In our last meeting the church Life group which my wife and I attend studied “19. The Blessed Hope,” “20. The Millennial Reign of Christ,” “21. The Final Judgment,” and “22. The New Heavens and New Earth” of the Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador. All five current members of the group attended. We opened with Leonora, my wife, leading us in singing and prayer; we discussed additional members and study subjects for 2016-17; we considered the sheet on “The Last Things” which I’d given out the previous week, reading all the Scripture passages except Revelation 21-22 and discussing the statements; and Ray Noble took prayer requests and brought them to the Lord in prayer. We didn’t close with lunch as we usually do because we’d preceded the meeting with a meal celebrating the 21st birthday of one of our members, my son Robert. The contents of the sheet follow.
We call the study of what God has planned for the future eschatology or “the last things.” The Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador (Article V of the PAONL’s General Constitution and By-Laws, 1998) contains the following Truths about the last things:
19. The Blessed Hope
The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation, together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord, is the imminent and blessed hope of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; Romans 8:23; Titus 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:51,52). The Rapture, according to the Scriptures, takes place before what is known as the Great Tribulation. Thus, the saints, who are raptured at Christ’s coming, do not go through the Great Tribulation.
20. The Millennial Reign of Christ
The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is the blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years (Zechariah 14:5; Matthew 24:27,30; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-14; 20:1-6). This millennial reign will bring the salvation of national Israel (Ezekiel 37:21,22; Zephaniah 3:19,20; Romans 11:26,27) and the establishment of universal peace (Isaiah 11:6-9; Psalm 72:3-8; Micah 4:3,4).
21. The Final Judgment
There will be a final judgment in which the wicked will be judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:43-48; Revelation 19:20; 20:11-15; 21:8).
22. The New Heavens and New Earth
We, according to God’s promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21, 22).
When I’d given out the “The Last Things” sheet the previous week, I’d accompanied it with sheets called “Views on the Great Tribulation” and “Views on the Time and Nature of the Millennium.” We browsed the former when discussing 19. The Blessed Truth but didn’t look at the latter. Thus I’ll share just the former here. It follows.
Views on the Time of the Great Tribulation
The Statement of Fundamental and Essential Truths of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador says: “The Rapture, according to the Scriptures, takes place before what is known as the Great Tribulation. Thus, the saints, who are raptured at Christ’s coming, do not go through the Great Tribulation” (Truth 19). However some premillennialists hold that the Rapture takes place after the Great Tribulation. Their view is called posttribulationism and our view is called pretribulationism.
Posttribulationists make these arguments:
1. The tribulation is clearly linked with the Lord’s return in Matthew 24:29-31, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (ESV).
2. The New Testament nowhere clearly says that the church will be taken out of the world before the tribulation. Moreover the only passage that explicitly speaks of the church’s being caught up, “[T]he 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. 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” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, ESV) seems to describe something that is open and public.
3. The idea of two separate returns of Christ, once for his church before the tribulation and seven years later with his church to bring judgment, is nowhere explicitly taught anywhere in the New Testament.
Pretribulationists make these arguments:
1. Revelation 3:10, “I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth” (ESV), seems to indicate that the church will be taken out of the world before the great tribulation. Other Bible passages which indicate that the church will not go through the great tribulation are Luke 21:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9.
2. Since the great tribulation is a time of the outpouring of God’s wrath on the earth, it would not be appropriate for Christians to be on the earth at that time.
3. If Christ comes before the tribulation, he could come at any time, which is consistent with the many Bible passages which indicate that he could come at any time. Some of those passages are Matthew 24:42,44; Matthew 25:13; Mark 13:35-37; Luke 12:40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; James 5:7-9; 1 Peter 4:7).
Stanley M. Horton, an Assemblies of God scholar cautions, “[L]et us not allow differences of opinions with respect to the time of the Rapture separate believers…. A ‘crown of righteousness’ is not limited to those who have right ideas about the Rapture, but is promised ‘to all who have longed for his appearing’ (2 Tim. 4:8). The commendation that we all want to hear is ‘well done, good and faithful servant!’ So let us all be about the Lord’s business and, at the same time, keep that longing for, that expectation of Christ’s coming, which might take place at any moment.” (Our Destiny, Springfield, Missouri: Gospel Publishing House, 1996, pages 133-34)