As I have approached this book with a desire to understand it and make correct application, it began with a prayer for specific wisdom. I am certain that many others before me have prayed for wisdom as well.
Secondly, I read the book of Revelation all the way through from beginning to end. And then I read it again. I am not sure how many times I read it through before I became familiar with the patterns, repetitions, progress through time, and began to get a sense of what God was doing and why.
At some point I began to see the focus of this book with clarity. That being said, I could not help but wonder why others, writing on the same subject, could come up with such divergent conclusions regarding the end of the age.
So, in addition to immersing myself in scripture (the book of revelation and other related prophecies) I made it my goal to understand some of the other major viewpoints, and to try to determine what were the underlying presuppositions related to the each viewpoint. I confess that I was driven back to the Word many times to prove or disprove what I was finding.
To summarize, of the various views that are ‘out there’, the only ones that really concern me (or us) are the views held by evangelical believers. As briefly as possible I will list them here:
a) The coming of Jesus for his saints (for the church) could happen at any moment, (this is known as ‘the rapture’ when the dead in Christ rise first and all living believers rise to meet the Lord in the air. He takes us directly up to heaven) after which there will be a seven year period on earth which largely pertains to Israel. This time period will be characterized by the rule of antichrist and will result in pain and suffering like this world has never seen. At the end of this time, Jesus returns with His ‘bride’ and destroys antichrist and his kingdom. Jesus then proceeds to rule on this earth for one thousand years. After this is the Great White throne judgment in heaven. This earth is destroyed. Believers settle on a ‘new earth’ for eternity. Unbelievers are moved to their final abode, the lake of fire.
b) Same as above, except the rapture occurs half way through the seven year period, the first three and a half years being a time of peaceful utopia.
c) The rapture of believers does not take place until the very end of the seven years. The believers meet Jesus in the air (they do not go up to heaven)… he descends and destroys antichrist, then settles in Jerusalem where the judgment of believers and the marriage supper takes place. From there He rules on this earth for one thousand years.
d) The rapture of believers takes place very near to the end of the seven year period; believers are met by Jesus and taken to heaven. The judgment seat of Christ takes place and then the ‘marriage supper of the Lamb’. After this Jesus and His bride descend to earth. Antichrist is destroyed. Jesus rules on this earth for one thousand years.
- A-millennialism. Much like ‘c’ above except that the one thousand year rule on this earth is not literal but symbolic of eternity. Jesus and believers will be on this earth forever.
- Post-millennialism. This view is very uncommon in evangelical churches today. The understanding is that the thousand year period is not literal but symbolic. We are considered to be in this period at present. The teaching is that the earth will get better and better until Jesus returns to rule forever on this earth.