This summary post covers some sample verses from Jesus’s teaching on the end times, throughout the four Gospels (excluding Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 17 and 21, which are covered in separate posts). He simplified. End-time Bible prophecy teachers complicate.
Though this post is about Jesus’s teaching, I will sometimes quote from the epistles and place them below the verses in the Gospels. There is also a quick section on the Book of Acts.
I don’t believe in convoluted and complicated end-time theories, when the Gospels (and epistles) are streamlined and uncomplicated.
It is remarkable how unified the four Gospels, Acts, and epistles are on eschatology (study of the end times). It is almost as if the apostles took Jesus’s teaching to heart! Do the end-time Bible prophecy teachers take the simple eschatology of Jesus and his apostolic community to heart today?
Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 and 17 in Parallel Columns Are Finally Clear
All translations are mine, unless otherwise noted. You are encouraged to view many other translations at biblegateway.com. Bold font in the verses are added. Links to the complete chapters in my translation and commentary are included in case you need the context and fuller commentaries.
This post is divided into these sections:
Gospel of John
SUMMARY OF JESUS’S TEACHING
Answering an Objection
What about the Rapture?
An Eschatological Interpretation That Unifies Entire New Testament
QUICK LOOK AT THE BOOK OF ACTS
Now let’s begin.
I cannot possibly quote and exegete all the verses throughout the four Gospels, but here is a sample. See the links at the bottom of this post for many more additional verses and exegesis.
These quoted here verses agree with all the other ones not quoted. Jesus’s eschatology is consistent and clear and simple, throughout the four Gospels.
The following verses all describe this age contrasted with that age or the age to come and final judgment on that day. The verses are samples of others elsewhere.
Starting off, we need to get our priorities right because “at that time” (= day of judgment in these verses) God will examine our good and bad works at judgment.
26 For what will it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but suffers damage to his life? And what will a person give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and then at that time ‘he will reward each person in accordance with his conduct.’ [Pss. 28:4; 62:12; Prov. 24:12] (Matthew 16:26-27 // Mark 8:37-38 // Luke 9:25-27)
Jesus is coming back. What will happen then? Final judgment, based on our good and bad works. Let’s prepare for it. How? By doing good works for the kingdom! In any case, no complications here–no multiple final judgments. No millennium. Paul agrees that “the day” of the Lord means both the coming of the Lord and final judgment: […] “that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:14, NIV).
Question: how do we reconcile judgment based on righteous works and Paul’s doctrine that none are righteous (Rom. 3:10-18). Reply: (1) don’t insert Paul’s soteriology (doctrine of salvation) in Jesus’s eschatology. (2) But if you insist on mixing the two categories, then Jesus taught that we must be be born again. The Holy Spirit causes us to be born again. Paul taught the same thing (Titus 3:5). (3) Jesus and Paul came at salvation by slightly different routes, but both agree that we must experience rebirth or regeneration (born again). (4) Paul wrote, quoted just above, that everyone shall be judged by their good works, just as Jesus had said. Agreement between Jesus and Paul.
Everyone Shall Be Judged by Their Works and Words
The next two passages also contrast this age and the age to come.
28 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth: you who have followed me, in the age of renewal, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, will also sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19:28-29)
The age of renewal, in this context, speaks of the next age, the Messianic age. (See Acts 3:21, below, on the renewal or restoration.)
A clear two-part division: this age and the age to come:
29 He said to them, “I tell you the truth: There is no one who has left household or wives or brothers or parents or children because of the kingdom 30 who shall not receive in return many times as much in this age and eternal life in the age to come.” (Luke 18:29-30)
What we do in this age, like giving up some things and working for the kingdom, will count in the age to come. Our living the self-sacrificial life in this age will put us on a rewarding trajectory of good things in the next age.
That day (singular) refers to the (singular) day of judgment:
21 Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name? And in your name expel demons? And in your name do many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you! Depart from me, you practitioners of lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:21-23)
Paul agrees with “the Day” being the day of judgment: “their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light.” (1 Cor. 3:13, NIV). Note how our works will be judged on that day.
