Category Archives: Tribulation

Does Postmillennialism fit with Scripture and what’s happening in the world?

(Nero’s Torches, by Henryk Siemiradzki (1882, National Museum, Kraków) Christians are burned alive for the entertainment of Nero, as related by Tacitus, courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In the 20th to 21st centuries, we have lived in a world of wars, the Holocaust, Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Idi Amin’s Uganda, slaughter of people in Syria (and the Middle East), terrorism by extremist groups, crime and violence around the world.

However, there are Christians who promote the view that with the Gospel’s progress, the proportion of the world’s population will become more Christian and function according to biblical standards.

Is that consistent with God’s Word and do we see it in practice in our society?

1. What is the millennium?

The word, ‘millennium’, means ‘one thousand years’ and is found in the Book of Revelation 20:1-10 (ERV):

I saw an angel coming down out of heaven. The angel had the key to the bottomless pit. The angel also held a large chain in his hand. 2 The angel grabbed the dragon, that old snake, also known as the devil or Satan. The angel tied the dragon with the chain for 1000 years. 3 Then the angel threw the dragon into the bottomless pit and closed it. The angel locked it over the dragon. The angel did this so that the dragon could not trick the people of the earth until the 1000 years were ended. After 1000 years the dragon must be made free for a short time.

4 Then I saw some thrones and people sitting on them. These were the ones who had been given the power to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been killed because they were faithful to the truth of Jesus and the message from God. They did not worship the beast or its idol. They did not receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads or on their hands. They came back to life and ruled with Christ for 1000 years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not live again until the 1000 years were ended.)

This is the first resurrection. 6 Great blessings belong to those who share in this first resurrection. They are God’s holy people. The second death has no power over them. They will be priests for God and for Christ. They will rule with him for 1000 years.

The Defeat of Satan

7 When the 1000 years are ended, Satan will be made free from his prison. 8 He will go out to trick the nations in all the earth, the nations known as Gog and Magog. Satan will gather the people for battle. There will be more people than anyone can count, like sand on the seashore.

9 I saw Satan’s army march across the earth and gather around the camp of God’s people and the city that God loves. But fire came down from heaven and destroyed Satan’s army. 10 And he (the one who tricked these people) was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur with the beast and the false prophet. There they would be tortured day and night forever and ever.

Theologians have debated for centuries over whether the 1,000 years is literal or symbolic. Those who support a figurative view often appeal to 2 Peter 3:8 (ERV), ‘To the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day’.[1] That’s a possible interpretation, but I consider there’s a better alternative of literal interpretation because Rev 20:1-7 articulates the 1,000 year period on 4 occasions. The literal, exact time of the millennial kingdom seems to be preferred over the symbolic view.

There are biblical references in support of the Messiah being the ruling king in Jerusalem on the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33) to fulfil God’s covenant to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). The OT prophets spoke of the millennial kingdom of peace, joy, prosperity and comfort (Micah 4:2-4; Isa 40:1-2; 61:7; Amos 9:13-15; Zech 8:3).

These prophecies regarding the future Messiah’s reign all require a period of time in order to find a literal fulfillment. The only alternatives would be to dismiss the many specific prophecies regarding the Messiah’s future reign or to accept an allegorical interpretation of numerous passages that appear to be presented as literal predictions. Based on these options, the most likely scenario is that the millennial kingdom is a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus Christ will reign from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

2. Postmillennialism

I have two friends who are new Christians. They told me of attending their Presbyterian Bible study where two people were promoting three comings of Jesus: as a baby, to destroy Jerusalem in AD 70, and at the end of the world – known as postmillennialism. Is this true to Scripture and experience?

Theologian Wayne Grudem gave this helpful summary of the postmillennial view:[2]

“Postmillennialism” teaches that the progress of the church will gradually increase until a larger proportion of the world’s population becomes Christian. As a result, the Christian influence on society will gradually turn into a “millennial age” of peace. At the end of that period, Christ will return, all the dead will be resurrected, and judgment will happen.


Figure 55.2: Postmillennialism from Systematic Theology, p. 1110.

2.1 Arguments for Postmillennialism

  • The Great Commission leads us to expect the gospel will go forth in power and result in a largely Christian world since Jesus said “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19).
  • Parables of the gradual growth of the kingdom indicate it will grow until it fills the earth. See Matthew 13:31-32.
  • The “millennium” of postmillennialism is an indeterminate period of time where Christian influence increases until Jesus returns requiring a symbolic understanding of Revelation 20:1-6.

2.2 Holes in Postmillennialism

clip_image004Postmillennialism is easily accepted and promoted during times of prosperity and revival.

clip_image004[1]Try selling that doctrine to Christians in the Middle East in the 21st century and other parts of the world who have and are suffering horrific persecution. The Gospel proclamation often leads to death. That’s what happened to John Wycliffe whose teachings were regarded by the Roman Catholic Church as heretical and he died of a stroke. Early Christian martyrs included: James, son of Zebedee, apostle and brother of John, the apostle; Philip the apostle; the apostle Matthew; James the Just who was Jesus’ brother; the apostle Andrew; the apostle Thomas;

In Mosul, Iraq, the terrorist group, ISIS, has marked every known Christian house with the Arabic ‘N’ for Nazarenes (Acts 24:5).


