Different Views on the End of the World
By Chris Schang
One of the central questions asked in the last days is who will the world end? And when will it happen? Are there any end times signs that will show us that we are getting close to the end of the age? These questions have often stumped students of the Bible as they try to analyze what the Bible says about the end times. In fact, it is often said that many people simply skip reading the book of Revelation because they feel it is too hard to understand. Despite the confusion that surrounds Bible prophecy, the truth of the matter is that we can understand a general frame of reference about the last days and how they will be fulfilled. Revelation described many of the judgments that will be representative of God's wrath on the Earth during the tribulation period. As we recall, the tribulation period is not for the church, but it is a time of punishment and judgment for unrepentant sinners and unbelieving Israel. The descriptions in Revelation includes wars, hailstones, earthquakes, supernatural judgments and other horrible images that just boggle the mind.
Despite the negative effects of the judgments of God, at the end of the tribulation period Jesus returns and defeats his enemies. The earth is renovated and a 1,000 year millennial rule is established. however, despite the clear cut explanations of how the end times will play out, like everything else, there are different views on how the end of the world as we know it will occur. We will attempt to cover the various views and explain the one we think best fits the overall picture from the Bible.
The four main views of the end times are dispensational premillennialism, historic premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism. Each of these views differ on major points of the end times. The most distinguishable differences in the various views is when Jesus will return in regards to the 1,000 year millennial reign that occurs at the end of the tribulation period. Some views even argue whether this reign is a literal one or not.
The primary scriptural reference for the Millennium, the 1,000 year reign of Christ, comes from Revelation 20:1-6.
Rev 20:1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
Rev 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years,
Rev 20:3 And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and [I saw] the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received [his] mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
Rev 20:5 But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This [is] the first resurrection.
Rev 20:6 Blessed and holy [is] he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Dispensational Millennialism - this view is the predominant view that this writer takes and believes that it is the most accurate of the four end times views. The dispensational millennialist believes that the rapture of the church takes place before the tribulation period as the Bible declares that the church is not destined to wrath, but to salvation through Jesus Christ. This view believes that Israel and the church have different destinies in the end times. The church is to be raptured to Heaven to the special place that Jesus has made for us, while Jews will occupy the land of Israel on the earth. The church is also said to be co-rulers with the Lord Jesus during the 1,000 year millennial reign. The dispensationalist millennialist also believes that the future Antichrist will appear during the end times to make a seven year peace treaty with Israel and eventually break that treaty at the mid-point of the tribulation period. The Antichrist will be the most wicked and evil man to ever live. He will eventually be indwelt by Satan himself. In regards to the tribulation this view believes that the church is rapture to Heaven before the start of the seven year tribulation period, also referred to as the 70th week of Daniel or the Time of Jacob's Trouble. This view sees Armageddon as the final rebellion against God before the Second Coming of Christ and that the church is absent from this conflict. The Second Coming is seen by the dispensational millennialist as occurring at the end of the tribulation period or 70th week of Daniel. Regarding the resurrection it will occur in three stages with the first stage consisting of the resurrection of the dead believers at the rapture, the second stage will be the resurrection of the Old Testament saints as well as the tribulation martyrs at Jesus' Second Coming. Finally the third stage of the resurrection will occur at the end of the millennium and will be the unbelieving dead from the history of mankind. The dispensational millennialist believes in three distinct judgments with the first one happening at the rapture, the second happening at the Second Coming, and the third judgment at the end of the millennium. The 1,000 year millennium will occur at the end of the tribulation period and that Jesus rules literally from Jerusalem.
