By Jim Hutchens
One of the most remarkable yet revealing statements in Scripture is in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian believers. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (I Corinthians 11:19). The word for “differences” is translated “heresies” elsewhere (cf. Galatians 5:20, II Peter 2:1). The Apostle is clearly saying there will be heresies among believers so that God may determine who has his approval.
Paul must have had in mind the conflicting and mutually exclusive end-time scenarios that abound among Christians today. They simply can’t all be correct. In the meantime confusion is rampant among God’s people. There is only one end-time plan that will eventually emerge as having “God’s approval.” God did not intent for an understanding of the end-times to be rocket science – open to only an esoteric few among elite academicians or theological superstars. Like the rest of Scripture, it’s for the common man. God expects us to understand it as He has given it to us in His Word.
The four most prevalent end-time scenarios are based on the book of Revelation, chapter 20, in which the 1000 (millennium) year reign of Jesus Christ is referred to six times. They are Premillennialism, Amillennialism, Postmillenialism and Preterism.
Premillennialism sees the return of Jesus as occurring before he establishes his 1000 year literal reign on earth. The first resurrection, the gathering together of both living and dead believers (II Thessalonians 2:1), provide the manpower to rule and reign with Christ as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Satan is bound and has no deceitful influence until the 1000 years are over. He is then released for a short period, but is ultimately defeated for eternity. Apparently, the author of Revelation, the Apostle John, as well as the other writers of Scripture, held to this belief regarding the end-times. It was this understanding of the end-times that was held by the earliest church.
Amillennialism sees us as in the millennium now. Thus there is no literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth as given in Revelation 20. Christ is presently reigning in heaven with the souls of dead believers. Satan is supposedly bound from deceiving the nations because the gospel is still being preached and people are still coming to Christ. This understanding of the binding of Satan conflicts with the prediction of Jesus himself, that Satan’s “deception” will characterize the times until Jesus returns – such profound deception that even the elect would be deceived, “if that were possible” (Matthew 24:24). Since the 1000 year reign of Christ on earth with believers is spiritualized, amillennialism gives an inadequate understanding of what believers should expect and prepare for regarding the future.
Postmillennialism sees the world as eventually becoming Christianized and will result in a future extended period of world peace. This requires the belief that the people and governments of the world are progressively becoming more Christ-like and reflecting the values and virtues of his teaching and example. Unfortunately, the world we live in today provides incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. Wars and rumors of wars abound. Islam is gaining in influence, even in the United States. The moral compass of the world and certainly in America has gone south, with no indication of it being reversed. Postmillenianism is in conflict with the clear and observable facts in the world today. It does not provide a helpful understanding of the end-times.
Preterism sees all or most of the prophecies in the Bible as having been fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They are in the past, hence preterist. This view is the most difficult to accept because it denies Jesus and the writers of the New Testament any understanding of the future up to the return of Christ. The events of the book of Revelation are all in the past and God’s people are left adrift without any guidance as to the future. To subscribe to preterism one must believe God is wrong when he says through the prophet, “Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7).
Obviously all of these end-time scenarios can’t be right. But God is not the author of confusion, and the least confusing and easiest to understand is the literal sequence of events given in Revelation 19-20 – which leads to premillenialism. Jesus will return in power and glory to establish his kingdom on earth, where he will reign with believers for a thousand years. His coming will follow an unprecedented time of tribulation and world-wide destruction that lasts for seven years.
This seven year period will begin when a dynamic world leader (the anti-Christ) will endorse a covenant that includes Israel and most likely allows for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. This covenant is the next identifiable event in God’s prophetic calendar. Be alert, that covenant/agreement may be closer that we think. Even so, come quickly LORD Jesus.
Jim Hutchens is President of The Jerusalem Connection, International and editor of The Jerusalem Connection Report.