7:00 pm Coffee & check in
Worship Opening Prayer
Focus Two people are both preparing for a airline flight in January. One person is preparing for a flight that will land in Edmonton, the other is preparing for a flight that will land in Hawaii. Both are preparing, but how will their preparations be different? What if their flights got mixed up?
Read Matthew 24:1-8; 23-31; 36-42; Revelation 21:1-6
While there are numerous variations in millennialist teaching today, a fourfold categorization has been widely accepted: (l) dispensational premillennialism; (2) historic premillennialism; (3) postmillennialism; and (4) amillennialism. Of the first three categories, all of which hold to a millennium or utopian age on this earth, the most commonly held view is dispensational premillennialism. ….
Distinctive Features and Emphases:
Dispensationalists usually divide God’s dealings with humanity into seven distinct “dispensations”: Innocence (Gen. 1:28-3:6), Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Gen. 4:1-8:14), Human Government (Gen. 8:15-11:32), Promise (Gen. 12:1-Ex. 18:27), The Law (Ex. 19:3-Acts 1:26), The Church (Acts 2:1-Revelation 19), and the Millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20). A dispensation is defined as “a period of time during which man is tested in respect to his obedience to some specific revelation of the will of God.” In each of these periods, a distinct revelation of God’s will is dominant and tests mankind’s obedience to God.
(The following information is from “Eschatology Comparison,” Internet, available at: http://www.spiritone.com/~wing/esc_chrt.htm)
a. Dispensationalists argue for the necessity of the literal interpretation of all of the prophetic portions of Scripture….
b. Dispensationalists insist that God has two redemptive plans, one for national Israel, and one for Gentiles during the “church age.” This presupposition forms the basis for the dispensational hermeneutic….
c. There is a “rapture” of believers when Jesus Christ secretly returns to earth before the seven year tribulation period begins (the seventieth week of Daniel, cf. Daniel 9:24-27). Believers do not experience the persecution of the Anti-Christ who rises to prominence during this “tribulation period.” The Biblical data dealing with the time of tribulation is referring to unbelieving Israel, not the church. Therefore, the church age, or the “age of grace,” is to be seen as that period of time in which God is dealing with Gentiles prior to the coming of the kingdom of God during the millennium.
d. The visible and physical second coming of Christ occurs after the great tribulation. Those who are converted to Christ during the tribulation, including Jews (the 144,000) who turn to Christ, go on into the millennium to re-populate the earth. Glorified believers rule with Christ during his future reign.
e. Jesus came to earth bringing with him an “offer” of the kingdom to the Jews, who rejected him. God then turned to dealing with the Gentiles — thus, the church age is a parenthesis of sorts. The rapture is the next event to occur in Biblical prophecy. The signs of the end of the age (i.e., the birth of the nation of Israel, the revival of the Roman empire predicted in Daniel as seen through the emergence of the EEC [common market], the impending Russian-Arab invasion of Israel, etc.) all point to the immediacy of the secret return of Christ for his church. Antichrist is awaiting his revelation once the believing church is removed.
f. The millennium is marked by a return to Old Testament temple worship and sacrifice to commemorate the sacrifice of Christ. At the end of the millennium, the “great white throne” judgement occurs, and Satan and all unbelievers are cast into the lake of fire. There is the creation of a new heaven and earth.
[Scofield Reference Bible, Ryrie Study Bible, Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, John Walvoord, Charles Ryrie, J. Dwight Pentecost, Norman Geisler, Charles Feinberg. Popular dispensational pastors and writers include; Charles Swindoll, Dave Hunt, Jack Van Impe, Charles Stanley, Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel movement, Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot Theological Seminary, the Master's College and Grace Theological Seminary.]
Distinctive Features and Emphases:
a. While often popularly confused with “dispensational premillennialism” with but a mere disagreement as to the timing of the “rapture,” historic premillennialism is, in actuality, a completely different eschatological system, largely rejecting the whole dispensational understanding of redemptive history.
b. The basic features of historic premillennialism are as follows. When Jesus began his public ministry the kingdom of God was manifest through His ministry. Upon His ascension into heaven and the “Gift of the Spirit” at Pentecost, the kingdom is present through the Spirit, until the end of the age, which is marked by the return of Christ to the earth in judgement. During the period immediately preceding the return of Christ, there is great apostasy and tribulation.
