What is Eschatology?
Per Wikipedia, “is a part of theology and philosophy concerned with what are believed to be the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. While in mysticism the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine, in many traditional religions it is taught as an actual future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the end time, and the end of days. Most modern eschatology and apocalypticism, both religious and secular, involve the violent disruption or destruction of the world, whereas Christian and Jewish eschatology’s view the end times as the consummation or perfection of God’s creation of the world.” The End Times we will be talking about is the end of this age of the times when Jesus comes back. The end of this age will end when Jesus creates a new heaven and earth. The new heaven and earth will be the next age.
As Christians, we have the Bible to depend upon to let us know what God’s plan is in the end of this age, and what we have to look forward to. God has spoken through different prophets. The teachings of the End Times Bible is like a quilt, we have to go through the Bible to find all the pieces, then we have to sew them together so we can see the big picture of what it will look like.
Why should I care about Eschatology?
A fine question. God won’t do a major work unless He gives us some forewarnings about it. In the Old Testament he told His people through the Mosaic Law to not fall away from Him or they will have major problems. He warned them. We even see several times before He actually punished them, God gave them forewarning through His prophets before He actually did it. They were warned, they were warned again before God actually took action. Before Jesus came to the earth as a man, God gave several prophecies about the coming of the Messiah. We can look back in the Old Testament and see how Jesus fulfilled many of them as the suffering Messiah. There are several more about the conquering Messiah. These have yet to be fulfilled. We also see many prophecies about what is going to happen before the End Times and during the End Times. God has forewarned us so we know what to expect. And since God has given us many forewarnings, we need to be aware of them and listen to what He has told us so we are not caught unaware. If it wasn’t important, God would not have told us about it. The Bible mentions that we should be aware of the times. Mark 13:32-37 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert]! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ “. In the Old Testament book of Daniel, this prophet was given several visions of the End Times. Daniel at one point asked what will be the outcome of these things? The answer is found in Dan 12: 9-10 “He replied, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” The wise in the End Times will have an understanding of what the prophecies mean, because only then, as they are seeing the events unfold, will they be able to fit the pieces together to see how they fit.
We need to know what the signs are that the End Times are starting to happen so we are not caught unaware, but ready for when Jesus comes again. I have read the fictional Christian book series “The Chronicles of Narnia”. This is a land where animals talk, dwarfs and giants exist, and Jesus is represented by the lion “Aslan”. The final book of this series is “The Last Battle”. It is about how a clever ape finds a lion skin and puts it around his dim-witted donkey friend. The ape then uses this to deceive the other animals into believing the donkey is Aslan. He uses this to get his way, invites the Calormenes (a terrible nation next to Narnia that ends up capturing Narnia) in, puts the talking animals into slavery to this nation, and even though they don’t believe in him, invite in the evil Calorman god Tash. This all sets events into place which cause the end of times of Narnia. Even though the Narnians were confronted with the truth about Aslan, most would not believe Him because they had already been deceived. So they lost their lives for all eternity.
The purpose of this study is to get you to think about the importance of knowing End Time events. 1 Th. 5:3-6 says: While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. As Christians, we are expected to know better and be ready for the Lord’s return. So we need to keep a watchful eye and be ready if it happens in our lifetime so we are ready, and we can help other people get ready. The Bible speaks about multitudes of people who get deceived in the End Times and lose their souls for all eternity. I wish that none of us are those people who are deceived and fall away from the Lord. That our faith and knowledge of the Lord grows stronger so that if we do have to endure through some or all of the End Times, we are as ready as we can be. The Bible says that we are soldiers of the Lord. Like soldiers, we must go through basic training to prepare to be good soldiers. Soldiers who enter service during peace time probably won’t prepare as hard as someone who enters during war time. Because if you are going to go to war, you know that your life could depend on the skills you learn during basic training. Whereas in time of peace you still have to do your duty, but your life might not depend upon it as much. If we are preparing like someone who is going to war, we will be learning the skills and knowledge we need to best survive the combat.
