Throughout my summary of Christian doctrine series this is perhaps my favorite study. Today I am providing a summary of the doctrine of Jesus’s return which is also known as “eschatology.” Like normal, I’m using the Evangelical Free Church of America’s statement of faith as a guide:
Christ’s Return. Article #9. We believe in the personal, bodily and premillennial return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
I. THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS
I believe in the pretribulational rapture of the church, seven literal years of Tribulation, and the literal premillennial reign of Christ on earth.
A. Pretribulational Repture
I believe in a rapture of believers before the seven years of Tribulation for six reasons.
- First, the church seems to be absent from the narrative of Rev 4-19. The Greek word for church, εκκλεσια, is used nineteen times in Rev 1-3, zero times in Rev 4-19, and one time in Rev 20-22.
- Second, the rapture appears to be the first of two events of Christ’s second coming. Christ comes first for his church to escort her to the Father (John 14:3; 1 Thess 4:16). Later, after the seven years of Tribulation Christ comes with his saints from heaven to reign on earth (Zech 14:4-5; 1 Thess 3:13).
- Third, the Bible teaches that believers will be exempt from the extreme wrath of Rev 6-19 (Eph 2:3-5; 1 Thess 1:9-10; 5:9; Rev 3:10-11; 13:9).
- Fourth, the removal of the restrainer—the Holy Spirit—described in 2 Thess 2:1-8 seems to match the absence of the church in Rev 4-19.
- Fifth, the Bible describes Christ’s second coming as something that could happen at any moment (1 Cor 1:7; 16:22; Phil 3:20; 4:5; 1 Thess 1:10; Titus 2:13; Heb 9:28; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 1:13; Jude 1:21; Rev 3:11; 22:12, 17; 20) and because there still needs to be seven years of Tribulation, the rapture logically appears to be the first event in God’s orchestration of the last days.
- Sixth, the rapture gives believers a blessing and hope for the future (John 14:1-3; 1 Thess 4:18; Titus 2:13).
These reasons for the pre-trib rapture is adapted from Mark Hitchcock’s book, The End, which is a great reference book for end-times events.
B. Premillennial Reign
Jesus will establish his reign on earth for a literal 1,000 years. Part of the basis for the premillennial view is that prophets in the Old Testament speak of the future restoration of Israel with the expectation of a worldwide kingdom (Isa 2:2-4; 65:17-25; 66:18-23; Dan 2:34-35, 44; Micah 4:1-8). The primary basis of premillennialism’s literal 1,000 year reign is revelation in the New Testament (1 Cor 1:7-8; 15:51-58; 1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Peter 1:8, 13) and the understanding that Revelation 19-20 is a literal and consecutive vision from John.
Six reasons support this view:
- (1) the visions of 19:11-21:8 are a transition between the vision of Babylon and the view of the new Jerusalem,
- (2) the visions of 19:11-21:8 are a unified sequence because there is no structure marker to indicate a break of the sequence,
- (3) six out of the eight visions of 19:11-21:8 are seen as contemporaneous or subsequent to the second coming of Christ (Rev 19:17-18, 19-21; 20:7-10, 11-15; 21:1, 2-8),
- (4) Satan’s interactions with the world in 20:1-3 are not compatible with how Satan interacts with the world prior to the second coming of Christ,
- (5) the rebellion after the Millennium (vv. 7-10) is described in a way that distinguishes it from the state of affairs before the second coming of Christ, and
- (6) there is a 1,000 year reign of believers who have been raised to life based in Rev 20:4-5.
These reasons for Rev 19-20 being a literal and consecutive vision is adapted from Craig Blaising’s chapter, “Premillennialism” (pp. 214-221) in Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. This is a great resource if you want to learn about the three main views on the Millennium.
II. CHRIST’S RETURN IN BODILY FORM
In addition to my comments above about Christ’s return, it is clear that just as Jesus left in his physical body form (Acts 1:8-11), he will come back in a bodily form. When we see Jesus we will have a body like him (Phil 3:20-21).
III. WHEN CHRIST RETURNS
Christ is coming back but we do not know when he is coming back (Matt 24:42; Luke 12:40). Therefore we must always be ready for that time (1 Thess 5:6; Rom 13:11-14; 2 Peter 3:10-12; Rev 3:3). Because of the constant expectancy of Christ’s return believers must live righteously and in the light (1 Thess 2:3; 5:4).
IV. ESCHATOLOGY’S EFFECTS ON CHRISTIAN LIVING
The end times events should have a converting influence on seeking hearts (Acts 16:31), a caring influence on soul-winning hearts (2 Cor 5:20), a cleansing influence on sinning hearts (Rom 3:11-14; 2 Peter 3:10-14; 1 John 3:2-3), a calming influence on stirring hearts (John 14:1-3), a comforting influence on sorrowing hearts (1 Thess 4:13-18), a controlling influence on serving hearts (Luke 12:35; 1 Cor 15:58).