The Life and Sermons of Robert Murray McCheyne

Robert Murray McCheyne died a young man, yet his achievements were broad, and his significance is consequently substantial and diverse. The focus for this paper is the ‘Life and Sermons’, and therefore I will focus particularly on McCheyne the preacher. His importance in this area is more than sufficient to justify serious and sustained attention, as I will particularly aim to demonstrate, especially to those unfamiliar with the quality of McCheyne’s sermons. Indeed, I aim to show that he is one of the great lights of the nineteenth-century pulpit, and consequently one with plenty to teach the preachers of today.

With such a focus, inevitably some areas of interest from McCheyne’s life must be left for other occasions. In particular, it will not be possible to address at any length McCheyne the pastor and personal evangelist; the man of prayer; the lover of the Jews and co-founder of what later became Christian Witness to Israel; the explorer of the Middle East and co-pioneer of the Scottish mission to Budapest; or the one who experienced blessed revival on his return to Dundee. All would make stirring articles; but right now, let us focus above all on McCheyne the preacher of the Word of God.

In structure: I will briefly introduce my approach to McCheyne in the context of Christian biography; then (I) outline the life, especially as it relates to his initial development as a preacher; (II) conduct a general analysis of McCheyne the preacher on the basis of the evidence we have in the extant published sermons; and (III) draw out some key practical lessons for modern preachers to apply from McCheyne’s example. Note that I will draw most of my examples for this paper from the three recent volumes of hitherto unpublished material printed by the Banner of Truth: Old Testament Sermons,1 New Testament Sermons,2 and Sermons on Hebrews,3 especially the first two of these, for reasons that will become clear as we proceed.

Introduction: McCheyne and Christian Biography

Hagiography is the curse of Christian biography, and nowhere more evidently than in the posthumous study of Robert Murray McCheyne. He towers before us now, in the mind’s eye, the powerfully zealous, wonderfully blessed, startlingly young minister of St Peter’s, Dundee, ever immortalised as a Presbyterian Saint. The frequent quotations we hear in sermons are invariably prefaced: ‘the great . . .’, ‘the holy . . .’, ‘the saintly Murray McCheyne’, and with good reason. McCheyne’s biography is a stirring, humbling record of Christian endeavour and achievement; a minister who did more in 29 short years of life than most who double or treble that lifespan. The diary extracts reveal even in private life a burning passion for holiness, an earnest longing to win souls, a passion for the glory of Christ. Further from the stipend-lifting Moderate it would be hard to travel.

But the problem with hagiography is the application. Too often wonder becomes the end point, and we are left like the Romanist giving credit to the person, building our pantheon of small gods who can and do only serve to divert our praise from the one Perfect Man, the Lord Jesus. A subject portrayed at length without identifiable fault borders on blasphemy in attributing to man what is true only of Christ. In terms of promoting emulation, which is surely the point of Christian biography, such leads only to despair. How can I ‘be holy like McCheyne’, when all I read of McCheyne is holiness, when in fact the ‘McCheyne’ we know is a fictional creation, gently sanitised by his loving biographer from the taint of everyday sin?

Two solutions present themselves. First, I intend to take my life in my hands, and diverge from virtually every biographer of McCheyne in drawing a couple of negative as well as some positive lessons from McCheyne’s life-work as a preacher of the gospel. And second, in drawing positive lessons, let us remember McCheyne’s own remark on a saint of an earlier generation, Jonathan Edwards: ‘How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me’. Therefore let us attribute the qualities we admire in McCheyne to the sanctification of the Spirit, and pray for the same. Pray, if I may say so, even to want to love the souls of men as much as McCheyne, and pre-eminently, to love Christ himself.

I. The Life of McCheyne: The Development of a Preacher

McCheyne was born in 1813 into a prosperous middle-class family in the New Town area of Edinburgh. His father, Adam, was a Writer to the Signet, a Government law officer, and the family worshipped at the Edinburgh Tron Church, on the Royal Mile. The ministers there were Moderates, not radically unorthodox, but not evangelical: they failed to give the central place in preaching to the cross of Christ; rather, their message was primarily one of good works. Robert was educated at the High School of Edinburgh, and proceeded to commence his studies at Edinburgh University aged just 14, at the time quite a normal progression. There his abilities were regarded as only above average rather than exceptional, but he possessed a particular aptitude for poetic and literary study, gifts which are certainly reflected in his subsequent sermons.

Around the time McCheyne commenced university, the family changed churches, moving to St Stephen’s congregation in the New Town, where the minister William Muir had a more evangelical reputation. This seems to reflect the increasingly earnest spiritual interest of some of Robert’s older siblings, which in turn influenced their parents. However, biographer Leen van Valen stresses that Muir is best described as a ‘middle way’ minister, not being fully Christ-centred in his message, as his extant sermons testify. Only later, after Robert became a minister, did the McCheyne family settle permanently under a robustly scriptural ministry, that of his friend Alexander Moody Stuart, who pastored the new congregation of St Luke’s from 1835 onwards, and subsequently led the majority into the Free Church in 1843. Indeed, Adam McCheyne became the first session clerk after the Disruption.

Robert joined the congregation of St Stephens, but though morally upright, remained a worldly young man, enjoying parties, dancing and card-playing, occupations which he later condemned as unworthy of the Christian’s attention. He seems to have remained half-hearted in his commitment to spiritual things, until the crisis brought about by the death of his older brother David in 1831, when Robert was 18. David had become a decided believer, and frequently witnessed to Robert of the need for earnestness regarding the things of eternity. His death precipitated a spiritual crisis in which, over a period of a few months, Robert wrestled with the need to rest on Christ for salvation rather than his own upright life. He was helped to assurance by reading The Sum of Saving Knowledge, a document reportedly authored by the great Scottish Puritans David Dickson and James Durham, usually bound with the Westminster Confession of Faith, describing how to appropriate the blessings of Christ and the Covenant of Grace. The Sum is notable for its clear discussion of the Law as convicting of sin, and of the Gospel as proclaiming Christ the solution, and this crucial division is evident in many of McCheyne’s sermons. McCheyne knew much of his own sin; especially in his diary extracts we find him repeatedly wrestling with his love of the praise of man, but he discovered what it was to cast himself on the righteousness of another.

Therefore the crucial early influence on McCheyne the developing preacher was not intellectual or moral, but spiritual, the power of the Spirit of God, and the reality of this experience remained with him throughout his life. He preached Law and Gospel with power and clarity precisely because he had personal experimental knowledge of them.

While still undergoing this spiritual crisis, Robert commenced his study of divinity at Edinburgh in preparation for the ministry of the Church of Scotland. This brought him into contact with a second great influence: the celebrated Professor of Divinity at Edinburgh, Thomas Chalmers. Chalmers was a brilliant intellect, but also a powerful spiritual influence, a Moderate minister dramatically converted to Evangelical faith, and now using the chair he had obtained to teach the next generation of Scottish ministers the theology of reconciliation by the death of Christ, received by faith in him. McCheyne was thrilled by his lectures, but was also challenged by the personal influence of Chalmers to consider the practical side of Christian work. He and some of the other students took on visitation work in the slums of the Old Town of Edinburgh, which horrified him by the extent of the need revealed.

But there was a third crucial influence on the young student. Following his conversion experience, he no longer had an appetite for the half-hearted evangelicalism of William Muir, and he settled for the rest of his student days under a more decided ministry, that of John Bruce at the New North Church, who unlike Muir would enter the Free Church at the Disruption. Bruce was a celebrated preacher, and the Free Church Annals give a gloriously Victorian portrait of Bruce’s pulpit work:

As a preacher, Dr Bruce had a success in some respects unique. His discourses, closely read with a strong Forfarshire accent, were pervaded by a Miltonic splendour of conception and majesty of diction. Students of the greatest intellectual power were attracted by his preaching, and his ministry proved helpful to men who otherwise stood in no friendly relation to the Christian church.

Two things are clear from that description. Under Bruce, McCheyne heard masterful preaching, but also experienced what a truly powerful influence the pulpit could have, even on those initially hostile to its message. There can be no doubt that his commitment to thorough, careful preparation of his sermons was rooted in the quality of ministry he heard in student days in Edinburgh.

Now let us briefly outline McCheyne’s ministry. In 1835, he was licensed to preach, and accepted an invitation to labour as an assistant to the Rev John Bonar of Larbert and Dunipace. For a year, he preached alternately in the two churches, and visited extensively throughout the parish. But a more extensive ministry was calling, and in November 1836 he was ordained and inducted to the new parish of St Peter’s, at that time covering the West end of the city of Dundee. Here he laboured in a vast parish with a large urban population, many of whom did not attend church. Even so, the gathered congregation frequently numbered more than a thousand people, a most demanding charge for a man of 23. He was methodical and diligent in his visitation, yet the quality of his sermons did not suffer, and he remained careful to prepare rigorously for the pulpit. McCheyne worked hard, but saw only limited fruit after two years of unrelenting labour.

By the end of 1838, he was exhausted and ill, and his doctors advised a complete rest, and he moved back to Edinburgh to stay in the family home. It was at this time that McCheyne undertook his famous journey to Palestine with Andrew Bonar and two other colleagues. Limits of space prevent us addressing that mission any further, except to note that McCheyne’s thorough knowledge of the geography of the Holy Land was an evident aid to his preaching. He returned to Dundee at the end of 1839 to find that revival had blossomed under the young supply preacher, William Chalmers Burns.

The final stage of McCheyne’s ministry was a three-year period of rich blessing and much fruit under his preaching, both in Dundee and elsewhere, even as the Ten Years Conflict between Church and State drew towards its climax. McCheyne signed the Solemn Engagement of 1842, and as one of the commissioners to the 1843 General Assembly, was ready then to honour that commitment in departing from an Established Church under the tyranny of the State, but the Lord had other plans. In March 1843, after months of ceaseless activity in connection with his ongoing ministry and the impending Disruption, he sickened, and after less than two weeks of growing weakness, he died on 25th March, to universal mourning. He was not yet 30 years old.

II. The Sermons of McCheyne: The Flowering of a Preacher

You may be surprised to learn that opinions on the value of McCheyne’s sermons differ. I am told that my late grandmother from Lewis used to turn by preference to the sermons of Spurgeon and McCheyne for spiritual feeding, and many of the Lord’s people have found the same nourishment in these messages. But a recent biographer, David Robertson, writes in disparaging terms: ‘When one reads McCheyne’s sermons, there is not a great deal that is outstanding. His leadership gifts were strong, but had largely to mature’. Later he adds, ‘McCheyne’s sermons were not literary classics and they generally do not translate well to the printed page’, and further comments: ‘His “success” cannot be gleaned from published written material, much of which will only appeal to those who are already convinced of his “sainthood”’. He goes on to propose as a question for discussion: ‘Is it worthwhile publishing sermons?’. This rather suggests that he considers the value of any published sermons to be open to question, an attitude genuinely astonishing from a professedly Reformed pastor. I fear the explanation is Robertson’s view of preaching as a display of ‘leadership gifts’, rather than faithful exposition of the Word and application of it to the conscience, something sadly rare in our day. I would rather concur with the view of Maurice Roberts expressed in his preface to the reprinted volume of sermons, From the Preacher’s Heart: ‘They are the workmanship of a McCheyne, exquisite sermons in miniature, the fruits of a spiritual genius’.

