Christ’s Second Coming (1)

Doug Focht, Jr.

On the freeway, hundreds of cars are going in all directions without drivers; in the middle of a football game—zap!—suddenly, the quarterback disappears; the UN is in turmoil; millions of people have vanished from the earth with no trace, no warning!1 Thus Hal Lindsay, in his book, The Late, Great Planet Earth, describes an event called the rapture in which millions of people will be taken from earth and transported to heaven. Maybe you've heard talk of this and wonder what it's all about.

Although there are some variations within the premillenial theology of Christ's return, the current popular theory among many fundamental evangelicals regarding Christ's second coming goes something like this:

  1. Before Christ's actual “visible” coming, He will remove His faithful from the earth. The faithful dead will also be raised to meet them in the air. This is the event which they call the rapture, the event covered in chapter 11 of Lindsay's book. A 7-year period of tribulation follows.

  2. With the removal of the faithful, the world will be free to “do it's own thing.” Sin will abound. Some believe that thousands of Jews will be converted to Christ during this period and begin to evangelize the world—144,000 Jewish Billy Grahams, as Mr. Lindsay refers to them in his sequel, “There's a New World Coming.”

  3. A world leader will emerge who will promise peace, and at first seem to deliver. After 3 years, though, “all hell will break loose,” literally, with Satan having his way on the earth by way of the Anti-Christ now ruling the globe. This second 3 - year period is called the Great Tribulation. Some refer to the entire 7-year period as the “tribulation.”

  4. The armies of the earth will array themselves against the nation of Israel in the northern plain of Megiddo. This is known as the battle of Armegeddon. Most believe this will be a nuclear battle and that many cities of the earth will also be destroyed during this time.

  5. At the end of this period, Christ will return to Israel, set His foot on the mount of Olives, and begin to force His rule on the earth. Satan will be bound for 1,000 years during the period of Christ's reign on the earth (Rev. 20:1–6). Those righteous people martyred during the Great Tribulation will be raised and His faithful will rule the earth with Him from Jerusalem in a new temple, presumably rebuilt sometime before or during the 7-year “tribulation” period.

  6. After Christ's 1,000-year reign is over, Satan will be released from his prison and go forth to gather his forces for the final battle. Before this battle can get started, Christ will end it with a “bang.” The entire earth as we know will be destroyed by fire. God will create a new heaven and a new earth.

This popular view is known as premillenialism, because Christ's return precedes (hence, pre) the 1,000-year reign (a millenium=1,000 years). A few folks believe that the church ushers in a 1,000-year period of peace after which Christ returns to claim His kingdom already set up by the church. That position is called postmillenialism. The third position poses that the 1,000-year reign is not a literal, fixed period of time, nor is it on earth, but it is symbolic of Christ's “complete” reign from heaven. This is the amillennial position.

Premillenialism is a rather involved theology and it requires much reading and studying to understand. Its complexity on the one hand and the attractive appeal of its “signs and predictions” on the other draw many Bible-believers into it. The reason for bringing this up here is to demonstrate some basic principles of Bible interpretation. Those of our readers who may be new to or unfamiliar with Scripture, will doubtless ask the question: Where do these ideas come from?

You will notice that except for the passage cited in Rev. 20, I have not listed any of the passages that premillenialists use to support their theory. The reason for this is that they tend to interpret “visionary” Scriptures literally and “literal” Scriptures figuratively. To list all of their reasons would go beyond the scope of our short articles. But a few examples here and in our next article should suffice to demonstrate a common-sense approach to biblical interpretation.

Most of the premillenial theology is based upon the prophecies of Daniel, Ezekiel, Zechariah and most significantly, the book of Revelation. Most of the prophecies in these books are “visionary” and “apocalyptic” in nature. That is, they use symbols and visions to predict calamities inflicted by God against the unrighteous, while offering steadfast hope to the faithful that no matter how bad things get, God and His kingdom will be victorious. Visions include horses of different colors, multi-headed beasts with horns on their heads, bowls of wrath, trumpets, scorpions, animals that are part bull, part man, part eagle, part bear, and so forth. They all mean something, but what? How are they to be interpreted?

