In the Greek language, the word eschatos means “last.” Hence the theological field known as “eschatology” refers to the study of last things, or the study of the end of time. Now there are many theological issues that create debate, but there is no bigger debate than when it comes to eschatology.
As a Christian, a minister, a seminary graduate, and a PhD student, I am obviously interested in eschatology and am always trying to develop my own scriptural understanding of how things will play out at the end of time. Common questions I often ask myself include the following:
- When will the rapture take place? Before, during, or after the tribulation?
- How long will the tribulation last? Will it be a literal seven years, or will it be longer? Could we possibly already be in the tribulation?
- What about the millennium (1,000 years)? Will it be a literal 1,000 years? Have those years began yet, or are they still in the future?
- What exactly does the book of Revelation convey to us about these end-time events?
One of the elective courses I signed up for at Criswell College as a part of my Master’s degree was called “Theology Intensive: Eschatology.” The four textbooks for the course were the following: “Three Views on the Rapture” (Blaising, Hultberg, and Moo; Zondervan 2010), “The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views” (Boettner, Hoekema, Hoyt, and Ladd; IVP 1977), “Four Views on Hell” (Crockett, Hayes, Pinnock, and Walvoord; Zondervan 1996), and “Four Views on the Book of Revelation” (Gentry, Hamstra, Pate, and Thomas; Zondervan 1998). You see, there isn’t just one view on any of these eschatological topics. Brilliant scholars, individuals who have devoted their lives to studying the Scriptures, cannot agree when it comes to these things. So why should we, pastors, Christians, and church members, believe that we have it all figured out?
In Part 1 of this blog series called “Eschatological Confusion” I want to lay out for you four major issues, the issues discussed in each of the four books named above. Then, in the following weeks, we will delve further into each of the issues.
Interestingly enough, the word “rapture” is never used in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the word has been used for many years to describe the event Paul discusses in 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air…”
The major issue when it comes to the rapture is not if it will occur, but rather when it will occur. Will believers be raptured before the tribulation, halfway through the tribulation, or not until after the tribulation?
The “Millennium” is the name given to the 1,000 year span of time mentioned in Revelation 20:4-6. John the Revelator twice mentions that some will reign with the Messiah “for 1,000 years.”
The major issue concerning the millennium is two-fold: (1) Will this be a literal 1,000 year period, and (2) If so, when will it begin?
What’s so confusing about hell? Isn’t it a fiery place where people will be separated from God for eternity? That’s what the Bible seems to say, but of course, not everyone can agree on that.
There are many debated issues when it comes to hell, including:
- A literal vs. a figurative place
- An eternal vs. a temporary place (annihilation)
- A place of separation/punishment vs. a place of the dead (purgatory)
The Book of Revelation
Jesus, Paul, and others all discussed eschatological issues in their teachings and letters, but when it comes to this topic, Revelation gets the most attention. Because of the nature and subject of the book, there should be no surprise that interpretations vary.
Have all of the events prophesied in Revelation already been fulfilled? Have some been fulfilled? Have none been fulfilled?
What do all of the symbols and numbers mean? Do they stand for specific figures in history?
Will all of the events eventually come to pass? If so, when will this be?
As you can tell, the issues are many, and the answers aren’t simple. Please join me on this journey into eschatology and see what we can learn. My prayer is that we will be challenged and changed by it all!
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9 thoughts on “Eschatological Confusion”
I love eschatology! We’re not meant to know it all yet (the whole seeing in part thing in Corinthians) …I’m currently working on a piece about Revelations for my blog, I’ll let you know when it’s up I’d like to know what you think ☺ great post, thanks for sharing
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Reblogged this on RG's 2 Cents Studios.
Interesting insight about eschatos. Thanks a milli. I’ve seen people lose friends over tribulation issues so tread carefully. interpretation is a sticky business. we try to let one scripture interpret another whenever possible. God bless you heaps. Thanks for launching yourself on this journey. I for one shall enjoy the ride thoroughly 😉
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A very well written opening summary for this subject! Looking forward to a refresher course through your blogs. Blessings to you on your efforts!
Haden, Thanks for following my blog.
There are many points of view in human understanding, but only one for Bible and Spirit understanding. Most eschatologists are so enamored with their own understanding that they block what the Spirit of YHVH (YaHavah) wants them to know about his truth. An excellent student of the Bible will set aside every denominational doctrine. It’s not easy but very rewarding.
There is a quote that fits “disagreement” situation very well. “There are two kinds of fools: those who can’t change their opinions and those who won’t.” Josh Billings
I give you and your readers a puzzle to consider about the millennium.
1. The millennium is part of the Law and prophecy.
2. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and prophecy.
3. The Law and prophecy will not be finished until the White Throne Judgment.
4. There are only seven years left of Daniel’s seventy sevens of years until the White Throne Judgment.
All of these things being true, where does that put the millennium?
Now consider this.
2 Peter 3:8-10 8—But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day [is], with our Adoni, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9—Adonai is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is patient toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10—But the day of our Adoni will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
One thousand years! Where does it fit in the last seven years? Put verse 8 “one day [is], with our Adoni, as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” with verse 10 “in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” as YaHavah’s wrath. Put this together with the first resurrection at the sound of the seventh trumpet of seal seven on the scroll of Revelation. Many things happen at the sound of the seventh trumpet. I know “pretrib rapture” people may not be able to see this, but the seventh day of Daniel’s last seven days (years) will be 1,000 years long during the seventh year. Then the White Throne Judgment and all Law and prophecy will be finished.
Thanks for following but I assure you that you won’t see much on mine that will compare with yours. I am glad you started this journey on “last days” issues and I look forward to looking through your posts
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