ever since the first days of christianity, The blessed hope of the early Church and the Apostles was the imminent return of Jesus.   in Acts Chapter 1, even as Jesus was rising up to heaven in a cloud, two angels appeared and said,   "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven?  This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."


both the Bible and the Church fathers taught that this return would take place in two phases.  First, Jesus would come in the clouds of heaven to call out and catch up all true believers to Himself in what we today call "The Rapture."  but While Jesus and all believers rejoiced together in heaven, down here on earth there would be a seven-year period of hell on earth.  here the antichrist will BE rulING so, with the church gone, God will raise up 144,000 Jewish believers to preach the Good news of Jesus Christ to all the peoples of the world. 


after the seven years are complete, seven horrible years of death, disease and destruction on planet Earth, the armies of the world will come to wage war against Israel on the plains of Megiddo.  just as it appears that Israel and every Israelite will be destroyed, Jesus will return the second time from Heaven, this time accompanied by His saints, to rescue the Jews at the Battle of Armageddon. 


At that moment jesus will reveal Himself to His chosen people as their Messiah.  as God pours out His Holy Spirit ON THE JEWISH NATION, all Israel will recognize the one who died for them on the cross 2,000 years before.  they will weep bitter tears, repent and thereafter worship Jesus as their lord and savior.  Satan, the old dragon, will be seized and locked away for a thousand years while Jesus sets up HIS worldwide reign as the eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  That in a nutshell is the Christian teaching we know as "Millennialism" or in the Greek language "ChiliasISM."


But there are many today who call themselves by Christ's name but who strongly deny this doctrine.  They argue that the period of a thousand years referred to in the Book of Revelation chapter 20, verses 3, 4, 5, 7 are not really 1,000 years.  instead, they say, this number must not be understood as plainly written.  they teach that we must understand these verses to have a "spiritualised" or "symbolic" MEANING.  THEY TEACH THAT ALL THE PLAGUES OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION HAVE ALREADY BEEN FULFILLED IN THE FIRST CENTURY.  THIS VIEW IS KNOWN AS “PRETERISM,” THAT WHICH HAS “HAPPENED ALREADY.” 


This teaching is ALSO known as amillennialism—“NO MILLENIUM.”  the Latin prefix "a" means "not."  just as an "atheist" is not a "theist" (one who believes in God) and an "agnostic" says that he has "no knowledge" of God ("gnostic" comes from the Greek word gnostikos which means "knowledge"), SO AN AMILLENIALIST BELIEVES THERE WILL BE NO MILLENIUM IN THE FUTURE, NO THOUSAND-YEAR PHYSICAL REIGN OF CHIRST OVER PLANET EARTH.


so we are confronted with two very different and opposing understanding of this long period of god's kingdom on earth.  what a person believes about these verses will greatly influence how they live their lives and where they place their hope.  that's why it's vitally important to come to a solid understanding of what revelation 20 is really saying.  one way to approach this subject is to ask a very basic question--What did the Disciples of jesus, who knew him personally and heard his teachings face to face, what did they believe and what did they write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? 


Starting with the writings of the New Testament, we learn that first century believers firmly believed in the return of Christ for His church.   they fully expected a Great Tribulation in which god would judge the entire world, and they were convinced there would be a literal 1000-year reign of the lord jesus Christ on planet earth.  all The Gospels teach this sequence comprising the last seven years of the age, to be completed by the triumphant return of Christ.   specifically we read about these events in Matthew chapter 24, Mark Chapter 13 and Luke Chapter 21.  all of These writings use detailed quotes from Jesus Himself on the chain of events that WILL PREFIGURE His return.


even Beyond the Gospels, numerous other passages describe this blessed hope.  for example Romans 8:20-23 reads, "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.  Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body."


we find another confirming Scripture in 1 CorINTHIANS 15:51-52--" 1 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 


The full explanation of this mystery was revealed to Paul by the Lord Himself, as we read in 1 ThessALONIANS 4:15-18--" But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.


"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.