Most republished McCheyne sermons, including the three volumes from the Banner of Truth, are the notes of the preacher himself, and are remarkable for their fullness. There is also a published volume of notes by a hearer, entitled A Basket of Fragments, while a Banner paperback, simply called Sermons,4 contains a selection of both kinds, although it is remarkable how little difference there is between material from either source. This might lead one to think that McCheyne read his sermons, as some celebrated preachers of his day including Chalmers and Bruce, or that he recited them following exact memorisation, as his contemporary James Begg always did. Rather, McCheyne’s pattern was very full written preparation, but with thorough revision only, rather than memorisation of the manuscript, and final delivery from the pulpit without any paper at all, so that his thoughts were prepared, but his language flowed freely. The result was popular preaching appreciated in his own day, but also a legacy of full-length and often very readable manuscripts.

The actual sermons, very typically of the age, fall into two categories: sermons proper and expository lectures. Many Scottish preachers delivered such lectures on the Sabbath morning, and preached in the evening. The ‘lectures’ were not the detached academic presentations we associate with the term, but rather a lighter, less formal kind of sermon, usually derived from a straightforward New Testament passage, following the course of the passage for the divisions, with simple explanation and application of the text, and, crucially, usually involving consecutive exposition from week to week. McCheyne delivered extant courses of lectures from sections of Matthew, John, 1 Peter (found in NT Sermons) and Hebrews (most of the volume Sermons on Hebrews). The notes are noticeably briefer, plainer and simpler. The sermons proper were rather textual, rarely having any connection with that of the preceding week. They are much more fully prepared, including thorough explanation of the context, discussion of the meaning of key terms, illustrations, and extensive application.

In terms of textual selection, McCheyne ranged over the whole Bible, more often in the New Testament than the Old, more in the epistles, especially Romans and Hebrews, than in the Gospels, although there were plenty messages from all four Evangelists. In the Old Testament, which made up about one third of his texts, his favourite books were Isaiah, Psalms, and the Song of Solomon. He preached only rarely from the Pentateuch and Historical books, but often incorporated illustrations from these accounts into sermons from other passages.

In structure, McCheyne closely followed the text of the passage, seeking to divide in a natural and logical manner, which usually allows him to work progressively through the preaching portion. Introductions are succinct, and intended to focus the attention of the congregation on the content of the passage that is to be studied, and prepare for the division into heads. On one occasion, he literally just commences: ‘There are three things contained in these words’ (Sermons on Hebrews, 115). Under each head, the material is divided under further sub-heads, making the development of the preacher’s thought exceedingly clear and easy to follow. Usually the head will identify a topic in the text, which is then developed more broadly in the sub-heads, with the discussion not focussed exclusively on the passage but ranging over other texts of Scripture as appropriate. For example, on the institution of the Lord’s Supper from Matthew 26:26, the first head is ‘Jesus took bread’, developed under sub-heads as ‘The choosing of Christ’, ‘the incarnation of Christ’; the second head ‘He blessed it’, developed as ‘He prepared a body’, ‘He anointed him’, ‘He gave him the tongue of the learned’, and ‘He held him by the hand’; third head ‘He brake’, developed similarly; fourth ‘He gave’ – the symbolism of the sacrament being opened up and shown to relate to many different texts of Scripture in a most edifying way.

From this, it will be clear that McCheyne, for all his linguistic gifts, was not an intensive expositor, a Jonathan Edwards, peeling off layer after layer of meaning from his text, burrowing into it like the surgeon with the scalpel. Rather he is a Scottish Spurgeon, a discursive preacher, treating the text like a lens through which to study the whole field of relevant scriptural teaching. If Edwards places his texts on the dissecting table and patiently eviscerates them, McCheyne rather uses his text as a light source directed at the prism of Holy Scripture, opening up a whole spectrum of rich teaching from it.

To come to practicalities, you would not use a McCheyne sermon as a substitute commentary on a text of Scripture, but could definitely use it to help ignite your passion for the subject, after the groundwork of exegesis has been laid.

Application is crucial to a McCheyne sermon, and is present throughout. Although he invariably concludes with forceful application, he also applies under each head, often bringing each head to a close with a direct and personal appeal. His application is pointed, powerful, passionate, very specific to the individual subject and yet with cumulative effect, as the evangelistic urgency in particular burns through sermon after sermon. Although McCheyne evidently loved to preach Christ to the unsaved, there is a good balance between evangelistic and pastoral messages evident in the collections, and he is just as at home urging gratitude and constancy on believers as he is pressing the urgency of seeking Christ on the unbelieving. There is a clear division between messages directed at the saved and at the unsaved, and from this it may reasonably be presumed that where the sermon at one end of the Sabbath addressed the needs of the Christian, the other would be a specific, targeted evangelistic message. In general, I have found the expository lectures, probably delivered on Sabbath mornings, to be more often addressed to the believer – simple, homely, encouraging messages of Christian teaching – and the sermons to be evangelistic, although there are many exceptions to this rule. McCheyne did not flinch from directness, for all his youth, and his application is always addressed to ‘you’.

His style is simple, yet full of rhetorical energy: questions, challenges, objections anticipated and answered robustly, relevant texts quoted with conviction and authority. In terms of illustration, he never uses ‘stories’; rather, he deploys succinct but potent word-pictures, often biblical images clothed in fresh language. Anything like joking or flippancy is utterly excluded – the tone is sober, earnest, urgent throughout, illustration serving the purpose of the preaching, not distracting from it. Consider his description of the new convert’s first experience of falling into sin: ‘You may have seen some bird of noble plumage rising from the earth on swift, careering wing; he leaves behind him the dull clods of the earth and soars to heaven as if it were his native element, when suddenly the whizzing bullet pierces his feathered side. On the instant all his noble energy is gone, he droops the head and covers the wing and whirling, falls from his dizzy height, down to the earth again. Just so the believer is exalted to heaven by the sweet peace wherewith the sprinkled blood has filled his soul, breathing a purer atmosphere, beginning now to think that heaven is gained; but suddenly the arrow of the Wicked One pierces his side and he falls. Ah! How low, who can tell? Who can tell the misery of the believer’s first sin?’

Or for a specifically biblical image, hear this description of the believer’s hope: ‘The hope that makes not ashamed, the anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast, that enters within the veil, that is riveted on the golden shore of a blessed eternity’. It is thrilling, potent language: ‘riveted on the golden shore of a blessed eternity’, all the poetic gifts of the young student of literature harnessed to the work of the Kingdom of Christ!

What, fundamentally, was special about McCheyne the preacher? I think what lent him his power was the reality of experience that underlay his sermons. He was experimental, in the best sense, like the Puritans, the Covenanters, like the apostles themselves, he spoke of what he knew. This functioned with regard to the reality of sin, for example on the danger of the sin of adultery:

Many may be ready to say, ‘Is thy servant a dog, that he should do this thing?’ But those of you who know the hell that is within will tremblingly keep near to God and say, Lead me not into temptation. Given opportunity on the one hand, and Satan tempting on the other, and the grace of God at neither, where should you and I be?

Or on the believer who is betrayed into worldly company:

From the beginning to the end of the feast, he hears nothing but worldly conversation. All around him people are taking thought what they shall eat or what they shall drink. The name of the Saviour is not once mentioned. To introduce it would be like bringing in a poisonous serpent, from which every one would shrink back with horror. The believer sits silent, and is half ashamed of Christ. He is ashamed to show that he is a Christian. And when he comes home at night, what wonder if prayer and the Word be all distasteful to him, and he has lost all sense of safety.

This is experimental teaching that reflects real life, real sin. It is searingly honest.

But there is another side to this too: hear the experimental comfort of these words to the believer anxious over the reality of sin:

Even Christians are filled with shame, when they look only on themselves and what they have been. But when they look to Christ, their shame is forgotten. There are two reasons: (1) Their sins, they see, are fully accounted for in the sufferings of Christ; more fully than if they themselves had suffered eternally. (2) They see that they are righteous in God’s sight, that God loves them, how can they be ashamed anymore? They have ‘no more conscience of sins’ (Heb.10:2), like those in Heaven who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb (Rev.7:14). They remember their sins but they are not ashamed. Even here, insofar as you live by faith, you may live without shame.

This teaching is experimental in the best sense, rooted and grounded in the experience of grace.

The historian of preaching, William Garden Blaikie, summed up the uniqueness of McCheyne’s pulpit work as follows:

The new element he brought into the pulpit, or rather which he revived and used so much that it appeared new, was winsomeness. It was an almost feminine quality. A pity, that turned many of his sermons into elegiac poems, thrilled his heart, and by the power of the Spirit imparted the thrill to many souls.5

He had the warmth of sympathy of one who knew what it was to walk in life trusting in morality, called a Christian but without a real change. He knew the value of grace, the change it brings, and therefore he spoke with experimental warmth, love, and passion, which gave to his message a winning, winsome quality that so touched those who heard him, that under the sovereign influence of the Spirit, it was the means of salvation to many.

To illustrate my discussion of McCheyne’s preaching, I have chosen an exemplary sermon, an Old Testament evangelistic message, on the ‘Cities of Refuge’ from Joshua 20. The message commences with a lively introduction expressing in dramatic terms the Israelite’s anticipation of Christ through the various types: ‘When he stood beside the smitten rock and saw the waters gush out and follow them day by day, a mighty river running through a desert, he thought with joy of the Saviour who is “as rivers of water in a dry place”.’

So the manna, the pillar-cloud, the serpent raised, all lead to the crucial assertion, which determines the whole course of the message: ‘The cities of refuge were intended to set forth Jesus’. He then gives his first head as follows: ‘They were like Christ in situation’, sub-divided ‘in nearness’ and ‘in being conspicuous’, showing how these characteristics are reflected in Christ. The latter is especially graphic in describing the geography of the six cities, emphasising their visibility, leading to the thrilling passage:

It seems probable that there was scarcely a place in the land from which you could not spy one of these refuge cities. So that, when the believing Israelite went out to meditate like Isaac at eventide, when he saw the sun gleaming on the fruitful top of Gerizim, or the white walls of Hebron, or the far off tower of Bezer in the wilderness, or the embowered dwellings of Ramoth-gilead, or the snow on the high hill of Bashan, every one seemed a witness for Christ. Every one had a tongue and said ‘Come unto me, and I will give you rest’.

This leads him to wonderfully direct application:

This shows the heart of God toward you. He wants you to come to a lifted-up Christ on the cross and on the throne. Christ is a lifted-up Saviour in the preached word, that any sinner may flee to Him and be safe. Oh come to a lifted-up Christ!

