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Rob Bell on Hell

Rob Bell is an American pastor and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids Michigan.  His church has a five figure attendance and he uses innovative and controversial methods to attract people both to his church and to other media resources he offers including books,  podcasts, and speaking tours.  The following article refers to his book, LOVE WINS.

Rob Bell challenges established Christianity. He challenges the messages of eternal, conscious tormant as the penalty of sin, the eternal fire and brimstone wrath of hell, and the images of a far removed creator and his son ruling people with that rod of iron.  At the same time, he pushes the concept of the loving father God who says his mission is to save all.

Rob Bell flat out attacks the traditional Christian concept of hell.  While never exactly saying that there is no hell, he progressively questions our idea of hell with one argument after another.

Bell starts his book with the story of a woman who included a quote from Mahatma Gandhi in an art display that she displayed while Bell gave a series of teachings on peacemaking. Evidently, someone attached a note to the quote that said that Mahatma Gandhi was in hell.  Bell’s attack is vigorous: “really? Gandhi’s in hell? He is? We have confirmation of this?…”[i]

Bob continues with one argument after another along the same line and he presents his arguments powerfully. In his process, Bell challenges the traditional Christian concepts such as having a personal relationship with Jesus as phrasing not found the Bible.  He challenges how having to say a sinner’s prayer, or perform some sort of “acceptance” contradicts the idea that faith is not by works, but purely by grace.

Bell focuses in on what he describes as an inadequately defined concept of hell because it is so loosely structured from the ideas of the grave, and the fiery city dump.  Bell says about the Old Testament,

“But, simply put, the Hebrew commentary on what happens after a person dies isn’t very articulated or defined. Sheol, death, and the grave in the consciousness of the Hebrew writers are all a bit vague and ‘under worldly.'”[ii] He shows a similar lack of simple, straightforward, clearly defined logic in the New Testament

On the other hand, Bell applauds the cause of justice and even cites the need for punitive language as an influence to bring people back to justice. But he questions the finality of an eternal burning fiery pit called hell. As a case in point he talks about the language concerning Sodom and Gomorrah, often seen as a veritable cesspool of evil whose burning destruction sets the visual imagery for what will happen to those who don’t follow Christ. He cites the prophet Ezekiel who in chapter 16 says that God will restore the fortunes of Sodom and return it to what it was before. The implication is how that can be if Sodom and Gomorrah are the model for a eternal pit of fiery torment. He talks about how Jesus in Matthew 10 said it will be better for Sodom and Gomorrah than for the religious of his day. If Sodom and Gomorrah are the visual image of hell and hell is the worst thing that can happen, his point is how can Sodom and Gomorrah then be better than something else? Isn’t hell the absolute worst?[iii]

Rob Bell’s style is not clear cut logical reasoning. It actually reminded me of some of the things that I’ve read about Aristotle who would corner people with endless questions as he steered them toward specific points. Bell questions, questions, questions, and then attacks with one nontraditional line of reasoning after another at the traditional Christian concept that those that accept Christ in this life go to heaven, and all others burn in hell forever.  Bell’s arguments sort of dance all over the place, coming at the reader from changing angles.

Bill documents actual churches where they include in their statement of belief that the “unsaved” will consciously suffer torment in hell forever. Then he refers other sections in those same statements of belief where God is described as this incredibly loving entity that is beyond belief. And he focuses on that paradox. He also makes the case for separation from God as being a torment the people experience here on earth now.

Rob Bell’s point is that despite the statements of belief of many a church, and what appear to be some simple, straightforward verses regarding hell the case is not that simple. Bell hammers home the concept that Jesus came that “all” are to be saved, and how the intricacies of the numerous verses about judgment, eternal life, and the world to come do not allow for the easy conclusion that just because someone does not appear to accept Christ in this life that means that they will burn in hell forever. Still, he falls short of coming out and openly embracing the concept of universal salvation. Rather he goes back to building the concept of a loving God, and challenging that that all-loving God is going to set up a place where people are going consciously suffer torment eternally.