Historic Premillennialism - This view tends to see the rapture as happening as part of the Second Coming. The church is seen as "spiritual Israel" fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel. The antichrist is seen a person who will oppose Christ during the end times and persecute the Jews during the great tribulation period. This view also sees the Antichrist as a personification of satanic power. In regards to the tribulation the historic premillennialist sees the church going through the tribulation period. Armageddon is seen as the final conflict before Jesus establishes the Millennial Kingdom. They see the church as being present during Armageddon. The Second Coming is seen as establishing the Millennium. The resurrection of the dead is seen in only two stages, one occurring at Jesus' Second Coming and the other at the end of the Millennium. Since the historic premillennialist sees the church going through the tribulation period they do not see a resurrection of the dead at the rapture, for they believe that will happen at the second coming. This is certainly not the case. Judgment of believers is though to occur in two stages, once at the Second Coming and the other at the end of the Millennium. The do not believe in a judgment at the pre-trib rapture, as the see the rapture happening at the Second Coming. In a final regards to the Millennium the historic premillennialist sees Jesus visibly reigning on the Earth from Jerusalem with both New and Old Testament believers. They believe that the curse will be lifted at this time as well.
Amillennialism - The Amillennialist views sees the rapture of the church as part of the Second Coming. Why the Lord would rapture people to Heaven to then immediately send them back to earth is beyond me. The church is seen as the "spiritual Israel" fulfilling the ancient Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel. They believe that the church has replaced Israel. In regards to the Antichrist they believe that he represents satanic activity through the history of mankind. The door is left open to a person assuming the role of the Antichrist at the end of the age though. This view also believes that the church will go through the tribulation period. The amillennialism views is similar to the historic premillennialism view in that they see Armageddon as the final conflict of good vs. evil at the end of this age and that the church will be present at this conflict. Fortunately, this is not so. The church is definitely raptured before the outpouring of God's wrath which begins at the tribulation period. The Second Coming is seen as establishing a new heaven and a new earth, not a renovation of the existing earth as the scriptures describe. This view believes in only one general resurrection of the dead that will occur at the Second Coming. The amillennialism view believes that there will be only one judgment of mankind at the Second Coming. and as far as the Millennium is concerned the amillennialist believes that there is no literal 1,000 year rule of Jesus from Jerusalem.
Postmillennialism - This view pretty much ignores the rapture. The postmillennialist sees the church and Israel as having two distinct destinies in the last days. The view also tends to see the church as the "spiritual Israel" which is similar to the historic premillennialism and amillennialism views. They are likely to believe in replacement theology as well. Concerning the Antichrist they believe this has already been fulfilled. They also see the Antichrist as representing satanic power throughout the church age. The Bible does declare that there will be a "spirit" of antichrist in the world, the end times is clear that a man will rise up in the last days and declare himself to be God on earth. The postmillennialism view also sees the current church age as the tribulation period. While the Bible does indeed tell us that we will experience trials and tribulations on earth, the Bible is clear that there will be a literal seven year tribulation that will be the worst seven year in mankind's history with unprecedented chaos and destruction as God pours out his wrath on unrepentant sinners and unbelieving Israel. Armageddon is as a picture of Christ leading his church to glorious victory over it's enemies by preaching the Good News or the Gospel to everyone on Earth. The Second Coming is seen as happening after the Millennium. The resurrection of the dead postmillennialists believe will happen at the Second Coming. Judgment is seen as occurring at the end of the Millennium. They believe that there will only be one general judgment of all people. And finally, in regards to the Millennium the postmillennialists believe that the preaching of the Gospel or Good News will establish the Millennial Kingdom on Earth. The postmillennialists believe that we have to make the earth suitable for Christ's return by converting everyone to Christianity. And they believe that until we do, Christ will not come back.
After looking at these various views of the end times, it is clear that the only view that is fully in harmony with what the Bible says about the end times is the dispensational premillennialist view that sees a literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Afterall, the First Coming of Jesus Christ was fulfilled literally as the Bible declared, so why should the Second Coming be any different? The answer is that it won't be any different. We already see evidences of the literal fulfillment of Israel being reborn in the end times just as the Bible foretold as well as many other signs that indicate that the literal return of the Lord Jesus is verily at the door.