In Matthew 7:13-14 we find the warning from Jesus “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.” We need to be preparing for that great and awesome day when we stand before the Lord and give account for our lives. We need to be pleasing Him. Right now it is pretty easy, here in the US, to be a Christian. It doesn’t take much effort to call yourself a Christian. The different churches to choose from to attend are abundant. There are several versions of the Bible to choose from. Whereas, currently, it is not politically correct to be a Christian, there is no hard persecution to us. But we need to be aware of the signs of the times so that we are not caught off guard and deceived so we can spend all eternity with Jesus in heaven. If we do have to live through some or all of the Tribulation, the gate to get to Heaven is going to get a lot narrower. It is not going to be as easy to be a Christian. We might have to make some difficult decisions, so we need to be getting prepared now in case we live in a time that we will have to live into the Tribulation period.
Parable of the 10 Virgins Mt. 25: 1-13
Jesus also liked to tell stories to help people understand what He said better. So this story is based on the marriage customs of the Jews to give them a point of reference from which to better understand what He means. There were 10 virgin who were waiting for the bridegroom to come so they could attend the wedding feast. All of them had oil in their lamps in case the bridegroom didn’t come during the day, but would wait until the night. The oil represents the Holy Spirit. 5 of these virgins were wise, they represent solid Christians. They have brought extra oil with them to keep their lamps going in case the bridegroom takes a long time to arrive. Meaning that they know in whom they believe; they have a solid and growing faith in Jesus. They are people who have spent time in prayer and learning God’s word to get to know God better, trying to live holy, upright lives. They are knowledgeable about and doing God’s work so they are shining forth their lights waiting for Jesus’ return. The 5 foolish virgins were not smart enough to bring extra oil, or be filled more with the Holy Spirit. These probably fall into 2 camps. The first is those who profess Christianity, but don’t have any solid faith in Jesus; they just pretend like they are Christians. The second are people who might know the Lord; thus they had the oil of the Holy Spirit in their lamps and shining for the glory of God in the beginning of their lives. But, they are not seeking to know God better. They got complacent in their relationship with the Lord and lost the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives.
Sure enough, the bridegroom took a long time to arrive. So they all fell asleep, even the wise virgins. Then at midnight, a time that no one expected, the call came out that the bridegroom is on his way. Everybody woke up and perked up so they could go greet the bridegroom. But since it was night, and they didn’t have streetlights like we do today, they had to use the lamps that they brought. So they turned up their lamps so they could see where they had to go. But five of them realized that they did not have enough oil to meet the bridegroom. They knew the bridegroom was in the city, but couldn’t find their way to him. They needed more oil. They turned to the wise virgins, but the wise virgins didn’t have enough oil to give away. Remember, the oil represents the Holy Spirit; you really can’t take part of the Holy Spirit out of you to give to someone else. Each person is accountable before God to be growing and filled in the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that you have to be baptized in the Holy Spirit; but all of us are given a measure of the Holy Spirit when we are saved. The foolish virgins had to go out to the merchants to get oil for themselves, and how many stores are they going to find open at midnight? They went out to get more, but by the time they got it, the bridegroom had arrived, and the door was closed and locked. They did not make it to the wedding feast, or, as it is usually interpreted, they did not make it to Heaven.
The Parable of the Virgins also goes to show how many people who call themselves Christians are not truly Christians and will not make it to Heaven. Some people fool themselves about their faith; they think they are saved and are going to Heaven, when in actuality, they are not. They might have half-heartedly asked the Lord into their lives; they might even occasionally go to church, and they think that is enough to get them to Heaven. Many people make God into their own image of what they think God should be like. For instance, God is all loving and wants only good to happen to everyone. That is only a partial truth. God is also a jealous God; He lets bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. God is not whatever we want to believe about Him. When people put their image of God first, they might not be worshiping the true God, but a false god of their own making.
I don’t think we can use the Parable of the Virgins as an exact proportion, but this does show that about ½ of the people who call themselves Christians really are not pursuing God the way they should. They will not be ready when Jesus comes back. This could help to explain another event of the End Times, the Great Apostasy, when several people will turn away from Christ. We will talk more about that in Lesson 4.
