First Sunday of Advent – December 3, 2017

Texts for the Day

The End of the World

The Gospel reading this week describes the second coming of Christ at the end of time. As Christians, this is something we look forward to (in the Apostles’ Creed, for instance) and there are several depictions of it in the New Testament.

Read Revelation 20:1-6 for one of these different depictions. This passage refers to the banishment of the devil and a thousand-year reign of Christ. Among American Protestants (and some others), views on the end times can be categorized into three categories, based on where this thousand years fits into history.  These categories are about more than this single interpretational point and reflect broader considerations.

  • Premillenialism – The return of Jesus will come at the beginning of the thousand years, over which he will personally reign on earth. This option has a generally negative view of the current state of the world, seeing it as hopelessly lost.
  • Postmillenialism – The thousand years began in the past with Jesus’s resurrection and his reign continues as King of Heaven. There are variations of this that preserve a literal thousand years. This option has a generally positive view of the current state of the world, where the activity of the saints will be perfected at Christ’s return.
  • Amillenialism – The thousand years is figurative and does not refer to a literal period in the history of the world.

Broadly speaking, the predominant view among American Protestants was postmillenialism until the early twentieth century. These days, most conservatives would identify with the premillennial view and liberals with the amillenial one. There are, of course, many nuances and exceptions to this generalization. As far as I know, there is no formal teaching by the ELCA on which view is correct or best.

Questions for reflection:

  • How do you feel about the end of the world? Is the anticipation of the second coming of Christ a part of your spiritual life?
  • Do you identify with any of the three positions outlined above? If so, why? If not, is there another you find better?
  • How does thinking about the end times inform our life here and now? Is it informative or is it a distraction? Would it be better to not think about end times at all?

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