This is a question I am often asked when I speak about the Second Coming at meetings around the country is ‘Why don’t we hear about this subject in our churches?’ One reason is that Christians have different views about the end times, the timing of the rapture, the nature of the Antichrist etc, so many pastors do not wish to preach on the subject because they may cause division in their churches. This approach gives the Devil the victory because he is able to wipe out a huge section of the Bible from the teaching of the church, because teaching about it may result in disagreement.
These are some of the main reasons for such disagreements.
A-millennial teaching in Bible colleges.
Most Bible colleges in the UK are a-millennial in their theology. A-millennial means there is no millennium. In other words the second coming of Christ is followed by no millennium (or 1000 year reign of Christ) and it is the end of the world. This conflicts with the pre-millennial view of scripture which teaches that this age will end with a time of unique trouble following which Christ will return and reign on the earth during the Millennium (for 1000 years). Pre- millennial theology is largely neglected or even ridiculed in many Bible colleges therefore most pastors who end up leading churches have been taught to reject it. Nevertheless a literal interpretation of scripture must mean that Jesus the Messiah returns before (pre) the Millennium which is a 1000 year reign of the Messiah from Jerusalem during which time there is peace and justice on earth (Isaiah 2.1-4, 11-12, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20).
Signs and wonders and post-millennialism.
A large section of the charismatic movement has accepted ‘post-millennial’ teaching. This means that the Messiah will come back after (post) the millennium. In other words the church will win the world for Jesus by means of a great revival with signs and wonders and so bring in Christian world rule. Preachers have prophesied that they will see whole cities and nations won for Jesus as extraordinary miracles take place and people turn to Him in huge numbers and fill the churches (or even the football stadiums). They say that the pre-millennial view that this age ends in a time of tribulation is ‘defeatist’ and ‘negative’ and we should expect the global triumph of the church through claiming the ground for Jesus and demonstrating His power through signs and wonders. Sadly the reality is that many ‘miracle’ rallies often end in tears for those seeking healing from medically incurable conditions, who are left exactly as they were before the meetings. ‘Prophecies’ of imminent Christian revival come and go with regularity. However when the ‘sell by date’ of the prophecy has passed we generally find that Christian influence in our society has become weaker, while Islam, New Age and paganism get stronger. The prophecies of the Bible speak of a time of tribulation in the last days of this age, not of the Christianisation of the world (Matthew 24, Revelation 6-19).
Preterism – it’s already happened!
Another view which has become popular in some circles is ‘preterism’ which teaches that Jesus’ prophecies of the end times found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21 and the events of the book of Revelation were fulfilled in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD and the dispersion of the Jewish people. Therefore these prophecies are fulfilled in the past and are not significant for Christians. This view does not make sense of these scriptures. Although there are verses in the Olivet discourse (particularly Luke 21.20-24) which do apply to the fall of the Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people, the main thrust of the passages is the coming of the Lord Jesus in power and glory at the end of the age. I once tried to read the book of Revelation from the preterist viewpoint and gave up when I reached Chapter 1 verse 7 which says: ‘Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye shall see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him, even so Amen.’ Obviously this did not happen in 70AD, so the book must be pointing to a fulfilment which remains future to our day – the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. The conditions described in the book of Revelation for the time when it was written fit in with events taking place during the persecutions of Christians by the Emperor Domitian. So the most likely date for its writing in 96AD, long after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In this case it would hardly be ‘prophetic’ if Revelation is describing an event which took place over 20 years before it was written!
Disagreements about Israel.
One of the key signs of the last days is the return of the Jewish people to Israel. Because of the conflicts in Israel, the problems of the Palestinians and some hostility to Jewish people, Israel has become unpopular in the world. Many churches, especially in the UK, are now siding with the Palestinians against Israel and deny that there is any biblical significance in the restoration of Israel. We also find that most of the church today believes ‘replacement theology’ – that the church has replaced Israel and so prophecies about the return of the Jewish people to Israel apply to the church. Where the Lord speaks about gathering the ‘outcasts of Israel’ from the north, south, east and west (Isaiah 11.12, 43.5-6) replacement theology teaches that Jesus means the gathering of people into the kingdom of God (i.e. the church): ‘They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit in the kingdom of God.’ Luke 13.29. According to this view when God made the new covenant through Jesus the Messiah, He annulled the former covenants made with Abraham concerning the people and the land of Israel and through Moses concerning the Law (Torah). In response to this the New Testament does teach that God has replaced the Law (Torah) with the New Covenant but it does not say that the church has replaced Israel. In the New Testament the words Israel and Israelite are used 74 times. In all but 3 occasions (one of which is the word Israel coming twice in the same verse) there is no question that these words are used to mean exactly the same as they mean in the Old Testament. Romans 11 speaks of a future event when salvation comes to Israel. For the prophecies of the second coming to be fulfilled as Jesus gave them there must be a continuation of Israel as a people and a restoration of the people to the land of Israel. For further information on this subject see our section on Israel and Bible Prophecy.
Jesus told His disciples what were the signs of His second coming in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). The rest of the Bible is full of passages which point to the end time crisis which will bring this age to an end and herald the second coming of Jesus Christ to the earth. We need to know about these things so we can be prepared for what is coming and be ready to meet Jesus when He comes.
He said, ‘When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads because your redemption draws near.’ Luke 21.