Christians Facing Islamic Extremists: ISIS

I urge those who promote postmillennialism to go to the Christians of Iraq and preach the message that their society is getting better and better through the Gospel, and then Jesus will return. They’ll be whistling in the anti-biblical wind.


clip_image004[2]Postmillennialists should obtain the regular newsletters from Voice of the Martyrs, the Barnabas Fund, and Open Doors to see that our world is not heading towards utopia for Christians and the rest of the world. Christians are being persecuted in Nigeria, the Sudan, the Middle East, India, and in other countries. Society is not improving in these countries.

Neither is it heading for the best in the Western world, where materialism and secularism reign.

3. Their biggest problem is anti-biblical content

What does the Bible say will happen towards the end of the world and Christ’s return?

3.1 Matthew 24

What could be clearer than Matt 24:3-44 (ERV)? (Also in Mark 13 and Luke 21)

3 Later, Jesus was sitting at a place on the Mount of Olives. The followers came to be alone with him. They said, “Tell us when these things will happen. And what will happen to prepare us for your coming and the end of time?”

4 Jesus answered, “Be careful! Don’t let anyone fool you. 5 Many people will come and use my name. They will say, ‘I am the Messiah.’ And they will fool many people. 6 You will hear about wars that are being fought. And you will hear stories about other wars beginning. But don’t be afraid. These things must happen before the end comes. 7 Nations will fight against other nations. Kingdoms will fight against other kingdoms. There will be times when there is no food for people to eat. And there will be earthquakes in different places. 8 These things are only the beginning of troubles, like the first pains of a woman giving birth.

9 “Then you will be arrested and handed over to be punished and killed. People all over the world will hate you because you believe in me. 10 During that time many believers will lose their faith. They will turn against each other and hate each other. 11 Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe things that are wrong. 12 There will be so much more evil in the world that the love of most believers will grow cold. 13 But the one who remains faithful to the end will be saved. 14 And the Good News I have shared about God’s kingdom will be told throughout the world. It will be spread to every nation. Then the end will come.

15 “Daniel the prophet spoke about ‘the terrible thing that causes destruction.’ You will see this terrible thing standing in the holy place.” (You who read this should understand what it means.) 16 “The people in Judea at that time should run away to the mountains. 17 They should run away without wasting time to stop for anything. If they are on the roof of their house, they must not go down to get anything out of the house. 18 If they are in the field, they must not go back to get a coat.

19 “During that time it will be hard for women who are pregnant or have small babies! 20 Pray that it will not be winter or a Sabbath day when these things happen and you have to run away, 21 because it will be a time of great trouble. There will be more trouble than has ever happened since the beginning of the world. And nothing as bad as that will ever happen again.

22 “But God has decided to make that terrible time short. If it were not made short, no one would continue living. But God will make that time short to help the people he has chosen.

23 “Someone might say to you at that time, ‘Look, there is the Messiah!’ Or someone else might say, ‘There he is!’ But don’t believe them. 24 False messiahs and false prophets will come and do great miracles and wonders, trying to fool the people God has chosen, if that is possible. 25 Now I have warned you about this before it happens.

26 “Someone might tell you, ‘The Messiah is there in the desert!’ But don’t go into the desert to look for him. Someone else might say, ‘There is the Messiah in that room!’ But don’t believe it. 27 When the Son of Man comes, everyone will see him. It will be like lightning flashing in the sky that can be seen everywhere. 28 It’s like looking for a dead body: You will find it where the vultures are gathering above.

29 “Right after the trouble of those days, this will happen:

‘The sun will become dark,
and the moon will not give light.
The stars will fall from the sky,
and everything in the sky will be changed.’

30 “Then there will be something in the sky that shows the Son of Man is coming. All the people of the world will cry. Everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds in the sky. He will come with power and great glory. 31 He will use a loud trumpet to send his angels all around the earth. They will gather his chosen people from every part of the earth.

32 “The fig tree teaches us a lesson: When its branches become green and soft, and new leaves begin to grow, then you know that summer is very near. 33 In the same way, when you see all these things happening, you will know that the time is very near, already present. 34 I assure you that all these things will happen while some of the people of this time are still living. 35 The whole world, earth and sky, will be destroyed, but my words will last forever.

Only God Knows When the Time Will Be

36 “No one knows when that day or time will be. The Son and the angels in heaven don’t know when it will be. Only the Father knows.

37 “When the Son of Man comes, it will be the same as what happened during Noah’s time. 38 In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving their children to be married right up to the day Noah entered the boat. 39 They knew nothing about what was happening until the flood came and destroyed them all.

“It will be the same when the Son of Man comes. 40 Two men will be working together in the field. One will be taken and the other will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding grain with a mill. One will be taken and the other will be left.