Bible Basics about the Final Judgment
The one day of judgment:
20 Then he began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida! Because if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, long ago they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes! 22 However, I tell you it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you! 23 And you Capernaum: Will you be exalted to the heavens? You will go down to Hades! [Is. 14:13, 15] Because if the miracles done in you had been done in Sodom, it would remain to this day! 24 However, I tell you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you!” (Matt. 11:20-24)
No multiple days of judgment. Uncomplicated teaching. Consistent. Here are Peter’s words: “then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9, NIV). And here: “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Peter 3:7, NIV)
Yet another single day of judgment:
For from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good person from his good treasure brings forth good things. And the evil person from his evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 And I tell you that every careless word which people shall speak, they shall return an account for it on the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you shall be vindicated, or by your words you shall be condemned. (Matt. 12:34-37)
Again, no multiple days of judgment. Jesus’s teaching is streamlined and consistent and clear. Recall Paul’s words of a single day of judgment: […] “the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’” (Rom. 2:5-6). And final judgment is based on works (and now words).
The closing out of this age, the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds (Explained). “That time” refers to the day of judgment, when the righteous and unrighteous will be judged together.
36 At that time he dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 In reply, he said, “The one who sows is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world. And the good seed are the sons and daughters of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons and daughters of the evil one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the harvesters are the angels. 40 So then just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of Man shall send out his angels, and they shall gather from out of his kingdom all causes of sin and those practicing lawlessness. 42 And they shall throw them in the fiery oven; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 At that time the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Anyone who has ears—let him hear!” (Matt. 13:36-43)
So the righteous survive judgment and will shine like the sun. The kingdom of their Father is the eternal kingdom.
The Parable of the Net also says one judgment at the close (= end) of this age, to separate evil people from the righteous:
47 Again the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet thrown into the lake and gathers all kinds of things. 48 When it is full, they haul it up on to the beach and sit and gather the good ones into containers, and they threw the bad things outside. 49 It shall be like this at the close of the age. The angels shall go forth and separate the evil people from the middle of the righteous people. 50 And they shall throw them into the fiery oven. In that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:47-50)
No multiple final judgments, and no millennium (Jesus never taught a literal thousand-year reign). The righteous and unrighteous will be judged together, at the end of this age. Peter writes the same thing about the “end”: “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray” (1 Peter 4:7, NIV) Paul also combines the return of Christ with the end and the day of Jesus: “Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:7-8, NIV). Unity of doctrine between the four Gospels and the epistles.
This next verse comes from the Great Commission, a fitting close to Matthew’s Gospel, which had many verses about this age ending some time in our future and the next age taking over.
And remember this: I am with you every day, until the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)
One age will end, implying another age–the Messianic age–will take over:
One note before we get to the Gospel of John. It is clear that Matthew has the fullest teaching on the end-times, particularly his chapters 24 and 25. But Mark and Luke, whenever they teach the end times, are in agreement with Matthew. See the many links, below, for the textual evidence.
The Gospel of John
These verses are about final judgment, and both the practitioners of wickedness and the doers of good will be judged together:
28 Do not be amazed at this because the hour is coming when those in their tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out: those doing good things to the resurrection of life, but the ones practicing wickedness to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)
Both the good-deed doers and the bad-deed doers will rise together at final judgment. The resurrection of the redeemed and unredeemed happen at the same time. Coming out of their tomb is a rapture of sorts (see John 6, next). Those verses supply an additional context to the ones in John 6.
Jesus focused on one idea in John 6:39, 40, 44, 54. In those verses he said that on the last day he will raise up (from the dead) everyone who believes in him. That is, their bodies will be raised up. Once again, this resurrection happens on the last day.
39 This is the will of the one who sent me: That everyone whom he gives me I will not lose any of them, but I will raise them up on the last day. (39)
40 For this is the will of my Father: everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. … (40)
44 No one can come to me unless the one who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. … (44)
54 The one eating my flesh and drinking my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (54)
This “raising up” is a kind of “rapture,” which happens at the Second Coming and on the last day. So it is wrong to claim on Christian television that Jesus did not teach the rapture. He did.
Recall Paul’s words: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thess. 4:16, NIV). And more of Paul’s words: “in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52, NIV). “Rising” and being “raised” is a rapture.
So there is unity of doctrine between the four Gospels and the epistles.
Does John 14 teach some sort of first coming or rapture before the Second Coming? No. Here’s why:
John 14 Does Not Teach Second Coming or Separate Rapture
SUMMARY OF JESUS’S TEACHING
Here is a summary of his teaching about the end times, covering verses quoted above and even the ones not quoted here (see the many links at the bottom of this post).
