1000+ YEAR FORECAST
The pre-millennial, pre-tribulational eschatological
system is a theological framework widely held in modern times.
It is the eschatological system which most literally follows
scripture under consistent and proper hermeneutics (Walvoord,
1978, p. 270), and most closely represents the eschatological
hope of the early Church. It further distinguishes clearly
between Israel and the Church and their respective programs
(Walvoord, 1978, p. 270).
This system is marked by a number of essential
distinctives. It requires a futurist interpretation of the
bulk of the book of Revelation. It holds to the "rapture" -
the snatching away of the Church out of the world at an unknown
time (I Thessalonians 4:13-18). This in turn will set in motion
a series of subsequent events that will culminate in the
ascendancy of the Antichrist, who will rule the world for seven
years - the seven years being the final "week" of years in the
angelic message to Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27) - the time of the
great tribulation to come on the earth as Christ treads the
winepress of the fury of the wrath of God (Revelation 19:15).
The rule of the Antichrist will be overturned by the victorious
descent of Christ at His Second Coming to the Mount of Olives
with the Church (Zechariah 14; Revelation 19:11-16), who defeats
him at the Battle of Armageddon, inaugurating a literal thousand
year reign (the millennium). Uninterrupted bliss would be
enjoyed during this time (which is contiguous with the spiritual
rebirth of Israel, the Jewish peoples acknowledging Christ as
their Messiah). This would continue until Satan is "loosed" for
a season (Revelation 20:7-8). Then, heaven and earth will give
way to a new heaven and a new earth, the final judgment will
commence, and Satan will be cast forever into eternal damnation
(Revelation 20:10-21:1). The system derives its name from its
chronological ordering of events: the pre-tribulational rapture
and the pre-millennial tribulation.
It has been contended by some that the pre-millennial
system is a recent invention. Thomas Foster, co-founder of the
Christian Revival Crusade, noted for its British-Israel doctrine,
In 1539 Ignatius Loyola founded the Society of Jesus.
Their main purpose was to bring Protestants back to
the fold of Rome by any means possible. From their
number there arose Francisco de Ribera, a Spanish
priest, who wrote a commentary on the book of
Revelation, which was printed in 1585 A.D. His
thesis [pre-millennialism] was inserted in the form
of notes in a Vulgate Bible, in order to counter the
Protestant Reformers who had identified the Papacy as
the Antichrist, and the Catholic Church as the
"Babylon" of Revelation 18:5. . . . Dr Maitland
discovered this Futurist view of the Revelation, as
taught by Francisco Ribera from Spain, and he
published it just for the sake of interest. About
this time, 1841, the Plymouth Brethren were formed. .
. . Their leader was John Nelson Darby and he eagerly
read and accepted the Futurist view of Revelation. .
. . little realizing that the Plymouth Brethren from
then on would be preaching a Roman Catholic message
on the Revelation! (Foster, 1983, p. 1-3)
Whether Foster's view have any historical truth or not,
John Nelson Darby is often considered the "founder" of
pre-millennialism (Cartledge, n.d., p. 157). It would be more
correct to say Darby was the founder of dispensational
pre-millennialism (Zoba, 1995, p. 21), for the faith of the early
Church was undoubtedly chiliasm - based on the Greek word in
Revelation 20:3 denoting the number 1,000.
Chiliasm was an ill-defined pre-millennial outlook (Zoba,
1995, p. 21; Berkhof, 1975, p. 262) which anticipated the imminent
return of Christ, and His reign for a literal thousand years
before the final judgment. Unfortunately some were inclined to
dwell fondly on their millennial hopes in a crassly materialistic
manner, such as Papias and Irenaeus (Berkhof, 1975, p. 262).
In the fourth century, the great Christian thinker, Augustine
rejected the literal and materialistic notions behind chiliasm,
concluding that the kingdom of God was already manifest in the
presence of the Church. The age between Pentecost and the return
of Christ was seen to be the very millennium itself, marked by the
ever-increasing influence of the Church in overturning evil in the
world before Christ's return (Zoba, 1995, p. 20) - the first
incarnation of post-millennial thinking, although by the end of
the first millennium A.D. this line of thought developed into
a-millennialism, the denial of any literal thousand year period.
