25th June 2023

Categories of Understanding the Second Coming of Christ

Passage: 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
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Automatically Generated Transcript

The topic that I thought would be good for tonight is to talk about something that there are differing opinions about, and that has to do with the idea of the rapture of the Christians or the saints. And this is found in 1 Thessalonians 4, so at one stage we will be looking for a little bit of information from there. But the word in the middle of the passage, in 1 Thessalonians 4, in verse 17, is the word in the Greek, harpazo. Harpazo sounds an interesting word, but it means to be snatched up or caught up, to be forced. It's a verb that has to do with something violently happening, whether you like it or not. And this word, harpazo, actually occurs in the New Testament a dozen or so times.

Let me show you some of the spots where the various ways to take it are, not just as we'll get back to our chapter 4 passage in a minute. But, for example, in, let me see, Matthew 11 and verse 12. Matthew 11 and verse 12, and I'm just going to run through, we won't do the whole dozen, but several of these. Heaven will cry of command, I know that's 1 Thessalonians 4, but in Matthew 11 and verse 12. From the days of John the Baptist until now, kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violence, take it by force. That's the word harpazo, or version thereof, being taken by force.

In chapter 12 of Matthew and verse, I think it is 29, and see whether we can guess it, first of all, in chapter 12 and verse 29. Oh, it's the same one from the days, now you've got verse chapter 11, verse 12, and now we'll go to chapter 12, and it's verse 29. For how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Now what word do you think it is? Just say to yourself, it doesn't come out over the record, the recording, but it's the word strong man. And the idea of plundering his house, that idea of a strong man plundering a house is translated by a word harpazo.

Chapter 13, verse 19, chapter 13 and verse 19. We're going through, for those of you who might have just arrived, all the various spots where the word harpazo, which occurs in 1 Thessalonians 4, and is a word for what we take rapture sometimes, or snatched up. But here in chapter 13, verse 19, when anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one, that's the devil, comes and snatches away what has been sown in the person's heart. This is what was sown along the path, that's in Jesus' parable about the sowing of the seed. And as you may well already have guessed, the snatches away by the devil when he gets the seed, so it doesn't do any good, is the same word harpazo.

And we'll go to John 16, verse 15, John 16, verse 15. And I'm taking you through just a series of verses where the word harpazo is used, and you can get a gathering of some of the meanings that people have used it for. All that the Father has is mine, therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. Okay, chapter 6, chapter 6 and verse 15. Now you've got 16 and 15, I'm sorry, I might have said it wrong. Chapter 6 and verse 15. All right, anyway, I'll tell you what it is. It is the idea of taking him by force when people want to come and snatch away someone. It is the same word. Chapter 10 and verse 42. Chapter 10 and verse 42. No, I've written that down wrong then somewhere. Let's go to another one. How about John 10, 28 and 29. John 10, 28 and 29. And this is a verse where Jesus is talking about giving us eternal life. They will never perish and no one will snatch them out of my hand. So you're getting a bit of a picture of what the word means. It's when something violent happens against the will of someone necessarily if they're not wanting it. And Jesus says when you come to him, he's going to give you eternal life. And nobody can get you out of his hand. No one can snatch them out of my hand. Just moving along a few more. Acts 8, 39. Acts 8, 39. This is the incident of Philip in Ethiopia in Munich. And he leads the fellow who's coming in the chair out to Christ. And when they came out of the waters after he baptized him, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away. You can see the translators have helped in your getting the meaning. It's the same word, harpazo. The Spirit of the Lord snatched him away and the eunuch saw him no more and went in his way, the eunuch rejoicing.

Going further, Acts 23, 10. And this is, I think, about the crowds or the people. Acts 23, 10. And when the dissension, the argument, became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by the people, by the people angry, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away among them by force and bring him into the barracks. So Paul was rescued from the angry crowd by the Roman man in charge, Roman soldier, by him harpazo-ing him off. So you can see the meaning of the word is the sudden violent strong action, whether it is to defend someone or to hurt somebody. It's a word where it's no one's waiting around to ask permission.

