Eschatological Survey Notes
Definition of Eschatology
“The end times” – “Study of the last things/days”
This survey will touch on 4 predominant views
1 - Restoration of Israel
2 - The Kingdom of God
3 - Futurist Eschatology
4 - Over-realised Eschatology
Restoration of Israel
This is the basis of our scriptural tradition.
God will one day restore and maintain a relationship with his people
Messiah = hoped for deliverer.
Why did the Jews dismiss Jesus as the longed for Messiah?
They longed for a Righteous King.
Righteous– one whose actions would epitomise the identity of Israel. In Davidic psalms the righteous king often experiences suffering which is juxtaposed against this righteousness to promote contrast and severity.
King– in line of David [2 Sam 7:8-17]. That the Jewish tradition maintained their language around a Messiah from David’s line after the apparent failure of that family line implies Messianic fulfilment.
The misunderstanding of the coming Messiah concerns the suffering of the Righteous King.
Suffering– the suffering was what the Jews expected the Messiah to deliver the people from, not enter into it. Suffering, for Jesus, was to be encountered and conquered as part of the redemption story. Language of Psalms and Isaiah 52-53 is used heavily in NT to support the suffering elements of the OT description of Messiah.
Some scholars seem to end their description of the Eschaton with Israel’s restoration.
Luke and Jesus seem to go further;
· Parable of the pearl/leaven Matt 13:45-46, 33.
· Conquering of Satan. Luke 4:1-12
· Mandate for discipleship. Acts 1:8, 13:47 “ends of the earth”, “gentiles”
· Simeon’s prayer – Luke 2:32
According to Jesus the last things have begun with His presence and ministry.
This kingdom is founded in the concept of Israel’s restoration but is carefully and methodically redefined by the words and works of Jesus.
Joel 2:28-9 compared with Acts 2:17
Luke changes the scripture from Joel from “Afterwards” to “in the last days” implying the ‘after’ has arrived and the new age has begun.
So the Kingdom has begun with the ministry and proclamations of Jesus; but it is yet to be ultimately realised.
What began in Jesus is carried on by those who follow him – Lk 6:40 – his disciples
And within that imitation or extension there is an escalation – a crescendo - to the kingdom - John 14:12.
What is the church who follows Jesus to be about during these last days?
We return to Lk 4 – Appeal for the marginalised in our world now, in our neighbourhoods, is a crucial element of Jesus’ Kingdom.
The risk with this focus is that it may diminish the gospel to works of social justice.
These works are important! [James 2:14-26, Eph 2:10]
The other important side of God’s kingdom recognises God on the throne – personally & socially.
Occasionally with a focus on social justice, inclusion and tolerance we lose a sense of the severity of sin and forego personal discipleship.
The end days are now. Get busy.
The end of all things – the coming judgment of humanity and final battle over the presumptive human and demonic rule.
Whilst some people see Revelation detailing events to come others see Revelation as the description of a spiritual victory available for Christians here and now; a message of encouragement during your persecutions. Even if persecution ends in death God will avenge you and you will be welcomed into his home. John, the author, writes to Christians suffering under the rule of evil emperors and this message continues to be relevant to a church suffering today.
In support of this latter view there are details of Revelation that seem to refer specifically to Roman oppression prevalent at the time of writing.
Rev 9:1-11 locust thingy example
Others see Revelation and eschatology as something yet to really begin.
At the heart of this futurist eschatology is a 7-year period called the tribulation. The second half is known as the Great Tribulation
Rev 7:14, Rev 11:2, Dan 7:25, Dan 9:26, Dan 12:7 – Great Persecution, Matt 24:1-31
Futurist eschatology then focusses on events yet to occur.
The consequence of this desire to avoid judgment coupled with not knowing when it will occur [Matt 24:36, 1 Thess 5:2] results in a focus on personal salvation now and evangelism that offers that same salvation to others.
3 important factors squarely rooted in Revelation that distinguish futurist eschatology;
1. Rev 1:3 = take this seriously.
2. Rev 1:4 ‘Was, is, is to come’ occurs throughout Revelation. As a model it promotes a futurist/dispensationalist understanding.
3. Rev 1:7 – this is the heart of futurist eschatology; the Parousia; the return of Jesus; specifically, here, in judgment.
