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What do you believe about End Time Prophesy of the Bible, the Rapture, Tribulation and Millennium, etc, and how do you arrive at your conclusions?
Thank you for this question on Biblical "Eschatology", or interpretation of the "End Times".
There are many interpretations of "End Time" events, and each one depends on how the Scriptures are approached and the method, or "system" of "interpretation". The "science" of Biblical interpretation is termed "hermeneutics", and I see two major branches of "End Time" "Biblical hermeneutics", one in which the Scriptures are primarily interpreted "spiritually", and another in which the Scriptures are primarily interpreted "literally".
Bible scholars who tend to interpret the Scriptures "literally" are primarily "Premillennial", believing in the "Rapture" or removal of the living Church Age saints at the end of the Church Age, then a 7 year "Tribulation" period, followed by the Second Advent of Christ and His 1000 year Millennial Reign on this present earth.
Those who interpret the Scriptures "spiritually" are primarily "Amillennial", and do not believe in a Rapture of the Church Age saints followed by a 7 year "Tribulation" period and then a 1000 year reign of Christ on this earth in the future, but believe that there is only the Second Advent of Christ, one final resurrection and judgement of the dead, and then the Eternal State in the future.
The "Amillennial" belief was the position of virtually all Bible Scholors prior to the 19th Century, and I believe the reason was that a literal 7 year Tribulation and Millennium, centered around a literal Israel was literally not possible in their day, because the nation of Israel did not exist, and Palestine was inhabited by a few nomadic Arabs.
The early church fathers hardly even mentioned eschatology because there was no land of Israel for an Antichrist to make a 7 year peace pact with, and no Israel for Jesus to sit on the throne of and rule for 1000 years! All eschatology passages, Old and New Testament, were "spiritualized" to apply to the Church. Even the great Bible students and expositors E. W. Bullinger, and James Strong, who spent his whole life writing Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, both believed in the Amillennial position. (No 7 year Tribulation or 1000 year Millennium)
Premillennialism and dispensational Bible teaching of today can be directly traced to John Nelson Darby, 1800-1882, and the Plymouth Brethren movement in Ireland and England about the year 1830, according to J. Dwight Pentecost and a consensus of the historical books that I have.
I see two reasons for the mid 19th century revival of Premillennialism:
1. Some of the early church fathers, especially Irenaeus and Barnabus, believed that the Church Age would be 2000 years long. They believed that the Apostle Peter gave us a key to eschatology in 2 Peter 3:8, when he stated that a "day" is to the Lord like a "thousand years" and a "thousand years" is like a "day" - meaning that a "thousand years" and a "day" can often be "interchanged" in prophetic passages. So, just as there were 6 days of creation, and on the "seventh", God RESTED, there would be 6000 years for the history of mankind, and then the seventh thousand would be a "rest" for the people of God, as taught in Hebrews 4:1-9, Psa. 95:7-11, Hosea 6:1-3, and Isa. 11:10 & 14:3 & 7.
After studying this interpretation, I believe it is valid:
SIX IS THE NUMBER OF MAN in the Scriptures:
a. In the creation account, God took 6 days to create man and prepare the earth for man, and on the seventh, God "rested".
b. In the Old Testament, when the Sabbath was instituted, there were 6 days for man, 1 day for God, and the 8th was the beginning of a NEW WEEK.
SEVEN IS THE NUMBER OF COMPLETION in the Scriptures:a. Seven days in a week.
b. Seven whole musical notes.
c. Seven major colors in the light spectrum.
d. In Revelation, Seven years to "complete" the Tribulation, consisting of 7 Vials and 7 Trumpets etc.
EIGHT IS THE NUMBER OF A NEW BEGINNING in the Scriptures:a. Seven days in a week, the 8th is a new beginning.
b. Seven whole musical notes, the 8th is a new beginning.
c. The Reynolds curve of the elements is a chart of all the elements known to man, organized in atomic weight sequence. There are repeatedly seven types of elements and the eighth is repeatedly a "new beginning".
d. Seven years Tribulation, then the eighth is a new beginning.
e. God instituted circumcision on the 8th day for the Jews to portray a new beginning of consecration to God.
In the mid 1800's, when the 6000 year point loomed on the horizon, it restored an interest in Premillennial eschatology.
