Eschatologies

posted Jul 8, 2012, 6:56 PM by Hector Falcon   [ updated Dec 30, 2012, 5:33 PM ]

Eschatology comes from two Greek words meaning last (ἔσχατος, last) and study (λογία, lit. discourse). It is the study of the end of things, whether the end of an individual life, the end of the age, or the end of the world. Broadly speaking, Christian eschatology is the study of the destiny of mankind as it is revealed in the Bible, which is the primary source for all Christian eschatology studies.

The major issues and events in Christian eschatology are death and the afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the Resurrection of the Dead, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Millennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth of the World to Come. Eschatological passages are found in many places in the Bible, both in the Old and the New Testaments. There are also many extrabiblical examples of eschatological prophecy, as well as church traditions.

The study of eschatologies is important because what we believe to be true about the future will affect what we do in this lifetime. It can mean the difference between a faith with a strong vision of spreading God's kingdom through out the world or a passive that believes the church is destined to lose to the forces of evil making it necessary for Jesus to return as King and set things right by establishing an earthly political kingdom.

There are three major eschatologies called amillenialism, premillenialism and postmillenialism. Each of these views will influence the trajectory for a Christian takes with regard to how they live out their faith within their lifetime. As rational creatures we plan for what we believe will be the future. As we study the three eschatological views we will come to understand that ideas really do have consequences. This is why it is critically important that Christians study the impact of different ideas. Too often Christians adopt belief systems they learned in church assuming them to be correct. For many, once they do the research into the historical origins of eschatologies, change their perspective. We need to know the facts behind the views in order to make an informed and intelligent choice. In this section I will be presenting the origins, beliefs and how the ideas influence Christian worldviews and the behavior of Christians.    

Eschatology and Future Planning

 In theological jargon eschatology refers to projections of the future according to how some people interpret Bible prophecy. This can have a devastating effect on the way that Christians prepare for the future. If you truly believe that the end is near, would you really waste time and prepare for a long-term future? If you are a young person and all you have ever heard in your church is that the Lord is almost here and that we are getting raptured any second, would you really plan for a long-term future if you actually believed this to be true?

Unfortunately, well meaning prophecy writers have had a fatalistic influence on the way that the church relates to the culture. An example of this is famous dispensational evangelist D.L. Moody. When someone asked him what the relationship of Christians shoud be with regard to culture redemption, he said "Don't polish the brass on a sinking ship!" In other words, don't waste your time trying to address cultural issues in this life. The implication is that it would be a waste of time since Jesus is almost here and He will remove us from the earth in an event known as the "secret rapture" of the Christians.

There is only one problem with this scenario. It in unscriptural in that it undermines the Great Commission given by Jesus. Jesus said that we are to "disciple the nations, teaching people all that He has revealed to us." This biblical revelation is also known as the "Cultural Mandate." Moody's response directly contradicts what Jesus has commanded us to do until He returns.

This helps to explain why the church has not been effective in discipling its own members, much less the nations of the world. According to social researcher George Barna, disciple is non-existent in our churches. This is a real tragedy in light of all the biblical revelation and mass communication available to the evangelical church. Please check out the related articles in this section and determine whether your church has been faithful to what Jesus commanded us to accomplish both in the Great Commission and the Cultural Mandate. If your church does not take these commands given by Jesus seriously, then addess the problem or find another church that is fulfilling the last command given by Christ to His church. We are to be faithful to what Jesus has called us to do, establish His kingdom, inspite of what the future may look like. The following article explains further how bad theology can misdirect the mission of the church.

The Return of Christendom

There is a lot of wailing right now about the coming crash, the mid-east spoiling for war, Israel at battle stations, and the general unwinding of the American system. There are a whole lot of my evangelical brethren who believe we are at the end of the age. Not just the end of politics as we know them but the end of the entire book of history. There is a sense of desperation on the nerve as of those without hope, or of men who believe their end is branded in time with prophetic surety. Churchmen grapple in political holds and throws attempting to slow what they have been assured by their fellows is the defeat of the church in this world and the relentless victory of the evil kingdoms. Not for eternity mind you, but in this world now, which is of course where we live and expend our souls from birth to the coffin. So, by the popular view we are to muster up some fight even though we are certain of the futility of our actions. It is generally unspoken that the logic for the fight is missing and the only rational thing to do is to hide out and wait for the end. We are not always logical so some are consumed heart and mind in the political fray while others do nothing. A goodly portion of the modern church is expending itself on busyness programs, programs, programs that have never, and never will, achieve their purported ends.

