A QUICK LESSON IN ESCHATOLOGY
Eschatology is the study of last things. Important eschatological terms:
- Tribulation Period – An unprecedented time of trouble when God will pour out His wrath upon the earth. (There is debate as to whether or not the tribulation will last seven literal years.)
- Rapture – Christ’s coming for His church. The bodies of dead believers will be raised; the bodies of living believers will be changed; both groups will be caught up to meet the Christ in the air (see John 14:1-3; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). “Rapture” is not actually found in the Bible. The word can refer to an experience of being carried away. Believers will be “caught up” (carried away) to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). When I was a kid, one of my favorite toys were Transformers. There was a Transformers cartoon, and part of the theme song went, “Transformers, more than meets the eye.” “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). We will be transformed. There is more to us that meets the eye!
- Second Coming – Christ’s return to earth to defeat and judge His enemies.
- The Pretribulational View – The church will be raptured before the tribulation period. According to this view, the rapture will precede the second coming by seven years (tribulation period). Arguments for the pretribulational view: (1) the word “church” is not mentioned after Revelation 3; (2) “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world” (Revelation 3:10).
- The Posttribulational View – The church will be raptured after the tribulation period. According to this view, the rapture and the second coming will happen at the same time. Arguments for the posttribulational view: (1) 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 seems to suggest that the church will be on earth for the second coming; (2) the same words are used for the rapture and the second coming (e.g., parousia: “the coming of the Lord,” 1 Thessalonians 5:15; “the coming of the Son of Man,” Matthew 24:27).
THE RETURN OF CHRIST
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war (v. 11).
On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords (v. 16).
What does the Bible say about the second coming? Three revelations:
- Christ will return in a sudden, personal, visible, and bodily way. Jesus declared, “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). At the ascension, the angels said to the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The book of Revelation begins with the words “The revelation of Jesus Christ.” “Revelation” (apokalypsis) means “unveiling.” “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7).
- If you are an unbeliever, the return of Christ is something to dread. Jesus will come “like a thief” (2 Peter 3:10). His coming will be unexpected and unwanted. He will also come as a mighty warrior (see Revelation 16:12-16, “Armageddon”).
- If you are a believer, the return of Christ is something to desire. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). We are “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us” (Titus 2:13-14). “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28).
When we’re running low on food in my house, one of the snacks I resort to is peanut butter on soda crackers. But it’s never really when I’m looking for. If I am planning on going out to eat at my favorite restaurant, I wouldn’t have a big plate of crackers and peanut butter before I left.
The pursuits of this life are like peanut butter and crackers. They are nothing compared to what is to come. There are many worthy goals in life, but do you long more for earthly accomplishments or for the return of Christ? It could be said that the intensity of our longing for Christ’s return is a gauge of our love for Him.
When you stand before Christ, you will not think, “I wish I should have spent more time improving the look of my home,” or, “I wish I would have been smarter about investing my money.” Instead, you will think, “I hope Jesus will say, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.’”