42 “So always be ready. You don’t know the day your Lord will come. 43 What would a homeowner do if he knew when a thief was coming? You know he would be ready and not let the thief break in. 44 So you also must be ready. The Son of Man will come at a time when you don’t expect him.

That reads nothing like love and peace coming across the world before Jesus returns. Instead, the world will be afflicted by:

clip_image010 False Messiahs;

clip_image010[1] Wars & rumours of war;

clip_image010[2]Nations fighting each other;

clip_image010[3] So much evil in the world that the love of most Christians will grow cold;

clip_image010[4] Earthquakes, etc, but they are only the beginning of worse trials.

clip_image010[5] Famines, believers arrested – but there is worse to come.

clip_image010[6] Christians handed over to be punished and killed by authorities,

clip_image010[7] Christians hated all over the world,

clip_image010[8] Many believers will lose their faith,

clip_image010[9] Such evil in the world believers’ love will grow cold,

clip_image010[10] The ones faithful to the end will be saved,

clip_image010[11] The Gospel preached all over the world,

clip_image010[12] You will see what Daniel prophesied, the destruction called desolation,

clip_image010[13] It would seem postmillennialists get their understanding of Jesus’ second coming at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem from vv. 16-20. However, the alleged 2nd coming at the Fall of Jerusalem is opposed by this language in v. 21, ‘It will be a time of great trouble. There will be more trouble than has ever happened since the beginning of the world. And nothing as bad as that will ever happen again‘. The ESV translation of Matt 24:21 is, ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be’.

There have been many wars, etc in history that are worse than the fall of Jerusalem – Hitler’s slaughter of the Jews, World War I, World War II, Stalin’s Gestapo in the USSR, Mao’s Chinese extermination, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, etc. Postmillennialists need to talk to the families of Christians being annihilated in the Northern Sudan of Africa.

clip_image010[14] Back to Matt 24: The terrible time will be short (v. 22).

clip_image010[15] After those horrific troubles, there will be signs in the sky of the Son of Man’s coming. Everyone (alive) will see Him.

clip_image010[16] When you see the above horrors/incidents taking place, ‘you will know that the time is very near, already present’ (v. 33).

clip_image010[17] All of these things will happen when some people are still living.

clip_image010[18] ‘The whole world, earth and sky, will be destroyed, but my words will last forever’ (v. 35). That did not happen at the fall of Jerusalem.

clip_image010[19] Jesus and the angels don’t know when his second coming will be, but the signs are that it will be like the days of Noah (vv. 37-39).

3.2 So, always be ready (vv. 42-44).


There are other biblical passages that teach us to expect terrible, extreme times before Jesus’ Second Coming.

These include:[3]

3.2.1 Corinthians 4:7-12 (ESV)

7 We have this treasure from God, but we are only like clay jars that hold the treasure. This is to show that the amazing power we have is from God, not from us. 8 We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We often don’t know what to do, but we don’t give up. 9 We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed. 10 So we constantly experience the death of Jesus in our own bodies, but this is so that the life of Jesus can also be seen in our bodies. 11 We are alive, but for Jesus we are always in danger of death, so that the life of Jesus can be seen in our bodies that die. 12 So death is working in us, but the result is that life is working in you.

To expect God to make conditions better and better for Christians deprives us of suffering with and being persecuted for Christ. Richard Gaffin wrote: ‘Any outlook that tends to remove or obscure the (constitutive) dimension of suffering for the Gospel from the present triumph of the church is an illusion’ (in Storms).

3.2.2 Jesus could return at any time

This refers to the imminent return of Jesus – I’m waiting for him now. That’s the biblical expectation in Scriptures such as 1 Cor. 16:22; Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; Js. 5:8; 1 Pt. 4:7; 1 Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:3; and 22:20. But postmillennialism ends that because it expects a golden age for Christianity and the university when the world is currently in a mess.

3.2.3 The ‘golden age’: The New Heavens and the New Earth

This will happen only after the millennium of Rev. 20 (Rev. 21-22).

3.3.4 Fewer people saved

The biblical indicators don’t confirm the utopian vision of a multitude of saved people by the time Jesus returns. See: Mt. 7:13-14; Lk. 18:8; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:1-5,12-13; 4:3-4.

Note particularly the words of Matt 7:13-14 (ERV):

You can enter true life only through the narrow gate. The gate to hell is very wide, and there is plenty of room on the road that leads there. Many people go that way. 14 But the gate that opens the way to true life is narrow. And the road that leads there is hard to follow. Only a few people find it’ (emphasis added).

3.3.5 Sam Storms summary

Storms (2020) excellent summary point was:

Scripture (esp. the NT) nowhere explicitly teaches the progressive and eventual wholesale reconstruction of society (arts, economics, politics, courts, education, etc.) according to Christian principles prior to Christ’s return. Of course, there may be relative success in this regard in isolated instances.

4. Conclusion

There are two main problems with postmillennialism: (1) Scripture refutes it, and (2) What is happening in countries around the world, with deterioration in society and culture, demonstrates postmillennialism should be avoided – giving reasons for taking that position, especially from Matthew 24.


