Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com
CHRISTIAN FOUNDATION SEVEN: THE FUTURE
In this chapter I look at the topic of future things, as seen from the Bible. Some major things about the future are very clear, and agreed upon by virtually all Bible believing Christians. Other events are murky, and hard to understand. It is as Paul stated, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
I cannot cover in detail every perspective regarding future things. I think the best way to proceed is to first list the events that are clear to all. After that, I will introduce the perspective known as Premillennialism, or sometimes known as Dispensationalism. It is one perspective believed by Christians for centuries.
BASIC FUTURE EVENTS
The major events of the future can be seen in the earliest creeds of the Church. The Creed of Saint Athanasius states of Jesus now residing in heaven as, “from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead, At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies: and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting: and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholick Faith: which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.”
Here are several facts believed by historic Christianity that is reflected in this creed.
•God is in control of history and the future.
•There is the coming of Christ from heaven.
•There is the bodily resurrection of both the saved and unsaved.
•Included in this experience would be the Rapture, which is the taking up from earth the Church.
•There is a day of judgment that involves both the saved and unsaved.
•There is a next life, a life to come after this world that is everlasting.
•There is a life everlasting, which Christians call heaven.
•There is an everlasting fire, which Christians call hell.
•There is a final assignment of people to heaven or hell.
From other places, we learn the belief of an Antichrist who will torment the world, and a Great Tribulation that the earth will undergo.
With these basic future events, all Bible believing Christians do adhere. The problem is when do these events occur, how do they unfold in history, and what exactly is their nature. The details and sequence is where disagreement occurs.
I. THE DISPENSATIONS OF HISTORY
There are several valid perspectives regarding how future events do unfold. Following, I give one of those perspectives: Premillennialism, or more popularly known in the America version as Dispensationalism.
The position starts off with three presuppositions: a literal interpretation of the prophetic sections of the Bible. Second, they believe that there is a clear distinction between the Church and Israel.
Third, Dispensationalists believe that God has distinct methods of dealing with or governing humanity at different periods in history - thus, they are called Dispensationalists. The word, “dispensation,” is Latin and is used to translate the Greek oikonomia. The latter refers to the law, arrangement, government, or management of a house hold – to manage, administer, regulate, or plan (Cf. Ephesians 1:10).
When you approach the Bible, using a plain, literal interpretation, you will observe that God has a carefully thought out plan that He is unfolding in history. He has revealed His purposes in discernible and progressive stages through the Bible, all leading to a grand climax in history. These several distinct stages of history are named “dispensations.”
Each dispensation has a central unifying factor that focuses on man’s response by faith and obedience to God’s revealed will for that period. Each dispensation continues some previous regulations, voids others and introduces a new set of regulations. Dispensationalists define a dispensation as a discernible administration in the unfolding of God’s purpose in history.
It is how God deals with humanity during a specific segment of history. Understanding the dispensations gives a birds-eye view of God’s history, or plan for the world, and helps us to understand both the Bible and future times. If you believe that God works differently with the people of earth during the time of Adam & Eve, Abraham, Moses and Israel, presently, and in the future in heaven, then you are a Dispensationalist. It is as simple as that. Life is different now than in the Garden of Eden, and than it will be in heaven.
One major benefit of this perspective on the Bible is that it helps us to interpret the Bible. It can explain, for example, why the church does not sacrifice bulls on a stone altar every Sunday. The sacrificial system was for Israel in that dispensation. There is difference of opinion among Dispensationalists on how many dispensations there have been in history.
Seven dispensations are usually identified in the Bible. For a more complete understanding of the dispensations, read Dispensationalism Today by Charles Ryrie. Here are the commonly accepted dispensations. Some are arbitrarily identified, and others are more clearly seen. I will use the word “Administration” rather than “Dispensation,” because I think it makes a better descriptive sense of the block of events or time.
1. The Administration of Innocence. The key Individual was Adam, the time span was from creation until the fall of man and the biblical record is from Genesis 1:28-3:6. Adam failed in the responsibilities God gave him. Judgment ended the era.