Berkhof (1975, p. 262) suggests Augustine's thinking was influenced
by the material success of the Church since Constantine's edict of
tolerance. Indeed, during the Middle Ages the thought of a literal
millennium was generally regarded as heretical (Berkhof, 1975, p.
263). The post-millennial position was refined and further
developed by Daniel Whitby (Cartledge, n.d., p. 115) but can no
longer be held with any serious thought due to the succession of
wars experienced in this century.
Pre-millennial thought was revived after being meticulously
delineated by Baptist lay preacher William Miller in the early and
mid-1800s. His views fell into disrepute after two failed attempts
to set a date for the Lord's return (Zoba, 1995, p. 20-21).
The next rebirth occurred with John Nelson Darby in the late
1850s in the form of dispensational pre-millennialism, mentioned
above - the notion that God interacts with humanity in a series of
epochs or dispensations. "Darby wove these diverse strands into a
tight cohesive system that he buttressed at every point by copious
biblical proof texts, then tirelessly promoted through his writing
and preaching tours" (Zoba, 1995, p. 21).
Cyrus Scofield popularised this system of belief with the
publication of his Reference Bible and catapulted it into the
Protestant mainstream (Zoba, 1995, p. 21).
THE RAPTURE AND THE TRIBULATION
Pre-millennial eschatology holds to a "rapture", or catching
up, of the Church at a future and unknown time, to be with Jesus
in the air. This is based largely on I Thessalonians 4:15-17 and
I Corinthians 15:51-52. It is inexorably intertwined with the
"tribulation" period which is to follow, and essentially the
purpose of the rapture is to deliver the Church which God has
ordained for salvation (I Thessalonians 5:9) from the time of
wrath to come - the tribulation.
This period will have seven years duration, being the final
of Daniel's heptads (Daniel 9:24-27), designated specifically for
Israel and the Jewish people. It is identified in scripture as a
time of trouble (Daniel 12:1), the time of Jacob's Trouble
(Jeremiah 30:4-7), the great Day of the Lord (Zephaniah 1:14-18;
I Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 6:16-17), the great tribulation
(Matthew 24:21, 29; Revelation 2:22; 7:14) and the wrath of God
(Zephaniah 1:15; Revelation 6:16-17; 11:18; 14:10; 15:1; 16:1).
This wrath will be unleashed upon the world (Revelation 15:7) and
will test those who dwell upon the earth (Revelation 3:10) and
purge the nation of Israel (Daniel 11:35; Zechariah 13:8-9).
The pre-millennial system holds to a futurist
interpretation of the Book of Revelation from 4:1 onwards and
this is believed to outline the events from the rapture,
detailing specifically the tribulation period.
THE BEMA SEAT OF CHRIST
The raptured Saints are most active during the ensuing
seven year period. Immediately judgment is enacted on the
Christians at Christ's judgment seat. It is important to
understand the nature of this judgment. As Dr. Lehman Strauss
In the large olympic arenas, there was an elevated
seat on which the judge of the contest sat. After
the contests were over, the successful competitors
would assemble before the bema to receive their
rewards or crowns. The bema was not a judicial bench
where someone was condemned; it was a reward seat.
Likewise, the Judgment Seat of Christ is not a
judicial bench. . . . (Willmington, n.d., p. 827)
Christ's judgment seat is not a negative one; the
materials to be judged are the individual believer's works for
Christ (I Corinthians 3:10-13). These works are classified as
gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble. It is
unwise to speculate on what acts fall into each of the above
categories, but it is most likely that acts out of a pure
motive, with God-given talents, for the cause of Christ will
fall into the higher categories. Nevertheless, at the Bema seat
no person shall be cast from Christ's presence; rather rewards
will be given based on the result of the testing of one's acts
(I Corinthians 3:14).
THE MARRIAGE SUPPER OF THE LAMB
Immediately following shall be the marriage supper of the
lamb. This is described through Jesus' parables (Matthew 22:2;
25:1; Luke 12:35-36) and through John's revelation (Revelation
19:7). The bridegroom is the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:27-30;
Luke 5:32-35) - the very lamb of God (John 1:29) and the bride is
the very Church who has been presented without spot or blemish,
perfected through Christ's sanctifying work (Ephesians 5:22-32;
II Corinthians 11:2). Christ has given His life for the Church
(Matthew 20:28) and so shall the Church be with the Lord forever
(I Thessalonians 4:17) !