The main point is about this age contrasted with that age, and how the Second Coming or parousia ushers in final judgment on one day and then the new Messianic age, the eternal kingdom.
But first the inaugurated kingdom. When Jesus came the first time and was in the process of inaugurating the kingdom of God, the kingdom came subtly and mysteriously. When he comes a second time, his inaugurated kingdom will be fully accomplished or realized.
Here it is in a flow chart with sequential arrows:
________________← This Age –—–→| End of
What causes the end of this age? The Parousia (Second Coming), as follows:
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom →ǀ Parousia → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / The Age to Come (now realized)
Simple and clear.
3 The Kingdom Is in the Future
5 The Kingdom of God: Already Here, But Not Yet Fully
Before the kingdom is fully realized at his Second Coming, the kingdom is announced and ushered in by Jesus at the launch of his ministry. So there is overlap between this age and the fully realized kingdom age or that age.
Now let’s add one more event: final judgment. In Matt. 13:36-43: In the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds, particularly Matt. 13:39-43; and in the Parable of the Net, particularly Matt. 13:49-50; and in Matt. 16:27; and in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt. 25:31-46), Jesus clearly teaches that the end of this age and the new Messianic age (or kingdom age or the age to come) are ushered in right after the Second Coming; and the judgment of the righteous and the wicked happen at the same time. This is what we also observed in John 5:28-29 and many other verses.
Bible Basics about the Final Judgment
We can depict things in this flow chart, again with sequenced arrows:
___________← This Age –——⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom → ǀ Second Coming → Judgment → Messianic Age / Kingdom Age / Age to Come (now realized)
The Second Coming (Parousia) stops this age. Then there is one big judgment, in which the righteous and wicked are judged together. One can even say that the final judgment happens during or just before the Messianic age / kingdom age / the age to come. (All three terms mean the same thing.) Finally, the kingdom which Jesus inaugurated at his first coming will have been fully realized and accomplished at his Second Coming (parousia), after judgment. And so after God sweeps aside the wicked and Satan and demons, the New Messianic or kingdom age can begin with his true and pure and undisrupted rulership.
Bottom line: Jesus’s teaching is consistent with this flow chart with sequential arrows:
___________← This Age ———⸻→| End of
First Coming → Inaugurated Kingdom —→ǀ Second Coming → Judgment → Fully Realized Kingdom Age
Answering an Objection
Before we continue further with the summary of Jesus’s teaching, let’s deal with an objection.
Ephesians 2:7 says future “ages” (plural), so let’s be careful about putting “the age to come” in the singular. There may be many future ages! Paul and Jesus disagree!
Reply: BDAG is an abbreviation for a thick Greek lexicon, which many consider to be authoritative because of all the hard work the editors did in tracking down many passages in both the Greek NT, extra-biblical Christian writings, and pagan writings, in which a particular Greek word is used. It is a remarkable achievement in any case.
The editors write about singular / plural age / ages (slightly edited): “The plural is often purely formal.” They also say that the singular and plural are “essential equivalence.” And then they cite references to other writings to prove their point.
Further, for me, the plural intensifies the one new age, meaning it will go on forever! Count on it! In some contexts, biblical Hebrew can intensify a subject by pluralizing it, and Paul may be picking up on his knowledge of Hebrew in Ephesians 2:7, though of course he was writing in Greek. (Go here for a discussion: Aaron Ember, “The Pluralis Intensivus in Hebrew.” The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Jul., 1905, Vol. 21, No. 4 (Jul., 1905), pp. 195-231.)
But if this intensification does not apply here, then just go with what BDAG says.
So in other words, let’s not make a big thing of the verse that has the plural “ages.”
But if it turns out that there will be many kinds of ages after Christ’s return, then this future is in God’s hands, and I’ll accept anything he has to offer his redeemed people. But I see the plural as coming under one “umbrella” of the Messianic age or kingdom age, whatever may happen in the details. So Paul and Jesus do not disagree, as I see things.
After all, “this age,” before Jesus inaugurated kingdom, may have various seasons and epochs within it, but I see Jesus simplifying and summarizing matters. (John’s Gospel says “the world.”) That is, “this age” is yet another umbrella term under which may cover various epochs and seasons. Or one may even call thee epochs “ages,” yet they fit under the summary term “this age.”
So I don’t see Jesus and the apostolic community and the OT contradicting each other, once the terms are interpreted rightly.
