The Bible contains many prophecies about the future, with the New Testament speaking about the return of Jesus to earth. Matthew 24, much of the book of Revelation, and 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 are the more salient references to the second coming.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then tall 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. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31).
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
Historic premillennialism was held by a large majority of Christians during the first three centuries of the Christian era. Many of the church fathers such as Ireneaus, Papias, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and others taught that there would be a visible kingdom of God upon the earth after the return of Christ. Historic premillennialism taught that the Antichrist would appear on earth and the seven-year tribulation would begin. Next would be the rapture, and then Jesus and His church would return to earth to rule for a thousand years. The faithful spend eternity in the New Jerusalem.
When Christianity became the official religion of Rome in the fourth century, many things began to change, including acceptance of historic premillennialism. Amillennialism soon became the prevailing doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
One of the most influential historic premillennialists was George Eldon Ladd, an evangelical New Testament scholar and professor of New Testament exegesis and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. It was through Ladd’s work that historic premillennialism gained scholarly respect and popularity among evangelical and Reformed theologians of the twentieth century. Other well-known historic premillennialists include Walter Martin; John Warwick Montgomery; J. Barton Payne; Henry Alford, a noted Greek scholar; and Theodor Zahn, a German New Testament scholar.
Historic premillennialism is one system of eschatology that has support in the Protestant community. Generally, all of the premillennialist beliefs teach that the tribulation is followed by 1,000 years of peace when all live under the authority of Christ. Afterwards, in a brief, final battle, Satan is permanently conquered. The placement of the rapture in relation to the other events is one of the main differences between historic premillennialism and premillennial dispensationalism.