I have decided not to do a long exposition on this subject because, for each of my key points, there are a lot of resources available online by famous authors. In this post, I just want to share what I consider to be the most reasonable interpretation of end-times prophecies based on my reading of the Bible and commentaries from various Christian eschatologies. I have combined what I feel are the best parts of different end-times doctrines. If you would like to discuss any of these points in greater detail, feel free to post a comment.
• I think that most prophecies of the Tribulation (including the war, destruction of the temple, and antichrist), were fulfilled during a war between the Jews and the Romans during 63-70 A.D. The antichrist was most likely the Roman General Titus who led the attack on Jerusalem (Daniel 7:24-25 & 9:24-27, Matthew 24, Luke 21). In a general sense, the Tribulation and spirit of the antichrist have continued up to the present day (1 John 4:3, Luke 21:24). See my notes at the end about the Tribulation.
• We are currently living in an era known as the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24, Romans 11:25-56). This era was not known to the Old Testament prophets, which is why many Biblical prophesies skip over it.
• The present age will conclude with a literal rapture in which all believers are caught up to the celestial realms (1 Thess. 4:13-18). There is no world event to signal that the rapture is near; it will happen at a seemingly ordinary, peaceful time (1 Thess. 5:1-3, Matthew 24:36-41).
• After the Rapture, there will be a brief period of catastrophic events on the Earth (possibly lasting only a few days or weeks – “as in the days of Noah”) (1 Thess. 5:3, Matthew. 24:36-41).
• After this brief crisis phase, Jesus will return to earth to establish a new Kingdom in the world, centered in Israel. Nations will be judged to determine their circumstances at the start of this new era (Matthew 25).
The majority view in Christianity is that the Tribulation is a future period of time, and that the events of the Tribulation are described in the Book of Revelation. This view is expressed in the writing of Futurist commentators such as Hal Lindsey, Tim Lahaye, and Robert Gundry. My reasons for thinking the Tribulation took place in the first century are too complicated to explain in this brief post, but if you’re interested let me know and I’ll write in more detail about it. My reasoning on the Tribulation mostly follows the Preterist rationale although I do not agree with Preterists’ allegorical view of Christ’s Second Coming.
Also, regarding the Book of Revelation, I do not agree with the Preterists that Revelation is prophesying about first-century events in particular. I feel that Revelation has many indications of symbolic literature (though still of Divine revelation). Revelation also came from an ancient culture which had its own symbolic meanings for imagery and numbers. I tend to think that Revelation is a depiction of the spiritual warfare taking place in this age, using symbolic imagery that first-century readers would have understood.
Christians who believe in the Divine inspiration of the Bible often have the motto “literal if possible” to describe their approach to Scripture. I believe in this approach if a book establishes itself as a historical or practical work. For instance, the Four Gospels and the Book of Acts are historical commentaries on the life of Jesus and the apostolic ministry to show the world why Jesus is the Messiah. The epistles are a combination of expository theological writing and practical writing to deal with everyday issues in the Church. Obviously, these writings are meant to be taken literally as much as possible. However, Revelation, right from the start, establishes itself as a very different kind of writing, and I’m not sure that “literal if possible” still applies.
Having said that, I do not advise approaching Revelation with an imaginative mentality as if it’s a fairy tale. If there is a symbolic meaning, it would have to be spiritually revealed to a person. For an example of what a serious, spiritual meaning might look like, you can read J Preston Eby’s “Revelation Series” at http://www.kingdombiblestudies.org.
Lastly, I should emphasize that I do not rule out the possibility of anything happening in the future, including the events of Revelation literally playing out. If the Futurist commentators are right about world events, that doesn’t disprove anything in this article. The difference for me is that I don’t live in expectation of those events, and if they happen, that may or may not mean that the Bible prophesied them.
So, that’s my overview on Bible prophesy. Like I said earlier, if there is anything you would like to discuss in more detail, let me know and I’ll either give some more writing of my own or give links to other material.