Rob Bell writes, “we shape our God, and then our God shapes us.  A distorted understanding of God, clung to with white knuckles and fierce determination, can leave a person outside the party, mad about a goat that was never got, without the thriving life Jesus insists is right here, all around us, all the time.

Jesus was very clear that this destructive, violent understanding of God can be easily institutionalized – in churches, systems, and ideas. It’s important that we are honest about this, because some churches are not life – giving places, draining people until there’s a very little life left. That God is angry, demanding, a slave driver, and so that God’s religion becomes a system of sin management, constantly working in angling to avoid what surely must be coming wrath that lurks behind every corner, thought and sin.

Jesus frees us from that, because he is kind of love simply does away with fear, … ‘You are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’”[iv]

Rob Bell’s final message is that “Love wins.”  The implication is that God’s incredible love is going to find a way for all.

Through personal stories of his own experiences and others, through biblical references, and through philosophical argumentation, Rob Bell strives to take the focus off of hell as some eternal place of conscious torment, and put it back on what draws people to Christ in the first place,the incredible and amazing love of God .  In the process he completely challenges much of the traditional theology taught in churches today.


[i] LOVE WINS, Rob Bell, HarperOne, New York, 2010, p 1

[ii] ibid.,  p. 67

[iii] ibid.,  p. 84

[iv] ibid.,  p. 183-184

© copyright 2011 Mark W Smith, all rights reserved.

June 29th, 2011 Posted by | End Times | no comments

End Times (Eschatology)

Joyfully most Christians agree on a lot of things concerning what is going to happen in the end times. Most agree that Jesus will reappear suddenly in the clouds and that is something that we should all eagerly anticipate. The reappearing will be at an unexpected time as opposed to some prophesied time and date. The Lord will judge the living and the dead. There will be a new heaven and earth. Believers will be with him for eternity and there will be no more sorrow, sickness, and death. Hallelujah and praise the Lord, it will be a great and glorious time!

Just looking at some of the verses that talk about the return of Christ shows simple, and very hopeful truths.

And when he had said these things, as they were looking, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
And while they were looking stedfastly into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
who also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye looking into heaven? this Jesus, who was received up from you into heaven shall so come in like manner as ye beheld him going into heaven. Acts 1:9-11

Thus were the words of the angels to the Apostles upon the great event of the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. With these words we have the assurance that Jesus Christ will return.

Our hope is the return of Jesus Christ. With that hope is eternal glory. The pain of this life, the Bible says, is insignificant compared to the life that we will live eternally with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

But, no other topic of Christianity is more complicated and hard to understand than the millennial aspect of the end times. The millennium refers to a thousand year period talked about in Revelation chapter 20, and there is a lot of dispute concerning this period.i So we have another division within the believers, this one concerning the events of the End Times. There are at least four positions concerning the millenium, called premillennialist, postmillennialist, and amillennialist. Within the premillennialist, there are two positions there, called historic premillennialist, and dispensational premillennialist.

“[Historic] Premillennialism is the doctrine stating that after the second coming of Christ he will reign for a thousand years over the earth before the final consummation of God’s redemptive purpose in the new heavens and the new earth of the age to come. This is the natural reading of Revelation 20:1-6.” ii

Dispensational premillennialism has the coming of Christ coming in “two stages: the first, a secret rapture removing the church before the great tribulation devastates the earth; the second, Christ coming with his change to set up the kingdom.” iii

Post-millennialism “explains that the kingdom of God is now being extended through Christian teaching and preaching. This activity will cause the world to be Christianized and result in a long period of peace and prosperity called the millennium. The new age will not be essentially different from the present, it emerges as an increasing proportion of the world’s inhabitants are converted to Christianity. Evil that is not eliminated will be reduced to a minimum as the moral and spiritual influence of Christians is heightened. The church will assume greater importance and many social economic and educational problems will be solved. This period closes with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment.” iv

Amillennialism holds that the Bible does not predict a period of universal peace and righteousness before the end of the world. It holds that there will be a continuous growth of good and evil in the world which will culminate in the second coming of Christ and the dead shall be raised and the last judgment held. Amillennialists hold that the kingdom of God is now present in the world as the victorious Christ is ruling his people by his Word and Spirit, though they also look forward to a future glorious and perfect kingdom on the new earth in the life to come. Amillennialists interpret the millennium mentioned in Revelation 20 as describing the present reign of the souls of deceased believers with Christ in heaven.v

