By Gary Vaterlaus
Any study of eschatology must at some point come to grips with two major issues that are frequently debated, studied, and documented.
The Millennium and the Rapture are terms that are pivotal to one’s understanding of God’s plans for the future, for the nation of Israel, and for the Church.
Several positions have evolved in regards to these two issues. Differing definitions of interpretation, context, word meanings, timing, etc. have forced these views into several camps.
Below are overviews that give an introduction to what these views hold to and from when and where they originated.
This view is usually traced back to Augustine (354-430 AD); however, Origen (185-254 AD) from Alexandria, Egypt, who was greatly influenced by Greek philosophy, taught that the kingdom was not physical but spiritual. It is interesting to note that all the other early church fathers were premillennial. A basic teaching of amillennialism is that the kingdom began with Christ’s first coming and will continue until His Second Coming. They teach that there is no 1000-year kingdom on earth. They use an allegorical system of interpretation of prophetic events. The Olivet Discourse and the greater part of the book of Revelation are largely viewed as past historical events or are spiritualized out of existence. They do believe in a Second Coming of Christ for His own, which takes place at the end which is immediately followed by the judgment of the wicked and the eternal state. They believe that conditions in this world will continue to deteriorate up until the time of the coming of Christ.
Download a PDF file of Parousia #19 for an in-depth look at the “Origins” of Amillennialism.
This view found its beginnings in England and was first taught by Unitarian minister Daniel Whitby (1638-1726). This view basically teaches that the return of Christ takes place at the end of the millennium. They do not take the 1000 years in Revelation 20 literally but suggest it is speaking of a long period of time. Loraine Boettner, a postmillennialist, in his book “The Millennium” states, “The millennium to which the postmillennialist looks forward is thus a golden age of spiritual prosperity during this present dispensation, that is, the Church Age. This is to be brought about through forces now active in the world. . . . The changed character of individuals will be reflected in an uplifted social, economic, political and cultural life of mankind. The world at large will enjoy a state of righteousness which up until now has been seen only in relatively small and isolated groups: for example, some family circles, and some local church groups and kindred organizations. This does not mean there will be a time on earth when every person will be a Christian or that all sin will be abolished. But it does mean that evil in all its many forms eventually will be reduced to negligible proportions, that Christian principles will be the rule, not the exception, and that Christ will return to a truly Christianized world.” There is a new form of postmillennialism known as “Reconstuctionism” which teaches how the world will eventually be Christianized. David Chilton writes in his book, “Paradise Restored”, “Our goal is world dominion under Christ’s Lordship, a world takeover if you will; but our strategy begins with reformation, reconstruction of the church. From that will flow social and political reconstruction, indeed a flowering of Christian civilization.” There are other similar forms of postmillennialism such as “Dominion Theology” and “Kingdom Now Theology.”
This view is the view of the early church fathers which takes a literal approach to the Scriptures. It teaches that after the seventieth week of Daniel is completed, Christ will establish His kingdom here on earth and reign for 1000 years. The primary subjects of this kingdom will be the surviving remnant of Israel that will eventually turn to Christ as their true Messiah and King just after the completion of the seventieth week. There will also be a remnant from among the surviving Gentile nations, especially from Egypt and Assyria, none of which will have taken the mark or worshiped the beast or his image. Premillennialists have various views on the timing of the Rapture, but they all place that momentous event before the 1000-year reign of Christ and His kingdom.
This view was first known as “the secret” or “any moment rapture.” It is a relatively new position which was first taught by the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church, Edward Irving in the late 1820’s. It was then picked up by Plymouth Brethren pastor John Nelson Darby, and he first preached on it in 1843. It came to America in the late 1800’s and was popularized by C.I. Schofield when he revised his Bible notes in 1917. Pretribulationists teach that the return of Christ has been imminent since the days of the early church and that the church will be raptured sometime before the seventieth week begins. Although they have no Scripture that in so many words teaches it, they teach that there are no signs and the rapture could take place at any moment. The seventieth week of Daniel is therefore considered to be a seven-year period of God’s judgmental “tribulation” (hence the term pretribulation). This position generally views the seventieth week as the day of the Lord’s wrath from which the church is excluded.
This view emerged in 1941 with the publication of the book, “The End: Rethinking the Revelation” by Norman B. Harrison. They believe that the Rapture of the Church will occur at the mid-point of the seventieth week of Daniel. They see the second half of the seventieth week as the wrath of God and as a result the church will not be here when God pours out His wrath on the earth.
There are a number of views in the posttribulation camp. Some posttribulationalists see the church in tribulation since its beginnings and do not view the seven year period as futuristic. The most prevalent view today is that the seven year period is yet in the future, and that although the Church will experience this time of tribulation, it will be sheltered by God’s protection before the second coming. George Ladd in his book “The Blessed Hope” and Robert Gundry in his book “The Church and The Tribulation” both teach that the church will experience the seven year period which will conclude with the rapture of the church.
The Prewrath position teaches that the true church will be raptured when the great tribulation by Antichrist, inspired by Satan, is cut short by God’s day-of-the-Lord wrath, which will occur between the sixth and seventh seals of Revelation, sometime during the second half of the seventieth week. The persecution associated with the great tribulation of Antichrist is viewed as the wrath of Satan, whereas the events that follow, beginning with the seventh seal, are considered the wrath of God. There is another term that is sometimes expressed, “historical premillennialism,” which refers back to the teaching of the early church fathers before 325 A.D. They believed that the church would face the persecution of Antichrist and Christ would then reign for 1000 years upon the earth. With the exception of two, Origen and Clement of Alexandria, who were allegorists, they all taught this view. Prewrath is plainly and simply an expansion of this view which was biblical then and biblical now.
See a series of End Times Charts, one of which pictures these four Rapture positions.