THE RETURN OF CHRIST
The return of Christ to establish His perfect Kingdom on earth is one of the core beliefs of His followers and has been ever since His announcement of it to His disciples.
Even as early as when the apostles were alive there was the anticipation of His soon return to fulfill the role of Messiah-King on the earth. Their understanding of Acts 1:11 brought about this belief. They believed in His “at any moment” return and that most likely it would occur during their lifetime. In that first century, believers went beyond what had been revealed and Paul had to rebuke Christ’s followers for some of their beliefs (2 Thessalonians 2). The certainty of the return of Christ was tempered somewhat by the fact of the statements of Christ Himself that no one- not the angels or even Himself- knew of the day and hour of His return (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32).
However, this certainty of Christ’s return has been the capstone of the Christian faith: that righteousness will triumph, the dead will be raised, sin will be judged and the Kingdom of God shall come.
DIFFERENT IDEAS CONCERNING THE RETURN OF CHRIST
ESCHATOLOGY: Christians refer to the study of future events as eschatology, or the study of Last Things. However, not all Christians believe the same things in this vital area of doctrine. This point of doctrine, though vital in a full study of Biblical Theology, should never be a point of contention or break in fellowship. The truth remains that Jesus will return and Christians will share in His glory.
There are basically five major teachings on the return of Christ. Three of the views are based on a literal interpretation of historical promises to Israel in the Old Testament and a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation (with an understanding of the figurative language of Scripture, i.e. Revelation 12:1 – 4).
These three views are called “pre-millennialism” (lit: before the 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth). They all hold to a Tribulation period on the earth with an event called the Rapture (an event in which the Lord Jesus Christ takes His Bride, the Church, out of the world). The difference between the three is basically the time of the Rapture. What is the Rapture?
Rapture The Rapture is a term in Christian eschatology which refers to the “being caught up” discussed in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, when the “dead in Christ” and “we who are alive and remain” will be “caught up in the clouds” to meet “the Lord”.
This “group of three” (pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation rapture) holds the teaching that the nation of Israel is distinct from the Church; that God has yet to fulfill His promises to national Israel which in the future result in a millennial kingdom where Christ, upon His return, will rule the world from Jerusalem. At the end of this literal 1,000 year reign of Christ, there will be a final judgment of all unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment.
Postmillennialism / Amillennialism
POSTMILLENNIALISM: In Christian end-times theology, postmillennialism is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ’s second coming as occurring after (“post”) the “Millennium”, a Golden Age or era of Christian prosperity and dominance. It is different from premillennialism, but a little like amillennialism.
Most postmillennialists see the thousand years more as a figurative term for a long period of time (similar in that respect to amillennialism). It is usually understood to have already begun, which implies a less obvious and less dramatic kind of millennium than that typically envisioned by premillennialists.
Postmillennialism also teaches that the forces of Satan will gradually be defeated by the expansion of the Kingdom of God throughout history up until the second coming of Christ. It teaches that the millennium will come about from Christians either changing society from the top down (that is, through its political and legal institutions) or from the bottom up at the grass roots level (that is, through changing people’s hearts and minds).
AMILLENNIALISM (Replacement Theology): Amillennialism is a view of Christian end-times theology named for its rejection of the theory that Jesus Christ will have a thousand-year long, physical reign on the earth. This is in opposition to premillennial and some postmillennial views of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.
The amillennial view holds that the thousand years mentioned in Revelation 20 is a symbolic number, not a literal description; that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age, (or more rarely, that it ended with the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. The millennial reign of Christ as pictured in the book of Revelation is viewed now as Christ reigning at the right hand of the Father
Amillennialism holds that while Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent physical reign. Basically, this interpretation rejects any and all promises God made to the nation of Israel. The Church has now replaced Israel in the New Covenant, while Israel’s promises have been abolished.
One difference between amillennialism and postmillennialism is that amillennialism tends to believe society will, through growing rebellion, continue to deteriorate, while Postmillennialism believes the Church will influence the world producing greater righteousness.