There are other elements that complicate this discussion. One of these complicating elements is the definition of the “kingdom”. There are numerous references to the the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven, and many can’t agree what those terms mean exactly. Herman A. Hoyt, a dispensational premillennialist, lists nine different views on what the kingdom is.vi Hoyt goes on to explain his preferred point of view, which is his number nine (a kingdom established on the earth at the Second Coming of Christ). Even though the first five points include a biblical basis, Hoyt explains that his example is the biblical view, which is typical of proponents in biblical arguments.

As with many of these dividing doctrines, many argue that this is a nonessential doctrine which should not divide Christians. Nevertheless, it does divide Christians, and recently has been one of the most divisive elements in Christianity.vii

The Biblical Basis of End Times Theology.

End Times theology is pieced together from a number of books in the bible. While Jesus spoke directly to some of the events, significant elements of End Times theology come from Paul’s epistles, the book of Revelation as well as Old Testament sources such as Daniel.

Some teachers have proposed that End Times theology is in every book of the bible. Certainly there are significant passages scattered throughout the bible. Certainly End Times theology goes all the way back to the beginning to the fall in the garden of Eden. Obviously, it was not God’s desire that Adam and Eve fall into sin and permanently separate God from all mankind. The devil, whether literally as a serpent or analogously as a serpent doesn’t matter for the purposes of our discussion, beguiled Eve into sinning, with Adam following suit. So, in Genesis we read:

And Jehovah God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen 3:14-15

Here we have a prophecy that God will enable Eve to produce a progeny that will at some time in the future bruise the devil’s head with his heel. The possibility of a better end is prophesied to Adam and Eve and End Times theology is started. This end will be an everlasting kingdom of great power and majesty as prophesied in the bible:

“Both riches and honor come of thee, and thou rulest over all; and in thy hand is power and might; and in thy hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.1Chron 29:12

Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.Psalm 145:13

This future kingdom was often referenced, and many times it was announced when Israel was currently undergoing some change.viii Much of end time’s theology relates to the first coming of Christ, his redemption, his ascension, reappearing, and finally his ruling as Lord and King as leader and judge of all. But only his coming and then ruling as King and Judge was prophesied. Some messianic prophesies include End Times elements like:

For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised, and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and as one from whom men hide their face he was despised; and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, yet when he was afflicted he opened not his mouth; as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who among them considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people to whom the stroke was due?
And they made his grave with the wicked, and with a rich man in his death; although he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many; and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors: yet he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.Isaiah 53:2-12

This section from Isaiah 53 talks wonderfully about the great sacrifice that Christ made, and what it will mean to him and us, that he bore our sins and sicknesses, and because of this will receive a great reward, an End Times bonanza.

The book of Daniel has some of the most informative references to the end times. Here we see in chapter 2 an incredible prophecy of the End Times:

Thou, O king, sawest, and, behold, a great image. This image, which was mighty, and whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the aspect thereof was terrible.
As for this image, its head was of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass,
its legs of iron, its feet part of iron, and part of clay.
Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon its feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them in pieces.
Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
Thou, O king, art king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory;
and wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens hath he given into thy hand, and hath made thee to rule over them all: thou art the head of gold.
And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee; and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that crusheth all these, shall it break in pieces and crush.
And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
And whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men; but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron doth not mingle with clay.
And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
Forasmuch as thou sawest that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Dan 2:31-45

This prophecy gives some very interesting insight:

  1. There will be a number of “kingdoms” until the end.
  2. Nebuchadnezzar is king of the kingdom of Gold.
  3. There will follow kingdoms of silver, brass, iron, and iron and clay, each progressively weaker in their power.
  4. After these will be God’s kingdom which will rule without end.

