In following doctrinal statement concerning eschatology I will define certain terms and views and lay out what I personal believe on the specific topic. The doctrines that will be covered in this paper are as follows: the nature of death, value and challenge of prophecy, rapture, Bema seat, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Biblical covenants, the Tribulation, Millennial Kingdom views/systems, the nature of the Millennial Kingdom, resurrection and judgments, and eternal state being Heaven or Hell. Because of the purpose of this paper, I will only briefly go over each of these views. For a more thorough study of these topics, I refer the reader to systematic theology books by writers such as: Wayne Grudem, Robert L. Reymond, or Millard Erikson.
The nature of death has numerous meanings and understandings in scripture, most often it is understood in some way to separation, such as, separation from freedom or God. In the Bible, Adam is told that the day he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil he would surely die. This was not an empty threat. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they spiritually died, as well as, began the process of physically dieing. It should also be understood that death is the antithesis of life. Life is associated with God’s goodness, favor, blessings, or presence. So death would be the absence of all these things. The imagery of God hiding His face is often used in this way as well. The lake of fire is also referred to as the “2nd death”.This is for numerous reasons, but, it should be understood that the Lake of fire is the complete removal of God’s goodness being given. Sorrow, loneliness, fear, pain, anguish, and suffering are all the results of an absence of God’s goodness being given or sometimes realized. Death has touched every man because all died in Adam. This effect is both corporate and individual. Everyone tastes death, and experiences aspects of it in life. Those who are saved have been delivered from the second death and no longer are subject to it. The believer, although his body is decaying, is alive, and is waiting with great hope of a new body, that is, imperishable. Death is the last enemy to be put in subjection under Jesus’ feet. I Corinthians 15 explains that Jesus will destroy death finally at His return.
The challenge in prophecy, has become abundantly clear to anyone who has done much reading on the topic. There is a large amount of disagreement on the timing and order of events with Evangelicalism. Anyone who picks up the book of Revelation will also see it to be a great challenge. One of the main reasons for prophecy being such a great challenge is due to its weaving of so much of Scripture together. For one to understand prophecy, one needs to have a good foundation in the rest of Scriptures. Prophecy can rarely be understood in itself alone. That is because the nature of prophetic books in the Bible is to link imagery, ideas, and concepts from the rest of the Bible and show its future and fulfillments. Much of the prophecy in the Old Testament is pointing to a need of a Messiah or what He will be like or what He will do. Because it is often not the purpose of the author to draw out a timeline of events for the reader but rather give hope, we find that it is often difficult to harmonize and organize the order of all the events prophesied. But the value of prophecy in Scripture is endless. One value is prophecies in the Bible; authenticate itself, to be what it claims to be, Words of God. Another value to prophecy is more of a practical one to the saints. Paul, in the New Testament, often uses prophecy to encourage the suffering saints. He often uses it to give them hope in a future. The book of Revelation was written to the seven churches, to grant hope in a secure victory and future fulfillment of promises. Prophecy is also used to prepare the people for certain events that are to take place. Prophecy has many other purposes but these three are the most prominent uses of how prophecy is used in the Bible.
The rapture has become quite a debatable topic in the last thirty years. This is because the number of different views concerning the topic. Within Evangelicalism there are four major views concerning the rapture. Those views are as follows: Pre-tribulationalism, Mid-tribulationalism, Pre-Wrath, and Post-tribulationalism. The two most popular views held are most likely Pre- and Post-tribulationalism. Historically, Post-tribulationalism was the only view held up until the mid-19th century . Pre-tribulationalism formed from the dispensational system. Pre-tribulationalism became popularized mostly by Scofield’s Study Bible. It became so popular that it, seemingly, was the only view held by Evangelicals. In the last twenty years, Post-tribulationalism has become again a respected view by Evangelicals. All the differ on the timing of the rapture of the church. They can be understood by their prefixes. Pre-tribulationalism means that Christ comes for the church before the Tribulation. Mid-tribulationalism says that Christ comes for the church midway through the Tribulation. Pre-wrath believes that Christ comes for His church just prior to Him pouring out His wrath, which they believe to be about ¾ through the Tribulation (the emphasis not so much on how far into the tribulation as much as it is being prior to God pouring out His wrath on the earth). Post-tribulationalism teaches that Christ comes for His church after or at the end of the Tribulation. It is important to point out that all views agree, unanimously that Christ will come at the end of the Tribulation. However, the argument is over whether He will come prior to that coming for the church. I take the post-tribulational viewpoint for numerous reasons. Perhaps the most compelling reason, for me, is that Scripture only explicitly speaks of the timing of Christ coming as being directly after the Tribulation. All other views, see another coming prior to this one because of a system or because of other logical deductive reasons. I find none of these reasons compelling enough for me to have another coming of Christ. I see enough harmony and repetition of all the passages dealing with the coming of the LORD to see them as the same one. Some of the reasons the other camps will argue for a separate coming are as follows: there are differences on the passages dealing with Christ second coming to be two distinct events, God has promised not to pour out His wrath on the church, God pours out His wrath on the earth during the tribulation; therefore, the church cannot be there, and the tribulation is for Israel so the church cannot be there or has no need to be there. The purpose of the tribulation is two-fold, it is the “trying of Jacob” and it is the judgments of God on the earth for peoples rebellion. During the tribulation, many will suffer and die from great catastrophes and wars. The participants who are present during the tribulation is different depending on the view on the timing of the rapture. All views hold that God will abstain and protect His people from His wrath. The pre-tribulational view sees in no way the church being a participant in the tribulation. The mid-tribulational and pre-wrath view sees the church being present up until the point God begins to pour out His wrath which is somewhere between the mid and the end of the tribulation. The post-tribulational view sees both the Church, Israel, and earth dwellers all being present during the whole tribulation. All views would see Israel and earth dwellers being present on the earth during the tribulation. All views would also hold that there will be gentile believers on the earth during this time as well.
