This is the third and final installment of a series on the
second coming of Christ. You will recall that the first article talked
about how people read the Bible differently, and how that affects what
you believe. We spent some time with Chapter 24 of Matthew’s gospel
about the signs of the end of the age. Several months ago, we discussed
the apocalyptic kind of writing that we find in the Revelation to John,
and how a large segment of Christianity looks at this writing,
particularly Chapter 20, in a very literal sense. These people have been
called Premillennialists, and they have fashioned a second coming that
is characterized by a number of events that will happen when Christ
returns; events that include the rapture, the tribulation, the 1,000
year reign of our Lord, a final battle called Armageddon, and ultimately
the establishment of the New Jerusalem. Today I want to tell you about
two other Christian beliefs regarding the second coming of Christ. They
are POSTMILLENNIALISM and AMILLENNIALISM.
Many folks believe that, when Christ came, it marked the beginning and
the establishment of his kingdom here on earth. In other words, we are
already in the millennium, and the kingdom of God is being extended and
promoted through the church and Christian teaching. As a result, the
world is being Christianized and will eventually enjoy a long period of
peace and righteousness. The new age will not be essentially different
from the present, but it will emerge gradually as an ever larger share
of the world’s population is converted to Christianity. Evil is not
eliminated, but is reduced to a minimum as the moral and spiritual
influence of Christianity is heightened. During this age the church
assumes a greater importance and many social, economic and educational
problems are solved. The period closes with a second coming of Christ,
at which time the dead are raised and the last judgment held.
People who are Amillennialists do not believe the Bible predicts a
period of unusual peace and righteousness before the end of the world.
Instead good and evil coexist until the second coming, at which time the
dead are raised and the last judgment held. Most mainline churches,
including Presbyterians, lean toward this position. The basis for that
belief is that Revelation is a symbolic book, filled with codes, and to
read it literally is to confuse the intentions of the author, and to
miss the intent of the book.
So there you have it. When you reflect on the second coming of Christ
and end times, which position are you most likely to adopt? Or do you
have an alternative position?: While I enjoy the stories associated with
Premillennialism and even like the idea of a rapture, I have a great
deal of trouble reading the Book of Revelation literally. I believe John
was writing in codes and symbolically about the Roman Empire and not
describing in detail a time in the future when Christ will come again.
That makes me an Amillennialist. The good news is that, as
Presbyterians, there is not a prescribed belief to which you must
adhere. On the other hand, the second coming is a fundamental belief of
us Christians, and studying scripture and arriving at a position is a
goal we should seek to achieve.
Bob Bridges, Adult Sunday School Leader