There are various “interpretations” of which major kingdoms are referred to in this depiction. One is that Persian Empire is the one that follows Nebuchadnezzar followed by the Greek, then the Roman. The breakdown of the Roman Empire into the many nations of today refers to the feet and toes. That is another discussion.

Jesus spoke directly about the End Times:

And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man lead you astray. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the Christ; and shall lead many astray. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that ye be not troubled: for these things must needs come to pass; but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be famines and earthquakes in divers places. But all these things are the beginning of travail. Then shall they deliver you up unto tribulation, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all the nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many stumble, and shall deliver up one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall lead many astray. And because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony unto all the nations; and then shall the end come.
When therefore ye see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let him that readeth understand), then let them that are in Judaea flee unto the mountains: let him that is on the housetop not go down to take out things that are in his house: and let him that is in the field not return back to take his cloak. But woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on a sabbath: for then shall be great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days had been shortened, no flesh would have been saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is the Christ, or, Here; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you beforehand. If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh forth from the east, and is seen even unto the west; so shall be the coming of the Son of man. Wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.Matt 24:3-46

These are the words of Jesus who besides being Savior was a great prophet. He prophesies of a great tribulation, greater than any before. Jesus also gives some details about what is going to happen before and after the tribulation, which affects the formation of the views stated above.

This section gives a great amount of detail and chronology to End Times events.

  1. (V.5) Men will claim to be the savior (For example, today Sun Yung Moon claims to be the savior).
  2. (V.5-6) Wars, rumors of wars, pestilences, famines, and earthquakes come before the end times. (As long as these are happening it is not the end times. These happen regularly.)
  3. (V.9) Followers will be picked up, afflicted, and killed. (This is happening around the world in numerous places.)
  4. (V.9) All nations will hate Jesus’ disciples. (Only some nations hate Christians now, could Jesus true disciples be only a subgroup which is hated and the rest not true Christians? I don’t think so.)
  5. (V.10) Then many shall be offended (scandalized), offer up the other, and hate one another. (Is this what is happening today with one group of Christians hating the other, which has been going on since the Arian controversy or earlier?)
  6. (V.10) And many false prophets shall lead many astray. (Many denominations, all claiming to be led by the spirit [prophetic in action], lead so many Christians in different directions. Is that what this verse is talking about?)
  7. (V.11) Lawlessness prevails (wickedness prevails, is this homosexuality, abortion, promiscuity, corruption, the acceptance of “white lies” as normative, the importance of self over everything else?)
  8. (V.12) The love of God of many grows cold (Our society pushes science, atheism, humanitarianism up while putting God down).
  9. (V.13) He that perseveres to the end shall be saved.
  10. (V.14) At this point the gospel is finally preached to all nations and the end comes.
  11. (V.15) The Abomination of Desolation will stand in the holy place. (The abomination of desolation in about 157 BC was swine blood on the altar see Maccabees 1:57)
  12. (V.16) At this point Judeans will flee without packing.
  13. (V.21) Then the great tribulation starts.
  14. (V.23-24) Don’t believe any when they say that Christ is here. Many false Christs and false prophets will appear, performing great signs and wonders, possibly even some of the elect will be deceived.
  15. (V.29) Immediately after the tribulation the sun is shall be darkened and the moon shall be darkened, the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of heaven shall be moved.
  16. (V.30-31) After all of this, the return of Christ to Earth happens. First, the son and of the Son of Man in heaven appears. All the tribes of the earth will mourn. The Son of Man will come in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. He will send his angels with a trumpet and great voice and they will gather his elect from all over.
  17. (V.38) Just like in the days of Noah many will scoff and be unprepared for the return of the Christ.

Of note is the tribulation, in other places it is called the “wrath to come.”

Woe unto them that are with child and to them that give suck in those days! for there shall be great distress upon the land, and wrath unto this people.Luke 21:23

In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus talks more about the end times:

But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:
and before him shall be gathered all the nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats;
and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;
naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?
And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels:
for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink;
I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least, ye did it not unto me.
And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life.”Matt 25:31-46

This is an account of judgment. The standard for judgment is whether one took care of his followers. If you fed the hungry, gave drink to the thirsty, clothed the naked, took care of the sick, visited those in prison, then you took care of Christ and he will admit you to the kingdom with him. Otherwise, the punishment is everlasting. Additionally, both the believers and unbelievers are gathered together at the same time. This is seen as it says that he separates them, the believers on his right hand and the unbelievers on his left.

