Correctly Understanding The End
Two 'End Times' Charts...
Many adventists and dispensationalists come up with an "end-times" scenario which seriously misunderstands the Book of Revelation. First of all, we need to understand that according to the Bible itself, the 'end times' commenced with the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ. The expressions, 'last days,' 'last times,' 'end times,' 'end of the world,' and 'the last hour' are, in the New Testament, applied to the period in which the apostles lived. For confirmation of this, look at Acts 2:17; Hebrews 2:26; 9:26; James 5:3; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 2:18; Jude 17-19.
In the 19th century, William Miller's Adventism and J.N. Darby's Dispensationalism led to a departure from the original apostolic understanding that the 'last days' were already in existence from the cross of Jesus. This led to various texts in books such as Daniel and Revelation becoming wrongly applied. The Book of Revelation, for example, plainly contains seven parallel sections, yet such knowledge was lost and, indeed, swallowed up in various prophetic machinations which were imposed upon the Holy Scripture. Both Dispensationalism and Adventism came up with a literal 1,000 year 'millenium,' reviving an old Jewish concept and expectation (see Acts 1:6). Dispensationalism also came up with a 'rapture,' and the belief that the Church was only a sort of temporary interruption to God's main purpose of working with Israel. The first chart, below, is more Dispensationalist than Adventist, yet the similarities are strong. Some would insist on a 'great tribulation' of only three and a half years rather than seven, yet all such groups accept a flawed understanding of Scripture and one which would have been unknown to, for instance, Paul the Apostle.
The result is that many are now very confused about the message of the 'end times,' and the events leading to the Second Coming of our Lord. It should be stressed that the overall plan of the second chart has been accepted for hundreds of years by Lutherans, Calvinists, and all Protestant theology. Today, this basic format is still accepted by Lutherans, reformed baptists and presbyterians and the great majority of European evangelical Anglicans. So here are the two charts which should prove helpful (I must admit that I got this chart scheme and general layout idea from a Lutheran website, and I thank them).
|Christ Bound Satan
By His death and resurrection, Jesus has "bound" or "cast out" Satan.
|Christ Reigns Through His Church
Christ now reigns through His church during the symbolic 1,000 years of Revelation 20. "Thousand" is only ever used poetically/symbolically in Scripture.
Rev. 20:2-6; 1:5-6; 5:9-10;
Shortly before the Second Coming, Satan will be "released . . . to deceive the nations." At this time, Christians will be severely persecuted.
Rev. 20:3, 7-8;
1 Tim. 4:1;
2 Tim. 3:1-5.
|The Resurrection and Judgment Day
Jesus will return visibly, defeat Satan, raise the dead, and judge all people.
Rev. 20:10-21:5; 11:15-18;
1 Cor. 15:50-55;
|Eternity of Heaven or Hell
The wicked and willfully unrepentant will go into the eternal separation from God (which they themselves will have chosen) which the Bible calls 'gehenna,' but the righteous will go into Eternal Life, in the New Heavens and New Earth!
1 Cor. 6:9-11.
The DANGER of Relying on a Precise Course of Events (as in Adventism and Dispensationalism)
It is extremely dangerous for Christians to have expectations of a yet future 'rapture' and and a specific course, or 'timetable,' of events "yet to be fulfilled" prior to Christ's return and the commencement of a 'millenium.' Such a mindset tends to bring complacency to believers. The Scripture, when correctly understood, makes plain that the Second Coming, followed by the Great Judgment, could be very, very close!