Lesson 7 – An Overview of Rapture Positions

In our previous lessons, we discussed the differences between the major prophecy interpretation methods, the millennium timing, and dispensations and dominions.  I have explained why I believe the Futurist, Premillennial, Dispensational teachings fit in best with a literal, cultural, historical, contextual Bible interpretation method.  Within this position, there are 4 different possible timings suggested for the rapture of the church, and that is what we will now start to discuss.  But first, we need to define what the “rapture” of the church is!

I believe the next major prophetic event is going to be the resurrection of the dead in Christ and the transformation of living saints into resurrection bodies. This will be followed by a literal “catching away” of those who believe in Jesus, taking them to heaven.  This is commonly known as the rapture, from the Latin translation of “caught up” – rapiemur (from rapio).  The Greek word is harpazo.  Both mean “we are caught up” or “we are taken away”.  From Gotquestions:

Question: “What is the rapture of the church?”

Answer: The word rapture does not occur in the Bible. The term comes from a Latin word meaning “a carrying off, a transport, or a snatching away.” The concept of the “carrying off” or the rapture of the church is clearly taught in Scripture.

The rapture of the church is the event in which God “snatches away” all believers from the earth in order to make way for His righteous judgment to be poured out on the earth during the tribulation period. The rapture is described primarily in 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50–54. God will resurrect all believers who have died, give them glorified bodies, and take them from the earth, along with all living believers, who will also be given glorified bodies at that time. “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. 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 forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

The rapture of the church is a glorious event we should all be longing for. We will finally be free from sin. We will be in God’s presence forever. There is far too much debate over the meaning and scope of the rapture. This is not God’s intent. Rather, the rapture should be a comforting doctrine full of hope; God wants us to “encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/rapture-of-the-church.html

Pretribulation, Midtribulation, Posttribulation, and Prewrath

In the futurist view, there are 4 rapture positions: pretribulation, midtribulation, posttribulation, and prewrath.  In Rapture? Which Rapture?, Jack Kelley briefly compares the differences between these rapture positions.  I was willing to consider each one of these, not caring which was correct, but just wanting to know which was true.  I am fully prepared to die for my faith, so I wasn’t approaching this study from an “escapist mentality” as is sometimes assumed.

I ordered books by the most popular authors from each view, and studied these prayerfully.  Each were compelling in their own ways.  I ended up taking every passage and verse related to end times prophecy, from Genesis to Revelation, printed them out, and pieced them together in different ways over many months as I read each view.

Basically what it came down to for me were a number of what I call “Special Puzzle Keys”.  I knew I was trying to weave together a big picture, that needed to be consistent from Genesis to Revelation.  These keys helped me to rule out several views, and piece together several others.  I encourage you to do the same, and not just take my word for it!  In the meantime I will give a brief overview of each of these views!

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Pretribulation

The pretribulation rapture position places rapture timing before the start of the 7-year “tribulation” period (the 70th Week of Daniel).  This view generally considers the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls to be the wrath of God.  There is a small subset within this view that suggests the Seals are not wrath and occur before the “tribulation” begins.

Because the church is not appointed for wrath (Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9), we must be taken away from the Earth before any of the judgments begin.  A common teaching within this view is that the rapture is “imminent”, in that it could happen at any moment.

Midtribulation

The midtribulation rapture belief places the rapture timing at the Abomination of Desolation event halfway through the 7-year “tribulation” period, right before the beginning of the Great Tribulation.  While there is considerable variation within this view, in general, the midtribulation belief stems from equating the seventh trumpet of Revelation 11:15 with the last trump blown at the time of the rapture per 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.

They view the Seals and Trumpets as “tribulation” that the Church is specifically meant to suffer, and places these in the first half of Daniel’s 70th week.  The Great Tribulation, or the period of greatest persecution, occurs during the 1260 days of antichrist rule.  They believe church will escape the period of what they call “satan’s wrath”, or the period of “great tribulation”, only.  During this time period of Great Tribulation, the Bowl judgments will also take place.  The midtribulation rapture position defines the Bowls as the wrath we are not appointed to suffer as the church (Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Posttribulation

The posttribulation rapture position states that the trumpet mentioned in Matthew 24:31 is the “last trump” mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:51-53.  When the seventh trumpet of the Trumpet Judgments is blown, they believe the Lord will command His angels to gather the Church, the dead in Christ will rise, we will all be transformed, and we will meet Him in the air together.  From the air, we will join Jesus in His return to earth in power and glory.  The posttribulation view sees the resurrection/rapture and the Second Coming as part of the same event.  This view suggests that the Church is meant to undergo tribulation and will not escape any of what is to come on the Earth.

Prewrath

The pre-wrath rapture position is the most variable in its’ rapture timing.  This view sees the rapture as occurring at Seal 6, but then places the opening of Seal 6 at either midtribulation or posttribulation.  Those who place it posttribulation, suggest that Matthew 24:29 (sun darkened, moon not giving its light) is the same event as Revelation 6:12 (sun darkened, blood red moon), similar to the Posttribulation position.  They view the newly raptured Church as pictured in Revelation 7:9-17 between the sixth and seventh seals.  This view overlaps the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls in order to place Seal 6 later in the sequencing of the book of Revelation.

The prewrath view places the rapture of the Church right before the wrath of God, which it defines as only the Bowls (similar to midtribulation).  It is variable in when it sees the Bowls being opened, from the time of midtribulation during the Greatest Tribulation, to the Second Coming, or even post-second coming.  Some within this view consider the Trumpets to be part of God’s wrath and thus place the timing of their blowing after the rapture.  What seems to be most consistent in this view is that it places the rapture at some point in the Great Tribulation (last half of the “tribulation week”).

Rapture Passages

In considering which rapture timing view is most correct, we need to examine the scriptures for ourselves.

First, passages that promise to spare the saints from wrath:

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. Revelation 3:10 ESV

“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”  Luke 21:36 ESV

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. Romans 5:9 ESV

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,  who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.  1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV

For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,  and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 ESV

Second, examining the passages talking about our transformation from temporal to eternal:

Listen! I am telling you a mystery:  We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed [allasso], in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.  For this corruptible must beclothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.  When this corruptible is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.
Death, where is your victory?
Death, where is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:51-55 ESV

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Philippians 3:20-21 ESV

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.  John 5:28-29 ESV

Third, the passages predicting the “harpazo” of the saints:

Just as man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment, so also Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await Him.  Hebrews 9:28 ESV

“She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne”  Revelation 12:5 ESV (see HERE for a thorough discussion of the “birth” and rapture connection. )

“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.”  John 14:1-3 ESV  (Note how Jesus will receive us unto Himself as you read the next passage)

Two men will be in the field; one will be taken [received] and the other left.  Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken [received] and the other left.  Matthew 24:40-41; Mark 13:34-35 ESV  (Interestingly, the word used, paralambanetai, is used elsewhere to represent “received” – as in, the ones taken will be received unto the Lamb)

