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End Time Beliefs Among Protestants

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End times beliefs among Protestants:

Various Protestant denominations and para-church organizations promote one of six main systems of prophecy concerning the "end times"

bullet Historical Premillennialism: This belief was held by a large percentage of Christians "during the first three centuries of the Christian era, and is found in the works of Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Methodius, Commodianus, and Lactanitus." 2 The Antichrist first appears on earth and the seven year Tribulation begins. Next comes the Rapture. Christ and his Church return to earth to rule for a Millennium. The forces of evil will be conquered. The faithful will live during this thousand years of peace in Jerusalem, while occupying spiritual bodies. After this period, all people are judged. The faithful will spend eternity on a new earth, (not in heaven).

After Christianity became the official religion of Rome in the fourth century CE, this was declared a heresy and suppressed.

bullet Dispensational Premillennialism: (a.k.a. Dispensationalism) Premillennialism, once declared a heresy in ancient times, was reintroduced circa 1830. Most people credit John N. Darby with its resurrection. He was a minister of the Church of Ireland, a denomination in the Anglican communion, and the founder of the Plymouth Brethren. However, author Dave MacPherson claims that British pastor Edward Irving was the actual person responsible, and that a conspiracy was organized to give Darby the credit. 14 Premillenialism received general acceptance by most Fundamentalists and other Evangelical Christians after the publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible in 1909. As in Historic Premillennialism, the Tribulation is believed to precede the second coming of Christ, and the subsequent establishment of the millennial kingdom -- a thousand-year golden age on Earth. The Final Judgment follows the millennium. But, theologians are divided over the timing of the Rapture. Many Premillennialists search world events and signs in the heavens for some indication of the Tribulation, which they anticipate will arrive at any time.

All of the theories that have been proposed about the timing of the Rapture appear to contradict some passages in the Bible. Current beliefs include:
bullet Pre-Tribulation Rapture: (or "pre-trib") The Rapture happens just before the Tribulation, so that believers will not have to experience any of its disruption and pain. The main difficulties with pre-trib are contained in the Olivet Prophecy of Jesus. In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, Jesus describes the terrible destruction and loss of life of the tribulation period. The disaster is believed to be so intense that no human (Christian or non-Christian alike) would remain alive, except that God shortens the duration of the disaster for the sake of the believers. Jesus then continues by describing his return towards earth immediately after the terrible devastation. From this passage, it is obvious that the rapture will follow the Tribulation. The supporters of the "pre-trib" position suggest that Jesus will have a total of three comings: the first during the first century CE; the second at the start of the tribulation, and a third at the end of the tribulation.
bullet Post-tribulation Rapture: (or "post-trib") The faithful experience the full horrors of the entire Tribulation and are raptured only at the end of the 7 years. The main problem with this theory is that there are many Bible passages which state that Christ's return will be at a time that cannot be predicted. But the Tribulation period starts with the arrival of the Antichrist and an interval of peace. Precisely 42 months later, a sudden shift occurs, a peace treaty is broken, and devastation begins. These would be well defined dates that would allow an accurate prediction of the end of the Tribulation. There are other weaknesses to this theory. 7
bullet Mid-Tribulation Rapture: (or "mid-trib") The Rapture happens 42 months into the Tribulation. Up to that time, the Antichrist brings peace to the world. After 42 months, events take a sudden turn for the worse. Some supporters of the "mid-trib" position suggest that there will be many mini-raptures.
bullet Pre-wrath Rapture: This is a new theory, promoted by Marvin Rosenthal, former director of Friends of Israel, and others. Their view teaches that the church must experience most of the Tribulation, and then be raptured towards the end of the Tribulation period.
bullet Partial Rapture: This theory teaches that the faithful born-again believers are raptured just before the Tribulation. Newly born again believers are are raptured during or at the end of the Tribulation.

The latter three theories contain some of the weaknesses of pre-trib and post-trib.