The second head is, ‘They were like Christ in ease of access’, developed in the ‘roads’, the ‘waymarks’ and the ‘open gates’, each sub-point being individually applied and pressed with tremendous cumulative force. The third head is, ‘They were like Christ in the safety found there’, developed in the ‘Safety obtained on entering’, ‘Safety for Jew and Stranger’, and ‘Instruction to be found there’ – that is, the role of these cities as residences for the Levites. His closing application is a direct challenge to two specific groups: first to awakened persons seeking Christ only with slackness, whom he compares to fleers from the avenger of blood loitering on the way, still outside the city gates. The final challenge is to believers themselves, not forgotten amidst a focussed, specifically evangelistic message, warning them briefly in closing to abide within the city, to cleave to Christ.

Throughout, the sermon is characterised by vivid language and passion in commending Christ, and in this sense compares closely in character and quality with the finest sermons of C. H. Spurgeon. The clarity with which the Old Testament is read as Christian Scripture, the vigour with which the faith of the Old Testament saints is shown to rest on Christ, the directness of the type in its prophetic illustration of the salvation of Christ, all serve to make this a powerful, memorable discourse, evangelistic, challenging, and yet rich, edifying reading for the believer. David Robertson may disparage them, but McCheyne’s written sermons still speak to us today.

III. The Preaching of McCheyne: The Lessons from a Preacher

I intend to bring eight short but important lessons, both positive and negative, from the life of McCheyne. I trust I need scarcely add that as the youngest of preachers I apply these first of all to myself, and have much to do yet to put them into practice.


McCheyne lived and died a young man. In terms of the Free Church Continuing, at 29 he could still have been a regular at the Arbroath Youth Weekend. And yet see the depth of understanding, the spiritual maturity, the seasoned understanding of the crests and troughs of Christian experience revealed throughout these sermons. When you remember that some messages are dated as early as 1836, when he was just 23, these books are a real challenge to those of you whose instinctive prescription to any young man wrestling with a call to devote his life to preaching the Gospel is to ‘get more life experience’. If McCheyne had followed that counsel, he might never have preached at all. Equally, they are a rebuke to you whose expectations of young people are little more than that they keep quiet and listen. Certainly let all of us be teachable, the young above all, but equally let pastors especially cherish high expectations of their young members, that they will advance rapidly in godliness, will develop and demonstrate an earnest and intelligent commitment to the principles of Scripture and of Reformed theology, and will edify in turn the rest of the congregation.


These manuscripts were not composed for publication; rather they are merely standard preparation for regular pulpit duties from week to week. How thoroughly and carefully McCheyne prepared to preach the Word of God! What wonder if these full, thoughtful, meticulous manuscripts laid a foundation for preaching that thrilled and excited congregations? What wonder if scrappy notes, key words that just rely on the inspiration of the moment for the language to clarify and explain, familiar and well-worn lines of application, tend to elicit more yawns than active response from congregations? And remember that when he came to the pulpit, there was no manuscript needed at all, just an open Bible and the eyes of his hearers.


It is easy to fall into the trap of imagining that the really great sermons are those that delve into the profoundest depths of Christian doctrine, or that brim with clever insights into obscure passages of Scripture. But remember Lloyd-Jones’ observation, that the hardest preaching of all is preaching to win the lost to Christ. Here is McCheyne, the finest of preachers, and yet easily half his sermons are addressed specifically to the unbelieving, with the simple purpose of urgently pressing upon them the way of salvation in Jesus. In exhibiting that task done, continually, faithfully, and yet always with freshness and vigour, McCheyne exhibits for us the true Christian preacher. Never let yourself get sidetracked from the regular work of the Kingdom by anything else, however worthy. Be as Paul, reasoning ‘of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come’. If we are known for nothing else as preachers, let us strive to be known as those who continually, earnestly, lovingly, set forth salvation in Christ Jesus, and press men towards it.


McCheyne could not be casual in setting forth the danger of remaining outside Christ. He spoke with unmistakeable, at times even uncomfortable boldness and frankness of the horrors of eternal wrath against sin:

In heaven, we shall see the wrath of God poured out upon the Christless; we shall see their pale, dismal faces, we shall hear their sad cries and the gnashing of their teeth; we shall see the smoke of their torment ascending up before God forever. Oh, how shall we praise God for his electing love that chose us to salvation! How all believers shall praise Christ for his redeeming love, for enduring such pains in our stead!

Such a subject was real to McCheyne, and thus was made real in the preaching to his hearers, to an extent tragically rare in our day. Equally, the joys of Heaven, the glory of Christ, and the eternal love of God were all profoundly real in his handling. Perhaps if you and I preached these truths with more conviction, more passion, we would see more fruit.


Perhaps this lesson must stand above all. McCheyne’s sermons are thoroughly experimental, grounded in real experience, and especially in experience of knowing Christ as Saviour and Lord. This does not require continual reference to ‘me, myself and I’; rather, it calls for preaching that has felt that of which it speaks. Hear these words and consider if they could come with any conviction without a foundation in experience, on union with Christ:

Oh! What infinite honour that the Son of God should leave the bosom of the Father and propose so close, so mysterious, so blessed a union as this, with base and sinful worms, ‘whose cottages are of clay, and who are crushed before the moth’. Oh! If there is one thing more wonderful in the whole world than this, it is that any one of us, base-born worms of a day, should refuse a union of such unspeakable grace.

See how the certainty that can only arise from real personal experience gives weight and point to the message.


McCheyne had some singular views. He was fascinated by eschatology, and held like the Bonars to a form of premillenialism influenced by Edward Irving. He was passionately concerned for the evangelism of the Jews, was fiercely opposed to Moderatism in all its guises, and held strongly to the Establishment Principle. Yet it is striking how little that is controversial finds a place in his preaching. His primary concern is emphatically with dealing with the souls of men, and all else is secondary. His preaching portions show a reasonable balance throughout Scripture, if anything tending to avoid apocalyptic books like Daniel and Revelation, except for his famous series on the Seven Churches of Asia. You all know that there are preachers with a tendency to have bees in the bonnet, pet subjects always good for a few minutes of filler when the sermon is not flowing. Romanism is all too often used in this way, a safe subject for a good rant, and such preachers find Jesuits and Illuminati lurking behind the most innocuous of texts. And so the congregation settle back for a familiar tirade against papists, sodomites, abortionists, textual critics, and other groups notable chiefly for their absence from the gathered congregation. In the light of McCheyne’s example, such stuff should be seen for what it is, a pointless abuse of precious pulpit time. Address what is relevant to the subject, and address it when you have something worthwhile to say.

Now for the negative lessons:


McCheyne’s sermons are not consistent in their quality. His sermons proper are good, sometimes truly wonderful; but his expository lectures are overall quite average in their content. Though full of solid Christian teaching, they are without real sparkle, vigour or striking insight. Indeed the change in NT Sermons from the textual sermons of the first half, to the long series of lectures on 1 Peter is a startling change of pace and of quality. The explanation is patently obvious: McCheyne had no real proficiency in consecutive exposition. He is a Spurgeon rather than a Lloyd-Jones, a discursive rather than an expository preacher, a devotee of the telescope rather than the microscope. Going through 1 Peter, he treats every chosen portion as a distinct unit, conveys no sense of ongoing themes, or of a developing argument, and consequently is very hit-and-miss. On some passages, as on 2:9, he gains real traction, and preaches powerfully; but others are quite ordinary messages, such as any competent preacher might produce. Some of the loveliest passages have no relevance to 1 Peter, and merely use the text as a springboard from which to discuss some aspect of the whole field of Scripture, such as on 2:3, ‘if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious’, where he heads straight into showing that Scripture compares the exercise of faith to each of the five senses in turn, which he uses as divisions. That is not wrong, but neither is it conducive to a consistent quality of consecutive exposition. The lectures on Hebrews are better, but I suspect only because the subject matter so passionately interested McCheyne, so that many portions inspire good individual messages. Play to your own strengths as a preacher, and do not fall into the trap of boring your congregation by trying to preach long expository series if God equipped you rather to be a good textual preacher.


McCheyne worked himself into an early grave. Even in 1843, fit young men of 29 without any chronic illness did not routinely expire. From his earliest days of ministry, he made it his practice never to refuse an invitation to preach. Even Bonar, the gentlest of biographers, acknowledges that McCheyne was far too ready to leave his congregation to fulfil an engagement, and in the last year of his life we see him twice visiting England (then a long, wearing journey by horse-drawn carriage) on preaching tours, and visiting parishes all over rural Aberdeenshire to prepare congregations for the coming Disruption. He reportedly preached six times in two days, or on another occasion twenty-seven times in twenty-four days. By the last year of his life his musical, melodious voice was hoarse and cracked, his natural colour was gone, his frame shrunken, his energy dissipated. What might McCheyne have achieved had he lived a normal span? He could well have been a Scottish Spurgeon, preaching with freshness and vigour year after year, decade after decade, winning multitudes to Christ. He could have been one who discipled a whole generation of young believers in holiness of living and purity of doctrine. It is startling to remember that McCheyne’s personal friend Rev. William Aitken of Carlops was one of the Free Church of Scotland ministers who stood bravely outside the Union of 1900, and lived on into the age of motor car and telephone, dying eventually in 1925. Never imagine that it is a waste of your time to give thought to healthy eating, regular exercise, and periodic holidays.

Conclusion: McCheyne and the Literature

The one essential biography of McCheyne is the Memoir by Andrew Bonar,6 an Evangelical classic, and stirring, heart-warming reading. If you are not challenged by the passion and drive for holiness of the young divinity student as seen in his diary extracts, if you are not thrilled as the weary pastor returns from the Holy Land, to find the Spirit rained down in revival power upon his congregation, if you are not moved as the bereft congregation gathers to weep together in their church building on a Saturday evening, mourning the passing of their young shepherd, you must be very hard. The best modern biography is Leen Van Valen’s Constrained by His Love, which has been translated from the Dutch. It is very detailed and lengthy, but is fully in sympathy with McCheyne’s evangelical passion. David Robertson’s Awakening is opinionated, but is a good concise account for all that, drawing out some useful challenges for our own day from McCheyne’s example. There is a thesis by David Yeaworth (Edinburgh University, 1957), which is freely available online, and contains useful material.

Of the three volumes of recently published sermons, all are worthy, but I particularly recommend New Testament Sermons to purchase and to read, as it contains some of McCheyne’s preaching at his absolute best, as well as a good representative sampling of his expository lecturing on 1 Peter. For the keen reader, I would further recommend From the Preacher’s Heart, which was originally published in the nineteenth century under the rather grim title, Additional Remains of R. M. McCheyne. It contains a large selection of representative sermons, including some real gems. But the full volume of Memoir and Remains7 contains a very full sample of all McCheyne’s different writing: poetry, tracts, letters, lectures, sermons, and the famous Bible Reading Plan [also available separately as Read the Bible in a Year.8] This is the place to begin experiencing McCheyne!

Rev Robert Murray Mccheyne


Too many CHURCH LEADERS are becoming health liabilities with stroke, heart attacks, infirmities and dying prematurely as a result of stress and not taking heed to this kind of teachings. I made this mistake some few years back, but the Lord had mercy on me and healed me, that’s why I can bring this message to you.