All right, let's look at 2 Corinthians 12, 2. And this is about something that happened to a Christian and see if you can work out who the Christian is. Now, I know a man in Christ, this is Paul speaking, but most of the interpreters think he's talking about himself, but he's trying to be humble. I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Now, the third heaven are actually words used to give the meaning, but was caught up to is the same word, caught up to the third heaven. And then it's very similarly in verse 4. It says, and he heard, I'm not sure whether, anyway, the verse 4 continues on and says, and caught up to paradise. So in this case, it's Paul talking about himself is what we assume. And he gets caught up to paradise. Paradise, by the way, means a place of comfort. It was once in the better part of Hades. And when Jesus opened it up, all the people in Hades who were to be saved were transferred to heaven. So paradise is in heaven. And if somebody suddenly disappears and you see their clothes, or I don't know whether the clothes will still be on them, but if they suddenly disappear, then because they're Christians, you can assume that they've been snatched up to paradise.

And, all right. Well, it's the same verse that occurs in 1 Thessalonians 4 and verse 17. So if we can go back to that first passage that you had, 1 Thessalonians 4 and it's verse 17 in the middle. That's good. No, put the whole lot up. That's excellent what you did. And here is a passage where this word is used from which we get the whole doctrine in our English language called the rapture of the church or the rapture of the Christians.

And the reason why the word rapture comes into our English translation is because if you were to put it into Latin, the Latin verb that translates, the Greek word harpazo, is rapere. That's the infinitive. And so the rapture is the courting upness. It's the same meaning as harpazo, which is how a Greek Bible would read. But we don't want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep. Now, this is using sleep as a metaphor of death. You will find that through the New Testament that it's only used as a metaphor for death of the Christians. When the non-Christians die, it doesn't use such soft language. So it's a picture of people dying, but they're Christians dying. That you do not grieve as others do who have no hope. This is advice to the Christians whose loved ones have died. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

Now, what is this business about there being some people with Jesus who he brings with him when he comes back to the world? Well, the answer to that is, of course, because once Jesus went to heaven after his resurrection, he opened it up to fulfill what he had said to the disciples, I'm going away to prepare a place for you. And if I go away to prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself. So heaven is a place. Jesus has prepared it once he entered heaven. He made it available for others to go there too. And that's why when he comes back at the moment to collect the rest of the Christians, he brings with him those who've already gotten there because they died and went there on their death.

All right. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, that is when he comes, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not go ahead or will not precede those who fall asleep. They're the ones that died and got to heaven. We're not actually going to be in the earthly kingdom of God before the others. There's something Jesus is going to do when he comes again. He's going to set up his kingdom on earth in a way that is very visible. And it's going to be the fulfillment of the millennium, in fact.

For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not get ahead, will not go ahead, will not precede those who fall asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel and the sound of the trumpet of God. That's a reiterating cry of the archangel following Jesus' great shout. And the sound of the trumpet of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. And then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together. These are people still not having died. We'll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so will we always ever be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

And the whole thing that is being said here is to those who are sorrowing about loved ones, Christians who've died ahead of them, and they're not sure whether when Christ does come and set up his kingdom, their loved ones who died are going to miss out. And this is a comforting thing for those who've lost their loved ones, that when he comes, he will bring them. That's who the them is. And he's going to bring them with him as he comes. And then we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them. So actually this passage is about the reunification of all those who've been saved, who are in Christ. And the fact of Jesus having gone to heaven and some got there with him, I'm thinking about my parents, both of whom have died, and they are with Jesus spiritually but not in a body, not a bodily form. They're like in the book of Revelation when there are some people who are beheaded for the name of Christ, and they're under the altar and they cry out, How long, O Lord, faithful and true, until you avenge our blood on those on the earth, that they be martyred. And he tells them to wait a bit longer until everything's ready, until the whole number have come in to be martyred, etc. So there are people in heaven at the moment who are in a non-spiritual condition, but that's not their final end. And they're not going to miss out on what it is to have the new body and to have that sense of being as Jesus was as he rose from the grave, never to die again. He rose on the other side of death to have a physicality that spirituality is not the absence of. Some people have the idea to be spiritual, it's a bit of a ghost. No, being spiritual is to be alive in the spirit, and when we come to Christ and become alive in the spirit, but we've got a body that's dying, then when this happens, this moment of rapture happens, we're going to be changed, so we learn in the book of Corinthians, that when we're caught up, we're going to have a changed body and we'll meet the Lord Jesus with others who have also been in a spiritual state, but they will have their bodies raised, so they'll be complete, both spiritual and physical. That's what this is all about.

