Teachings about the End Times


It has often been observed that the prophecies that we know from our perspective to refer to the first coming of Messiah as opposed to the second coming are given without obvious distinction.


This has been likened to looking at a mountain range from a distance and being unable to view the valleys that lay hidden between the various peaks.


For example, in Luke 4:16-21 Jesus read a passage from the book of Isaiah and stated that it had been fulfilled in Him. An examination of Isaiah 61:1-2 will reveal that the remainder of this passage deals with the Day of God's Judgment which presumably shall take place at the Second Coming of the Lord.





Prophetic Fulfillment can be Literal, Figurative, or Spiritual.


1. Literal fulfillments.


Some fulfillments of prophecy take place in a very literal manner.


Example: Ezekiel 26:1-14 gives a very detailed account of the several falls of the city of Tyre. The prophecy took place very literally, the city being actually thrown into the sea.


Example: Compare Zechariah 9:9 with Matthew 21:5 where the Messiah rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. The fulfillment is seen in a very literal manner.


Example: Compare Psalm 22:18 (They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots) with John 19:23-24 where the soldiers divide the garments of Jesus by casting lots for them.


2. Figurative fulfillments.


There are times when the language of a prophecy is clearly figurative and not meant to be taken literally.


Example: In John 2:19 Jesus stands in the Temple in Jerusalem and says, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." However, verse 21 says that "He spoke of the temple of His body."


Example: Compare Psalm 118:22 with Acts 4:11 and 1 Peter 2:7 where Jesus is the stone which the builders rejected. We are not meant to understand literal sticks and stones.


Example: Compare Isaiah 22:22 with Revelation 3:7 where the key is a representation of the authority of Jesus.


Isaiah 22:22. Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, When he opens no one will shut, When he shuts no one will open.


Example: Compare Zechariah 13:7 with Matthew 26:31 where Jesus is seen to be the shepherd that was smitten. "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, And against the man, My Associate," Declares the LORD of hosts. "Strike the Shepherd that the sheep may be scattered; And I will turn My hand against the little ones." (Zechariah 13:7).


3. Spiritual fulfillments.


In these cases, what seemed to be a literal prophecy is later seen to have a spiritual fulfillment.


Example: Isaiah 2:2-3 speaks of the mountain of the house of the Lord being established and raised above the hills. This passage is alluded to in Hebrews 12:22 which shows that this is a picture of people turning to Christ in THIS age.


Example: Amos 9:11-12 tells how God will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches and raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old. James used this same passage to refer to the Gentiles coming into the New Testament Church (Acts 15:13-18).




Prophecy has been described as "history written beforehand." But this is incorrect. If this is the sole purpose of prophecy, then the prophets have done a miserable job. They could have written a much more concise and understandable history.


o                   The main purpose of prophecy is to affect the conduct of those who hear the prophecy. It is to make you LIVE differently.


The prophets gave their prophecies so that their listeners would live differently. Their prophecies were not so much that their listeners would be INFORMED of the future as much as that their listeners would FORM the future.


o                   Another purpose of prophecy is to build faith. It is to establish confidence in the Lord who miraculously foretold events which then came to pass.


From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. (John 13:19).


And now I have told you before it comes to pass, that when it comes to pass, you may believe. (John 14:29).


o                   Another reason is to encourage believers who are in the midst of difficult situation. Prophecy brings HOPE.





1. The New Testament is Necessary to Interpreting the Old Testament.


Many of the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament - specifically those prophecies of the initial coming of the Messiah.


A study of these fulfillments will help us to understand how other prophecies could be fulfilled.


Other Old Testament prophecies are further expounded in the New Testament so that we can more fully understand them.


Example: The promise of the resurrection in Daniel 12:1-2 is further explained in the resurrection promises of 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4.


2. The Old Testament is Necessary to Interpreting the New Testament.


The New Testament is in the Old concealed, and the Old Testament is in the New revealed.

The writers of the New Testament usually assume a prior knowledge of the Old Testament, going so far as to quote and allude to Old Testament prophetic symbols.


Example: Revelation 11:3 introduces two witnesses of the Lord. Verse 4 goes on to identify them as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth." This is an allusion to Zechariah 4:3-11.