Some few days back, a Pastor was preaching in his church and people were really enjoying the sermon. Then suddenly he froze and had to be rushed to the hospital and had not opened his eyes as the time of writing this message!

Another Pastor went to a mountain, proposing to fast for 100 days. He started and on the 31st day of the dry fast, he collapsed, started shaking, could not speak and lost the use of his hands and legs. His sugar level was finished and he is still battling with his health till now.

A Pastor was preaching vigorously and suddenly fell down from the pulpit and died there. And another Pastor went for a medical test. He is 50 years old, but the test result showed that his heart is that of an 80 year old!

All these are not spiritual attacks, but results of stress, overwork and lack of work-life balance by ministers of the gospel.

A. Scriptural Foundation – 1 Kings 19:1-4; 2 Kings 13:14-21

Being a minister is a 24/7 job. BEING A PASTOR IS THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE WHOLE WORLD. And most ministers are workaholic and work-addict, which results in stress and burnout. Stress is a state/condition of tiredness, weariness, pain in the body, exhaustion, lack of sleep, rest, having emotional issues and obesity – yet you can’t stop, because there is much to do!

Here are those things that stress ministers:-

▪ Church stagnation.
▪ Financial pressure.
▪ Pressure to perform.
▪ Crowded programmes.
▪ Elephant projects.
▪ Unrealistic expectations.
▪ Emotional worries.
▪ Problematic members.
▪ Troublesome associates.
▪ Church bills/remittances.
▪ Low attendance.
▪ Problems at the home front.
▪ Superiors’ pressures.
▪ Pulpit manners.

Quite sad, that most modern Pastors and ministers are under tremendous stress as a result of these stress-inducing factors. Ministers that juggle all these together will definitely end up stressed and experience burnout.

B. The Adverse Effects of Stress And Burnout – 1 Kings 19:1-4; 1 Samuel 13:8-14

Burnout leads to loss of interest, lack of emotion, loss of motivation and possible depression.
✓ Poor health​- stroke, high or low sugar levels.
✓ Family crisis​- separation, divorce and wayward children.
✓ Unresolved conflict​- anger, hurts and terrible words.
✓ Poor performance ​- emotional depletion.
✓ Financial loss ​- debts, losses and poor decision making.

Getting angry, stressed up, hurts and becoming irrational are the outcome of stress and burnout.

C. Ministry-Life Balance – Matthew 11:28-30

It is vitally important that ministers are able to strike the much needed balance between ministry and living. If truly His yoke is easy, why are ministers experiencing being heavy laden in ministry? It is as a result of lack of balance on our part!

A balance minister must have;
▪ Emotional balance.
▪ Mental balance.
▪ Family balance.
▪ Spiritual balance.
▪ Social balance.
▪ Financial balance.
▪ Physical balance.
▪ Psychological balance.

If you are not balanced in these areas, then you can’t minister successfully to others. Here are steps to achieve this balance:

  1. Re-order your priorities right: God first, family second, ministry last.
  2. Eat healthy foods in measures: living foods not dead foods; and not after 6-7pm.
  3. Drink alkaline or living waters.
  4. Train others and delegate your work.
  5. Spend time with your spouse and children.
  6. Have peace with God and possess the peace of God – Isaiah 26:34.
  7. Negate toxic feelings, thoughts and words.
  8. Take healthy breaks to refresh yourself.
  9. Take time to seek and wait upon God.
  10. Exercise – walk, ride bicycle or stretch.
  11. Take time off – vacations, holidays and rest periods.
  12. Learn to sleep 7-8 hours night sleep. Catch a nap in the day time.
  13. Rest in the Lord to work through you – not you working for Him.

It was Robert Murray Mchene who said, “God gave me a horse and a message, now I have killed the horse and could not deliver the message”. He said that on his death bed! He started ministry at 26 years and died at 29 years of age!



JOB 1&2

Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35)

You see, many of our fathers in this same faith were tortured, yet they refused to accept deliverance. And why were they tortured in the first place? What was the term or condition for their deliverance from torture? Why did they even prefer to be tortured rather than accept deliverance from torture? You see, let me tell you, if you have not gotten to a level whereby you are tortured and afflicted, of which you are asked to pay homage to a certain god so that you can be set free, I tell you, you, you haven’t seen anything yet in your walk with God. You see, your faith will be exposed to this horrible experience. Hear me! For your faith to be purified, God would allow some afflictions and torture to get hold of you and their condition to set you free would be if you can worship devil. You see, you must value your worship so much before you get to this stage of your journey with God, or else, you won’t see any reason to hold on to your worship in the face of torture. Hear me! Whenever devil is beginning to ask for your worship in order to let you have a better life, I tell you, you are just beginning to experience the reality of your journey with God. What do you think that Satan was asking from Job before Job could be set free? I hope you know that it was his worship! If not, the Bible wouldn’t have written it like this in Job 2:9 “Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” The demand of the devil is…… pay homage to me and live. Thank God for Job who actually knows the worth of a man’s worship. See what he did in refusal to the demand of the devil in Job 1:20 “Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped. Do you see that? He worshipped God, rather than worship the devil. He told the devil……. I will rather worship God than worship you. He simply refused to accept deliverance at the expense of his worship. Let me ask you…..”Why do you think that Job’s affliction extended to the second stage” Or you mean you don’t know that satan appeared to God twice on his demand to afflict Job? See satan’s first appearance, his demand and God’s permission here according to Job 1:12 “And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.” At satan’s first permission, God allowed him to torture Job emotionally by taking away all that he has. You see, emotional torture is the first torture that devil would always want to use to cause you to willingly submit your worship. Emotional torture is simply the dealing of the devil with all that a man has which gives him joy. It is a serious affliction, I tell you. I have been there beloved. Except God have mercy on you, you would be shaken and lose your stand. Why do you think that the kidnappers would kidnap someone and ask his relatives to meet a demand for the release of the fellow? That is to simply use emotional torture to make them submit! You see, devil knows how many things God has done for you that is actually a joy to you. And if he really wants to torture you and cause you to come cringing before him, he’ll set traps for those things. Hear me! Emotional torture is one of the devil’s strategy to cause a man to give up his worship. That is why Jesus simply gave this condition as a criteria for becoming a disciple in Luke 14:26 If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” You see, who do you have than all these relatives and siblings? But Jesus knew the tactics of the devil in using emotional torture to cause a man to deny Him, so He says, you must come to a point where you should not be attached to anything that the devil can use to bring you to submission.

You must be careful of where exactly you place in your heart all that God has given you that are giving you joy. Don’t place any of them at the core of your heart! You see, when satan saw that Job refused to accept deliverance from emotional torture, he went back to God for his bodily torture. See it here in Job 2:4-6 “And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face. And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.” Real torture from the devil begins from emotion and advances to the body while real training by God begins from emotion and also span through the body. I hope you have read a thing like this in 1 Timothy 4:8 “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” Now, don’t just think that satan is just torturing Job without giving him an option for his deliverance. No! That is not the way of satan. You see, whenever satan is behind the predicament of a child of God or he is allowed to tempt a child of God, he will give a condition for deliverance from torture and that condition is often to worship him, which always be by going through his way to solve one’s problem. Beloved! Our fathers refused to accept deliverance from torture because of the exact demand from devil and that demand is nothing but their worship. You must value your worship beloved! Do you know why God is saying this to you? It is because, worship is the key to your resurrection to a better life…. “…..and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection. Hear me! Anyone who loses his worship in order to accept deliverance from torture would never obtain a better resurrection that only worship can bring. You must keep your worship for God at all cost. That is the only key for your better resurrection! Beloved, in what way are you being tortured, either emotionally or bodily because of your precious worship? I want you to know that the worth of your worship is greater than any torture you can can go through. Don’t ever accept deliverance from the torture of barrenness at the expense of your worship. Remember the severe consequences of deliverance from emotional torture that Abraham accepted from his wife. The world has not recovered from it till today and will never recover from it till Jesus comes. Don’t accept deliverance from that torture of singleness at the expense of your worship. Don’t accept deliverance from the torture of failure at the expense of your precious worship. I pray that God will give you His grace like He gave the Hebrew boys which grace actually aided their decision to refuse deliverance from the torture of fiery furnace, in Jesus name. It is well with you. God bless you.

Prayer: Oh God my Father, I ask for your grace to say no to every offer from the devil in an attempt to be delivered from whatever kind of toture I am going through, which is at the expense of my glorious worship, in Jesus’ name.



DNA : which stands for deoxyribonucleic acid , is define as nucleic acid that contain the genetic code.

If you have SEX with a man, his DNA lives in you forever.

Workman noted that a research by university of Seattle USA has proven that;
There is now a greater understanding of why God asks us not to have SEX before we get married.

This research proves that any man, that a woman has SEX with leaves a part of his DNA in the woman.

The man who has had more SEX with her, leaves more of his DNA in the woman. So when a woman ovulates, the eggs that she produces contain more of other DNAs.

So we need to educate the girl child to remain a virgin till marriage.

Anytime you have SEX with another man you become one with that man (spiritually too) and carry the man’s DNA and according to Workman this is called SEX Web especially when the woman has multiple SEX partners.

At some point when you have too many of the male DNA in you; you change, because your cells are changing.

That also proves why when married couples live together for a long time they end up looking alike. The woman’s DNA changes when she has sex with men. This is very serious.

The world should know this and stop silly SEX promotions.

It is bad than good.
Unfortunately women are the victims.

This was found out in many other research articles mostly released this year. So it is new and we all have to know.

The fact is,women retain DNA from every man they have slept with.

Cells transferred from a man to a woman during intercourse become integrated into the woman’s body after SEX, every single time they have SEX.

This study found the presence of genetically distinct male cells in the brain of women. This also means these other male cells will be found in a foetus when the woman gets pregnant.

(This is called microchimerism.)

Every male you absorb sperm from becomes a living part of your life. Sperm is a living substance. Living cells. It enters your bloodstream and collects in your brain and spine.

Stop experimenting with SEX.

When the sperm enters a woman it swims until it hits a wall and then seeps into your flesh.

If it’s in your mouth, (abomination) it can get into your nasal areas, behind your eyes and even your inner ear. It then enters your bloodstream and collects in your brain and spine. You can never get rid of it.

It becomes a part of you forever. These are the true consequences of sexual intercourse.

Workman Leadership College says this Original research is from University of Seattle and Fred Hutchinson cancer research center.

They accidentally found this when they were researching to find out why pregnant women carrying boys get men neurological diseases.

This is real and not a joke.!!!

Stop having SEX if you are not married.

And stop having SEX with others than your husband, for the married.

The consequences of doing this is devastating,humiliating and horrible

No wonder the world is the way it is,many marriages no longer hold water in peace,truth and love!

Many children from most homes have behavioral tendencies alien to both parents

Now you know the possible cause

Say no to SEX when not married.

Say no to EXTRA-MARITAL affairs

Christian eschatology

Christian eschatology, a major branch of study within Christian theology, deals with “last things”. Such eschatology – the word derives from two Greek roots meaning “last” (ἔσχατος) and “study” (-λογία) – involves the study of “end things”, whether of the end of an individual life, of the end of the age, of the end of the world or of the nature of the Kingdom of God. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology focuses on the ultimate destiny of individual souls and of the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testaments.