Again, PAUL IS TOLD ABOUT THE CIRCUMSTANCES THAT WILL BE IN PLACE BEFORE THE RAPTURE OF THE CHURCH TAKES PLACE.  WE READ THIS IN 2 ThessALONIANS 2:1-5 --" Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come.  Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the TAKING away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?"




there were other eye-witnesses Besides Paul who wrote on this subject.  the apostle Peter addressed the time of the end in 2 Peter 3:3-14--" know this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."  For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God, the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.


"But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.


"Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.."


And last but not least is the Book of Revelation, the only book of the Bible that bears the direct authorship of Jesus Christ Himself.  The beloved Apostle John served as the Lord's secretary when, under roman house arrest on the greek island of patmos, he transcribed these words revealed to him in Revelation 20:1-6--" Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished.  But after these things he must be released for a little while. 


"And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.  And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.  But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.  Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years."


This steadfast belief in the literal return and 1000-year reign of Christ and His Church on earth before the Great White throne judgment of the damned at the end of the thousand years was taught and believed well into the third century.   though, to the best of our knowledge, It was not embodied in any formal creed, it was written about and taught by a wide range of distinguished teachers.  these early fathers of christian doctrine included Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Ireneus, Tertullian, Methodius and Lactantius. 


It is widely accepted among scholars and historians that the faith of the early Church was based on chiliasm - taken from the Greek word chilias which means "thousand," and that is exactly the word that is used in Revelation chapter 20.   Chiliasm was the belief that there would be a rapture of believers by christ before he judged the earth.  they eagerly anticipated his return for them, and his coming with them from heaven to set up His literal thousand year reign before the final judgment.

Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp the martyr, who was himself instructed by the Apostles themselves and had close communications with many who had seen the risen Christ.  irenaeus in his writings clearly described this literal 1000-year millennial period.  In book five of Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies) Irenaeus makes a strong argument for the millennium and the future restoration of Israel.  and he further goes on to insist that these events may not be symbolized or spiritualized or to be seen in any way other than its literal understanding.  following the millennium, Irenaeus wrote how he then foresees God's final judgment on unbelievers and the retribution at the white throne of god cited in chapters 20 and 21 of the Book of Revelation.

Hippolytus, the Greek-speaking bishop of a Church in Rome, died as a martyr around 235 AD.  hippolytus is well known by historians for his End Times writings.  In De Christo et Antichristo (of Christ and the Antichrist) Hippolytus writes of the world leader known as Antichrist and the Tribulation period during which he rules.   In his Commentary on Daniel, the oldest surviving commentary available today, Hippolytus details his millennial hope and the relationship of Revelation to Daniel, with their mutual judgmental and apocalyptic descriptions of the end times. 


one important FACT we must understand is that the common charge made against pre-millennial thought is that this point of view is a recent invention.  opponents argue that it was made-up because weak christians could not face the reality of this world and so looked to escape the suffering of a boring, unattractive life.  That accusation is not only untrue, it's wicked and heretical.


the truth is that pre-millennialism is actually the oldest of all Christian end times beliefs.  a few leaders in the early Church who loved the things of this world exchangeD their millennial hopes and the reign of jesus christ for a vision of an earth filled with sesnual delights.    Papias, for example, describes in his fourth book a millennial kingdom in which the fruitfulness of the earth will be increased to staggering proportions for the sake of the risen saints, with all kinds of exotic foods in great abundance to be enjoyed in bachavalian feasts.  About 100 A.D., Cerinthus, an early Gnostic leader, wrote of the luxury and sensual delights he expected the millennial kingdom would offer its residents. 


 Only a few early Church leaders actually opposed the millenial view.  these were residents of rome, influenced by roman culture WHO despisED the jewish roots of their faith.  by name, these were Caius, Origen, Dionysius and Eusebius.  thEIR minority viewpoint had to wait until the fourth century, when the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of his empire and "syncretized" the faith.  constantine added many pagan beliefs to the biblical teachings and subtracted many Biblical doctrines as being too "Jewish."  somewhat Later, after Constantine and his Roman empire had taken over church rule from jerusalem and banished the jewish believers, THEIR so-named "Saints" Jerome and Augustine joined the rebellion and succeeded in stifling the teaching of a literal 1000-year reign of Christ from the throne of David in Jerusalem, as prophesied throughout scripture.  intead, they came up with a so-called “Christian” (as opposed to “Jewish”) version of the Millennium.  


