I have something else that I’ve written that I’ll post up to stimulate eschatological discussion. Here’s my answer to question 12 in the “Biblical – Theological Affirmations” section in the Canadian MB Ordination paperwork.
12. Discuss briefly the second coming of Christ, resurrection, judgement, and eternal state.
With eschatology, discussions are either unprofitably vague (i.e. “Jesus wins”) or distractingly narrow (i.e. spending pages explaining Daniel’s 70th week). Due to the nature of the topic, this is my brief discussion:
Regarding the resurrection, the resurrection has four separate components, all of which will be physical resurrections:
The first component of the resurrection was the resurrection of Christ. He was the “firstborn of the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20; Col. 1:18; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 1:5), and his resurrection is a guarantee of the certainty of the future resurrection of believers (Rom. 8:11; 1 Pet. 1:3) with the indwelling Holy Spirit being a deposit on that guarantee (2 Cor. 5:1-5). Though Christ is currently resurrected and glorified, there is a separation of the soul and body (2. Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:21-24; James 2:26) that will continue until the rapture (for believers) or the resurrection unto judgment (for unbelievers).
The second component will be the “resurrection of life” (John 5:28-29), otherwise called the “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14, occurring concurrently with the rapture, where the Lord will return in the clouds and snatch away all believers, first resurrecting the dead in glorified bodies (Job 19:25-26; 1 Cor. 15:35-50; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13-16) and then transforming the living into a glorified state (1 Cor. 15:51-54; 1 Thess. 4:17). This does not suggest that dead saints are still “in the ground”, for the souls of dead saints are immediately present with Christ (Luke 23:43; Phil. 1:23; 2 Cor. 5:8). This resurrection will give believers relief from the troubles of this world (2 Thess. 1:7), including the tribulation, in the safety of the “Father’s house” (John 14:2-3). This occurs since the tribulation is the penultimate outpouring of the Father’s wrath on man’s sin (Is. 13:9-11; Zeph. 1:14-18; Rom. 2:2-5). The outpouring of wrath in the tribulation is an outpouring that is not meant for believers (Dan. 12:1; Rom. 2:6-11; 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9; Rev. 3:10; 6:16-17) and the church is not told to expect (1 Cor. 1:7; Titus 2:13; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28; Jude 1:21). When Christ comes to snatch away believers, this will not be his second coming (to earth) but will only be a meeting “in the clouds” (1 Thess. 4:17).
The third component of the resurrection will also be a “resurrection of life” (John 5:28-29), occurring at the end of the tribulation when those martyred in the tribulation (Rev. 7:13-17) are gathered (Matt. 24:31; 2 Thess. 2:1-4) and resurrected to reign with Christ during the millennium (Rev 20:4-6). It is at this point that all resurrected believers, from both before the tribulation and during/after the tribulation, will return to earth in glorified bodies along with Christ when he comes dressed for war (Zech. 14:5; Col. 3:4; 1 Thess. 3:12-13; Jude 14-16; Rev. 19:11-14; 19) to defeat all his unprepared enemies (1 Thess. 5:2-3). Like the first resurrection occurring at the rapture, this resurrection will also only be a “resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14) where there will be rewards; i.e. participating in the millennial kingdom.
The fourth component of the resurrection will be the “resurrection of death” (John 5:28-29), occurring at the end of the millennial reign (Rev. 20:5) after the devil is released, defeated, and thrown into Gehenna; the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10-11) the place of final and eternal torment (Is. 66:22-24; Mark 9:43-49; Rev. 2-:10). This will be a resurrection of all the wicked of all time unto the Great White Throne Judgment where they will receive their final, everlasting punishment for sin (Rev. 20:11).
Regarding the judgement, the final judgment is one judgment comprised of four separate events:
The first event is the judgment of the redeemed at the bema (Grk. “Judgment seat”) of Christ. This judgement is a judgment of promised rewards (1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; James 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4; 2 Pet. 1:10-11), where believers give an account of themselves (Rom 14:10-12) and receive various blessing and reward based upon faithful obedience (Luke 14:14; 1 Cor. 3:10-15; Rev. 2:10), holiness (1 Thess. 3:13), and heart motivations (1 Cor. 4:5). At this time, deeds will also be judged to determine sincerity and faithfulness of service (Matt. 25:14-23; 2 Cor. 5:9-10).
The second event is the judgment of Israel in the tribulation. The tribulation is going to be a seven-year period (Dan. 9:24-27; Rev. 11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5) of the worst time of suffering in Israel’s history (Joel 2:1-2; Jer. 30:5-7; Matt. 24:15-21). As well as being a period of judgment against the unbelieving world (Joel 3:1-2), it will be a period of preparation for national Israel’s restoration and conversion (Deut. 4:25-31; Dan. 9:24-27; Jer. 30:3-11; Zech. 12:10) where Israel is prepared to enter the kingdom by the mass conversion of the Jews by the 144,000 Jewish witnesses (Rev. 7:1-8; 14:1-5), the two ‘flamethrower’ witnesses (Rev. 11:3-13), the removal of the wicked (Ez. 20:33-44; Zech. 13:8-9; Matt. 24:36-41, 45-51; 25:1-13) and finally by witnessing the return of Christ (Zech. 12:10-14).
