Thinking about Anglican eschatology
June 7, 2016
In thinking about the Anglican approach to eschatology (and indeed, pretty much the universal Church’s approach to eschatology before 1830), one thing that has to be remembered is that the currently popular doctrine of a “pre-tribulation Rapture” was actually not really taught until about 1830 when it began to be taught by J.N. Darby and rapidly gained a following. So…prior to 1830 Anglican writers really did not address the issue of eschatology that much, because it really was not an issue then. The Articles of Religion do not really touch on this, as they are a 16th Century document.
Interestingly enough, Francis J. Hall, who as you may recall was Anglo-Catholic, in his Volume X wrote a fairly good and sound exposition on eschatology. That may be to some extent because he did indeed seek to consider doctrine from a systematic approach. That volume can be accessed here.
The relevant chapter is Chapter V, pages 129-147, where he talks about the Day of the Lord, and at page 140 he begins to address the concept of the millennium.
From my own perspective, I tend to regard “end-times” speculation askance. To me it is something that we are not really going to understand until we live through it. That being said, I personally think the idea of a “pre-tribulation Rapture” is not really supported in Scripture and for that matter in the historic teachings of the Church. To me it is actually dangerous to some extent because it could promote an “escapist” attitude that we in the Western Church will always be spared from tribulation, particularly what is called the “Great Tribulation”. What will happen to people who have always been taught this if they find themselves going through it?
That being said, I suppose I have been thinking about this some recently because it seems we have conditions being created on a world-wide scale that could bring on a world-wide tribulation: (1) a moral falling away that reminds me of the “falling away” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, this in turn leading to (2) a breakdown in order and conduct (including financial and economic matters), and at the same time (3) an increase in the power of the central state. To me these three factors make a world-wide tribulation more likely than ever in history.
This is not something I want to dwell on and morbidly speculate about. But it does give me some incentive to say that Christians should be striving towards growth in Godliness, seeking to be more conformed unto the image of Christ, that we might be able to endure such times if we do find ourselves called to do so.