INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF ESCHATOLOGY
The doctrine of the end times is not a subject that has been given the
amount of study that some of the other sections of theology have been given.
The doctrine of Christology, for example went through many hashings
and rehashings over the first few centuries, and we still aren't completely
done. We haven't changed anything major in many years, yet sharpen the
doctrine a bit from time to time.
Eschatology has not undergone that process. In recent years many have
been doing some study, and many positions have been drawn. These positions
are being redefined and revamped all the time. There are new positions
coming along from time to time, because some have found systems that have
a better basis than some of the old thoughts.
Eschatology has been viewed as an extension of Soteriology at times.
It is the final step in the overall program of salvation.
Others have just tacked it on to the end of their theology, because
they know it needs covering, yet they don't know where to put it. In recent
times it has become a section of theology by itself.
Erickson mentions some possible reasons for the rise in interest in
eschatology in recent times. I have adapted and added to his thoughts in
case his volume is not available to you. (Erickson, Millard J., "CHRISTIAN
THEOLOGY"; Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985, P 1149ff)
1. The other divisions of theology are fairly well set, and the area
of end times is fairly open to new study and development.
2. The entire western world is interested in the future. Corporations
are into futurism studies and predications so they can plan and market
accordingly. Their continued existence is based on knowing what to do in
the future. Indeed churches are realizing that they should be doing this
so they can minister adequately in the future. The interest in the future
will naturally create an interest in the far future. Many unsaved people
have read Lindsay's books on the future just because they were interested
in the future.
3. In the non-western world there is gloom and doom and nothing to look
forward to in this life, thus many are interested in what the future may
hold. There is a hope that things will become better. The third world church,
is interested in the future times to know what is about to happen. It is
a growing church and for the most part the end times information is new
to them and their people.
4. The Socialism and Communism of our own day that predicts a take over
of the world by their system of government may have been part of the reason
for American interest in end times studies. This reason may be a historic
reason soon with the seeming decline in Communism.
5. The threat of nuclear extinction, of winter scenarios, etc., that
see the earth being destroyed by man, would naturally move some to look
into the end times teachings of the Word.
6. Pastors want answers to the questions that their people are bringing to them. The alarmists that they read and see on the television are creating doubt and questions in the minds of
There are all varieties of interest in end times. Some people are real
nuts and give all their efforts over to this study, while others could
care less about the subject.
I had an employer that was a Lutheran. He asked me one day about the
millennium and when it would be. I explained to him what I believed and
gave him some charts. I warned him that I was sure his church would not
teach this and that he might want to talk with his pastor about it. He
asked his pastor one evening about what he thought about the millennium.
His pastor replied, "We're all going to be dead and gone anyway, so why
worry about it!" That was the total information that he had to share.
Somewhere we must find some middle ground to live on. We need to know
what is coming and how it affects our lives, but there are many other things
in Scripture that we also need to know.
Erickson also mentions in his book that he knows of college and seminary
professors that conveniently never get to the prophetic books in survey
classes, and others that teach theology that never get to section on eschatology.
This is sad, for there is a lot of information in the Word that is prophetic
and yet unfulfilled. It is information that we should be dealing with.
I will warn you up front that some schools are not teaching any school
of thought. They give you all the ideas and allow you to sort through the
information Many years ago in a sermon one of the prominent Bible college
presidents made the comment that he made it a habit to ask any graduate
he meets, where they stand eschatologically. He stated that very few from
one of our leading seminaries know where they stand. They can give you
a run down on all positions, but they have not settled on anything in particular.
We will see that the different views of eschatology will generally vary
in certain directions.
1. There are some that see the prophetic information as present and
others see it as future.
The amillennialist and postmillennialist see things as going on at this
time rather than in the future as the premillennialist views it.
2. There is either an optimistic view or pessimistic view of the years
to come. The amillennialist and post millennialist see the future as getting
brighter and brighter till all is completed. On the other hand the premillennialist
sees the future as becoming worse and worse till the Lord comes.
3. The end of things will either come from man, his becoming better
and better, and his bringing about all good on earth, or as the premillennialist
states, God will bring all things to pass in His own time.
4. The Old Testament promises are in the process of being
fulfilled or, as the premillennialist sees it, they are yet future and
will only come to pass in the end time.
5. Is it the church that will finally be uplifted and honored in the
end, or is Israel going to be the focus of the end time activities? The
premillennialist sees Israel being the only focus of the end times while
others view it as God working with the church through to the end.
A chart should help to visualize these differences.
TOPIC PREMILLENNIALIST AMILLENNIALIST -------------------------------------------------------------------- PROPHETIC TEXTS FUTURE TIME PRESENT TIME VIEW OF COMING YEARS PESSIMISTIC OPTIMISTIC ULTIMATE GOOD FROM GOD MAN'S EFFORTS PROPHETIC PROMISES YET FUTURE FULFILLED NOW ULTIMATE PROPHETIC ISRAEL LIFTED UP CHURCH LIFTED UP RESULT
There has been over the years some changes of thinking concerning the
end times. If you are interested in further study concerning liberal thought
you might try Erickson p 1154 ff. He gives some of their thinking.
With this introduction we need to move on into our study. We will look
briefly into the purpose of Christ's first coming.
In Mark's gospel he recorded the Lord's words, "...The time is fulfilled,
and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe the gospel." Mark
Christ told his listener two things in this verse that are closely related,
indeed the two are inseparable. First of all He mentioned that a time had
been fulfilled, which He states is the reason the kingdom of God is at
hand. The kingdom is on their doorstep and it is because a period of time
has been fulfilled.
Just what time was the Lord speaking of? In Daniel nine there is a text
that we want to introduce to you. We won't go into great detail because
others have covered this topic many times in good detail.
Daniel in 9:24-17 mentions some prophetic information which Christ used
in Mark 1:15. Let us take a look at Daniel.
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city,
to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation
for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up
the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
"Know, therefore, and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment
to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah, the Prince, shall be
seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks; the street shall be built again,
and the wall, even in troublous times.
"And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not
for himself; and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy
the city and the sanctuary, and the end of it shall be with a flood, and
unto the end of the war desolations are determined."
We want to notice some items in this passage.
The portion that states, "going forth of the commandment to restore
and to build Jerusalem...." relates to the edict of Ezra 1 which allowed
the return of Jews to Jerusalem. They returned specifically to begin the
rebuilding of the city. This was in 445 B.C. (SEE NOTE AT THE END OF THE
The statement, "the street shall be built again, and the wall" relates
to the fact that the construction was completed. This event is recorded
in Neh. 6:15 and 12:27 This completes one week of prophetic time which
is seven years.
Another period of time is mentioned when Daniel records, "And after
threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off" which speaks of Christ
being crucified. The threescore and two weeks works out to be the exact
amount of time between the completion of the walls and the time when Christ
speaks of the Jews "day" (Lu 19:42) on the occasion of His weeping over
Jerusalem. He has entered Jerusalem on the donkey knowing that the nation
has rejected Him, His message, and His salvation. Within hours of this
time He tells the disciples that it is time for Him to be crucified.
Dr. Pentacost in "THINGS TO COME" works through this timing in detail
if you care to do further study on the subject.
The time is fulfilled - the kingdom is at hand - "If thou hadst known,
even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!"
(Lu 19:42) Christ knew that He was fulfilling Daniel nine, but He also
knew that His people had rejected Him - their day had come and gone without
their reacting properly.
The point of all this is to show that Christ was offering the Old Testament
kingdom to the Jews at that time, but because of their rejection He did
not set it up. Indeed there is one week of prophetic time left in Daniel
nine that we will see later is the seven year tribulation when the Jews
DO turn to their God and the Millennium then is set up for the Jewish people
at the end of the tribulation.
There are other phrases in Daniel nine that are of importance also.
"bring in everlasting righteousness" - Look at Matt. 3:15; "to anoint the
most Holy" - Look at Matt. 3:16.
All was set to continue on with the last week of Daniel's prophecy,
but things were placed on hold for a time. This created the Church Age
in which we are now living in. I would like to repeat what you have read
before, that this was not a surprise party for God - He had all of this
planned out in advance.
A pastor in Denver pointed out a problem in what is said in this file.
I state in this file, "....relates to the edict of Ezra 1 which allowed
the return of Jews to Jerusalem. They returned specifically to begin the
rebuilding of the city. This was 445 B.C."
Technically this is incorrect. The Ezra 1 edict is not 455 B.C., but
rather 538 B.C. The 455 date is the correct date for the beginning of the
prophetic weeks of Daniel, but the edict should not have been the Ezra
1 edict. SORRY!
Some info to clarify the chronology of this topic:
This is a compilation of several sources.
FIRST RETURN under Zerubbabel (have seen 536 BC also)
One author shows a return in 538 and Zerub. leaving in 537.
Ezra 1.14; 6.3-5; II Chron 36.22-23
Temple completed. Ezra 6.16
SECOND RETURN under Ezra. Ezra 7-10. (I've seen 459 on this as well.)
THIRD RETURN UNDER Nehemiah. Neh 1-13.
Dr. Prewitt suggests the following dates for the kings of this era:
521 BC Darius I
486 BC Xerxes I
465 BC Artaxerxes I
425 BC Xerxes II (some list this man as 424-423)
425 BC Sogdianuus
405 BC Artaxerxes II
359 BC Artaxerxes III
338 BC Arses
336 BC Darius III
MISC INFO GATHERED FROM READING:
Walvoord in DANIEL THE KEY TO PROPHETIC REVELATION suggests four decrees.
1. Cyrus for the building of the temple/II Chron. 36.22-23; Ezra 1.1-4
2. Darius confirmed Cyrus decree/Ezra 6.6-12 (Leupold suggests 517 BC)
3.Artaxerxes/Ezra 7.11-26 (Leupold suggests 458 BC)
4. Artaxerxes for the city/Neh 2.1-8 (Leupold suggests 445 BC)
Leupold in EXPOSITION OF DANIEL held that Cyrus had the city in mind
when he set his decree. The temple was the focal point of the decree, but
that the city was assumed as part of the temple project. (The number of
people involved would have required the building of many houses for people
to live in while the temple was built.
"decree of Cyrus mentions the temple and implies the city; the passage
in Daniel mentions the city and implies the eternal temple." (P 419)
He agrees with the 538 BC year for the decree of Cyrus.
He suggests that the final command recorded in Neh. 2.7-8 is just a
lumber order, so to speak, to fulfill the work that had been in progress
Pentecost in THINGS TO COME p 244 mentions, "When we turn to the decree
of Artaxerxes, made in his twentieth year, recorded in Nehemiah 2:1-8,
for the first time is permission granted to rebuild the city of Jerusalem.
This then becomes the beginning of the prophetic time appointed by God
in this prophecy." This is in the context of stating that none of the other
decrees specify the city to be rebuilt.
He mentions that from secular history we can date this as the month
of Nisan BC 445. He also shows with comments from Sir Robert Anderson in
THE COMING PRINCE that the 483 years fits perfectly with the triumphal
entry of the Lord into Jerusalem to proclaim His Messiahship. (p 246)
To recap. I goofed, I was wrong, I was not correct. Actually, I included
this mistake on purpose so that I could one day prove that I am not perfect.
Thanks for pointing out my problem Dave!