News Articles

Premillennialist view drives evangelism

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee said as a pastor he saw more people convert to Christianity once he began preaching “the premillennial coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Morris H. Chapman, during a chapel address Sept. 30 at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C., noted that “you have to make up your own mind” on the varying eschatological views of Christ’s second coming, but a premillennial view is “part of my testimony.”
Espousing the view of the end times known as “premillennialism,” Chapman said he believes that before Christ’s thousand-year rule on earth, termed “the Millennium,” Jesus “is coming visibly, bodily … and gloriously” to gather his followers, a process referred to theologically as “the Rapture.”
“The Rapture is the first phase of the second coming and the Revelation is the second phase of the second coming,” Chapman stated. “At the Rapture, Jesus is going to pause in the air and we’ll be drawn to him. At the Revelation, Jesus will actually once again set foot upon this earth.”
According to the premillennialist view, following the Rapture, Christians will assemble in heaven while non-Christians remain on earth for a seven-year period known as “the Tribulation.” The Tribulation will culminate with a massive battle, called “the Battle of Armageddon,” initiating the millennial rule of Christ on earth.
Two other eschatological views hold to different understandings or interpretations of end-times prophecy found in the Bible.
Postmillennialists believe that Christ’s millennial rule will manifest itself gradually through Christian preaching and teaching as the church assumes greater importance. Evil will not totally be eliminated but will be significantly minimized, culminating with the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment.
Amillennialists hold to the view that the period of Christ’s rule on the earth is now as Christ rules his church. Christ’s second coming, when the dead shall be raised, will be followed by the final judgment.
Chapman said passages in the New Testament speak clearly about an imminent appearance of Jesus Christ in the sky to gather his followers, both the dead and the living, to take them to heaven, during which time those who remain on the earth will experience seven years of extreme hardship, referred to as the “Great Tribulation.”
The premillennialist view of Christ’s return holds that at the end of the seven years, Jesus will return to earth with his followers, do battle with the forces of Satan, then establish a millennial reign on earth of peace and prosperity for a thousand years.
As a young pastor, Chapman said, he held to the amillennialist view.
During his first two pastorates, Chapman said, his preaching on amillennialism, “didn’t get past the pulpit. Nothing happened, nobody was stirred, few were saved. And I said, ‘God, I need help.’”
God spoke to his heart, Chapman said, and told him to “preach what I convict you to preach. Others may disagree, but you need to preach what I lay upon your heart, and I will bless it.”
As pastor of First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls, Texas, Chapman said he began a 53-sermon series on the Book of Revelation and the second coming of Christ, “preaching what I’d heard in central Mississippi many years ago as a boy.”
That year, he said, “There were more baptisms than ever in the 100-year history of the church,” noting, “God did all of that.”
Admitting that the word “rapture,” which comes from a Latin verb, does not appear in the Bible, Chapman said the passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:15 uses the Greek word, “harpazo,” meaning “caught up,” which has a similar meaning to rapture.
“So whether you say it in Latin, English or Greek, the Bible says when the trumpet sounds every believer shall be raptured,” Chapman said. “At the Rapture, Jesus is coming for his saints, and I believe we’ll spend seven glorious years with him in heaven.” Citing Matthew 24:21, Chapman said, “[T]hose who are left behind are going to face the tribulation, a time of unprecedented sorrow and misery upon this earth. All hell is going to break loose on earth.”
During the ensuing seven years of tribulation, “144,000 Jewish evangelists, 144,000 Billy Grahams, are going to be raised up,” and “that’s when God’s going to take the gospel to the ends of the earth,” Chapman said.
Those who come to believe in Jesus Christ by the preaching of the 144,000 Jews, Chapman said, will be people “who before the Rapture never heard the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“If you’ve heard the gospel on this side of the Rapture, you’ll have no more opportunity after the Rapture,” Chapman said, citing 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
Wondering why God would lay out history in this way, Chapman said, “If this belief in the coming of Christ did nothing more for me, it put in my heart a greater urgency for the lost to come to Christ.”
Emphasizing “only the Father knows when Jesus is coming,” Chapman said, “God is delaying the coming of the Lord Jesus in order that we might see others saved.”
Therefore instead of getting ready “someday to be a witness for the Lord,” Christians should “be a witness for the Lord in all that we do every day, whatever we may do.”
“May others see Jesus in us,” Chapman urged, “and may we have a ready answer for those who will ask, ‘What is it that makes the difference?’”
The difference, Chapman said, is Jesus. “Today we live in the time of grace. God’s grace is at work today. God’s grace is available to all who hear the gospel.
“Today,” Chapman said, “is the day of salvation.”

    About the Author

  • Debbie Moore