Where the Bible-based Church continued to read the Scriptures literally, and where they understood Christ’s resurrection as a bodily resurrection, and where they likewise saw the believers’ resurrection and their  glorification as physical and bodily and looked to the rule of Jesus as King of Kings and Lord of Lords on earth as A literal and physical REIGN, follwing the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, a new end times scenario arose. 


This was delineated by the North African Augustine, who gave emperor Constantine's views added authority and credibility through his own reputation as a brilliant lawyer and thinker.  It was Augustine who subsequently influenced all Latin theology.  interestingly, Augustine had originally agreed with the millennial doctrine of a literal 1,000-year reign of christ.  later, under pressure from rome, he recanted and changed his view from a literal bodily reign of Christ on earth to an amorphous "spiritual" reign through the catholic church of a nOW invisible “king of kings.” 


In chapter 20 of De Civ Dei (The City of God) written in 425 A.D., Augustine fashioned a belief where, in contrast to a future 1000-year reign, he insisted instead that the present age itself was part of the 1,000-year millennium.  He argued that the kingdom of God was already manifest in the Church and explained that the period of time from the destruction of the jerusalem temple in 70 ad and for 1,000 years in the future marked the spiritual return of Christ and the launching of the millennium AGE.  these 1,000 years were made manifest by the ever increasing influence of the roman Church in overturning evil in the world, making this world christ's footstool.  after the 1,000 years, ACCORDING TO AUGUSTINE, Christ would THEN destroy thIS physical earth and bring down the New Jerusalem from heaven. 


there were dramatic changes in the affairs of Christianity after Constantine issued his Edict of Toleration early in the fourth century.  later Catholic theology actually identified the Kingdom of God, at least in its first stage of existence, with the institutional Catholic Church.  the church, he and his priests taught, had replaced Israel as the chosen people of god.  In fact, Constantine issued an edict that read, "Let us have nothing more to do with that accursed Jewish crowd!"


But neither constantine nor Augustine lived long enough to see the falsity of this "spiritualized" doctrine.  there wERE great millennial anxieties as the year 1,000 A.D. came WHEN multitudes expected fire TO COME DOWN from heaven AND destroy the world.  but when that time came and went without the worldwide destruction and the new jerusalem brought down from heaven, the Catholic Church was faced with A DILEMMA--either THEY MUST admit that Augustine's view was dead wrong or alternatively "redefining" it.  They decided to redefine it and SO AT THAT TIME THEY abandoned the notion of a literal thousand year period. 


Instead, Augustine's theory was converted into what is now known as "amillennialism," (literally no millennium).  The Biblical "thousand years" of Christ's reigning kingdom was turned into an empty symbol.  instead of a specific span of 1,000 years, the CHURCH HEIRARCHY said it signified just a very long period of time which could in fact be many thousands of years or longer.  to underline this new catholic understanding, during the Middle Ages the very mention of a literal 1000-year reign of christ was branded a heresy, punishable by anathema (official church cursing), excommunication or EVEN death. 


This same Amillennial doctrine is still taught as a so-called "Biblical truth" by many denominations, including Catholicism, Church of England, Anglican, Presbyterian, all Reform and Calvanist churches, and all eastern Catholic and Orthodox denominations.  This dogma teaches that the millenial reign of Christ, instead of being anxiously awaited and prayed for, was a wrong view.  The Lord's reign had actually begun already, dating either from the first coming of Christ or, more popularly, from the conversion of Constantine and the defeat of paganism in 325 AD.  This so-called "millennial" reign of Christ as a Spirit had been realized, so the teaching said, in the glory of the dominant imperial state-church of Rome.  furthermore, the first resurrection of the saints had already been accomplished in the spiritual translation of christian martyrs and dead saints to heaven, where they even now rule and reign with Christ in spirit.