3. The Bible is to Interpret our Current Events, not the Reverse.


We must be careful not to try to force Biblical prophecies into the mold of modern events.


Example: I can remember the extremes that Biblical students have gone to prove that Henry Kissinger was the antichrist, even going so far as to develop a numbering system to derive 666 from his name.


This is nothing new. Many world leaders in the past have been accused of being the antichrist.

- Adolf Hitler.
- Benito Mussolini.
- Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Diocletian.
- Nero
- Saddam Hussein

All of these attempted identifications ignored the fact that the New Testament writers described "antichrist" as something that was active in THEIR day.


4. The Symbolic Nature of Dreams and Visions.


There are throughout the Old Testament and especially in the books of Daniel, Zechariah and Revelation a host of dreams and visions.


We need to remember that dreams and visions are exactly that - symbolic representations of both past, present, and future truths.


Thus, when we read of a symbolic event or character, we should not necessarily seek for a physical fulfillment, but rather what that symbol represents.





1.            Dispensational Premillennialism.


A complex series of comings of Christ that mandate God having two separate and distinct programs for history; one involving the nation of Israel and the other involving the church.

     This age ends in a "rapture" where Christ snatches the church from the earth

     A 7-year period of tribulation ensues during which the Anti-Christ arises and persecutes Israel

     Christ returns with his saints and establishes his 1000-year earthly reign

     Christ puts down a final rebellion, judges the nations, and ushers in the eternal state


This view is or fairly recent origin, having been construed and brought to popularity through the Plymouth Brethren in the 1800's. At the heart of this view is the contention that there are two future comings of Christ. The problem is that the Scriptures which are used to try to present such a distinction to not lend themselves to it.



Second Coming

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky... (Matthew 24:30).

With the trumpet of God...(1 Thessalonians 4:16).

He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet (Matthew 24:31).

We who are alive shall be caught up together... (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

And they will gather together His elect from the four winds... (Matthew 24:31).

We... shall be caught up together with them in CLOUDS (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

They will see the Son of Man coming on the CLOUDS of the sky... (Matthew 24:30).

...if you will not wake up, I will come like a thief (Revelations 3:3).

The Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:44; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2-6 and 2 Peter 3:10).

...the coming of our Lord Jesus WITH all His saints" (1 Thessalonians 3:13).

...the Lord came WITH many thousands of His holy ones (Jude 14).


It seems as though the writers of the New Testament went out of their way to correlate the events of the Lord's return, even going so far as to deliberately use the same vocabulary and terms. There is no hint in the Scriptures that we are to understand these as separate and distinct events from one another. Unfortunately, this prophetic view has been recently popularized in the guise of a series of books of "Christian fiction."


2.            Historical Premillennialism.


Similar to the Dispensational scheme as outlined above, but without the separate "rapture" (this event is seen to be the same as the 2nd coming). Unlike its Dispensational counterpart, it does not hinge upon an acceptance of Dispensationalism nor does it mandate a separation between Israel and the church.


The problem that this view faces is in understanding the Kingdom to be limited only to a thousand years when 2 Peter 1:11 speaks of the "eternal kingdom." This problem is solved by maintaining that the 1000-year millennium is only the first phase of the eternal kingdom.


3.            Amillennialism.


Views the prophecies of tribulation and the kingdom as being fulfilled throughout this present age. Christ returns at the end of this age to usher in the eternal state. This view looks at Revelation 20 and sees it as symbolic language for the present continuing kingdom today. Satan is seen to be bound with reference to his ability to deceive the nations. It is for this reason that the gospel has gone out to all of the nations and there are today believers to be found in every nation.


This view answers the previous dilemma about the kingdom being an everlasting kingdom. Furthermore, it can view a passage like 2 Peter 3:10-12 at face value instead of insisting that this is an event taking place at the close of a 1000 year kingdom in which Jesus has ruled; a description that hardly sounds like "a thief."


4.            Postmillennialism.


This view sees the church spreading throughout the world and the Lord eventually establishing His kingdom through the preaching of the gospel. Christ returns at the end of the age to find a church victorious. Much of modern Postmillennialism is seen hand-in-hand with a 5th view known as Preterism.