C. After the return of Christ, there will be a period of 1000 years (the millennium separating the “first” resurrection from the “second” resurrection. Satan will be bound, and the kingdom will consummated, that is, made visible during this period.
d. At the end of the millennial period, Satan will be loosed and there will be a massive rebellion (of “Gog and Magog”), immediately preceding the “second” resurrection or final judgement. After this, there will be the creation of a new Heaven and Earth.
[George Eldon Ladd of Fuller Theological Seminary the late Walter Martin, John Warwick Montgomery, J. Barton Payne, Heny Alford, Theodore Zahn, the many scholars of the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Evangelical Free), Ireneaus [140-203], Justin Martyr [100-165], Papias [80-155]), Fuller Seminary, Trinity Seminary, J.O. Buswell, J. Barton Payne and R. Laird Harris.]
Distinctive Features and Emphases:
a. Generally speaking, postmillennialists affirm that the millennium is a period of one thousand years of universal peace and righteousness in this world, which precedes the return of Jesus Christ to earth in judgement. Postmillennialists are divided as to whether or not the period of time is a literal one thousand years, and whether or not the millennial age begins abruptly or gradually. Some see the millennial age as entirely future, others argue that it may have already begun to gradually emerge. Postmillennialists also disagree as to the events that mark the beginning of the millennial age, such as the conversion of Israel (Romans 9-11), the binding of Satan (Revelation 20), and the defeat of Antichrist.
b. …Postmillennialists see the millennial age as commencing at some point during the present age, and as a period in which the kingdom of God triumphs over the kingdoms of this world. Amillennial Christians see the millennial age as occupying the entire period of time between the first and second coming Christ. Generally speaking, amillennial Christians see the millennial age as one of both the triumph of the spiritual kingdom of God and the corresponding rise of evil in opposition.
c. According to postmillennialists, there will be universal preaching and acceptance of the Gospel, and a complete and total victory of the kingdom of God, over the forces of Satan and unbelief. Postmillennialism is an optimistic eschatology of the victory grace of God in subduing evil in the world. During this period Satan will be effectually bound by the triumph of grace. Israel be converted somewhere near the beginning of the millennial Postmillennialists do disagree however, about the nature and details of these events.
d. At the end of the millennial period, Satan will be released the period of great tribulation and the apostasy described in Revelation 20 occurs, culminating in Gog and Magog and the Battle of Armageddon. Christ then returns in judgement (the “great throne judgement”), the resurrection occurs, and there is the creation of a new heaven and earth.
a. Postmillennialism was popular among American Evangelicals in the period of unprecedented technological growth between 1870 and 1915. World War I largely served to squash the tremendous optimism regarding the growth of technology and the related optimism about the future of man, which was carried over in church in the form of an optimistic eschatology. Many Reformed theologians of this period are generally considered postmillennial, including the “Old-Princetonians,” Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, and B. B. Warfield.
b. Recently, postmillennialism has seen a resurgence, with the rise of Christian reconstructionism and theonomy. In addition, there is mass confusion generated by critics of postmillennialism, such as Dave Hunt and Hal Lindsey, who portray the movement as taking two quite different and confusing forms — that of “Theonomy,” and that of “Dominion Theology.” Thus many Evangelicals fail to see these two forms as distinct and divergent movements. Setting out the differences between the two forms then is helpful.
1). The “theonomic” form of postmillennialism was initially presented by J. Marcellus Kik, and reworked into a full–blown ethical system known as “theonomy” or “reconstructionism” by R. J. Rushdoony. The business of the church was to work to see a theocracy restored upon the earth by emphasizing the continuity of OT law (civil, ceremonial and moral) with the NT. Once established, this victorious church would be the divine vehicle from which the ever advancing kingdom of God would bind Satan and subdue all evil in the world. The emphasis of theonomic postmillennialism is that it is God who exercises dominion through his church establishing His law as the law of the land. Other theologians in the postmillennial theonomic movement are, the late Greg Bahnsen, Ray Sutton and Gary North. Popular writers include Gary DeMarr, Kenneth Gentry, and Peter J. Leithart.