Not only is there a sense of coming together, reunion of all sorts of people who have been saved spiritually, some having just the spirit in their spirits, they're spiritual people, but they're not yet with the new body, and others may be different, because they're raised when Jesus comes, but all of us together are going to be all the same, who are both alive in spirit and in body, because that's when the miracle is going to happen, when this rapture occurs. And we'll be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so will we always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words.

Now, this is 1 Thessalonians. You need to know, of course, that if you read the second book of Thessalonians, that something is different about the complete narrative to do with the second coming. Between 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians, you can explain why they're both true, but it is a fact that one of the things that's very present in this 1 Thessalonians 4 passage is what I would call the word, its imminence.

Now, I need to tell you a little bit of English, a little bit of theology. Please don't turn off just because I'm doing this, but the word imminence has got two ways to spell because there's two entirely different meanings. And there's the word immanent, which means in something else. And when we teach theology at the college, we teach about the doctrine of the trinity. And there's two ways the theologians have described the trinity. One way is called the imminent trinity. It's with the immanent. And the imminent trinity is that there's Father, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, but one is imminent in the other. And so with the imminent trinity, there's no way that you can do business with God the Son and not do business with the Father because the Father and the Son are unified and there's a oneness of unity they have between them. It's not the oneness of solitude that there's only one being with a different name tag for different occasions, but the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is our triune God. Our one God is triune, three members. And they have a oneness and a togetherness and the Father and the Son are imminent in each other. If you've seen me, said Jesus, you've seen the Father. And the Spirit is the same. He's sometimes called the Spirit of Christ because he's here to do the business of Christ and he takes his orders from Jesus, the God-man in heaven. And that's why he's sometimes called the Spirit of Christ but it's actually the Holy Spirit being talked about. But because of the imminence of the Trinity, they are in each one. They're one God in three persons but yet they have imminence. That's with the A in the middle, I double M-A-N-E-N-C-E.

But the other word imminence has got an I where previously the one I just talked about has an A. Imminence. And imminence is when you say there's a storm coming, it's imminence, down comes the rain. Imminence means it could come at any moment. Imminence means it's pretty well on you, you can almost talk about it as though it's here now. And the imminence of Jesus Christ's second coming is something that the Bible teaches. So that one of the cries that we're exhorted to have coming out of reading the book of Revelation is Jesus saying, I am coming, I am coming. And when there is a movement of the Spirit amongst churches, often people have visions of that final moment of his coming. The Jesus revolution that happened in the 70s in the west coast of the United States where thousands of young people turned off by the materialism of their society and there was a revival amongst them and they became Christians got so aware that they were sitting on the edge of Christ returning again, though it might be thousands of years later, but they had the sense that his coming was just sitting on the edge of eternity to step out and greet them. And they got those t-shirts and Time magazine had a picture of them having a mass baptism down on the shores on the west coast. And on the t-shirt at the back it said, he's coming. It was their cry, Jesus is coming. And it got picked up somehow spiritually by then that they somehow couldn't help but emphasize it all the time. It actually is a spiritual phenomenon. I think that's what the book of Revelation is talking about when it talks about the fact that Jesus is coming. He's about to come. He has that posture of readiness to come, spiritually speaking, every moment of the day. He's coming.

