D&SCE – Death and Second Comings Excepted.
In the Mahabharata it says that the greatest mystery is that “one day we will die and yet we live each day as if we were immortal”.
So some friends of mine and I started putting D&SCE after things when we discussed future appointments.
The Catholic Church often asks us to consider the four last things; Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.
We also need to remember that Jesus said he would return. As we say in the “Mystery of Faith; “…until you come again.” So D&SCE is matter of which comes first.
At this point in this set of blogs on the Revelation to John I think it might be useful to have a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (ccc) has to say.
ccc673 to 677 with their scripture references give us a sequence of events or a framework on which to place the things we read about in the Revelation to John.
This sequence is as follows (ref http://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/endtimes.htm);
- The full number of the Gentiles come into the Church.
- The “full inclusion of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of the full number of the Gentiles” (No. 2 will follow quickly on, in the wake of, No. 1).
- A final trial of the Church “in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” The supreme deception is that of the Antichrist.
- Christ’s victory over this final unleashing of evil through a cosmic upheaval of this passing world and the Last Judgement.
The Catholic position would then be, if I’ve got it right, that the Church will go through the tribulation, suffering the persecutions of the Antichrist but not the wrath of God in the form of seal, trumpet and bowl judgements. The Church being made up of the fullness of the gentiles and the full inclusion of the Jews.
The rapture, when Christ gathers His own, living and dead, is therefore post-tribulation.
The other issue which is controversial is over the matter of the millennium which is mentioned in Revelation 20. Some hold that this refers to a literal reign of Christ on earth and physically occupying the throne of David in Jerusalem. This view was rejected by the Catholic church early on as it was presented as a Kingdom of earthly pleasures. St Augustine combated this view of millennarianism, of chiliasm from the Greek. The main objections were that:
Christ reigns now in eternity – 1 Cor 15: 24-27 & Rev 4 &5.
His, reign established as a seed, is found already in the Church. ccc668-669
His kingdom will have no end, as it says in the Creed.
His kingdom is not of this earth – John 18: 36.
I’ll borrow a summary of the various positions on the millennium from the New Living Illustrated Study Bible.
Premillennialism – The current age between Christ’s first and second comings will end when he returns to inaugurate a literal 1000 year rule on earth with His holy people, after which Christ will execute the final judgement and inaugurate his eternal kingdom.
Amillennialism – 1000 years represents the current age between Christ’s first and second comings, in which Christ reigns spiritually with His people. At the end of this age, Christ will return, execute the final judgement and inaugurate his eternal Kingdom.
Postmillennialism – During the current age following Christ’s first coming, Christ will establish through the Church an age of peace on earth, represented by 1000 years. Then Christ will return, execute the final judgement, and inaugurate His eternal kingdom.
Of these positions the Catholic Church’s position could be described as Amillennial, though it is not a term that the Church uses, but with these observations. 1) In Revelation 20 the word millennium occurs six times and therefore means something important, though metaphorical and figurative rather than literal. Therefore seeing this as a metaphor is not to deny that the term has profound meaning. 2) Christ’s reign, and kingdom, now, is more than just spiritual, it is actual. His reign is real now and reaches beyond these events into eternity. What we see in part, we will see in whole.
Have a look at ccc668-682 for the Catholic Church’s overall position on the endtimes.
Contained within this is the rejection of millennarianism including modified forms of the same. ccc676
This came as a bit of a shock as I had spent 12 years with a Pentecostal Church whose endtimes view was dispensational premillenniallism. Eyebrows were raised in Catholic circles when I talked about a millennial reign of Christ. Eventually I was told it was heresy, although some took the softer view of saying it couldn’t safely be taught.
So it has taken me a while to get my head around the Catholic view. I do find it to be far less messy than the premillenial view with it’s coming of Christ for the Church, which is then removed from the earth before the tribulation, before the actual second coming which occurs at the end of the tribulation. I also find it less troubling in my Spirit and it doesn’t give me a headache either – peace reigns, just as Jesus does.
There are also three schools of prophetic interpretation; Preterist. Futurist and Historicist.
Preterist looks at the events in Revelation as largely applying to the events which occurred in the Holy Land in the first century. I.E. number of the beast 666 being Caesar Nero and the events including the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD.
The Futurist view holds that most of the events in Revelation are yet to come.
The Historicist view is that the events described in Revelation apply throughout Christian history from John to the Second Coming of Christ.
How then to classify the Catholic view? Well, in some Catholic discussions I’ve heard a preterist view, in others a futurist view and still others a historicist view, and sometimes all thee in the same conversation. For instance, when we consider the antichrist (a word not found in the Revelation of John but in the first letter of John 2:18 & 4:3) we can see that there have already been a number of people who were antichrist; Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Book of Maccabees), Nero, various other Roman emperors who persecuted the Church, Hitler. But they were not the endtimes antichrist, they would merely be forerunners or types.
So the Catholic view then is more multilayered in line with “the things that were, that are and are still to come“. Indeed within the loose framework in the beginning of this blog we really need the future events to unfold so we can then say “so that’s what it means” rather than being distracted by constructing scenarios. This implies an alertness within an expectant faith that Jesus will come back and He could come back at any moment.