2). The “dominion” form of postmillennialism (though not all “dominion” advocates are postmillennial) is exclusively Pentecostal. This form believes the charismatic revival “Latter Rain”) is God’s means of binding Satan and allowing the Spirit-lead church to reclaim material possessions and wealth, which had been surrendered to unbelief and the kingdom of Satan. Once the Church understands its role and potential for dominion, through the work of the Spirit, be able to establish the kingdom of God on earth in it fullness, thereby bringing in a millennial age. The emphasis here is that it is the believer who must learn to exercise dominion if he is to take part in the advancing kingdom. Bishop Earl Paulk, Paul Yongli Cho and perhaps Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Pat Robertson.
d. The older form of postmillennialism, as practiced by Reformed theologians such as Hodge and Warfield, has little in common in emphasis with the modern theonomic approach to eschatology, which emphasizes the rise of a theocracy as the vehicle of dominion. The modern form raises serious questions about the Reformed understanding of the distinction between law and gospel. The result in many circles a peculiar hybrid, (a tertium quid, if you will) with a propensity for making strange bed-fellows.
Distinctive Features and Emphases:
a. The “a” millennial (literally meaning “no” millennium) position is the eschatological view of historic Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed Christianity. It would be my educated guess that about two-thirds of the Christian family espouse an amillennial eschatology. The amillennial position is as well the position of the vast majority of Reformed and Lutheran theologians. The position portrayed in these lectures is the Reformed understanding of amillennialism, which is better understood as “present” millennialism [or "realized" millennialism], since Reformed eschatology argues for a real, present, though “invisible” non-spatial millennium.
b. Amillennialists insist that the promises made to national Israel, David and Abraham, in the OT are fulfilled by Christ and the Church during this age, which is the millennium, that is the entire period of time between the two advents of our Lord. The “thousand years” are therefore symbolic of the entire inter-advental age. Satan is bound by Christ’s victory over him and the establishment of the kingdom of God via the preaching of the gospel, and Satan is no longer free to deceive the nations, through the presence of Christ is reigning in heaven during this period with the martyrs who come out of the great tribulation. At the end of the millennial age, Christ returns in judgement of all men. The general resurrection occurs, final judgement takes place for all men and women, and a new Heaven and Earth are established.
C. In most forms of amillennialism, immediately before the return of Christ, Satan is unbound, there is a great apostasy, and a time of unprecedented satanically inspired evil. This last Satanic gasp and subsequent rebellious activity is destroyed by our Lord at his return
a. Amillennialism has always been the majority position of the Christian family. It was first articulated by St. Augustine, and has been given a distinctive Reformed emphasis through the work of Geerhardus Vos (the “Biblical-Theological” approach). As the “dispensational” movement captured the hearts and minds of conservative American Evangelicals, amillennialism was equated with “liberalism” or Roman Catholicism. The supposed interpreting prophecy “spiritually” or “not-literally” has lead to the rejection of amillennialism by many. In addition, amillennialism suffered greatly from the failure of Reformed and Lutheran writers to defend the position against the likes of Dave Hunt, Chuck Missler and Hal Lindsey, who has labeled the position as “demonic and heretical,” and the root of modern anti-semitism.
b. Leading contemporary “amill” theologians would include popular writers such as J. I. Packer, Mike Horton, [the late] Calvin seminary professor, Anthony Hoekema, and RC Sproul. In addition, all of the Reformers, as well as the Reformed and Lutheran confessional traditions, as a whole, have been amillennial. 
(The following critique is from “A Lutheran Response to the Left Behind Series.” The Left Behind Series was written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins with a Dispensational Premillennialism perspective.)