What about the Church? The Father and the resurrected and ascended Son and the outpoured Spirit, by means of the inaugurated kingdom, created the church at Pentecost (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:1-4). It exists in this age and preaches the gospel of the kingdom. It will be snatched up or raptured at the Second Coming, meet Jesus in the air, descend with him, and go through final judgment. Then finally they will live forever with their glorified, transformed bodies, in the fully realized kingdom age.
Let’s look more closely at this age which overlaps the inaugurated kingdom. This overlap clarifies the church’s mission. Before and until the Second Coming, we now live in the conflict and battle between this age and the inaugurated kingdom, proclaimed by Jesus during his ministry, and the fully realized kingdom. (This age and the kingdom are not the same things but are at war with each other!) We are in the process of binding Satan and his demonic hordes, by expelling demons from people’s lives but mainly by preaching the gospel, so people may surrender to the Son’s Lordship, for salvation, that is, for safety. And then Satan’s domain is pushed back, and people experience victory in their lives after they are filled with the Spirit.
The gospel and life in the Spirit, coming after Jesus’s ascension in this age, though happening during the inaugurated kingdom, are so powerful that saved and redeemed kingdom citizens can experience victory over the power of sin in their lives in this age. The presence of sin in their lives is not removed until they get their new resurrected and transformed bodies and minds in the age to come. The Second Coming stops this age, which is replaced and displaced with the fully realized Messianic or kingdom age or the age to come.
What about the Rapture?
So then where does the rapture fit in? There is no separate rapture that makes the church disappear, before the Second Coming. If Jesus believed in a separate rapture, he would have taught it clearly. However, he did not teach it at all. Therefore, he did not believe in a separate rapture. All of it is too convoluted. He teaches that people will be raised up from their graves and he will lift up those alive in Christ happens on the last day, as we saw in verses in John 6 and in 1 Corinthians 15.
Instead, in agreement with the epistles, when all peoples are called out of their tombs and those who are alive also respond to Christ descending from heaven at the Second Coming, they will be “caught up” (the rapture) and meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17). Then they will descend with Jesus to final judgment and then a new heaven and new earth.
More fully, they will be judged, and the wicked will be sent away to punishment, and the righteous will be welcomed into the Messianic age / kingdom age / the age to come (as distinct from this age). Then the righteous will live in a new heaven and earth, which will have been recreated, renewed, renovated or reconstituted. In other words, the rapture and the Second Coming happen at the same time on the last day of this age and are the same event.
Please see my post:
Rapture = Second Coming and Happen at Same Time and on Last Day
And this one again:
John 14 Does Not Teach Second Coming or Separate Rapture
There is no reason, biblically, to overthink and complicate these verses and insert a separate rapture that happens before the Second Coming. Just because a teaching is popular does not make it right.
Let’s wander off a little ways and discuss another eschatological teaching circulating around the church today, the American Church in particular (some early church fathers believed in it too). A thousand-year reign is also called a millennium (mill = thousand and enn- = related to year).
In Jesus’s teaching throughout the four Gospels, there is no word on a literal thousand-year reign with two comings and “several first” resurrections and two or more “final” judgments. If he believed in it, he should have taught it. But he did not teach it. Therefore he did not believe in a literal millennium. Instead, the Gospel of John and the other three Gospels (and epistles and Acts) present a streamlined picture of salvation history and God’s dealing with his human creation and the return of Christ.
The one passage in the epistles that mentions a thousand years is 2 Peter 3:8, and the meaning of the number is fluid, flexible: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” So this number is symbolic and nonliteral, even in the epistolary genre. It means a long time. Could it be that it also means a long time in the most symbolic book of the Bible–the Revelation (Rev. 20:4-7)? I say yes, as I explain in the next major section.
If the Gospels and Acts and epistles had clearly taught a literal thousand-year reign, even with one syllable, all of us would believe it.
See the next section for more analysis.
An Eschatological Interpretation that Unifies Entire New Testament
In the most symbolic book of the Bible, a thousand years merely means a long time.
