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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Various 1996 & 2005

A Summary Of John Wesley's Understanding Of The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ

       The primary source for determining John Wesley's understanding of the second coming of Jesus Christ is his sermon called "The Great Assize." In that sermon John Wesley  looked for: (1) great physical phenomenon in the shaking of the earth and heavens; (2) the physical appearance of Christ in glory; (3) a general resurrection of the dead; and (4), the universal judgment of all mankind before the Great White, with consignment to their eternal destinations in the new heaven and new earth, or in the lake of fire, thereafter.

Today this viewpoint would be classified by scholars in the field of Biblical prophetic studies as post-tribulational amillennialism.  Now "post-tribulational" means belief that Christ is coming completely after, not before, or during, whatever end-time "tribulation" there may be. "Amillennialism" is the view that the one-thousand years of Revelation chapter twenty is to be treated symbolically as referring to part, or all, of the present Gospel age.

Though post-tribulational amillennialism is the true teaching of the Bible, and was the majority opinion held throughout most ages of the Christian church, it is not widely understood or accepted in many evangelical fundamentalist professed Christian circles of the West today, largely because of the overwhelming influence of the rival theory of dispensational premillennialism.
    What must be understood clearly, however, is that John Wesley lived a century earlier than that nineteenth century that saw both the rise of modern theological liberalism (neo-orthodoxy) and the Darbyite dispensational premillennial theory. Thus, he knew nothing of those concepts which all these take for granted now: such as the idea  of "apocalypitic" supposing to mean something non-literal or unreal (i.e., fiction); such as the idea of a secret pretribulation rapture; such as the ideas of some future "seven year" end-time prophetic time frame based on Daniel 9:27 with which to start; and, such as the now popular notion of Christ returning to set up His Jewish millennial kingdom.
    Those ideas were not in vogue during the time of Wesley. He did not even know about their existence, much less endorse or teach these notions--something what we moderns find hard to deal with, since these modern ideas of man  are such a big deal to us.
    The problem is not with understanding John Wesley's eschatology, friends, for it was pretty simple and straightforward, generally in keeping, as we said, with the historical amillennial Protestant Reformation tradition of his day. The problem with we moderns in understanding John Wesley's eschatology, rather, lies in sorting though OUR OWN misconceptions and biases to the degree that we can accept the historic Reformation Christian church's view.

What is most important for considering John Wesley's understanding of eschatology lies in understanding the "Arminian" system of theology behind it, including, at the center, soteriological (meaning "doctrine of salvation")  implications.
   Three pillars of John Wesley's soteriological worldview that must underlie a truly "Wesleyan" approach to eschatology include believe in: (1) the realism of sin; (2) the optimism of grace; and (3) the urgency of evangelism. No theory of eschatology is valid, in terms of Wesleyanism, wherein the theology of "Arminianism,"  which Wesley unflinchingly held, fits too uncomfortably.
    Now amillennialism is a comfortable fit with Arminianism as is, in many respects, a spiritually-minded post-millennialism.  Anti-Arminian Calvinistic biases, however, later drove the post-Wesleyan Reformation church  first to Calvinist-liberal post-, then to Calvinist-fundamentalist pre-, millennial views. Now, the Calvinistic church is changing its tune and direction again toward radical preterism.
   Eschatology cannot be separated from the Calvinistic-Arminian controversy, friend, for that controversy will continue till Jesus comes, or until men come back to full-orbed biblical truth--the truth of Wesleyan-Arminianism. And if and when that happens, friends, we will be back to square one, where Wesley himself was, in post-tribulational a-millennialism. So why not discover the truth in the first place, and stay put?

   It's not that hard to figure out what the Bible teaches about eschatology, if you come with a pure heart, a humble spirit, and an open mind. The Roman Catholics knew that all too well. That is why the Jesuits worked so hard to subvert those early Protestant reformation truths that identified the Roman papal system with antichrist--a matter clearly seen by the early Protestant reformers in Daniel and the book of Revelation!
    Now Rome has almost succeeded in bringing a lot of us one-time Protestants back to the formal worldly pagan church--the entity that is, indeed, the great whore "Babylon" about to fall.
  With ideas like these afloat another "reformation," friends, is in the birthing--a reformation that can never be generated without the "historical realism" that the a-millennial viewpoint, alone, provides.
    How desperately we need true Christian reformation!
    Oh God, let it happen in these our days!

Related Article Links

John Wesley: A-millennialist
What John Wesley Believed About the Restraing Force In II Thessalonians 2:6-7

Was John Wesley Really A Premillennialist?
Heresies Of Dispensationalism