Christian eschatology looks to study and discuss matters such as death and the afterlifeHeaven and Hell, the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the rapture, the tribulationmillennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth in the world to come.

Eschatological passages appear in many places in the Bible, in both in the Old and the New Testaments. Many extra-biblical examples of eschatological prophecies also exist, as well as church traditions relating to the subject.


Eschatology is an ancient branch of study in Christian theology, informed by Biblical texts such as the Olivet discourseThe Sheep and the Goats, and other discourses of end times by Jesus, with the doctrine of the Second Coming discussed by Paul the Apostle[1] and Ignatius of Antioch (c. 35–107 AD),[2] then given more consideration by the Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (c. 100–165).[3] Treatment of eschatology continued in the West in the teachings of Tertullian (c. 160–225), and was given fuller reflection and speculation soon after by Origen (c. 185–254).[4] The word was used first by the Lutheran theologian Abraham Calovius (1612–86) but only came into general usage in the 19th century.[5]

The growing modern interest in eschatology is tied to developments in Anglophone Christianity. Puritans in the 18th and 19th centuries were particularly interested in a postmillennial hope which surrounded Christian conversion.[6] This would be contrasted with the growing interest in premillennialism, advocated by dispensational figures such as J. N. Darby.[7] Both of these strands would have significant influences on the growing interests in eschatology in Christian missions and in Christianity in West Africa and Asia.[8][9] However, in the 20th century, there would be a growing number of German scholars such as Jürgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg who would likewise be interested in eschatology.[10]

In the 1800s, a group of Christian theologians inclusive of Ellen G. WhiteWilliam Miller (preacher) and Joseph Bates (Adventist) began to study eschatological implications revealed in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Their interpretation of Christian eschatology resulted in the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist church.

Christian eschatological views[edit]

The following approaches arose from the study of Christianity’s most central eschatological document, the Book of Revelation, but the principles embodied in them can be applied to all prophecy in the Bible. They are by no means mutually exclusive and are often combined to form a more complete and coherent interpretation of prophetic passages. Most interpretations fit into one, or a combination, of these approaches. The alternate methods of prophetic interpretation, Futurism and Preterism which came from Jesuit writings, were brought about to oppose the Historicism interpretation which had been used from Biblical times[11][12][13][14] that Reformers used in teaching that the Antichrist was the Papacy or the power of the Roman Catholic Church.[15]


Preterism is a Christian eschatological view that interprets some (partial preterism) or all (full preterism) prophecies of the Bible as events which have already happened. This school of thought interprets the Book of Daniel as referring to events that happened from the 7th century BC until the first century AD, while seeing the prophecies of Revelation as events that happened in the first century AD. Preterism holds that Ancient Israel finds its continuation or fulfillment in the Christian church at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Historically, preterists and non-preterists have generally agreed that the Jesuit Luis de Alcasar (1554–1613) wrote the first systematic preterist exposition of prophecy—Vestigatio arcani sensus in Apocalypsi (published in 1614)—during the Counter-Reformation.


Historicism, a method of interpretation of Biblical prophecies, associates symbols with historical persons, nations or events. It can result in a view of progressive and continuous fulfillment of prophecy covering the period from Biblical times to the Second Coming. Almost[quantify] all Protestant Reformers from the Reformation into the 19th century held historicist views.[16]


In Futurism, parallels may be drawn with historical events, but most eschatological prophecies are chiefly referring to events which have not yet been fulfilled, but will take place at the end of the age and the end of the world. Most prophecies will be fulfilled during a global time of chaos known as the Great Tribulation and afterwards.[17] Futurist beliefs usually have a close association with Premillennialism and Dispensationalism. Futurist beliefs were presented in the Left Behind series.


Idealism (also called the spiritual approach, the allegorical approach, the nonliteral approach, and many other names) in Christian eschatology is an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that sees all of the imagery of the book as symbols.[18]

Jacob Taubes writes that idealist eschatology came about as Renaissance thinkers began to doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven had been established on earth, or would be established, but still believed in its establishment.[19] Rather than the Kingdom of Heaven being present in society, it is established subjectively for the individual.[20]

F. D. Maurice interpreted the Kingdom of Heaven idealistically as a symbol representing society’s general improvement, instead of a physical and political kingdom. Karl Barth interprets eschatology as representing existential truths that bring the individual hope, rather than history or future-history.[21] Barth’s ideas provided fuel for the Social Gospel philosophy in America, which saw social change not as performing “required” good works, but because the individuals involved felt that Christians could not simply ignore society’s problems with future dreams.[22]

Different authors have suggested that the Beast represents various social injustices, such as exploitation of workers,[23] wealth, the elite, commerce,[24] materialism, and imperialism.[25] Various Christian anarchists, such as Jacques Ellul, have identified the State and political power as the Beast.[26] Other scholars identify the Beast with the Roman empire of the first century AD, but recognize that the Beast has significance beyond its identification with Rome. For example, Craig R. Koester says “the vision [of the beast] speaks to the imperial context in which Revelation was composed, but it does so with images that go beyond that context, depicting the powers at work in the world in ways that continue to engage readers of subsequent generations.”[27] And his comments on the whore of Babylon are more to the point: “The whore [of Babylon] is Rome, yet more than Rome.”[28] It “is the Roman imperial world, which in turn represents the world alienated from God.”[29] As Stephen Smalley puts it, the beast represents “the powers of evil which lie behind the kingdoms of this world, and which encourage in society, at any moment in history, compromise with the truth and opposition to the justice and mercy of God.”[30]

It is distinct from PreterismFuturism and Historicism in that it does not see any of the prophecies (except in some cases the Second Coming, and Final Judgment) as being fulfilled in a literal, physical, earthly sense either in the past, present or future,[31] and that to interpret the eschatological portions of the Bible in a historical or future-historical fashion is an erroneous understanding.[32]

Comparison of Futurist, Preterist and Historicist beliefs[edit]

Eschatological TopicFuturist belief[citation needed]Preterist belief[33]Historicist belief[34]
Futurists typically anticipate a future period of time when Bible prophecies will be fulfilled.Preterists typically argue that most (Partial Preterism), or all (Full Preterism) Bible prophecies were fulfilled during the earthly ministry of Jesus and the generation immediately proceeding it, concluding with the siege and destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD.Historicists typically understand the prophecies to be continuous from the times of the prophets to the present day and beyond.
‘The 144,000’
Revelation 7:1–8
Various interpretations of a literal number of 144,000, including: 144,000 Evangelical Jews at the end of the world, or 144,000 Christians at the end of the world.A symbolic number signifying the saved, representing completeness, perfection (The number of Israel; 12, squared and multiplied by 1,000, representing the infinite = 144,000). This symbolises God’s Holy Army, redeemed, purified and complete.A symbolic number representing the saved who are able to stand through the events of 6:17.
Locusts released from the Abyss
Revelation 9:1–11
A demonic host released upon the earth at the end of the world.A demonic host released upon Israel during the siege of Jerusalem 66–70 AD.The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.
Large Army from the Euphrates, an army of ‘myriads of myriads’
Revelation 9:13–16
Futurists frequently translate and interpret the Greek phrase ‘myriads of myriads’ as meaning a ‘double myriad’, from which they develop the figure of 200 million. Futurists frequently assign this army of 200 million to China, which they believe will attack Israel in the future. Many Bibles employ a Futurist interpretation of the original Greek when they adopt the figure of 200 million.Preterists hold to the original Greek description of a large army consisting of ‘myriads of myriads’, as a reference to the large pagan army, which would attack Israel during the Siege of Jerusalem from 66–70 AD. The source of this pagan army from beyond the Euphrates is a symbolic reference to Israel’s history of being attacked and judged by pagan armies from beyond the Euphrates. Some of the Roman units employed during the siege of Jerusalem were assigned from this area.[35]The Muslim Arab hordes that overran North Africa, the Near East, and Spain during the 6th to 8th centuries.
‘The Two Witnesses’
Revelation 11:1–12
Two people who will preach in Jerusalem at the end of the world.The two witnesses and their miracles symbolize the ministries of Moses and Elijah, who in turn symbolize ‘The Law’ and ‘The Prophets’, the Old Testament witnesses to the righteousness of God. When the armies of Rome laid siege to and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD, it appeared that the Two Witnesses had been killed.The two witnesses (AKA “two olive trees” and “two candlesticks”) are the Old and New Testaments.
‘1260 Days’
Revelation 11:3
A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) at the end of the world during which Jerusalem is controlled by pagan nations.A literal 1260 days (3.5 years) which occurred ‘at the end of the world’ in 70 AD when the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem was decisively destroyed at the hands of the pagan Roman armies following a 3.5-year Roman campaign in Judea and Samaria. The ‘Two Witnesses’ appeared to be dead for 3.5 years during the siege of Jerusalem but were miraculously resurrected as the Early Church.1260 days = forty and two months (vs. 11:2) = a time, times and the dividing of time (Dan 7:25). 1260 years during which the two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth, typically understood[dubious – discuss]to represent the time from 538 to 1798 A.D., the time of Papal authority over the Christian church.
‘The Woman and the Dragon’
Revelation 12:1–6
A future conflict between the State of Israel and Satan.Symbolic of the Old Covenant Church, the nation of Israel (Woman) giving birth to the Christ child. Satan (the Dragon) was determined to destroy the Christ child. The Woman (the early church), fled Jerusalem before its destruction in 70 AD.The Dragon represents Satan and any earthly power he uses. The woman represents God’s true church before and after Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection. The Woman flees to the desert away from the dominant power of the 1260 years.
‘The Beast out of the Sea’
Revelation 13:1–8
The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting ChristiansThe Roman Empire, persecuting the early church during the rule of Nero. The sea symbolizing the Mediterranean and the nations of the Roman Empire.The Beast is the earthly power supported by the Dragon (Satan). It is the Papal power during the same 42 months mentioned above.
‘The Beast out of the Earth’
‘The False Prophet’
Revelation 13:11–18
The future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians.The apostate rulers of the Jewish people, who joined in union with the Roman Empire to persecute the early church.The first is the U.S.A. The second is a future religio-political power in which everyone is forced by the first power to receive the mark of the beast.
‘The Number of the Beast, 666’
Revelation 13:18
The number identifying the future empire of the Anti-Christ, persecuting Christians.In Hebrew calculations the total sum of Emperor Nero’s name, ‘Nero Caesar’, equated to 666. The number more broadly symbolises the Roman Empire and its persecution of the early church. The number 666 also symbolises an apostate ruler as King Solomon was, who collected 666 talents of gold annually.
1Kings 10:14
cryptogram of one of the names of the pope – the False Prophet: Vicarius Filii Dei, v and u = 5, i = 1, l = 50, c = 100, d = 500[dubious – discuss]
Revelation 16:16
A future literal battle at Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley, Israel.Megiddo is utilised as a symbol of God’s complete victory over His enemies. The battle of Armageddon occurred 2000 years ago when God used the pagan armies of Rome to comprehensively destroy the apostate worship at the temple in Jerusalem.
Revelation 16:16
Judges 5:19
2Kings 9:27
A symbolic name concerning the ongoing battle between Jesus and Satan.
Mystery Babylon
The Great Harlot
Revelation 17:1–5
Futurists compose various interpretations for the identity of ‘Mystery Babylon’ such as the US, or the UN.The corrupted city of Jerusalem, who united with pagan nations of the world in their idolatrous practices and participated in persecuting the faithful Old Covenant priests and prophets, and the early church of the New Covenant.
Matthew 23:35–37
A virtuous woman represents God’s true church. A whore represents an apostate church. Typically, Mystery Babylon is understood to be the esoteric apostasies, and Great Harlot is understood to be the popular apostasies. Both types of apostasies are already at work, ensnaring the unwary.
Seven heads and ten horns
Revelation 17:9–11
Futurists compose various interpretations.As the Bible text explains, the seven heads are seven mountains. This is a direct reference to the Seven hills of Rome. It is also noted that the seven hills ‘refer to seven kings’. This is a reference to the Caesars of Rome. At the time of the writing of the Revelation, five Caesars had already fallen (Julius CaesarAugustus CaesarTiberius CaesarCaligula and Claudius Caesar), ‘One is’ (Nero, the sixth Caesar, was on the throne as John was writing the Revelation), and the seventh ‘has not yet come’. (Galba, the seventh Caesar, reigned for less than 7 months).[36]Various interpretations.
The Thousand Years
The Millennium
Revelation 20:1–3
The Millennium is a literal, future 1,000-year reign of Christ following the destruction of God’s enemies.The Millennium is the current, ongoing rise of God’s Kingdom. The Millennium is a symbolic time frame, not a literal time frame. Preterists believe the Millennium has been ongoing since the earthly ministry and ascension of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and is ongoing today.[37]
Daniel 2:34–35
The time period between Christ’s Second Advent and the rapture of all the righteous, both living and formerly dead, from off earth and the third Advent which brings the New Jerusalem and the saints to the planet. While the saved are gone, the planet is inhabited only by Satan and his hosts, for all the wicked are dead.
‘The Rapture’
Revelation 4:1
The Rapture is a future removal of the faithful Christian church from earth.Preterists generally recognize a future ‘Second Coming’ of Christ, as described in Acts 1:11 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17. However, they distinguish this from Revelation 4:1 which is construed by Futurists as describing a ‘Rapture’ event that is separate from the ‘Second Coming’.
‘The Great Tribulation’
Revelation 4:1
The ‘Great Tribulation’ is a future period of God’s judgement on earth.The ‘Great Tribulation’ occurred 2000 years ago when apostate Israel was judged and destroyed by God, culminating in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the pagan armies of the Roman Empire. The early Church was delivered from this period of judgment because it heeded the warning of Jesus in Matthew 24:16 to flee Jerusalem when it saw the pagan armies of Rome approaching.The Great Tribulation was a period of persecution for the Church for 1260 years from 538 to 1798 AD at the hands of papal authorities.[dubious – discuss]
‘The Abomination that causes desolation’
Matthew 24:15
The Abomination that causes desolation is a future system of idolatrous worship based at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.The Abomination that causes desolation was the pagan armies of Rome destroying the apostate system of worship at the Temple in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
‘Gog and Magog invasion’
Ezekiel 38
Ezekiel 38 refers to a future invasion of Israel by Russia and its allies, resulting in a miraculous deliverance by God.Ezekiel 38 refers to the Maccabees miraculous defeat of the Seleucids in the 2nd century B.C. As Chilton notes, ‘The word chief is, in the Hebrew, rosh, and according to this view, it does not pertain to Russia.[38]