5. Works consulted

Storms, S 2020. ‘The Postmillennial View of the Kingdom of God’, Sam Storms: Enjoying God (online). Available at: (Accessed 9 November 2020).

6.  Notes

[1] A number of these points came from Got Questions Ministries, ‘What is postmillennialism?’ (Accessed 9 November 2020).

[2] From Brandon Clay 2020. ‘The Millennium – Chapter 55’, Theolocast (online), 11 July. Available at: (Accessed 9 November 2020).

[3] These points are made by Sam Storms (2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 November 2020.

Is the rapture of the church hogwash?

Flying Feet

(image courtesy ChristArt)

By Spencer D Gear

It was 1973 and I stood at my father’s grave. A couple years before, my parents had sold their sugar cane farm near Bundaberg, Qld, Australia[1] and moved into town, where Dad had obtained employment. We three children were off their hands and they were happily living in semi-retirement, planning to serve the Lord in short-term missionary activity.

In the morning, Dad kissed Mum good-bye, which was his daily custom when going to work. However, he never returned home. At 57 years of age, while carrying some goods at a local hardware store where he worked, he dropped dead of a heart attack.

As I stood at that grave, I was in deep grief. But it was not a sorrow of desperation, because 14 years prior to that, at a Billy Graham crusade rally at the local Show Grounds,[2] my parents committed their lives to Christ (Billy Graham was in Brisbane and they were hearing his voice proclaim the Gospel through the loud speakers at the show grounds). Christ had changed them. My Dad was a vibrant witness for Christ. Witnessing was his way of life. I’m here today because Christ invaded our family back in 1959 and I eventually responded to Christ’s invitation to be saved.

While I was shocked at the sudden home-call of my father, I was confident I would meet Dad again because of my own faith in Christ alone for salvation.

I know there is hope beyond the grave because God had revealed—in Scripture—what happens to Christians who die. In the words of Paul to the Corinthians, it is ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord’ (2 Cor 5:8). Paul to the Philippians said, ‘I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far’ (Phil 1:23). I knew Dad was in a better place. At that grave side, I had the wonderful assurance of the passage we are studying (1 Thessalonians): those who are believers, whether they are alive physically or have died in Christ, will join the Lord in the air one day and be with the Lord forever at his second coming.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself.

A. Explanations of terms

1. The Millennium: ‘The term millennium comes from the Latin mille and annus, and means a thousand years. It is not found in Scripture, but the term “a thousand years” occurs six times in Rev. 20:2-7. The Greek term chiliasm, frequently occurring in theological literature, denotes the doctrine that Christ will come [at his second coming] and set up an earthly kingdom for a thousand years’ (Thiessen 1949:469).

2. Pre-millennialism: Those who believe that Jesus Christ will return prior to the Millennium are known as pre-millennialists or pre-millenniarians.

3. Post-millennialism: This is the teaching that Christ’s second coming will involve a visible and personal return, but it will not be until after the Millennium.

4. A-millennialism: Matt Slick explains,

Amillennialism is the teaching that there is no literal 1000-year reign of Christ as referenced in Revelation 20.  It sees the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation 20 as figurative.  Instead, it teaches that we are in the millennium now, and that at the return of Christ (1 Thess. 4:16 – 5:2) there will be the final judgment and the heavens and the earth will then be destroyed and remade (2 Pet. 3:10) (Slick 2014).

5.  The great tribulation

This teaching comes from Matthew 24:21, ‘For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be’ (ESV). This is referring to the period around the time of Christ’s second coming. But that introduces two more terms associated with the great tribulation:

Pre-tribulation rapture refers to ‘the taking up of believers into heaven when (according to this view) Christ returns secretly, prior to the great tribulation’ (Grudem 1999:491).

Post-tribulation rapture indicates ‘the taking up of believers after the great tribulation to meet with Christ in the air just a few moments prior to his coming to earth with them to reign during the millennial kingdom (or, on the amillennial view, during the eternal state’ (Grudem 1999:491).

What is the Christian understanding of the rapture?

B. The rapture

‘Rapture’ in the English language has the meaning of exhilaration or excitement, in my contemporary understanding. The Oxford dictionaries give the meaning as, ‘A feeling of intense pleasure or joy’. The plural, raptures, means ‘Expressions of intense pleasure or enthusiasm about something’. However, this dictionary also gives this understanding, ‘North American (according to some millenarian teaching) the transporting of believers to heaven at the Second Coming of Christ’ (Oxford dictionaries 2014, s v rapture).

