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Are We Living in the Last Days?

Are We Living in the Last Days

The world is a mess. The world is a mess and seems to be getting messier. I could draw up an inventory of all the wars and conflicts, the diseases and disasters, the rise of immorality and decline of virtue, but that would be to tell you what you have already observed and already know. With all of this in mind, many Christians ask: Are we living in the last days? Is the end near? Is Christ returning soon?

Some time ago, Bryan Chapell was asked to prepare some teaching on the end times. The leaders of Bible Study Fellowship realized that, while they had led thousands of people through the other books of the Bible, they had not yet touched on Revelation. Their rationale was understandable: they thought it would prove too controversial and generate too much discord. But eventually they came to the conviction that by refusing to teach the book, they were depriving members of truth they needed to hear. So they asked Chapell and two other Christian theologians to lead them in a careful study of their perspective on the end times. What Chapell shared at that time forms the basis for his new book Are We Living in the Last Days?: Four Views of the Hope We Share about Revelation and Christ’s Return.

It’s important to note that Are We Living in the Last Days? is not one of those “Counterpoints” books where various authors explain their perspective on a matter of doctrine and then engage with one another. Rather, Chapell is the book’s sole author and does all the explaining himself. And equally important, he does not defend one of the views ahead of the others. Rather, he does his level best to simply describe the four major perspectives on the end times as accurately and charitably as possible. The perspectives are, of course, Dispensational Premillennialism, Historic Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Postmillennialism.

However, it is what comes before his explanations, and even more so what comes after, that makes the book especially valuable. Before he digs into the heart of the matter, Chapell lays the groundwork by explaining what the end times are and what Bible-believing Christians universally expect from them (e.g. wars and rumors of war, nation rising against nation, false prophets, the increase of lawlessness, false Christs, and so on). He describes three predominant views of biblical history that he labels the Lutheran, Dispensational, and Covenantal approaches and affirms that each is held by genuine believers. Emerging from those three views of biblical history come the four major perspectives on the end times.

The heart of the book, of course, is a thorough explanation of each. “All four views are held by godly Christians who have searched the Scriptures before forming their conclusions. The Covenantal views have been held by Bible-trusting believers for centuries. The Dispensational view is relatively new but probably is held by more people today. The advocates of each view certainly think theirs is the most consistent with Scripture. No one is trying to make us disregard the Bible or doubt that Jesus is returning. This book won’t try to persuade you that one view is more biblical than the others. Instead, it will give you enough information to understand key features of each view, the faith that each affirms, and the hope that all believers share through God’s certain promises for the last days.”

He accomplishes his purpose well. And while the explanations are necessarily technical at times, he makes each understandable. And then he gets to those crucial final chapters. Here he labors to describe the hope all Christians share, regardless of the perspective they take on the timing and unfolding of the end times. And here he also describes what lies beyond the end times—the glory of heaven and the unmediated presence of Christ. He also draws some crucial distinctions between the various perspectives to show what a person must affirm to hold one of the views instead of the others. So, for example, Dispensationalists must be comfortable with two raptures (a secret one and a final one), two returns of Christ (a secret one and a final one), two kingdoms of Christ (the thousand-year millennium on this earth and the everlasting kingdom of the new heaven and new earth), three resurrections (one for believers at the secret return of Christ, a second after the final return for believers who died during the tribulation and millennium, and a third for the wicked at the last judgment), and so on.

An exceptionally useful appendix provides brief summaries of the major positions and includes their distinctive teaching, key influences and development, historic institutions of dominant thought, key proponents, key passages, and interpretive approach. A study guide focuses primarily on comprehension but also touches on application.

Put together, Are We Living in the Last Days? is a tremendously helpful and clarifying book. Besides that, it is a wonderfully charitable book that explains without dividing and that draws distinctions without taking sides. It lays out the differing perspectives, then focuses heavily on the unity believers share in Christ regardless of their particular understanding of the end times. I am grateful for Chapell’s careful labor and generous spirit and am glad to highly recommend his book.

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