Preterism v. Historicism[edit]

Expositors of the traditional Protestant interpretation of Revelation known as Historicism have often maintained that Revelation was written in AD 96 and not AD 70Edward Bishop Elliott, in the Horae Apocalypticae (1862), argues that John wrote the book in exile on Patmos “at the close of the reign of Domitian; that is near the end of the year 95 or beginning of 96”. He notes that Domitian was assassinated in September 96.[39]:47 Elliot begins his lengthy review of historical evidence by quoting Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus mentions that the Apocalypse was seen “no very long time ago [but] almost in our own age, toward the end of the reign of Domitian”.[39]:32

Other historicists have seen no significance in the date that Revelation was written, and have even held to an early date[40] while Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., makes an exegetical and historical argument for the pre-AD 70 composition of Revelation.[41]

Historicism v. Futurism[edit]

The division between these interpretations can be somewhat blurred. Most futurists are expecting a rapture of the Church, an antichrist, a Great Tribulation and a second coming of Christ in the near future. But they also accept certain past events, such as the rebirth of the State of Israel and the reunification of Jerusalem as prerequisites to them, in a manner which the earlier historicists have done with other dates. Futurists, who do not normally use the day-year principle, interpret the Prophecy of Seventy Weeks in Daniel 9:24 as years, just as historicists do. Most historicists have chosen timelines, from beginning to end, entirely in the past,[42] but some, such as Adam Clarke, have timelines which also commenced with specific past events, but require a future fulfillment. In his commentary on Daniel 8:14 published in 1831, he stated that the 2,300-year period should be calculated from 334 BC, the year Alexander the Great began his conquest of the Persian Empire.[43] His calculation resulted in the year 1966. He seems to have overlooked the fact that there is no “year zero” between BC and AD dates. For example, the year following 1 BC is 1 AD. Thus his calculations should have required an additional year, ending in 1967. He was not anticipating a literal regathering of the Jewish people prior to the second coming of Christ. But the date is of special significance to futurists since it is the year of Jerusalem’s capture by Israeli forces during the Six-Day War. His commentary on Daniel 7:25 contains a 1260-year period commencing in 755 AD and ending in 2015.[43]

Major theological positions[edit]


Main article: Premillennialism

Standard premillennialism posits that Christ’s second coming will inaugurate a literal thousand-year earthly kingdom. Christ’s return will coincide with a time of great tribulation. At this time, there will be a resurrection of the people of God who have died, and a rapture of the people of God who are still living, and they will meet Christ at his coming. A thousand years of peace will follow, during which Christ will reign and Satan will be imprisoned in the Abyss. Those who hold to this view usually fall into one of the following three categories:

Pretribulation rapture[edit]

Main article: Pretribulationism

Pretribulationists believe that the second coming will be in two stages separated by a seven-year period of tribulation. At the beginning of the tribulation, true Christians will rise to meet the Lord in the air (the Rapture). Then follows a seven-year period of suffering in which the Antichrist will conquer the world and persecute those who refuse to worship him. At the end of this period, Christ returns to defeat the Antichrist and establish the age of peace. This position is supported by a scripture which says, “God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thess 5:9]

Midtribulation rapture[edit]

Main article: Midtribulationism

Midtribulationists believe that the Rapture will take place at the halfway point of the seven-year tribulation, i.e. after 3½ years. It coincides with the “abomination of desolation”—a desecration of the temple where the Antichrist puts an end to the Jewish sacrifices, sets up his own image in the temple, and demands that he be worshiped as God. This event begins the second, most intense part of the tribulation.

Some interpreters find support for the “midtrib” position by comparing a passage in Paul’s epistles with the book of Revelation. Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:51–52). Revelation divides the great tribulation into three sets of increasingly catastrophic judgments: the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls, in that order. If the “last trumpet” of Paul is equated with the last trumpet of Revelation, the Rapture would be in the middle of the Tribulation. (Not all interpreters agree with this literal interpretation of the chronology of Revelation, however.)

Posttribulation rapture[edit]

Main article: Post-Tribulation Rapture

Posttribulationists hold that Christ will not return until the end of the tribulation. Christians, rather than being raptured at the beginning of the tribulation, or halfway through, will live through it and suffer for their faith during the ascendancy of the Antichrist. Proponents of this position believe that the presence of believers during the tribulation is necessary for a final evangelistic effort during a time when external conditions will combine with the Gospel message to bring great numbers of converts into the Church in time for the beginning of the Millennium.


Main article: Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism is an interpretation of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation which sees Christ‘s second coming as occurring after the “Millennium“, a Golden Age in which Christian ethics prosper.[44] The term subsumes several similar views of the end times, and it stands in contrast to premillennialism and, to a lesser extent, amillennialism.

Postmillennialism holds that Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.

Postmillenialism was a dominant theological belief among American Protestants who promoted reform movements in the 19th and 20th century such as abolitionism[45] and the Social Gospel.[46] Postmillennialism has become one of the key tenets of a movement known as Christian Reconstructionism. It has been criticized by 20th century religious conservatives as an attempt to immanentize the eschaton.


Main article: Amillennialism

Amillennialism, in Christian eschatology, involves the rejection of the belief that Jesus will have a literal, thousand-year-long, physical reign on the earth. This rejection contrasts with premillennial and some postmillennial interpretations of chapter 20 of the Book of Revelation.

The amillennial view regards the “thousand years” mentioned in Revelation 20 as a symbolic number, not as a literal description; amillennialists hold that the millennium has already begun and is identical with the current church age. Amillennialism holds that while Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature, at the end of the church age, Christ will return in final judgment and establish a permanent reign in the new heaven and new earth.

Many proponents dislike the name “amillennialism” because it emphasizes their differences with premillennialism rather than their beliefs about the millennium. “Amillennial” was actually coined in a pejorative way by those who hold premillennial views. Some proponents also prefer alternate terms such as nunc-millennialism (that is, now-millennialism) or realized millennialism, although these other names have achieved only limited acceptance and usage.[47]

Death and the afterlife[edit]

Jewish beliefs at the time of Jesus[edit]

See also: Second Temple Judaism

There were different schools of thought on the afterlife in Judea during the first century AD. The Sadducees, who recognized only the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament) as authoritative, did not believe in an afterlife or any resurrection of the dead. The Pharisees, who not only accepted the Torah, but additional scriptures as well, believed in the resurrection of the dead, and it is known to have been a major point of contention between the two groups (see Acts 23:8). The Pharisees based their belief on passages such as Daniel 12:2, which says: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.”

The intermediate state[edit]

Main article: Intermediate state

Some traditions (notably the Seventh-day Adventists) teach that the soul sleeps after death, and will not awake again until the resurrection of the dead, while others believe the spirit goes to an intermediate place where it will live consciously until the resurrection of the dead. By “soul”, Seventh-day Adventists theologians mean the physical person (monism), and that no component of human nature survives death; therefore, each human will be “recreated” at resurrection. The biblical Book of Ezekiel provides substantiation for the assertion that souls experience mortality, “Behold, all souls are Mine; The soul of the father As well as the soul of the son is Mine; The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezekiel 18:4) [48]

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven—through a purification or immediately—or immediate and everlasting damnation. (Sect. 1022)


Main article: Purgatory

Some denominations (a notable exception are Seventh-day Adventists) affirm the statement from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (above), with the exception of the parenthetical phrase, “through a purification or immediately”. This alludes to the Catholic belief in a spiritual state, known as Purgatory, in which those souls who are not condemned to Hell, but are also not completely pure as required for entry into Heaven, go through a final process of purification before their full acceptance into Heaven.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism do not believe in Purgatory as such, though the Orthodox Church is willing to allow for a period of continued sanctification (the process of being made pure, or holy) after death. Most Protestants reject the doctrine of Purgatory on the basis that first, Christ has already made full atonement for their sins on the cross, thereby removing all obstacles which prevent them from coming directly into the presence of God after death; and second, it is not found in the Protestant Bible.