Fourth, passages containing the transformation, catching up, and sparing from wrath:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, in the same way God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep through Jesus. [their souls] For we say this to you by a revelation from the Lord: We who are still alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the archangel’s voice, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. [their souls will rejoin with an eternal resurrection body]  Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord Therefore encourage one another with these words.  (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 ESV)  (The trumpet in the Old Testament (shofar) was used to summon for worship or to summon to battle.  To believers, this trumpet blast will mean – Come Up Here!  To angels, this trumpet blast will mean prepare for battle!  This is well described in Revelation 12)

As a pregnant woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so we were before You, Lord. We became pregnant, we writhed in pain; we gave birth to wind. We have won no victories on earth, and the earth’s inhabitants have not fallen.  Your dead will live; their bodies will riseAwake and sing, you who dwell in the dust! For you will be covered with the morning dew, and the earth will bring out the departed spirits.  Go, my people, enter your rooms and close your doors behind you.  Hide for a little while until the wrath has passed. For look, the Lord is coming from His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity. The earth will reveal the blood shed on it and will no longer conceal her slain.   Isaiah 26:17-21 ESV

Fifth, Other Passages Where People are Harpazo’d:

And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried [harpazo] Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.  Acts 8:39 ESV

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up [harpazo] to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  And I know that this man was caught up [harpazo] into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—  and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.  2 Cor 12:2-4 ESV

And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force[harpazo] and bring him into the barracks.  Acts 23:10 ESV

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch [harpazo] them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch [harpazo – pluck, seize] them out of the Father’s hand.  John 10:28-29 ESV

Summary

Prayerfully consider the above scriptures.  I truly believe that God has not destined us for wrath, but for salvation.  Church age believers will be snatched up into the Day of Christ, while those left behind on earth will continue on into the Great and Terrible Day of the Lord.

We are supposed to encourage one another with the words of our blessed hope – that we will be changed and received (snatched, seized by force, suddenly and without our consent) unto Jesus, to be with Him forever.  We will be worthy to escape all these things that are coming upon the earth, through the blood of the Lamb.  Yes, the church age is one of trials and tribulations.  But I believe that God clearly is not going to pour his time of intense wrath and judgment upon His children.

As far as WHEN?

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  2 Peter 3:9 ESV

We will continue to examine the rapture positions more fully in subsequent lessons.


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to the understanding of End Times prophecy that I have.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for further learning.


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

Rapture, Which Rapture? – Grace Thru Faith

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

How Should We Interpret the Bible. Part 1: Principles for Understanding God’s Word – Answers in Genesis

Why is Sound Doctrine so Important?  – Gotquestions

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

What I post here is my best understanding from Scripture, but it is a human understanding, and thus will be flawed in some points.  I am continually pleading with God for truth and clarity, and will update posts as my understanding improves.  I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so, praying for wisdom and understanding!

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Lesson 6 – Dispensations and Dominions Part II

In Part I of this lesson, we discussed the alternatives to Dispensation Theology – Replacement Theology (Kingdom Now) and Covenant Theology (Dominionism).  In this lesson, we will give an overview of the dispensational understanding of scripture.

Dispensational Theology

God’s revelation and dealings with humanity can be broadly separated into “ages”.  This is the basis for Dispensational Theology.  It’s not perfect, but it helps us grasp how God has progressively revealed Himself and His redemption plan to humanity.  Dispensational theology is the most common method of Bible prophecy interpretation in evangelical Christian circles.  It is the only view which explains the literal rebirth of modern-day Israel and the aliyah, or regathering, of Jews that we can observe and track.  It explains the prophetic line up of nations and wars we can watch in the headlines.  It explains the current social and political climate.  It is the method most consistent with a literal, cultural, historical, contextual study of scripture.

Dispensational theology sees the Church and Israel as distinct entities, and understands that God has separate plans for each.

From Gotquestions:

Dispensationalism has two primary distinctives: 1) a consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy, and 2) a view of the uniqueness of Israel as separate from the Church in God’s program.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the Church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by grace through faith alone—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the Church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and that the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the Church. Dispensationalism teaches that the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament (for land, many descendants, and blessings) will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20. Dispensationalists believe that, just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the Church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (see Romans 9–11 and Daniel 9:24).

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/dispensationalism.html

Generally, dispensationalism sees the age of man as divided into seven time periods, called “dispensations”.

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I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here, so I will let Gotquestions explain the seven dispensations in more detail:

The first dispensation is called the Dispensation of Innocence (Genesis 1:28-30 and 2:15-17). This dispensation covered the period of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. In this dispensation God’s commands were to (1) replenish the earth with children, (2) subdue the earth, (3) have dominion over the animals, (4) care for the garden, and (5) abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God warned of the punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience. This dispensation was short-lived and was brought to an end by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit and their expulsion from the garden.

The second dispensation is called the Dispensation of Conscience, and it lasted about 1,656 years from the time of Adam and Eve’s eviction from the garden until the flood (Genesis 3:8–8:22). This dispensation demonstrates what mankind will do if left to his own will and conscience, which have been tainted by the inherited sin nature. The five major aspects of this dispensation are 1) a curse on the serpent, 2) a change in womanhood and childbearing, 3) a curse on nature, 4) the imposing of difficult work on mankind to produce food, and 5) the promise of Christ as the seed who will bruise the serpent’s head (Satan).

The third dispensation is the Dispensation of Human Government, which began in Genesis 8. God had destroyed life on earth with a flood, saving just one family to restart the human race. God made the following promises and commands to Noah and his family:

1. God will not curse the earth again.
2. Noah and family are to replenish the earth with people.
3. They shall have dominion over the animal creation.
4. They are allowed to eat meat.
5. The law of capital punishment is established.
6. There never will be another worldwide flood.
7. The sign of God’s promise will be the rainbow.

Noah’s descendants did not scatter and fill the earth as God had commanded, thus failing in their responsibility in this dispensation. About 325 years after the flood, the earth’s inhabitants began building a tower, a great monument to their solidarity and pride (Genesis 11:7-9). God brought the construction to a halt, creating different languages and enforcing His command to fill the earth. The result was the rise of different nations and cultures. From that point on, human governments have been a reality.

The fourth dispensation, called the Dispensation of Promise, started with the call of Abraham, continued through the lives of the patriarchs, and ended with the Exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt, a period of about 430 years. During this dispensation God developed a great nation that He had chosen as His people (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25).

The basic promise during the Dispensation of Promise was the Abrahamic Covenant. Here are some of the key points of that unconditional covenant:

1. From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity.
2. God would make Abraham’s name great.
3. God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that cursed them.
4. In Abraham all the families of the earth will be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His work of salvation.
5. The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
6. This covenant, which was repeated to Isaac and Jacob, is confined to the Hebrew people and the 12 tribes of Israel.

The fifth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Law. It lasted almost 1,500 years, from the Exodus until it was suspended after Jesus Christ’s death. This dispensation will continue during the Millennium, with some modifications. During the Dispensation of Law, God dealt specifically with the Jewish nation through the Mosaic Covenant, or the Law, found in Exodus 19–23. The dispensation involved temple worship directed by priests, with further direction spoken through God’s mouthpieces, the prophets. Eventually, due to the people’s disobedience to the covenant, the tribes of Israel lost the Promised Land and were subjected to bondage.