The Bema seat is the doctrine of a judgment that is unique only to the church saints. It is not a judgment of where the individual is going for eternity, but rather, how the saint will be rewarded for his faithfulness on the earth. This is a relatively new doctrine. It came as a result of a Dispensational, Pre-tribulational view that because the church is completely distinct from the nation of Israel, they will have a completely different judgment immediately following the rapture which will take place before the Tribulation (it should be noted, however, that this view is held also by Mid-tribulationalist, as well as, those who hold to a Pre-wrath view, the only difference being the timing of the rapture, which will alter the timing of the judgment to some degree).This doctrine is found in Corinthians where Paul speaks to the Corinthians, telling them that they will one day stand before the Lord and have the works judged. The word Bema comes from the Greek, where Paul uses one of the Greek words for judgment. I feel as though, too much is built on so little when pertaining to this doctrine. Paul does not make such strong distinction of this judgment for the saints as those who hold to a separate Bema seat judgment would hold to.
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb is found in Revelations 19. It should be understood as a celebration between the Bride of Christ and Christ. Whether there will be physical food there or that this is just imagery pointing to a celebration is unsure. There is no reason to not take it literal, as being a great feast. Indeed, the saints will be capable of eating in their resurrected bodies. The Dispensational view sees this taking place in heaven during the Tribulation and after the Bema seat judgment. Not much more can be said about this feast.
One of the major reasons for the disagreements on how one should organize the events of the future had to do with the understanding of the Biblical covenants. The covenants being debated over are: Abrahamic Covenant, Davidic Covenant, and in some ways the New Covenant. The Dispensationalist sees the fulfillment of these covenants being in the Millennial Kingdom to the ethnic nation of Israel. These covenants promise: land, a reigning king on the throne of David, rest, and blessings forever. Many debate over whether the covenants have been fulfilled spiritually in the Church or some say they were taken away because of Israel’s unbelief. Both these takings do not do the covenants justice to what they promise or who they are made too. It is important to understand that these covenants were made “unconditionally”. That means that nothing was required on the part of the recipient of the party in the covenant for it to be fulfilled. God has promised that He will do this, no matter what. The covenants cannot be transferred to another party nor can they be changed (i.e. spiritual only fulfillment).I hold to a expansive view, in that, just like in the Old Testament, God considered people like Rehab or the Egyptians that followed Israel out of captivity and followed the God of Israel were considered a part of the nation of Israel. The time that we are in is strange for the original branches have been broken off and hardened and yet a larger group of foreign branches are being grafted in. God is still going to give the nation of Israel its promises; however, God has used Israel as a vehicle to bless all the nations,and so, many will be brought into these covenants as they follow the God of Israel. It is also important that any who hold that the Millennial Kingdom will be the fulfillment of all the Biblical Covenants cut the promises short as well. This is because the promises were made to be given “forever”. As a literalist, in a good way, a thousand years does not fulfill the promise of forever! I see the fulfillment of these covenants being fulfilled in the both physical and spiritual “New Heavens” and “New Earth”.