2. The Zionist movement of the mid 1800's, led at the forefront by Theodor Herzl of Vienna, and resulting in Englandís Balfour Declaration of 1917, which officially proposed a National Homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. The United Nations divided Palestine about equally into a Jewish and an Arab state, with an international zone for Jerusalem, and Israel again became a nation on May 15, 1948. The nation that brought forth Christ, a nation born "at once", Isa 66:8, the nation that forever has a future. (Isa 2:2, 9:6&7, 54:3, 60:1-5, Jer 3:16-19, & 23:1-8, Eze 36:24-38, & 37:12-14, Joel 3:17-21, Amos 9:11-15, Micah 4:1-8, and Zech 8:20-23, &14:16-21.)
Eschatological passages, Old and New Testament, can now be taken as LITERAL, for the first time in Church history! Taken as literal, the pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, 7 year Tribulation, Armageddon, Second Advent and 1000 year Reign of Christ on this present earth is obvious, to me. There is no longer any need to "spiritualize" the plain and literal meaning of Scripture away, when the Scripture can be taken literally. I believe that the Amillennial pastors, authors and media personalities of today are just holdovers from pre-1900's Amillennial Theology.
I believe that Godís Word must primarily be interpreted literally, if it can be taken literally. There are almost always "secondary" spiritual meanings in the Scriptures, but I believe that the "spiritual" meanings are only "primary" when the Scripture cannot be taken literally, ie. "Jesus is the door", "Hide me under the shadow of thy wings", etc. We must cling to the CARDINAL, plain and obvious literal truths of Godís Word, they say the same thing in any language. If we start "spiritualizing" the plain and obvious truths of Godís Word, where do we stop? Spiritualizing the Word leads to Manmade doctrines, but believing what the Word literally SAYS, is Godís truth. Obscure passages must always be interpreted in the light of the obvious, plain, Cardinal Doctrines.
I also believe that all Scripture must be interpreted "dispensationally". For our dispensation, the Church Age, the cardinal doctrines for us to live by are contained in the N.T. Epistles to the Church, from Romans to Jude.
Interpreted literally, the Jewish Age started with the call of, and God's Covenant with Abraham, and stopped seven years short of Daniel's 490 year prophesy, on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter 2. Daniels 70 weeks (literally seventy "sevens" of years), prophesied in Dan Chap 9 stopped exactly 7 years short of the 490 years prophesied by Daniel. The future 7 years tribulation will finish the 490 year prophesy, and is totally characterized by Jewish terms and events, and centered around the land of Israel.
For the Age of the Jew to resume, and finish its last 7 years, the Church Age, which was a mystery hidden from the Old Testament Prophets, must cease. (The Church Age is "the times of the GENTILES": Luke 21:24, Romans chap 11, esp verse 25, and a MYSTERY hid in Christ in Eph 1:9 and 3:1-11, Col 1:26, Rom 11:25, and 1 Cor 2:7&8.) When the Church is removed by the Rapture, the Jewish Age will then resume for the Seven Year Tribulation and end at the Second Advent. The Millennial Reign of Christ will begin at the Second Advent and end 1000 years later. Then the Eternal State will begin.
God never changes, but Godís "dispensation" or "management of His household" has changed drastically from Age to Age - we must know what "dispensation" we are in, and which Scriptures apply directly to us.
Interpreted literally, the Book of Revelation outline is written in three distinct CHRONOLOGICAL sections: In Rev. 1:19 John is told to report events which were PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE. Rev Ch 1 contains the things which John "saw", Rev Ch 2 and 3, contains the messages to the 7 churches of Asia, the things which WERE IN EXISTANCE in 96 AD when John wrote the Book of Revelation, and Rev. Chap. 4 begins all that is FUTURE, with a door opening in heaven, a trumpet blowing, and a voice saying "come up hither". I believe Rev Ch 4 verse 1 portrays the moment of the Rapture of the Church. After Rev 4:1, the Church is not mentioned again, until Jesus returns WITH His Bride in Rev. Chap. 19 at the END of the Tribulation.
Bible commentators state that there were approximately 350 prophecies literally fulfilled by the First Advent of Christ, and that there are some 500 prophecies concerning the "Day of the Lord", and Second Advent of Christ. When taken Literally, these 500 prophecies are still future.
The LITERAL Tribulation Timetable :
The Church Age saints must be removed for the Jewish Age to resume. The primary "Rapture" passages for the Church are: 1 Thess 4:13-18, & 5:1-9, 2 Thess 2:1-14, and 1 Cor 15:51&52. I have compiled 20 reasons why I believe in a Pre-Tribulation Rapture of the Church, they may be viewed HERE.
