Theology 101 (Lesson 15)
What is eschatology? | Isaiah 65:17
“For behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.”
Eschatology is a branch of theology that deals with the study of the end times and the ultimate destiny of humanity.
The word "eschatology" comes from the Greek "eschatos," meaning "last," and "logos," meaning "word" or "study."
Central to the doctrine of eschatology is the expectation of the final coming (or advent) of Jesus, which is described in various passages throughout the New Testament (e.g., Matthew 24:30-31, Acts 1:11, and Revelation 1:7).
“Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven.”
This event signifies the return of Christ to earth to fulfill the promises made in Scripture, including the final resurrection of the righteous and unrighteous unto final judgment and the establishment of a new heaven and new earth.
The resurrection of the dead is another key eschatological theme found in both the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). This event involves the bodily resurrection of all people, both the righteous and the unrighteous, to face a final judgment.
The concept of final judgment refers to the time when God will judge all humanity (e.g., Matthew 25:31-46, Romans 2:5-11, and Revelation 20:11-15) and determine the eternal destiny of each individual. Those who received the gift of God’s forgiving grace by faith will enter into eternal blessedness with God and those who did not will suffer the just consequences of their sins. The reason the forgiven do not suffer the consequences of their sins is because Jesus suffered the consequences for them on the cross.
The Bible also teaches that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, as God will create a perfect and sinless environment where his people will dwell with him eternally (e.g., Isaiah 65:17 and 2 Peter 3:13).
This is the promise of Revelation 21:1-5,
1Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying:
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them.
They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.
4‘He will wipe away every tear from their eyes,’ and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the former things have passed away.”
5And the One seated on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”
It doesn’t take long in a study of eschatology to discover that interpretations differ among Christians.
Below are some of the most common eschatological perspectives.
Concerning how to view eschatology in the context of history:
Partial-preterism argues that many (but not all) of the eschatological prophecies were fulfilled in the first century, particularly with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. According to this view, many of the end-time events described in the Bible have already taken place, with the exception of the final return of Christ, the final resurrection, and the final judgment before the creation of the new heavens and new earth. What happened around 70 AD becomes a paradigm for Christian perseverance until Christ returns in glory to establish the new heavens and new earth.
Historicism interprets eschatological prophecies as unfolding throughout history, with various events symbolizing different stages in the fulfillment of these prophecies. This view sees the end times as an ongoing process, culminating in the return of Christ, the final resurrection, and the final judgment.
Concerning the Millennium:
Premillennialism holds that Christ will return before the establishment of a literal 1,000-year reign on earth (the Millennium). This view can be further subdivided into pre-tribulationism, which asserts that believers will be raptured before a seven-year period of tribulation, and post-tribulationism, which claims that believers will endure the tribulation before Christ's return.
Postmillennialism asserts that Christ will return after the Millennium, which is understood as a lengthy but finite period of righteousness and peace on earth established by the Church. This perspective is characterized by an optimistic view of the Church's influence in transforming the world, eventually leading to Christ's return, the resurrection, and the final judgment.
Amillennialism teaches that the 1,000-year reign of Christ described in Revelation 20 is symbolic, representing the period between Christ's first coming and his second coming. In this view, the end times are already unfolding, and the return of Jesus will be followed by the resurrection of the just and unjust, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heaven and earth. In this view, the rapture is when Jesus returns and believers meet him in the air, not to depart the world but to join his descent to earth as victorious king who will judge all people and establish the new earth.
Whatever view one holds, we know that Jesus will return and a new heaven and earth will be established in which believers will dwell in the fullness of joy forever.
What is eschatology?
What is the significance of the Second Coming of Jesus in the doctrine of eschatology?
How does the concept of the resurrection of the dead fit into eschatological themes found in both the Old and New Testaments?
What role does the cross play in eschatology?
Why is the promise of a new heaven and new earth such an important aspect of eschatology?
How does the study of eschatology provide a framework for Christian hope and assurance?
Dear Heavenly Father,
We thank you for the gift of your Word, which gives us insight into your redemptive plan for our world and our lives.
We pray that as we study eschatology, rather than confusion, we’d be filled with hope and assurance as we look forward to the new, perfect world you have planned for us.
Thank you that we do not have to earn our place in paradise but because of Jesus’ substitutionary life, death, and resurrection, we are promised eternal life with you.
For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.