There are many differing views concerning the Millennial Kingdom. The word millennial comes from Revelation 20 where we are told Christ will reign for a “thousand” years. Although, this is not the only passage speaking of a reign of Christ, it is the only one that speaks of Him reigning for a thousand years. This does not mean that if there was no Revelation 20 there would be no Pre-millennialist. There are three major views on this topic of the Millennial Kingdom, they are as follows: Premillenialism, Postmillenialism, and Amillenialism. Again, one can understand these views by just looking at the prefixes on the words. Again this is dealing with the time of Christ coming in relation to the Millennial Kingdom. The premillenialist says that Christ second coming, comes before the Kingdom. The post- and Amillienialist see Christ second coming, taking place at the end of the Millennial Kingdom. Dispensationalists are Premillenialist but this does not mean all Premillenialist are Dispensationalist. This is because even within Premillenialism there is varying degrees of understanding of the purpose for being. The premillenialist sees the Kingdom as in the future in which Jesus Christ will physically reign on the throne of David on the earth in Jerusalem for a thousand years. In this time, there will be long life, peace, prosperity, removal of much of the curse from a result of the fall. Much of its conditions will be likened to the time of Adam and Eve in Eden. However, there will be sin and death in this period. As well as, a rebellion at the end of the age, in which, Satan will rise up an army as many as the sand on the shore against the gates of Jesus’ kingdom. Jesus will send down fire and judge them and this will close the end of this Kingdom. The Amillienialist and Postmillennialist see this kingdom being now in a more spiritual sense. They will use the parables often to show that the Kingdom of God is a growing process. The Postmillennialist would differ with the Amillienialist in that they would see a golden age at the ends of this kingdom, because of a result in the spreading of the gospel to all the nations. I would take a modified Amillennial view. It seems that Scripture consisting speak of the order that when Christ returns it is judgment and eternal state. This fits with the parables of Jesus, as well as, Jesus’ descriptions of what His kingdom is like. It also, to me, has the least amount of problems in it with harmonizing all of Scripture. This being said, I am wavering on this topic and am not firmly standing in this position or any for the reason that no view seems to be without it’s holes.
The resurrection ties itself with a lot of other doctrines when dealing with eschatology. In a dispensational mind-set there are three major resurrections. They are as follows: rapture of the church, those as His second coming, and those who have died during the Millennial Kingdom. In a not Dispensational, Premillennial view there are two and they are as follows: those at Jesus second coming, those who die during the Millennial Kingdom. In the A- and Postmillennial view there is one general resurrection. That is those at His coming. It should also be understood that there are two types of resurrection, a resurrection of life and a resurrection to judgment. The resurrection to life is for the just or God’s children and the resurrection to judgment or death is for the unjust of children of wrath. We find this in John 5 as well as Revelation 20. Interesting enough the same writer for both of these passages. For the saints the resurrection is a glorious hope in which sanctification will be completed and what is known as “glorification” will take place. The bodies given are given a long list of blessings found in I Corinthians 15. We are not told what type of bodies those who are raise to judgment receive. Perhaps they are not different than the ones they died in. This would, indeed, be a judgment in itself.
The other judgment found in Scripture is the Great White Throne Judgment, which is found in Revelation 20. In this passage the books are opened and God sends all the raised to their eternal state and judges them according to their deeds. The sheep will enter into His eternal Kingdom. The goats will enter into eternal judgment in the Lake of Fire. It should be understood that both of these judgments are eternal. One who has sinned against an infinite God will take forever to pay his debt to God. The righteous will enjoy in the blessings of God and His Kingdom forever because there righteousness is also infinite.
The Eternal state should be understood as a place of both physical and spiritual aspects, thus the need for a resurrection for both parties. Those raised to a second death are in a place completely separated from God’s face or goodness forever. This is a place of utter torment. It is where God pours out His wrath on the ungodly. This is a sobering truth that needs to be understood for both peoples, the saved and unsaved. Heaven will also be a real physical and spiritual place of utter ecstasy. Here the saint will see and taste the richness of God and His goodness forever and ever. Here it is said of God, “I will be your God, you will be my people, and I will dwell among you.” This is indeed a complete restoration of what was lost in the original fall of man, but also greater than the original creation in many respects. The bond and relationship between God and man is greater. Here, God has become incarnate so as to be fully manifested to His people. Here is no a promise or never failing or falling of man again. There are other ways in which the New Heavens and New Earth will be greater than the first, but this does not fall into the purpose or topics of this paper.
In closing, I have covered all the doctrine I listed in the first paragraph. I have also given a brief summary on where I stand pertaining to these doctrines. I hope this will be suffice for the requirements of this paper and will be pleasing not only in the sight of Dr. Zuber, but more so in the sight of God. For whom, I have done this paper.
-Solo De Gloria