Millennium, Rapture and Tribulation: a simple guide

In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the second advent of Christ—an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent, there are 8 which look forward to His second!

The Rapture

Matt 24:38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

1 Thess 4:15 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud
command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we
will be with the Lord for ever.

Literal? Or symbolic?

Dispensational Premillennialists:-

Hal Lindsey – Late Great Planet Earth (1960s)

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins – 11 books in the Left Behind series including Left Behind, The Remnant, Armageddon, The Rapture – In the Twinkling of an Eye

What did Jesus actually say??

Mark 13: 5-8; 18-20; 24-27 then 32-37

Things the Bible makes absolutely clear and ALL Christians agree about

1. Jesus Christ is going to return, visibly in glory

2. Judgment Day is coming – dead will be raised and we will ALL have to give an account of ourselves before God – and the eternal destiny of every one of us, heaven or hell will rest on God’s Judgment and God’s mercy!

3. We must be ready WHENEVER Christ returns – comes as a thief in the night –at the hour we least expect Him!

Read Revelation 20. How do you understand this chapter? This one Bible passage has caused more controversy and division than almost any other. There are FOUR main interpretations of the “thousand years” – the “millennium”. Remember, many equally godly Christians have held each of these views. They can’t all be right!

Rapture – Christians are “snatched up” out of the world – Matt 24:38-41, 1 Thess 4:15-18

Tribulation – a period of persecution and suffering for Christians (or for everybody else)

Millennium – a period of one thousand years when different things may or may not happen!

Historic Pre-millennialism (Christ comes PRE = before the Millennium)

Dates from the earliest Church. An interim kingdom will be set up on earth at Christ’s return, lasting 1000 years while Satan is bound. Then Satan will be loosed for a final rebellion before ultimate judgement and the new creation. A literal interpretation of Revelation 20.

Post-millennialism (Christ comes POST = after the Millennium)

Christ’s Kingly rule increasingly breaks into this Present Age and ushers in the millennium, a golden age not necessarily literally 1000 years long, before Christ’s returns. More optimistic than Pre-millennialisms, but a less Biblical view of world and tribulation. Liberalism identifies the inbreaking Kingdom with social action, rather than God’s activities.

Dispensational Pre-millennialism (Dispensationalism)

J.N.Darby, the Exclusive Brethren and the Scofield Reference Bible, mid-19th Century and NOT EARLIER. History is divided into periods or Dispensations of Innocency, Conscience, Human Government, Promise, Law, Grace (from Christ) and Kingdom (Millennium). Christians will be removed from the world in a “secret rapture” (Matt 24:40) escaping Tribulation. Christ will rule for 1000 years in Jerusalem before Satan is loosed for a final rebellion before final judgement of the wicked. Requires TWO comings of Christ!

A-millennialism (A = NOT- there won’t be a distinct Millennium )
Understands Revelation symbolically (from Augustine onwards) with 1000 years representing a period of completeness and perfection of Christ’s victory over Satan. So the “Millennium” = “the Last Days” = whole period from Christ’s First Coming until His Return.
This fits best with the rest of the N.T. because there is no need for gaps of a millennium between This Age and The Age to Come, or between Christ’s Return and Final Judgement.
Satan was bound from the beginning of Christ’s ministry (Mark 3:27) and remains so. On Rev 20:4-6; those who reign with Christ do so already in heaven, but the rest of the dead are unbelievers who are not raised for judgement until Christ’s Return.

Polishing crystal balls

Many zealous Christians find the topic of Christ’s Return very exciting (as we all should!) but for the wrong reasons. Wishing to stress the vital importance of the Second Coming, and convinced that it is imminent (which it surely is!) some are easily side-tracked. They read the Bible to find “the signs of the times”, prophecies fulfilled in national and international events. Some are in danger of treating the Bible as little more than a crystal ball which can help us predict the future.

Prophecy, apocalyptic and eschatological language

Most misunderstandings about the Second Coming of Christ arise from a wrong approach to interpreting the Bible. Many different kinds of literature go together to make up the Scriptures and the different genres must each be read and understood in their own terms. Old Testament Law or New Testament Doctrine in Paul’s letters are very different from the poetry of the Psalms or from Jesus’ parables or from the imagery we find in Revelation. We cannot interpret every verse of the Bible in the same way. It is as unhelpful to read the metaphors of poetry literally as it is to read direct statements of theology as symbolic and allegorical. And we must never take verses out of context!
We should always let the simple straightforward portions of Scripture explain the difficult verses. The greatest disagreements arise when we try to understand apocalyptic language such as Revelation and Daniel. We must walk the tightrope between excessive literalism and letting the imagination run away as we interpret the symbolism. Our guiding principle must be the author’s intended meaning – what did the original writer expect his original readers to understand by what he wrote. Any further or “deeper” meanings must be consistent with the author’s meaning. Much of the Book of Revelation was written in a kind of code (a bit like the symbolism in political cartoons today where e.g. America is the Eagle, Russia is the Bear and Britain is the Bulldog). This code was to intended to confuse Roman persecuters but the meanings would have been very clear to the original Christian readers. It can be very confusing to try to interpret code which represents first century events and people as detailed predictions about our world situation today.

SO when is Jesus coming back? JESUS SAID no-one can know in advance! See Mark 13:32-37; Acts1:7. We must all be ready!

You may also like...