5.            Preterism.


The word "preterist" is taken from the Latin word meaning "past." This view denies any future fulfillment of the book of Revelation and sees the events it describes as already having been fulfilled within the first century after Christ.


There are several different forms of Preterism. Full Preterism views all of the prophecies of the Bible as having already been fulfilled in their entirety since the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Full Preterism is a very recent innovation that has no adherents in any of the writings of the early church. Partial Preterism maintains a future return of Christ, but views His "coming in the clouds" as described in Matthew 24:29-31 as having been fulfilled in A.D. 70 with the fall of Jerusalem.


With regards to Preterism, I am reminded of the words of Jesus when He said to the disciples, "The days shall come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. And they will say to you, 'Look there! Look here!' Do not go away, and do not run after them. For just as the lightning, when it flashes out of one part of the sky, shines to the other part of the sky, so will the Son of Man be in His day." (Luke 17:22‑24).


It seems to me that the Preterist is one who is pointing to the A.D. 70 event and saying, "Look there! Look here!" But there is going to be no mistaking the coming of the Son of Man when He finally returns. It is clear from a reading of the apostolic and church fathers that ALL of them expected a future return of Jesus Christ. It would be strange indeed if the entire church failed to understand the fulfillment of so many of the New Testament prophecies on such a major point.


Fundamental to full Preterism is the idea that there is no future physical resurrection of the dead. But the pattern for our resurrection is that of Jesus. The big idea presented in 1 Corinthians 15 is that Jesus arose from the dead. This was not merely some sort of spiritual resurrection. His resurrection was bodily and physical. Furthermore we are told that His resurrection serves as the paradigm for our own resurrection. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep (1 Corinthians 15:20). He is the firstfruits and we are the "later fruits."


When Paul came to Athens, he was mocked by the Greeks for believing in a physical resurrection. Such mockery would not have been forthcoming had he held that the resurrection was only going to be of a spiritual or mystical nature. But he went out of his way to side himself with the Pharisees who believed in a physical resurrection of the dead (Acts 23:6-8).


One wonders whether the Full Preterist is completely consistent in his views. After all, most Full Preterists continue to partake of the Lord's Supper in spite of the fact that Paul said that the eating and drinking serves to "proclaim the Lord's death UNTIL HE COMES" (1 Corinthians 11:26).





Historic Premillennialism

Dispensational Premillennialism


Context and genre are important interpretive considerations

Strong inclination toward literalism

Second Coming

Christ's 2nd coming takes place after the millennium. This coming initiates a general resurrection, the judgment of al men, and the eternal state for believers and unbelievers

Christ's 2nd coming takes place before the millennium

Christ comes in a rapture and then again after a 7-year tribulation to establish an earthly kingdom

Timing of the Kingdom

God's kingdom is a present earthly reality that started with Christ's first advent

There is a present reality to the kingdom, but this will give way to a future fulfillment of 1000 years

An earthly kingdom lasting 1000 years will be established by Christ after His 2nd coming

Nature of the Kingdom

The kingdom is spiritual in nature. It will grow to fill the whole earth

The kingdom is spiritual in nature.

The 2nd coming will establish a literal 1000 year kingdom on earth

The literal 1000 year kingdom on earth will be primarily Jewish in nature

Millennium Description

We are in the millennium now. It will slowly and progressively become a "golden age."

We are in the millennium now. The millennium is the church age.

The millennium is future. Christ will reign with absolute control.

The millennium is future. The Old Testament Jewish economy will be restored.

Millennium Duration

A prolonged period of time greater than a 1000 year period. The 2nd coming follows the millennium.

Exactly 1000 years. The 2nd coming precedes the millennium

Satan's Binding and Current Status

At Christ's death and resurrection Satan was bound with respect to his ability to deceive the nations and prevent them from hearing the truth about God.

The future 2nd coming of Christ will cause Satan to be bound 1000 years. He is not bound now, but rules the kingdom of this present world.


Took place in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

The church is in tribulation in this age.

A future 7 year tribulation will precede the 2nd Coming. The church will go through this tribulation

A future 7 year tribulation will precede the 2nd Coming. The church will escape this tribulation by being "raptured."


The Rapture and the 2nd coming take place at the same time.

The Rapture precedes the 2nd Coming by 7 years.


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