Protestantism and End Times



Millennialists concentrate on the issue of whether the true believers will see the tribulation or be removed from it by what is referred to as a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, a question which continues to cause divisions within evangelical Christianity. Amillennialists believe that the end times encompass the time from Christ's ascension to the Last day, and maintain that the mention of the "thousand years" in the Book of Revelation is meant to be taken metaphorically (i.e., not literally, or 'spiritually').

End-times beliefs in Protestant Christianity vary widely. Christians premillennialists who believe that the End Times are occurring now, are usually specific about timelines that climax in the end of the world. For some, Israel, the European Union, or the United Nations are seen as major players whose roles are foretold in scriptures. Among dispensational premillennialists writers, there are those who believe that Christians will be supernaturally summoned to Heaven by Jesus in an event called the Rapture, which occurs before the biblical "Great Tribulation" prophesied in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13 and Luke 21. The Great Tribulation is also mentioned in the last book of the Bible - the book of Revelation.

'End times' may also refer simply to the passing of a particular age or long period in the relationship between man and God. Adherents to this view sometimes cite St. Paul's second letter to Timothy, and draw analogies to the late 20th/early 21st centuries.

Post-Exilic Hebrew books of prophecy such as the Book of Daniel and Book of Ezekiel are given new interpretations in this Christian tradition, while apocalyptic forecasts appear in the Judeo-Christian Sibylline Oracles and in the whole field of apocalyptic literature, which includes the Book of Revelation ascribed to John, the apocryphal Apocalypse of Peter, and the Second Book Of Esdras.

Most fundamentalist Christians anticipate that biblical prophecy will be fulfilled literally. They see current world and regional wars, earthquakes, hurricanes and famines as the beginning of the birth pains which Jesus described in Matthew 24:7-8 and Mark 13:8. They believe that mankind started in the garden of Eden, and point to Megiddo as the place that the current world system will finish, with the Advent of Messiah coming to rule for 1,000 years.

Contemporary use of the term End Times has evolved from use around a group of literal beliefs in Christian millennialism. These beliefs typically include the ideas that the Biblical apocalypse is imminent and that various signs in current events are omens of a climax to world history known as the battle of Armageddon. These beliefs have been widely held in one form, by the Adventist movement (Millerites), by Jehovah's Witnesses, and in another form by dispensational premillennialists. In 1918 a group of eight well known preachers produced a London Manifesto warning of an imminent second coming of Christ shortly after the 1917 liberation of Jerusalem by the British.

Religious movements which expect that the second coming of Christ, will be a cataclysmic event, generally called adventism, have arisen throughout the Christian era; but they became particularly common during and after the Protestant Reformation. Shakers, Emanuel Swedenborg (who considered the second coming to be symbolic, and to have occurred in 1757), and others developed entire religious systems around a central concern for the second coming of Christ, disclosed by new prophecy or special gifts of revelation. The Millerites are diverse religious groups which similarly rely upon a special gift of interpretation for fixing the date of Christ's return.

The chief difference between the nineteenth century Millerite and Adventist movements and contemporary prophecy belief is that William Miller and his followers fixed the time for the Second Coming by calendar calculations based on interpretations of the Biblical apocalypses; they originally set a date for the Second Coming in 1844. These sorts of computations also appear in some contemporary prophecy beliefs, but few contemporary End Times prophets use them to fix a date; their timetables will be triggered by future wars and moral catastrophes, and accordingly believe that God's judgment against the conflict-ridden and corrupt world is close at hand.

At least some Seventh Day Adventists are frightened of an end times scenario in which the United States works in conjunction with the Catholic Church. Short paperback books like National Sunday Law promise that, just in the day of the Roman emperor Constantine, Sunday religious worship will be enforced on pain of death: this is anathema to those who believe they must worship on Saturday. SDAs interpret the "two horned beast" that "came out of the wilderness" and "spoke meekly" to mean the United States because it passed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, was established in a thinly-settled part of the world compared to Roman and Byzantine Europe, and because it declared support for democracy, rule of law, and at least the rights of all white men, rich or poor.

Books such as The Pearl of Great Price do much to remind the reader that Christians of conscience have struggled to translate and read the Bible according to their own conscience. When caught, these Christians have not compromised their beliefs nor engaged in violence. The SDAs would be the first in line to oppose the right-wing incorporation of religious agenda into politics, not only because SDAs and other Christians (such as Jehovah's Witnesses) have been arrested and tried for offenses such as draft evasion, but because the politicalization of any religious agenda may lead to an official religion and not only first criminalize the losers, but if there is a power shift, also come to criminalize the ex-winners, too.



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