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2 Peter 3:10 - "The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night."
The purpose of this study is to examine fictions about that day and compare them to the facts of the Scriptures.
People who don't claim to be Christians hold many fictions about Jesus' return.
Many doubt that Jesus will return at all or that He will punish people for sin.
People who do claim to be Christians also hold many fictions about Jesus' return.
Speculations abound regarding when He will come and what will happen when He comes. Many of these fictions are popularized by people who hold various premillennial theories.
Premillennialism is wrong for many reasons. My main objections are that it belittles the authority of Christ, the death of Christ, the significance of the church and the gospel, while at the same time exalting materialistic goals and Mosaic practices. These problems affect our present service to God.
Yet premillennialism also contradicts clear gospel teachings about the second coming of Jesus.
Premillennialists vary widely in their theories, but the following is a general summary.
Jesus will first come invisibly, unknown to men in general (the PAROUSIA), raise the righteous dead, and take them from the earth for a 7-year period of "rapture." During this time will be great suffering called the "tribulation" for the wicked people who were left on earth.
At the end of these 7 years, the forces of evil will gather to fight against Jesus, who will visibly return (EPIPHANEIA) to defeat them at the battle of Armageddon.
Jesus will then establish an earthly, civil kingdom over which He will reign as King from Jerusalem for one thousand years (the millennium). At the end of 1000 years, the wicked dead will be raised, then all men will be judged and receive their eternal rewards.
Is this view correct, or will Jesus' return instead lead to the resurrection of men, the judgment, the destruction of the earth, and eternal rewards or punishment in heaven or hell?
Consider some specific fictions men hold about Jesus' second coming.
2 Peter 3:3,4 - Scoffers will come saying "Where is the promise of His coming?" Jesus hasn't come yet, so many people have convinced themselves He never will come again.
Some deny God even exists.
They believe the world evolved gradually over billions of years by natural forces. God does not exist, or if He does He has no power to judge us for our lives.
Such people may be atheists, agnostics, skeptics, Humanists, evolutionists, etc. They delude themselves into believing that God will never call men to account for their lives.
Some don't believe Jesus is God's Son.
They may deny the first coming of Jesus, let alone the second. Or they don't believe He is the Son of God who will judge men for their lives.
They may believe in some pagan god, but not the God of the Bible and surely not Jesus. They may accept a pantheistic concept of god as an impersonal force dwelling in everything but lacking the personal characteristics of a living individual.
These may be Hindus, Buddhists, Moslems, or believers in the New Age Movement or in the Occult (witchcraft, sorcery, Satanism, etc.).
More and more frequently we must deal with people who simply don't believe Jesus would ever come to earth to judge mankind.
Acts 1:9-11 - Jesus will personally come again, just as He left.
Romans 14:11,12 - Just as surely as God lives, all men will be judged. If there is a living, immortal God in heaven, then you will be judged!
Acts 17:30,31 - God appointed the day of judgment and gave assurance by raising Jesus from the dead. Just as surely as Jesus arose, just that surely we will be judged.
Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed to man once to die and after this the judgment. Judgment is just as sure as death.
So if you believe that God exists, that Jesus arose, that your life on earth will end, and that the Bible is true, then you must believe that someday you will stand before Jesus and be judged.
2 Corinthians 5:10 - We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.
Romans 2:6 - God will render to every man according to his deeds.
Matthew 25:32 - All nations will be present.
Romans 14:10-12 - We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess. Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.
In this life people often fail to keep appointments, but no one will be absent for this appointment, and no one will be tardy. No excuses will be accepted. No amount of wealth, influence, or power can prevent your appearance.
It is not the purpose of this study to demonstrate that God exists and the Bible is His word. However, if you have doubts we urge you to consider the Bible examples of fulfilled prophecy, eyewitness testimony of miracles done by those who wrote the Bible, and especially the resurrection of Jesus. Please see our online article abouit the evidence for God, Jesus, and the Bible (see link below).
Many religious groups have set definite dates, but all have failed:
* William Miller set 1844, then 1845. His followers began Seventh Day Adventism.
* Charles Russell and Judge Rutherford, of Jehovah's Witnesses, set 1914 then 1918.
* Herbert Armstrong (Worldwide Church of God) and Jehovah's Witnesses stated or implied Jesus would return in 1975, but backed off as the time drew near.
Some today claim Jesus will come during the year 2000.
The Bible says no one knows when He will come, so be prepared all the time. He may come back anytime.
