Eschatology is the theology concerned with the final events of history – the end of the world.
I started a series on eschatology with this thought I am about to present in greater detail but I’d like to make greater clarification of it, as (from my perspective) it does not seem to be the standard developed norm. Also because we have entered a time in history that eschatological concerns are less about the future, and more about the contemporary. As Hebrews 10:25 says, we are to continue ‘…exhorting one another: and so much the more AS YE SEE THE DAY APPROACHING.’
The nearer we get to the end, the more we ought to exhort one another unto the Gospel (not to eschatology per se, but to the Gospel (see v.22-27 for context on that)). Mainline Evangelical Christianity (a group which I consider myself to be a part of) typically seperates eschatology from day-to-day practical theology. To a large degree this is because we recognise that we don’t really understand the future… and because, frankly, there has been a lot of speculative theology about the future in Christian history which proves time and again to be erroneous. The number of rapture predictions there have been the last century, are not even worth calculating.
In fact, one of the main reasons we seperate eschatology from practical theology is because of the generally accepted view in our day of an event called the ‘rapture.’ With the mainline view of he rapture, typically an ‘escapist’ perspective develops – that is, we develop the sense that since we will all be gone, we need not concern ourselves too greatly about world events that we don’t plan to be present for.
There is an enormous disconnect between our view of the impractical future, and the simple Gospel theology that can be practically applied to our lives now: basic Gospel teaching. Dare I insinuate that as long as our perspective of eschatology is detatched from basic Gospel theology, it will always be wrong? The Gospel, and the principals thereof provide the wholesome grounding of doctrine, and they are sufficient to educate us in what we need to be prepared for the future… even unto the end of the age (Matt 8:28).
Even as God spoke through Isaiah:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: (Is 46:9-10)
And as I have earlier pointed out, the bible says that we should exhort one another even ‘SO MUCH THE MORE’ as we see the day approaching. The principal of this thought is astounding: what about when the day is so near, the end of the world has become present-tense reality, rather than disconnected future eschatology? Bear the melding of thought I am putting forth here, as I lay it out into plain statements:
1) Our beliefs about eschatology are not valid if they are not grounded in basic, practical Gospel Truth. Gospel Truth is eternal (Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever. (Heb 13:8)), it is True now, and will be True when the Lord returns. When Paul warned Timothy of the deceptions of the last days in 2 Timothy 3, his practical advice for Timothy is this: ‘But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; and that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.’ (v. 14 & 15). (In fact, the belief that the Gospel may change before the end is a great last days deception.)
2) What was once considered eschatology is quickly changing into present day reality. The gap between our practical theology, and the events of eschatology is quickly diminishing. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. (Rom 13:11 & 12)
In one New Testament book whose primary content focus is devoted to eschatology (called ‘The Revelation’, or ‘The Appacalypse’ (Greek)), we are exhorted to pay close attention to (specifically to ‘read,’ ‘hear,’ and ‘keep’) the prophecies and doctrines therein (Rev 1:3); in the same admonishment we are also given the reason WHY we are to so surely heed it: ‘…for the time is at hand.’
Now, considering that thought: ‘the time is at hand’ as a universal Truth of scripture should begin to remove in us any distancing of standard practical Gospel theology from our view of eschatology. Frankly, one of the reasons for NOT removing our distancing view is found in one of he Apostle Peter’s warnings about the last days:
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the begining of creation. (2 Peter 3:3-4).
If you grew up in a similar church-background as I did, you probably decided years ago not to muck with the mysterious prophecies of the latter days. Too many enthusiastic teachers with bizarre interpretations have disillusioned us; as I mentioned, the rapture predictions, alone, could do that – but adding insult to injury is myriads of hours of speculative theology on the imageries, symbolisms and types found in the prophetic books.
Our speculative theology amounts to little more than devising interesting fables (1 Tim 1:4). Where is the Gospel to be found in the twisting around of a scripture to read modern technology into prophetic symbolism? That is façade-ing (yup, just made it a verb – hey, Adam got to name animal, who says I can’t make up words ;)) an interpretation onto the Word of God – but the Word of God is with power (Luke 4:32)! Those verses onto which many have read meanings are pregnant with spiritual Truth! God’s Word is replete with life and meaning; only in finding the revelation of them will we gain True insight (not by watching the news, and reading world events onto the text).