I've been through times when the Spirit of God has been at work and I think in the early 70s here in Brisbane we had a movement of the Spirit amongst young people. I remember at that time I was just getting going as a preacher and I was not an expository preacher like you hear me, where I take the Bible passages and unwrap them. But I used to only preach the message I'd got as an inspiration and I'd go along. I had one message that I'd keep on preaching because while it was on my heart I couldn't say anything else. One day one minister said, Jim, I've heard you now three times and you have the same topic every time. It wasn't quite the same sermon but it was because something had gripped me. And I remember one of those sermons I had was about the fact that Jesus is coming. And how I got the sermon was I was living at the college where Dad was the principal and we were in the house next door and the students had three floors in their building and at the bottom was their floor for meals and things and there was a piano where they played table tennis, that sort of stuff. The next floor up was lecture rooms and whatever for the faculty to lead.

And the third floor up was where they had their rooms. So, I used to go over and play table tennis with the students and enjoyed that, and so I'd trot over there. I'd go down the stairs into that lower floor where the table tennis tables were, and one day a student was in there and had caught onto Larry Norman's song. Larry Norman's song was, "Life was filled with guns and wars and everyone got trampled on the floor. I wish we'd all been ready." And he was playing this on the piano, and I came trotting down the stairs, table tennis in mind, with that song which I knew, I heard. I'll tell you the truth, from that moment for quite some months later I could preach on nothing else because the sense, he's about to come, let me read you the words. It's pretty good poetry actually, and it's certainly from the interpretation of the pre-millennial come of Christ. But I'm reading here from you, Larry Norman, the words of it, "I wish we'd all been ready. Life was filled with guns and war and everyone got trampled on the floor. I wish we'd all been ready. Children died, the days grew cold. A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold. I wish we'd all been ready. There's no time to change your mind. The sun has come and you've been left behind. A man and a wife asleep in bed. She hears the noise and turns her head. He's gone. I wish we'd all been ready. Two men walking up a hill. One disappears and one left standing still. I wish we'd all been ready. Children died. There's no time to change your mind. How could you have been so blind? I wish we'd all been ready. A piece of bread could buy a bag of gold. I wish we'd all been ready." And although I know that's poetry, a human made poet, poetry is an interpretation. Could be wrong in parts because whenever we theologians try and interpret the doctrines, there's a human element we introduce that can be wrong. And there might be things that will turn out not quite to be how it is, but that was definitely very inspired. And that day as I walked down the piano, because I knew the song, it sort of wrote in me something I had to cry out. I wish we'd all been ready because that's how the Bible speaks about Jesus' return from the perspective of God's view on time. One day being the same as a thousand years, the day of his return is on his mind. And spiritually speaking, it's the next thing to happen. But he comes. And when he comes, it'll be too late to change your mind. That's what the song has captured. I wish we'd all been ready.

And it's got a corporate basis to having not been ready for the society, not being prepared for Jesus to come and to call it into account for how they not revered him as they might have done. Well, that's this word harpazo. And the idea of it catching people up physically, forcibly, and taking them to meet Christ in the air. And he comes with them. And those who were the souls under the altar, he brings with them that they might then be resurrected out of their graves. And there will be a reunification of the spiritual persons who've been waiting in heaven, my dad and mum, with the bodies.

Now, I know where their bodies went. The only thing left of their bodies are two plaques up at Mount Gravatt. And when my mother passed away, my dad, I guess, made the decision, because he lasted another year and a bit, and that he didn't mind whether she was buried or cremated. Now, there have been Christians down through the years who've believed that you should certainly be buried. Otherwise, how could you be raised out of the tombs? And they had the idea that if you were cremated, then there'd be nothing to be raised. But that's a silly idea because the idea of the resurrection is God bringing together a reconstituted body, but it's the body like Jesus. And it's a miracle. And whether or not he does it from actual bones and what, or whether he just recreates what is the design, is not really very important. And besides which, if you've got it that he's got to get together the molecules that were originally in my dad and mum, right, there's a bit of a problem for them because the worms, no doubt, got those molecules since. And what about the person who's lost at sea and the shark ate it? And then some unscrupulous fish and chip person who goes fishing to get some extra stuff to sell, he sells it as flake when it's actually shark. And so there's other people who've eaten this meat. Now, what if it was some relative of yours who got lost at sea and the shark ate it? The fish and chip man caught it and sold it and someone else ate it? Those little molecules of your relatives are now in some other person. What will God do if he has to get the very molecules that someone died with? It doesn't matter. It's not the actual molecules after all. Those things turn over and over again. Do you know when you lose your hair, and that happens to all of us, sometimes more grows back a little bit, but during life you don't. I used to have much thicker hair than I have now. But those hairs drop out and they dissipate, the molecules, and they get to be in some crow perhaps. And then someone else eats the crow, a cat gets in, and then someone else has got no meat and they eat the neighbour's cat. Who knows what goes on? And where those molecules turn up, it's stupid to try and imagine that God has to preserve the original molecules of every person who's ever lived. He'd have to have a very big molecule bank of some sort to store it all. No, it's just the design that's being talked about. And he will look after that.

