There was a reading in the New Testament this week about “end times”. When I read that and think about how confusing Revelation is and hear terms like “rapture”, “postmillennialism” and “amillennialism”, and “eschatological position” it just makes me confused. What is the Anglican view on end times? Can you help clear any of this up?
You are not alone in being confused by end times discussions. I am too and frankly I believe that even those who have it all figured out are also confused, because Jesus is quite clear that we do not know when He will return (Mathew 24:36). The thrust of His teachings about end times is not for us to figure it out, but instead for us to be ready at all times for His return.
The discussions about millennialism is about the timing of Christ’s return in relationship to the 1,000 reign of Christ that is mentioned in the Revelation to John chapter 20. “Premillennialism” says that Christ will return first and set up the 1,000 reign. “Postmillennialism” holds that a 1,000 year reign will usher in the coming of Christ. “Amillennialism” argues that the 1,000 reign of Christ is not to be taken literally, any more than other numbers in the Revelation, such as the 144,000 that will be saved. (Given that there are over 70 million Anglicans, this could be a problem).
While I cannot speak for Anglicanism, my personal position is called “Panmillennialism.” This position argues that everything will “pan out” in the millennium. While I say that in jest, I do not intend to demean the other positions. I simply believe that not only do we not know for certain, but that we are not intended to know. Jesus said, “Therefore keep watch and pray, for you do not know the day or the hour” (Matthew 25:13). I have witnessed fixations over end times create some very unhealthy forms of Christianity that result in distracting God’s people from the work that they are called to do TODAY. Since I do not want to be in that category, I focus on today and leave future things to the Lord. While such a position could be criticized as naïve or simplistic, I would argue that it best fits Jesus’ teachings about the end and what is our responsibility.
There is an old joke of the Pope having a daylong meeting with the Cardinals. At noon they took a well-deserved break and as one of the Cardinals is gazing over the Vatican gardens, he sees the Lord walking towards them. The Cardinal runs to the Pope and says, “Holy Father, I just saw the Lord walking through the garden in our direction. What shall we do?” To which the Pope replies, “Quicka, looka busy!” That is good advice for us as well.