What is Eschatology?
The Study of the End Times
The word “eschatology” literally means “the study of last things.”
Two Doctrines in One
The doctrine of eschatology is really two doctrines unified by a chronological theme. Sometimes, when Christians talk about eschatology, they talk about personal eschatology. Personal eschatology is the study of God’s final judgments and the eternal state, heaven and hell. At other times, Christians use the term eschatology to describe Bible prophecy. Prophetic eschatology is the study of the second coming of Christ and the various events related to His return (the signs of His coming, the Rapture, Great Tribulation, and the kingdom).
Some Christians seek to minimize the study of eschatology. They see the many abuses of this doctrine by those who have strayed from the truth of Scripture and are concerned that others do not do the same. These abuses include date-setting, making controversy over minor points, ignoring the future, getting caught up in details and forgetting Christ. Other people recall controversy in a church over some relatively minor prophetic teaching and equate the study of Bible prophecy with divisiveness. But about forty percent of the Bible was prophetic when it was written, therefore, the student of the Bible must study prophecy or neglect a vast part of the Scriptures.
It is important to avoid the abuses of this doctrine. This can best be accomplished by an understanding of what the Bible teaches.
As is the case with other doctrines, some Christians have minor differences of opinion concerning some of the more exact details of the interpretation of prophecy. But there are two areas in which all evangelical Christians agree concerning the return of Christ. The first is the certainty that He will in fact return. This is the basis for our hope as Christians. The second is that He may return at any moment, perhaps before you complete reading this chapter. This is the basis for our motivation in Christian service.
When we study Bible prophecy, we should not study the Scriptures exclusively to learn details and arrange prophetic charts. A correct understanding of prophetic truth will impact the way we live our lives.
- First, prophetic truth motivates us to develop Christian character. Prophetic truth is taught in Scripture as an incentive to godliness (Titus 2:12-13), holiness (2 Peter 3:11), joyfulness (1 Peter 1:8), patience (James 5:8), purity (1 John 3:3), faith (John 14:1-3), sobriety (1 Peter 1:13), moderation (Phil. 4:5), sincerity (Phil. 1:9-11), faithfulness (Rev. 2:25; 3:11), discernment (1 Cor. 4:5), accountability (Matt. 25:19), and righteousness (Titus 2:12).
- Second, prophetic truth motivates us in our Christian life. Prophetic truth is taught in Scripture as an incentive to obedience (1 Tim. 6:13-14), repentance (Rev. 3:3), watchfulness (1 Thess. 5:6), abiding in Christ (1 John 2:28), brotherly love (1 Thess. 3:12), discipleship (Luke 9:26), readiness (1 Peter 1:13), mortification of the flesh (Col. 3:4-5), personal separation (1 Thess. 5:22- 23), bearing persecution (1 Peter 4:13), enduring the trial of faith (1 Peter 1:7), every good work (2 Thess. 2:12), and faithful church attendance (Heb. 10:35).
- Third, prophetic truth also motivates us to become involved in Christian service. This truth is described in Scripture as an incentive to preaching (2 Thess. 4:1-2), shepherding (1 Peter 5:2-4), comforting one another (1 Thess. 4:18), teaching (Matt. 28:20), and evangelism (1 Thess. 2:19-20).