PART 2: CHRISTIAN ESCHATOLOGY

NOTE: When referencing the Bible, I will be using the English Standard Version (ESV) unless otherwise indicated. I am in no way supported by, or affiliated with any of the sources, resources, or references used in this document/post.

When studying Christian eschatology, one might notice a large number of proposed interpretations for end times events. After studying eschatology for several years I've come to the conclusion that the most biblically consistent interpretation is the prewrath position.

Prewrath is a futurist position which belongs to the premillennial system of eschatology.

GENERAL ESCHATOLOGICAL POSITIONS

Futurism: The belief that many Bible prophecies will be fulfilled, in a literal sense, at some point in the future.

In contrast to futurism there are two other general positions on eschatology. These positions are preterism and historicism.

Preterism: The belief that most prophecies found in the Bible have already been fulfilled. For example, many preterists believe that the prophecy found in Daniel 11:31 was fulfilled when Antiochus Epiphanes invaded Jerusalem and desecrated the Temple in 168 BCE. However, over a century later, Jesus would speak of the same prophecy as having yet to be fulfilled (see Matthew 24:15). Preterists believe that most of the prophecies found in the New Testament were fulfilled during the first century CE. However, at no point between Jesus’ crucifixion and our current time frame has all life in the sea perished (see Revelation 16:3). At no point between Jesus’ crucifixion and our current time frame has a horde of supernatural beings, led by an angel, attacked humanity (see Joel 2:1-11 and Revelation 9:1-11). There are more examples but I will stop there.

Historicism: The belief that prophecies are symbolic and representative of historical events pertaining to church history. For example, some historicists believe that the great tribulation occurred in the Middle Ages.  However, Jesus said that the great tribulation would be an unprecedented time and that it would have to be cut short otherwise no human being would be saved (see Matthew 24:21-22). Historicists are correct in that some prophecies are symbolic. However, I believe that historicists have misinterpreted a large number of these prophecies. I also believe that they’ve applied symbolic interpretation to text that is supposed to be taken literally.

I firmly believe that futurism is the most biblical eschatological position and that the other two positions are erroneous.

GENERAL ESCHATOLOGICAL POSITIONS ON THE MILLENNIUM; SUB-CATEGORIES OF FUTURISM

Before discussing this sub-category, there is an important definition below.

The Millennial Reign of Christ: The belief that after Jesus Christ returns to defeat the antichrist and false prophet, Satan will be thrown into the “abyss” and Jesus will rule the world from Jerusalem for 1000 years (see Revelation 19:11 – Revelation 20:6 and Isaiah 9:6-7).

Premillennialism: The belief that Jesus Christ’s millennial reign on earth (see Revelation 20:1-6) will be a literal event that takes place in the future. Premillennialists believe that the millennial reign will begin shortly after Jesus’ arrival at the second coming.

In contrast to premillennialism there are two other general eschatological positions on the millennial reign. These positions are amillennialism and postmillennialism.

Amillennialism: The belief that the millennial reign is not a literal time frame or a physical kingdom on earth. Amillennialists interpret the millennium as a metaphorical time frame and a spiritual kingdom that commenced at Jesus’ first coming. They believe that the millennial reign is a current event and will continue until the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, in revelation 20 it is said that Satan will be bound in the abyss during the millennial reign (see Revelation 20:2-3). Amillennialists say that Satan is currently bound as a result of Christ’s work on the cross. 1 Peter 5:8, James 4:7, 1 John 5:19, Ephesians 6:11, and Ephesians 6:16 were all written after Jesus’ work on the cross. Additionally, Revelation 12 does not indicate that Satan is currently bound. Lastly, the eschatological events described in Revelation 19:11-21, which take place at Jesus’ second coming, are not isolated or disconnected from the events described in Revelation 20:1-6. There are no chapter breaks in the original manuscripts of Revelation and I believe that Revelation 20:1-6 directly follows Revelation 19:11-21 as a sequential, cohesive whole. For further information on the direct connection between Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:1-6 see Dr. Alan Kurschner’s content in the following link. Dr. Kurschner’s content was where I first learned about this connection.

https://www.alankurschner.com/2019/07/11/a-new-approach-to-the-millennial-debate-in-the-book-of-revelation-ep-139/ (A New Approach to the Millennial Debate in the Book of Revelation – Ep. 139)

Postmillennialism: The belief that Jesus Christ will return at the end of the millennial age described in Revelation 20:1-6. Postmillennialists believe that Christians, not Christ Himself, will establish the millennial age and that the second coming of Jesus Christ will occur only after this has been achieved. However, according to the Bible, the vast majority of the world will be opposed to Christianity at Jesus’ second coming (see Revelation 13-14). Paul warns that in the last days the world will be a very dark place (see 2 Timothy 3:1-4), not a millennial Christian kingdom.