One of the events that is not talked about here is the “rapture”. The rapture is different from the return. Look at these verses about the rapture from the Epistles:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.1Th 4:13-18

Here we have an event that is different from the record in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 because the subjects in this event, church age believers, meet Christ in the air, as opposed to the elect in Matt 24 which are called from all over the earth to meet him on earth. (This meeting in the air is called the rapture.) The question of many people and an area of dispute in the above mentioned views is when does this rapture occur in the events mentioned above.

The simple answer is that Paul writes that we are to be saved from the wrath (tribulation) to come, so the rapture is before the wrath:

and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, who delivereth us from the wrath “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ!”1Thes 1:10

Paul clearly delineates that the gentiles will suffer wrath, but believers will be spared. Look at this next verse:

Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved; to fill up their sins always: but the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost. 1Thes 2:16

Here Paul talks about how the wrath of God will be visited on the Gentiles. (The gentiles are anyone who is not one of God’s chosen. We are God’s chosen.) Paul writes about why the Gentiles will suffer wrath in Colossians:

Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;
for which things’ sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience:Col 3:5

The Gentiles will suffer wrath because of their sins; fornication, uncleanness (immorality), passion (lust), evil desire, and covetousness (greediness). Note that Paul calls covetousness idolatry. The Gentiles worship the things they covet, and put them in a place of more importance than God Almighty.

The Abomination of Desolation talked about in the above verses refers to the book of Daniel 9:27:

And he shall make a firm covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease; and upon the wing of abominations shall come one that maketh desolate; and even unto the full end, and that determined, shall wrath be poured out upon the desolate Dan 9:27

According to I Maccabees 1:57 some of this prophecy was fulfilled:

“On the fifteenth day of the month, Casleu, in the hundred and forty-fifth year, king Antiochus set up the abominable idol of desolation upon the altar of God, and they built altars throughout all the cities of Juda round about:”ix

This verse does talk about the abomination of desolation, but there is no record of the seven years (week of years) covenant mentioned so scholars say that this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled completely, and Christ is explaining how the prophecy fits into the end times.

The book of Revelation gives a vivid picture of Christ’s glorious return:

And I saw the heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and he that sat thereon called Faithful and True; and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And his eyes are a flame of fire, and upon his head are many diadems; and he hath a name written which no one knoweth but he himself. And he is arrayed in a garment sprinkled with blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and pure. And out of his mouth proceedeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of God, the Almighty. And he hath on his garment and on his thigh a name written, KINGS OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. Rev 19:11-16

Revelation also includes the section on the thousand year (millennial) reign of Jesus.

And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.
And he laid hold on the dragon, the old serpent, which is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years,
and cast him into the abyss, and shut it, and sealed it over him, that he should deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years should be finished: after this he must be loosed for a little time.
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus, and for the word of God, and such as worshipped not the beast, neither his image, and received not the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand; and they lived, and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
The rest of the dead lived not until the thousand years should be finished. This is the first resurrection.
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.Rev 20:1-6

Remember that many people did not accept the book of Revelation for a long time. Without Revelation there is no question of a millennium. However, it is clearly a main component of the views stated above, indeed most of the Christian world includes the millennial reign as part of its End Times theology. Theses verses say there are two resurrections, a first and a second. They say that the believers are part of this first blessed resurrection. The second resurrection is nasty; only those doomed will be part of it.

End Times theology is also based heavily on prophecies like those in Daniel and the book of Revelation.

As noted above, a serious element to consider here it is what exactly heaven and earth will be like in the future. That requires a definition of a least the future heaven and earth, and the kingdom of God.

