“Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters,…” - 2Th 2:1
There are three major doctrines that stand out as universally affirmed by all Christians for two millennia:
1. Jesus Christ will return to the earth. Sometimes called the "Parousia".
2. When Christ returns He will establish or completely manifest the rule and reign of God - the Kingdom of God - that is already at work within history.
3. In the end God will create a new heaven and new earth that will endure forever.
Once you start getting into details and specifics, you’ll start to find as many different beliefs regarding Christ’s Return as there are Christians. But there are some general groups that have formed around Christian Eschatology(1). For example:
There are four main schools of thought concerning the timing of events and how the events will be fulfilled:
The next major issue involves the nature and timing of the Millennium. The Millennium is a period of one thousand years when Satan is bound and Christ reigns (Rev 20:1-6). Christ’s rule brings unprecedented peace and justice to the earth. The key questions concerning the Millennium include, ‘Are the one thousand years literal or figurative?’; ‘Is the Millennium present or future?’
The following are the three main positions on the Millennium:
Finally, the Rapture will happen in a moment; Jesus will return, collect all living believers from earth, and transport them alive to heaven. The timing of the Rapture is usually described in relation to the Tribulation. In other words, ‘Will the Rapture happen before, during, or after the Tribulation?’
There are three views of the timing of the Rapture:
There are many who don’t think there will be a Rapture at all.
Preterists are amillennial or postmillennial and equate the Rapture with the Second Coming, if they even hold to the idea of a Rapture at all.
Historicists can hold to any of the three views of the Millennium and are post-Trib.
Idealists are amillennial or postmillennial and are post-Trib.
Futurists are predominantly premillennial but can hold to any of the three views of the Rapture.
Today we are just presenting these views as existing. There are many books dealing with this subject and they are all worth taking a look at. We will take a more detailed look at these views in a later Theology Thursday. If you have your own view, we’d love to hear about it. What to you think about the Rapture? Do you think it’s gonna happen? What about the Millennium Reign of Christ? Is that future or is that now? Let us know!
1) The word “eschatology” is derived from the greek eschatos = “last”; hence, “the doctrine of last things”. A better fitting definition is, “the direction and goal of God’s active covenant faithfulness in and for His created order.”
Olson, Roger. The Mosaic of Christian Belief: Twenty Centuries of Unity and Diversity 2nd Ed. (Pg. 366). IVP Academic.
Brower, K.E.. Eschatology. New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (p. 459-464). Inter-Varsity Press.
Hitchcock, Mark. The End: Everything You’ll Want to Know About the Apocalypse (Pg. 37-45). Tyndale Momentum