Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bible prophecy and the Millennium

Acts 1:7 "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."
1 Thessalonians 4:13 "But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope."

Two guard rails of Bible prophecy
    The two passages above give us guard rails to use when studying eschatology or what is more commonly called "Bible Prophecy".  On the one hand, eschatology by its nature is not a precise science, being that God has not told us how everything (in minute detail) fits together.  We can certainly make definite statements in warning people of Christ's literal bodily return, however the timing and chronology of events can be a bit more tricky.
    With that said, the second text reminds us of how important it is to know what we believe on Bible prophecy, since our responsibility is to tell people why it is we have such hope about what Christ is going to do in the future, and why it is they need to get ready for His return (please read 1 Peter 3:15).

In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials flexibility, in all things love
    Christians in general, and Baptists in particular, have held that when it comes to viewpoints on the timing and events surrounding Christ's return, legitimate differences do exist that should never cause Christians to break fellowship with one another.  For instance, in the September 22, 2011 edition of Baptist Messenger, a paper produced by the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma (Southern Baptist), a fine series of articles were written by Godly, respected Bible scholars.   Though differing in their takes on the timing of events surrounding Christ's return,  they all affirm the literal bodily return of Jesus Christ.  From yesterday's blog, we would say that the literal bodily return is a "definite", the various views on - say the millennium - are "positions" and the various views on - say the rapture - are "opinions". 

Defining the Millennium and its major positions
    In our last blog we saw the 8 definite areas of Eschatology.  Today we want to begin noting some key positions that one finds when studying this area of doctrine.  Clearly all Christians are in agreement that Christ will have a literal, bodily, visible return.  According to Bible Teacher John MacArthur, 1 out of every 25 New Testament passages speak on His return. 
   With that said, the areas of difference arise from what is believed will occur once He returns, and whether or not to expect a 1,000 year reign on earth, or if the kingdom is more of a spiritual kingdom.  Three major positions exist on this matter, with all of them centering around the nature of what Bible teachers call "The Millennium" or "the 1,000 year reign of Christ".  Today's blog will feature what is called "Pre-millennialism". 

Premillennialism - This is by far the most familiar to many readers.  Those who hold to this teach that, when Christ returns, He will set up a literal earthly kingdom for 1,000 years, followed by a brief loosing of Satan to deceive the nations, the Great white throne judgment and then the bringing in of the "New Heavens and New Earth".  Pre-millennialists draw their conclusions by combining the "earthly" descriptions of Christ's return in the Old Testament and Matthew 24, as well as the term "1,000 years" in Revelation 20.   

Among the strengths of the Pre-millennial position is first of all its longevity, being the longest held view in the history of the church.  Biblically this position is able to handle the many "earth-bound" descriptions of the coming kingdom seen in the Old and New Testaments as well as giving room for the future restoration of Israel at Christ's return.  Many Pre-millennialists (not all) will also point out that the promises of God to Abraham and David of the Savior and King coming through their bloodlines were and are to be fulfilled in both a heavenly and earthly way.  Some of the weaknesses of the position are that in a literal Millennium, there is a mixture of both resurrected saints and people born who are living in unressurected bodies.  Others have pointed out that many of the disciples' desire for an earthly manifestation of Christ's kingdom was seemingly dismissed by Jesus when he emphasized the coming Kingdom's predominately "spiritual" and "unseen" characteristics. 

More could be said, however we will only offer thumbnail sketches of these major positions.  The aim right now is to introduce the reader to the major viewpoints in Bible Prophecy, so as to encourage further study of scripture.  In tomorrow's blog we will look at two other positions on the Millennium.  

No comments:

Post a Comment