Most of Scripture, including prophecies, are not visionary at all, but are plainly and simply stated. When both a “plain-spoken” passage and a “visionary” passage deal with the same subject, common sense would dictate that the visionary passage be interpreted in the light of the “plain-spoken” passage. For example, when Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple at Jerusalem, He said, “The days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down” (Luke 21:6). A few verses later, He gave an indication of what to look for prior to that time when He said, “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand” (vs 20). As a matter of history, Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., some 40 years after Jesus predicted it. In this same discourse as it is recorded in Matt. 24, Jesus also referred to a passage in the book of Daniel that has a bearing on His prediction. He referred to something Daniel called the “abomination of desolation.” Modern premillenialists interpret this passage in Daniel to apply to some world-ruler in the 20th or early 21st century. Some refer to him as the “Anti-Christ.” But if you take the time to compare Luke 21:20–21 with Matthew 24:15–16, you will see that the “abomination of desolation” spoken of in the book of Daniel is associated with the Roman armies surrounding Jerusalem. Notice:

Matt. 24:15–16.

“When you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” etc.

Luke 21:20–21

“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her destruction is at hand. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” etc.

Putting these two “plain-spoken” accounts together, we have a “concrete” interpretation from Jesus Himself of the “abomination of desolation” mentioned by the prophet Daniel. It was the destruction of the Jewish temple by the hated Roman Gentiles. Jesus says nothing of an “anti-Christ” or “world-ruler,” yet many ignore simple statements like this and prefer to interpret Daniel in a way that goes far beyond Jesus' own interpretation.

It stands to reason that people can be easily misled by using visionary prophecy as the basis for a theology. Yet the theology of premillenialism depends upon “reverse” interpretation; that is, the “plain-spoken” is interpreted in the light of the “visionary” rather than vice-versa.

Here is another example from Revelation 20, the “keystone” of premillenial theology. There is no question that a thousand-year reign is mentioned here, but is it a literal thousand years? Premillenialists will accuse a critter like me of not taking the Bible literally because I don't believe this to be a “literal” 1,000 years. Well, let's see now: In verses 1–2, does the angel bind Satan with a “literal” chain? Is Satan actually a dragon? Are “Gog and Magog” in verse 8 actual nations that will arise to be called by that “literal” name? If all these things are to be interpreted “figuratively” why should someone bristle if the thousand years are also “figurative?” Besides, we have biblical precedent for this in “plain-spoken” passages:

It is said in Deut. 7:9 that God “keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him…” Does this mean He quits in the 1001st generation?

Psalm 50:10 says “Every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” Does this mean that God owns only the cattle on 1,000 hills?

Here's something else: if Revelation 20 is to be taken literally then,

Only souls come alive and reign with Christ (vs 4). The text doesn't say dead people were raised, it says souls came to life.

Only those souls who had been martyred for Christ reign with Him, not all the faithful (vs 4), and if the point be pressed to its fullest, only those who had been beheaded reign with Him.

Besides these things, there is no specific verse that says this particular reign is upon the earth. So important is this “missing link” to the premillenial view that Hal Lindsay, in his book, “There's A New World Coming” actually inserts the words “on earth” in his quotation of Rev. 20:4. He quotes, “…and they lived and reigned on earth with Christ a thousand years.”2 The title page of Lindsay's book indicates he uses the Living Bible, but the words “on earth” are not in the copy of the Living Bible that I read, nor have I been able to find any English Bible that has them. More importantly, no ancient Greek text has these words added to them. I wonder if Mr. Lindsay has taken to heart the words of Revelation 22:18: “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God shall add to him the plagues which are written in this book…”

It is not sufficient to point out deficiencies and inconsistencies in another's position without offering an alternative point of view. In our next article, we will look at the “non-visionary” Scriptures that deal with Christ's second coming and will see that if you interpret the “symbolic” passages using the “plain-spoken” passages, the theology of premillenialism will not stand. There will be no world-ruler; there will be no “7-year tribulation,” there will be no literal “battle of Armageddon” fought in the northern plains of Israel, and there will be no literal reign of Christ on the earth. For as we shall see in succeeding articles, Christ is a king now; he rules the earth now from His throne in heaven, and for those who may be wondering: His kingdom has already come and now is!

Notes

  1. Lindsay, Hal. “The Late Great Planet Earth,” (paper back) Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1970.

  2. Lindsay, Hal. “There's a New World Coming: A Prophetic Odyssey,” Vision House Publishers (paper back). Santa Ana, CA:1973. The quote is from page 272

—From “Growing in Grace” Vol. 1 #15, October 26, 1996

To contact the author, please send e-mail to: dnfj@yahoo.com