The Great Tribulation[edit]

Main article: Great Tribulation

The end comes at an unexpected time[edit]

There are many passages in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which speak of a time of terrible tribulation such as has never been known, a time of natural and man-made disasters on an awesome scale. Jesus said that at the time of his coming, “There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever will be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, those days will be shortened.” [Mt 24:21–22]

Furthermore, the Messiah‘s return and the tribulation that accompanies it will come at a time when people are not expecting it:Of that day and hour no-one knows; no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. [Mt 24:36–39]

Paul echoes this theme, saying, “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them.” [1 Thess 5:3]

The abomination of desolation[edit]

Main article: Abomination of desolation

The abomination of desolation (or desolating sacrilege) is a term found in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Daniel. The term is used by Jesus Christ in the Olivet discourse, according to both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Mark. In the Matthew account, Jesus is presented as quoting Daniel explicitly.Matthew 24:15–26 (ESV) “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”Mark 13:14 (ESV) “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.”

This verse in the Olivet Discourse also occurs in the Gospel of Luke.Luke 21.20–21 (ESV) “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains …”

Many biblical scholars[49] conclude that Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 are prophecies after the event about the siege of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman general Titus[50] (see Dating of the Gospel of Mark).

Preterist Christian commentators believe that Jesus quoted this prophecy in Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in his “1st century disciples'” immediate future, specifically the pagan Roman forces during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.[51][52]

Futurist Christians consider the “Abomination of Desolation” prophecy of Daniel mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 as referring to an event in the end time future, when a 7-year peace treaty will be signed between Israel and a world ruler called “the man of lawlessness“, or the “Antichrist” affirmed by the writings of the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians.

Other scholars conclude that the Abomination of Desolation refers to the Crucifixion,[53] an attempt by the emperor Hadrian to erect a statue to Jupiter in the Jewish temple,[54] or an attempt by Caligula to have a statue depicting him as Zeus built in the temple.[55]

The Prophecy of Seventy Weeks[edit]

Main article: Prophecy of Seventy Weeks

Many interpreters calculate the length of the tribulation at seven years. The key to this understanding is the “seventy weeks prophecy” in the book of Daniel. The Prophecy of Seventy Septets (or literally ‘seventy times seven’) appears in the angel Gabriel‘s reply to Daniel, beginning with verse 22 and ending with verse 27 in the ninth chapter of the Book of Daniel,[56] a work included in both the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian Bible; as well as the Septuagint.[57] The prophecy is part of both the Jewish account of history and Christian eschatology.

The prophet has a vision of the angel Gabriel, who tells him, “Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city (i.e., Israel and Jerusalem).” [Dan 9:24] After making a comparison with events in the history of Israel, many scholars have concluded that each day in the seventy weeks represents a year. The first sixty-nine weeks are interpreted as covering the period until Christ’s first coming, but the last week is thought to represent the years of the tribulation which will come at the end of this age, directly preceding the millennial age of peace:The people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it will be with a flood, and till the end of the war, desolations are determined. Then he will confirm a covenant with many for one week. But in the middle of the week, he will bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations will be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation which is determined is poured out on the desolate. [Dan 9:26–27]

This is an obscure prophecy, but in combination with other passages, it has been interpreted to mean that the “prince who is to come” will make a seven-year covenant with Israel that will allow the rebuilding of the temple and the reinstitution of sacrifices, but “in the middle of the week”, he will break the agreement and set up an idol of himself in the temple and force people to worship it—the “abomination of desolation”. Paul writes:Let no-one deceive you by any means, for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. [2 Thess 2:3–4]


Main article: Rapture

The rapture is an eschatological term used by certain Christians, particularly within branches of North American evangelicalism, referring to an end time event when all Christian believers—living and dead—will rise into Heaven and join Christ.[58][59] Some adherents believe this event is predicted and described in Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians in the Bible,[60] where he uses the Greek harpazo (ἁρπάζω), meaning to snatch away or seize. Though it has been used differently in the past, the term is now often used by certain believers to distinguish this particular event from the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to Earth mentioned in Second ThessaloniansGospel of MatthewFirst Corinthians, and Revelation, usually viewing it as preceding the Second Coming and followed by a thousand-year millennial kingdom.[61] Adherents of this perspective are sometimes referred to as premillenialist dispensationalists, but amongst them there are differing viewpoints about the exact timing of the event.

The term “rapture” is especially useful in discussing or disputing the exact timing or the scope of the event, particularly when asserting the “pre-tribulation” view that the rapture will occur before, not during, the Second Coming, with or without an extended Tribulation period.[62] The term is most frequently used among Christian theologians and fundamentalist Christians in the United States.[63] Other, older uses of “rapture” were simply as a term for any mystical union with God or for eternal life in Heaven with God.[64]

There are differing views among Christians regarding the timing of Christ’s return, such as whether it will occur in one event or two, and the meaning of the aerial gathering described in 1 Thessalonians 4. Many Christians do not subscribe to rapture-oriented theological views. Though the term “rapture” is derived from the text of the Latin Vulgate of 1 Thess. 4:17—”we will be caught up”, (Latin: rapiemur), Catholics, as well as Eastern OrthodoxAnglicansLutherans and most Reformed Christians, do not generally use “rapture” as a specific theological term, nor do any of these bodies subscribe to the premillennialist dispensationalist theological views associated with its use, but do believe in the phenomenon—primarily in the sense of the elect gathering with Christ in Heaven after his Second Coming.[65][66][67] These denominations do not believe that a group of people is left behind on earth for an extended Tribulation period after the events of 1 Thessalonians 4:17.[68]

Pre-tribulation rapture theology originated in the eighteenth century, with the Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather, and was popularized extensively in the 1830s by John Nelson Darby[69][70] and the Plymouth Brethren,[71] and further in the United States by the wide circulation of the Scofield Reference Bible in the early 20th century.[72] Some, including Grant Jeffrey, maintain that an earlier document called Ephraem or Pseudo-Ephraem already supported a pre-tribulation rapture.[73]

The Second Coming[edit]

Main article: Second ComingIcon of the Second Coming. Greek, ca. 1700 A.D.

Signs of Christ’s return[edit]

See also: Maranatha

The Bible states:Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:9-11]

Many, but not all, Christians believe:

  1. The coming of Christ will be instantaneous and worldwide.[74] “For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” ~ Matthew 24:27
  2. The coming of Christ will be visible to all.[75] “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” Matthew 24:30
  3. The coming of Christ will be audible.[76] “And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:31
  4. The resurrection of the righteous will occur.[77] “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16
  5. In one single event, the saved who are alive at Christ’s coming will be caught up together with the resurrected to meet the Lord in the air.[78] “Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Last Day Counterfeits[edit]

In Matthew 24 Jesus states:For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. [Matthew 24:21, 24 NKJV]

These false Christs will perform great signs and are no ordinary people “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14) Satan’s angels will also appear as godly clergymen, and Satan will appear as an angel of light.[79] “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:13–15) “As his crowning miracle, Satan will claim to be Jesus”[79] (Matthew 24:23, 24).As the crowning act in the great drama of deception, Satan himself will personate Christ. The church has long professed to look to the Saviour’s advent as the consummation of her hopes. Now the great deceiver will make it appear that Christ has come. In different parts of the earth, Satan will manifest himself among men as a majestic being of dazzling brightness, resembling the description of the Son of God given by John in the Revelation. (Revelation 1:13–15). The Great Controversy, p. 624.[80]

The Marriage of the Lamb[edit]

See also: Lamb of God

After Jesus meets his followers “in the air”, the marriage of the Lamb takes place: “Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” [Rev 19:7–8] Christ is represented throughout Revelation as “the Lamb”, symbolizing the giving of his life as an atoning sacrifice for the people of the world, just as lambs were sacrificed on the altar for the sins of Israel. His “wife” appears to represent the people of God, for she is dressed in the “righteous acts of the saints”. As the marriage takes place, there is a great celebration in heaven which involves a “great multitude.” [Rev 19:6]

Resurrection of the dead[edit]

Main article: Resurrection of the dead § Christianity

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Doctrine of the resurrection predates Christianity[edit]

The word resurrection comes from the Latin resurrectus, which is the past participle of resurgere, meaning to rise again. Although the doctrine of the resurrection comes to the forefront in the New Testament, it predates the Christian era. There is an apparent reference to the resurrection in the book of Job, where Job says, “I know that my redeemer lives, and that he will stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though… worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I will see God.” [Job 19:25–27] Again, the prophet Daniel writes, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.” [Dan 12:2] Isaiah says: “Your dead will live. Together with my dead body, they will arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust, for your dew is like the dew of herbs, and the earth will cast out the dead”. [Isa. 26:19]

This belief was still common among the Jews in New Testament times, as exemplified by the passage which relates the raising of Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus told Lazarus’ sister, Martha, that Lazarus would rise again, she replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” [Jn 11:24] Also, one of the two main branches of the Jewish religious establishment, the Pharisees, believed in and taught the future resurrection of the body. [cf Acts 23:1–8]

Two Resurrections[edit]

Main article: Resurrection of the dead § Two resurrections of the dead

An interpretation of the New Testament is the understanding that there will be two resurrections. Revelation says: “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such, the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and will reign with him a thousand years.” [Rev 20:6] The rest of the dead “did not live again until the thousand years were finished”. [Rev 20:5]

Despite this, there are various interpretations:According to the premillennial post-tribulational position there will two physical resurrections, separated by a literal thousand years (one in the Second Coming along with the Rapture, another after a literal 1,000 year reign);According to premillennial pre-tribulationists there will be three physical resurrections more (one in the Rapture at the beginning of tribulation, another in the Second Coming at the final of tribulation, the last one after a literal 1,000 year reign), they claim that the first resurrection includes the resurrection in the Rapture and the resurrection in the Second Coming, the second resurrection would be after the 1,000 year reign;According to premillennial mid-tribulationists there will be three physical resurrections too (one in the rapture at the middle of tribulation, another in the Second Coming at the finale of tribulation, the last one after a literal 1,000 year reign), the first resurrection would be the resurrection in the Rapture and the resurrection in the Second Coming, the second resurrection would be after the 1,000 year reign.According to amillennial position there will be only two resurrections, the first resurrection would be in a spiritual sense (the resurrection of the soul), according to Paul and John as participation right now, in the resurrection of Christ, through faith and baptism, according to Colossians 2:12 and Colossians 3:1 as occurring within the millennium interpreted as an indefinite period between the foundation of the Church and the Second Coming of Christ, the second resurrection would be the general resurrection (the resurrection of the body) that would occur at the time of Jesus’ return.[81]

