Just as there only two forms of the gospel (the true gospel, and the “another gospel” spoken of by Paul), so there are really only two forms of eschatology that have ever been known in the church.
In the case of the gospel, the true gospel is stated in I Corinthians 15. It states that salvation is by faith in Jesus, the Son of God, as the atonement for our sins and all that stands between us and God.
The “other” gospel requires faith in Jesus plus. There are many variations on the plus part—faith plus the sacraments (Roman Catholicism), faith plus the Ten Commandments (Seventh Day Adventists), faith plus the Melchisedec priesthood (Church of Latter Day Saints), faith plus water baptism (Church of Christ, Baptist “Briders”). There is the notable exception of hyper-Calvinism, which teaches that not even faith in Jesus can save a person unless they are elect. This gospel is based on the fiat of God alone, calling it election. We say it is an exception because not only does it not require any “works” from the penitent, it totally removes man from the equation.
Just as there are only two forms of the gospel, there have ever only been two forms of eschatology in the church. The true eschatological outline of the New Testament predicts that the world will grow worse and worse, that the church itself will experience whole scale apostasy, and the believers who do not “fall away” will be deceived by false prophets and false teachers who will display great signs and wonders in the name of Christ. A small remnant of believers will remain faithful in their waiting for the Lord’s return. Just when it appears that there is no hope and that all flesh will be destroyed from the face of the planet, the Lord will appear from heaven and will descend at the head of two heavenly armies that will annihilate the armies of the nations of the earth. Jesus will then arrive in Jerusalem and will establish rule over a kingdom that will last for 1,000 years. This, plus or minus a Rapture event, is the classical premillennial eschatological scenario.
The “other” eschatology comes in a variety of forms, just as does the “the other gospel,” but in its essence can be said to predict the establishment of the kingdom without the Lord Jesus’ personal return to the earth. Put another way, the other gospel is faith in Jesus plus something, while the other eschatology is the kingdom of God minus the literal, physical, visible return of the Lord Jesus to personally reign over it.
This eschatology may take the form of classic amillennialism (Roman Catholicism, mainline Protestantism), whereby the church age is deemed to be the millennial kingdom, with Christ ruling the world through the church during the present age. At the end of the age, when the church has totally dominated all nations, languages, tribes, and peoples, the Lord will return to take a bow before destroying the known universe and moving on to whatever the next phase might be. Catholic/Protestant (dead orthodox) theology really has not extended itself to believing anything beyond the current age.
Classic amillennialism is absurd on its face, and has precious few adherents even among the denominations that still teach it in their seminaries. In its place there has arisen what could be called neo-amillennialism. Currently popular as “Dominion Now,” it predicts Christians will begin to take over the world by finding their way into political, governmental, and other social leadership positions, not only in the West but throughout all nations. They will enact Godly laws and oversee the conversion of billions to Christianity, mostly through sprinkling babies into the kingdom at birth. They believe there will eventually come a day when one will not be able to find a person on the face of the earth who has not been so sprinkled into the kingdom, and thereby the world will be a Christian world, where Christ rules over all through the governments of the various nations of the earth. There will be no need for Him to trouble Himself to come down from heaven, really, because man will have done it all.
So why then did Jesus say the Son of Man would descend, and all His holy angels with Him, and that He would personally separate the sheep from the goats and invite the sheep nations into the kingdom and exclude the goat nations?
You shouldn’t ask such questions. You should trust in the fact that the men who write the books on the grand eschatological schemes know more Greek than you, and if it was important to understand these things they would explain them to you. As it stands, they do not.
That takes care of the Reformed/Covenant Theology side of the great divide that splits the church of the end of the age. What about the premillennial side?
Not to worry. A current movement is gaining steam among Pentecostals and Charismatics that is known by a dozen different names, from “Latter Rain,” “Manifest Sons of God,” “Third Day,” “Manchild,” to “The New Apostolic Prophetic Movement.” Regardless of what it is called and what some of the details of the imagery and symbolism might be, the teaching basically goes like this: at the same time the world is getting worse and worse, the church is going to get better and better and more anointed and more perfected until the church is able, through signs, wonders, and miracles surpassing anything ever performed by the first century apostles or even the Lord Jesus Himself (the “greater works than these”) convert the population of the earth—not unlike dead orthodox classic amillennialism. Even as the Antichrist takes over the whole world, the church will also be taking over the whole world. (Is that not just a little bit confusing? It should be.) God will establish His kingdom on the earth through the manchild, third-day, manifested-son-of-God prophetic apostles. And just as in classic amillennialism, dominion, and kingdom know teachings, there will be no need for God to personally intervene or for the Lord Jesus to make a personal appearance on the earth, because the church is handling it all quite well, thank you.
The main emphasis of the eschatological drama, according to C. Peter Wagner, Bill Hamer, Chuck Pierce, and the majority of the “prophets” and “apostles” that are associated with the “Elijah List,” is the emergence of “super apostles”—men (and women?) who will manifest supernatural powers beyond even the Lord Jesus Christ which will result in signs, wonders, and miracles—precisely the things the New Testament warns will appear at the end of the age to deceive even the very elect. At any rate, for all the mouthing of traditional premillennial terminology that peppers their writing and preaching, the main feature of the “Second Coming” is anything but the physical, visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ to personally deal the final defeat to the enemies of God and to establish a 1,000-year kingdom of righteousness upon the earth. Quite simply, it is “another eschatology” desperately attempting to pass itself off as premillennialism.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:8)
How would Paul feel about someone who comes preaching another eschatology? We get a clue in 2 Timothy 2:18 where Paul says of Hymenaeus and Philetus, “who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some,” that their words are “profane and vain babbling” and will eat like a cancer at the Body of Christ.
Be careful that you “let no man take your crown,” which Paul says is laid up not only for him but “all those who love His appearing.” “His appearing,” not the appearance of super apostles, cities of refuge, revival, signs and wonders… but His appearing.