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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at Life BPC Reformation Lectures, 2004-10-29

Text: Revelation 19:11-16, 20:1-10

1.   Introduction 

�        This doctrine of Scripture is designed to particularly excite us and motivate us to live for the Lord and serve Him well.

 

�        It is known as the doctrine of eschatology, or literally, 'the Last days' or 'the End times'.

 

�        It is based on a number of passages in the Bible that contain prophecies about the future, e.g.

Daniel 2, 7, 11:36-12:13                       Ezekiel 37- 48

Zechariah 12-14                                   Matthew 24

1 Corinthians 15:20-57                         1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:3

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12                         Revelation 4-22

 

2.   Views of the Events and Prophecies of the End Times
 

a.   There are three main views of the events of the End Times: 
Premillennialism, Postmillennialism and Amillennialism.

 

i.    Premillennialism: Christ returns before the thousand years.

o       Several powerful empires and nations will rise and fall, culminating with the rule of the whole world by the Antichrist.

o       The Gospel of Christ would have been preached in the whole world by then, but there would also be a great falling away from the faith by the church at large.

o       The Antichrist will make a peace treaty with the nation of Israel at first but then he will suddenly break this treaty, oppress Israel, and demand to be worshipped as a god.

o       God will send plagues of judgement to punish the whole world.

o       The False Prophet, together with the Antichrist will respond with miracles of their own.

o       The greatest military offensive in history will be launched against Israel, but Christ will return to save Israel.

o       The Antichrist and the False Prophet will be cast them into the lake of fire.

o       Satan will be bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit.

o       During that time Jesus will rule on earth with all the raptured and resurrected saints.

o       All Israel will be saved and will worship Christ in a glorious temple.

o       At the end, Satan will be released to stir up one final rebellion against God.

o       He will be defeated and cast into the Lake of Fire and brimstone to burn forever.

o       All the unsaved dead who shall be resurrected, judged and cast into the same lake.

o       The old heaven and old earth will be destroyed with fervent heat.

o       A new heaven and new earth will appear together with the new Jerusalem.

 

ii.   Postmillennialism: Christ will return after the thousand years.

o       The kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the spreading of the Gospel.

o       The world will eventually be Christianized.

o       The return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of unprecedented righteousness and peace.

 

iii.  Amillennialism: There is no literal one thousand years.

o       It is just a symbol for the present long period of time between Christ's first and second coming.

o       There is also no specific period called the Tribulation. Things will just continue to get worse and may intensify briefly before the end of the world.

o       Satan was bound at the cross, but he will be loosed for a brief period before the end of the world. During that time, it will seem as though the Gospel is not having an effect and evil will be rampant.

o       The physical land of Israel has no more significance to God than any other country. 
We, the church, are now the only 'Israel' that God cares about.

o       The prophecies of Antichrist have been fully fulfilled in the Papacy.

o       A remnant of the Jews will continue to be saved, but there will never be a time when all the Jews will be saved.

o       Jesus returns unexpectedly, with no warning, and the world ends.

 

b.   There are three main views of the prophecies of the End Times:
Historicism, Preterism and Futurism.
 

i.    Historicism: Held by some amillennialists, and some premillenialists.

o       This was the view expounded by the Reformers.
 

o       Westminster Confession 25:6 'There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; [but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.]'
 

o       It is the view that Bible prophecy, especially the Book of Revelation, describes the events of the last two-thousand years.  

ii.   Preterism: Some amillenialists today prefer to take this view.

o       It is the view that some, most or even all of the events in Bible prophecy took place in the past. 
 

o       E.g. prophecies about the Antichrist and his persecution are regarded as fulfilled in the Roman emperor and the persecution of Christians who refused to worship the emperor.
 

o       It originated from the Jesuits after the Reformation.
 

o       The most extreme preterists (liberals) believe that all the 'prophecies' have been fulfilled by the time of writing.

