I’ve never been one to watch the news with one eye and read end-time prophecies with the other. That’s ironic considering the environment in which I grew up.
- I was raised in the era of Hal Lindsey. Anyone else remember The Late Great Planet Earth?
- My father was one among many in our circle who were fascinated with the topic.
- At church, we were regularly talking about a rapture and watching really bad movies like A Thief in the Night.
Dispensational premillenialism—the idea that the church is raptured, followed by a seven-year tribulation that ends when Jesus returns and sets up His 1,000-year reign on earth—was dominate everywhere I went. I’m not sure I was aware of any other eschatological views.
Then I went to seminary. One of my favorite professors was Dr. Tommy Lea, who helped me see four millennial views (with the variations in each one).
- Historical Premillennialism
- Dispensational Premillennialism
I am not going to list the distinctions of each view, but I do want you to note this: each view is held by strong Christ-centered, Bible-believing Christians with a deep understanding of biblical languages and theology.
I have never tried to convert the masses away from their view of the end times and Christ’s Second Coming. Why? Two reasons.
- A lot of people can only see it one way and can’t fathom how someone can love Jesus and not read the Book of Revelation like they do. Years ago, during the early morning hours of a youth lock-in, the adult sponsors were in a casual conversation that turned to the Second Coming. I mentioned the different views, and one woman was surprised to hear that. I told her committed followers of Jesus fall into all the camps, and I used our church staff as an example. Our staff had a great reputation for working as a team, and yet we held three of the four millennial views. This woman couldn’t imagine people not believing like she did—in a pre-tribulation rapture—and she changed churches!
- The specifics of Jesus’ Second Coming is just not a hill to die on. The return of Christ is a key doctrine, but not the “minutia” that are distinctive to the different millennial views.
I help develop Bible studies for LifeWay Christian Resources. At LifeWay, we do not take an official stand on any one millennial view. Our editorial policy in Bible study curriculum is to present the biblical basis for the different views and let the reader decide. A writer may espouse his view, but never in a way that disparages the other views.
Christians in America are beginning to see more and more that Christian do face extreme trials and persecution. We see it in the worldwide news reports and realize America is not exempt. I don’t know if it’s a matter of more people abandoning the dispensational view—a rapture saves Christians from the Tribulation—or if the historical premillenials—those who believe Christians will go tribulation—are just becoming more vocal. I do know I hear less talk about being raptured from a plane flown by Nicholas Cage and more talk about coming persecution.
So is Jesus coming back soon? Maybe. Maybe not. World history is full of periods of intense persecution for believers. What may be different this time is Americans in their own country may face it. And there is nothing to indicate that Christians in American will be spared.
So which millennial view do I hold to? Does it matter?
What matters is this: I am called to do is live in anticipation of Christ’s second coming. Not watch the clock. Not read eschatology into every news story. Instead I am to be vigilant in my love and service to Christ.