The sixth dispensation, the one in which we now live, is the Dispensation of Grace. It began with the New Covenant in Christ’s blood (Luke 22:20). This “Age of Grace” or “Church Age” occurs between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel 9:24. It starts with the coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and ends with the Rapture of the church (1 Thessalonians 4). This dispensation is worldwide and includes both Jews and the Gentiles. Man’s responsibility during the Dispensation of Grace is to believe in Jesus, the Son of God (John 3:18). In this dispensation the Holy Spirit indwells believers as the Comforter (John 14:16-26). This dispensation has lasted for almost 2,000 years, and no one knows when it will end. We do know that it will end with the Rapture of all born-again believers from the earth to go to heaven with Christ. Following the Rapture will be the judgments of God lasting for seven years.

The seventh dispensation is called the Millennial Kingdom of Christ and will last for 1,000 years as Christ Himself rules on earth. This Kingdom will fulfill the prophecy to the Jewish nation that Christ will return and be their King. The only people allowed to enter the Kingdom are the born-again believers from the Age of Grace and righteous survivors of the seven years of tribulation. No unsaved person is allowed access into this kingdom. Satan is bound during the 1,000 years. This period ends with the final judgment (Revelation 20:11-14). The old world is destroyed by fire, and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/seven-dispensations.html

We are currently in the 6th dispensation, the one of Grace.  This is commonly called the “Church Age”.  This age will end (soon!) and Jesus will usher in His millennial kingdom.  The dispensational view agrees well with the 7000 Years Appointed to Humanity.

The 7-year period of wrath or tribulation, consisting of the 70th Week of Daniel / The Day of the Lord, isn’t part of the Age of Grace, nor is it part of the Millennial Kingdom.  Some view it as the completion of the Dispensation of Law, which was paused for the church age.  The difference is that Jesus *has* already fulfilled the Law, so I tend to view the 70th week as being a separate dispensational entity.  The sacrifices that occur during the tribulation (and also in the Millennial Kingdom) won’t atone for sin – that price has been paid by the Lamb of God.

It is this relatively short period that is the focus of much Bible Prophecy.  While it is short, it is incredibly significant.  We will spend much time on this “mini-dispensation” in the coming lessons!  Within the dispensational interpretation method, there are different rapture timing positions, and it is these we will dive into next.

Conclusion

I believe the dispensational view is most consistent with a literal, cultural, historical, and contextual study of scripture.  Israel’s rebirth as a nation in 1948, after almost 2000 years of not being a nation, would seem to strongly support the view that God still has plans for her.  I encourage you to explore each of the positions on the church and Israel for yourself, to see if you agree with me!


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to my current understanding of End Times prophecy.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for you to explore further!  What I post here is my best insight from Scripture, but I’m only human 🙂  Thus, I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so!


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

What Are the 7 Dispensations?  (GraceThruFaith)

What is Dispensationalism?  (CARM)

What is Dispensational Premillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Innocence? (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Conscience?  (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Human Government? (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Promise? (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Law? (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of Grace? (Gotquestions)

What is the dispensation of the Millennial Kingdom? (Gotquestions)

What is Ultra-Dispensationalism (Post-Acts)?  (Gotquestions)

What is Mid-Acts Dispensationalism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Progressive Dispensationalism?  (Gotquestions)

Prophecies Fulfilled of Israel’s Scattering

Prophecies of Israel’s Regathering – Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones

Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus at His First Coming

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

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Lesson 5 – Dispensations and Dominions Part I

In our last lesson on millennial views, I suggested that the pretribulation premillennial view was the view most consistent with a literal interpretation of scripture.  This view is also often known as “Dispensationalism”.  Before we study rapture positions, I thought we should maybe spend some time discussing what dispensationalism is and how it differs from other interpretation methods.  The main distinction between these interpretation methods is how they see the relationship between the church and Israel.

Replacement Theology teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s mind.  Covenant Theology suggests that the church is an expansion of Israel, and that they exist side by side.  Dispensationalism teaches that the church is a separate entity, apart from Israel, and that God has distinct plans for each.  Let’s briefly discuss replacement theology and covenant theology before providing an overview of dispensationalism.

Replacement Theology

Replacement theology suggests that the church has completely replaced Israel in God’s plans.  The promises God made to Israel can now be claimed by the church.  The main issue I have with this view is that Biblical Prophecy must be treated allegorically instead of literally.  From lesson 2, we learned that scripture is to be taken literally unless clearly indicated otherwise.  We have the example of Jesus literally fulfilling hundreds of prophecies in His first coming.  We also have the example of Israel being reborn as a nation and Jews returning to that nation over the last 70 years.  Gotquestions describes replacement theology like this:

Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan. Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel.

Replacement theology teaches that the church is the replacement for Israel and that the many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian church, not in Israel. The prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are spiritualized or allegorized into promises of God’s blessing for the church. Major problems exist with this view, such as the continuing existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries and especially with the revival of the modern state of Israel. If Israel has been condemned by God and there is no future for the Jewish nation, how do we explain the supernatural survival of the Jewish people over the past 2,000 years despite the many attempts to destroy them? How do we explain why and how Israel reappeared as a nation in the 20th century after not existing for 1,900 years?

The view that Israel and the church are different is clearly taught in the New Testament. Biblically speaking, the church is distinct from Israel, and the terms church and Israel are never to be confused or used interchangeably. We are taught from Scripture that the church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the day of Pentecost and will continue until it is taken to heaven at the rapture (Ephesians 1:9–111 Thessalonians 4:13–17). The church has no relationship to the curses and blessings for Israel. The covenants, promises, and warnings of the Mosaic Covenant were valid only for Israel. Israel has been temporarily set aside in God’s program during these past 2,000 years of dispersion (see Romans 11).

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/replacement-theology.html

Replacement theology would seem to generally teach a postmillennial, or possibly amillennial, view.

Kingdom Now Theology

Kingdom Now theology is generally taught in Charismatic / Pentecostal denominations.  It falls under the umbrella of Replacement theology.  Gotquestions describes Kingdom Now interpretation as such:

Kingdom Now theology, most popular among Charismatic and Pentecostal groups, focuses on taking dominion of the earth by way of spiritual battle. Kingdom Now adherents believe that long ago Satan stole the “keys of spiritual dominion” when he deceived Adam and Eve. Then, when Christ gave the “keys of the kingdom” to Peter in Matthew 16:19, it was a sign that dominion had been returned to man. Now it is our job to “take back” what is rightfully ours – that is, to claim dominion over the earth and spiritually subdue it for Christ. Proponents of Kingdom Now theology believe that the capturing of this dominion includes having Christians in political office, plus a return of spiritual power, manifested by signs, miracles and healing.

The belief is that, since believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit that indwelt Jesus, we have all authority in heaven and on the earth; we have the power to believe for and speak into existence things that are not, and thus we can bring about the Kingdom Age.

Proponents of Kingdom Now teaching also don’t believe in the rapture, which is explained away as a feeling of rapture or excitement when the Lord returns to receive the kingdom from our hands. In other words, everyone will be “caught up” emotionally when He returns. Also among the unbiblical beliefs is the idea that all prophecies regarding future Israel—both in the Old and New Testaments—actually apply to the church.

