Conversations in Revelation: A Prophecy Primer
by Dennis Michelson
Conversations in Revelation :A Prophecy Primer
1. A Lesson in Terminology
Rapture: The term applied to the biblical event characterized by the translation of the living saints and the resurrection of the dead saints to meet Christ in the air when He returns.
Premillennialist: A person who believes that Christ will return for the church before He establishes His millennial reign of one thousand years on the earth.
Amillennialist: Generally speaking, a person who does not believe in a literal millennial reign of Christ upon the earth after His second coming. Does not envision a 1,000-year period of world wide peace and righteousness before the end of this present world order.
Postmillennialist: A person who does not believe in a literal millennial reign of Christ upon the earth after His second coming. Instead, they see the kingdom of God as being victoriously extended in the present world through the preaching of the gospel. They believe that the world will eventually be Christianized prior to the return of Christ. They generally spiritualize the millennium and apply it to the church age.
Pretribulationism: A belief which teaches that Christ will come to remove the Church from the earth prior to a final period of great tribulation.
Posttribulationism: A belief which teaches that Christ will come for the Church at the conclusion of a final period of tribulation, and that the rapture and the second coming are synonymous events.
Dispensationalism: A teaching which maintains that God has divided time into seven distinct periods in which He deals with humanity according to the unique character and qualifications of a particular period.
Futurism: A belief which maintains that major prophetic portions of scripture are yet to be fulfilled in a futuristic setting. This can include such distinctive events as the appearance of the Antichrist, the great tribulation, and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem, etc.
Historist (Preterist): A historist views major prophetic portions of scripture such as Revelation against the backdrop of the unfolding drama of the church age rather than isolating them to a strict, futuristic setting.
Eschatology: The study of final things. Eschatology is a study of prophetic events associated with the end times.
2. A Lesson in History
(1) There is little (if any) in the eschatological heritage of the Church to support pretribulationism or dispensationalism prior to the early 1830’s.
"It is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon through a period of 1600 years! If any doubt this statement, let them search . . .the remarks of the so-called Fathers, both pre and post Nicene, the theological treatises of the scholastic divines, Roman Catholic writers of all shades of thought, the literature of the Reformation, the sermons and expositions of the Puritans, and the general theological works of the day. He will find the “mystery” conspicuous by its absence."
- Harry Ironside
(2) The two-stage rapture/revelation theory is recent and originated in the 19th century.
"About a hundred years ago, a man named J.N. Darby founded a group of Christians who became know as “the Brethren” or the “Plymouth Brethren.” His followers in recent times include W.E. Blackstone, James M. Gray, A.C. Gaebelein and particularly C.I. Scofield, the author of the Scofield Reference Bible which popularized what we may call a new view of the events preceding and following the coming of Christ. It is important to note that there is a vast difference between the teachings of these men and the teachings of the old historic pre-millennialists."
- Floyd Hamilton (1946)
(3)" A common explanation is that until recent times there were restraining forces of spiritual darkness and the “mystery” was not revealed. Some appeal to the principle of “progressive revelation.” The marked absence of the teaching prior to the 1830’s was because these “deeper truths” have only come to light in recent years as a greater degree of prophetic truth has gradually unfolded.
Christians after the early second century spent little time really defining prophetic truth until the middle of the nineteenth century. Then there seems to have been a great revival of interest in the prophetic themes of the Bible."
- Hal Lindsey (1970)
"Such an argument is an argument from silence. If the same line of reasoning were followed one could not accept the doctrine of justification by faith, for it was not clearly taught until the Reformation."
- J. Dwight Pentecost (1958)
3. A Lesson in Theology
(1) God’s redemptive purpose involves not only the salvation of individuals; God has a purpose and a goal for mankind as a society. (Romans 8:21)
(2) The second coming of Christ is an absolutely indispensable doctrine in the biblical teaching of redemption. Apart from His glorious return, God’s work will forever be incomplete. At the center of redemption past is Christ on the cross; at the center of redemption future is Christ returning in glory.
(3) The kingdom of God in its outward manifestation will not come until the Lord Jesus returns in glory. The present mission of the Church is not to “save society” and thus establish the kingdom of God but to evangelize the world by the proclamation of the gospel.
(4) In recent years there has been a tendency to believe that the Blessed Hope is deliverance from the Tribulation. However, the Blessed Hope is union with the Lord Jesus Christ at His coming. No one is looking and praying for tribulation but the real question is not what one wants but what does the Word of God teach?
Consider Oswald J. Smith (1952) Prophecy –" What Lies Ahead?
But you ask, is the Church to go through the Tribulation? That is not the question. It is this: Is the Church ready? Are you ready, ready either for Tribulation or Rapture? If you are, that is all that matters. What difference does it make so long as you are ready? If you are to be in it, you cannot escape, and, of you are to escape, you will not be in it."
A balanced perspective from Charles Eerdman –
"However great the divergence of views among students of prophecy may seem to be, and in spite of the many varieties of opinion among the representatives, the points of agreement are far more important. The main difference is as to the order, rather than the reality of the events."
- From The Fundamentals