Composing a doctrinal statement (or any other essential documents) can be one of the most arduous (but crucial) projects undertaken by a church. In this series, I’m sharing my own doctrinal statement in an attempt to provide a helpful example of a detailed statement that is worded positively, but articulated precisely enough to exclude certain theological positions for the protection and unity of the church.
Section 8 — End Times
The Rapture and Subsequent Events: We believe in the imminent, premillennial return of Christ for His people . At that moment, all those in Christ , dead and alive, shall receive their glorified bodies, and be caught up in the air by the Lord and taken to heaven to await the establishment of Christ’s physical, everlasting kingdom on earth following the tribulation, the seventieth week of Daniel, when Christ will reign over all the earth from the Davidic throne in Jerusalem. At the end of the Millennium, there will be a final rebellion of Satan and his followers (fallen angels and living unbelievers) against the rule and authority of Christ, at which time they will be summarily destroyed — Satan, his fallen angels, and all the unsaved being thrown into the Lake of Fire to suffer eternal punishment. At this time, God will create a New Heaven and a New Earth in which there will be no more curse and no more death, where all believers will live in peace and fellowship with God in His kingdom forever.
(Daniel 9:25–27; Matthew 24:19–31; 19:28; 25:31–32; Luke 1:32–33; 1 Corinthians 15:26; 1 Thessalonians 4:14–18; Revelation 20–22)
The Eternal State: We believe that at death the souls of those who have trusted in Christ for salvation pass immediately into His presence and there remain in conscious bliss until the resurrection of the glorified body when Christ comes for His own, whereupon soul and body, thus reunited, shall enjoy fellowship with Him forever in glory; but the souls of the unbelieving remain after death conscious of condemnation and in misery until the final judgment of the great white throne at the close of the millennium, when soul and body, reunited, shall be cast into the lake of fire — not to be annihilated, but to suffer punishment and everlasting separation from the presence and glory of the Lord.
(Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46; Luke 16:19–26; 23:42; 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:7–9; Jude 6; Revelation 20:11–15)
1] I am very firm on the pre-millenial rapture, but not so firm on the pre-tribulational rapture. In fact, I haven’t even made the pre-trib rapture a part of my doctrinal statement (though it fits best). I personally am convinced that the rapture happens before the 7-year tribulation. There are three primary reasons I hold this view: 1) The pre-trib rapture most fully and consistently maintains the doctrine of imminency; 2) The pre-trib rapture is the only view that sufficiently explains where mortal unbelievers living in the millennium come from; 3) The pre-trib rapture best holds together as a view in light of various prophetic passages. However, I simply do not think the pre-trib rapture is explicit enough in Scripture to be dogmatic about it, since arguments can be made in favor of a rapture that is not pre-trib (though, in my opinion, all other views have significant problems with one or more various passages which a pre-trib rapture view resolves).
2] I changed this from “all believers” to “all those in Christ” not only because it matches the language Paul uses (1 Thess 4:16), but also because there is a legitimate interpretation among some dispensational theologians that this refers only to church-age believers (since they say only church-age believers are “in Christ”), leaving Old Testament saints to be resurrected either at the beginning or end of the Millennium (Rev 20:4–5). I don’t hold this view, but instead hold that all believers, Old and New Testament believers, are resurrected at the rapture. However, because the other view is a legitimate and common interpretation, I don’t mind simply saying “all those in Christ” and allowing us to understand the reference in slightly different ways.