This Parable also shows that it is important for Christians to be familiar with the signs when the Lord is coming back. God does not expect us to be perfect and always hard at work, for even the five wise virgins fell asleep. But we do need to wake up and shine forth God’s glory and do His work when we hear the call that Jesus could be coming back. This is why I wanted to do this series, so we can be aware of some of the signs and be found doing God’s work for our lives.
Many people believe that this story is about the Rapture of the church, and that is a good possibility, because Jesus never explained its meaning. We need to be ready at the time of the Rapture. That is a onetime event. Either you are ready for the Rapture, or you are not. If you are, the Lord will take you up into safety to not have to go through some or all of the End Time events. If you are not ready, this does not mean that you won’t be saved and make it to heaven, but you will have to remain on the earth and go through some, part, or all of, the worst times this planet has, and will ever, see. And since we see that there will be severe persecution of Believers during this period, and many of them will die a Martyr’s death, this is not a period that most people would want to have to suffer through. It will test your faith, your will, and your desire to survive. You will have to endure pain, hunger, being an outcast, saying no to basic survival needs and maybe even be killed for your faith in Jesus in order to make it to heaven and not suffer more in eternal damnation.
Parable of the Talents Mt. 25:14-30
Right after Jesus tells about the Parable of the Virgins, He tells the Parable of the Talents. That is, as followers of Christ, each one of us has been given certain gifts and abilities, and God expects for us to use them. You might argue that God is not a fair God, and you would be right. Not only does He let bad things happen to people while others don’t have to go through that, but He also expects some people to perform better than other people. If He has given you many gifts, then He expects for you to use them. If He has given you few gifts, yes, you won’t see and do the mighty things that some others will see and do, but then, you don’t have to stand before God and try to justify to Him why you didn’t see and do these mighty deeds. The main part of this parable is; are you using the gifts that God has entrusted to you? If He has called you to do something, He will give you the ability to do it, and He will be there with you to do it. He won’t call you to do something that you can’t do. Are you seeking God and doing the work He has called you to do? If you are not sure exactly what that calling is, are you doing work for God that you can do and trying to find exactly what that calling is? We can’t just be sitting around and waiting for that calling, we need to be out doing God’s work in order for Him to guide us to that perfect work for our lives. We need to be learning more about God through reading His word for ourselves, sitting under good teaching, spending time in prayer, thinking (meditating) about the things of God, worshipping Him through song, telling other people about the salvation found through Jesus, and teaching others, if not through word, then by our action.
But if the slothful servant of God is not found doing His work, even that talent He has will be taken away from Him. You won’t be doing the work that God has entrusted to you and thus fulfill His work for your life. That person will not be able to find true fulfillment in their life and glorify God in their works. Not only that, but it says that worthless servant will be thrown outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That does not sound like heaven. That sounds like God will not allow that person to make it into heaven. They will be spending eternity away from God. Not only will they not know fulfillment for eternity, they will not know joy, peace, contentment, happiness, kindness or any other good thing.
So we need to question ourselves about our own Faith in Jesus. Do we have a shallow faith? That is, a faith that believes in Jesus but doesn’t take that faith to heart and put action behind it and be obedient. Or do we have a deepening and growing faith? One that is not content in just knowing about God, but always wants to learn more about Him and to be obedient and do the work that He has called us unto. Especially if we are in the End Times, we need to have a deepening and growing faith in God. Jesus can come back at any minute, and we need to be found doing His work and be ready for His appearing.
When will Jesus return?
For centuries theologians have debated and sometimes have even fought about what they think the Bible has to say about this important time in history. Will the return of Christ to rule on earth be premillennial (before the thousand-year kingdom begins), amillennial (a rule in the hearts of men between the first and second comings), or postmillennial (after the spread of the gospel has ushered in the kingdom)? This thousand year kingdom is called the Millennium. This is a period when Jesus will be physically seated on the throne in Jerusalem ruling over the world. It will be a time of great peace, when the lion will lie next to the lamb. This Millennium is mentioned 6 times in the book of Revelation. So let’s read together one of these; it is found in Rev. 20:1-6; “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.”