2. The Administration by Conscience. Key individuals were Cain, Able, Seth, Enoch and Noah. God governed mankind with the prompting of man’s conscience (Romans 2:15). This era ranged from the fall until the flood (Genesis 4:1-8; 14). As usual, humanity in general failed, and was judged. God started over again with a small remnant.
3. The Administration by Civil Government. The main person of this era was Noah, the administration ended in disaster at the tower of Babel, and the Scripture record is from Genesis 8:15-11:9. Judgment again ended the era.
4. The Administration of Promise. This era stretched from the call of Abraham to the giving of the Law of Moses (Genesis 11:10-Exodus 18:27). God designated one representative family which grew into one nation. They were simply to believe the promises of God and serve Him. Israel was promised a glorious future, promises still to be fulfilled in the future. This was the time of the patriarchal families. Humanity also failed in this arrangement.
5. The Administration by Mosaic Law. This law included not only the Ten Commandments but 613 laws regulating all areas of life. The era spanned from Moses until the death of Christ (Exodus 18:28-Acts 1:26). The people were to follow the law, but again, failed (Romans 10:1-3). Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman armies in A.D. 70 and the Jews were scattered to live among the nations (Luke 21:6, 20-24; 23:28, 29)
6. The Administration of Grace. This dispensation is better called the Administration by the Church, since God has always operated by grace. The responsibility to man is to receive the gift of righteousness through faith in Christ (Romans 5:15-18). God deals with all mankind, and the church has center stage. The vast majority of humanity has rejected Christ and He will come to judge the world during the Great Tribulation. The dispensation extends from Pentecost to the Rapture (Acts 2:1-Revelation 19:21).
7. The Administration of the Millennium. This age will be ushered in at the second coming of Christ, and will involve His direct rule for one thousand years. Millennium means 1,000, and the period is sometimes referred to as the Messianic Kingdom. People will be responsible to obey the King and His laws. The King will be Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah. Israel will again be dominant on earth.
Following this Administration there will be a new heaven and earth and history will merge into the eternal state. The Millennium age will end in a final rebellion by man and judgment by God (Matthew 24:29-31; Revelation 19:11-16; 20:1-6; 21:1-22; 21).
There you have it: the fastest tour ever through the history of the world as seen in the Bible. I have placed before you some beliefs basic to all Christians, and a brief panorama of God’s plan of history. On a time line we are located somewhere in the latter part of the Administration of the Church Age. We have now seen past history, so let us now peer into the future. The next huge event in history is not a presidential inauguration, but the Rapture.
II. THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH.
The next major event in God’s time table is the second coming of Jesus Christ into this world (Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, 51, 52; 2 Thessalonians 2:1; Revelation 22:20, 21). The transition from this Administration of the Church into the Millennium Kingdom occurs over a seven year time period, as seen by Dispensationalists. The exact sequence of details is somewhat fuzzy, but here is one view. It is called the “Pre-Tribulation” view.
The first phase of that transition involves Christ coming in the air for His church. This event could occur at any moment (1Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-57; John 14:1-3; Revelation 3:10; 1 Corinthians 1:7; James 5:8, 9). This event is named the “Rapture.” Christians who died during the Church Age will be bodily resurrected from their graves. They, along with those living on earth at the Rapture, will receive their glorified bodies. We will join Christ, return to heaven and be rewarded plus participate in the marriage of Christ to His church (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:26, 27; Revelation 19:1-10; Romans 14:10-12; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: 2 Corinthians 5:10).
This will be a glorious time for believers in Christ. Our response should be eagerly awaiting, looking forward to, and loving the return of Christ. It is our blessed hope and joy, and that which we work toward. We are also to live holy lives before God, because He is coming back to this earth (1 Thessalonians 1:9, 10; 4:18; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1John 3:1-3; Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Too many times we base our happiness in life on the things of this world. We are happy if we get a good job in the government, a good crop, money from overseas, when we find a spouse, celebrate a big feast or receive a visa or scholarship for overseas or make a lot of money. These things are good, but should not be the main reason for our happiness, and holy living.
Friend, remember: our money, homes, cars, canoes, crops, eyesight, strong bodies and health will all fade away, but the future we have in Christ will last forever - and this is where our happiness ought to be grounded. God has promised Christians an inheritance, eternal life, reward, salvation, reunion with saved relatives and friends who have died and gone to heaven - and much, much more.
