Eschatology: a fancy theological word for the study of end times. It comes from Greek eskatos, meaning “last” and logos, meaning “study”.
Recently I came across a book (link below) that I liked. It turned out to be a compilation of the author’s thoughts about the end of history. Essentially, it walked through the book of Revelation, and showed how (he thinks) all things will come together when history concludes.
For decades, I’ve held to a mindset where I basically ignored the subject. I thought it wasn’t really important, at least not to me and my ministry.
But something prompted me to dig into this a bit, so I bought the book. Much of what he said made a lot of sense, but there are SO many competing theories, I didn’t want to just take one man’s word for it.
Now, those who know me know I don’t like not understanding things. I have to figure them out; it’s built into my psyche or something. So, I decided to understand the end times.
Tall order? I had NO IDEA how complicated this would become. But, those who know me know I’m also stubborn. Once I embarked on this plan, I have to see it through.
Here’s a summary of what I’ve found so far: there’s an avalanche of opinions on this subject! But, to simplify, there are three conservative positions staked out regarding the millennial kingdom John speaks about in Revelation 20: Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, and Premillennialism. (I’ll add links later as my thoughts and research gels together.)
Postmillennialism holds that the Gospel of Christ will eventually win nearly all people, so that the vast majority of the world will worship Jesus as Messiah. This may take thousands of years, but eventually Christ will set up His Kingdom here on earth, including people who worship Him.
Amillennialism holds that the so-called millennial kingdom isn’t millennial at all. After all, the ONLY place in the Bible where the number 1000 years shows up is in this one chapter in a highly symbolic book (Revelation). In Amillennialism, all of the events that are prophesied to happen will all happen in a very short time. This includes Christ’s return to Earth, the Rapture, the Great Tribulation, Judgment Day, and everything else mentioned in Scripture.
Premillennialism posits that the Great Tribulation, a seven-year period of terrible trouble for the earth, will occur just prior to the emplacement of a literal 1000-year kingdom on Earth. The Rapture, Judgment Day, and other prophesies are understood as being sequential in nature.
Sub-Groups of Premillennialism
Naturally, if there’s a sequence, people will debate just what that sequence is. So, Premillennialism has four substructures which attempt to define the sequence. They all are named after where (in time) the Rapture happens. Is it before the Tribulation, in the middle of the Tribulation, or at the end of the Tribulation? Oh yeah, I said four: my own thoughts (before this study, and possibly after) are that we can’t really know those details. So, IF the Tribulation comes before the Millennial Kingdom (Premillennialism), we can’t really know exactly when. I call this “Pan-Tribulationism”, because it will all “pan out” in the end.
First Glance Conclusions
After reading a couple of books on the subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are all wrong. Or rather, none of the positions on the Millennial Kingdom has it completely correct.
Proponents of the other two positions have launched what I believe are fatal arguments against each of the three positions. The a- and postmillennialists have fatal arguments against premillennialism. Likewise, the a- and premillennialists have fatal arguments against postmillennialism. And finally, post- and premillennialists have stated fatal arguments against amillennialism.
So, where does that leave me? It’s foolish to think I can come up with an answer that thousands of theologians far more accomplished than I have missed.
But, God is still saying “understand it”. At least now, though, I believe that He’s telling that to the whole Church, not just me. I suspect He has put many other people on the same path: to discern the full truth of Revelation.
If I’m right, this can only mean one thing: things are coming into focus. That means our 2000-year wait is almost over. (But, you won’t get any date-setting from ME.)