What is the Christian theological understanding of rapture? Is it a biblical reality or false teaching? Is it truth or bunk? It is this latter dictionary definition to which the evangelical Christian understanding of rapture refers. Simply stated, it is what happens at Christ’s second coming when believers are caught up to meet the Lord in the air, particularly with a reference to 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which states:

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord (ESV)

The origin of the biblical use of, ‘rapture’, in the English language is explained this way:

The word “rapture” does not occur in our English Bibles. We get the word by way of St. Jerome (c. 347-420 A.D.). In his work of revising the Latin New Testament from the Greek New Testament, he translated the Greek word [harpazw] into the Latin “rapiemur.” The Latin verb form is “rapio” and means to be “caught up” or “taken away.” From these Latin words come our English word “rapture.” While Paul used the word [harpazw] only once (1 Thessalonians 4.17), he taught the doctrine of the Rapture in other places using other expressions. The Greek word [arpazw] means to “seize” or “snatch away.” It is used 13 times in the following verses: Matthew 11.12, 13.19; John 6.15, 10.12, 28-29; Acts 8.39, 23.10; 2 Corinthians 12.2, 12.4; 1 Thessalonians 4.17; Jude 1.23; Revelation 12.5. (, ‘The Rapture’)

Henry Thiessen, a pre-millennial theologian, explained Jesus’ second coming in the air:

The clearest statement of this is 1 Thess. 4:16, 17, where we are told that Christ will descend from heaven and that the believers will be caught up to meet Him in the air. 2 Thess. 2:1 speaks of our gathering together unto Him. This same idea is expressed in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Hints of the same thing may be found in several other places. In Matt. 25:6 the virgins “go forth to meet him.” And in Luke 19:15 the Nobleman first called for His servants when He returned, and then dealt with His adversaries, and only after that he set up His kingdom. Some would also refer Luke 17:34-36 to this aspect of His coming. We see, then, that the first aspect of His coming is with a view to His own (Thiessen 1949:449).

C. The public arena: The rapture is hogwash!

It is not unusual to hear comments like this from an a-millennialist on a Christian forum on the Internet:

The idea of the rapture portrayed in hollywood (ie, Left Behind, etc)[3] is nowhere to be found in Christian history until about 200 years ago. It’s a modern invention.[4]

My response was that I wouldn’t be so sure that there are no hints of a rapture of the church in relation to end times in the early church fathers. The statement, ‘nowhere to be found in Christian history’, is absolutistic. I asked this person, ‘Have you read every word of the church fathers and early Christian documents to be so confident about your statement?’[5]

What is the meaning of ‘rapture’ as applied to New Testament eschatology? See the definition above.

D. Examples from the Church Fathers

Here are a few of examples from the Church Fathers. I’ve incorporated the rapture, tribulation and Millennium references.

1. Papias (ca 60-130)[6].

Eusebius reported that Papias wrote that

there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth’. Eusebius’s comment on this view was, ‘I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenaeus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views (in Eusebius 1890:3.39.12-13, emphasis added).

2. Irenaeus of Lyon (ca 120/140-200/203).[7]

His most famous publication was, Against Heresies (written about AD 185). In it he wrote:

Those nations however, who did not of themselves raise up their eyes unto heaven, nor returned thanks to their Maker, nor wished to behold the light of truth, but who were like blind mice concealed in the depths of ignorance, the word justly reckons “as waste water from a sink, and as the turning-weight of a balance-in fact, as nothing; ” so far useful and serviceable to the just, as stubble conduces towards the growth of the wheat, and its straw, by means of combustion, serves for working gold. And therefore, when in the end the Church shall be suddenly caught up from this, it is said, “There shall be tribulation such as has not been since the beginning, neither shall be.” For this is the last contest of the righteous, in which, when they overcome they are crowned with incorruption (Against heresies, 5.29.1, emphasis added).

3. Cyprian of Carthage (AD 200-258)[8]

In one of his Treatises he described the last times of tribulation. He predicted and said that wars, and famines, and earthquakes, and pestilences would arise in each place; and lest an unexpected and new dread of mischiefs should shake us, He previously warned us that adversity would increase more and more in the last times….

And this, as it ought always to be done by God’s servants, much more ought to be done now — now that the world is collapsing and is oppressed with the tempests of mischievous ills; in order that we who see that terrible things have begun, and know that still more terrible things are imminent, may regard it as the greatest advantage to depart from it as quickly as possible. If in your dwelling the walls were shaking with age, the roofs above you were trembling, and the house, now worn out and wearied, were threatening an immediate destruction to its structure crumbling with age, would you not with all speed depart? If, when you were on a voyage, an angry and raging tempest, by the waves violently aroused, foretold the coming shipwreck, would you not quickly seek the harbour? Lo, the world is changing and passing away, and witnesses to its ruin not now by its age, but by the end of things. And do you not give God thanks, do you not congratulate yourself, that by an earlier departure you are taken away, and delivered from the shipwrecks and disasters that are imminent? (On the mortality, Treatise 7.2, 25, emphasis added)

4. Chrysostom (ca 347-407).[9] In his exposition of 1 Thess 5:1-2, he wrote,

‘If Antichrist comes … how is it “when they say Peace and safety,” that then a sudden destruction comes upon them? For these things do not permit the day to come upon them unawares, being signs of its coming’. But ‘the time of Antichrist … will be a sign of the coming of Christ, but Himself will not have a sign, but will come suddenly and unexpectedly’ (Homily on I Thessalonians 5:1-2).