V1-3 - Regarding the "times and seasons" (of Jesus' coming to raise the dead - 4:15), the day of the Lord comes as a thief in night (totally unexpected with no signs or warning). It is not just the specific day we do not know, but the times and seasons.
V4-6 - Since the time is unknown, we should watch and be ready all the time. What is the value in knowing a specific time? If we knew He would return in 2010, people would wait till 2009 to start obeying! But meanwhile we can die any moment. If we can die or He can come at any moment, we are motivated to live right all the time.
The day of the Lord will come as a thief. No one can set a day or year. Those who set dates mark themselves as false teachers, for they claim to know what the Bible expressly says no one can know.
Many believe that, after Jesus returns, the earth will continue to stand 1000 years.
As described earlier, premillennialists believe Jesus will come for the righteous, but will reign on earth 1000 years before judgment and the punishment of the wicked.
Others believe the earth will be eternal.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe Jesus will take 144,000 righteous people to heaven, but there will be a great multitude of righteous people who will live forever on a glorified earth.
2 Peter 3 - When Jesus comes again the earth will be completely destroyed. This appears to be literal since the context is doctrinal instruction, not symbolic or poetic. Since premillennialists insist on taking prophecy literally, let them do so here.
V3,4 - Mockers ask about the promise of Jesus' coming (parousia), which premillennialists say is the invisible coming before the rapture and millennium.
V5-7 - God once caused the earth to perish in a flood. The present heavens and earth are likewise reserved for fire at the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.
V8,9 - As we wait for that time, God is long-suffering so men can repent and not perish.
V10-13 - When the "day of the Lord" comes, the heavens will pass away and be dissolved, elements will be dissolved and melt with fervent heat, earth will be burned up. This will happen at the day of judgment (v7), which is Jesus' coming or parousia (v4).
Premillennialists say Jesus' parousia begins the rapture. So, taken literally, this passage would prove that the judgment and the destruction of the earth would be at Jesus' parousia, not 1000 years later.
V14-17 - Paul taught the same, including some things hard to understand. But those who pervert it, do so to their own destruction. Watch out lest we are carried away by error and fall from steadfastness. False teaching about these matters can lead us to sin and be lost.
Some deny there will be a resurrection.
Some are materialists. They believe this life is all there is. So they ridicule those who hope for "pie in the sky by and by when we die." They believe death is simply the end of man's existence.
This includes the Sadducees of Jesus' day and many like them in our day.
Others claim there will be two resurrections separated by 1000 years.
Again, premillennialists believe there will be a resurrection for the righteous before Jesus establishes His earthly kingdom, then another resurrection for the wicked 1000 years later.
1 Corinthians 15:12,13 - Some deny the resurrection of the dead. But if they are correct, then Jesus could not have been raised. However, Paul had just given numerous eyewitnesses who saw Him alive again after he died (v1-8). Hence, Christ did arise, proving that resurrection is possible.
Vv20-22 - Further, He is the firstfruits of the resurrection. In Adam all die. In Christ all shall be made alive. Just as many people are there are who die because of what Adam did, just that many will live because of what Christ did.
Matthew 22:23-33 - Jesus was confronted by the materialists of His day, the Sadducees. They denied the resurrection because they denied men have spirits that can exist after death (Acts 23:8).
Vv31,32 - Jesus answered them by quoting a passage in which God referred to men in the present tense, even though they had died. God is not the God of the dead but of the living.
Those who deny the resurrection "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (v29).
John 5:28,29 - The "hour" is coming in which "all" will be raised, both good and evil. "Hour" refers to a particular (short) period of time. Since premillennialists insist that prophecy must be taken literally, this leaves no room for 1000 years between the resurrections of the good and evil.
The difference between the resurrection of the good and that of the evil is not when they will occur, but the reward each will receive.
Acts 24:15 - Paul looked for a (one) resurrection of both the just and the unjust, not two resurrections separated by 1000 years. [23:6]
[John 6:40,44,54; 12:48 - There will be a "last day," which premillennialists must take literally. It is the same day all men will be judged. The righteous will be raised on that day, not 1000 years before it.]
Another premillennial belief is that Jesus will come once to rapture the righteous. But the judgment of mankind (specifically the wicked) will not come for another 1000 years.
At Jesus' coming, all men will be judged and eternally rewarded. There is no room for 1000 years between Jesus' coming (parousia) and the judgment.
