The Comings and Goings of Christ

Quick definitions

Premillennialism – when Jesus returns He will set up a literal thousand-year kingdom and rule the nations from Jerusalem.

Amillennialism – when Jesus returns He will not set up a literal thousand-year kingdom but will, at that time, usher in the new heavens and the new earth.

Introduction

Whether we realize it or not, our view of Christ’s second coming and the chronology of that event has huge ramifications regarding how we read the Bible. If we take the thousand years literally, the implication is that God is not finished with the nation of Israel (Rom. 11). In contrast, if we say that the thousand-year reign of Christ is figurative then, the conclusion drawn is that God is done with Israel and has moved on with His Church.

What is the Second Coming?

The Second Coming refers to the future return of Christ to this world. While some believe it was the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and others that it is the rapture, what makes the Second Coming of Christ stand out among other events is that He will physically step back onto this earth for a second time just as He did two thousand years ago (Acts 1:11).

When is the Second Coming?

The short answer is that nobody knows (Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7). That being said, Scripture states that Jesus will completely remove His people from this world in the coming rapture (1 Thess. 4:13-18) and that there will be a seven-year period of time in which God will bring tribulation upon the earth (Dan. 9:24-27). Thus, the implication is that Jesus will return seven years after the rapture.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Matthew 24:36 states, “…concerning that day and hour no one knows….” I agree with you. No one currently knows when Jesus will return because no one knows when the rapture will take place. However, Jesus never said that no one would ever know. I believe it is plausible to say that people who get saved during the seven-year tribulation would be able to connect the dots and find out when Christ will return. In the same way that Noah knew he had 120 years before God would flood the earth (Gen. 6:3), tribulation saints may be able to deduce that they have roughly seven years from the timing of the rapture.

The Millennial-isms

Okay, back to the two main eschatological theology camps [Premillennialism and Amillennialism]. Throughout history, Premillennialism had been disregarded because of the misunderstanding that we believe in two different second comings – the rapture and the Second Coming. However, the rapture of the Church is not the Second Coming. Those are two very different events. Jesus never once lands on the earth when He comes to receive His Bride. As my wife wonderfully stated, “The rapture is not a coming, but a going.” It is when Jesus will call His Church up to Heaven (1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Some have labeled the belief in the rapture of the Church as a “Secret Coming” of Christ but the only thing secretive about the rapture is the timing. Otherwise, it is a very public event that will terrify the world [similar to when Thanos used the infinity gauntlet to remove half of the universal population in the movie, Avengers: Infinity War].

I would like to add that many Amillennialists believe that Jesus came spiritually with Rome in A.D. 70 to destroy Jerusalem. As with anything, if you truly want to know about a point of view or beliefs, ask [or read from] those who hold them personally – not those who disagree with them. Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul, states that “…it seems best to see Jesus in the Olivet Discourse predicting His ‘coming’ through the Roman army in 70 A.D. to judge Jerusalem for rejecting Him.” I bring this up simply to point out that, even if a Premillennialist described the rapture as a “secret” second coming, many Amillennialists do the exact same thing by believing that Jesus came “secretly” with Emperor Titus in his great siege of Jerusalem.

The Challenge of Amillennialism

Premillennialists and Amillennialists are on complete opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to the interpretation of Biblical eschatology. Whereas Premillennialism reads the text literally, Amillennialism has the tendency to interpret most passages regarding the end times as having a spiritual fulfillment opposed to a physical one. This however begs the question, “Why do Amillennialists spiritualize the end-times prophecies, yet believe that Christ will physically return?” Why would His return not also be “spiritual” in the sense that He is always returning in the hearts and minds of His Church as the Gospel message is taken to the ends of the earth? Of course, this would be heresy but, I would argue, that it would be the logical conclusion of this interpretation.

Conclusion

Whether you are Premillennial, Amillennial, or even Postmillennial, we as believers should be able to discuss the coming of Christ and the events surrounding that great day with humility, civility and unity. I believe that discussing topics like this one, where people hold different interpretations, helps us sharpen each other in our understanding of the Scriptures. Most importantly, we must remember that Jesus Christ will literally return to this world someday. We may not have a perfect grasp on how it will all unfold in the end, but He does and that should give us great comfort. What we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are prepared for that glorious day?

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