Text: I Thessalonians 4:13-18
I. People have always been fascinated with the second coming of Christ
A. That fascination increased greatly as the 21st century approached.
B. A very popular series, called “Left Behind” by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins claims to tell the events of Christ’s return in fictional form. The books were written from 1995 to 2007.
C. The series claims to be based on the book of Revelation, though it pulls concepts from the Gospels and other places.
D. Since the key to this fanciful series is the idea of a rapture, we will use the Scriptures to judge its truthfulness - I John 4:1
II. Defining premillennialism
That is about to change as we enter "the time of the end." As soon as the church is raptured (see chapter 9), God will again begin to visibly intervene in the affairs of mankind. Russia and her allies will go down to destroy the nation of Israel but will themselves be destroyed supernaturally by God (Ezekiel 38-39; see chapter 8). No one knows for sure whether that precedes or follows the Rapture; a case can be made either way. One thing is apparent: Russia's attack and the Rapture are the number one and two end-time events. They are followed by the rise of Antichrist (see chapter 21), the day of God's wrath (see chapters 12-14), the two witnesses (see chapter 22), the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (see chapter 24), and many other acts of divine intervention during the Tribulation. There will be so many signs that atheism will not be widespread during that period; amazingly, it will be supplanted by open and blatant rebellion against God.
The Tribulation will be followed by the majestic intervention of God in the glorious return of Christ to the earth (see chapter 15) to set up His thousand-year kingdom (see chapter 16), followed by heaven or eternity (see chapter 19).
The "time of the end" as Daniel called it, or "the last days" as the apostles referred to it, is that short period of seven to ten or more years of enormous change for this world as almighty God brings this age to an end by His supernatural intervention. God's people need to study the prophetic Scriptures so they can both be prepared themselves and can help others prepare for His coming.
The good news is that this world will not end in chaos as the secularists predict. The Bible says Christ will come to solve the world's problems by introducing the greatest period in world history, the millennial kingdom of Jesus Christ. And while we are not certain it will occur in our lifetime, we have more reason to believe it might than any generation in the history of the church. [“Are We Living in the End Times?”]
B. Points vary between different advocates, but basically it has the following events at the end of time:
C. Rapture (great joy)
1. The sudden removal of the faithful from the world.
1. Those left behind (hence the name of the series) will suffer seven years of tribulation.
2. A small portion of those left will turn to God, becoming the targets of the tribulation and the soldiers in the final years of war
1. A world ruler will arise who represents everything Christ was against.
1. The final battle between good and evil, where Satan’s forces are finally defeated.
G. Thousand Year Reign
1. Christ then returns with the faithful to establish a utopian rule on earth for 1,000 years.
H. At the end of the reign, the faithful enter heaven for eternity.
I. The order of these events are basically those in the Left Behind series, but there are many conflicting proposals in the denominational world.
1. Some have the seven years of tribulation after the millennial reign
J. Proof texts
1. The rapture is to signal the beginning of the end times.
2. The rapture is to be a silent, sudden removal of the saints
a. Based on Matthew 24:40-41 - Only some gathered
b. I Thessalonians 4:15-17 - caught up in the air (sudden departure)
3. Followed by a period of tribulation
a. Matthew 24:21-22 - A great tribulation that will not last long
4. The rise of the anti-Christ
a. Matthew 24:24 - False Christs and false prophets will arise
A. Even though the claim is that the doctrine is based on Revelation, most of the points come from the Gospels.
B. Their time frame is wrong - Matthew 24:34
1. Jesus said it would happen to the generation to whom he was speaking.
2. “No one knows for certain when Christ will return or whether we are really living in the end times. We believe, however, that Christians living today have more reason to believe that Christ could come in our generation than those of any generation before us. For example, all prophecy scholars agree that the generation that saw Israel restored to her land in 1948 could well be the "generation [that] certainly will not pass away until all these things have happened" (Matthew 24:32-34, NIV ). In other words, before that strategic generation passes from the scene, time, as we know it, will come to an end.” [“End Time Resources: End Time Study”, Left Behind Series, Tyndale House, 2001]
3. The premillennialists claim the generation started with those who saw the restoration of Israel in 1948. Hence, the strong interest because that generation is dying off.
4. The fault is that they are ignoring to whom Jesus was speaking. This was not a conversation about distant events, but something that Jesus’s audience would experience.
C. Their participants are wrong.
1. Almost all premillennialists have the United States, the old Soviet Union (Russia), China, or some nation in the Middle East waging war.
2. Jesus said the vultures would gather around the corpse - Matthew 24:28, Luke 17:34-37
3. The corpse referred to was the spiritual dead Jewish nation.
4. The vultures (or literally eagles in the text) is a reference to the Roman armies which used the eagle as its emblem.
5. Hence, this is a reference to the destruction of Israel by the Romans, which occurred in A.D. 70.
6. Since the United States also uses the eagle for its emblem, the modern-day prophets have reapplied the statements to the U.S.
D. Their event is wrong
1. They claim that the rapture will be a quiet event, yet read I Thessalonians 4:13-18 again. Verse 16 is anything but a secret departure.
2. At the sound of the last trumpet - I Corinthians 15:52
3. Matthew 24:1-35 is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and it was not done quietly - Matthew 24:27
E. The duration is wrong
1. When Christ returns, we will always be with the Lord - I Thessalonians 4:17
2. Not seven years as these people claim
F. They have two comings
1. The first to take the righteous
2. The second seven years later to destroy the wicked
3. Yet the Bible speaks of one return where the righteous are gathered and the wicked are slain - II Thessalonians 2:8
4. In reality these people have two, or possibly three, resurrections: at the beginning of the tribulation, at the end of the tribulation, and at the end of the 1,000 year reign.
a. The Bible speaks of one resurrection of all - John 5:28-29
5. There is no rapture of only the righteous in the Scriptures
G. Much of the confusion is created by blending events dealing with the destruction of Jerusalem with the second coming. Further confusion is added by dividing the single second coming events into multiple events.
IV. Premillennialism is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the kingdom of Christ
A. Readings of Old Testament prophecy is interpreted as being unfulfilled
1. Isaiah 2:2-4 - They emphasize that it will happen in Jerusalem
2. Isaiah 11:1-10 - Emphasis on the wicked’s destruction and a reign of peace
3. Daniel 2:44 - A kingdom which cannot be destroyed
B. Yet, these prophecies were fulfilled
1. John 18:36 - Jesus said his kingdom was not of this world
2. Luke 17:20-21 - When asked when the kingdom would come, Jesus said it was not seen in outward signs, but be found within themselves.
3. Mark 1:15 - The time for the kingdom was close to the time of Christ
4. Mark 9:1 - It would be established within that generation
5. After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter announce that it was from Jesus whom God had made both Lord and Christ - Acts 2:33-36.
a. We are so used to the term Lord that we forget it means a ruler or king.
b. God made Jesus King as well as the Christ.
6. Colossians 1:13 - Speaking of the church, Paul said we were transferred into Christ’s Kingdom when we were rescued from our sins.
C. When Jesus comes again, he will step down from the throne - I Corinthians 15:23-26
1. He is currently reigning until death is destroyed
2. Death will be destroyed at the resurrection of all the dead - I Corinthians 15:52-54
V. Premillennialism is a false system of doctrine designed to give people a false hope.
A. Notice that even after the return of Jesus, they teach there is time to turn from sin.
B. The Bible says Jesus can come at any time.
C. When he does come, we must be prepared - II Peter 3:10-14