While not especially referring to the rapture by name (the catching away of believers), there is a statement that the coming of the Antichrist with signs of destruction will precede the sudden and unexpected coming of the Lord. This is a post-tribulation view of the second advent.

5. Augustine of Hippo (ca 354-430),[10]

‘he who reads this passage [Daniel 12:1-3], even half asleep, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church before the last judgment of God shall introduce the eternal reign of the saints’ (The City of God, 20.23).[11]

Augustine is definite about how the church will be assailed (trashed, maltreated, persecuted, abused) by the kingdom of Antichrist before the last judgment by God and the eternal reign of believers.

Examples from the Church Fathers and the statement of humbug from a member of the public are not enough to convince me of the genuineness of the Rapture and of Jesus’ second coming. I turn to the authoritative Scripture for that. Here’s what I find:

(, public domain)


16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words. (NIV)

That great drama will be the coming of the Lord and the rapture of the saints will be involved. What will be the sequence of events?

1. First, ‘The Lord Himself Will Come Down from Heaven’ (v. 16).

Remember when Jesus ascended into heaven? Those who were looking intently into the sky as he was going up were told by ‘two men dressed in white’ (angels), ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’ (Acts 1:11).

While I was in high school, I only ever remember one school teacher who actively opposed my Christian faith – I met more in university. My science teacher’s only objection was: ‘I cannot believe that your Jesus went into the sky and will return the same way. That’s impossible, scientifically’. Impossible or not from the human perspective, that’s exactly what will happen. The God of Scripture and the God whom I serve is the supernatural Lord of the universe who created this universe, raised Lazarus from the dead, and was himself supernaturally raised from the dead in his resurrection from the tomb after his death. The Lord God Almighty is the God who performs miracles – in spite of my science teacher’s objections to the supernatural.

The Lord who went to heaven will return ‘in the clouds’. It will be a personal return. Jesus, who died for us and ascended to heaven, will personally come back. It will not be a phantom or some substitute, but Jesus Christ Himself.

2. Second, This Descent Will be Accompanied by Some Awe-Inspiring Events (v. 16).

The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, according to v. 16,

(a) ‘With a loud command’.

Bible commentator, William Hendriksen, states that originally, this was ‘the order which an officer shouts to his troops, a hunter to his dogs, a charioteer to his horses, or a ship-master to his rowers’. Although it is not stated whose command it is, it sounds pretty much like the command of the Lord as he leaves heaven, for the dead in Christ to rise. Jesus is returning as the Mighty Conqueror. Christ has conquered, is conquering, is going to return as Conqueror—that is the thread running through the Book of Revelation (Hendriksen 1955:117).

Also, v. 16 says there will be

(b) ‘The voice of the archangel’

Literally, there will be ’a voice of an archangel’. We do not know who the chief angel is, and it is futile to speculate.

Third, there will be

(c) ‘The trumpet call of God’

The Salvation Army believers with their brass bands will be really at home here, in more ways than one – especially the trumpeters of Salvation Army bands. It is very fitting that there should be a trumpet blast here.

In the O.T., when God ‘came down’ to meet with his people, this meeting was announced with a trumpet-blast (see Ex. 19:16-19).

When the marriage of the Lamb and his bride reaches its culmination (cf. Rev. 19:7), this trumpet-blast is most appropriate.

Also, the trumpet was used as a signal of Jehovah’s coming to rescue his people from hostile oppression (Zeph. 1:16; Zech. 9:14). It was a signal for their deliverance.

So also, this is most appropriate—the final trumpet-blast, the signal for the dead to arise, for the living to be changed, and for all the Christians to be gathered from the four winds (Mt. 24:31).

‘From all this, it becomes abundantly clear that the Lord’s second coming will be open, public, not only visible but also audible’. Nobody will miss him. What forces of nature will be used to produce this sound? We are not told. ‘One fact has now become evident: for believers this sound will be full of cheer. This is God’s trumpet! It is his signal. It is sounded to proclaim his deliverance for his people…. It announces the coming of his Son’ (Hendriksen 1955:117).

J.B. Phillips translates it: ‘One word of command, one shout from the Archangel, one blast from the trumpet of God and God in Person will come down from heaven’. This catches something of the vividness of the sequence of events. This is the fullest description of the actual Coming in the N.T. When we reflect on the little that is said here, we are warned against being too dogmatic about what will happen.


Please note:

3. The Dead in Christ Will Rise First (v. 16)

Those Christians who have died, will rise before the believers who survive on earth at the time of Christ’s coming. Some Christians suppose that the reference here is to the first resurrection; that the dead in Christ, shall rise before the wicked who did not know Christ. That a thousand years—the Millennium—will intervene between the first and second resurrections (Rev. 20:4-5). This seems to be an unsubstantiated assumption because all that is stated here is that the dead in Christ will rise, before the living in Christ will be changed. Here, there is no contrast between the dead in Christ and the dead not in Christ. Nothing is said about the resurrection of unbelievers or the final judgment.