In my experience, the most challenging question for premillennialism is the issue of animal sacrifice during the millennium. I believe I have the answer to this question and I will share it in the final section of this post. Overall, I believe the premillennial system of eschatology is by far the most harmonious in comparison to the other systems. I firmly believe that the other systems are not biblical (especially postmillennialism).

GENERAL ESCHATOLOGICAL POSITIONS ON THE RAPTURE; SUB-CATEGORIES OF PREMILLENNIALISM

Before discussing this sub-category, there are some important definitions below.

The Rapture: The rapture is an event described in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18, Matthew 24:30-31, and several other passages. At some point near the end of the age Christians, both dead and alive, will be gathered to Christ in the heavens.

7 Year Period: In Daniel 9:24-27, 70 prophetic weeks are decreed. Premillennialists believe that 1 prophetic day is equal to 1 ancient calendar year (360 days). This conclusion is based on several passages such as Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6. It is believed that of the 70 prophetic weeks, 69 have been fulfilled and they were fulfilled consecutively. Premillennialists believe that the 69th week was marked by the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 CE (see Daniel 9:26). After the conclusion of the 69th week, it is believed that the final week is on hold until the closing phase of the current age commences. It is believed that the man described in Daniel 9:27 is the antichrist and that the final week of Daniel will feature the eschatological period discussed in various passages throughout the New Testament (e.g., Matthew 24:9-25). Thus, the final week of Daniel is believed to be a 7 year period with each year consisting of 360 days. It is believed that this period will occur near the very end of this current age and that it will feature the antichrist.

The Great Tribulation: The Great Tribulation is a time frame within the 7 year period when the antichrist unleashes a severe, unparalleled persecution against Christians and Jews.

Day of the Lord: The day of the Lord is a time frame when God’s wrath will be poured out on the earth (see Isaiah 13:9-11, Zephaniah 1:14-18, 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, 2 Peter 3:3-10. There are many more passages which discuss the day of the Lord). The day of the Lord commences at some point during the 7 year period.

Prewrath Rapture: The belief that the rapture will take place at some unknown point during the 7 year period after the antichrist has been revealed but prior to God’s wrath (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4, Romans 5:9, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). In other words, those who hold to the prewrath position believe that the rapture will occur at some unknown point during the second half of the 7 year period (see Matthew 24:21-22). According to the Bible, the exact day and hour of the rapture is unknown (see Matthew 24:36), however, it will be possible to know when the rapture is drawing near (see Matthew 24:32-33 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4). Prewrath teaches that Christians will be evacuated from the earth before God’s wrath commences on the day of the Lord.

In contrast to the prewrath position, there are two other primary positions on the timing of the rapture. These are the pretribulation and posttribulation rapture positions.

Pretribulation Rapture: The belief that the rapture will take place at some point before the 7 year period. I disagree with this view because 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 and Revelation 13:5-7 both describe Christians being present on earth during the 7 year period. According to 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, ALL Christians, both dead and alive, will be gathered to Jesus at the rapture.

Posttribulation Rapture: The belief that the rapture will take place at the end of the 7 year period and that the day of the Lord is a literal 24 hour day which will also occur at the end of the 7 year period (after the rapture). I disagree with this view because Revelation 9:5 describes a period of time, during the day of the Lord, which lasts 5 months. Also, the Bible indicates that the day of the Lord will come as a surprise to those who are not Christian (see Matthew 24:37-41, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, Matthew 24:29-31, Revelation 6:12-17, and 1 Thessalonians 5:2-4). Given the severity of the judgements which follow Jesus’ arrival in Revelation 6:12-17, I don’t see how a thief-like entrance can be applied to the end of the 7 year period. It seems that people are already aware of Jesus’ arrival before the battle of Armageddon (which commences at the end of the 7 year period). Notice how in Revelation 16:10-11 people are aware that God is actively judging them.

Many posttribulationists also believe that the seals (see Revelation 6-8), trumpets (see Revelation 8-11), and bowls (see Revelation 16) are the same events being described from different points of view. However, on closer inspection, it is quite clear that the events are distinct from one another. For example, in Revelation 8:8-9 the trumpet judgement kills a third of the creatures in the sea. In Revelation 16:3, the bowl judgement kills everything in the sea. The judgements are progressively getting worse. It is said that the recapitulation concept—the idea that the seals, trumpets, and bowls are the same events from different angles—wasn’t introduced until the late third century by a man named Victorinus. Also, when observing the correlation between the book of Joshua and the book of Revelation, there seems to be support for the progression model of prewrath.

- Jericho campaign led by Joshua: Day of the lord led by Jesus. The name “Jesus” is the Greek form of the name “Joshua”.

- 2 servants are sent into Jericho (Josh. 2:1): 2 witnesses are sent into the world (Rev. 11:3-4).