 

iii.  Futurism: The view held by most premillennialists.

o       Most of the events of Bible prophecy take place in the distant future with respect to the time of writing. 
 

o       The seal judgments, trumpet judgments and bowl judgements will only take place within a short time period before the millennium.
 

o       B-P Constitution: 4.2.7 'We believe in the personal, visible and premillennial return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to judge this world and bring peace to the nations.' 

3.   Five Reasons Why We Are Premilllennialists

a.   Premillennialism is based on a literal interpretation of Scripture

�        It takes the Scriptures in their literal and normal sense.
 

�        How does the interpreter decide whether a biblical passage is literal or figurative? The decision must be based on the same criteria as in any other literature: (1) Either the writer or speaker must indicate in direct words that he is using a figure of speech; (2) Or the context must make it clear that the words have to be taken figuratively. In any other case, the literal meaning of the words must be accepted as the intended sense. 
(Biblical Interpretation: The Only Right Way by David Kuske, 1995, Northwestern Publishing House)
 

�        It avoids spiritualizing or allegorizing the text:

�        E.g. Rev. 20:1 - angel = Christ; coming down from heaven = incarnation;

�        vv.2,3 - binding and casting of Satan = death on the cross;

�        v.4 - Those who reign with Christ for 1,000 years = the present church age;

�        vv.5,6 - first resurrection = born again;

�        vv.7-9 - defeat of Satan's final rebellion = Christ's Second Coming

 

�        The plain sense of Revelation 20:1-9: After Christ returns, Satan will be bound for a thousand years while the resurrected saints reign with Christ over the nations of the world, until he is loosed again to be defeated and destroyed forever. 

b.   Premillennialism is the view that has stood the test of time

i.    The Growth of Early Premillenarianism (1st-3rd Centuries)

�        Papias of Hierapolis (70-163)

�        Justin Martyr (105-165)

�        Irenaeus (140-202)

�        Tertullian (160-220)

�        Hippolytus of Rome (170-235)

�        Commodianus (3rd Century Christian poet)

�        Lactantius (4th century Christian apologist)

�        Methodius of Olympus (died 311)

�        Apollinaris of Laodicea in Syria (310-390)
 

ii.    Augustine and Amillenialism (4th - 18th Centuries)

�        Montanism had given premillenialism a bad reputation.
 

�        Some church fathers began to express unhappiness with premillennialism:

o       Origen (185-255)

o       Dionysius of Alexandria (ca. 262)

o       Eusebius (260-339)

o       Victorinus of Petau, Austria (270-303)

 

�        When the church was finally given a favoured status under the Roman emperor Constantine, premillennialism declined. 
 

�        Augustine of Hippo (354-430) rejected premillenialist teaching because he thought that it encouraged Christians to have a carnal hope. 
 

�        His interpretation of Revelation 20 became the Amillennial position.
 

�        It prevailed throughout the period of the Medieval Church and even into the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. 
 

�        Premillennialism still continued to exist among certain groups of believers who were against the Roman Catholic Church. 
 

�        Unfortunately there were also some very extreme groups that gave the premillennialists a bad reputation (e.g. Radical Anabaptists).

 

�        The Reformers therefore chose to remain in the Amillennial position, although they firmly advocated the literal interpretation of Scriptures.
 

�        Some Reformers however, believed that the Scriptures taught a future general conversion of the Jews (e.g. Martin Bucer, Peter Martyr and Theodore Beza).
 

�        Johann Heinrich Alsted (17th century) revived the Premillennial view, and for a short while it claimed a small following among some Puritans (e.g. Joseph Mede and Thomas Goodwin).
 

�        But radical Puritans such as the Fifth Monarchy Men gave Premillennialism a bad reputation.

 

iii.   The Rise of Postmillennialism (18th and 19th centuries)

�        It was a later development in the Puritan movement, and influenced by Daniel Whitby (1638-1726).
 