Kingdom Now theology sees the second coming of Jesus in two stages: first through the flesh of the believers (and in particular the flesh of today’s apostles and prophets), and then in person to take over the kingdom handed to Him by those who have been victorious (the “overcomers”). Prior to the second coming, overcomers must purge the earth of all evil influences. Kingdom Now claims that Jesus cannot return until all His enemies have been put under the feet of the church (including death, presumably).

Although there are people who only partially hold to Kingdom Now teachings, they still share the beliefs outlined above, all of which are outside of mainstream Christianity and all of which deny Scripture. First, the idea that God has “lost control” of anything is ludicrous, especially coupled with the idea that He needs human beings to help Him regain that control. He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, complete and holy, perfect in all His attributes. He has complete control over all things—past, present and future—and nothing happens outside His command. Everything is proceeding according to His divine plan and purpose, and not one molecule is moving on its own accord. “For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 14:27). As for men having “the power to believe for and speak into existence things that are not,” that power belongs to God alone, who doesn’t take kindly to those who would attempt to usurp it from Him.

In a way, the disciples were of a “kingdom now” mindset. They thought that Jesus was going to immediately usher in the kingdom and wipe out Roman rule (see Luke 19:11). But that wasn’t what Jesus was about then, and it isn’t what He is about now. We belong to a heavenly kingdom that is not of this world (John 8:23). We are seeking another home, a city “with foundations” (Hebrews 11:101413:14). The world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:311 John 2:17Colossians 3:2-5).

It is right and good to want to see justice done and biblical principles upheld (Psalm 33:5Amos 5:15Micah 6:8). And we are to do everything as unto the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and it is perfectly reasonable for Christians to hold jobs in government and all other areas of society. But “bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth” is not our commission. Our commission is to tell people about the wonderful news that, despite the sick, sinful condition of our souls, God has provided salvation by sacrificing His own Son on our behalf (Romans 5:6-8). By grace, through faith, we become citizens of a perfect world that will last eternally (Ephesians 2:8-9). Our job is to “rescue those who are perishing; to hold back those stumbling towards slaughter” (Proverbs 24:11). Christian Dominionism seeks to perfect this world by political clout, but it is the Spirit who must bring change (Zechariah 4:6). One day, Jesus will bring His kingdom to earth, in justice and true righteousness, and it will signify the end of this world’s system.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-dominionism.html, https://www.gotquestions.org/kingdom-now.html

Kingdom Now theology would seem to generally teach a postmillennial, or possibly amillennial, view.

Covenant Theology

Covenant theology is a method of scripture interpretation that is held by a large part of the protestant (Reformed / Calvinist) community.  It expands on the covenant idea put forth in Dominion Theology, and views Bible prophecy through the lens of three covenants: works, grace, and redemption.  Gotquestions defines covenant theology in this way:

Covenant Theology defines two overriding covenants: the covenant of works (CW) and the covenant of grace (CG). A third covenant is sometimes mentioned; namely, the covenant of redemption (CR). We will discuss these covenants in turn. The important thing to keep in mind is that all of the various covenants described in Scripture (e.g., the covenants made with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and the New Covenant) are outworkings of either the covenant of works or the covenant of grace.

Let’s begin to examine the various covenants detailed in Covenant Theology, beginning with the covenant of redemption, which logically precedes the other two covenants. According to Covenant Theology, the CR is a covenant made among the three Persons of the Trinity to elect, atone for, and save a select group of individuals unto salvation and eternal life.

From a redemptive historical perspective, the covenant of works is the first covenant we see in Scripture. When God created man, He placed him in the Garden of Eden and gave him one simple command: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). We can see the covenantal language implied in this command. God sets Adam in the Garden and promises eternal life to him and his posterity as long as he is obedient to God’s commands. Life is the reward for obedience, and death is the punishment for disobedience.

When Adam failed in keeping the covenant of works, God instituted the third covenant, called the covenant of grace. In the CG, God freely offers to sinners (those who fail to live up to the CW) eternal life and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. We see the provision for the CG right after the fall when God prophesies the “seed of the woman” in Genesis 3:15. Whereas the covenant of works is conditional and promises blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience, the covenant of grace is unconditional and is given freely on the basis of God’s grace.

Unlike Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology does not see a sharp distinction between Israel and the Church. Israel constituted the people of the God in the OT, and the Church (which is made up of Jew and Gentile) constitutes the people of God in the NT; both just make up one people of God (Ephesians 2:11-20). The Church doesn’t replace Israel; the Church is Israel and Israel is the Church (Galatians 6:16). All people who exercise the same faith as Abraham are part of the covenant people of God (Galatians 3:25-29).

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/covenant-theology.html

Covenant theology does not state that the church replaces Israel, but that it envelops it.  Because the lines between Israel and the church are blurred, covenant theology has some similarities between replacement theology and some with what is known as “progressive dispensationalism“.  Progressive dispensationalism teaches that Christ is currently already ruling on David’s throne, and is often called “already but not yet”.  This involves some departure from literal scripture interpretation.

Dominion Theology

Dominion theology, similar to Covenant Theology, does not see a role for Israel in end times prophecy.  It differs somewhat from replacement theology as defined above, in that it focuses specifically on the church bringing in a worldwide kingdom patterned after the Laws of Moses.  Gotquestions describes Dominion Theology this way:

Those who hold these views believe that it is the duty of Christians to create a worldwide kingdom patterned after the Mosaic Law. They believe that Christ will not return to earth until such a kingdom has been established. The principal goal, then, of dominion theology and Christian reconstructionism is political and religious domination of the world through the implementation of the moral laws, and subsequent punishments, of the Old Testament (the sacrificial and ceremonial laws having been fulfilled in the New Testament). This is not a government system ruled by the church, but rather a government conformed to the Law of God.

Dominion theology / Christian reconstructionism is largely based upon a post-millennial view of covenantalism. Post-millennialism is the belief that Christ will return to earth after the thousand-year reign of God’s kingdom, and covenantalism refers to the belief that biblical history is divided into three major covenants supposedly described in Scripture—of redemption, of works, and of grace. Adherents believe that we currently exist under the covenant of grace, that the church and Israel are the same, and we are now in the millennial Kingdom of God. Man, under the covenant of grace, is responsible to rule the world, to hold dominion over it in obedience to the laws of God.

The problem with these beliefs is that they rest upon a distorted view of Scripture. Scripture clearly teaches a premillennial view of the Kingdom of God (Zechariah 14:4-9Matthew 25:31-34), the “covenant of grace” is an extra-biblical construct, Israel and the Church are distinct throughout biblical history and prophecy, and God never commanded the Church to revamp society. Instead, believers are commanded to preach the Gospel as in Matthew 28:1920, but God clearly intends to implement worldwide reform Himself (Revelation 19:11-20:4).

Dominion theology’s beliefs are based on Genesis 1:28, which says, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (emphasis added).

This verse is taken by Christian Dominionists as a divine mandate to claim dominion over the earth, physically, spiritually and politically. However, this is taking a large step away from the text, which only says to have dominion over the creatures of earth, and to “subdue” the earth. It is likely that this verse simply means for humanity to a) multiply and expand over the face of the earth instead of staying in one place and b) keep and take care of all other living things. There were no political entities in Genesis 1.

