Many Christians are confused by the various theories about the timing of the rapture to the Second Coming of Christ. I think the answer lies in the words used to describe the Second Coming in the Greek NT: parousia (personal appearance, arrival), epiphaneia (appearance, manifestation), and apokalupsis (unveiling, revelation). Robert Brown has written an excellent essay analyzing the use of these key words in the NT and shows that these words cannot justify separating the Second Coming into two stages separated by 7 years (or 3 ½ as some hold). Brown’s essay can be downloaded here:
Bishop J. C. Ryle [1816-1900], Anglican Bishop, pastor, and scholar was a ‘historic premillennialist’. In a work entitled, Coming Events and Present Duties, he wrote of his premillennial belief:
“I believe that the world will never be completely converted to Christianity, by any existing agency, before the end comes. In spite of all that can be done by ministers, members, and churches, the wheat and tares will grow together until the Harvest; and when the end comes, it will find the earth in much the same state that it was when the flood came in the days of Noah.
I believe that the widespread unbelief, indifference, formalism, and wickedness, which are to be seen throughout Christendom, are only what we are taught to expect in God’s word. Troublous times, departures from the faith, evil men waxing worse and worse, love waxing cold, are things directly predicted. So far from making me doubt the truth of Christianity, they help to confirm my faith. Melancholy and sorrowful as the sight is, if I did not see it I should think the Bible was not true.
I believe that the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be a real, literal, personal, bodily coming; that as He went away in the clouds of heaven with His body, before the eyes of man, so in like manner, will He return.
I believe that, after our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, the earth shall be renewed, and the curse removed; the devil shall be bound, the godly shall be rewarded, the wicked shall be punished; and that, before He comes, there shall be neither resurrection, judgment, no Millennium; and that not till after He comes shall the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord.
I believe that the Jews shall be ultimately gathered again, as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and converted to the faith of Christ.
I believe, finally, that it is for the safety, happiness, and comfort, of all true believers to expect as little as possible from churches, or governments, under the present dispensation, to hold themselves ready for tremendous conversions and changes of all things established, and to expect their good things only from Christ’s Second Advent.”
(Text quoted from Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994)
“It is quite common, particularly in dispensationalist circles, to say that the Second Coming of Christ is “imminent.” If by “imminence” it is meant that no predicted event needs to occur before Christ comes again, this view gives us difficulties–since, as we have seen, the New Testament teaches that certain things must indeed happen before the Parousia occurs…
…there is no sound biblical basis for dividing the Second Coming of Christ into these two phases. Although the signs of the times are indeed present throughout the entire history of the Christian church, it would appear that before Christ returns some of these signs will assume a more intense form than they have had in the past. The signs will become clearer, and will move on to a certain climax. Apostasy will become far more widespread, persecution and suffering will become “the great tribulation,” and antichristian forces will culminate in “the man of lawlessness.” As we shall see when we look at the individual signs more closely, the Bible does indeed point to such a final culmination of the signs of the times. To say therefore that no predicted events need to happen before Christ returns is to say too much. We must be prepared for the possibility that the Parousia may yet be a long way off, and the New Testament data leave room for that possibility. On the other hand, to affirm with certainty that the Parousia is still a long way off is also to say too much. The exact time of the Parousia is unknown to us. Neither do we know exactly how the signs of the times will intensify. This uncertainty means that we must always be prepared. Instead of saying that the Parousia is imminent, therefore, let us say that it is impending. It is certain to come, but we do not know exactly when it will come. We must therefore live in constant expectation of and readiness for the Lord’s return. The words of the following motto put it well: Live as though Christ died yesterday, arose this morning, and is coming again tomorrow”.
(About the author: Anthony Andrew Hoekema (1913-1988) was a Calvinist theologian and Dutch Reformed minister who served as professor of Systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, MI for twenty-one years. He was an amillennialist. His book Amillennialism can be found at http://www.the-highway.com/amila_Hoekema.html.)
(I have visited the American Presbyterian Church’s website several times to read their very good articles. I was struck by the fact that, unlike other Presbyterian denominations, they subscribe to Historic Premillennialism in their creed!)