The central problem with the way that we have interpreted the latter-day events stems directly from our disassociation of the latter-days from the basic principals of the Gospel. The truths of sound Gospel-doctrine will burgeon into practical understanding of last days events as we see the day approaching; only from the standpoint of right biblical doctrine can the harder proohetic passages be interpreted. When we go for the heady rather than allowing the Gospel to teach us how to understand, we will be contriving fables, rather than rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
2 Tim 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
I think that much of our developed eschatology (just frankly) are little more than developed fables (not all). And it matters not how outlandish they seem because they are distant, inapplicable future. From my observation, the driving force behind the adamancy of the pre-trib rapture proponents is the fear of the tribulation. People seek teachers of it because that’s what they want to hear. Itching ears?
Not to beleager the point, let me give you just one example of an eschatological fable which I have encountered (and is a rapidly growing belief): the return of the Nephilim. I read a long article some time back by a man renown as a prophet who was literally teaching that the end will not come until the human race was all but entirely corrupted by (get this): ‘DEMONIC DNA.’ Let me point out for the record that demons are spirits, and have no DNA; a spirit cannot have DNA, DNA is strictly flesh. According to jesus the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). According to right doctrine regarding spiritual warfare: ‘We wrestle not against FLESH AND BLOOD…’ sorry, no ‘demonic DNA’ in the future – we will be able to rely on the Truth of Paul’s epistles during the tribulation – ‘…BUT against principalities, and powers , against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’
Further, according to Jesus’ implication, angels neither marry nor are given in marriage (Matt 22:30; Mark 12:15), He never once gives warning in the New Testament of angel-human half-breeds. Don’t you suppose that the rammifications of angelic cross-breeding in the last days are significant enough that Jesus would have warned about it? Instead most of the last days prophecies just warn against people turning from the evident Truth of the Gospel to deceptions and fables. Coincidence? Nope. (Little secret: these are some of the last days deceptions begining to sprout in the church; they will lead to greater error. (The worst deception of the end (which is also growing rapidly #hebrewrootsmovement) is warned against ceaselessly by Paul, who verifies that returning to the Old Covenant Law is one deception that will veritably cause us to lose our salvation (Gal 5:4); this is intrinsic in the Gospel (study Galatians & Hebrews). Paul called returning to the law ‘turning to another gospel’ (Gal 1:6-9), and he had to address it because the Pharisees of his day were doing just as the Pharisees are doing in our day. See also post linked here & above: ‘Does the Old Covenant Come Back?’‘))
Now to any who have never heard this ‘nephelim’ end-time theology, I’m pretty sure it will sound like a ridiculous fable. But to any who have been taught it, my brief refutation will probably not be sufficient to verifiably illustrate its error to you. We are not enduring sound doctrine, we are turning aside to fables; this is devastating, because the day is approaching, and we don’t really get raptured out of here so if we want to live under God’s direction, we need to develop a love of the Truth (2 Thess 2:10).
But the Revelation, and the other prophetic books are full of practical Gospel doctrine – not just far off sci-fi-esque futurism. Not only so, but they are also not the only books which speak of the end times. The bible is full of eschatology, from the very beginning.
As I’ve discussed in other posts – just for example – the judgment of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden is a prophetic type of the final judgment. There are types not only of Christ, but of antichrist throughout the whole bible and the life of Christ (Cain, Esau, Ishmael, Saul, Herod, etc.).
Two main events of the end times which seem to cause endless confusion, and are perpetually shrouded in mystery – the resurrection of the dead, and the eternal judgment – are called by Paul two of the ‘principal doctrines’ of the faith (Heb 6:1 & 2), which in his [Paul’s] estimation, EVERY CHRISIAN ought to be not only fully versed in, but apt to teach (Heb 5:12-6:2). Yet although the ressurrection of the dead is a principle doctrine, most know very little about it, but how oft we hear teaching on an alternate event called the rapture! If the church was versed in right doctrine, we would know to avoid the error (all the passages that people use to teach the rapture are actually about the resurrection of the dead. (And how do the dead in Christ rise FIRST (1 Thess 4:16) if there is a pre-resurrection rapture of living saints from the earth?)).
My advice to us: Eat butter and honey. (Isaiah 7:14 & 15)