The third event is the judgment of the Sheep and the Goats. This judgment occurs after the tribulation on earth at Christ’s second coming (Matt. 25:31) when he returns with the resurrected saints (Zech. 14:5; Jude 14) and summons all nations to himself for judgment (Matt. 25:32; Jude 15). This judgment will be of all the surviving Gentiles of the tribulation, where they are rewarded according to their deeds and unbelief (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 2 Thess. 1:8-10). Those who show compassion and love to the Jews during the tribulation (evidencing a regenerate heart) will be welcomed into the millennial kingdom (Matt. 25:34-40). Those who show contempt and cruelty to the Jews during the tribulation (evidencing an unregenerate heart) will be cast into the lake of fire (Matt. 25:31-46). Also at this time, the beast and the false prophet will be thrown straight into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20).
The fourth event is the judgment of the wicked at the Great White Throne, which occurs after the end of the millennial reign (Rev. 20:11). At this time, all sinners from all history (1 Sam. 2:10; Ps. 110:6; Joel 3:11-12; Rev. 20:13) will be resurrected and the book containing the record of each person’s sin and the book of life will both be opened (Rev. 20:12). All who are dead and in Hades (the holding place of the damned) will be resurrected to be judged according to their deeds (Joel 3:12-14; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:13). Death and Hades will be thrown into Gehenna (Rev. 20:14), and anyone whose name is not found in the book of life will be thrown into Gehenna (Matt. 13:40-42, 49-50; Rev. 20:15). At this time, Satan and his fallen angels will be judged (1 Cor. 6:3) and will be also thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
Regarding the second coming, the second coming has two stages:
The first stage of the coming of Christ was when Christ appeared in glory on the mount of transfiguration (Matt.17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36). Jesus told his disciples that some of them would not experience death before they saw him coming in his kingdom (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27), and Peter, James and John got a preview of Christ’s kingdom splendour six days later (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2-3) when Christ appeared in his manifest glory along with two “resurrected” saints and receiving praise from the father (Matt. 17:2-5; Mark 9:2-7; Luke 9:29-35) . Later on in life, Peter specifically referred to this event (2 Pet. 1:16-18) as the parousia (Grk. “coming”) of Christ. On the mount of transfiguration, Christ temporarily came in his kingdom majesty (2 Pet. 1:16) and received honour and glory from God the father (2 Pet. 1:17), giving the three disciples a preview of his second coming.
The second stage of the coming of Christ will be when Jesus Christ returns to earth in his regal kingdom splendour forever. He will return to earth in the same manner that he left (Acts 1:10). He will return to the mount of Olives with his resurrected saints (Zech 14:4-5; 1 Thess. 4:14) after the seven year tribulation to defeat every one of his enemies (2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 19:11-20) with the exception of Satan who will be bound and restrained for the period of the millennial reign (Rev. 20:2-3). The tribulation will finish with the judgment of the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25:31-46) where surviving unbelievers will be cast into Gehenna (Matt. 25:41; 2 Thess. 1:9) and the redeemed Jews, believing Gentiles, and resurrected saints will all be welcomed into his millennial kingdom (Matt. 25:34; 2 Thess. 1:10). In his millennial kingdom, Christ will reign from the throne of David (Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:29) upon the earth for a thousand years along with the resurrected saints (Dan. 7:27; 2 Tim 2:12; Rev. 3:21; 5:10; 20:4-5). The millennial reign will be the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel (Is. 65:17-25; Ez. 37:21-28; Zech. 8:1-17). He will restore them to their land (Ez. 36:24-38) which has been lost due to disobedience (Deut. 28:15-68; 2 Ki. 17:6-23; 2 Chron. 33:8; Ez. 36:16-23). They have temporarily been set aside (Matt. 21:43; Rom. 11:1-26), but they will ultimately be restored to both faith and the land (Jer.31:31-34; Ez. 36:22-32; Rom.11:25-29).
No person knows the hour of the second coming of Christ, including Christ himself (Matt. 24:36; Mark 13:32), though there will be signs indicating its imminence that the righteous (in the tribulation) will heed and the wicked will ignore (Matt. 24:4-29;37-51; Mark 13:5-25; 32-37).