As has been stated earlier, this point of doctrine, though vital in a full study of Biblical Theology, should never be a point of contention or break in fellowship. Always remember, there are godly Christians on different sides of this issue. We should all learn to respect the people and opinions of other members of the Body of Christ as we would want them to love and respect us.
If we think about it long enough, our own conscious tells us there “ought” to be some kind of judgment or punishment on the people who have done wrong things. And, we want the judgment and punishment to be fair, no one escaping because they didn’t get caught or because their influence kept them from judgment. There’s an inner idea that there should be some sort of justice that is right, fair and equitable (even if we want to excuse ourselves). The Bible in both Old and New Testaments speak of God’s judgment that will be all these things and more. In other words, the judgments will take place in order to show God’s righteousness in treating men as He treats them.
1. What was Solomon’s warning in Ecclesiastes 11:9?
2. What does Ecclesiastes 12:14 say about judgment on the things that can’t be seen?
3. How does Paul express this in Romans 2:15, 16?
4. What does Hebrews 10:27 say about judgment on those who don’t even care about God’s moral laws?
5. In Matthew 16:27, what does it say about judgment?
6. What did Paul declare in Acts 17:31?
Standing before God “every mouth will be stopped”. That’s not to say that every person will acknowledge that he / she will receive the fair reward for their deeds, but it is implied that no one will have any just cause for complaint and so will not make any complaint.
The various judgments
Judgment of Christians: This is a judgment already past. On the cross our sins were judged and the penalty was paid by Christ’s death.
7. Note the following verses: Briefly state the truths contained in these verses.
A. Isaiah 53:4-6
B. John 1:29
C. 2 Corinthians 5:21
D. Galatians 3:13
E. 1 Peter 2:24
F. 1 John 2:2
The point is that no believer will ever be judged for his / her sins (in the judgment that is future), since they have already been judged in the person of Christ (John 5:24).
However, there is still a judgment of believer’s works.
8. Look up the following verses and write down what you discover.
A. Romans 14:10
B. 2 Corinthians 5:10
C. 1 Corinthians 4:5
D. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
9. What does this say about our motives and intents with regard to service for the Lord?
Judgment of the Beast, the False Prophet and their armies:
9. What do you discover in Revelation 19:19-21?
10. What time frame brings about this judgment?
Judgment of Satan and his angels:
11. Read Revelation 20:9, 10. What is the judgment/punishment for Satan?
12. In all probability this will also be the time of judgment for the fallen angels. Read Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4. What is prepared for these beings?
13. What clear statement of judgment is written about in Matthew 25:41?
The judgment of the unsaved dead:
14. Read Revelation 20:11-15.
Who are judged?
By what standard?
Where is their punishment?
15. What did Jesus day in John 12:48?
ASK YOURSELF: A question can be asked, “Well, will anyone have a second chance with regard to their choice?”
Turn to Hebrews 9:27 and write your own conclusion…
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment…
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ARE YOU ONE OF THE “UNSAVED DEAD” THAT IS HOPING THAT YOUR GOOD DEEDS OUTWEIGH YOUR BAD DEEDS AND THAT YOU’VE BEEN “GOOD ENOUGH”?
Well, you are not alone. There was a time in my own life when I had the same hope.
For years, people- even my own mother and father- assured me that so long as I didn’t commit any “big” sins, God would let me into heaven. I know that their hearts might have been in the right place, but they were ALL lying to me!!!
I hope that, by this time in this study, you have figured out that PERFECT and FLAWLESS living, life never having sinned even ONCE is what is required to get into heaven!
I found out that God loved me so much that He did EVERYTHING to make it possible for EVERY sinner to have the SURE and CERTAIN hope of heaven. God made the Way. But, friend, it is the ONLY WAY and it requires that our fear of the Lord brings us to humble ourselves to Him and believe His Son Jesus! Then, you and I NO LONGER need to hope in our own goodness. No longer is our hope based upon whether or not we’re “good enough”.
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