Paul distinctly taught about the end of days:

Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised:
and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.
Yea, we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, neither hath Christ been raised:
and if Christ hath not been raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.
But now hath Christ been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of them that are asleep.
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at his coming.
Then cometh the end, when he shall deliver up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have abolished all rule and all authority and power.
For he must reign, till he hath put all his enemies under his feet.
The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.
For, He put all things in subjection under his feet. But when he saith, All things are put in subjection, it is evident that he is excepted who did subject all things unto him.
And when all things have been subjected unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subjected to him that did subject all things unto him, that God may be all in all. 1Co 15:12-28

Discussion

It is the interpretation of Revelation chapter 20 that is the cause of the confusion about the millennium. Post and Pre Millenialists look for a literal period on earth in the future whereas amillemialists say that the millennium is happening now. They base this interpretation on Revelation 20:4 and the usage of the word thrones which are usually associated with heaven. Thus the thrones in play in verse 4 are thrones currently in heaven under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The people on the thrones are believers. After the millennium will be the return of Christ to earth which be when the unbelievers live again for the final judgement.

Post and Pre Millenialists differ in the literalness of interpretation. Premillemialists take a more literal approach.

Conclusion

It is not which millennial position is correct that is the issue here. It is that this is another divisive issue that confuses followers There is a so much that scripture says that we know. The most important is that Christ is coming back and we are going to be with him for eternity.

i. SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1994. p 1091-1094. Also see The Meaning Of The Millennium, Robert G. Clouse, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove , Illinois 1977 p.119
ii. The Meaning Of The Millennium, Robert G. Clouse, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove , Illinois 1977 p.17
iii. ibid, p12
iv. ibid, p8
v. ibid. p9
vi. The Meaning Of The Millennium, Robert G. Clouse, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove , Illinois 1977 p.69-70:

  1. “Before Christ, there were Jews who believed that this kingdom was limited to Israel. Even the apostles were of this mind. This led them to raise the question about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel beginning ( acts 1:6 ).
  2. The phrase “the kingdom of God” has caused some to identify the kingdom of heaven, insisting that it concerns the reign of God in heaven. A passage like Matthew: 23-24 is explained to mean going to heaven now, while Matthew 25:34 refers to the future.
  3. By spiritualizing scripture, the church has been understood to be the totality of the kingdom. Passages such as Colossians 1:13 have been used to support this view. Roman Catholicism interpreted the visible hierarchy to be the kingdom while Reformation theologians pointed to the invisible church.
  4. Some theologians were so dominated by this virtualization principle that they interpreted the rule of God in the heart to be the kingdom in as much as the new birth results in the importation of new life. Luke 17:20-21 was cited in proof of this view.
  5. To escape the sheer materialistic and carnal explanation of the kingdom, some men gravitated toward high morality and spiritual purpose and found in Romans 14:17 a text that in their estimation supported this view of the kingdom.
  6. Within recent years, social organization and overall improvement of mankind offered a welcome explanation of a present kingdom, as over against the future eschatological kingdom. The whole ecumenical movement is conditioned by this pattern of reasoning
  7. Some men have dared to charge the Bible writers and even the Lord Jesus Christ with delusions of grandeur. They took the text of the Bible literally, but asserted that it was absolutely wrong, thus disposing of the whole eschatological system
  8. Barth and Brunner brought to the attention of the Christian public a most fantastic view of the kingdom. They lifted it out of the cycle of time space events of history and place it in the realm of eternity, which belongs alone to God.
  9. The biblical view, taking the Scriptures at face value, is a kingdom established on the earth at the Second Coming of Christ. This was the view of the early church review which persisted for the first two and one-half centuries. Not until the time of Augustine did any opposing view gain a proponent of sufficient stature to turn men aside from premillennialism.”

vii. The Meaning of the Millennium, p209
viii. For example, Isaiah 14 discusses both current problems and the greatness of the future kingdom.
ix. 1Mac 1:57 DRB In 167 B.C., a Greek ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes set up an altar to Zeus over the altar of burnt offerings in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. He also sacrificed a pig on the altar in the temple in Jerusalem. This event is known as the “abomination of desolation.” (from http://www.gotquestions.org/abomination-desolation.html)

(c) 2009 Mark W Smith, All rights reserved.

March 12th, 2009 Posted by | Divisions, End Times | no comments