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The End Times

When it comes to the "End Times", evangelicals fall into three separate camps–premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. These terms describe when the "Second Coming" will take place.

Revelation reads: "Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years and threw it into the abyss, which he locked over it and sealed, so that it could no longer lead the nations astray until the thousand years are completed. After this, it is to be released for a short time . . . When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison. He will go out to deceive the nations at the four corners of the earth" (Rev. 20:1-3, 7-8). This thousand year period is the reign of Christ (v. 4), what evangelicals call the "Millennium", or "millennial reign of Christ". According to evangelicals, this millennium signals the end of the world.

According to postmillennialism, Christ's kingdom is presently being furthered on Earth. Eventually, the world will be won to Christ, a period of peace will follow, and Christ will return. This period of peace is not understood to be literally 1000 years, but is symbolic of a long period of time (See Psalms 50:10, which says God owns the cattle "on a thousand hills"). However, a universal Christianization is contradicted by the Scriptures. According to the parable of the wheat and the weeds: "The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth" (Matt. 13:36-43), the righteous and the wicked will continue to live side by side, right up until the end of the world.

Premillennialists believe, as the postmillennialists do, that the thousand year reign is a period of time when the world will be totally Christianized, and therefore, experience a time of peace. However, they believe the Second Coming of Christ will precede this millennial reign, so that Christ's reign will be an earthly one, where Jesus is actually present on the earth. The thousand year period is by many interpreted literally, so Christ will reign for exactly 1000 years. Only then will the Final Judgment take place. However, the Bible states that the Second Coming will coincide with the Final Judgment, and that they will not come separately after a period of time: "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left . . . And these [the goats] will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life" (Matt. 25:31-33, 46).

Amillennialism holds that the "millennium" is the present reign of Christ in heaven, and through His church on earth, that begun in the first century, and continues to this day. The millennium is once again interpreted symbolically, and amillennialists hold that the righteous and the wicked will co-exist until the end of time. Amillennialists hold that Satan is bound by chains because he is not able to stop the preaching of the gospel (despite the fact that he still goes after souls–1 Pet. 5:8). After preaching the gospel, the disciples returned to Jesus, who told them "I saw Satan fall like lightning" (Luke 10:18). Those who reign "with Christ for a thousand years" have their thrones fixed in heaven (Rev. 4:4, 11:16), and indeed, this appears to be a heavenly reign (Rev. 20:4). The fact that one-third of the world is Christian, combined with the fact that many have renounced paganism and idolatry lend credence to the idea that Christ currently reigns. This is the view that was held by the Church Fathers, and by the Catholic Church today.

Jehovah's Witnesses, and many evangelicals, believe that we are living in the last days: "Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be of your coming, and of the end of the age? . . . You will hear of wars and reports of wars . . . Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes . . . Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24: 3, 6-7, 11-12); "There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky" (Luke 21:11); "In the last days [p]eople will be . . . lovers of money . . . disobedient to their parents . . . lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power" (2 Tim. 3:2-5). Now, it becomes clear when reading these passages that these prophecies could apply to any age since the beginning of time, and beginning with Marcion the Gnostic heretic in the second century, groups and sects in every era and in every generation in Christian history has applied these prophecies to their time. But Jesus says: "But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In (those) days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be (also) at the coming of the Son of Man . . . So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come" (Matt. 24:36-39, 44). Will some Christians be able to discern the "beginning of the labor pains" (v. 8), the signs of the end? Yes, but the people today are just as likely to be wrong as the previous 100 generations in the Christian era. They could be right, or they could be wrong. It is wise to follow Peter's advise in this regard: "But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out. Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought (you) to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved in flames and the elements melted by fire. But according to his promise we await new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you await these things, be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace" (2 Pet. 3:8-14).

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