- 7 priests with 7 trumpets (Josh. 6:8): 7 angels with 7 trumpets (Rev. 8:6).

- A silence preceding the shout (Josh. 6:10-16): A silence preceding the trumpets (Rev. 8:1-5).

- 7’s unfolding into 7’s (Josh. 6:14-16): 7’s unfolding into 7’s (Rev. 8:1-6, Rev. 11:15, – I believe Rev. 12-14 is an interlude – Rev. 15:1, Rev. 16:17-19).

- Gentiles—Rahab and family—are saved from destruction (Josh. 6:17): Gentiles are saved from destruction (Rom. 9:22-26, 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Matt. 24:29-31) (Rev. 6:12-17).

- Joshua settles Israel into the Promised Land: Jesus settles Israel/Christians into the Millennial Kingdom (Zech.12:10, Rev. 20:4).

Considering the septet pattern in Joshua (7’s unfolding into 7’s) as well as everything else mentioned above, I believe that the seals, trumpets, and bowls unfold progressively with an interlude occurring at Revelation 12-14. I believe that the 7th seal commences the 7 trumpets, and that the 7th trumpet commences the 7 bowls. Notice what is said in Revelation 15:1 and Revelation 16:17.

“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.” (Revelation 15:1, ESV)

“The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’” (Revelation 16:17, ESV)

Finally, I do not believe the “last trumpet” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:52 is referring to the 7th trumpet in Revelation 11:15 (many posttribulationists do). When Paul mentioned the last trumpet in 1 Corinthians, John had not yet received the Revelation (the book of Revelation did not exist yet). Thus, I doubt Paul’s immediate audience would have known what he was talking about unless there was a reference point in the Old Testament. In Numbers 10:1-10 silver trumpets are mentioned. These trumpets and their role in ancient Jewish society would have been known to an ancient audience. In Joel 2:1, a Numbers 10 trumpet call is referenced in an eschatological context. The context is connected to the day of the Lord. When Paul says “the last trumpet” in 1 Corinthians 15:52, I believe he means that it is the final use of the Numbers 10 trumpet system in this current age. Given what’s said in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, it seems that Jesus is the one who blows the final trumpet. I do not believe Paul is referring to the 7th trumpet of revelation, which is blown by an angel.

For those interested in an introduction to prewrath, or, Christian eschatology in general, I would recommend Dr. Alan Kurschner’s book “Antichrist Before the Day of the Lord: What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Return of Christ.” I think this book is full of biblically sound interpretation, however, there are some areas I disagree with or would approach differently. For example:

- I disagree with some of the speculation concerning the seals/trumpets (e.g., p. 63).

- I disagree with the proposed timing of New Jerusalem’s descent (pp. 84-85). Unless I’m mistaken, Dr. Kurschner implies that the New Jerusalem will descend from heaven near the beginning of the millennium. I believe the Bible says that it will descend at some point after the millennium. Revelation 21:1-4 describes the descent of New Jerusalem in conjunction with several decrees. One of these decrees is the end of death itself (see Revelation 21:4). It is said that Satan will be released at the end of the millennium (see Revelation 20:7). The people that Satan assembles are destroyed (see Revelation 20:9). Therefore, death is still a reality up until the end of the millennium. This is just one of the reasons I believe the biblical timeline for New Jerusalem's descent is at the end of the millennium.

- I believe 1 Enoch contradicts the Bible in several areas, therefore, I would not use it to support a theological view.

- I believe the Didache contradicts the Bible in several areas and I believe The Shepherd of Hermas is fiction. Thus, I would not use them as reference points.

- I believe that a number of the “early Christian writings” not included in the canon of Scripture were altered and are dubious. There are very few (in comparison to the whole) that I would use as a reference.

- I believe Tertullian was a heretic and I would not use him as a reference.

In my opinion, when it comes to eschatological framework, Alan Kurschner and Charles Cooper have the most biblically consistent presentations online (that I know of). People looking for more information about Christian eschatology may want to check them out. I will mention that I have not viewed all their material—I can only vouch for the content that I’ve seen so far (eschatological content).

IS PREMILLENNIALISM COMPATIBLE WITH THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS?

Like I said before, I believe the most challenging question for premillennialism is the issue of animal sacrifice. Does animal sacrifice during the millennium contradict the letter to the Hebrews?

First and foremost, we need to address a very common misconception.

It is assumed by many that the Temple described in Ezekiel 40-46 and the Temple described in Ezekiel 47 are one and the same. If this were true, then the Temple described in Ezekiel 47 would be the site of Old Covenant Levitical sacrifices (see Ezekiel 45:22). This would contradict several statements in Hebrews (e.g., Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:14, Hebrews 10:18) because the Temple in Ezekiel 47 is a yet to be realized structure. From a Christian point of view, the Temple described in Ezekiel 47 will exist as a structure during the millennial reign of Christ. This means that it cannot house ordinances which contradict the letter to the Hebrews.