A different scene transpires on the earth however. The
son of destruction, the lawless one (II Thessalonians 2:2-7) will
make his appearance, but only after the Church (his restrainer)
has been raptured. By searching the scriptures a mosaic of this
end-time figure's life may be painted.
Undoubtedly society will be troubled both by its increasing
lawlessness (II Timothy 3:1-5), but also by the sudden
disappearance of millions of people - the Church. "Two men will
be in the field;" Christ said, "one will be taken and the other
left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be
taken and the other left" (Matthew 24:40-41). Willmington (n.d.,
p. 827) attempts to describe the confusion and alarm upon the
earth at this time. It is conceivable that a troubled society
will produce the atmosphere for a dictator such as the Antichrist,
and his personality will draw many to him. Yet it is certain that
his is not a government given by God :
In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have
become completely wicked, a stern-faced king, a
master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very
strong, but not by his own power. He will cause
astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever
he does. He will destroy the mighty men and the holy
people. He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will
consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he
will destroy many and take his stand against the
Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not
by human power (Daniel 8:23-25).
He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or
for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any
god, but will exalt himself above them (Daniel 11:37-
Immediately the Antichrist seeks to resolve the world's
problems. He begins by confirming a peace treaty in the Middle
East between Israel and the Muslim nations for a seven year
period (Daniel 9:27). Yet, as Paul warns, while people are
saying "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them
suddenly (I Thessalonians 5:3). The Antichrist breaks the
treaty in the middle of this seven years (Daniel 9:27) and
commits the "abomination of desolation" spoken of by Daniel and
by Jesus, until the end that is decreed is poured out upon him
(Daniel 9:27; 11:31; 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14).
THE SECOND HALF OF THE TRIBULATION
During the reign of the Antichrist in the former three and
a half years of the tribulation period, war and famine, plague
and death occurred (Revelation 6:1-11). Earthquakes occur, the
sun becomes black, the moon like blood and even the very stars
shall appear to fall (Revelation 6:12-13), perhaps referring to
meteor strikes (Dake, 1963, p. 290).
Nevertheless, the situation is dramatically different in
the second half of the tribulation period. John provides a
parenthetical view behind the scenes - at the spirit realm
where war in the heavenly realms takes place (Revelation 12:7-17).
Satan, it may be seen, is the real force behind the evil
occurring. He fought with Michael the archangel, but was cast
down from heaven with his angelic followers. Seeking to enact
revenge, Satan, the dragon, gives power to the Antichrist, the
beast (Revelation 13:4).
With Satanic empowerment, the Antichrist appears to suffer
a fatal wound yet is seemingly miraculously healed (Revelation
13:3). The Antichrist even orders a particular mark be emblazoned
on the right hand or forehead of people, without which they may
not buy or sell (Revelation 13:16-17) - but with which one will be
damned (Revelation 14:9-11). The False Prophet arises,
instituting a religious system involving worship of the image of
the beast (Revelation 13:11-15), the penalty for failure to
comply being death.
The seven bowl judgements of Revelation 16 are next enacted:
grievous sores on those who had received the mark or worshipped
the image; the seas become as blood; the rivers and fountains
become as blood; the sun scorches with its heat; darkness covers
the earth; the Euphrates dries up and demonic armies are released;
and widespread destruction takes place - lightning, hail and an
enormous earthquake that flattens the cities of the earth and
destroys the islands and mountains.
THE RETURN OF JESUS
The tribulation draws to a spectacular close when suddenly
John sees heaven open and he beholds a white horse - the rider is
the Faithful and the True and in righteousness he judges and
makes war. His eyes were as a flame of fire and on his head were
many crowns. His name is the Word of God and on his thigh is
written "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:11-13,
16). The tribulation, and indeed this present age, are virtually
at a cataclysmic end, with the promised return of Jesus Christ,
accompanied by the perfected raptured Church (Revelation 19:14).
With swift judgment the battle of Armageddon takes place.