Jesus warned believers of the imminence of his return (Matt. 24:36-51; 25:1-13; Mark 13:28-37; Luke 12:35-48; 17:26-35; 21:29-36); this means that at all times the statement “Christ’s return is near” is true. Many of these warnings in scripture refer to a singular element within the broad realm of “the day of the Lord” (i.e. 2 Thess. 2:1-8 = the specific coming at the end of the tribulation). Believers are warned of the imminence and sudden coming of the “day”/Lord/end of all things (Rom. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:5; 1 Thess. 5:1-4; Heb. 10:24-25; James 5:9; 1 Pet. 4:7; 2 Pet. 3:3-10; Rev. 3:3, 11, 20), and that it is the “last hour/days” (Heb 1:1-2; James 5:3; 1 John 2:18), and all these warnings are legitimate and solemn; the length of time between the ascension and second coming is of little consequence to God (2 Pet. 3:8-10).
Regarding the eternal state, Christ’s kingdom will be everlasting from the millennial reign onward (Dan. 7:13-14; Luke 1:33), but after the resurrections (1 Cor. 15:23), the thousand-year reign, the final rebellion of Satan, along with the sinful offspring of the non-glorified survivors of the tribulation (Rev. 20:7-8), and the final defeat and judgment of both the devil, the wicked, death, and Hades (1 Cor. 15:25-26; Rev. 20:7-15), Christ will hand over the earthly kingdom to God the Father (1 Cor. 15:24, 28). Christ’s earthly kingdom will merge with the Father’s eternal kingdom to become an everlasting kingdom upon the earth (1 Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 21:1-22:6). In the millennial kingdom, Christ will reign from David’s earthly throne (Matt. 19:28; 25:31; Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:29) while God’s throne is and will remain in heaven (Ps. 103:19; 123:1; Heb. 8:1; Rev. 4:2), but in the eternal state God’s heavenly throne will descend to earth and become the only throne, held by both God the Father and God the Son (Rev. 22:3).
After the final judgment at the end of the millennium, the Heavens and the Earth will be decimated by fire (2 Pet. 3:7), being rendered completely barren (2 Pet. 3:10-12; Rev. 21:1) and then a new heavens and new earth will be everlastingly established (Is. 65:17; 66:22; Heb. 12:27-28; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev.21:1).
There will be three differences between the new heavens and earth and the millennial kingdom.
One, there will be an entirely new heavens and earth (Rev. 21:1). In this new heavens and earth will be a new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2) that is the promised city, prepared for the faithful (Heb. 11:10, 16). The city is the center piece of the new creation and is physically described in Rev. 21:11-21, being a perfect 2,200 kilometer cube having 12 entrances composed entirely of precious metals, gems and pearls. The city will have no temple since the Father and the Son will interact directly with the redeemed (Rev. 21:22), and there will be no sun or moon to provide illumination; this will be provided exclusively by the glory of the Father and the Son (Rev. 21:23; 22:5). There will be everlasting day in the city (Rev. 21:25), and the river of life will flow out from the singular throne of the Father and the Son (Rev. 22:1). This river will flow through the central street and will water 2 trees of life that will produce fruit every month and leaves “for the healing the nations” (Rev. 22:2).
Two, this new heavens and earth will be without sin, sorrow or death (Rev. 21:4, 6, 8). In the eternal state, the longing of creation will be realized (Rom. 8:19-22) when the curse will be lifted (Rev. 22:3). Though there will be no sin nor wicked, the wicked will not be entirely forgotten; the redeemed will be aware that the wicked are not in the new heavens and earth (Is. 66:24; Rev. 22:15).
Three, God the Father will dwell there among the nations (Grk. laoi – “peoples”). In this new heavens and earth God will dwell as the God of every nation (Rev. 21:3); the heavenly kingdom will have actually come (Matt. 6:10; Luke 11:2). His glory will illumine the earth (Rev. 21:23), and the nations will walk by the light of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:24). God will be everlastingly accessible to all the nations (Rev. 21:25) and will personally provide healing through the trees of life (Rev. 22:2). God will have his throne in the new Jerusalem where he will be worshipped by his redeemed, and they will reign along with God over the nations forever (Rev. 22:3-5). Amazingly, there will still be nations in the eternal state (Rev. 21:23-24, 26; 22:2-1), and God will provide some form of healing through the trees of life (Rev. 22:2). There will be kings; human rulers who have jurisdiction over geographic areas (Rev. 21:24), and in the eternal state, the nations will all come to worship God (Is. 66:23). The kings of the nations will bring the glory and honour (or “objects of value”) of the nations into it; presumably offerings from commerce or culture. Either way, they will bring something into the new Jerusalem that will enrich it in some way (Rev. 21:24-26).
This, and my previous post, should give you some food for thought and ample ammunition for passionate disagreement. As I previously mentioned, I’ll do my best to interact with questions as they come and as I have time.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “Come on Lord, bring on the eschaton!” Unger
P.S. – I didn’t get ordained and 3 months I spent writing the MB Ordination paperwork was in vain. The person who was evaluating my paperwork basically suggested that I’m obviously arrogant because the Bible cannot speak with that sort of clarity on the issues around end times.