But that dogma was rejected by true bible believers all through the early centuries of the faith.  even later, throughOUT the Middle Ages, the pre-tribulation Rapture of true believers continued to be taught, was kept alive and revived by small sects of Biblical literalists like those who were called BY SUCH APPROPBRIOUS TERMS AS "Anabaptists" (RE-BAPTIZERS) and "Waldenses" (NAMED AFTER A “HERETICAL SECT” LEADER, SO-NAMED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH).


not very long ago, there was a book published by a minister named Dave McPherson called The Incredible Rapture Coverup.  In this book, Mcpherson argued that the idea of a pre-tribulation Rapture was never taught in the early church.  Instead, he claimed, a man named John Darby invented this idea less than 200 years ago in 1820.  the pre-tribulation rapture was purportedly based on the  trance vision of a Scottish girl named Margaret Macdonald, and that THIS false revelation was the basis for today's belief in the rapture. 


there is nothing more humilating in the lifespan of a false idea as when such an idea is mugged by a gang of ruthless facts.  for the sake of historical truth, let the record show that John Darby was preaching the pre-tribulation Rapture long before this Scottish lass ever had her vision.  in any case, the scottish girl's illumination was not of a pre-tribulation  Rapture but of a mid-tribulation  Rapture.  but that doesn't end the attempts to attack the truth with false claims.  Another debunker named John Bray wrote that a Jesuit priest named Laconza came up with the pre-tribulation Rapture idea in his book The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty, which was written eight years before John Darby first preached his view and so influenced darby.  


In order to bring some light and less heat to this discussion, we need to look at some  writings of the early church that should help bring clarity to this dispute.  Of course, we have Scripture verses like 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 which I read before, and there is also 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11, which I'll read now--" For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing."     


But did the Apostles themselves pass along by teaching others any firm views on the pre-tribulation Rapture position?  is there anything that was later preserved by being written down?  actually, There are two such sources I can cite.  one is from the early second century, and another stems from the fourth century, both of which clearly teach the imminency of the Rapture. 


The first is called The Shepherd of Hermas, which was published at the end of the first century AD.  this was likely written soon after the Apostle John completed the Revelation of jesus christ in about 96 AD.  This book, titled The Shepherd of Hermas, was even regarded as Scripture by Ireneus in 180 AD, even though it didn’t make the final version of our Bible's canonical writings.  This author, Hermas, is actually named by paul in the Book of Romans 16:14 as follows--"Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them."


Hermas expresses his End-Times teaching in the form of a vision which he relates to the Book of Revelation.  I’ll quote here from that book--”I saw a huge beast (a la Revelation, chapter 13).  The beast has four colors (which echoes the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in Revelation 6).  It is 100 feet long, but I escaped from it, thanks to the grace and power of God.”


Hermas meets a virgin dressed in white, who tells him, “Thou hast escaped a great tribulation because thou hast believed and at the sight of such a huge beast, have not doubted.  Go therefore, and declare to the elect of the Lord His mighty deeds and say to them that this beast is a type of the Great Tribulation which is to come.  If you therefore prepare yourself and with your whole heart turn to the Lord in repentence, then you shall be able to escape it.”


This book was considered important enough to be included in the collection of New Testament writings at the Sinai monastery of Saint Catherine, which was built in the fourth century and where this book was found in an excavation conducted in 1844. 


in the fourth century, a Christian author named Ephraim the Syrian wrote a small book titled Anti-Christ and the End of the World, published in 376 AD.  His books remained in relative obscurity until they were translated into English just a few decades ago.  In his book, Ephraim wrote--”We ought to understand thoroughly, therefore my brothers, what is imminent or overhanging.  Already there have been hungers and plagues, violent movement of nations and sins, which have been predicted by the Lord.


“Let us prepare ourselves for the meeting of the Lord Christ so that He may draw us from the confusion which overwhelms the world.   Believe you me, dearest brothers, because the coming of the Lord is nigh.   Believe you me, because the end of the world is at hand.   Believe me because it is the very last time.   Because all Saints and the elect of the Lord are gathered together before the Tribulation which is about to come and are taken to the Lord in order that they may not see at any time the confusion that overwhelms the world because of our sins. 


"And so brothers most dear to me, it is the eleventh hour, and the end of this world comes to the harvest and angels armed and prepared hold sickles in their hands awaiting the empire or kingdom of the Lord.  When therefore the end of the world comes, that abominable, lying, and murderous one who is born from the tribe of Dan..  he is conceived from the seed of a man and from a most vile virgin mixed with an evil or worthless spirit. 


