Reformed Christians rarely speculate when Christ will return. This seems biblical, but sadly, it has caused many of us to become 65-book bible Christians. Some do not seek the whole counsel of God and have zero knowledge of Revelation and eschatology (the study of end times).
I find this relatable and come from a place of understanding. Often, when those among us pull-out phrases like ‘a-mill’ and ‘preterist’, our attention likewise tends to pull-out of the conversation. There is no doubt that the book of Revelation is the most neglected, uninterpreted and feared book in the church today.
The study of end times is not only intimidating, but it can be confusing and controversial. This often leaves us with a mentality that we should trust that Christ will return but leave the details to the theologians.
Thankfully, our brother Clarence Stam’s devotional Ready for the Rapture? seeks to introduce the Christian to the basic truths regarding the end times. Stam describes that his motivation for writing such a book stems from a lack of clarity about the rapture and end times.
My review will outline what Stam teaches about the end times by defining the events which must take place in history. It is my hope that this is not too overwhelming and can functions as a reminder of some of the theological lingo involved.
It is the consensus that among the reformed faith every person has the liberty to believe different things about the end times. Hence, the closest the Three Forms of Unity come to defining an eschatological view is affirming the second coming of Christ and the subsequent judgement. Learning the details and nuances of the main views is a big task. After all there are many events aside from the rapture that are included in the end times.
One of the things I really appreciate about Stam’s book is the way he defines the basic events of eschatology. Instead of learning each view independently Stam establishes a list of basic events which will occur in all eschatological systems. This implies that the reason there are different eschatological positions is not because there are different sets of events that will take place, rather, the order which the events will take place.
It is important to note that Stam argues for an order of events which reflects an ‘amillennial’ view of end times. As there is some liberty to this topic, I will outline the events as he has ordered them, describing what must happen in each event. Stam states that the Biblical scheme is as follows:
1) FIRST COMING OF CHRIST
Christ’s work and ministry here on earth as recorded in the gospels.
2) THE MILLENIUM
Christ’s era of rule as he reigns as supreme with his saints.
3) THE GREAT TRIBULATION
A time of rebellion as Satan is set loose and the Anti-Christ appears.
4) THE RETURN OF CHRIST
Christ returns on the clouds of heaven.
5) THE RAPTURE
The living and the dead are raised into the air to meet Christ. (Some views teach that
only believers are raptured).
Each person is judged according to their works and whether they are in Christ. The
heavens and earth pass away. (Some views teach that only unbelievers are judged).
7) ETERNAL PEACE
God establishes a new place where there is no sin, where heaven and earth are one. God
dwells physically with his people forever.
Throughout this book Stam thoughtfully defends this view of scripture by answering objections and critiquing other views such as that perpetuated by the infamous novel series Left Behind. Note that if you do not agree with Stam’s ordering of events, you can still arrange these elements to fit other views like ‘post-mill’.
Stam dedicates a chapter to explaining each event, answering many intriguing questions like ‘who is the man of lawlessness?’, ‘what about cremation?’ and ‘will there be earthly pleasures on the new earth?’ which may be of interest to you.
If you wish to find a book which offers sound eschatology in bite sized chunks, I cannot recommend this book more.