At the coming (parousia) of the Lord (v15), the righteous, whether they were dead or alive, will be with the Lord forever (always - v17). This is eternal reward, not a 7-year rapture.
Further, this coming (parousia) will not be silent, invisible, or unobservable. It will be accompanied by a shout, voice of the archangel, and the trumpet of God (v16). Contrary to premillennialism, the wicked will know when this happens for they will suffer destruction, not just tribulation - 5:3.
Some say "the dead in Christ rise first" (v16) means at the first resurrection, 1000 years before the wicked are raised. But the context contrasts the dead in Christ (v13) to the alive in Christ (v15), not to the wicked dead. V16 says the dead in Christ rise "first," then those alive in Christ are caught up to meet the Lord (V17). The resurrection of the wicked is not under consideration and is not mentioned.
Note what happens "in that day" when Jesus' comes (v10) and is revealed from heaven with the angels (v7): afflicted Christians will receive rest (v4,7) and those who know not God and obey not the gospel will receive vengeance in flaming fire, punishment even eternal destruction (v7-9).
The righteous will enter their rest from trouble on the same "day" that the wicked will be punished. But premillennialism has the righteous resting and rejoicing through the rapture and millennium before the wicked are punished.
When Jesus comes in glory with the holy angels, then all nations are gathered and separated good from evil. The righteous enter eternal life, and the wicked will depart into everlasting fire (v41,46).
There will not be two comings, nor will the righteous be enjoying rest and bliss 1000 years plus the rapture before the wicked are punished. Both enter their reward at the same time.
[2 Peter 3:3-15 - The coming (parousia) of Jesus is now postponed (v4) to give men a chance to repent (v9). But when Jesus does come, the chance to repent will have ended, and then will come the judgment (v7).]
[1 Cor. 15:22-26 - At Jesus' coming (parousia), then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom back to the Father, having raised all who died through Adam (v22).]
Many are not convinced that men will receive conscious rewards after this life.
Some don't believe the righteous will live forever.
Many believe in reincarnation and nirvana. After death, they hope to be reborn as someone else in a better life. This cycle will continue till they simply cease to exist or enter into a state of unconscious oneness with the impersonal God.
This includes Hindus, Buddhists, and many pagan and New Age adherents. Again these ideas are becoming increasingly popular.
Some don't believe the wicked will be punished after death.
Many claim that God is too kind and loving to punish the wicked. Even some who believe Jesus will reward the righteous yet deny that He will punish the wicked.
Romans 2:5-11 - Those who disobey truth, but do evil, will receive indignation, wrath, tribulation, and anguish. Those who continue doing good will receive glory, honor, immortality, peace, eternal life.
Matthew 25:41,46 - The wicked go to everlasting destruction, the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels. Righteous people will receive eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 4:17; 5:9,10 - Saved ones will live forever with Jesus. [Cf. Matt. 5:10-12; 1 Peter 1:3f.]
Revelation 20:11-15 - Anyone not found in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire, the second death. [Cf. 2 Thess. 1:5-9; Matt. 13:39-42; Rom. 6:23.]
Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:6-9 - None of us deserves eternal life. Nevertheless, God is loving and merciful, so He determined to offer man forgiveness through the death of Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 1:5-9 - It is righteous for God to judge and punish the disobedient. Be not deceived! God is righteous and just, and this part of His nature demands that evil people be punished.
Romans 1:32; 2:4,5 - God's righteous judgment demands that people who practice evil are worthy of death. If we reject God's mercy and goodness - if we refuse to repent - then we store up wrath for ourselves at God's righteous judgment.
To save us from the consequences of sin God gave the life of His only-begotten Son. When God has done all this for us, if we reject salvation and refuse to repent, then surely we deserve to be punished eternally. God's justice demands it.
Furthermore, on earth wicked people often prosper more than righteous people, and righteous people often suffer more than wicked people. God would not be just and righteous if He simply allowed people to die, but He did not correct these injustices. God's righteousness demands that justice be done after death.
Premillennialism is a theory unproved and incapable of proof. It contradicts, denies, and undermines many essential truths of the gospel. Every true Christian must oppose it.
Copyright 1999, David E. Pratte
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There Life after Death?
Premillennialism & Jesus' Kingdom
Does Jesus Now Reign as King and High Priest?
When Will Jesus' Kingdom Begin?
What Claims Did Jesus Make?
Evidence for Jesus' Resurrection
Is Jesus' Kingdom Earthly or Spiritual?
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.