In Dallas, I always had a bit of a giggle about some of the real estate people in Dallas because they were running out of land. And it wasn't only the people buying and selling houses that were feeling the pinch, but the people who were in to do with cemeteries were having difficulty because there's so many conservative Christians, especially ones that would like my sermon, over there. And they want to know that when they die, their body is in a certain spot and can get out nice and quickly. And what the cemeteries were doing was selling off land places for your casket to go in. And they had three levels, one at six foot, one at 12 foot, one down at 18 feet. But then there were Christians who were complaining, saying, if the rapture happens, I might be down at 18 feet and I've got to scramble over the top of two other bodies above me. You know, that's such a ridiculous thing to be worried about. No, it isn't the actual molecules, but the fact that God turns them over all the time in life and physicality. But it is the design that he has for you. And what is more, when someone is raised to life, the other side of death, because you're a Christian, you're raised to the design of the new body. And the one that you're going to be like is like Jesus. And the thing to notice about the body of Jesus after he raised from the grave was that he was both spiritual in the sense that he could come through the door. But it wasn't because he was a ghost. How do I know? Jesus turned up one of those occasions in the upper room where he turned up and he showed them his hands and his side. And he got them to look at the hole in his hands that for some reason in God's mind was left preserved. It wasn't healed over or anything. And the hole in his side, he invited Thomas to stick a finger in there or hand into his side. And then Jesus said, "See that I'm not a ghost as you might think I am." And he asked for a piece of, they had fish on the table. And he ate the fish in front of them. Now if he were a ghost, what would you have seen? A little bit of fish. Still visible. See through the ghost, you know. No, he ate it and his intestines must have got a grip on it. So he has physicality even though he has spirituality. And you don't have to think of him as a ghost or whatever. He could turn up anywhere. And the theologians don't know exactly how to explain that. But he can because he is. The new man is he's going to be forever. And so are we. And the Bible tells us that we're going to be like him. Fantastic that our bodies with all of their problems. And most people do have awareness of some problem that you have. You don't go around telling everybody unless you say too much like I sometimes do. But you've got your problems physically. And whether it is you've got a crooked nose or like my mother, she had sisters who had big bumps on their noses. And one of them actually got a special operation to have it removed. And then she quickly got married. She was so worried about it. It was the stop of her getting married. Probably wasn't. But she was the one that was worried about it. And they'll all be fixed with whatever is heaven's pattern of a normal looking person. It might be quite different from ours. We sometimes think of all sorts of things as what is the best looking. But God might have different ideas for all we know. But anyway, we're going to be perfect. And our physicality is going to be perfect in glory. And that's fantastic. Yet we will also be spiritual people. And we're going to be like Jesus after his resurrection. Now that is a fantastic thing. And we're going to be caught up to meet the Lord Jesus in the clouds and the air. So when that happens, there's going to be a lot of this. Because we're going to be changed to look like Jesus. And that doesn't mean identical. It means that we're going to be perfect as is he. And we're going to see each other how we're going to be forever and eternity. So there won't be any more of the levels of people with, you know, I'm more beautiful than you.