What most people miss—including myself until it was pointed out to me—is that a prophetic transition occurs at Ezekiel 47:1.

“Then he brought me back to the door of the temple....” (Ezekiel 47:1, ESV)

Prophetic transitions occur throughout the Bible and I will use Isaiah 7-9 as an example. There is a near-future fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14-16, however, the prophecy also predicts the coming of the Messiah in the distant-future. Isaiah 9 is connected to Isaiah 7-8, however, Isaiah 9 prophetically transitions from the typology used in the previous chapters to distinct, particular identification in verses like Isaiah 9:6.

I believe that Ezekiel 40-46 is describing a near-future Second Temple which typifies a distant-future millennial Temple. As I said before, I believe that a prophetic transition occurs at Ezekiel 47:1 and that the Temple being described in Ezekiel 47 is a distinct, future millennial Temple.

Notice that there’s water flowing from both the Temple in Ezekiel 47 and the eschatological Temple in Joel 3:18. In both cases, the water flows into the same area which, in my opinion, suggests that the Temple described in Ezekiel 47 is the same Temple described in Joel 3:18.

“And he said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen this?' Then he led me back to the bank of the river. As I went back, I saw on the bank of the river very many trees on the one side and on the other. And he said to me, 'This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah, and enters the sea; when the water flows into the sea, the water will become fresh.” (Ezekiel 47:6-8, ESV)

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-arabah  (Arabah Location)

https://naturalishistoria.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/dead-sea-rift-valley-diagram.jpg  (Jordan River Valley)

“'And in that day the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the streambeds of Judah shall flow with water; and a fountain shall come forth from the house of the LORD and water the Valley of Shittim.” (Joel 3:18, ESV)

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13593-shittim  (Valley of Shittim Location)

One might argue that the measurements in Ezekiel 42:15-19 indicate mile long walls. If that were true, then the Temple in Ezekiel 40-46 has not been built yet because there has never been a Jewish Temple with mile long walls. However, I checked the measurements of Ezekiel 42:15-19 in A New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS). I noticed that the Septuagint renders the measurement in Ezekiel 42:17 as five hundred cubits. With that said, I believe the Temple described in Ezekiel 40-46 is much smaller than what many people suppose. I think these people may have misunderstood the Masoretic rendering of the measurements provided in Ezekiel 42:15-19. Like I said before, I believe that the Temple described in Ezekiel 40-46 is the Second Temple.

With a correct understanding of Ezekiel 40-47, Ezekiel 40-46 is removed from the eschatological framework of premillennialism. The remaining passages that describe animal sacrifice during the millennium contain neither sin offerings (chattah) nor guilt offerings (asham).

The eschatological passages I’m referring to are the following.

In the above verses, the following sacrificial terms are used or implied.

Of the remaining sacrificial terms mentioned, none of them are bound to expiatory roles. Take the olah (burnt offering) for example. The following is a quote from Jacob Milgrom.

“The burnt offering then is a gift, with any number of goals in mind, one of which—the one singled out in this chapter—is expiation.” – Milgrom, Jacob. Leviticus 1-16: a new translation with introduction and commentary. Yale University Press, 2009, p. 176.

It seems that, according to Milgrom, the burnt offering can vary in its purpose. If I understand correctly, the burnt offering does not have to be a sin offering (I believe Leviticus 22:18-19 attests to this). It can be carried out strictly as a devotional function. I believe the same can be said for zebach, 'ishshah, and minchah. The nesek is a drink offering which can accompany an expiatory sacrifice, however, the nesek is not an expiatory sacrifice in and of itself. Lastly, the nedabah is a free-will offering and it is not expiatory.

I believe that the context of animal sacrifice in the letter to the Hebrews is Mosaic Law and expiation (e.g., Hebrews 7:18-19, Hebrews 8:4, Hebrews 10:8, etc.). Sacrifices during the millennium will not be expiatory nor will they feature as elements of Mosaic Law. Thus, I do not believe there is any contradiction between premillennial eschatology and the letter to the Hebrews.

NOTE: Above I mentioned my use of the Septuagint. I believe the Septuagint is the best source for Old Testament Scripture, however, I do not believe the apocrypha is part of the biblical canon. I believe that originally, the apocryphal writings were bound together with the canonical Scriptures for convenience’s sake. I think that over time people started mistaking the apocrypha for canon because of its close physical proximity to the canonical Scriptures. Like I said in the last post, I will be sharing my studies on textual criticism at some point in the future.

This concludes my post on Christian Eschatology. For PART 3: DARWINIAN THEORY, click here.