Eschatology: a branch of theology concerned with the final events in the history of the world or of humankind. Merriam Webster Dictionary
Eschatology can be a touchy subject these days. Those who endeavor to understand it soon find themselves traversing a theological gauntlet. Today some sects and denominations reject those who do not adhere to their end-times doctrine. Add to that the multitude of failed end-time prophecies, in the 1970s and 80s and it’s no wonder that eschatology has become a proverbial hot potato that many pastors simply avoid. Still, if we adhere to the basic tenants of Christianity rooted in an eternal perspective, we will always begin with the end in mind.
Our view of the end drives how we live in the present.
Most people automatically think of the book of Revelation anytime the end times are mentioned. Yet it is a huge mistake to begin there. None of the New Testament existed when Jesus gave His near bullet-pointed eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives in Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Even so, given that we are studying the Book of Ephesians it may be worthy to note that Ephesus is the first Church to be addressed in the Book of Revelation.
But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Rev 2:4-5
Given the current and emerging state of Polycrisis in today’s world, more and more people are concerned about eschatology. That’s not a bad thing. The sheer number of unbelieving friends and family that suddenly wanted to know about the end times when COVID lockdowns went into effect made us realize that sometimes “eschatology drives discipleship”.
Still, there is a multitude of eschatological views and variations of those views regarding when and how the end times play out. Add to that the differing views regarding when a “Rapture” Harpazo takes place and you’ve got seeds of even more division. We think Jesus is super clear in Mat 24:29-31. Even so, we will be thrilled if we are wrong and receive early cloud tickets home.
Confusion arises when people trust their preferred eschatological experts without testing 1 Thess 5:20-21 or searching scripture to see if it is true. Acts 17:11 Reading books and listening to sermons about scripture instead of studying scripture itself is unacceptable 2 Tim 2:15. At the end of the day, eschatology should be studied like any other topic in the Bible. That means as literally as possible in the original textual, grammatical, and cultural context.
A common problem among those most interested in eschatology is viewing scripture through a lens of current events. The tendency is to focus on topics like the Mark of the Beast Rev 13 as people try to predict the identity of the antichrist and the trajectory of humanity toward the greatest tribulation. Dan 12 Mat 24:21 Rev 13 An unintended result is that the plans of the enemy may trump (pun intended) the return of Jesus as every disease, conflict, disaster, and member of the political and financial elite is falsely correlated with scripture.
This approach becomes most problematic when the resulting eschatological views become dogmatic. That’s what happened with people such as Hal Lindsey in the 70s and 80s. In the end, the multitude of false end times prophecies made Christians everywhere look like children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Eph 4:14 They also helped to validate things like New Atheism as those not firmly rooted and grounded in God’s Word continued to destroy the Christian witness with bad exegesis.
Hence not only can eschatology drive discipleship. Eschatology can also drive heresy.
We’ve studied it in depth and still only scratched the surface. If you still insist on studying eschatology; great. But let us do it soberly and well. 1 Thess 5:6 “Sober” is nḗphō to be calm and collected in spirit, temperate, dispassionate, circumspect.
Our Hope in Two Parts
The Gospel message is two-fold. First, we have the fulfilled Gospel of Salvation whereby Jesus conquered sin and death and made a way for all people to be reconciled to the Father. Eph 2:8-10 Where people previously relied on a high priest to enter the Holy of Holies on their behalf Heb 9:7, Jesus tore the veil that separated us from God. Mat 27:51 Today we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace…on our own. Heb 4:16 This is the meaning of “It is finished”. The second part is eschatological, the Gospel of the Kingdom which is yet to be fulfilled. Rev 21-22 Together these define the Aramaic word
Maranatha. 1 Cor 16:22
Jesus has come. Jesus is coming.
If we view the world and its events through the lens of scripture then we remain mindful that Judgement comes first to the house of God. 1 Pet 4:17 Our first concern should be the status of the body of Christ, not the anti-Christ. Psalm 139:23-24, 1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:13, Heb 12
Any correct view of eschatology prioritizes the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan for His bride without spot or wrinkle Eph 5:27. The endgame for the end of days is the full acquisition of our inheritance for which Holy Spirit deposited in every believer is
“an earnest” – arrhabṓn – a down payment. Eph 1:13-14
That’s not to make light of the gift of Holy Spirit but a call to be mindful of how much more is to come. This is the correct approach to eschatology. We must keep in mind that our inheritance will only be realized by individuals existing as part of a unified bride, not individual Gnostic Christians, prepping for battle with returning Nephilim and the antichrist. Regardless of how we imagine the end times, if we study eschatology as Jesus taught it we will see an emphasis on a call to endurance and faithfulness. Rom 5:3-5, Mat 24:13, Rev 12:11, Rev 13:10 Jesus framed endurance in the context of childbirth. Mat 24:8 Faithfulness carried to fruition looks like All attaining to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ… Eph 4:13 Incidentally “manhood” does not refer to the masculinity of individual men any more than the spotless bride refers to individual women. Both are allegorical references to the body of Christ unified in Him. Eph 2:15-17
It’s no accident that Paul concludes Ephesians 5 with the image of marriage between a husband and a wife. The one new man and unity of the faith is represented in ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. Gen 2:24, Mark 10:7-8 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. Eph 5:32-33 It follows that the state of our marriages in the church reflects the state of the church and visa versa. Hence, our eschatology should be more focused on spot and wrinkle removal, unity in the faith, and maturity than on wars and rumors of wars over which Jesus said we should not be alarmed. Mat 24:6 I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Cor 11:1-3
The potential consequences of rejecting this essential foundation of eschatology are profound.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” Mat 22:11-14
The benefits of embracing it are beyond comprehension.
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” Rev 19:6-9
Our view of the end drives how we live in the present.