This theory says that the millennium is interpreted literally to be a thousand years, but before then a seven-year great tribulation takes place. The Church will get “raptured” out before that tribulation.
I write this post in a series, so I can learn the various theories.
Let’s look at this diagram, from left to right and top to bottom.
How to Interpret the Diagram
Here is an expanded interpretation of the diagram, from left to right, top to bottom, step by step.
Millennium means a “thousand years,” and “pre” means “before.”
Therefore “premillennial” or “premillennium” means Christ returns before the millennium.
The teaching on the tribulation, or more specifically, the great tribulation, is based on Jesus’ words: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” (Matt. 24:21, ESV).
The length of the tribulation comes from Dan. 9:27, which talks about the seventieth week, and in context a “week” is symbolically expanded to mean seven years (one day = one year).
The rapture or catching up of the church comes from these two verses: “For the 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 Thess. 4:16-17, ESV, emphasis added).
“Rapture” comes from the Latin words rapto (or rapio), “to seize and carry away, hurry away.”
However, the New Testament is not in Latin, but in Greek. And the key Greek word is harpazō, which has the same definition (“caught up” in v. 17). The Latin and Greek words are synonyms.
So, the word rapture does not appear in the New Testament, but the concept and reality are certainly taught.
So, Christ appears halfway down between the sky and earth, catches up his followers, and then goes back up into heaven with them.
The dotted lines represent what happens on earth.
The believers who have been raptured remain in heaven while the great tribulation is going on.
Presumably, at this time they will be judged to determine the degree of their rewards (2 Cor. 5:10), not whether they are saved. That has been established.
Back down on earth and during the great tribulation, many of the visible signs are fulfilled, like the bringing in of Jews who will convert to the Messiah, and terrible signs in the heavens.
Christ and the saints and angels return at the end of the great tribulation. This is called the Second Coming (Matt. 24:30-31). (His first coming was his being born of a virgin and ministering on earth and so on.)
His coming will be bodily, glorious, visible to everyone around the globe, geographically located (Jerusalem), and accompanied with his holy angels and believers. His second coming will not be secret or hidden.
The rapture is not the same as the second coming, but the rapture is sudden, and unexpected (see the public nature of 1 Thess. 4:16-17, however). It happens before the tribulation.
Rev. 20:1-10 speaks of a thousand years when Christ will reign. Premillennialists take the thousand years literally.
At the beginning of the thousand years, Satan is bound in a bottomless pit, and Jesus, Lord Messiah, rules with his believers and many other humans.
Some premillennial Bible interpreters say that the new heavens and new earth will appear at this time, at the beginning of the literal millennium.
At the end of the millennium, Satan will be loosed, form alliances with those who outwardly, but not inwardly or really, submitted to Christ, wage war, but be defeated (Rev. 20:7-10).
Around this time the dead unbelievers will be resurrected, be judged, and receive condemnation. This judgment is called the great white throne judgment (Rev. 20:11-15). (This is represented by the gavel and Scripture.) Christians do not go through this judgment. In fact, they help in it.
Satan is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, and death and hades are thrown into the lake of fire.
Most premillennial Bible interpreters say the new earth and heaven appear at the end of the literal millennium.
Now we will enjoy the eternal kingdom or state without end or trials or opposition or injustice because Christ is in charge in full manifestation.
Pretribulational Premillennialism in the Context of the Life of Christ
This section is repeated in the other discussions about his millennial kingdom.
Here is the illustration of the states of Christ:
His return is on the top right. Christ’s return is part of his divine plan.
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So how does all of this help me get to know God better?
This post furthers your relationship with God because you now know that he will put all to rights. The world is broken, and he intends to restore and heal it through his mighty, unstoppable, power—even his re-creation of the universe.
In the meantime, we have to be ready morally. “But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purifies themselves, just as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).
As you get to know him more intimately, he calls you to tell your story of salvation—how God reached out to you and saved you. He can do the same for those you talk to.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).
That passage is called the Great Commission. We are to go to all nations in his authority, not our own. The phrase “to the very end of the age” tells us that it will all end, and other verses teach us that this age will end at his second coming. Until then we are called to reach as many people as we can with the gospel—his good news. It is wise to reach, first, people closest to us—our family, friends, and neighbors. And then God will call us to enlarge the circle to other people we barely know.
Whatever happens, you now know the heart of God better because he is love. He loves people so much that he wants to take them out of themselves and their sinful lives—sin hurts them—before his return makes their chance of salvation end and they undergo the final judgment, when people have to give an account of what they have done and for rejecting Christ.
However, after further study of Scripture, my belief is this:
Image of his second coming is adapted from Grudem, p. 1113.