Do you remember what was supposed to have happened on May 21st of last year?
Have you seen the movie 2012?
Have you read any of the Left Behind novels?
Have you heard of the term apocalypse?
Have you heard of the term rapture?
I bet you have heard of at least one of the above. Our culture is, in one way or another, obsessed with the end of time, with the almost total destruction of everything. So, the question is, as disciples of Jesus, what do we do with all of this? What should discipleship look like in a culture obsessed by the end of the world? Of course, who you ask this question will greatly determine what kind of answer you get. Some answers include:
- As followers of Jesus, we should try to understand if we are living in the final days of our existence so that we can feel the urgency to bring the gospel to the world.
- As bible believing people, we should take seriously its message about the end of time laid out in the prophetic books of the bible and use those details as a way of witnessing to non-believers.
Still yet, some Christians take this perspective:
- No matter what “time” we are in, we are called to take up our cross and follow Jesus in the world, living a life like he lived, and praying that God’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven. We should be wary of certain end-times focuses as they could distract us from discipleship.
This third perspective is the perspective that I would like to promote by way of linking you to a 24 minute film produced by a student as a final for his master’s class in university. The film details the history and development of the idea of “the rapture,” especially as it became popular in America. Throughout this short film, several terms are used, some of which are defined for you in the film and one important one which is not. The one important one that is not defined I want to define for you before you jump into the film so that you are not totally out of the loop. That term is:
Millennialism – Of course, you will all know the term millennium as it relates to the number 1000 but you may not know its theological history. In the book of Revelation, a book filled with powerful and odd imagery, we read this in chapter 20:1-6:
“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be let out for a little while.
Then I saw thrones, and those seated on them were given authority to judge. I also saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their testimony to Jesus and for the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
On the surface we can see that the basic idea of the millennium or the 1000 year reign of Christ is that sometime in human history there will be a period of peace and improvement on the earth before the final judgment and establishment of the new heavens and the new earth. But beyond that basic description of the millennium, endless interpretations are offered in Christian history as to what this thousand years really means and what it really will look like. The most common interpretations can be classified into three perspectives: Premillenialism, Postmillenialsim, and Amillenialism.
First, Pre-millenialism is the belief that Jesus will physically return to earth and reign for 1000 years before the final judgment of all.
Post-millenialism, on the other hand is the belief that Jesus will reign spiritually through the church for 1000 literal years, bringing peace and worldly improvement during that time and then return physically after (post) that time is up.
Finally, A-millenialism is the belief that the 1000 years mentioned in revelation is a symbolic number, not literal, that we are in the millennium right now and that, after an unknown amount of time, Jesus will indeed return to judge the living and the dead.
So, now that you have way too much information in your head, take some time to watch this film and discuss it in the comment thread afterwards. Here is the link: