Why Study Eschatology?
Eschatology…means the study of God’s plan for the future.” It is a subject which the Bible begins to discuss in Genesis (such as Genesis 3:15; 12:1-3 and 49:10), and concludes in Revelation. I am indebted to Kenneth Gentry for the following eight points.
1. Eschatology is a large part of the Bible. The Old Testament contains an enormous amount of prophecy: in the major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel), the Minor Prophets (Hosea through to Malachi), the prophecy of Daniel, many of the Psalms, and many other scattered passages throughout the Pentateuch and elsewhere. In the New Testament many of Christ’s parables are eschatological, and two of His major discourses in Matthew are prophecies (the Kingdom parables in Chapter 13 and the Olivet Discourse in Chapters 24 and 25). Two of Paul’s letters are largely focussed on eschatological issues (I and II Thessalonians), I Corinthians 15 deals with the resurrection, and Revelation in its entirety, is prophetic.
2. Eschatology embodies the believer’s “blessed hope” (Tit.2:13). This confidence in the future distinguishes us from the unbeliever when we face death (I Thess.4:13), for it is us who have “hope in Christ” (I Cor.15:18-19).
3. Eschatology is a major foundation stone of the Christian world-view. Christianity presents an outlook on life from creation to consummation. Jesus refers to Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev.21:6). Eschatology has always figured high in Christian doctrine, because the ecumenical creeds (such as the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed) contain significant eschatological components.
4. Israel’s eschatological confusion destroyed her. Despite the Old Testament, they did not recognise Jesus Christ as the fulfilment of prophecy, and thus, “did not receive Him” (Jn.1:11). Israel was judged because she did not recognise the time of her “visitation” (Luke 19:44). Jesus said that His own disciples were “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken” (Luke 24:25).
5. Eschatology is essential for apologetics. Atheistic philosophers such as Bertrand Russell, in misunderstanding Jesus’ eschatological comments, have claimed He was in error. In order to defend the truth, Christians must study and understand it.
6. Eschatology is important for the integrity of the faith, and for confronting error. Naïve people have often been inclined to believe embarrassing, foolish predictions about the end of the world, based on eschatological errors.
7. Eschatology is a factor in our Christian growth. Paul encouraged Timothy that “all scripture [including its eschatological portions] is inspired by God, and profitable…so that the man of God may be adequate for every good work” (II Tim.3:16-17). The truth of God’s Word is a central aspect of our sanctification, so that we “may growth in respect to salvation” (I Pet.2:2).