As for living godly lives, what greater motive than the fact we will someday receive reward for our faithful service here on earth.
When will Christ return?
Concerning the date of Christ’s return, I do not know. The Bible says we know not the day, hour, times or dates (Matthew 24:36; Acts 1:7). Only the Father in Heaven knows. Even the angels do not know, nor do Satan and his demons.
Unfortunately, in the past many people have predicted the coming of Christ, but they were wrong. There are some even today who attempt to match world events with Bible prophecy and predict His coming. Generally this approach is counterproductive to the cause of Christ for several reasons: one, emphasis is misplaced from the Great Commission (Acts 1:7, 8) to excessive enthusiasm of “end time” events.
Second, too frequently those who predict are wrong and cause people to ridicule Bible prophecy. Third, some relax from Christian work, because they think Christ is already here – or soon will be. Fourth, bazaar misinterpretations can happen that bring shame and contempt to Christ and His church.
Fifth, Christians can become driven by fear and dread of Christ’s return when we should be eagerly awaiting His return and viewing the signs as reason for great joy. Indeed, as the Bible says concerning Christ: “Surely, I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
THE GREAT TRIBULATION ON EARTH
There is a future time on this earth that will be consumed with hard times and terror. It will be a time of great judgment poured out on earth. It does not begin until after the Rapture. This is the 70th week of Daniel (Daniel 9:27). Jesus described it a “great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). Matthew chapter 24 and Revelation chapters 4-19 describe the events of the time.
Some people maintain that we are in the Tribulation now, however, its events are so distinctive and terrible no one could possible mistake them. One fourth of the world’s
population will be wiped out through war, famine, disease and wild beasts (Revelation 6:8).
Enormous environmental catastrophes will occur. One third of the earth’s vegetation, marine life and shipping vessels will be destroyed. One third of the earth’s water supply will be polluted (Revelation 8:6-12). Nothing of this magnitude is happening now or ever has in the earth’s history.
The purpose of the Great Tribulation is twofold: to judge the world for its sin (Revelation 6, 8, 9, 16; Isaiah 24), and second to prepare Israel to receive Christ as their Messiah and to enter the Millennium Kingdom (Zechariah 13:8, 9; Jeremiah 30:1--31:26). Massive evangelization will occur as the gospel of the coming King (Christ) will be preached throughout the world (Matthew 24:14). Multitudes of people will be converted to Christ (Revelation 7:9, 14).
Another distinctive feature will be the rise and world dominion of the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2; Revelation 13). He will be a man of tremendous ability, but exceedingly corrupt. He along with his prime minister, the false prophet, will control the political, religious and economic realm of the world and wage vicious war against God and His people. These events occur during the Tribulation, not now.
The Tribulation will end with the gathering of the nations at the battle of Armageddon and the physical return of Jesus Christ to earth (Matthew 24:29-31; 25:31-33; Mark 13:24-27; Zechariah 14:4-7; Jude 14, 15; Revelation 16:16; 19:11-21: Acts 1:11; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10). Christ will return personally, literally, powerfully, quickly, in great glory, the victorious King - and with His saints.
I stress again, we are not now in the Tribulation, and if you know Christ as Savior you will not go through the Tribulation (Revelation 3:10; cf. 9:7, 15; 6:9-11).
IV. THE MILLENNIUM KINGDOM
The next phase of future events after the Tribulation will be the Millennium (Messianic) Kingdom. This administration is characterized by a 1,000 year time span in which Christ will rule as King (Revelation 19:16; Zechariah 14:9) from the world capital, Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3). The Abrahamic, Davidic and New Covenant will be fulfilled during that time (Genesis 12:2, 3; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:6). Satan and his cohorts will be bound and placed in hell (Revelation 20: 1-3).
Utopia in nature
There will be utopia in nature. The curse will be removed from nature, and violent destruction by storms, heat and cold will be gone. Much of world geography will be renovated. Tremendous crops will grow, violence will be banished in the animal world and meat eaters will turn to grass. Children will play with lions and (formerly) poisonous snakes (Romans 8:21-23; Isaiah 49:10; Zechariah 14:4, 10; Revelation 16:18; Joel 2:22-26; Isaiah 32:13-15; 65:25; 11:6-8).