To give you an understanding of these 3 main views, here is a little about each one.
Generally speaking, the way someone interprets the Bible is the way that they will understand the Millennium. For the most part, those who take the Bible literally are premillenialists, although there are some Bible scholars who will separate prophecy from other scriptures. There are some people who will interpret most of the Bible literally, but they will spiritualize prophecies, particularly the book of Revelation, because it is a hard book to understand.
Premillennial is the view of those who take the Bible literally and do not try to spiritualize it, even the prophecies. This is also oldest of the three views, as it was the view of the early church. The New Testament indicates that the Apostles expected Jesus to come back and set up His Kingdom in their lifetime. In Acts 1:6-8, we see the Apostles asking Jesus when He will come back to set up His Kingdom. He did not deny that He would come back to set up His Kingdom, just that even He does not know exactly when. So we see the disciples and those whom they taught expecting Jesus to come back to set up a literal kingdom.
Toward the end of the Third Century theological thought started being taken over by spiritualizing and allegorizing of Scripture, so as not to take it literally. So when Constantine merged the church and government in Rome, premillinialism fell into disrepute. With Augustine and other Catholic theologians, theology and philosophy supplanted the study of scripture. The Catholic Church only gave people the scripture that they wanted them to know, as they mostly kept the Bible in Latin. It was only after the Reformation, when Christians could have the Bible in their own language, that people started looking at it again and taking it literally. Therefore premillinialism was rediscovered.
The letter ‘a’ normally negates. So Amillennialism means there will not be a literal Thousand Year reign of Christ. These people believe that the eternal state begins right after the second coming of Christ. People who believe this spiritualize much of the Bible, particularly prophecies, so that they do not take it literally. Thus the last days are no longer the last days; Israel is no longer Israel; Jerusalem no longer Jerusalem, etc. But in the time between His first and Second Advent they believe that Jesus lives in the hearts of men. Amillennialism is the most widely spread belief in the overall church. It is held by the Catholics and most mainline Protestant denominations.
This is a theology that started with the Catholic theologian Augustine around the 4th Century. In his book, “The City of God”, Augustine presented the present age as a conflict between the ‘City of God” and the “City of Satan”. This was going to come to an ultimate climax in the victory of the Church over the world. He thought that Satan was bound to the earth by Christ. And since Christianity was the state religion of Rome at that time, he considered that was the proof that the church was winning the conflict in that day. Augustine believed that when Christ returned, he would set up His eternal order. Whereas Augustine is considered a brilliant theologian by evangelical Christians today, this appears to be one of his teachings that is in error and has led many people astray.
This is of more recent origin. It was conceived by Daniel Whitby, a 17th Century Unitarian minister. He believed that the gospel would go forth and be like yeast. It would go throughout the whole world and have a transforming, purifying effect on the hearts and minds of men. That as the gospel went throughout the world that life would just get better and better until after a thousand years of man’s progressive improvements Jesus would return to a kingdom of peace. During the beginning of the 1900’s this was taught by several popular and respected ministers as much of the industrial world were Christians and many revivals were happening. However, the First and Second World Wars dashed the hopes of several Postmillennialists.
This teaching has had a modest resurgence as there are still several people who use this belief system as the reason why we must share the gospel throughout the world. Because when we save the world, or much of it, they believe it is then that Jesus will come back and begin His reign of peace.
However, this teaching has many theological problems. As seen in the last 1900 years we see that the spread of the gospel itself doesn’t purify the world. Instead, we see where the world comes into the church and pollutes it. Today men can bypass the heart, transplant the heart, and even develop artificial hearts, but they cannot make a good heart and prepare it for living in the eternal Kingdom of God.
Which Millennium Belief is True?
It is important to have an understanding and a view of the Millennium and not just leave that for Pastors and theologians. Because your view of this helps to describe the view you have of the characteristics of God. Does God keep His word? Can we take God literally? Do we have to have some genius theologian interpret God’s word for us because it is above our understanding? Have things occurred that God did not anticipate? If God’s promises to Israel are not literal, then it can be argued that His promises to the church are not literal.
