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Prophecies of the First ComingProphecies of the Second Coming
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Definitions

I want to give a very basic definition of the two major eschatological beliefs systems that reside on the Pre-Millennial side of the doctrinal fence--Classic or Historic Pre-Millennialism and Dispensational Pre-Millennialism.  This site teaches the Classic Pre-Millennial definition, simply because that is where the majority of believers who are on this side of the eschatological fence reside.  One such denomination is the Baptists, who make up a sizeable portion of Pre-Millennialists.  This paper in no way discriminates or teaches against the Dispensational interpretations, but as it would prove confusing to teach two separate interpretations, I stick with the Classic or Historical interpretation, the one that has the most adherents.  But I will here give the basic definition of each, and present a chart showing how the Dispensational side interprets end-time events.   This website does not in any way disparage or discourage the Dispensational interpretation, and if that is your church or denomination's belief system, I will provide links that offer quality resources that teach the Dispensational interpretation of prophecy. So here goes:

 

Premillennialism (Historic or Classical, which also means non-Dispensational).  The belief that Jesus Christ will return to earth (personally and bodily) to defeat the forces of evil and establish the millennium (a literal thousand years).  During this time, Christ and the saints will reign from Jerusalem and the earth will be filled with holiness, justice, peace and prosperity.  They believe the tribulation will last for three and one half years, as depicted in Revelation 12:14 and chapters 13 & 17, and that all the saints that have lived and died before will be resurrected to immortality at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, while those yet alive will be changed to their immortal bodies, and all will rise to meet the Lord in the air as he descends back to earth to defeat the forces of evil (1 Corinthians 15:49-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Zechariah 14:1-15; Revelation 19:1-24; 20:4,6).  This was the dominant understanding of prophecy during the first three centuries of the Christian church.  Some early church fathers who held this view were Papias, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Lactantius.  Many modern day Baptists, some Presbyterians, Seventh-Day Advantists, Jehovah's Witnesses (with their own unique belief system), almost all fundamentalists (across denominational lines) and various Seventh-day Sabbatarian groups hold this view.  Numerically, the largest number of people on the pre-millennial side hold this view, denominationally speaking.

 For the Classical or Historic Pre-millennial explanation of "the Place of Safety" doctrine CLICK HERE

Dispensational Premillennialism:  Just like the Classic premillennialists, they believe in a literal thousand-year reign of Christ.  They differ on the details of what will precede Christ's return and what role the church will play in the end times.  Dispensationalists hold that Christ's coming will take place in two stages.  He will come for his church (the rapture) and then with his church (his final revelation and appearance).  These events will be separated by a seven-year tribulation.  They take three positions on the rapture: 1) pretribulationists: say that Christ will come for his saints; afterward he will come with his saints.  Christ will rapture the church (they will disappear from earth and be with Christ in heaven until the 2nd coming to stop World War III and rule over the earth).  Thus the saints will be protected during the seven years of the tribulation because they will be in heaven while all hell breaks lose on earth.  2) posttribulationist: the church remains on the earth for the seven years of the tribulation.  Believers won't be raptured until after the tribulation ends.  3) midtribulationists: it is thought that the church will go through the less severe part (usually the first half, or three-and-a-half years) of the tribulation, but then will be miraculously removed (translated) from the world.  It will suffer persecution during the first part of the tribulation, but it will be removed when God's wrath is poured out on a wicked and unrepentant world.

 

It should be noted that some believe that there will be a partial rapture of only those believers who are actively watching and waiting for the Lord's return.  They will be found worthy to escape the terrors of the tribulation by being taken up into heaven.  After this first rapture there will be a series of raptures, some during the tribulation, and some after (for those who were not quite mature as believers and who needed trial by fire).  Dispensationalism is fairly new eschatological interpretation, and arose in the 19th century primarily under the influence and teachings of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).  It spread to America through Bible prophecy conferences and the Scofield Reference Bible (which has sold millions of copies).  A leading seminary that teaches dispensationalism is Dallas Theological Seminary (which was founded in 1934).  Those who hold this view make a distinction between Israel and the church, which causes them to maintain steadfastly their position that God will fulfill his promises to Abraham through the Jews (Classic Pre-Millennialists also maintain this same view).  Thus they reject the belief held by amillennialists that the church is the new Israel.  They express a great interest in the Jews because they think the Jews will play a prominent role in end-time prophecies.  Many Jews, it is held (by both Classic and Dispensational sides) will be converted and accept Christ as their Messiah near the end.  [This is already starting to occur.  Be sure to log onto http://www.UNITYINCHRIST.COM/messianicmovement/twobranches.htm  and read the articles in this section which show what the Lord has been miraculously doing over the past thirty or so years.]  It might be added here that Classical pre-millennialist's hold the same or similar views about the Jews and that God will fulfill his promises to Abraham through them and the nation of Israel during the Millennium--this is not just a Dispensational position, but generally includes all Pre-Millennialists.

Material used in preparing this short sketch:

 Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present (1996)

Joel Carpenter, Revive Us Again: The Reawakening of American Fundamentalism (1997)

Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (1985)

H. Wayne House, Charts of Christian Theology and Doctrine (1992)

George Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture (1980)

Charles C. Ryrie, Basic  Theology (1986)

Dispensational Resources:

Some good links for those seeking teaching on the Dispensational interpretation of end-time prophecy: Koinonia House: http://www.khouse.org

 

Roger Oakland's ministry, called "Understanding the Times", phone: 1-800-689-1888.

Chuck Smith's four cassette series "END TIMES, World Events & The Return of Jesus Christ".  Available by calling 1-800-272-WORD or online at: http://www.thewordfortoday.org .  Click on "Product", then on "Pastor Chuck Smith's Materials", and then on "Audio Tapes", then on "Specially designed tape packs to encourage and stimulate spiritual growth", scroll down to "END TIMES, World Events & The Return of Jesus Christ."

 To read two sermon transcripts giving the Dispensational explanation of the Rapture CLICK HERE."

CLICK HERE FOR DISPENSATIONAL CHART

 

Be sure to continue to read the rest of this introduction for an interesting article written by Koinonia House's Chuck Missler about the dangers of the Amillennial interpretation of prophecy.  (Then if you are of the Dispensation persuasion, for further studies be sure to order the resources above.)

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content Editor Peter Benson -- no copyright, except where noted.  Please feel free to use this material for instruction and edification
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