Or I'm Superman and you're just a little wimp. There won't be any of that in glory. It's going to be a different scene. And we will not have the sinful human natures that make the wrong things out of how we look as we do down here on earth. And all of that's going to happen. We'll meet the Lord in the air and so we'll always be with the Lord. Now that's a phrase to remember. So shall you ever be with the Lord. From that moment on of meeting him in the air, there's nowhere that Jesus is going to be that we will not be with him. So he's going to come back to the earth. There's a few things that are going to happen if you put together all the scriptures. I haven't got time to get into 2 Thessalonians, but there's a period of time when the Antichrist appears on the scene and where there's terrible bad things that are happening. But eventually Jesus who's met us in the air and taken us off to be with him in heaven comes back for what is the formal second coming. And so if you talk about the second coming, you could describe the rapture as a part of it for some. But the final open coming, when everybody sees him, that time when he must do a tour right around the world because every eye is going to see him. And he puts everything in order. That's the final open appearing of the Lord Jesus. Whereas this is something that's sort of secret. Now there is no word secret in the Bible. Although some of you might have heard me talk about a theological discussion. I had one of the other professors at the college. And this was morning tea and he was making a joke of the doctrine that I possessed. And he said the stupid idea some people have, he said of a secret rapture. And then I pointed out to him, there's actually no word secret there. It's just going to be happening. Maybe not everybody will understand it. And I understand there's even some theologians who don't know this. He was one. There is a time when Jesus is going to come and you either have the choice to believe 1 Thessalonians because it's scripture or you've got to ignore it. Because it's so exact, so in the dead in Christ will rise first. How are you going to explain that without simply saying they come out of the graves? And we who are alive and are left will be caught up together with them. This distinction of the people who didn't, weren't dead, but we who are alive and are left. What does it imply about the others? They were not alive and they weren't left. They've been killed, which is why their good loved ones are sorrowing over them. I think the meaning is very clear. You haven't got room to wriggle out of its meaning. And so will we ever be with the Lord. So wherever Jesus goes from that on, we go with him. Therefore encourage one another with these words. And if you take this passage, if you are unsure of how to think about the second coming of Christ, take this passage on and see if you can memorize it and still not believe that it's talking about there being an actual rapture or event that's going to happen. Well, I haven't quite finished, and so I'm wondering at 5.56 whether how hungry you are and whether I should just go for a little moment. If you give a distress call, I'll stop quickly. All right.

But I did want to say one further thing, that is not so much about this passage, but about the different ways people have sought to understand the teaching of the Bible about the second coming. And there are various positions that they have with regard to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. And in each of those positions, they describe the understanding of his coming with an adjective. Now, you do know that an adjective is a describing word. So the describing word that you put with the coming of Christ, the second coming of Christ, whether you believe it is premillennial, whether you believe it is amillennial, or whether you believe it is postmillennial. And with that verb of an L on the end, they're just adjectives describing what you think is how the second coming is going to happen with respect to the millennium.

If you believe in a premillennial return of Christ, then you believe just what I've been saying. That Jesus is going to come before there is any literal millennium. Where do we get the idea of millennium? We won't go into that tonight too much, because I'll preserve that for another evening. But it's in Revelation and chapter... Let me look at my list of verses. Okay. Oh, here we are. Revelation chapter 20, verses 1 to 6. Did you have that ready? Yes. You're doing very well. Thank you. Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and the great chain. And he seized the dragon, which is elsewhere identified as the devil, that ancient serpent who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into a pit, into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be released for a little while. Okay. That'll be enough for just now. But there's actually in this same chapter at least three times the word thousand years is mentioned. If you put it into Latin, it's the millennium. So the millennium is just talking about a special set of designated time of a thousand years.

