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The idea, stemming in part from many liberal circles, that Jesus would return spiritually, as opposed to bodily, is difficult to square with many passages in Scripture and has more to do with certain antisupernatural presuppositions brought to the text. Again, Acts is most certainly envisioning a personal, bodily return. Again, Paul said the Lord himself will return 1 Thess According to Jesus there is a two-fold reason why we should not bother which such idle speculation. First, many false Christs will appear to deceive many.

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Second, there will be no mistaking his coming. Indeed, there will be signs of cosmic proportions associated with his coming Matt Jesus says that in the period preceding his coming many will be persecuted and put to death because of him Matt , but the one who stands firm to the end will be delivered i. Thus, after the period of great tribulation—a period which Christ said will be shortened for the sake of the elect —he will return and gather his own from the four winds. But, he will also judge his enemies and all those who have despised his coming.

The King will separate them as goats and consign them to the eternal fire with the Devil and his angels The righteous, on the other hand, have an entirely different fate in the hands of the sovereign Lord. He is their Deliverer 1 Thess and he will—at his coming—gather them from the four winds , for they have watched for his coming ; they were wise servants who will be entrusted with a great deal more They are the wise virgins who were prepared for his arrival and the banquet, and thus they went in Again, they gave proper stewardship to their God-given talents and were entrusted with much, much more In the end, the righteous will receive their inheritance, i.

They will inherit eternal life No evangelical denies the scriptural fact that Christ will return bodily at some point in history. But the precise manner in which this will occur and the immediate results of his return have been variously debated. The questions surrounding the manner of his return have arisen in light of two groups of texts, one which talks about an imminent return i.

In any case, it is these latter passages which seem to indicate that in reality his coming cannot be imminent, for certain signs must precede it. Several solutions have been offered to synthesize these data. Now it has been typical of many liberal theologians—concerned as they are with stressing the ethical and universal aspects of the kingdom of God within societal structures—to solve this tension by simply affirming that both Jesus and Paul were wrong about the second advent.

They were trapped in an outmoded and unscientific Jewish apocalypticism and were simply wrong about a bodily return, and therefore incorrect in their claim that any so-called return would be imminent. First, it goes without saying that the worldview of the Biblical writers is quite different than the liberal interpreters of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The former allows for divine intervention and miracle, whereas the latter has reduced Christianity to a nice nave? But, what is left is not Christianity at all, but a powerless religion of some sort.


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Be that as it may, the bodily return of Christ is clearly taught in Scripture e. We might also note too that the way in which the Biblical writers viewed prophecy is important as well.

In this way, i. In summary, there are better and more scripturally sensitive solutions to this problem than those offered by various strands within Liberalism. Some evangelical scholars have attempted to resolve the tension in these two groups of texts by claiming that the coming of Christ is not an imminent event, but must be preceded by certain other events.

In short, Berkhof argues that all the texts that speak of an imminent return should be read in light of the passages that speak about delay. Not all, however, have agreed with him. But surely such signs were given to teach us that his coming is right at the door! Some dispensationalists have argued that the reason for the tension is because the first set of passages i. Thus the rapture of the church is imminent while the second coming—a different event—will be preceded by many signs and follow the rapture by seven years in many schemes.

This view has the strength of allowing both sets of passages to speak clearly with no contradiction.


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  4. Another solution is to argue that the imminency passages are not speaking objectively about the timing of his coming, but rather subjectively about our experience of his coming. So, even if his return cannot occur until after certain events, there will nonetheless be certain people who are not ready and who will experience his coming as a thief in the night. Thus these passages are not saying anything directly about the timing of his return, but only how we should live in light of his return.

    This solution obviously stresses a very important element in the passages, viz. Another solution argues that all the signs have occurred and Christ could come back at any moment. This runs into two problems, however. First, the doctrine of the imminent return of Christ—if taught in Scripture and this view supposes that it is —was being taught at the same basic time as the doctrine of delay. This means that imminency was not correct until the events were fulfilled; it was incorrect when it was first taught.

    But this brings the inspiration of Scripture into question Second, many of the events such as the preaching of the gospel and the great tribulation seem to have not yet been fulfilled yet. A final view argues that his return can be understood as imminent, if we realize that while it is unlikely, the events preceding his return, i. The strength of this view is that both groups of texts are allowed to speak and it does admit a degree of healthy uncertainty in our interpretation of many of the relevant passages. The admitted weakness in this position is that, as we stated above, it is difficult to imagine that the great tribulation and the kind of Jewish response envisioned in AD when Paul wrote Romans have occurred.

