Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Introduction to Eshchatology

Lecture notes for Thursday, Oct. 20 (Part 1)

Introduction to Eschatology

The Meaning of Eschatology
Eschatology means the study of last things or future events. That study can cover all things that were future at the time of their writing, or it can include only those things which are still future from our present vantage point. It deals with the consummation of all things, both those things which relate to individuals and to the world.

The Scope of Eschatology
The study of last things includes the Biblical teaching concerning the kingdom of God, signs of the times, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the millennium and the eternal state.

The Importance of Eschatology
Because there is much divergence in this area of doctrine, and because some things are not crystal clear, some assume that eschatology should be given a lesser importance than other areas of Biblical truth. Is there any area of doctrine that has not been debated? Think of the Trinity or predestination. Yet we do not, nor should we, shy away from a detailed study of these teachings. Similarly we must not slight what the Bible says about the future. In addition, God expect all believers to study Bible prophecy diligently (Daniel 12:4, 9-10; Revelation 1:1-3; 3:6; 10:11; 22:10).

For the believer, the knowledge of prophecy:
  1. provides joy in the midst of affliction (2 Corinthians 4:17);
  2. cleanses and encourages holy living (1 John 3:3);
  3. is profitable, like all Scripture, for a number of important needs in the Christian's life (2 Timothy 3:16-17);
  4. gives facts about life after death (2 Corinthians 5:8);
  5. gives truth about the end of history;
  6. gives proof of the reliability of all Scripture, for the number of prophecies that have come to pass precisely as predicted cannot be accounted for by chance but only by God; and
  7. draws our hearts out in worship to the God who is in complete control and who will accomplish His will in history. 
Eschatology and History
The Biblical faith sees history as
  1. Purposeful (Isaiah 10:12, 24-27)
  2. Linear (Genesis 1:1)
  3. Theocentric and Christocentric (Colossians 1:15-17)
  4. Centered in the fulfillment of the Abraham-Christ promises (Galatians 3:7-9, 14, 23-29; Matthew 28:18-20)
  5. In the short term, tragic (Revelation 4-19)
  6. In the long term, triumphant (Revelation 20-22)
The Eschatological Flow of Scripture or, the Eschatological Mindset of Scripture
  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Abrahamic covenant
  4. Israel
  5. The David kingdom
  6. The messianic hope
  7. Jesus and the Kingdom
  8. The Cross
  9. The Resurrection
  10. Pentecost
  11. The Church and an age of tribulation
  12. Signs of the coming of the end
  13. Tribulation intensified
  14. Resurrection and “insta-resurrection” (rapture)
  15. Millennium
  16. Final judgment
  17. Hell
  18. New Heaven, New Earth
  19.  Eternal bliss
Source: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/rh/apocalyptic_ladd.pdf (Retrieved Sept. 1, 2011).  From an article by G.E. Ladd, to illustrate the view of Oscar Cullman. 

 Realized Eschatology
Old Testament expectation:
                All these happen more or less simultaneously:
1.       Messiah comes: He goes to Jerusalem, fights on behalf of Israel, and triumphs
2.       Israel is restored and exalted
3.       The Spirit is outpoured
4.       An age of glory and righteousness follows
New Testament “surprise”:
1.       Messiah comes: He proclaims that the Kingdom is “upon you”; He goes to Jerusalem, fights on behalf of all redeemed (on the cross), and triumphs (on the cross and by His resurrection)
2.       In Christ, kingdom expectations explode out beyond and including Israel
3.       The Spirit is outpoured
4.       The overlap era begins: the “already-not yet” of the present age of fulfillment, the Spirit, world missions begins 
Source: http://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/hispre.html (Retrieved September 1, 2011).  Not all details (e.g., temple rebuilt) are agreed on by historic pre-millenialists. 
Source: http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_millennium1.php (Retrieved September 1, 2011).  Not all details (e.g., seven-year tribulation) are agreed on by historic pre-millenialists. 

The Significant of OT Prophecy Fulfilled in the NT
The various books of the Bible were written over a period of some fifteen hundred years. Many of the earlier prophecies were fulfilled before the entire Bible was completed. Their fulfillment is a guarantee that other prophecies, relating to what is still in the future, will similarly be fulfilled.
More than that, these fulfilled prophecies attest to the NT mindset (which should be ours as well): that we live in the era of the eshcaton, the “end”, the hope—the time of Messiah, the Spirit and of glory, in its dawn state.  This has often been called the “already/not yet” perspective of the NT

Already Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecies
  • Virgin birth: Isaiah 7:14 and Matthew 1:22, 23.
  • Messiah from Bethlehem: Micah 5:2 and Matthew 2:3-6.
  • Rejection and sufferings of Messiah: Isaiah 53:3-7.
  • Crucifixion: Psalm 22:1-18.
  • His burial: Isaiah 53:9 and Matthew 27:57-60.
  • His resurrection: Psalm 16:8-10 and Acts 2:25-31; 13:35-37.
  • His ascension: compare Psalm 68:18 and Ephesians 4:8.
Actually, so many Old Testament prophetic utterances were fulfilled in the birth, ministry, death and resurrection of Christ that, even if we had no New Testament, we could reconstruct large portions of the life of Christ on the basis of what the Old Testament prophets foretold (see Luke 24:25-27).

Not Yet Fulfilled Old Testament Prophecies
  • Messiah comes of Mount of Olives to rule and reign: Zechariah 14:1-9; cf. Acts 1:9-12.
  • Messiah reigns: Psalm 2; Isaiah 9:7;
  • Peace under Messiah flourishes: Isaiah 11:4-9; Micah 4:1-5
This is a very short sample of many Messianic hope promises found throughout the OT which have not yet come to pass.

Not Yet Fulfilled New Testament Prophecies
Building on OT Messianic prophecies, many NT predictions await fulfillment.
  • Christ spoke about His second coming to receive believers: John 14:3
  • He also spoke of Anti-Christ and the great tribulation (Matthew 24:15, 21)
  • He spoke about His coming in majesty to the earth (Matthew 24:29-31).
  • Paul: has prophecies about the end times (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11), the return of Christ (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) and the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20-26; 50-53)
  • Book of Revelation: while there are interpretive schools, nearly all agree that at least some of Revelation’s message awaits future fulfillment  

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