Now what you do with that is that you could say, well, the Book of Revelation is full of symbols and full of metaphorical meanings. It's sometimes very hard to pick exactly which ones to take as seriously literal or which ones are symbolic. That's the Book of Revelation. But because it's used three times, it certainly seems to be insisting on it being to be taken seriously. You need to have a pretty good theory to get out of it being a literal thousand years. And then what happens at the end of that? Satan is released for a bit, and he does a few things wrong, and eventually is cast into the lake of fire, which is another way of describing hell. Jesus having said, hell is made for the devil and his angels. So the Book of Revelation, I won't go any further about that just now, but if you remember that the word second coming of Christ, or if you're going to talk about there being a rapture, and you described it as pre-millennial, it is that you believe that Jesus comes and does this raising of people from the dead and bringing back those who've been died but are just in spirit, and they get their bodies raised and rejoined to them, and all of them caught up together to be with the Lord wherever he goes. And eventually, as 1 Thessalonians depicts, he's going to bring all that lot back to earth. But in the meantime, 2 Thessalonians talks about there being a time of the Antichrist. I've mentioned that previously. Antichrist is someone who is a stand-in for Christ. You can spell it two ways. Anti with an I, which means he's against Christ. That's the meaning most of us think of without realizing there's actually two meanings anticipated. The other anti is anti with an E, which is the idea of someone who is an imposter, who poses as the Christ. I might have the eye and the ear around the wrong way, but one meaning is that it's someone opposing Christ, and the other meaning is that it's someone who presents himself as the Christ. And Jesus was often speaking about the fact that this person is just going to pretend that he's the Christ, try and draw people away. In fact, he said there are many antichrists, people trying to do that. And that's one of the scenes of the final time, which I think is after the rapture, but this period of time between 1 Thessalonians picture and 2 Thessalonians picture, because 2 Thessalonians doesn't say for you to expect a sudden happening and everything will be changed. It says to be aware that these antichrist figures are going to be about, and there's going to be one big antichrist personage who is going to deceive the nations and do many things and cause a lot of the persecutions described in the book of Revelation. And then Christ will interrupt his time of reigning badly like so, and will put down his rebellion and he will take over the world. And that will be then when God will introduce the time of the millennium, thousand years of blessing. And after that, the devil will be released and things happen.

So that's a pre-millennial understanding, but there have been others, and I'm not going to go through them in detail, but just to list them and know that in future time we'll talk about the different ways that people have sought to interpret this whole business of there being a millennium and whether it's taken as a literal one or not a literal one. And so I've just got down a list here that I can give you of how many different ways to understand about the millennium. We call these eschatological frameworks, frameworks about the second coming, eschatologies about the end times, and how to understand Revelation 20 and this mention about the millennium. And the pre-millennial position is where Christ comes before the millennium. See, it's an adjective, pre-millennial return of Christ. Now, in terms of the history of the church, that was the first position. And pre-millennialism is what most of the early church fathers believed, the ones who were carrying on Christianity after the death of the first apostles, Jesus and the apostles. Papias is 60 to 130, Justin verses 180 to 165, Irenaeus 130 to 200 AD, Lactanatius 240 to 320, I hope I pronounced it properly. All of these example early church fathers who were decidedly pre-millennial. Now, when my dad first came up here to Brisbane to become the principal of the college, he replaced a previous man who died. But there was a resident theology professor who was Scottish, Professor Gordon Martin. He was a lovely man, gracious man, Scottish man, intellectual, very intellectual. And he taught theology, but he recognized the fact that my dad was pre-millennial and he was amillennial, meaning he didn't believe there was any millennium. And he realized that because dad being principal, that would be where the college and the union would go. So he returned to Scotland and he finished doing his own doctorate in, I think, the Glasgow University. He did six volumes on what was the eschatology, end times teaching, what was the eschatology of the early church fathers. And what he discovered in that is that they were largely, maybe not everyone, but largely pre-millennial. It gave him a shock. He thought they'd all be amillennial like him, but they weren't. They believed that Jesus was coming back and a millennium would come after that. That's pre-millennial. And he wrote my dad a letter to say it made him realize that the first interpreters of the New Testament from the early church fathers all took it literally. And although they didn't all have the same things agreeing, yet they were pre-millennial and it made him consider again whether his interpretive way of looking at the Bible of taking things more allegorically was wrong. And it made him become an evangelical and he became a pre-millennial. And he wrote my dad a letter, which was quite a surprise because he was strongly the other way disposed earlier. And I don't think that there are many legs to stand on not being pre-millennial if you're prepared to give credit to how the scriptures have been understood down across the years and when you begin to realize some of the reasons why some of them took the other stances.