American Presbyterian Church’s Position On Eschatology:
“Reformed theology and Reformed churches have never had a unified position on eschatology (Greek for the doctrine of future things). The Reformed churches of the continent have traditionally favored amillennialism. Presbyterian churches have for the most part historically favored postmillennialism. All three positions were represented at the Westminster assembly and such noted personages as Dr. Twisse, the moderator, and Goodwin, the Independent, were premillennialists. The Westminster standards therefore allow for all three and basically take a position of eschatological liberty.
For those uninitiated in eschatological matters a few definitions may be in order. The millennium is the future period of peace and prosperity foretold by the prophets. It represents a future Messianic age when all these promises will be fulfilled. Amillennial means no millennium. This position basically states that there will be no literal millennium on earth. It spiritualizes the millennium and sees the Lord’s people spending a future eternity in heaven in an exalted spiritual state. Postmillennial means after the millennium. They believe that Christ will return after the millennium. This position does believe that the ancient promises and prophesies of the Old Testament prophets will be literally fulfilled on this earth. But they believe in a postmillennial return of Jesus Christ. They believe that, by the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Spirit, the nations will be progressively converted to Christianity. And they believe this will usher in the promised golden age of peace and prosperity. They have a Messianic age but without the Messiah present. Premillennial means before the millennium. It refers to a belief in the premillennial return of Jesus Christ. It believes that Christ will return and lift the curse and bring in everlasting righteousness. It believes in a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness. It believes this will happen at the return of Jesus Christ in power and glory to establish his kingdom, to deliver his saints, and to rule the wicked with a rod of iron as the Judge of all the earth.
In 1896 Moody Press issued a book “The Second Coming Of Christ”. The book had 8 chapters written by different authors, one of which was Charles Spurgeon whose chapter formed the title “The Second Coming Of Christ”. Some people have misrepresented Spurgeon’s position on eschatology. He was without a doubt a Historic Premillennialist (see Dennis Swanson’s essay on Spurgeon and his eschatology here).
The chapter by Spurgeon was worth the price of the entire book! Download a copy of the e-book:
Following is an article from the American Presbyterian Church website on Historic Premillennialism. The American Presbyterian Church is unique in that it is Premillennial in its eschatology while Reformed in its overall theology. Some of the material was quoted from Alexander Reese’s book “The Approaching Advent Of Christ” (see endnotes):
Historic Premillennialism Defined:
Essential Definition: Premillennialism believes that there will be a literal, physical reign of Jesus Christ with the saints on this earth before the institution of the eternal state. It believes that this will happen at the second coming, at the glorious visible return of Jesus Christ at the end of this age. Hence it is called Premillennialism, believing in a Premillennial return of Jesus Christ.
- The rise of Anti-Christ, and the concomitant persecution of the Church.
- The great tribulation.
- The return of Christ at the end of the age.
- The resurrection of the just and the simultaneous rapture of the living saints.
- The conversion of the Jews at the glorious visible return of Christ.
- The institution of the millennial kingdom.
- The final revolt of the unbelieving at the end of the millennium.
- The resurrection of the wicked and the final judgment.
- The eternal state in the new heavens and the new earth.
The Second Coming Of Christ, A Look At The Any-Moment Theory By James Slater is an excellent book on the return of Christ. In it Slater disassembles the any-moment theory making a strong case for Historic Premillennialism:
Several months ago I posted the e-book The Approaching Advent Of Christ by Alexander Reese and noted that it had some formatting issues. I have updated the book and am reposting it. This book is one of the best presentations of the post-trib premillennial doctrine that I have read. Download it here:
Eschatology has been a fascinating subject for me since the early 1970’s when I worked at Wheaton College. There I became friends with J. Barton Payne and worked with him on a couple projects. Dr. Payne was an OT scholar, professor, and author. I had the privilege of reviewing his pre-publication book Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy (1973) which became a classic work on eschatology. Dr. Payne later wrote an article for the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society titled The Goal Of Daniels Seventy Weeks (JETS 21/2, June 1978, pp. 97-115). I recently came across a copy in the Springfielder, a publication of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana (April 1976, Volume 40, Number 2). It is an interesting interpretation of the 70 weeks of Daniel.
You can download a copy here:
I am posting a chart comparing millennial views: Dispensational Premillennialism, Historic Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. I have seen several versions of this chart on the web but do not know the author. The chart is a concise but accurate summation of the different views of the millennium.