�        The optimism that gave rise to this view dissipated with the violent political changes that shook the world. 
 

�        By the end of WWII, it became the least popular view, and Premillennialism had made a big comeback. 
 

iv.   The Return of Premillenialism (19th -21st Centuries)

�        There was an increased interest in Bible prophecy and eschatology, and books and conferences on the last days became common. 
 

�        As liberal churches were postmillennial, Bible-believing Christians moved to premillennialism in order not to be associated with them. 

�        In the middle of the 19th century certain groups linked with the premillenial view became extreme (e.g. The Millerites). 

�        The futurist variety of premillennialism was popularized by the Dispensationalists.
 

�        It was further strengthened in 1948 when the nation of Israel was reborn, fulfilling Bible prophecies.

Observations:

�        Premillennialism is the oldest of the three views. 
 

�        Although at times it fell into disfavour because of some radical or extreme group that espoused this view, the church always returned to it. 

c.   Premillennialism gives us the right perspective of our present role in promoting God's Kingdom

�        Postmillennialists and Amillennialists
There is a tendency to promote God's kingdom by social and political action. E.g.

o       Augustine -  'The City of God'

o       The Roman Catholic Church

o       Calvin�s Geneva

o       Christian Reconstructionists (Rousas J. Rushdoony) 

�        Premillennialists:

o       It is up to Christ alone to effect these socio-political changes during the millennium.
 

o       Our present role: to preach the gospel of eternal life, and to build up the saints with the Word of God.

d.   Premillennialism is confirmed by many verses of Scripture.
 

�        1 Corinthians 15:23-24 'But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.  Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.'

There is clear evidence of a long time gap between Christ's second coming and the end of the world. 
 

�        Acts 1:6-7 'When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?  And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.'

Jesus' answer implies that the disciples were right to expect a future restoration of a political kingdom. 
 

�        Romans 11:25 'For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.'

The present state of blindness of Jews will end when God's plans for the Gentiles are fulfilled. 
 

�        Romans 11:28,29 'As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.'
 

�        Other than salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, God's plans for the Jews include promises of: 
 

o       A glorious visible, political kingdom here on earth.
 

o       Ownership of a piece of prime land by divine right.
 

o       God's blessing to those who help them and favour them.
 

o       God's curses to those who harm them and seek to destroy them.
 

�        Their history has shown that God continues to be faithful to those promises He had made to their forefathers, and to love His 'firstborn son' (Exodus 4:22; Jeremiah 31:9).
 

�        They look forward to the Millennial Temple, the offering of sacrifices and the reign of the Messiah (Zechariah 6:12-13; Ezekiel 40-46).

Zechariah 6:12-13 'Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the LORD: Even He shall build the temple of the LORD; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.'
 

�        These millennial sacrifices will only serve to remind people of what Christ has already done on the Cross. They will be unique and distinct in their features 

(see Ezekiel 40:1-46:24; Isaiah 56:7; 66:20-23; Jeremiah 33:18; Zechariah 14:16-21; Malachi 3:3-4). 

e.   Premillennialism is the only view that commends hope to a world that is miserably failing and seized with fear.

�        The very best of human efforts will never bring forth the perfect world that people dream of. 
 

�        The Bible gives us the hope of a better world to come, where: 
 

o       The paradise that was lost by the first Adam will be regained by the second Adam. 
 

o       Christ will establish His righteous rule over the whole world. 
 

o       The whole world will be finally be subdued and filled according to the divine mandate God gave to Adam: 

Genesis 1:28 'And God blessed them, and God said unto them, 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.'
 

�        Why will it last only for a thousand years? 
 

o       Because it is not meant to be permanent (1 Corinthians 15:24). 
 

o       The millennium must give way to the permanent eternal state with the new heaven and the new earth!

 

Our Response: Let the doctrine of the End Times motivate you to live for the Lord and to serve Him well now, knowing that His kingdom is coming soon!

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25