However, dominion theology goes even further with this verse, leading to two other philosophies: Christian Reconstructionism and Kingdom Now theology. Christian Reconstructionism is an intellectually high-minded worldview, most popular among the more conservative branches of Christian faith. Reconstructionism says that dominion will be achieved by each Christian excelling in his or her individual field (Christian artists taking dominion of the art world, Christian musicians taking dominion of the music world, Christian businessmen taking dominion of the business world, etc., until all systems and fields are “subdued”).

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/dominion-theology.html,  https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-dominionism.html

Dominion theology would seem to generally teach a postmillennial, or possibly amillennial, view.

Discussion

I believe the above methods of interpretation (Replacement Theology, Kingdom Now, Covenant Theology, and Dominionism) are not consistent with a literal, cultural, historical, and contextual study of scripture.  They all teach a postmillennial, or amillennial, view of the millennial kingdom and allegorize the prophesies describing Jesus’ Second Coming.

Israel’s rebirth as a nation in 1948, after almost 2000 years of not being a nation, would seem to strongly support the view that God still has plans for her.  Millions of literal bloodline-Jews have returned to this specific land against huge odds.  It strongly appears that God is gathering His chosen people and land of Israel back to Himself according to His eternal covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Their scattering, and latter days regathering, is prophesied many times in the Old Testament.

Also suggestive of a literal prophetic study model is the fact that Jesus literally fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophesies at the time of His first coming.  The pattern is certainly literal fulfillment, and there is no question in my mind that Jesus will literally fulfill what has been written about the latter days.  I encourage you to explore each of the positions on the church and Israel for yourself, to see if you agree with me!

Continue to Part II – Dispensation Theology


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to my current understanding of End Times prophecy.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for you to explore further!  What I post here is my best insight from Scripture, but I’m only human 🙂  Thus, I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so!


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

What is Replacement Theology?  (Gotquestions)

What is Replacement Theology? (CARM)

What Does it Mean that the Church Has Been Grafted in Israel’s Place? (Gotquestions)

What is Spiritual Israel?  (Gotquestions)

What is Covenant Theology?  (Gotquestions)

What is Christian Dominionism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Dispensational Premillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

Prophecies Fulfilled of Israel’s Scattering

Prophecies of Israel’s Regathering – Ezekiel’s Valley of Dry Bones

Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus at His First Coming

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

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Lesson 4 – Where is the Millennium?

In our last lesson on the major Bible prophecy interpretations, I suggested that the Futurist view is the one most consistent with a literal interpretation of Scripture.  Within the views that consider the book of Revelation at least partially future there are differing views on when the Millennial Kingdom should be placed.  These views include Post-tribulation (Historical) Premillennialism, Pre-tribulation (Dispensational) Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism.

Revelation chapter 20 introduces us to what is known as the Millennium, or the Millennial Kingdom:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain.  And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,  and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.

And when the thousand years are ended, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them for battle; their number is like the sand of the sea.  And they marched up over the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, but fire came down from heaven and consumed them, and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

Revelation 20:1-10 ESV

This chapter specifically mentions a “thousand year” period six times in seven verses.  From Lesson 2, a discussion of Literalism versus Symbolism in Revelation, I understand that this 1000 years is literal.  There are, however, different interpretations of when this “thousand year” period occurs in relation to where we are now.

These views are a little confusing so I’ve found a handy chart to help us out.  The triangle indicates where we are:

millennial views

All of the views agree that Jesus will return physically, and that only believers will be saved.  They are all futurist, in that all agree that the second coming of Christ and the last judgment are yet to come.  We see the differences in the details, and will discuss these next!

Post-tribulation (Historical) Premillennialism

This view states that Jesus will return AFTER a literal 7-year period of tribulation, BEFORE the literal Millennial Kingdom.  The rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ are seen as one and the same event.  This is the view of post-tribulation rapture adherents.  Thus, followers of Christ (the church) will endure the tribulation period and its’ associated wrath and persecution.  Jesus will return after this tribulation period and reign for 1000 years.  The state of Israel is seen as irrelevant.

Pre-tribulation (Dispensational) Premillennialism

This view states that Jesus will return AFTER a literal 7-year period of tribulation, BEFORE the literal Millennial Kingdom.  The rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ are seen as two separate events.  Within this view, there are different rapture timing suggestions (pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, pre-wrath).  Believers will be spared from the wrath of God through the “rapture”, but this wrath is defined differently in the different rapture views.  The church is either spared from the whole or a part of the 7-year tribulation.  Jesus will return after the tribulation period ends and reign for 1000 years.  This is a popular view in Dispensational denominations.  The state of Israel is seen as significant to end times prophecy.

Postmillennialism

This view states that Jesus will return AFTER the millennium.  The rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ are seen as the same event occurring after the millennium.  This view does not believe in a literal 7-year tribulation.  Instead, tribulation involves the struggle between good and evil for the entire church age, with no separate time of worse persecution defined.  This view does not believe in a literal 1000-year millennium.  Instead, it refers to a time of peace once the gospel has been preached to all the world.  This is a popular view in Charismatic / Pentecostal denominations and is associated with Replacement Theology / Dominionism.  The state of Israel is seen as irrelevant.

Amillennialism

This view states that Satan was bound at the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Jesus could return at any time, there is no detailed time frame given.  The rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ are seen as the same event.  This view does not subscribe to a literal 7-year period of tribulation, but sees the entire church age as involving persecution and conflict.  Amillennialism also does not believe in a literal 1000-year millennium, but sees Christ’s kingdom rule as within the hearts of believers.  This is also a popular view in Charismatic / Pentecostal denominations and is associated with Replacement Theology / Dominionism.  The state of Israel is seen as irrelevant.

Conclusion

I believe in pretribulation (dispensational) premillennialism.  I believe this view is most consistent with a literal, cultural, historical, and contextual scripture study.  I encourage you to explore each of the millennial positions for yourself, to see if you agree with me!


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to my current understanding of End Times prophecy.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for you to explore further!  What I post here is my best insight from Scripture, but I’m only human 🙂  Thus, I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so!


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

Life on Earth in the Millennium (GraceThruFaith)

What is Amillennialism? (Gotquestions)

What is Amillennialism?  (RaptureReady)

What is Premillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Historic Premillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Dispensational Premillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Postmillennialism?  (Gotquestions)

What is Postmillennialism? (RaptureReady)

The Unscriptural Theologies of Amillennialism and Postmillennialism (RaptureReady)

Animal Sacrifice in the Millennium (GraceThruFaith)

The Church Against the Rapture (GraceThruFaith)

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

Lesson 3 – What Are the Major Bible Prophecy Interpretation Methods?

When talking about the study of Bible prophecy specifically, there are 4 major schools of thought – Preterism, Historicism, Futurism, and Idealism.