We are to take the Bible literally. That is, if the Bible says it, and it is not described as a parable or another story, we take it to be exactly true. We are not going to spiritualize it or make it into an allegory. Therefore we take the Premillennial view. The Bible describes this thousand year period as 1000 years, and does not state that it is a parable. We therefore acknowledge that Jesus Himself will come back a second time and set up this Thousand Year period of peace. But before this Millennial Period, the Bible describes a period of 7 years that will set up the Second Coming of Jesus. So the majority of our study will be about this 7 year period called the Tribulation, or Great Tribulation.
We believe in the following flow of times:
Patriarchal – Mosaic – Ecclesial Age – Rapture – Tribulation – Second Coming – Millennial Kingdom – Final Judgment – New Heaven and New Earth
The Tribulation Period
The 70 Weeks of Daniel
The Lord revealed a length of time of the End Times in this prophecy. Daniel was an Israelite whom God had helped to put in power in the Babylonian Empire. The Israelites were at that time captives in Babylon. In studying the scriptures, Daniel saw where Jeremiah had prophesied that the Israelites would be in captivity for 70 years. Doing some math, Daniel saw that the Israelites had been in captivity in Babylon for 68 years. Daniel took God literally, so he believed that God would move so that the Israelites would be freed in 2 more years. Being a Godly man, he took this to God in prayer, confessing his sins and the sins of the nation of Israel. God sent his angel Gabriel with this message to Daniel.
Dan. 9:22-27: He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
This doesn’t describe a literal 70 years. Instead, the word for weeks is the Hebrew is ‘heptads’, or sevens. This is like us saying ‘dozen’. It doesn’t mean 12 weeks, 12 lbs, 12 years; it just means 12 of whatever you are describing. So it describes 70 – 7’s. Taking it in context, we see that the 7’s are weeks of years. Thus we see that they are 70 units of 7 years, or 490 years.
These 490 years are divided into 3 Groupings.
1. 7 weeks of years equals 49 years. We see from history from the time of the decree of Cyrus to give freedom to the Jews, it took Ezra and Nehemiah 49 years to complete the building of the walls of the city of Jerusalem. There is the first unit predicted.
2. 62 weeks of years equals 434 years. These were predicted to be a troubled time. There is a period of about 400 years between the OT and NT. It is a time between the last prophet in the OT and the birth of John the Baptist. It is a period that God seemed quiet, when no prophet of God wrote any book that we have today. Mind you, Catholics have books covering this period, but other Christians do not recognize a true prophet during this period. It was a time of weakness in Israel, when the Romans ended up conquering Israel, so the Romans were in control during the time of Jesus. A time in which the ‘anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing’. This period extended from the rebuilding of the Temple to the Crucifixion of Jesus, a total of 434 years. It cannot be proven that this is the exact amount of years, because the Medo-Persians were poor historians. But we see that all other prophecies of the Christ have come true, and we know that this amount of time is a good approximation. Also, in Sir Robert Anderson’s book, “The Coming Prince”, he shows how that when Jesus entered in Jerusalem the Sunday before His crucifixion happened in exactly the right year. This book has not been refuted.
3. 1 week equals 7 years. This shows that he that would come, the Antichrist, and will make a covenant with Israel for 1 week, or 7 years. During the middle of that week the Antichrist will break that covenant. At the end of that 7 year period, the Antichrist will meet his end.
One thing that Daniel did not see was the Church Age. He didn’t see this large period that we are currently living in that is between when the Lord Jesus was crucified and the beginning of this last prophesied week. It is this last prophesied week that is called the Tribulation, or the Great Tribulation. Some authors just like to call this period the 70th week of Daniel, because they see other uses of the words Tribulation and Great Tribulation.
This lets you know one way how the period of the Tribulation is arrived at. Unfortunately we are at a cliffhanger place, so we will discuss this 7 year period more in depth during our next study.
Much of this was written before I kept track of the source.