An amillennialist believes that the millennium begins with the inaugurated kingdom, but apparently it is quiet and behind the scenes (note, for example, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and its slow growth in Matt. 13:31-32); The literal thousand-year reign of Christ was not inserted in the flow charts with sequential arrows, because Jesus and the apostles did not teach it
In contrast, based on his interpretation of a few verses in Revelation 20, one chapter in the most symbolic book of the Bible, a premillennialist believes that a literal thousand years of Christ is ushered in at the Second Coming, where there will be peace and harmony for a literal thousand years. And Satan is literally bound in chains and placed in prison until the end of the thousand years. He will not deceive the nations before he is loosed again at the end of the millennium. During the literal millennium, people will still die, so the last enemy (death) is not defeated after all, at the Second Coming, even though Paul clearly stated in his epistle that death would be defeated (1 Cor. 15:23-26, 51-56). However, the theory of a literal thousand years says that death and Satan are defeated at the end of the millennium, when another resurrection and another judgment will take place.
The amillennialist believes that Satan is not literally bound with chains (as if a spirit being could be). (The Revelation often uses explosive, startling, rhetorically charged imagery. John the revelator was frequently startled!) Using picture language, Jesus did teach that he bound the strongman (Matt. 12:29; Mark 3:27; Luke 11:21-22). So what this binding and imprisonment in the Revelation means is that Satan can no longer fully stop the advance of the kingdom (as Satan did to the ancient Israelites, except a remnant). Before Jesus came, every nation was bound by satanic deception. Satan can no longer deceive the nations as he did before Jesus came. Satan had kept all nations under paganism, sometimes of the worst kind, like bloodthirsty human sacrifices and Satan worship. However, after Jesus inaugurated the kingdom, the gospel has a way of infiltrating societies, even if underground, even under evil Islamic and communist regimes, for example. The gospel of the kingdom penetrates everywhere today and improves society–gradually–wherever it enters the hearts of people.
Also, Paul writes: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15, NIV). This disarming cannot be absolute because we observe that Satan and his hordes are alive and active. Instead, the disarming concept teaches us that we do not have to be bound by the Satanic strong man, but we can expel demons from people. The gospel will push demons back and improve human lives through salvation under Jesus’s lordship. The ultimate victory is assured, but now we have to fight and work towards the final and absolute victory. And so it is in Revelation 20. Satan’s binding in chains and imprisonment is yet another startling image of his curtailment relative to the unstoppable power of the gospel which transforms people from the inside out.
Further, in John 5:28-29 and Matthew 13:41-43 and 25:31-46 (and elsewhere), Jesus teaches that the wicked and righteous are judged together at the end of this age, as indicated in the above flow charts with sequential arrows. Interpreting literally a deliberately and intentionally symbolic book (Revelation) runs aground quickly, even on this one point of judgment (and others points).
Kingdom citizens, surrendered to the kingship of the King and the lordship of the Lord and sonship of the Son, are plundering Satan’s domain of this age and rescuing people out of it and transferring them to the inaugurated kingdom of God. The final victory over Satan will be fully manifested at Jesus’s Second Coming, the parousia.
Interpreting the Revelation in an ad-hoc manner, sometimes literally, other times nonliterally, and things soon become convoluted and complicated, in comparison with the clear and streamlined eschatology of Gospels, Acts, and epistles. Therefore I keep the Revelation in perspective: Numerous symbols with startling imagery (John the revelator sure seemed startled often!).
QUICK LOOK AT THE BOOK OF ACTS
The Book of Acts says very little about the end times, thankfully, because the Christians were too busy pushing back the kingdom of darkness by preaching the gospel of salvation which rescues people from demonic clutches and darkness. They were too busy fulfilling the Great Commission. Here are a few verses about their eschatology:
Peter refers to the prophet Joel, who says “in the last days”:
16 No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
17 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people. (Acts 2:16-17, NIV, emphasis added)
Note that God is ushering in the last days, at Pentecost, so we have overlapping ages, this one, and the new one, just like Jesus taught. Once again the plural, last days (to me), intensifies the new age that has been presently dawning. (see above, Answering an Objection, for more explanations.)
Peter preaches that God will restore all things:
Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. (Acts 3:21, NIV)
To me, this restoration looks like Matthew’s renewal of all things, quoted above (Matt. 18:28).
Next, Peter says that God appointed Jesus to judge the living and the dead:
He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42, NIV)
Those who are alive when Christ comes and those who had died when he comes = the living and the dead. So judgment happens at one time. This verse agrees with the ones, for example, in Matthew 13:36-43, 37-50, John 5:28-29. and so on.
Paul says the same thing:
For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31, NIV)
Here Paul is speaking to Felix and Drusilla:
As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come […] (Acts 24:25, NIV)
There is nothing complicated about any of those verses. No two-stage return, no multiple judgments, no multiple “first” resurrections. No literal thousand-year reign. Everything happens at the same time, at the end of this age and the beginning of the next age.