The Rapture and Millennium
The first person to propose the end time scenario adopted by Left Behind was an Anglican priest turned traveling evangelical preacher named John Nelson Darby. Darby arrived in the United States from England in 1862 for the first of seven visits, bearing his new understanding of Christ’s Second Coming. Darby and minister Cyrus Scofield, who would expand the evangelist’s ideas in the influential Scofield Reference Bible, divided God’s relationship with people into seven ages, or dispensations (the current sixth era began with the death of Jesus). Their vision included a rapture in which Christians will be snatched up to heaven before the beginning of an increasingly hellish seven-year tribulation (see “Diagrams of Millennial Views” in the Appendix at the end of this report).
Prior to Darby’s influence, most Christians understood the “rapture” as an event that would happen simultaneously with the final resurrection and the end of the age. Yet Darby uniquely repositioned it to take place at the end of the era of the church and just before the tribulation. He then taught that at the end of seven years of tribulation Christ would return and defeat the Antichrist and commence the seventh dispensation-the millennium, a 1000-year glorious reign on earth….
Prior to 1830 (the advent of Darby’s teachings) there is no indication that any Christian church embraced this pre-tribulation “secret” rapture doctrine. Rather, up until then Christians believed that Jesus would come again visibly at some undisclosed time to judge-once and for all-the living and the dead. This is what is affirmed in the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds. These statements of faith do not teach a two-stage coming of Christ as do the proponents of the Left Behind series -a coming first “for his saints,” and later “with his saints.” According to the historic creeds there will be one final eschatological event: the second and final coming of Christ. The rapture and the Second Coming are equated and are therefore synonymous. At this moment in history, not just Christians but all of humanity will respond to the Savior. Christ’s exaltation will mean, says Paul, “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
Moreover, the Left Behind series presents the rapture as an event that is not initially understood by all (or even most) people. But there is no biblical evidence of a secret rapture. …
Nor does the book of Revelation teach a pre-tribulation rapture of Christians. Instead, it teaches that God will preserve His people in the face of persecution and suffering (Rev 3:10; 14:12). Additionally, since Christ will resurrect all believers and unbelievers on Judgment Day, Revelation states that there will be no second chance for repentance (Rev 11:18; 20:11-15)….
Israel and the Church
An important component of the LaHaye/Jenkins manner of biblical interpretation is their belief that God will reestablish an earthly kingdom with the nation of Israel. These authors believe that by crucifying Jesus the Jews rejected the earthly kingdom offered to them, but God did not reject the Jews.
Left Behind assumes that because this kingdom was offered to (and then refused by) the Jews, it will be offered again in the future. In what way? The Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of national Israel to the land in the last days will be fulfilled literally. The series of books is built upon the belief that the promise of returning to the land was fulfilled with Israel’s re-birth as a nation in 1948. At that time the prophetic fuse was relit and now history is racing toward the end, and at an accelerated pace. For this reason the current events in the nation of Israel are of vital importance for followers of the Left Behind series.
So what about the church? According to Left Behind, as an alternate plan or as a parenthesis, Christ established the church because Gentiles believed what the Jews rejected. This is the “Church Age,” or sixth dispensation, and it must end with the rapture before God can re-establish His primary work with the Jews and bring about the culmination of history-the seventh dispensation, Christ’s reign on earth.
A biblically based response to the future of the Jews, however, is to join the apostle Paul in his earnest prayer for the salvation of his Jewish kinsmen according to the flesh (Rom 9:1-3). There always has been and always will be a remnant of Jews who are saved (Rom 11:5). It is not as though the rejection of some of the Jews serves no purpose. On the contrary, because the Jews were broken off in unbelief, the Gospel has gone to the Gentiles, who through grace now partake of its blessings and join with Christian Jews to constitute the Israel of God, the church of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:11-16). In Romans 11 Paul defines this relationship between Jews and Christians when he distinguishes between natural branches (the seed of Abraham according to the flesh) and foreign branches (Gentiles) who have been engrafted into the same tree. There is certainly a difference in their respective histories and genealogies (not all are natural branches), but in Christ both Gentile and Jewish believers are now the seed of Abraham (Rom 11:17-24).
