Updated: Mar 16, 2021
Grace and Peace to you all.
First and foremost thank you all for giving me this extra week to work on this one. In the past, I’ve actually already had some sort of clue as to what it is I’m talking about. This was my first lesson where I truly had no idea what I was doing so this was a very hard and very humbling lesson for me. With that said, odds are that I probably am light in some areas that should be more thoroughly covered and (possibly) less accurate than I should be in other areas. Should there be any errors, misrepresentations, or poor understandings presented here please do assume that they were made in earnest and show grace as needed because this is, after all, perhaps the most difficult lesson I’ve ever had to research and write. Now, with all that said, let us first establish what this lesson will not be so that we might gain the most out of it. First, this lesson is not a complete systematics on Eschatology. Believe me, I much as I wish I could write one I’m afraid that is simply not possible given things like the time necessary to research and write such a thing. Not to mention the lack of good, free content on the web to help me write such a thing. This study will only be a brief introduction to Eschatology and an application thereof. Second, this lesson is not a complete commentary on Revelation (sorry to break y’all’s hearts). Again, I wish I could write such a thing but frankly, that is such a titanically awesome task that I am woefully underequipped to execute. This study will reference Revelation went discussing the Millennium. Thus, the title of our lesson today-“Its’ Start…”- this study is to serve as a basic, biblically-centric introductory study to equip the saints to meditate on the end times and encourage us in the end times. (NOTE: I said “biblically-centric” not biblically based mainly because I simply don’t have the time or resources to go through and properly exegete each of the varying views). Thus, it is a starting point to know and understand the varying viewpoints of Eschatology so that you would further grow in understanding of it (in your own studies and possibly in later BBT studies) and express your Eschatology in all of your life, mind, heart, and body. Thus, we will look at the different doctrinal views of Eschatology then consider how we should apply Eschatology in our daily lives. Let the reader be advised of my own Eschatological view (Reformed-Partial Preterist-Postmillennialist) while reading through this lesson because it will most definitely influence our application of Eschatology at the conclusion and discussion of this lesson. Now without further ado let us now consider what is Eschatology. What is Eschatology? Eschatology is a subsection of systemic theology that considers what the scriptures have to say in regards to the end times and the return of Christ. In my own personal estimation part of the reason why so many Christians struggle with this area of theology is that it chiefly calls upon all other areas of our systematics to properly, and fully, answer. Again in my estimation, our Eschatology chiefly hinges upon our three primary doctrines of
Should any one of these three areas is out of order or inconsistent with the word then our Eschatology will likewise be out of order. I will briefly state my own systemic theology, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, on all these three doctrines as a model for you all then I will ask you at the conclusion of this lesson to format your own thoughts on the matter. [Sidebar: The Interest of Fairness to the Faithful in Christ: Originally in writing this lesson I had almost two pages of notes for y’all that probably would’ve ended up forcing you into becoming postmillennial like myself. Upon editing this lesson I thought that would be unfair, and wrong, to y’all. Thus, I will briefly model my own systemic theology for y’all so that you have a template to base your own systemic theology off of so that you can, then, begin to formulate your own Eschatology]. Q.1. What is the chief end of God? A. The chief end of God is to demonstrate His Supremacy, in the exercise of His Sovereign grace and power and authority over all things, to His creation-chiefly in the salvation of man through His word. Q. 2. What is the chief end of God’s holy word? A. The chief end of God’s holy word is to demonstrate the glory of God through the humbling of sinners, the edification of the saints, and the promotion of pure/true religion by the might and power of Almighty God. Q3. What is the chief end of man? (say it with me now children). A. The chief of man is to glorify and God, and to enjoy Him forever. These questions are the sum and foundation of all our theology. And its answer will impact all of our life, ministry, and theology and, more narrowly for our purposes today, our eschatology. All of the aforementioned will set the direction of our life, ministry, and theology. And because our answer to the question “what is the chief end of Eschatology?” will draw upon our answers to those questions it is eternally vital to have those properly-known and answered before we can study and apply our Eschatology. Starting Eschatology Now that we have a better grasp as to why Eschatology is so hard/confusing to so many Christians let us now consider the meat of the matter and begin a brief and basic overview of the differing views of it. [Sidebar- Eschatology is not Enterance into Eternity: I doubt that I need to mention this to you all given your sincere faith and love of theology and Christ’s Church but in order for my conscience to be settled, I need to mention the proper importance of Eschatology. First, while Eschatology is important to our Christian walk knowing and understanding and purity of it is not our entrance into eternity-that is it is not that which we are saved by. We are saved by the work of Christ alone. Just because we may or may not have good and pure Eschatology does not mean that we will not enjoy eternity with the eternal Godhead. Second, just because we believe our Eschatology is more biblically sound (pure) that does not mean that our differing brothers and sisters are somehow “less than” us and it should not be used to browbeat or belittle them. You have a differing doctrine on a very difficult matter for the heart and mind and that’s ok. The Lord will deal with the both of you as He sees fit and, as long as you both trust in the Lord, you will both be with each other for eternity. Best to love them now and show much generosity and hospitality now as God has shown to the both of you.]