The apostles’ streamlined and simple eschatology in Acts does not contradict their streamlined and simple eschatology in their epistles. And their eschatology in Acts and their epistles agrees with Jesus’s streamlined and simple eschatology in the four Gospels.
Simplicity, unity and consistency. The apostolic community taught Jesus’s message about the end times!
Personally, in my study of the Gospels, Acts and epistles, I have now accepted amillennialism because it is streamlined, and I don’t believe the NT teaches a convoluted eschatology. The entire NT fits together if we adopt amillennialism, from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22.
And so, I cannot allow, in my own Bible interpretation, a few contested verses in Revelation 20 and elsewhere in that book, to confuse the clear eschatology of Jesus in the Gospels and the apostolic eschatology in Acts and the epistles. I don’t believe we should allow Revelation 20 (the only few verses where one literal thousand years are mentioned) or the entire book of the Revelation, for that matter, the most symbolic book of the Bible (after Chapter 3, and 1-3 has some symbols as well), to guide our interpretation of the clear eschatology in the Gospels, Acts, and epistles. No one interpretation of the symbolic book can clear the field of all rival interpretations. Do we really have to build convoluted end-time schemes on these interpretations of a highly contested book?
Instead, we should allow the clear, straightforward, nonsymbolic teachings in the Gospels, Acts and epistles to guide our interpretations of the most symbolic book in the Bible, in which even the numbers may be symbolic and probably are. I have flipped the script on how popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers interpret things, for these teachers seem to guide their interpretation of Jesus and the apostolic community’s teachings through the lens of the Revelation. But just the opposite is the best way.
In any case, to see everything fit together, all we have to do is turn the kaleidoscope one notch and adopt amillennialism. I am willing to do that. And I have now done that.
This interpretation enjoys the beauty of simplicity by eliminating all the complications that popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers have been imposing on the Gospels, Acts, and epistles for decades—over a century. Since this defective interpretation has deep roots—not to say entrenched—in the conservative sectors of American Evangelicalism (broadly defined to incorporate the Renewal Movements), these teachers won’t give up their complicated interpretations easily. So I hope to reach and teach the younger generations and all other openminded people of all generations. They need clear biblical teaching on this subject.
My main point now: Clarity guides the unclear portions. Let’s not reverse-engineer the simple eschatology of the Gospels, Acts and epistles by imposing the contested and complicated book of the Revelation on them. Keep the plain thing the main thing in hermeneutics (science of interpretation), and let the clear verses guide our interpretation of the unclear ones. Then we will have clarity, simplicity and consistency in our eschatology.
However, in these eschatological discussions, let’s remember this wise slogan:
“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity (love).”
We should not break fellowship with those with whom we differ in eschatological matters. It is not a tier-one issue like Christ’s lordship or salvation in him are, for example.
Matt 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 and 17 in Parallel Columns Are Finally Clear (this article clarifies Jesus’s teaching in those major chapters. He is consistent with the verses quoted above in this post).
New Testament Must Always Filter Old Testament (this post explains how numerous Bible prophecy teachers go astray when they leap OT verses over the NT and land the OT verses in our days. These teachers filter nothing (so it seems to me). This bad interpretation complicates clear and simple NT eschatology.
By the way, the other serious flaw of popular end-time Bible prophecy teachers: imposing symbols in the Revelation on the nonsymbolic, streamlined eschatology of the Gospels, Acts and epistles. This present post demonstrates (I hope) how wrongheaded this is.
Matthew 24:4-35 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple
Matt. 24:36 to 25:46–From Second Coming to New Messianic Age
Mark 13:5-31 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple
Mark 13:32-37 Teaches Second Coming
Luke 21:5-33 Predicts Destruction of Jerusalem and Temple (Luke is the clearest on this topic)
Luke 17:22-37 and 21:34-36 Teach the Second Coming
Cosmic Disasters = Apocalyptic Imagery for Judgment and Major Change
Three Options for Interpreting Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37: Taken Away = Rapture? (I also briefly look at Matthew’s version)
Rapture = Second Coming and Happen at Same Time on Last Day
John 14 Does Not Teach Second Coming or Separate Rapture
What Is Pretribulational Premillennialism?
What Is Midtribulational Premillennialism?
What Is Posttribulational Premillennialism?