Back in the 90s, when the Left Behind books were so popular, I (like many others) became interested in End Times theology. Having been raised Catholic, the "End Times" was not something that was ever taught or discussed. So as I began to read the books (and yes, I read them all), it was my first realization that the Bible really did talk of the return of Jesus. Growing up, I had heard references to the "second coming," but frankly, I had no idea what that meant.
I told my pastor (at that time) that I was reading the Left Behind books, and he said, "That's good, but you really need to watch their theology." That's all he said. He did not elaborate, or try to convince me of his own viewpoint. Hmmm.... the researcher in me really woke up! (Turns out he was an amillenialist - see the next paragraph to find out what in the world THAT is).
I discovered that there were numerous theological opinions regarding the End of the World. I began to study all of them. One thing became clear to me: the events of the last days are completely centered on Israel! For centuries, the church taught Replacement Theology and had to allegorize away most of Revelation (amillenialism), because the coming kingdom is centered on God's covenant people in the physical land of Israel. If you are teaching that the church replaced Israel, Revelation can be a tough book to rationalize.
Today, it seems that within evangelical Christianity, the pre-tribulational rapture viewpoint is the most popular. This is the idea that the church will be zapped away into heaven before the start of Daniel's seventieth week, which is the final seven years of History on Earth before the Lord's return. It is a step in the right direction, because at least it acknowledges Israel, but it still separates out the"church" from Israel. I don't know about you, but I'M grafted in to the commonwealth of Israel and an heir according to the promise to Abraham.
The history of the pre-trib viewpoint goes back to about 1830, with a supposed dream or vision had by a fifteen-year-old girl, Margaret MacDonald in Scotland.
John Nelson Darby, the founder of a group known as the Plymouth Brethren, began teaching this new theory after visiting Miss MacDonald.
The problem I have with the pre-trib viewpoint is that it assumes that the whole 70th week of Daniel is "the tribulation." This just ain't so. The first three and a half years will be relative peace and safety, albeit with birth pangs. The second half is the great tribulation - severe persecution by satan against the people of God. The pre-trib view also lumps together the great tribulation and the wrath of God.They are two separate things! The gathering of the saints DOES happen, just not when the PTs think.
I have found that Matthew 24 and the seven seals of Revelation 6-8 parallel each other and give us the clearest picture of what is to come. So in my next post, I will take a closer look at them. Stay tuned!
Click here for part 2.