Various Christian groups teach of a 7-year "Tribulation Period" that will occur at the end of this age, and will be followed by a 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, known as "The Millennial Kingdom." While there are some Methodists that hold to this view of the end times, Methodism as a whole allows its members and clergy a great deal of latitude in interpreting Biblical prophecies of the end times.
Early Methodist Beliefs about the Tribulation
Methodism began with John Wesley, who was an Anglican minister in the 18th Century. Like many of his peers and like many other Protestant theologians before him, Wesley didn't believe in a Tribulation. He believed that the Millennial Kingdom would come at the end of the age, but that it would come about through the spreading of the Gospel throughout the world. This view of the end times is known as "Postmillennialism," and was the most common view of the end times in Wesley's day.
The United Methodist Church and the Tribulation
The United Methodist Church allows a great deal of latitude on Christian doctrine, and the Tribulation is no exception. In fact, the Discipline of the United Methodist Church only vaguely refers to the "present and future" reign of God. There is no official statement on a Millennial Kingdom, on a Tribulation period or much of anything else. United Methodists are free to believe as their conscience allows in matters related to the end times.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Tribulation
The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church separated from the Methodist Church early in America's history. The division was along racial, rather than theological, lines. As such, the AME Church is similarly flexible about beliefs regarding the end times and the Tribulation. The only statement in the AME Church's doctrine that relates to the end times at all comes right from the Apostles' Creed: one day, Christ will return to "judge the quick and the dead."
Other Methodist Groups and the Tribulation
There are many other Methodist groups in the United States with varying views on the Tribulation. While the Church of the Nazarene is not Methodist in name, they do share many Methodist doctrinal distinctives. The Church of the Nazarene changed their official Articles of Religion in 2008 to reflect a more lenient view of the end times. Prior to that, the Articles of Religion specifically spoke of a Tribulation period. Today, that phrase has been removed. Other groups, such as the Free Methodist Church and the Wesleyan Church each have distinct statements about the end times that lend themselves to the belief in a tribulation period.
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