    Some argue that the saints, together with the Lord, immediately return to the earth. They say that the term was often used in reference to a special delegation going outside the city gates in order to escort an approaching dignitary back into the city. This, they infer, suggests that Christ and his saints will immediately return to earth. Further, the technical force of the term, if indeed it is present, does not require that the Lord return immediately to earth, only that he do so at some point.

    This, they point out, will occur after the seven year tribulation. Obviously, these questions are closely linked with further questions about the timing of the rapture—questions to which we now turn. The purpose of this section is not to argue for one position over another, but simply to present the various positions and comment on them briefly. Each position mounts exegetical and theological support and is held by devout and informed lay people and scholars within evangelicalism. Further, the use of a label to identify one group in distinction to another is the bane of summarization and generalization, but which remains helpful as long as readers understand that within each camp there are major and minor differences among various proponents and between camps there are many other important areas of agreement.

    First, there are certain scholars who argue that the rapture will occur before the Great Tribulation begins; thus they are referred to as pretribulationalists. Dispensational, pretribulational scholars such as Walvoord, Pentecost, Ryrie, et al. The church, however, will be raptured before this period begins Rev and will then return from heaven with the Lord at his second coming seven years later. A minor offshoot of the pretribulational rapture argument is the partial rapture position. In this scheme, proponents argue that only the faithful in Christ will experience the rapture before the Great Tribulation; the rest will be raptured during the Tribulation.

    So the rapture is viewed more as a reward for the faithful than as deliverance for the church, per se. Second, other scholars have argued that the rapture of the church will occur after the Great Tribulation; thus they are referred to as posttribulationalists. Among the various theologians who advocate this position there is difference of opinion over whether there is a definite period of Great Tribulation though all admit that the church has been in tribulation since her beginning.

    Barton Payne argued that there would be no definite time of tribulation while George Eldon Ladd argued for a period of three and one- half or 7 years of tribulation before Christ returned.

    Both were in agreement, however, that the rapture would occur only after tribulation whether general tribulation or the Great Tribulation. The third major interpretive position regarding the rapture of the church is the midtribulational position; those who hold this view are thus referred to as midtribulationalists. In this position the rapture will take place in the middle of the seven year tribulation before the wrath of God is truly poured out in the last three and one-half years before the battle of Armageddon.

    Proponents argue that the events of Matt and other tribulational events predicted in Daniel , the Olivet discourse, and Revelation are best synthesized in this understanding. Postmillennialism is the doctrine which affirms that through the work of the Spirit in Christian preaching and teaching in the present time of the church before the second advent the world at large will eventually be evangelized and won to Christ.

    This will turn out in a world characterized by universal peace instead of strife, universal prosperity instead of inequality, godliness instead of evil, and so on, though the time period may be more or less than a thousand years since, according to some postmill interpreters, the years of Revelation can be taken symbolically for an indefinite period of time and evil will still be present to some limited degree.

    Thus there is a focus in postmillennarian thought on the present aspects of the kingdom of God with the result that through Christian influence many economic, educational and social ills will be resolved. Kenneth L. Gentry summarizes the postmillennial position well:. Postmillennialism expects the proclaiming of the Spirit-blessed gospel of Jesus Christ to win the vast majority of human beings to salvation in the present age. After an extensive era of such conditions the Lord will return visibly, bodily, and in great glory, ending history with a general resurrection and the great judgment of all humankind.

    Postmillennialism or postmillennial kind of statements in one form or another, it is argued, can be found as early as Eusebius of Caesarea AD and Origen.

    The Last Things : Biblical and Theological Perspectives on Eschatology

    Strong , president of Rochester Theological Seminary was also an able American exponent of a postmillennial reading of scripture. In my opinion there are many good and helpful emphases in postmillennial thought. This is good and commendable and to be found in varying degrees in other eschatological systems of thought as well. Second, though it has been questioned in the past, there is, among most postmillennialists, a genuine desire to read postmillennial doctrine out of scripture rather than into it.

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    But there are weaknesses with this view. Indeed, so great are the problems that it is difficult to maintain a postmillennial reading of Scripture. The most damaging criticism offered by opponents, is the fact that the system as a whole is not able to come to grips with all of scriptural teaching regarding the eschaton and none of its exegetical points seem to lead explicitly to postmillennialism.

    Further, the passages that are often used to argue for postmillennialism, some of which Gentry uses, can be easily and more profitably read in another light. Modern Premillennial theologians strongly disagree with their postmillennial brothers and sisters over the issue of the millennium, what it will look like, and how it will come about.