Biblical-prophecy

In his article Idealists, Preterists, and Futurists, Jack Kelley discusses three major schools of thought regarding Bible prophecy interpretation.  He summarizes – “When you boil it all down there are only three schools of thought for interpreting prophecy. There are idealists, who interpret prophecy symbolically and don’t expect any of it to be fulfilled in the literal sense. Then there are preterists, who see the complete fulfillment of prophecy in past events culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. And there are futurists who see the fulfillment of prophecy in events still to come. All the major views fit under one of these headings.”  An additional view is Historicism, which states that Bible prophecy covers a broad period of time from the early church until an anticipated future state of perfection.

Preterism (Past)

The preterist view sees Revelation as referring mostly to events in the past, particularly in the 1st century AD.  This view suggests that the entire prophecy of Daniel’s 70 Weeks has been fulfilled, and that Revelation is a symbolic picture of first-century struggles in the new church.  Jack Kelley summarizes:

According to the preterist interpretation, after Jesus was crucified, the Romans desecrated the Temple, and the Roman Emperor Nero fulfilled the prophecies of the coming prince, also known as the anti-Christ.

Preterists believe the day of the Lord took place in 68-70 AD with the Roman conquest of Israel. The Millennium was actually only 40 years long and took place from 30-70 AD. The Earth will last forever and there will be no coming judgment and no rapture of the Church. Since there’s no prophecy left to fulfill we’ll simply transition from time into eternity on a future day of the Lord’s choosing.

(Source: https://gracethrufaith.com/end-times-prophecy/idealists-preterists-and-futurists/)

Preterism is the opposite of futurism; suggesting that all biblical prophecies concerning the “end times” have already been fulfilled.  Thus, they state that Jesus’ second coming was “spiritual” and not physical.  Gotquestions discusses some of the major flaws with this view:

Preterism teaches that the Law was fulfilled in AD 70 and God’s covenant with Israel was ended. The “new heavens and new earth” spoken of in Revelation 21:1 is, to the preterist, a description of the world under the New Covenant. Just as a Christian is made a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), so the world under the New Covenant is a “new earth.” This aspect of preterism can easily lead to a belief in replacement theology.

Preterists usually point to a passage in Jesus’ Olivet Discourse to bolster their argument. After Jesus describes some of the end-times happenings, He says, “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34). The preterist takes this to mean that everything Jesus speaks of in Matthew 24 had to have occurred within one generation of His speaking—the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was therefore “Judgment Day.”

The problems with preterism are many. For one thing, God’s covenant with Israel is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:33–36), and there will be a future restoration of Israel (Isaiah 11:12). The apostle Paul warned against those who, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, teach falsely “that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17–18). And Jesus’ mention of “this generation” should be taken to mean the generation that is alive to see the beginning of the events described in Matthew 24.

Full preterism has some serious flaws in that it denies the physical reality of Christ’s second coming and downplays the dreadful nature of the tribulation by restricting that event to the fall of Jerusalem.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/preterist.html

John MacArthur contends that “this view conflicts with the book’s own often repeated claim to be prophecy (1:3; 22:7,10,18,19).”

Historicism (Present)

The historicist view sees Revelation as portraying a broad view of history, from the time of the early church until perfection is achieved at some point in the future.  CARM describes historicism:

It is typical that historicists will envision the history of the world as pre-written in apocalyptic language filled with symbols and visions. The Reformers believed that major prophetic writings, such as the Book of Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and the Book of Revelation revealed the rise of the Roman Catholic Church and God’s destruction of that entity. The major prophetic writings were also believed to give exhortation to the church that would be purified during the time of the Reformation.

Within historicism, majority agreement on the prophetic fulfillment of the beginning and ending of historical movements cannot be ascertained; rather, Bible prophecy provides the panorama of historical movements throughout the various ages. It equates the current church age with the tribulation based on the day-age theory. Historicists interpret literal numbers like 2,300 days (Dan 8:14) and 1,290 days (Dan 12:11) as years. They also view Bible prophecy as finding continual fulfillment in the present age. The minority view among historicists is that the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was consistent with the breaking of the seals of Revelation. The majority view is that the breaking of the first seal is consistent with the death of Domitian in AD 96. The other six seals are associated with the rise and fall of the Western Roman Empire, which would include the invasion by the German barbarians (Ostrogoths, Visigoths, and Vandals) around the middle of the fifth century.

Source: https://carm.org/scripture-chronology-prophetic-fulfillment

The issues with historicism are similar to those of preterism.

Futurism (Future)

The futurist view sees most of the book of Revelation as describing future events that have yet to be fulfilled.  Revelation 1 (and possibly 4-5) describes what John “has seen”, Revelation 2-3 describes “what is now”, and Revelation 4-22 (or alternately, 6-22) describes “what is to come”.  Futurists believe in a literal, future, prophetic fulfillment of the rapture of the church, the tribulation (70th Week of Daniel), second coming of Christ, and millennial kingdom.  The next prophetic event will be the rapture of the church; care should be taken not to attempt to overlay current events with what will occur after the rapture.

The futurist interpretation is the most literal view – the other views must allegorize some or all of the visions.  When symbolism is used, futurists look for the literal meaning behind the symbol.

John MacArthur states – “Only this view does justice to Revelation’s claim to be prophecy and interprets the book by the same grammatical-historical method as chaps. 1–3 and the rest of Scripture.” (Source: https://www.gty.org/library/bible-introductions/MSB66/the-revelation-of-jesus-christ).

Idealism (Timeless)

The idealist view sees Revelation as an allegory of the ongoing struggle between good and evil.  Because this view treats Bible prophecy as symbolic, there are many diverse opinions within this category.  Jack Kelley describes these varied interpretations thus –  “the only areas of universal agreement being that none of it will really happen as written, and the “good guys” will eventually win”.  CARM describes idealism:

Bible prophecy is not an actual record of historical events or future events. In other words, there is no single historical fulfillment. As it merely sets forth great principles that are common throughout the age of the world, Bible prophecy is applicable to believers in any age and history is almost completely separate from its fulfillment. Idealism stresses great ethical principles, hidden in symbols and metaphors, of world events that occur. The conflict between good and evil rages, but the triumph of the ages will be the victory of the good. In the idealist view, time and history for Bible prophecy are meaningless.

Source: https://carm.org/scripture-chronology-prophetic-fulfillment

John MacArthur states that the idealist approach reduces the book of Revelation (and thus, Daniel and the other Old Testament prophets as well) to a collection of stories designed to impart varied principles or truths.

Discussion

Because of our previous lesson on Is the Book of Revelation Literal, we understand that the Idealism view cannot be correct as it takes scripture figuratively.  Preterism, Historicism, and Futurism all claim to interpret prophecy literally.  They use the same scriptures in the defense of their views.  How can this be so?

When Jesus was speaking to the disciples about the end times in His olivet discourse, and even up until His ascension, the option was literally open for Israel to accept Him as Messiah.  Old Testament and Gospel prophecies had to be worded in such a way as they could have had either immediate fulfillment or delayed fulfillment.  Truly brilliant.  Jack Kelley discusses this here:

God knows the end from the beginning so He always knew the Israelites would reject the Messiah and open the door for the Gentile Church. But in order to preserve Israel’s first right of refusal regarding God’s Kingdom offer, all end times prophecy had leave Israel’s options open. If Isaiah or Daniel or any of the others had come right out and said that Israel would reject the Messiah and forfeit the Kingdom, the Lord’s instructions for the disciples to preach that “the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matt. 10:7) would not have been legitimate.