The resurrection body[edit]

The Gospel authors wrote that our resurrection bodies will be different from those we have now. Jesus said, “In the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven.” [Mt 22:30] Paul adds, “So also is the resurrection of the dead: the body … is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” [1 Co. 15:42–44]

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church the body after resurrection is changed into a spiritual, imperishable body:

[999] Christ is raised with his own body: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself”; [553] but he did not return to an earthly life. So, in him, “all of them will rise again with their own bodies which they now bear,” but Christ “will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body,” into a “spiritual body” [554][82]

In some ancient traditions, it was held that the person would be resurrected at the same spot they died and were buried at (just as in the case of Jesus’ resurrection). For example, in the early medieval biography of St Columba written by Adomnan of Iona, Columba at one point prophecies to a penitent at the monastery on Iona that his resurrection would be in Ireland and not in Iona, and this penitent later died at a monastery in Ireland and was buried there [83]

Other views[edit]

Although Martin Luther personally believed and taught resurrection of the dead in combination with soul sleep, this is not a mainstream teaching of Lutheranism and most Lutherans traditionally believe in resurrection of the body in combination with the immortal soul.[84]

Several churches, such as the Anabaptists and Socinians of the Reformation, then Seventh-day Adventist ChurchChristadelphiansJehovah’s Witnesses, and theologians of different traditions reject the idea of the immortality of a non-physical soul as a vestige of Neoplatonism, and other pagan traditions. In this school of thought, the dead remain dead (and do not immediately progress to a HeavenHell, or Purgatory) until a physical resurrection of some or all of the dead occurs at the end of time. Some groups, Christadelphians in particular, consider that it is not a universal resurrection, and that at this time of resurrection that the Last Judgment will take place.[85]


Main article: Armageddon

Megiddo is mentioned twelve times in the Old Testament, ten times in reference to the ancient city of Megiddo, and twice with reference to “the plain of Megiddo”, most probably simply meaning “the plain next to the city”.[86] None of these Old Testament passages describes the city of Megiddo as being associated with any particular prophetic beliefs. The one New Testament reference to the city of Armageddon found in Revelation 16:16 also makes no specific mention of any armies being predicted to one day gather in this city, but instead seems to predict only that “they (will gather) the kings together to …. Armageddon”.[87] The text does however seem to imply, based on the text from the earlier passage of Revelation 16:14, that the purpose of this gathering of kings in the “place called Armageddon” is “for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty”.  Because of the seemingly highly symbolic and even cryptic language of this one New Testament passage, some Christian scholars conclude that Mount Armageddon must be an idealized location.[88] R. J. Rushdoony says, “There are no mountains of Megiddo, only the Plains of Megiddo. This is a deliberate destruction of the vision of any literal reference to the place.”[89] Other scholars, including C. C. TorreyKline and Jordan argue that the word is derived from the Hebrew moed (מועד‎), meaning “assembly”.  Thus, “Armageddon” would mean “Mountain of Assembly,” which Jordan says is “a reference to the assembly at Mount Sinai, and to its replacement, Mount Zion.”[88]

The traditional viewpoint interprets this Bible prophecy to be symbolic of the progression of the world toward the “great day of God, the Almighty” in which the great looming mountain of God’s just and holy wrath is poured out against unrepentant sinners, led by Satan, in a literal end-of-the-world final confrontation. Armageddon is the symbolic name given to this event based on scripture references regarding divine obliteration of God’s enemies. The hermeneutical method supports this position by referencing Judges 4 and 5 where God miraculously destroys the enemy of His elect, Israel, at Megiddo, also called the Valley of Josaphat.[citation needed]

Christian scholar William Hendriksen says:

For this cause, Har Magedon is the symbol of every battle in which, when the need is greatest and believers are oppressed, the Lord suddenly reveals His power in the interest of His distressed people and defeats the enemy. When Sennacherib’s 185,000 are slain by the Angel of Jehovah, that is a shadow of the final Har-Magedon. When God grants a little handful of Maccabees a glorious victory over an enemy which far outnumbers it, that is a type of Har-Magedon. But the real, the great, the final Har Magedon coincides with the time of Satan’s little season. Then the world, under the leadership of Satan, anti-Christian government, and anti-Christian religion—the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet—is gathered against the Church for the final battle, and the need is greatest; when God’s children, oppressed on every side, cry for help; then suddenly, Christ will appear on the clouds of glory to deliver his people; that is Har-Magedon.[90]

The Millennium[edit]

Main article: Millennialism

Millennialism (from millennium, Latin for “a thousand years”), or chiliasm (from the Greek equivalent), is the belief that a Golden Age or Paradise will occur on Earth prior to the final judgment and future eternal state of the “World to Come“.

Christian millennialism developed out of a Christian interpretation of Jewish apocalypticism. Christian millennialist thinking is primarily based upon the Book of Revelation, specifically 20:1–6,[citation needed] which describes the vision of an angel who descended from heaven with a large chain and a key to a bottomless pit, and captured Satan, imprisoning him for a thousand years:

He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years and threw him into the pit and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be let out for a little while.— Rev. 20:2–3

The Book of Revelation then describes a series of judges who are seated on thrones, as well as his vision of the souls of those who were beheaded for their testimony in favor of Jesus and their rejection of the mark of the beast. These souls:

came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. Over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him a thousand years— Rev. 20:4–6

Thus, Revelation characterizes a millennium where Christ and the Father will rule over a theocracy of the righteous. While there are an abundance of biblical references to such a kingdom of God throughout the Old and New Testaments, this is the only reference in the Bible to such a period lasting one thousand years. The literal belief in a thousand-year reign of Christ is a later development in Christianity, as it does not seem to have been present in first century texts.[citation needed]

The End of the World and the Last Judgment[edit]

Satan released[edit]

According to the Bible, the Millennial age of peace all but closes the history of planet Earth. However, the story is not yet finished: “When the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea.” [Rev 20:7–8]

There is continuing discussion over the identity of Gog and Magog. In the context of the passage, they seem to equate to something like “east and west”. There is a passage in Ezekiel, however, where God says to the prophet, “Set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal, and prophesy against him.” [Ezek 38:2] Gog, in this instance, is the name of a person of the land of Magog, who is ruler (“prince”) over the regions of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal. Ezekiel says of him: “You will ascend, coming like a storm, covering the land like a cloud, you and all your troops and many peoples with you…” [Ezek 38:2]

Despite this huge show of force, the battle will be short-lived, for Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation all say that this last desperate attempt to destroy the people and the city of God will end in disaster: “I will bring him to judgment with pestilence and bloodshed. I will rain down on him and on his troops, and on the many peoples who are with him: flooding rain, great hailstones, fire and brimstone.” [Ezek 38:22] Revelation concurs: “Fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them.” [Rev 20:9] It may be that the images of fire raining down are an ancient vision of modern weapons, others would say a supernatural intervention by God, yet others that they refer to events in history, and some would say they are symbolic of larger ideas and should not be interpreted literally.

The Last Judgment[edit]

Main article: Last Judgment

Following the defeat of Gog, the last judgment begins: “The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” [Rev 20:10] Satan will join the Antichrist and the False Prophet, who were condemned to the lake of fire at the beginning of the Millennium.

Following Satan’s consignment to the lake of fire, his followers come up for judgment. This is the “second resurrection”, and all those who were not a part of the first resurrection at the coming of Christ now rise up for judgment:

I saw a great white throne and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. And Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. [Rev 20:11,13-15]

John had earlier written, “Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power.” [Rev 20:6] Those who are included in the Resurrection and the Rapture are excluded from the final judgment, and are not subject to the second death. Due to the description of the seat upon which the Lord sits, this final judgment is often referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment.

A decisive factor in the Last Judgement will be the question, if the corporal works of mercy were practiced or not during lifetime. They rate as important acts of charity. Therefore, and according to the biblical sources (Mt 5:31–46), the conjunction of the Last Judgement and the works of mercy is very frequent in the pictorial tradition of Christian art.[91]

New Heaven and New Earth[edit]

Main articles: New Earth (Christianity) and World to come § Christian eschatologyA new heaven and new earth[Rev 21:1], Mortier’s Bible, Phillip Medhurst Collection

But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home (2 Peter 3:13).

The basic difference with the promises of the Old Testament is that in Revelation they also have an ontological value (Rev 21:1;4: “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea…’He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”) and no longer just gnosiological (Isaiah 65:17: “See, I will create/new heavens and a new earth./The former things will not be remembered,/nor will they come to mind”).[92][93]

New Jerusalem[edit]

Main article: New Jerusalem

The focus turns to one city in particular, the New Jerusalem. Once again, we see the imagery of the marriage: “I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” [Rev 21:2] In the New Jerusalem, God “will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God..” [Rev 21:3] As a result, there is “no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple”. Nor is there a need for the sun to give its light, “for the glory of God illuminated it, and the Lamb is its light”. [Rev 21:22–23] The city will also be a place of great peace and joy, for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there will be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” [Rev 21:4]


The city itself has a large wall with twelve gates in it which are never shut, and which have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written on them. Each of the gates is made of a single pearl, and there is an angel standing in each one. The wall also has twelve foundations which are adorned with precious stones, and upon the foundations are written the names of the twelve apostles. The gates and foundations are often interpreted[by whom?] as symbolizing the people of God before and after Christ.

The city and its streets are pure gold, but not like the gold we know, for this gold is described as being like clear glass. The city is square in shape, and is twelve thousand furlongs long and wide (fifteen hundred miles). If these are comparable to earthly measurements, the city will cover an area about half the size of the contiguous United States. The height is the same as the length and breadth, and although this has led most people to conclude that it is shaped like a cube, it could also be a pyramid.

The Tree of Life[edit]

Main article: Tree of life (biblical)The tree of life[Rev 22:2], a print from the Phillip Medhurst Collection of Bible illustrations in the possession of Revd. Philip De Vere at St. George’s Court, Kidderminster, England.

The city has a river which proceeds “out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” [Rev 22:1] Next to the river is the tree of life, which bears twelve fruits and yields its fruit every month. The last time we saw the tree of life was in the Garden of Eden. [Gen 2:9] God drove Adam and Eve out from the garden, guarding it with cherubim and a flaming sword, because it gave eternal life to those who ate of it. [Gen 3:22] In the New Jerusalem, the tree of life reappears, and everyone in the city has access to it. Genesis says that the earth was cursed because of Adam’s sin, [Gen 3:17] but the author of John writes that in the New Jerusalem, “there will be no more curse.” [Rev 22:3]

The Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Baker, 1984) says:

The rich symbolism reaches beyond our finest imaginings, not only to the beatific vision but to a renewed, joyous, industrious, orderly, holy, loving, eternal, and abundant existence. Perhaps the most moving element in the description is what is missing: there is no temple in the New Jerusalem, ‘because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.’ Vastly outstripping the expectations of Judaism, this stated omission signals the ultimate reconciliation.