There will be utopia in the physical realm. Sickness, disease, and deformity will be gone. People living long ages even up to the 1,000 years will be normal (Isaiah 33:24; 35:5, 6; 65:20, 23).
Utopia in society and politics
There will be utopia in the social and political realm. International hostilities will cease (Zephaniah 3:9, 10; Isaiah 19:18-25). Wars and violence will end (Isaiah 2:4). There will be a tremendous increase in knowledge, perfect justice and equity will prevail (Isaiah 2:3; 11:4, 9; 42:3, 4). Believers who obtained their glorified bodies during the resurrection and will reign under Christ in three roles: judicial, regal, and priestly (Revelation 20:4, 6). But unfortunately, there will be rebels against Christ during this time, and even at the end Satan will be released and lead a final rebellion against God (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10).
It is interesting to note that even the Marxist communists and socialists are looking forward to a man made utopia. They try to produce what Christ will produce in the future. They will fail. Only God can bring in the ultimate utopia that we all yearn for in our hearts.
There are those who believe we are now in the Millennium. Personally, I cannot see anything in the world for the past 2,000 years that even closely resembles anything like the utopia described in the Bible. Furthermore, the doctrine of a Messianic Kingdom is held by Judaism. This is how they understood their own prophets. It is how the original apostles of Jesus understood future events, which understanding Jesus commended (Acts 1:6, 7).
After the Millennium the new and final order of creation will be established.
V. THE NEW ORDER OF CREATION
The final judgment will occur at the end of the Millennium. Those fallen angels who followed Satan during his original rebellion in heaven will be judged by Christ and believers (Jude 6; 1 Corinthians 6:3). Satan and his followers will be cast into the lake of fire for eternal punishment. The unsaved dead from all history will be resurrected and judged at God’s Great White Throne. They will be cast into the lake of fire with Satan and his followers (Revelation 20:4-15).
This awful place is the final residence of Hitler, Stalin, mass killers, child molesters, thieves, and liars. The place will be full of hatred, jealousy, fighting, and evil of every description. When one looks at all the wickedness of the world, then just imagine that its final place is in the lake of fire. Evil does not cease to exist there (Revelation 22:11).
Sadly, but this is the way the God of the Universe made things, everyone outside of Christ will have their final eternal abode in that terrible place. Christ is the only way to heaven, according to the Bible. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). Luke quotes the Apostle Peter, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). He was referring to Christ.
New heaven and earth
The new heaven and earth is described in Revelation chapters 21 and 22. The present world will be transformed by fire (Revelation 21:1; 2 Peter 3:10-13). The New Jerusalem will descend from heaven and will be evidently a 1500 mile cube that will house all believers. It will be a city with magnificent glory, splendor, wealth and beauty – devoid of the ugliness we see in this world (Hebrews 12:22-24; Revelation 21:9--22:5).
This is the location of the mansion that Christ is now preparing for His people (John 14:1-3). Goodness, kindness, comfort, creativity, love, peace, gentleness and things like this fill heaven. No pain, hurt, tears, death, mourning will be there. No evil of any kind will ever be permitted. Happiness and joy will prevail. Your family, if they knew Christ, will be there. No economic depressions, job losses, heart attacks, cancer will ever occur. Death will be banished.
May I ask you a personal question? Are you ready for heaven? Or are you still headed for the lake of fire with Satan, his demons and all the wicked of the ages? Choose Christ, please. By faith receive Him as your Savior and your place in heaven will be secured. Simply by prayer admit to God you are a sinner incapable of saving yourself, but that you believe Christ died on the cross to save you from your sin. Tell God that you place your trust in Christ alone to save you. Invite Him into your life.
Wow! This has been quite a trip through history. I hope you have enjoyed the tour. As your guide I pointed out a general overview of the doctrine of future things. You were introduced to the concept of dispensations, the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium and final state. From here we go to the doctrine of salvation.
NEXT, Chapter Eight: Our Salvation
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