There is not much hope in the popular theology. Yet, as I read the words of Christ about His kingdom I see nothing but hope. And I do not mean just hope for the eternal arrangements beyond this life. I mean hope for every King’s child in this world and the next. Jesus never talks about His kingdom as a failing kingdom or one that will have to be rescued from its conquering enemies by a last moment miracle. Rather, He speaks of His kingdom as a mustard seed that grows steadily into a tree that fills the garden or as leaven that eventually fills the whole loaf. He prayed, ‘Thy kingdom come thy will be done on EARTH as it is in heaven’. Hence, we are not misled when we expect that His kingdom is maturing on this earth and advancing into heaven. We ought to expect to see the maturing of the mustard seed just as He said. The fig tree He cursed but the mustard tree is to fill the garden.

Another thought we have allowed to slip away is that the kingdom is a real, historical, kingdom not just a metaphor for some sort of spiritual rule. When Jesus talked about the kingdom as leaven He was not trying to communicate that when we reach heaven then the kingdom will slowly expand. No, He was speaking of a kingdom that expands on earth. The reference to kingdom is no mistake either. It is not a sloppy use of familiar language. What Jesus is talking about is an entire civilization that grows up within the existing civilizations and eventually over powers them and becomes the dominant civilization, or kingdom. The kingdom of Christ is to be the dominant kingdom. Christ the King will rule all other kings. His law will rule the nations. ‘Ask of Me and I will give the nations as thine inheritance’ (Psalm 2) promises the Father. All of the islands of the sea are His.

This Christian civilization, this advancing kingdom, is what our historical forefathers referred to as Christendom. Christendom was the civilization of the kingdom of Christ. It was understood to be an unstoppable culture growing in this earth. Christendom was the light that was shinning truth and liberty to a darkened but awakening world. God’s law was the law of the Christian nation. Every nation has its law and so did theirs. The shock troops of its army were its missionaries who went forth to preach the ‘gospel of the kingdom’ as Jesus ordained. Christendom was the kingdom of light and hope in a hopeless world. Yet, now, we have become the hopeless ones. We have abandoned our Biblical theology for literal doctrines of devils. We have quit the fight for the kingdom and await our supposedly inevitable demise at the hands of our enemies. We have become citizens without a country and soldiers without a cause. All of this is unnecessary but our retreat is impermanent.

The kingdom of Christ advances in ebbs and flows. The early church through the Middle Ages struggled its way across pagan Europe conquering as it marched through the centuries. The Renaissance marked a turning when Europeans were deceived into looking back to the Greeks and Romans for wisdom instead of Scripture. Martin Luther’s Reformation ignited the ancient light of the church and shone its brightness once again on what had become a dark continent indeed. As the strength of the Reformation faded sinful men once again ran to embrace humanistic philosophies in what humanist historians call the Enlightenment (meaning that humanism is the brightening light and Christendom is the darkness).

Now, it appears we are dwindling, perhaps racing, toward the end of the Enlightenment era. The secularist management of the world’s affairs has led to tyranny and bankruptcy on every front. Western civilization as it is presently being managed is simply not sustainable. We understand from the prophets that God uses pain and trouble to reignite faith and obedience in His church. This then is the season of opportunity for the church. I remember watching Mel Gibson as William Wallace pacing on horseback before his troops beseeching them ‘if only you will fight’. That is the emotion for the church at this hour. If only we will fight. If only we will return to the battlefield. We may need an increase in numbers but what we need more is an infusion of theologically sound hope. We must believe that the battle is ours in Christ. The Spirit and the sword of His word are sufficient weapons to conquer nations if we do not run from the field. This may be the end of an era but it is not the end of the age. Christendom will advance if we have the commitment and wisdom to carry the banner. This is our duty for the King and for future generations.

For Christian Culture,

Don Schanzenbach

 

Kirk Cameron has an interesting insight on this issue. He equates eschatology with a common theme found within the movie industry. The bottom line is that God is in control of history and He holds the future. We are called to be faithful to what we have been instructed to do, and that is to fulfill the Great Commission until he returns. Until then, we fight to disciple the nations of the world. This implies both personal and cultural redemption.

Kirk Cameron video

http://youtu.be/rD2eCqvKZe4

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