The term "Tribulation" refers to the complete 7 year resumption of the Jewish Age, & it comes from Matt 24:21 & Rev 7:14, where the last 3 1/2 years of the tribulation are called THE "Great Tribulation". In Jer 30:7 the last 3 Ĺ years is called "Jacobs trouble". In the Rev 7:14 passage, the Greek article for "the" is used, making it a specific technical phrase for a time period called "THE Great Tribulation", indicating that the reader is expected to already know about it from previous study.
The Bible term for the whole 7 yr period and the Second Advent of Christ at its end, is "The Day of the Lord": Joel 1:15, 2:1,11&31, Amos 5:18&20, Zeph 1:2&14, Zech 14:1, 1 Thess 5:2, 2 Pet 3:10, Rev 1:10.
Dan., Rev., & Jesus in Matt 24, outline what we call the TRIBULATION, as a 7 year period of time that is a resumption of the Jewish age, that starts with a peace pact between Israel and her Arab neighbors negotiated by a great man who is asked by the world to be their world leader.
Daniel ch 11&12 outline this period as two 3 1/2 year periods, at the end of which Daniel and HIS LOT or PLATOON in the military terms of the time, will be resurrected.
1. Dan 9: 24-27 & 11:21-45 & chap 12, describe a 7 year time period with the "Abomination of Desolation", Matt 24:15, at the mid point. The 2 3 1/2 year periods are mentioned in Dan 7:35, Dan 9:27 (7 yr), Dan 12:11 & 12, Rev 11:2&3, Rev 12:6&14, and Rev 13:5.
a. The first 3 1/2 years are characterized by a false sense of peace and safety, maximum world prosperity in a one world economic system, & relative religious freedom.
b. Then at the mid point, the Antichrist stops the Jewish temple worship & declares that he is God & demands that all the nations worship him & join his world economic system. (this mid-point is called the "abomination of desolation" in Matt 24:15, Dan 11:31 & 12:11).
c. The last 3 1/2 yrs is a period of wars in the Middle East that are basically a satanic attempt to finally and completely destroy the Jews. There is what looks like a nuclear blast, at the beginning of the wars, that scares the world's population & the armies then turn to conventional combat that escalates until the world is so maddened that they begin to unleash all their nuclear weapons on each other & at the last moment Jesus returns, sets his feet on the mount of Olives & stops the battles. At that point Jesus said in Matt 24:21&22 that if it was allowed to continue, no flesh would be saved.
A number of passages tell us what was going on in the Tribulation before the wars and destruction start:
- Rev. 3:14-22, the last Church, the Church of Laodicea, or "human rights", before it is removed, is characterized as saying that they were "rich, increased with goods, and in need of nothing".
- Joel 2:3 Beautiful like the garden of Eden before the destruction starts!
- Zeph 1:11 Merchant people - a glorious world economic system.
- Zech 14:14 Wealth, gold, silver, and apparel are traded on the world market.
- Matt 24:37-44, Jesus states that much of the world is "business as usual", even at the Second Advent.
- Rev 13:16 & 17 & 18:3 & 11-19 The world wide economic system of Antichrist & all its merchandise is described:
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies. And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
And the fruits that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee, and all things which were dainty and goodly are departed from thee, and thou shalt find them no more at all.
The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, And saying, Alas, alas, that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls!
For in one hour so great riches is come to nought. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off, And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What [city is] like unto this great city!
And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas, that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate.
NOTE: Matt 24:37-44, where "one is taken and the other left" is at the END of the tribulation! This is NOT A RAPTURE PASSAGE!
- As in the days of Noah, the wicked are "taken" and the righteous are left to repopulate the earth. The flood of Noah "took" all the unbelievers off the earth and "left behind" only the righteous - the family of Noah - to repopulate the earth.
- In Matt. 24:3, during the Jewish Age, the disciples had asked Jesus about the "end of the world" in the KJV, which is the Greek word "aion" - the completion of the "Age", which will be the Second Advent at the end of the 7 year Tribulation.
- Think about it, at the Rapture, the righteous are taken and the unrighteous left to go into the Tribulation. In Matt. 24:37 - 44 it is exactly the opposite - the unrighteous are taken and cast off the earth, and the righteous are left to go into the Millennium, to repopulate the earth after the Tribulation.
We must believe what the Scripture literally says first - when it CAN be taken literally, and not wait until we understand it. If we believe it, I believe God will give us the correct understanding.
I highly recommend the book "Things to Come", by J. Dwight Pentecost, published by Zondervan, for those who want to study "eschatology" in depth. In this book, Pentecost lays out all the major systems of interpretation of End Time Prophecy, for the reader to decide which system to believe.