The Bible does not support the teaching that God has a special plan for bringing Jews to faith in Christ. This is because when it comes to God’s plan of salvation there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, Israel and the church. Rather than teaching that these are two separate communities with two different futures, the Scriptures testify to a continuity between the old and new covenants and thus to a continuity between Israel and the church. Put another way, Old Testament Israel is a type and precursor for the church, for it is prophesied in the Old Testament that God’s redemptive purpose includes Gentiles (e.g., Gen 12:3; 22:18; Is 49:6). Therefore, the church is not an interruption in the redemptive plan of God, but the fulfillment of His eternal purposes….
According to Scripture, salvation is neither earned nor deserved. Nor is it based upon ethnic descent or natural birth (Jn 1:13; Lk 3:8; Eph 2:8-9). Apart from Christ there is no special divine favor upon any member of any ethnic group (Rom 3:9-10; 22-23). In privileging ethnic Jews or modern Israelis with a distinct plan of salvation, Left Behind obscures this central teaching of the Bible.
The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments
Left Behind fails to recognize the distinctions between Israelite, Hebrew, Jew and Israeli because LaHaye and Jenkins err when they fail to appreciate the relationship between the Old and New Testaments and the ways in which the latter completes and fulfils the former. In privileging the Old over the New Testament, Left Behind contends that Old Testament prophecies regarding these events must be literally fulfilled (e.g., the restoration of the nation of Israel to her land, the revival of the Roman Empire, a reign of Christ on earth after His return, the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of its sacrifices).
It is clear from Scripture, however, that the Old Testament is to be read in the light of the New Testament. Colossians 2:16-17 provides this guide for the proper interpretation of the Old Testament: “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” However, Left Behind argues that redemptive history takes a kind of U-turn in the millennial age as the reality in Christ returns to the types and shadows of the Old Testament. The future is therefore not a consummation but a return to the past. This understanding obscures the person and work of Christ because it sees the ultimate reality not in Him but in the types and shadows of the Old Testament.
But if in the Old Testament the revelation of God’s acts in the history of Israel came in shadows, images, forms and prophecies, then the New
Testament announces the reality, substance and final fulfillment-all in the history of Christ. The question is not whether the promises of the Old Testament are to be understood literally or spiritually. It is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of Old Testament shadows or in terms of the New Testament realities.
Moreover, there is an organic unity that exists between the Old and New Testaments as stated by the 16th century Reformers in the classic formulation “Scripture interprets Scripture.” This principle is undermined by the approach of the Left Behind series to the degree that it attempts to interpret Scripture in light of current events, especially events occurring in Israel and the Middle East.
A problem for the Left Behind series, to the extent that it claims to be an expression of theology, is that the prophetic portions of the Old Testament are treated as a self-contained entity to be read apart from Christ and the New Testament. Overlooking the unity between the Testaments almost amounts to treating the Old Testament as a non-Christian Jewish book. To teach, for instance, on the basis of Ezekiel 40-48 that the temple in Jerusalem will be rebuilt during the millennium and that the sacrificial system will be reinstituted is to raise questions about Scripture’s teaching that Jesus Himself is the New Temple (Mt 12:6; Jn 2:12-22) and that His bloody sacrifice on the cross is fully sufficient for all people of all time so that no further shedding of blood is necessary (Heb 10:18).
It follows that the present state of Israel is not a prophetic realization of the Messianic kingdom of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, a day should not be anticipated in which Christ’s kingdom will manifest Jewish distinctives, whether by its location in the land of Palestine, its capital in Jerusalem, its constituency, or its ceremonial institutions and practices. Instead, the present age will come to a conclusion with the arrival of the final, eternal kingdom of the Messiah. 
- What is your end times perspective?
- What difference does your perspective of the end times make in your every day life?
- Other discussion questions.
- What have we discovered tonight in God’s Word?
- How do we apply this learning in our own lives?
- How do we pray about what we have learned?
What is our topic for next time?
8:00 – 8:30 Prayer time
 “The End Times: A Study on Eschatology and Millennialism,” A Report of the CTCR of LCMS, Internet; available at: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/mosynod/web/endtme-1.html; downloaded 12 January 2009.
 “A Lutheran Response to the Left Behind Series,” A Report of the CTCR of the LCMS, April 2004, Internet; available at: http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/CTCR/LeftBehind.pdf; downloaded on 12 January 2009.