The Meat of the Matter- Basic Eschatological View: #1 Preterism Preterism is the Eschatological view that most or all of the events prophesied in the Bible have already been fulfilled. Basic Eschatological View: #2 Historicism Historicism is the hermeneutic (biblical interpretation) of the biblical prophecies that try to interrupt the symbols of Revelation with real-life people, places, times, and events. (It is worth noting that most of the Reformers held to this position). Basic Eschatological View: #3 Futurism Futurism was best depicted in the Left Behind book series. They believe that most biblical prophecies were events that have not yet (or are happening right now) and that those prophecies will be fulfilled toward the very end of the age. Basic Eschatological View: #4 Idealism Idealism is a nonliteral, allegorical approach to interpretations of biblical prophecies. That is, they believe the Kingdom of Heaven will be established within the individual (subjective) rather than a literal (objective) establishment of it. For more information and a comparison of Preterist, Historicist, and futurist views I would highly recommend you check out the Wikipedia article here. Now, for our final consideration of Eschatology, we must deal with Millennialism-that is how Christians held Revelation chapter 20:1-6, “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.” The questions that millenniumism is trying to answer is:
When will all this occur?
And is this a literal thousand-year period of time, or is it 1,000 merely symbolic?
There are 3 main doctrinal views to these questions they are: [Sidebar: Cringe for Clearity’s Sake for Christ’s Elect Apologies to you on this section. You will notice that all of these are a very clinical treatment of the millennium positions. That is because they are taken directly from the Wiki article on them. As lame and cringe as that is I thought it best to be as clear as possible on what is the muddiest area of theology to date. I thought it best to sacrifice originality and creativity in the interest of clarity. Again, my apologies for that.] 1. Eschatological view #1: Premillennialism “Premillennialism believes that “Christ’s second coming will inaugurate a literal thousand-year earthly kingdom. Christ’s return will coincide with a time of great tribulation. At this time, there will be a resurrection of the people of God who have died, and a rapture of the people of God who are still living, and they will meet Christ at his coming. A thousand years of peace will follow, during which Christ will reign and Satan will be imprisoned in the Abyss.” Those who believe in this view usually fall into one of the following three sub-categories:
Premillennial sub-category #1: Pretribulation Rapture
“Pretribulationists believe that the second coming will be in two stages separated by a seven-year period of tribulation. At the beginning of the tribulation, true Christians will rise to meet the Lord in the air (the Rapture). Then follows a seven-year period of suffering in which the Antichrist will conquer the world and persecute those who refuse to worship him. At the end of this period, Christ returns to defeat the Antichrist and establish the age of peace.” Pretribulationists support their position chiefly from 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,…”
Premillennian sub-category #2: Midtribulation Rapture
“Midtribulationists believe that the Rapture will take place at the halfway point of the seven-year tribulation, i.e. after 3½ years. It coincides with the “abomination of desolation”—a desecration of the temple where the Antichrist puts an end to the Jewish sacrifices, sets up his own image in the temple and demands that he be worshiped as God. This event begins the second, most intense part of the tribulation. Some interpreters find support for the “mid-trib” position by comparing a passage in Paul’s epistles with the book of Revelation. Paul says, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:51–52). Revelation divides the great tribulation into three sets of increasingly catastrophic judgments: the Seven Seals, the Seven Trumpets, and the Seven Bowls, in that order. If the “last trumpet” of Paul is equated with the last trumpet of Revelation, the Rapture would be in the middle of the Tribulation. (Not all interpreters agree with this literal interpretation of the chronology of Revelation, however.)”
