I have stated my position on the Scriptures, God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of man, salvation, ordinances, and the Church. This week I want to outline an area of theology that has been difficult for me. I personally believe to much emphasis is placed on the chronology of Jesus’ return. Much of this we are not meant to know. Jesus himself said that no one will know the day or the hour, (Matthew 24:36).
I used to hold a position of being “pan-trib.” It will all pan out in the end! I realized that I was just being theologically lazy and needed to study it more. It is a difficult topic. Many commentators have not written about Revelation. John Calvin who wrote a commentary for every book of the Bible except Revelation said about Revelation – “who can understand it!”
The important aspect to end times theology is that Jesus is coming again. He came humbly before this time He will come as King, (Acts 1:11; Revelation 19:11-19). My denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America in their 1950 statement of faith said about this aspect of Christian doctrine:
We believe in the personal, premillenial and imminent coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and that this “Blessed Hope” has a vital bearing on the personal life and service of the believer,” (Article XI of the 1950 EFCA Statement of Faith).
All believers should have that day in mind. It should impact how we live. It should impact our service. We do want to be ready. Martin Luther once said, “There are only two days on my calendar: Today and That Day.” Those are ultimately the two days that really matter. If we live today in view of the day when Christ returns do you think our choices would be different? I believe so.
I believe in the personal and imminent return of Jesus Christ. Jesus said to His disciples:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also,” (John 14:1-3, ESV).
The apostle Paul said that Jesus Himself “will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God,” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, ESV). He will return bodily with the saints to earth.
The apostle John describing his vision while in exile on the Island of Patmos describing Christ’s return said:
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. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords, (Revelation 19:11-16, ESV).
When He returns He will establish His Kingdom on earth and reign for a thousand years, (Revelation 20:1-6). I believe in a premillenial return of Christ. This is to be preceded by a period of tribulation in which the personal return of Chirst is imminent, by which I mean soon.
Regarding the rapture, this is likely one aspect of my doctrinal position where I sincerely hope I’m wrong. I used to believe in a pre-tribulational rapture, but have since moved to a post-tribulational view. I came to believe that the pre-trib stand ignores that tribulation and trouble are realities which Christians should expect in the world, (John 16:33). The Bible in various places warns about the trials and tribulations which believers will undergo. It does not promise removal from these adversities, but the ability to endure and overcome them, (John 17:15).
When Jesus is asked about what will be the sign of His coming, He describes events that are described in the tribulational period, (Matthew 24). We are to watch for those events. Matthew 24:29-31 also indicates that His elect will be present during the tribulation.
I believe that Christ’s followers will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air, (1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54) and then will return with Him to earth, (Matthew 25:6) after the wrath of God has been poured out. I do not believe that the elect will undergo His wrath as the apostle Paul writes that “God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,” (1 Thessalonians 5:9, ESV). His elect will be kept out of the midst of His wrath poured out on the earth, but not kept away from the tribulation.
Believers are exhorted to watch for Christ’s return, (1 Thessalonians 5:6; Titus 2:3; Revelation 3:3), and this “Blessed Hope” of His return return is to have us then to live in light of His coming, (Philippians 3:20; James 5:8).