I am offering the following definitions, which readers may wish to skip, but in line with my policy of explaining terms people may mis or not understand, I am doing so for just that reason. All my terms are first hit responses to Google searches and represent to a large extent my understanding as far as this article is concerned. One caveat is what follows is less a theological exposition and more an approach I have adopted on a subject that is very important, especially in the light of world events and what the Bible teaches, and recognising there are different views held among Christians.
Replacement theology, asserts that the New Covenant through Jesus Christ supersedes the Old Covenant, (and this is often couched in terms such as the Church has effectively replaced Israel as God’s special people and Old Testament prophecies of future promises to Israel are for the Church who has replaced it). Other theologies that offer an alternative view, in particular there remains a special place for the Jewish people and Israel include covenant and dispensational theology (see here) and Zionism.
Eschatology, is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the “end of the world” or “end times”.
Premillennialism, in Christian eschatology, is the belief that Jesus will physically return to the Earth before the Millennium, a literal thousand-year golden age of peace
Amillennialism, in Christian eschatology, affirms the millennial reign of Christ began after his ascension and will continue until Christ’s return. …
Postmillennialism, is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ’s second coming as occurring after the “Millennium”, a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper.
The Rapture, is an eschatological concept within Christianity, particularly within branches of American evangelicalism, consisting of an end-time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with resurrected believers, will rise “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”
The Great Tribulation, is a period mentioned by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse as a sign that would occur in the time of the end. At Revelation 7:14, “the Great Tribulation” is used to indicate the period spoken of by Jesus. Many / some Christians believe this will take place after the Rapture of the Church.
As some of my readers know, I have spent a good part of my adult life associated with a Christian group referred to as the Plymouth Brethren. I remember some years ago reading a book on church history by the highly respected academic, David Bebbington, where he referred to the PBs as an “Adventist sect” and by that he saw their major pre-occupation as the coming again of the Messiah (Jesus) to planet earth and events surrounding this Second Coming. While this is not a caricature I would endorse, I have seen enough evidence to support, at least in part, this view. It seemed to me, as a younger Christian, that this was a subject that particularly fascinated once very active old men, who knew their Bibles well and still retained that expectancy and hope for God to call home His own, put to right what was wrong with the world, and wrap up world events, which human endeavour had dismally failed to do.
I reckon that these days I fall into this category, but hopefully recognise the limitations of being over obsessed with matters eschatological. For example, as I studied the thoughts of my PB forefathers, they clearly got some of it wrong. At a time when pre-millennialism was popular in the early 1800’s, some identified Napoleon as the Anti-Christ. When I was a young Christian, I can attribute my early euro-scepticism to being taught the then Common Market would be in cahoots with the Anti-Christ. Right now there is debate as to whether Pope Francis is the False Prophet foretold in Revelation. While dispensational pre-millennialism was not the universally adopted view among PBs, who gave such matters any thought, it was the view that predominated. It is also the reason why many among their number were pro Israel, believing many of the unfulfilled prophecies, especially in the Old Testament, were to a significant extent connected to the Jews returning to the Promised Land, and a golden age for the nation of Israel under its Messiah.
Putting aside the notion I now come under the old man banner with nothing better to do than pontificate over unfulfilled prophecy, which depending on one’s eschatology beliefs occupies a sizeable part of the Bible, I can give a number of reasons why this subject as particularly fascinated me in this later stage of my life. As I have said several times, I do not see myself as a prophet or anything like that, as much because that is not how Christians I respect regard me, but do see myself as a watchmen on the wall, whose job was to warn, and why I spend time trawling through reports in mainstream, alternative and social media of what is going on in the world, and I think I can usefully comment of this I will write about it. While I recognise some / many respected and learned Christians may see things differently, I believe it is right to do in the light of scripture, including the prophetic, and relate this to world events, which few would disagree are unravelling at an alarming rate and impact.
One of my big projects for 2020 is to write a book I propose to title: “The Prophets of the Bible”, based on my ongoing and challenging examination of the prophetic scriptures, within the context of the rest of the Bible and historical fulfilment. I do so mindful this is a huge subject and one where even sound Bible scholars that share my views regarding the “essentials” see things often very differently. I recognise there is much to be revealed and no doubt many surprises humanly speaking. This is not the place to offer well argued conclusions (which I may share in my forthcoming book) but I can share some of my work in progress thoughts:
- There is a place for a restored Israel in God’s plans. They are still beloved of God, who will fulfil literally the covenant made with Abraham. While prophets spent much time warning Israel of the consequences of their disobedience to God, which remains the case to this day, they also predicted a time of great peace and prosperity, which has not yet been accomplished.
- While Christians argue for pre-, a- and post- millennial positions as per their beliefs, I am of the view there will be a millennium yet to happen under the promised Messiah coming the earth the second time, not as the Babe in the Manger but as the King of kings, and only then will the world know peace.
- While all the pieces of the jigsaw have yet to come together, a lot of what we are seeing taking place in the world are literal fulfilments of what the prophets of old spoken about.
- Notwithstanding points 1-3, we who follow Jesus are called to make ourselves ready for the coming again of the Messiah, going about His business and as His good and faithful servants.
- While end times prophecy is an important subject, it is not one earnest followers of the Way should be over occupied with, but rather it is one to include as part of their quest to understand the times and be fruitful in His service.