But if the prophets had clearly confirmed Israel’s acceptance then there would have been no place for the Church and history would have invalidated prophecy. The prophecies had to be given in such a way that both possibilities could legitimately exist in their fulfillment.

The way Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy reads allows both Preterists and Futurists to defend their interpretation.

I’m convinced that had the Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah so He could die for their sins like Daniel 9:26 prophesied, there would have been no gap in the 70 weeks prophecy. The 70th Week would have begun immediately after the resurrection and would have culminated in the Risen Lord leading His armies against Rome to restore the Kingdom to Israel and usher in the time we know as the Millennium. All the 2nd Coming prophecies would have been fulfilled at that time. (From Acts 1:6 we know this is how the disciples expected it to happen.)

Their problem with God is not that they put the Messiah to death. Their problem is that they refused to allow His death to pay for their sins, and in so doing rendered His perfect sacrifice as being of even less value to them than the actual lambs that could only temporarily set their sins aside.

Because of this, James announced that Israel was being set aside while the Lord took for Himself a people from the gentiles. When He has finished doing that, He’ll turn His focus again to Israel and fulfill the remaining 70th Week (Acts 15:13-18). This was the first time on earth that a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel’s prophecy had been revealed. This is what gave gave rise to the idea that God is not finished with Israel and there’s a lot of Bible prophecy yet to be fulfilled. Paul confirmed this in Romans 11:25.

If you adhere to a strict literal interpretation of His word a careful study of prophecy will lead you to the inescapable conclusion that there has to be a gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel 9:24-27 and the Church Age is filling that gap. There’s no other way to make everything fit without having to reinterpret parts of it.

Source: https://gracethrufaith.com/end-times-prophecy/idealists-preterists-and-futurists/

I personally examined the books of Revelation and Daniel specifically, and was convinced that the Futurist model best represented what I was reading.  This is definitely influenced by my belief that the Bible should be read literally, given cultural, contextual, and historical considerations.  (Jack Kelley’s article “How to Interpret the Bible” explains this well).  However, the main reason why I believe the Futurist model is most accurate is because Jesus literally fulfilled hundreds of prophecies down to minute details at His first coming.  I believe He will do so again, as it is written.

“When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at it’s primary, ordinary, usual meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”  – David L. Cooper

I encourage you to explore each of the prophecy interpretation methods for yourself, to see if you agree with me!


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to my current understanding of End Times prophecy.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for you to explore further!  What I post here is my best insight from Scripture, but I’m only human 🙂  Thus, I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so!


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

Idealists, Preterists, and Futurists – Grace Thru Faith

Does Scripture Indicate a Chronology for Prophetic Fulfillment? – CARM

The Revelation of Jesus Christ – John MacArthur

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

 

Lesson 2 – Is the Book of Revelation Literal or Symbolic?

One of the first discussions we need to have regarding Bible Prophecy is whether or not it should be taken literally or symbolically.  Of course there are symbols used in prophecy – but should we look for a literal meaning behind them or a broad allegorical one?

For this we need to discuss the interpretation of the Bible in general – should the Bible as a whole be taken literally, or is it open to personal interpretation?

literal vs symbolic

Peter and Paul give us the answer to these questions here:

And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.  2 Peter 1:19-21 ESV

 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness… 2 Timothy 3:16 ESV

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15 ESV

Unfortunately, in some Christian denominations, varied interpretations of scripture passages are accepted because people want to choose for themselves what verses mean.  This departure from sound doctrine was foretold:

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  2 Peter 3:16 ESV

Gotquestions explains the importance of sound doctrine here:

“Sound doctrine is important because the gospel is a sacred trust, and we dare not tamper with God’s communication to the world. Our duty is to deliver the message, not to change it. Jude conveys an urgency in guarding the trust: “I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3; see also Philippians 1:27). To “contend” carries the idea of strenuously fighting for something, to give it everything you’ve got. The Bible includes a warning neither to add to nor subtract from God’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19). Rather than alter the apostles’ doctrine, we receive what has been passed down to us and keep it “as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).”

(Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/sound-doctrine.html)

In interpreting the Bible, including prophecy, the goal is to understand what God is trying to tell us.  God says what He means, and means what He says – He is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33).  Answers in Genesis explains it this way:

“The Bible is God’s message to manWe can have perfect confidence that God is capable of accurately relaying His Word to us in a way that we can understandAs such, it is crucial that we learn how to interpret properly so that we can determine the Author’s Intended Meaning (AIM) rather than forcing our own ideas into the textA given document means what the author intended it to meanThe alternative would make communication futileThere would be no point in writing anything if the readers are simply going to take what they want from the passage, rather than what the writer intendsAll communication is predicated on the presupposition that language conveys the author’s or speaker’s intention (unless, of course, the person is trying to deceive us, which is something God does not do since He wants us to understand His Word).”

(Source: https://answersingenesis.org/hermeneutics/how-we-interpret-the-bible-principles-for-understanding/)

So how are we to understand the scriptures then?  First of all, we should pray for wisdom and understanding as we read the Bible for ourselves.  Secondly, we should accumulate wise and sound teachers to help us understand.  Thirdly, we should go back to the scriptures with these teachings to see if these things are so.  Pay particular attention to entire passages, not just single verses (which are easy to take out of context).  A note on Bible versions at this point – one of the word-for-word translations (NASB, ESV, NKJV, KJV) is preferable to a thought-for-thought or paraphrase (NIV, NLT, MSG), as those tend to have the translator’s bias incorporated into the text.

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  Acts 17:11 ESV

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  John 14:26 ESV

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  John 16:13 ESV

While we are reading and examining the scriptures, we need to use standard rules of grammar and interpretation.  Without following these rules, we can wander off into myths.  Standard Bible interpretation in evangelical Christianity follows a method called the “literal, historical, grammatical, contextual” approach:

That is, we try to find the plain (literal) meaning of the words based on an understanding of the historical and cultural settings in which the book was writtenWe then follow standard rules of grammar, according to the book’s particular genre, to arrive at an interpretationWe seek to perform careful interpretation or exegesis—that is, to “read out of” the text what the author intended it to meanThis is in contrast to eisegesis, which occurs when someone “reads into” the text his own ideas—what the reader wants the text to meanIn other words, exegesis is finding the AIM (Author’s Intended Meaning) of the passage because its true meaning is determined by the sender of the message, not the recipient.

This hermeneutical approach has several strengthsIt can be demonstrated that the New Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament in this mannerAlso, it is the only approach that offers an internal system of “checks and balances” to make sure one is on the right trackAs will be shown, other views allow for personal opinion to sneak into one’s interpretation, which does not truly reflect what the text means.

(Source: https://answersingenesis.org/hermeneutics/how-we-interpret-the-bible-principles-for-understanding/)

“When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at it’s primary, ordinary, usual meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.”  – David L. Cooper

Jack Kelley explains:

“Literal means that each word is given the same exact basic meaning it would have in normal, ordinary, customary usage, whether employed in writing, speaking or thinking. Unless it’s clearly indicated otherwise, we’re to assume the Bible means exactly what it says. Examples of passages that are not intended to be taken literally are parables, dreams, and visions. These are all identified as such, alerting us to the fact that they’re meant to be understood symbolically.