The Antichrist and the False Prophet are cast into the lake of
fire (Revelation 19:20), their followers are slain (Revelation
19:21) and Satan is bound in a bottomless pit (Revelation 20:1-3).
Thus begins the millennium period. Christ and the Saints
reign over the earth for a thousand years. The earth is restored,
every valley is raised, the rugged becomes a plain (Isaiah 40:4).
Longevity, such as before the flood, becomes common - indeed he
who dies at a hundred is thought to be a mere youth (Isaiah
65:20). Animals dwell together in peace (Isaiah 65:25).
At the culmination of this period, however, Satan is loosed
and he immediately proceeds to deceive the nations, organising a
rebellion against Christ's kingdom. This rebellion is
short-lived with fire coming from heaven and devouring all
THE END OF THIS AGE
Immediately Satan himself is cast into the lake of fire
(Revelation 20:10). The great judgment occurs - all are judged
and those not found in the book of life are also cast into the
lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
The present heavens and earth pass away and all things are
made new. The new Jerusalem descends from heaven and John hears
a voice say, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he
will dwell with them, and they shall be his people and God
himself shall be with them and be their God" (Revelation 21:1-3).
As may be seen, the pre-millennial position is not lacking
for scriptural support. Nevertheless there exists those who
maintain that some of the interpretations required are
problematic. Croucher (n.d.) states, "This view robs the book
[of Revelation] of all value for the early Christians, and,
indeed, for all subsequent generations right up to the last".
This is an important objection, especially when one considers
the opinions of those who give Revelation an early dating,
placing it in the midst of Roman persecution. Indeed, the
beast worship of Revelation 13:15 bears a remarkable
resemblance to the Emperor worship required in such times.
The "abomination of desolations" is very remniscent of
Antiochus IV's sacrificing of pigs in the Temple (Stern, 1992,
p. 827) - although Jesus' mention of this event requires it to
have a later fulfillment. However, unlike other systems such
as Preterism, pre-millennialism is independent of when
Revelation was written.
Others question if Revelation has a strict chronological
ordering, given that prophetical works like Jeremiah do not,
and the existence of passages labelled as "parenthetical" such
as Revelation 12. Furthermore, such an interpretation of
Revelation requires a relatively non-literal understanding of
"the time is at hand" (Revelation 22:10) and "the things which
shall be hereafter" (Revelation 1:19), given that the events
of Revelation will not take place until at least 1,900 years
after John saw them. Yet, this is mixed with a strictly
literal understanding of the seven year period, the thousand
year period, and even the 144,000 Jews who are saved during
the tribulation. Yet, elsewhere in the scriptures such
numbers are taken to be figurative. If the Lord literally
owned the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10), He would
be no more wealthy than a modern-day cattle rancher.
Ultimately, however, it must be concluded that if the
pre-millennial framework does err, it does so on the side of
being too literal, rather than too figurative such as is the
case with post-millennialism. Indeed, Walvoord (1979, p. 270)
states that pre-millennialism is the only view which allows a
literal interpretation of all the Old and New Testament
passages pertaining to the tribulation. It is the only view
which preserves the unity of Daniel's seventieth heptad, clearly
distinguishing between Israel and the Church.
Every Christian must ensure they are like the "faithful
and wise servant" who ran his master's household assiduously
while waiting for the master's return (Matthew 24:45-46). In
the words of J. I. Packer, the Christian must live "packed up
and ready to go, and packed up and ready to wait" (Zoba, 1995,
Berkhof, L. 1975 (1937). The History of Christian
Doctrines, Baker Book House, Michigan.
Cartledge, D. n.d. Eschatology, Rhema Bible College,
Croucher, R. n.d. What are we waiting for?, John Mark
Dake, F. 1963. Dake's Annotated Reference Bible, Dake
Bible Sales, Inc., Georgia.
Foster, T. 1983. Amazing Book of Revelation Explained!,
Crusade Centre, Victoria.
Stern, D. 1992. Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish
New Testament Publications, Inc., Maryland.
Walvoord, J. 1978. The Rapture Question, Zondervan,
Willmington. n.d. Willmington's Guide to the Bible,
Pacific College Study Series, Melbourne.
Zoba, W. 1995, 'Future Tense', Christianity Today, vol.
39, no. 11.
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