Premillennian sub-category #3: Posttribulations Rapture
“Posttribulationists hold that Christ will not return until the end of the tribulation. Christians, rather than being raptured at the beginning of the tribulation, or halfway through, will live through it and suffer for their faith during the ascendancy of the Antichrist. Proponents of this position believe that the presence of believers during the tribulation is necessary for a final evangelistic effort during a time when external conditions will combine with the Gospel message to bring great numbers of converts into the Church in time for the beginning of the Millennium.”
2. Eschatological millennial view #2: Postmillennialism “Postmillennialism is an interpretation of Revelation 20 which Christ’s second coming occurs after the “millennium”-which is a golden age of Christian morality and ethics in men across the world for a thousand years. Postmillennialism holds that Jesus Christ establishes his kingdom on earth through his preaching and redemptive work in the first century and that he equips his church with the gospel, empowers her by the Spirit, and charges her with the Great Commission (Matt 28:19) to disciple all nations. Postmillennialism expects that eventually the vast majority of people living will be saved. Increasing gospel success will gradually produce a time in history prior to Christ’s return in which faith, righteousness, peace, and prosperity will prevail in the affairs of men and of nations. After an extensive era of such conditions Jesus Christ will return visibly, bodily, and gloriously, to end history with the general resurrection and the final judgment after which the eternal order follows.” 3. Eschatological millennial view #3: Amillennialism “Amillennialism is the Eschatological view that holds the “thousand years” (Revelation 20:3) as symbolic, and not literal. Amillennialists hold that the millennium has already begun in the Church age. They believe that while Christ’s reign during the millennium is spiritual in nature He will indeed at the end of the Church age return in final judgment and establish a literal, eternal reign in the new heaven and new earth.” All the aforementioned views are but overviews of those positions based off of their view of the book of Revelation and can be held exclusively or in some sort of mixture thereof. Some may be a full preterist or a particular historicalist. I myself am a Reformed-Partial Preterist-Postmillennialist. Now, this is all somewhat complicated/complex stuff. Thus, here are a few helpful tips that I have learned, and used, over the years to help me sort out some hard theology and I’m sure they’ll help you now in regards to Eschatology. Rule of Thumb for True Theology #1 Imagine that you have the ability to go back in time to teach your eschatological to the early church (the first and second centuries). In your teaching would the early church 1. Be able to understand your Eschatological view based on the Old and New Testaments? 2. Would the sinners be humbled before a holy, and almighty, God? And would saints be encouraged or sanctified? 3. Would your view promote genuine holiness or pure religion? 4. Would God be honored and Christ magnetified as a result of your teaching? Rule #2: Same questions; Different time and place. Consider now that I can transport you to the African or Asian Church (assume you have the ability to understand each other’s languages); now ask all the exact same questions. If you can answer “yes” to all the aforementioned questions of both situations then you are, at the very least, most likely on the right track. These questions help us to know if our theology is of benefit to the Church (that is the church global, and universal) rather than having us fall into an American-centric Eschatology over a Christ-centric Eschatology. Now that we better understand why Eschatology is so hard, its differing views and a theological test for it let us now move on to the application of Eschatology. While I don’t know your specific Eschatological view and thus can’t make a narrow application of it I will be making a broad application on the End times and the “appearing” of Christ. Eschatology Applied: Consider Colossians 3:1-7 where Pauls writes, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.” In 3:4-5 Paul directly links our sanctification/the putting of sin with the glorious return, or appearance, of Christ. The “therefore” of 3:5 is there for the purpose of showing us the present eternal reality of our redemption in Christ here and now. Our eschatology should help us put sin to death in our lives by thinking about the future reality of Christ’s appearance in His glorious body and triumphant return over all His enemies. Our Eschatology should also impact our love for the Church. We have recently mentioned how the Church should come together now in a desperate hour of need. Indeed this is so. Will the Church ever fully unite on every single iota of scripture and doctrine in this life? Perhaps not. But, when considering that one day soon all of the Church of past, present, and future all across the world will be united together in Heaven with our glorious and beloved King it should ease our anger toward our brothers for their divisions and soften our hearts to love them all the more despite our divides (we will have to live with them for eternity after all). Our Eschatology should also impact how we view our suffering and trials in at least 2 ways. First, our present suffering and trials will not last forever. Indeed, they may feel as if they will; but indeed they will not go on forever. For one day soon in the final deliverance of our Lord where He will wipe away all our tears (Revelation 21:4, Psalm 34:19). Second, our suffering will edify us (build us up, or make us ready for eternity) for Pauls writes, “though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17. These are, of course, only a few examples of Eschatology applied. And, like all theology, there are many applications to be made but for now, I believe this to be sufficient enough for our purposes. As stated at the top of this study this is only meant to serve as a start that helps to lead you to the end. Thus, I will conclude this lesson with 2 questions for you to consider: 1) Does your Eschatology match the rest of your theology? IE is your own systemic theology constant with itself and in accord with the word of God? Or is your Eschatology as a buffet, of sorts, that you only pick and chose what you like and ignore the rest? 2) Whatever your Eschatology might be does it lead to you love Christ and His Church more? Which is Eschatology’s true and final end.