Wick Broomall, a Presbyterian professor and theologian has a section in his book The Bible And The Future on Dispensational vs. Historic Premillennialism. He provides an interesting chart comparing the differences between these two viewpoints. If you are interested in the subject this extract from Br0omall’s book will prove useful:
I am making available for download an e-book Studies In Theology by Dr. James Denney (a Scottish theologian and Free Church minister). Denney is best known for his books Jesus And The Gospel and The Death Of Christ (which I posted earlier).
This e-book is a series of ten lectures Denney presented at the Chicago Theological Seminary and contains a wide range of topics in theology.
The Scofield Bible And Dispensationalism
(Westminster Standard Publication #45)
The following e-book is a critique of the Scofield Bible and Dispensationalism from a Reformed viewpoint. It was published by Westminster Standard Publications, Gisborne, N.Z. It does not give the date published but I suspect that it was quite a few years ago since it refers to what is now called ‘classic dispensationalism’, (Scofield, Chafer, Ryrie, Walvoord). It also refers to the theology that is sometimes called ‘hyper’ or ‘ultra-dispensationalism’ (Bullinger, Welch, Baker, O’Hair). The publication is a refutation of the teachings of the Scofield Bible and dispensationalism in general.
(thanks to www.the-highway.com for making this publication available on the internet)
I am posting another e-book by Dr. Norman Spurgeon MacPherson titled Tell It Like It Will Be where he outlines his views on eschatology. It is concise, well written and an accurate summary of end-times events.
Dr. Norman S. MacPherson is a graduate of Columbia University and Princeton Theological Seminary and is the former Pastor, First Baptist Church, Otego, New York.
The e-book The Coming Of The Son Of Man By E. J. Poole-Connor is an excellent summary of the Second Coming and surrounding events. I don’t necessarily agree with all of his points but I think this is a well-done and very balanced treatment of the subject.
I am pleased to be able to provide a copy of the book Triumph Through Tribulation (A Frank Appraisal Of Twenty Arguments That The Church Will Not Pass Through The Tribulation), by Dr. Norman Spurgeon MacPherson. In the book MacPherson gives the background on the Biblical term ‘tribulation’ and completely disproves the arguments for a pretrib rapture.
Note: I was given permission to post this book by Dr. MacPherson’s son Dave MacPherson.
I am posting The Second Coming Of Christ by Louis Berkhof which is taken from his Systematic Theology. Berkhof was a reformed theologian, pastor, and author and is considered to be one of the top theologians of his era. He was an amillennialist so I don’t agree with his position on the millennium but his writings on the Second Coming and its concomitant events are right on point. It seems that his understanding of the millennium differs from the premillennial position on the question of whether the 1000 years is literal or symbolic of a long period of time (as in “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Peter 3:8 – NASB).
How many dispensations are there? It depends on who you ask! I have documented schemes that claim anywhere between 3 and 19. I quote one author that says it could be as many as 37! The following article I wrote several years ago shows the confusion about the number of dispensations which are supposed to be “clearly defined” and “marked off” in Scripture and demonstrates the futility of trying to defend the dispensational hermeneutic.
In 1973 while working for Wheaton College I prepared a short article for a class I was going to teach on why I held to the posttribulational position. I read through it yesterday and found a serious typo which I corrected and am now reposting it.
B. W. Newton was a contemporary of John Nelson Darby and worked with him in establishing the first Plymouth Brethren churches. He later split with Darby over church polity and teachings about the Second Coming Of Christ. Newton firmly rejected Darby’s notion that there were two future comings of Christ, one before and one after the tribulation ( a 2nd and 3rd Coming). Here is one of Newton’s essays on the subject showing that there are events preceding the Lords return and that the any-moment coming is not tenable when compared to Scripture:
If you are a dispensationalist you may want to skip this post!
Arthur W. Pink was a Reformed Baptist pastor, and prolific author of many books and articles. Early in his career he was a dispensational pretribulationist but changed his mind in his later years after years of extensive study.
The following e-book A Study Of Dispensationalism, contains a series of 5 articles for the purpose of refuting dispensationalism that was published in 1952 in his monthly magazine Studies in the Scriptures.. These articles demonstrate Pink’s changed position, he was strongly against the dispensational theology.
