Basic Eschatology - Part Two: Unfulfilled Prophecy

On numerous occasions in the New Testament we find the phrase "that the Scripture might be fulfilled," or "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet."  You find "it came to pass" recorded 389 times in the Old Testament and 65 times in the New Testament.  Fulfilled prophecy is a large part of the Bible.

The study of fulfilled prophecy is quite simple.  You just match the prophecy with its fulfillment...an easy task.  It's like being a Monday morning quarterback.  Someone has said, "Prediction is very difficult, especially when it involves the future."  Unfulfilled prophecy is a challenge.

In our study we will focus on two subjects: (1) major prophetic themes, and (2) different prophetic schools of interpretation, and end our study with concluding comments.

Major Prophetic Themes

Most systematic theology textbooks were written by Reformed theologians.  The common themes that they shared were the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the judgment, the end of the world, and eternity.  Our study will be slightly different, as the study of eschatology has changed somewhat through the years.

THE SECOND COMING

The second coming of Christ is the prominent theme of Bible prophecy.  The entire Bible declares in no uncertain terms that the Lord is coming again.  The clearest statement in the Bible is John 14:3, where Jesus said, "I will come again."

At Jesus' ascension two men dressed in white apparel said to His disciples, "This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."  Acts 1:11.  Since that time the personal, visible coming of Jesus Christ has been "the blessed hope" of those who have put their faith in Him.  See Titus 2:13.

THE RESURRECTION

In Psalm 88:10 we read, "Will You work wonders for the dead?  Shall the dead arise and praise You?"  Jesus answered that question in John 5:28, 29.  "Do not marvel at this: for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth---those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation."

This is the same One who said, "I lay down My life that I may take it again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father."  John 10:17, 18.  And He rose again from the dead!

THE JUDGMENT

The question is asked in Romans 2:3, "Do you think...that you will escape the judgment of God?"  No way!  Judgment is as certain as death.  "It is appointed for men to die once, and after this the judgment."  Hebrews 9:27.  According to the Bible there is "the day of judgment."  See 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17.

It is clear that the Lord Jesus will come again as Judge.  "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man (Jesus Christ) whom He has ordained.  He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead."  Acts 17:30, 31.

THE MILLENNIUM

Many Christians believe that Jesus Christ will reign upon the earth for 1,000 years, a period of time that is called "the millennium."  This belief is based upon Revelation 20:4-7.  "And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them.  And 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 Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.  Now when the thousand years have expired Satan will be released from prison."  More about this later.

THE GREAT TRIBULATION

In Matthew 24:21 Jesus said, "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be."

Many Bible teachers believe that the prophet Joel wrote about the great tribulation, calling it "the day of the Lord," and "the great and terrible day of the Lord."  See Joel 2:1-11, 30-32.  Jeremiah wrote, "Alas!  For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."  Jeremiah 30:7.  This is a major prophetic theme that was somewhat ignored by Reformed theologians of the past.

THE RAPTURE

The doctrine of the rapture of the church is based upon 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.  "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."  The words caught up were translated rapiemur in the Latin Vulgate Bible.  From this we get the present teaching of the rapture.  The word itself does not appear in any of our English translations.

THE FINAL STATES

God will create a new heaven and a new earth.  Isaiah 65:17; Revelation 21:1.

The Bible also speaks of heaven and hell.  Heaven is depicted as a place of eternal joy, where believers live forever in the presence of God.  Hell speaks of an anguished eternal separation from God for unbelievers.  These are fixed states determined by decisions made within this life.  Luke 16:19-31; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:16; Revelation 20:11-15.

 

Prophetic Schools of Interpretation

 
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