“Therefore when he receives the kingdom, he orders the Temple of God to be rebuilt for himself which is in Jerusalem who, after coming into it, he shall sit as God in order that he may be adored by all nations.  Then all people from everywhere shall flock together to him and the holy city shall be trampled on by the nations for 42 months.   Just as the holy Apostle says in the Apocalypse which becomes 3 1/2 years--1260 days.   Then when the 3 1/2 years have been completed, the time of Antichrist through which he will have seduced the world, after the resurrection of the two prophets, in the hour which the world does not know and on the day when the enemy or son of perdition does not know, will come the sign of the son of man.   And coming forward, the Lord shall appear with great power and much majesty with the sign of the word of salvation going before Him.”


The only early church father we know who taught other than a pre-tribulation Rapture was the Roman Origen in the early third century.   Evidently Origen grew dissatisfied with a literal interpretation of Scripture and turned to widespread allegory.  He first corrupted Church theology in Rome by teaching that Gentile Christianity had replaced the Jews as God’s Chosen People.  A literal reading, of course, teaches that Israel is heir to the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants.  but when Jersualem was destroyed in 70 AD and the Jews scattered, Origen thought AND SO TAUGHT in 165 AD that God was finished with the Jews and had turned all His promises GIVEN ORIGINALLY to His chosen people over to the CHRISTIAN Church.


Church historian A.H. Newman wrote this about Origen--”Origen was the first to reduce the allegorical method of interpretation to a system.  His method of Scripture interpretation was soon adopted throughout the Church, and prevailed throughout the Middle Ages.  In this particular, Origen’s influence was bad, and only bad.”   St. Augustine adopted Origen’s replacement theology and developed the allegorical view into a systematic theology--promoted and enforced by the Roman Catholic Church--that has dominated European Christianity to this very day. 


From the beginning, there were believers who continued to hold fast to the faith once delivered to the saints in Jerusalem.  The Catholic Church called them "Anabaptists" because they demanded that a believer be re-baptised after a profession of faith that involved HAVING understOOD and receivED the REDEMPTIVE gospel message.  That nullified any sort of infant sprinkling practised by the pagan religions and later adopted by the Catholic religion (AND OTHER DENOMINATIONS THAT ARE STILL FOLLOWING THE CATHOLIC SPRINKLING RITUAL). 

Over the centuries, thousands of Anabaptists were slaughtered and persecuted for their beliefs.  thEY WERE forced to worship SECRETLY in home churches,  and they practised their faith in secrecy.  One notable Anabaptist group in 16th century Germany was led by Jan van Leyden of Munster, who fought off a Catholic army for sixteen months before being overrun and slaughtered by the roman Church's zealots.


when the reformation arose some 400 years ago, John Calvin, Martin Luther and the Reform denominations that derived from them did INDEED reject the pope's authority, and ALSO condemned indulgences and CATHOLIC tradition as being their source of faith and practise.  nevertheless the REFORMERS continued to cling to Origen's and Augustine's symbolic and allegorical interpretations of bible prophecies.  They continued to believe that the scriptures dealing with the end times and apocalyptical events had all been fulfilled in the 1st Century (PRETERISM).  and they also retained the teaching that Jesus Christ has been ruling and reigning in this "spiritual millennium" which, by definition,  has now been ongoing for over 1900 years. 


But other theologians, including John Owen and Charles Haddon Spurgeon in the 19th century, along with Charles Ryrie, John Walvoord and J. Vernon McGee in the 20th century, reasserted the literalist credo in all questions of Biblical interpretation.   thIS IS THE HERMENEUTIC PRINCIPLE THAT teachES--"If the plain sense makes good sense, then look for no other sense."


by applying that common-sense standard TO all prophetic verses and all Scripture generally, today the pre-Tribulation Rapture position has gained renewed credence, acceptance and respectability, and in fact has been widely restored to its rightful doctrinal position.  tHE ENORMOUS ACCEPTANCE GIVEN TO SUCH BOOKS AS THE “LEFT BEHIND” SERIES SPEAKS TO THE GENERAL INTEREST IN PREMILLENNIAL BIBLICAL TEACHINGS.  TODAY, WE HAVE EVEN MORE REASON THAN even the first century church TO proclaim with hope-filled hearts, maranatha, "come soon o lord!"  


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