Symbolism- Apocalyptic language
Understanding the genre is an important key to interpreting it well.
The symbolic language gives us clues on interpretation.
a. those who pierced him = Jewish reference.
There is heavy Jewish symbolism throughout Revelation – most agree that it can be seen as a code that Jews would understand but Romans, looking to persecute early Jewish/Christian believers, would not.
This avoidance of Roman persecution indicates an immediate relevance to the situation of persecuted believers living under Roman oppression.
b. “Tribes of the earth” vs Citizens of Heaven Philippians 3:20.
Reiterates the consistent biblical description of the way of the righteous compared to the way of the wicked. Just as the wicked seem to have thoroughly dominated the earth, Jesus returns and installs a mighty reversal of fortune for all. The righteous will inherit their reward and ultimate justice will be meted out.
Sometimes our language struggles to describe spiritual events in human terms.
E.g. Rev 1:13-18 Symbolic representation of Jesus.
Apocryphal language appears throughout OT, Dan 7:13.
It is reasonable to take Revelation seriously rather than literally.
Uncontested message of Revelation = Jesus’ Ultimate Victory
Further important details to be taken from Revelation:
· Hope in persecution/suffering
o Cry of the martyrs – our suffering is observed and not ignored.
o Satan’s judgment
· God is in control
· Justice will be met
o Rom 12:19
That it radicalises people:
· Fear and anxiety becomes motivation for sharing gospel
· Forms a pious privatised faith
· Validating secular claims against religious doctrine + practice –
o Christians as ‘holier than thou’ judges of all people.
o Temptation to describe people in terms of wicked and righteous according to our understanding of those terms.
Summary:This end is coming, be prepared.
In terms of relating theology to the public square –
“Theologians have wrestled with the problem of the privatisation of Christian Faith and a rejection of the dualism which sees God primarily concerned with the spiritual dimension of humankind, with rescuing souls for heaven rather than bringing history to its climax with the new heaven and new earth…It is important that it is doing this at a time when significant sections of the Christian Church are being captured by end times thinking, promoting the view that not being ‘left behind’ on earth…matters more than working on environmental or social justice.”
Andrew Bradstock, 2012
Or a resignation to fatalism which renders them inert
“There are people who regard it as frivolous, as some Christians think it impious for anyone to hope and prepare for a better earthly future. They think that the meaning of present events is chaos, disorder, and catastrophe; and in resignation or pious escapism they surrender all responsibility for reconstruction and for future generations. It may be that the day of judgment will dawn tomorrow; in that case, we shall gladly stop working for a better future, but not before.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison (London: SCM Press, 1971), pp.15-16.
John Oliver on Televangelists: “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y1xJAVZxXg”
WARNING – this is a secular investigation and contains coarse language and prejudicial comments. The great question is why isn’t the church more outspoken in criticism of the practice of exploitive televangelists?
Over-realised Eschatology claims that all has been won by Christ and is now available for us to enjoy
Those who affirm it all too often render “life in abundance” [John 10:10] as the accumulation of happiness and wealth.
Prosperity doctrine stems from this school of thought.
It is not specifically a new problem as Luther distinguishes between Theology of Glory vs. Theology of the Cross but it is certainly prolific in certain sectors today.
“So evidently the Corinthians had what some of the interpreters have called an over-realized eschatology. They not only looked to the future and looked to the present, but the present is so significant for them that they have already begun to reign. They’re in the millennial kingdom right now…. Already they are full. And so the idea of the kingdom was a place…in which men would have the things that they lacked. They would have all the food, all the pleasure, all the luxuries, and they are in that kingdom before we are. This is really an over-realized eschatology. They thought they were in the [fulfilled] kingdom already.” S. Lewis Johnson.
Ramifications on personal faith – it becomes about how it feels and what I’m receiving as a measure of faithfulness.
If all sin is conquered, then what does it mean when I encounter it in my life?
God is small or my faith is small.
Summary:It’s all ready for you. Sign up to get your share.
What is it that you are hoping for in these last days?
Parousia – the return of the Lord Jesus Christ
To wipe away all tears – Rev 21:4
To welcome us into our new home – Rev 3:5, Matthew 25:23
To be with us forever
Maranatha – Oh Lord, come