Charles R. Erdman was a pastor, theologian, and professor at Princeton Theological Seminary during the Fundamentalist/Modernist controversy in the early 20th century. He was a contributor to the Scofield Reference Bible when it first was published in 1909, but later recanted his pretribulational beliefs due to ‘further searching of the Scriptures.’ Charles Erdman would be classified today as a ‘historic premillennialist’.
The following article was 1st published in The Fundamentals, edited by R. A. Torrey (1910):
The Blessed Hope, a quote from Dr. George Eldon Ladd*
“The Word of God does not teach that the Blessed Hope of the Church is a hope of deliverance from persecution. The coming of Christ is described as the Blessed Hope in Titus 2:13 ‘Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ’. . . The Blessed Hope is the glorious epiphany (appearing) of Our Lord Himself, which occurs at the end of the Great Tribulation”.
“To insist that the Blessed Hope must be escape from the Great Tribulation is to place the emphasis where the Scripture does not place it; it is in fact to impose an interpretation upon the Scripture in place of what the Word of God actually says. The Word of God everywhere assures us that in this age we are to expect tribulation and persecution. The last great persecution of Antichrist will indeed be worse and more fearful than anything the world has ever seen; but when we contemplate the history of martyrdom, why should we ask deliverance from what millions have already suffered? When we read in the books of the Maccabees of the tortures inflicted upon the Jews who were faithful to the teaching of the Law by the manifestation of antichrist in the Syrian king Antiochus Epiphanes; when we recall the thousands of Christians who fell in torture and death and did it gladly in the name of Christ at the hands of the manifestation of the spirit of antichrist in the Roman emperors; when we are reminded of the Inquisition with its rack and wheel and flame; when we remember from our own generation the liquidation of several millions of Jews by a modern antichrist, and even more recently the martyrdom of tens of thousands of Korean Christians, what kind of faith does the Church of today exemplify and what sort of a gospel is it which we proclaim if we insist that God must deliver us from the hands of the last manifestation of antichrist at the end of the age? Read more…
After several attempts I was finally able to create an e-book of Alexander Reese’s book “The Approaching Advent Of Christ”. I am not totally satisfied with all of the formatting and footnote placements. Hopefully in the future I will find time to work on it and will then re-post it.
e-Book updated 10-23-2014!
I previously posted an e-book by Dennis Swanson on Spurgeon’s eschatology. The following article is an adaptation of his chart on millennial theories.
The Not So Secret Rapture is an article by W. Fred Rice. Rev. Rice, THM (Westminster Seminary), is an author, theologian, and a former Orthodox Presbyterian minister. In the article he shows the “secret rapture” theory, as promoted by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins and a host of others, is contrary to Biblical teachings.
“Our Lord Cometh” is a translation of ‘marantha’ in 1 Cor 16:22 (KJV). This is also the title of a book by Rev. W. J. Rowlands, a Congregationalist minister in England. The book was 1st published in 1939 by the author. It is written from the post-tribulation viewpoint and Rowlands does a good job of decimating the “two stage” theory of the Second Coming of Christ.
Today I am posting the paper Charles H. Spurgeon And Eschatology – Did He Have A Discernible Millennial Position? by Dr. Dennis M. Swanson, MDiv, DMin. Dr. Swanson is a Vice President at Masters Seminary and well regarded theologian and author. His analysis of Spurgeon’s eschatology is thorough and fair. He demonstrates that Spurgeon’s view of eschatology in relation to the millennium is best described as a “historic or covenantal premillennial” position, which may come as a surprise to many. If you like Spurgeon and eschatology this is a ‘must read’.
(posted with permission from the author)
A shorter version can be downloaded at the Masters Seminary site: http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj7g.pdf
On my previous website I had a lot of materials on eschatology. I am in the process of converting some to PDF format to post on this blog. This article is from the American Presbyterian Church website. They don’t officially require their elders to hold to any position on eschatology but from what I have seen they do have premillennialists in their number. The article is from a Historic Premillennialist point of view and pokes holes in the dispensational/pretrib theory.
The Kingdom, The Millennium, & The Eschaton:
A Brief Overview of New Testament Prophecy
By Dr. Fred Zaspel
Another paper by Fred Zaspel. Zaspel is a Reformed Baptist and advocate of New Covenant Theology. He is a premillennialist and does a great job of explaining and defending his position on eschatology.