4. Those Christians Living on Earth Will be Caught Up (Raptured) in the Air to Meet the Lord (v.17).

It will be forceful, sudden. The irresistible power of God will be at work. The survivors on earth will be changed ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye’ (1 Cor 15:52 NIV). The word, ‘rapture’ comes from the Latin language for ‘caught up’.

Then we will be

5. Together Forever (v. 17).

The living and dead in Christ will be in the presence of the Lord, and there will be no end to this relationship. What a meeting that will be! This will be a meeting without a parting. We will meet our loved ones who were believers.

Imagine what it will be like, joining saints like Moses, Joshua, King David, Daniel, Paul and Peter? I’m looking forward to meeting the great revivalists: Jonathan Edwards, John & Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney. Martin Luther, William Carey, William Booth.

What a day that will be when we meet together with the martyred saints throughout human history – Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Cyprian, Ridley, and Latimer. Those killed for their faith in the former Soviet Union, China, Jim Elliot, the Christians who were burned at the stake under the Roman Empire. The saints of faith in Heb. 11. Why don’t you take a read of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs to meet some of those you will meet if you love and serve Jesus (online)?

What a meeting that will be! And we will be together forever.

Someday God will bring my Dad and Mum ‘with Jesus’. Mum’s and Dad’s souls reunited with their bodies—new bodies. Once again, we’ll be able to converse together, but this time in the presence of the Lord. What a day that will be!!

All celebrations on earth will pale into insignificance. And it will be nothing like the celebration by the supporters of the rugby league team – the Canberra Raiders – who, according to The Canberra Times, ‘guzzled their way into the record books after demolishing a week’s supply of beer in one night’.[12]

All believers will be together forever, with the Lord.


Paul calls on the Christians, in the midst of this good news, not just to take heart, but to actively comfort one another–to encourage each other. Whether we live, or whether we die, we do not get away from God’s power.

In the face of death, that antagonist that no person can master, we can remain calm and triumphant. For we know that those who sleep, sleep in Jesus, and that there is a place for them in the great events at the end of the age.


The Moravians were known for their missionary zeal. They influenced John Wesley. Count Zinzendorf, the leader of the Moravians, had a motto he lived by—‘I have one passion, and it is He—only He’.[13]

Martin Luther’s preaching aroused the church from a thousand years of sleep. It is easy to understand why, when we discover how Luther preached. He said, ‘I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday; rose again from the dead today; and is coming back to earth tomorrow’.[14]

If I had to preach your funeral sermon this week, I want to be sure I’m telling the truth about your eternal destiny. These are eternal questions: What is your personal relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you know Him? Do you have the hope I’ve been teaching? Repent and believe – receive – Christ today and be ready. But remember, to serve Jesus is costly, it costs you everything—total commitment. Full-surrender of your life to Him. You have no assurance that you’ll live another moment on this earth. You could die before you finish reading this article. You have no assurance that Christ might not come this very moment. Whether you die or whether you remain alive, you can—you should—be ready for Christ’s second coming. You will be if you know Him personally.


My reading of the church fathers (and I have read only a sample) is that there is some sprinkling of a post-tribulation, pre-millennialism among them where there is a rapture of believers after severe tribulation and trouble on the earth. However, I’m open to consider a pre-tribulation, pre-millennial rapture if that can be shown by more Scriptures than 1 Thessalonians 4.

However, my reading of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 guarantees that Christian believers will be raptured at the Lord’s second coming. They will meet him in the air. What a day that will be! I’m looking forward to the reunion with my Dad and Mum.[15]

What A Day That Will Be [16]
Words and Music by Jim Hill

Mark 14:62
“And Jesus said, I AM:
and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power,
and coming in the clouds of heaven.”


There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

v. 2

There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
And forever I will be with the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

For a couple Gaither vocal versions of this very appropriate song for this message, I invite you to take a listen to:

For further details to challenge the pre-tribulation rapture teaching, see my articles,
flamin-arrow-small What is the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture of Christians?
flamin-arrow-smallA pre-millennial, post-tribulation end times understanding

The Resurrection of Life

(image courtesy SomeHelpfulInfo)

Works consulted

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the centuries: A history of the Christian church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Eusebius Pamphilus of Caesarea 1890. Church history (online). Tr by A C McGiffert, in P Schaff & H Wace (eds), rev & ed by K Knight for New Advent, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, Bks I-X. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co. Available at New Advent (Accessed 24 March 2014).

Grudem, W 1999. J Purswell (ed), Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Hendriksen, W 1955. New Testament commentary: Exposition of Thessalonians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Justin Martyr 1885. Dialogue with Trypho. Tr by M Dods & G Reith. In P Schaff (ed), Ante-Nicene fathers (online), vol 1, ed by A Roberts, J Donaldson, and A C Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., rev & ed for New Advent by K Knight, available at New Advent (Accessed 26 March 2014).

Naismith, A 1963. 1200 Notes, quotes and anecdotes. London (U.K.): Marshall Pickering.

Oxford dictionaries 2014. Rapture (online). Available at: (Accessed 30 August 2014).

Slick, M 2014. Amillennialism and premillennialism. CARM (Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry) (online). Available at: (Accessed 29 August 2014).