All of the Premillennialist beliefs teach that the Tribulation is followed by 1000 years of peace when all live under the authority of Christ. Afterwards, in a brief, final battle, Satan is permanently conquered.

Dispensational Premillennialism contains an internal conflict. Its advocates generally believe "that the moral conditions of the world and the church are destined get increasingly worse. When they get almost unbearably bad, the Lord Jesus will return in the clouds to 'rapture' the living saints up to heaven." 11 However, they tend to be very outspoken and active in their opposition to many behaviors that they consider to be extremely sinful: abortion access, equal rights for homosexuals, same-sex marriage, pre-marital sex, adultery, sex education in schools, access to physician assisted suicide, the use of embryonic stem cells in healing, etc. By their opposition to these "hot" religiously controversial topics, they are delaying Jesus' return to earth, the rapture and the 1000 year millennium.

bullet Amillennialism: (Also known as Nonmillennialism). Although this belief system was present from the early days of Christianity, St. Augustine (354 - 430 CE) was largely responsible for the establishment of amillennialism as formal church belief. It remained the generally accepted system throughout Christianity until the 19th century. Many mainline Protestant denominations -- including many Reformed theologians and some Baptists -- still teach Amillennialism. They believe that the Kingdom of God is present in the world today through the presence of the the heavenly reign of Christ, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and Christianity. Both good and evil will continue in the world until the current Church Age ends suddenly as Christ returns to the sky above the earth. The Rapture follows. The Redeemed are transported to heaven where they will adopt spiritual bodies. The majority of humanity will be sent to Hell at this time for eternal punishment. The world will be abandoned. History is no more. Under this belief system, we are currently living in the Millennium and in the Tribulation period. Events described in The Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) and in most of the book of Revelation are seen as occurrences which have already happened, or which are symbolic in nature and not to be taken literally. The Antichrist is looked upon figuratively and not as a real person. Amillennialism has gone out of favor in most conservative Protestant theological circles.
bullet Postmillennialism: (Also known as "Christian Reconstruction", "Kingdom Now Theology" and "Dominion Theology.") This belief arose during the early 19th century CE. According to author Loraine Boettner, Postmillennialism involves "that view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit, that the world eventually is to be Christianized, and that the return of Christ will occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace, commonly called the millennium." 12 The theory is based on the perception of a gradual movement towards social perfection. They predicted that a massive religious revival, spiritual awakening and purification would occur. The entire human race is converted to Christianity, including the Jews. A millennium of peace and righteousness follows. After the millennium, Jesus returns to earth, resurrects the dead believers, and conducts the last judgment. The Rapture and Tribulation are largely ignored. This belief is being actively promoted today by the Chalcedon Foundation and other groups within the Christian Reconstruction movement.
bullet Preterism is a belief that the events prophesized in the New Testament have already happened. The great war of Armageddon in the book of Revelation occurred in the late 60's and early 70's CE when the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, many Jews were killed and the rest were driven from Palestine. When Jesus talked about the end of the world, he did not mean that the physical world would be no more. He taught that the old worldview held by various contemporary Jewish groups was coming to an end, to be replaced by a new concept, the Kingdom of God. Thus, all of the major elements in the book of Revelation (Tribulation, Armageddon, Rapture, etc.) actually took place in the first century CE. 8
bullet No Millennialism: Most skeptics and liberal Christian theologians largely interpret the contents of the books of Daniel and Revelation as having no prophetic information for our future. Many regard Revelation as being composed of visions, hallucinations or nightmares of the author, of little meaning for Christians today. Some believe that the purpose of the book of Revelation was to stiffen resolve in the early Christian movement to withstand persecution by the Roman Empire. Thus, its purpose was to predict persecutions and other events that were to happened to the early Christian church. They also reject the apparent prophecies in the Book of Daniel. They believe that Daniel was written early in the 2nd century BCE, long after most of the events had actually happened. It was history recorded, not their future prophesized.

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