Historical means that each passage is put into its proper historical setting and surrounded with the thoughts, attitudes, and feelings prevalent at the time of its writing. In Biblical times the Jewish view of the Messiah was one of a charismatic leader like King David. In other words, a man, not God in human form. Knowing that helps us understand how they failed to recognize Him, and why they accused Him of blasphemy when He claimed to be God.

Grammatical means that words are given meanings consistent with their common understanding in the original language at the time of writing. Grammatical interpretation also includes following recognized rules of grammar and in its more advanced form, applying the nuances of the Hebrew and Greek languages to the understanding of a passage.

Contextual interpretation involves always taking the surrounding context of a verse/passage into consideration when trying to determine its meaning. The Holy Spirit has usually prompted the Bible’s writers to place indicators in the text surrounding a passage to guide you in interpreting it. In 1 Cor. 9:24-27 Paul compares our life to that of an athlete, training and competing for crowns. The mention of crowns tells us the passage is not about salvation, which is a free gift, but rewards believers can win after being saved. (In this case it’s the crown of victory, awarded to those who overcome the ways of the flesh by getting rid of selfish desires, bad habits and attitudes, etc.)

When you stop to think about it, reading the Bible this way actually makes perfect sense. If you received a letter from a friend you wouldn’t have to be reminded to apply these principles. You would naturally assume that your friend was using words that meant the same thing to both of you. You would understand them within the parameters of your shared history, you would assume that the rules of grammar you had both been taught applied, and you would interpret what was written within the context of your relationship. You would expect your friend to alert you if any of these assumptions were not going to apply, and explain the reason for it.

The only difference with the Bible is that it was written over a long period of time, during which the meanings of some words changed, and society is generally different now than it was when the Bible was written. This makes books on Bible history and a good concordance valuable additions to your library.”

(Source: https://gracethrufaith.com/topical-studies/the-bibles-authority/how-to-interpret-the-bible/)

Some denominations will teach a sound, literal interpretation of scripture on other topics but then stray into allegorical territory when it comes to End Times prophecy.  To address this I think we need to agree that Jesus literally fulfilled hundreds of Bible prophecies the first time He came, which is the template for future prophecy fulfillment.

“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  Acts 1:11 ESV

Gotquestions supports the literal interpretation of prophecy as well:

There are at least two reasons why literalism is the best way to view Scripture. First, philosophically, the purpose of language itself requires that we interpret words literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate. Words are vessels of meaning. The second reason is biblical. Every prophecy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus’ birth, ministry, death, and resurrection all occurred exactly as the Old Testament predicted. The prophecies were literal. There is no non-literal fulfillment of messianic prophecies in the New Testament. This argues strongly for the literal method. If a literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit. Biblical interpretation would devolve into “what this passage says to me” instead of “the Bible says.” Sadly, this is already the case in much of what is called Bible study today.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/dispensationalism.html

Bible prophecy works in types and anti-types, shadows and substance. The Word of God is a unified whole, with connecting threads throughout.  It is as we weave these under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that our understanding comprehends the larger picture.

I strongly believe that all of the Bible, including Daniel and Revelation, should be read literally, given cultural, contextual, and historical considerations.  As we studied in Lesson 1, fulfilled Bible prophecy is one of the main ways that the Bible reveals itself to be the inspired Word of God. Jesus literally fulfilled hundreds of literal Bible prophecies during His first coming and I have no doubt at all that He will literally fulfill hundreds more at His second coming.


This lesson series is a brief walk through the studies I have undertaken to get to my current understanding of End Times prophecy.  This isn’t meant to be all-inclusive so I provide links for you to explore further!  What I post here is my best insight from Scripture, but I’m only human 🙂  Thus, I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so!


Further Resources:

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons

How to Interpret the Bible – Grace Thru Faith

How Should We Interpret the Bible. Part 1: Principles for Understanding God’s Word – Answers in Genesis

Why is Sound Doctrine so Important?  – Gotquestions

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.

Lesson 1 – Why Should We Study Bible Prophecy? Shouldn’t We Just Preach the Gospel?

The study of Biblical prophecy can greatly increase your faith – in both our coming Redeemer and His Word.  I guarantee it will make the Bible spring alive to you, particularly the Old Testament!  Many Christians are not well-versed in Bible prophecy, thinking that it is too difficult or confusing to understand, considering it too frightening, or simply because it hasn’t been taught from the pulpit.  I can assure you that instead of being frightening, for true believers it is awe-inspiring and edge-of-your-seat-exciting!  I  hope to present it in an easily digestible and understandable way!

why bother.jpg

Depending on the sources you reference, between 20-30% of the Bible is prophetic in nature.  That’s a LOT of scripture devoted to prophecy!!!  It is the way that the Bible distinguishes itself from other so-called “holy writings”, in that it verifies itself to be supernaturally inspired when prophesied events come to pass as foretold.

“Remember this and stand firm,
    recall it to mind, you transgressors,
     remember the former things of old;
for I am God, and there is no other;
    I am God, and there is none like me,
 declaring the end from the beginning
    and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
    and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
 calling a bird of prey from the east,
    the man of my counsel from a far country.
I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;
    I have purposed, and I will do it.

Isaiah 46:8-11 ESV

Jesus Himself fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies during His time on earth.  He will also fulfill hundreds of prophecies when He comes again!  Signs point to OUR GENERATION as seeing the fulfillment of many of these prophecies.  Jesus EXPECTS us to WATCH and to be aware of what prophetic time we are in!

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does.  And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is.  Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?  Luke 12:54-56 ESV

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.  Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:42-44 ESV

The book of Revelation is meant to REVEAL, not conceal.  It’s challenging to understand at times, yes, but God has hidden keys throughout the whole body of Scripture that unlock meaning.  It’s the most amazing and beautiful puzzle which ties together the entire revelation of God to humanity.  It’s one of God’s gifts to us, His servants, and we are promised special blessing for studying it!

The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.  Revelation 1:1-3 ESV

What I post here is my best understanding from Scripture, but it is a human understanding, and thus will be flawed in some points.  I am continually pleading with God for truth and clarity, and will update posts as my understanding improves.  I urge you to search the Scripture for yourself to see if these things are so, praying for wisdom and understanding!

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  John 16:13 ESV

While we are certainly never to neglect the Great Commission – planting seeds of the gospel and watering the sprouts of disciples – a study of Bible Prophecy can greatly enhance our personal walk with God.

Main Menu – Bible Prophecy Lessons


Further Resources:

The Best Reason to Study Prophecy – Jack Kelley (GraceThruFaith)

Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus at His First Coming

Why the Gaps in Prophecy? – Jack Kelley (GraceThruFaith)

Proving the Bible is the Word of God – Jack Kelley (GraceThruFaith)

Are you CERTAIN of your Salvation, beyond a shadow of a doubt?  Do you KNOW that no matter when the rapture occurs, you will be counted worthy to escape?  If not, please read What Must I do to Be Saved.