is a time known as “The Tribulation” and it will last seven years (described in Rev. 4-19) beginning after the rapture of the church and before Christ returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom which is 1,000 years and will end with the final judgment of Satan and all those who have rejected Christ and the establishment of the Eternal Kingdom.
Some believe there is a time known as “The Tribulation”, it is yet future and is basically described in Rev. 4-19, but its length isn’t specific, believers in Christ will also experience this time, this time ends when Christ returns at the second coming when the believers are raised, Armageddon occurs and the Millennium begins.
3. Will Christ return before, during or after the tribulation?
The interesting point here is that all Christians believe Christ will return at the end of the church age and he could return any moment. The differences are in discussing what He will do when he returns.
Will he return to “rapture” the church and then begin a period of seven years of Tribulation leading to His final “Second Coming” when he will judge and setup the Millennial Kingdom? (Dispensational/Pre-Tribulational/Pre-Millennial View)
Will He return for His church after the time of tribulation (but here the tribulation isn’t a seven year period as above), meeting them in the air (Rapture) to return with them immediately for judgement and the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom? (Historical Pre-Millennial View)
Will He return in judgement to establish the Eternal Kingdom? Here there is no actual Millennial Kingdom and no distinct time of tribulation. (Post-Millennial or Amillennial)
4. Is the millennium figurative of literal?
For anyone who holds a Dispensational Pre-Millennial or Historical Pre-Millennial view, literal.
For anyone who holds a Post-Millennial or Amillennial view, figurative.
5. If the millennium is literal, will it occur before or after the return of Christ?
In my understanding a literal Millennium has to be after the return of Christ. There would be those who believe Christ will return after a “Millennial” period (Post-Millennial view), but this isn’t really a literal Millennium as millennial literally means 1,000 years and in this view this period is longer than 1,000 years.
So where do I stand on all of this, personally?
I am convinced from Revelation 20 that there will be a real 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom when Christ returns.
In other words I am not Post-Millennial or Amillennial.
I am uncertain whether Christ will return for the church (Rapture), followed by a 7 year Tribulation, followed by the Second Coming of Christ in judgment, followed by the Millennial Kingdom, followed by the Final Judgement, followed by the Eternal Kingdom.
In other words, I am not convinced the Dispensational Pre-Millennial view fits with all of Scripture (not just Revelation).
I tend to lean toward Historic Premillennial.
In other words, there will be a time of increased tribulation and persecution which will precede the Second Coming of Christ and will likely include a time of great repentance on the part of Jews (Romans 11) yet the church will still be here when this occurs. Then Christ will return calling up his people, those living and those dead (Rapture – 1 Thess. 4), and they will immediately return with Christ (Rev. 19) to judgement ushering in the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom, which will be followed by a time of rebellion, final judgement and the Eternal Age.
Howick Baptist Church
07 September 2013