Recommended Resources: The Last Days According to Jesus (Teaching Series with Dr. R.C. Sproul) Are we living in the end times described in the book of Revelation? (Answered by Dr. R.C. Sproul) 6 Practical Reasons to Study Eschatology 7 Reasons Your Church Should Take Eschatology Seriously The Ten Commandments of Christian Eschatology Related Resources: The Reformed View: The End Times (Yes, this a video on the Reformed view of Eschatology; however, all definitions given here are useful to all). The Reformed View: Rapture Christian Eschatology (Wiki) Love God with All Your Mind by Matthew Everhard (This is a free outline on much of Christian theology that I used to help me outline this lesson. I would encourage you all to check it out for your own benefit).
Discussion Questions on Eschatology:
Do you feel you have, at least, a better grasp on Eschatology now than before? If so, what do you think your Eschatological position is?
What do you think might be the cause of some much confusion/lack of clarity on the subject of Eschatology?
In your own words, what is the chief end of God, the Bible, and man?
What are some ways you can apply Eschatology to your own personal life or ministry?
On the Logistics for BBT: So this is it; this end of “Phase 1” (if you will) for us. I know I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching y’all; it has been super edifying (and in the case of this lesson very humbling) for me and I pray it is for y’all as well. I currently do not have a hard plan for us for “Phase 2” as of yet for several reasons. One reason being that in large part, where we go from here will be determined by the answers you’ll provide for me down below, and another being that I have one or two personal projects that need to be accomplished very soon (one of which being the making of my own website to host our Bible study because Blogspot decided to scramble about 1/3 of this lesson while I was editing it and that thoroughly angered me. I’ll keep y’all appraised of that though). The only thing I have for y’all as of right now in regards to Phase 2 is that we are, at minimum, definitely keeping the bi-weekly schedule. Other than that, answer the questions I got for y’all below and I will begin planning as soon as all those are answered and will update y’all as soon as possible when I have a plan ready to go. While we are on break do continue to drop your prayer requests and praises and highs and lows in the chat please; I do enjoy hearing about y’all’s lives. Logistical Questions for BBT:
Do you wish to continue participating in BBT?
Is the current bi-weekly pacing good for y’all or would you like more time?
What is, at least, one thing you think we’re doing really well?
What is, at least, one thing you think we could be doing better?
Would y’all be ok with organizing the topics a little bit better for Phase 2? (As opposed to rotating the topics by the person. Because I think organizing our topics of study would probably help the study to “flow” a bit better).
What other topics/doctrines/books etc would you like to cover for our study? (Don’t feel you have to answer this one right away. I would love to meet up with you individually to talk about your topics of choice but if life does not allow for that then just drop it in the chat whenever you do have an answer. Do try and have an answer in the next two weeks though please and thank you). [Sidebar: Obligatory- “Did someone say Hebrews?”]
My List of Topics of Us to Possibly Cover (NOTE: not a finalized list and in no particular order).
How to: Devotionally Meditate
How to: Devotionally Pray”
Theology Proper: A series on the Attributes of God
First, Second, and Third John
The “Impossibles” of Hebrews (Hebrews 6:6, 6:18, 10:4, 11:6)
OT in the NT: A series studying where the New Testament authors quote the Old Testament in key NT passages.