The second change or second position to take up was that taken by Augustine. And Augustine was the theologian who was the first of the great theologians across many years. And the fourth century A.D. ideas made him rather not like the very materialistic interpretation of what heaven would be like. And he opted for a better idea of heaven as spiritual. And so he introduced an idea and there was a person back then called Tychonicus who was teaching that there's no literal millennium at all but rather he spiritualized the idea and he understood that the spiritual idea of the millennium was the period of time between Christ's ascension and his second return.

Now what motivated Augustine so to do was that he could then have a spiritual interpretation of all the promises of heaven and all the rest and of what was happening and so it was a spiritual idea of Christ ruling the earth from heaven during the age of the church. And this became the understanding of the church age. If you have that understanding, we're in the millennium now. And that's how he understood it. When time rolled around through the 15th and 16th centuries and you've got the arrival of what's Protestantism because of Luther going against the Pope, you probably know all that story and John Calvin being a great interpreter of the Protestant position and they saw Revelation 20 verse 3 about there being a thousand years as talking about in a spiritual way Satan being about and having a lot of effects. He's let loose in Revelation 20 verse 3, he's let loose from his prison for a while to deceive the nations again. I think I've got the right verse and they took that to be why the Roman Catholic Church was so bad. They took that to be the devil's interference in the church and why they had to oppose Roman Catholicism so badly. So the end of that millennium would be when Christ returns and there is a judgment and there's a dissolution of all the world and go on into heaven in a very spiritual state.

The third position is called post-millennialism which believes that there is to be a literal thousand years but it's going to happen as a result of Christian evangelism and things getting better and better and better and then Christ will come and we'll have a wonderful time in glory but there'll be a thousand years of Christianity having succeeded to make a blessing. And in that time there were people who wrote up that when this period, post-millennialism, most of the Protestant preachers in the Northern Hemisphere I might say were those who preached this way, they were always prophesying that we're going to succeed with missions and we're going to Christianise the world and there were hymns that were written that sometimes we sing without knowing what they're saying but someday a bright new world will break upon our shore and there will be no sickness, no more crying, no more war and little children will never grow hungry anymore and there will be a bright new world for us to share someday there will be banned the unkind words and cruel the man who said there is no God will know he is a fool and peace will be the way of life and love the only rule and there will be a bright new life for us to share. That's the hymn, very optimistic that the Protestants believed that there would be a millennium but a spiritual sort of millennium because the gospel wins the way and the only trouble with that is of course that it brought up Protestant Christianity to the beginning of World War I and it was such a devastation of life that the only way they could explain their way out of it being a failure of Protestant Christianity winning the world was they said this is the war to end all wars and they thought somehow the nations would learn their lesson by what happened in World War I but then World War II broke out and the whole position of Protestant post-millennialism dropped out it was no longer very credible because the atrocities that happened in World War II and since then people rather have thought that the world is gradually getting worse and worse not better and better and so modern day Protestants generally think we could have a revival and Christianity be doing well but the world is getting worse and worse and the two trends are happening alongside each other. Finally there is what you call symbolic amillennialism where they don't believe there's a millennium at all but they can be on any places in the scale as far as the world getting better or getting worse but it's just to believe that a thousand years is a symbol of God being at work.

So they're the different positions that generally people take there might even be some others that are less known but these are interpretations of how to deal with the fact of First Thessalonians in Chapter 4 and the very idea of a rapture and how to deal with Revelation and those chapters about the fact that there will be a thousand year reign of Christ on earth when and where and how and where does it fit in is what that's all about. I hope this has helped you. We might again get into some of these questions because to know what the Bible teaches and knowing how much evidence there is for any of those options they have to understand about the rapture and about the millennium are important things to have an opinion of that you get from the scriptures.

Let me have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the fact that the scriptures tell us what we need to know. Sometimes Father, we don't have the capacity to unravel it very well. Sometimes we get very enthusiastic about our interpretations when we haven't read it all. Help that not to be the case but please lead us by your spirit. Jesus, you said that when you went away you'd send the helper and he would teach us all things. We do invite the Holy Spirit to help us to know how to interpret these parts of the Bible that are difficult for us. We ask in his name, in Jesus' name. Amen.

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