Over the last year or so my eschatology (the study of the end-times) has been changing (I would say maturing) a fair bit, in large part thanks to Stephen Jones. During that time I have become far more aware with the concept of the millennial reign of Christ, and God has been opening my eyes to many of the prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to this time, and as yet are unfulfilled.
Through this whole process, God has been birthing in me a great hope for His return. I look forward to it, and hope for it. However, a great portion of the Church today is not looking forward to Christ’s return in the same sense that the early church was.
The False Hope of the Pre-Trib Rapture
Most people agree there will be a rapture; that is clear from Scripture. The conflict refers to the timing of it. Most times you hear the term these days, it is referring to a pre-tribulation rapture, after which the world gets judged for a period of time and national Israel miraculously (without the help of the Holy Spirit which has been withdrawn from the earth!) comes to salvation and then spiritual maturity, replacing the church in power on the earth, warring against the antichrist and the beast.
I don’t want to make this post on the problems with this particular eschatology, though one day we’ll look at it. We’re talking about the hope of Christ’s return though, and this pre-trib rapture eschatology only offers hope of rescue before things get too bad. Thus, we have Christians laying their hope in being removed from tribulation before it actually happens to them.
Unfortunately, that concept just isn’t Biblical. Jesus said in John 16:33:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. KJV
No, as Christians, our hope is not that we be removed from tribulation. Hope is in reference to something yet future that we cannot change. The return of Christ is a sovereign act of God… no amount of faith on my part will hasten that day.
Faith however, will bring the victory of Christ into the now. Faith appropriates the work of Christ on the cross (His overcoming) and brings it into the present, providing internal peace during present-day tribulation, whatever that may be. The good news of the gospel is not so much that one day things will get sorted out, but that things can be sorted out in our lives… today! That takes faith.
I recently came across an article in Present Truth Magazine. The article is titled ‘Towards a Full Recovery of Eschatalogical Hope‘ and it lays out some more reasons why the church today isn’t functioning (for the most part) in this hope, and the groundwork required to get it there. I recommend reading through it.
The Hope of the Return of Christ
Have a look at your own life. Do you have a living hope of His return? If not, chances are good that somewhere, some piece of the truth puzzle is missing.
For me, the hope started growing when I began realizing the great things in store for the Church in the coming age. For instance, the Bible clearly says that at His return, we will be changed into His likeness.
1 Cor 15:52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
Incidentally, there isn’t a big multi-year gap there! It says in the ‘twinkling of an eye.’ But what does it mean to be raised incorruptible? It basically means to be given a body like that which Christ now has, after His resurrection. He could eat and do things normal humans can do, but He could also go invisible, through doors, instantly change location, and do other very cool things that we can only dream about now. Most importantly, He had access to the throne room of God in heaven.
The picture of the overcomers during the millennial reign is literally serving God in heaven, and literally serving man on earth. To accomplish this, we necessarily need a renewed, incorruptible body. During this time the stone kingdom mentioned in Daniel, which is the kingdom of Christ, will grow until His glory covers the earth.
I recommend reading Tommy Hick’s vision of the end-time ministry of the church. It will give you a better idea of what kinds of things Christians will be doing during this time.
Ask the Lord to give you a revelation of the hope for the return of Christ. Once you get a hold of that, it truly can help sustain you through trials. But please don’t let that become an excuse for not having faith in the present either. Both must work together to truly bring glory to God.
Come soon Lord Jesus!