Thiessen H C 1949. Introductory lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Wingren, G 2013. Saint Irenaeus. Encyclopaedia Britannica (online). Available at: (Accessed 30 August 2014).


[1] For information on Bundaberg, visit, ‘Welcome to Bundaberg North Burnett’.

[2] In the USA, they are called fairgrounds (Merriam-Webster).

[3] This refers to a Left Behind series of books by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B Jenkins. See HERE for a list. For details of the Left Behind apocalyptic film, see HERE.

[4] Skala#15, Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Do you have a feeling that the Rapture is just around the corner???’, available at: (Accessed 24 April 2014).

[5] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[6] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:76).

[7] Lifespan dates for Irenaeus are from Wingren (2013). Irenaeus became a bishop in Gaul about AD 180 (Cairns 1981:110).

[8] Cairns wrote that ‘Cyprian was born of well-to-do pagan parents shortly after 200 in the same city as Tertullian and was given a good education in rhetoric and the law…. He became a Christian about 246. About 248 he became the bishop of Carthage, a position that he held for nine years until his martyrdom about 258’ (Cairns 1981:113).

[9] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:141).

[10] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:146).

[11] The title of this chapter 23 in Book 20 of The City of God, is, ‘What Daniel Predicted Regarding the Persecution of Antichrist, the Judgment of God, and the Kingdom of the Saints’.

[12]The Canberra Times, 25 September, 1990, p.1.

[13] Cited at Congress, Canadian National Missionary. (2013). pp. 9-10. Canada‘s Missionary Congress. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1909), available at: (Accessed 30 August 2014).

[14] In A. Naismith (1963:158).

[15] Mum went to be with the Lord in 1997.

[16] Available at: (Accessed 30 August 2014).

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 2 March 2019.

What’s the meaning of Matthew 24:34?


Explosions (courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

This is a rather tricky verse that has caused lots of debates over the years. Matthew 24:34 states: ‘Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place’ (ESV).

It has created a number of challenges with interpretation, so much so that it has been included in this wonderful resource that is now available as a pdf document online: Gleason L. Archer 1982. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Regency Reference Library (Zondervan Publishing House). Available online at:

The following comments on Matt 24:34 are on pp 343-344 of Archer (1982):

Did Jesus mean in Matthew 24:34 that all the signs of His second coming were really fulfilled before His generation passed away?

Matthew 24:34 reports our Lord as saying, “Truly I say to you, this generation [genea] will not pass away until all these things take place” (NASB). What things? The rise of false teachers and prophets, the persecution and martyrdom of believers, and all the horrors of the Great Tribulation will occur (vv. 9-22). Also, there will be false Christs, deceitful miracles, and strange phenomena in the heavens (vv. 23-29). Then at last the “sign of the Son of Man” (v.30) will appear in the heavens; and all the world will witness His return to earth with power and great glory, when he sends forth His angels to gather together all the “elect” from every part of the earth.

Obviously these apocalyptic scenes and earth-shaking events did not take place within the generation of those who heard Christ’s Olivet discourse. Therefore Jesus could not have been referring to His immediate audience when He made His prediction concerning “this genea.” What did He mean by this prophecy?

There are two possible explanations. One is that genea (“generation”) was used as a synonym of genos (“race,” “stock,” “nation,” “people”). This would then amount to a prediction that the Jewish race would not pass out of existence before the Second Advent. Whatever other races would die out before that event—and most of the races contemporaneous with Jesus of Nazareth have in fact died out already–the Jewish race, however persecuted and driven from one country to another, would survive until our Lord’s return. No other nation has ever managed to live through all the dispersions and persecutions and uprooted conditions to which the Jews have been subjected. Yet they live on until this day and have reestablished their independence in the State of Israel. Although this meaning for genea is not common, it is found as early as Homer and Herodotus and as late as Plutarch (cf. H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed., [Oxford: Claredon, 1940], p. 342).

The other possibility is that genea does indeed mean “generation” in the usual sense of the word, but refers to the generation of observers who witness the beginning of the signs and persecutions with which the Tribulation will begin. Many of these will live to see the Lord Jesus come back to earth, as Conqueror and Judge, with great power and glory. This interpretation has the merit of preserving the more common and usual meaning of the word. But it suffers from the disadvantage of predicting what would normally be expected to happen anyway. Whether the Tribulation will last for seven years or for a mere three and a half years, it would not be so unusual for most people to survive that long. Seven years is not a very long time to live through, even in the face of bloody persecution.

Perhaps it should be added that if the Olivet Discourse was originally delivered in Aramaic (as it probably was), then we cannot be certain that the meaning of this prediction hinged entirely on the Greek word used to translate it. Genea and genos are, after all, closely related words from the same root. The Aramaic term that Jesus Himself probably used (the Syriac Peshitta uses sharbeta’ here, which can mean either “generation” or “race”) is susceptible to either interpretation, and thus could mean the Jewish “race” rather than the circle of Christ’s own contemporaries.

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 13 June 2019.