Eschatology 101: The Big “E” Word

Throughout this month, Ruth and I will be alternating in our blogs on the topic of Eschatology, which happens to be one of our favorite topics to discuss. This week’s blog is going to be explaining Eschatological Terminology.

So, what exactly is Eschatology? Sometimes the easiest way to understand theology (actually most of the time), is to break down big words. It’s like English class all over again! YAY! The prefix “Escha” means “last things” and the suffix “ology”, of course means the “study of”, so therefore, Eschatology’s definition is “the study of last things”. Eschatology spans from the question of “What happens after I die?” to “What will happen at end times?”   For this series, we will be focusing on the part of Eschatology in regards to the end times.

There are four traditional views of Eschatology: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, Amillennialism and Panmillennialism. So let’s break down some more words so that this is easier to read: millennial is “1,000” in Latin. Why the number 1,000 you say? In Revelation 20, we read about Satan being bound and Christ’s reign on earth to be 1,000 years.

Premillennialism is the belief Christ will return before the 1,000 years.  This view is pessimistic and focuses a lot on the negative things that are going on in the world.  It’s catch phrase is “Be Ready”.  Within Premilliennialism we have two different views: Historical and Dispensationalism. Historical has been defined above. Dispensational (Dispensation means “age”) is the belief that The Bible can be divided up into 7 Dispensations. Dispensationalism is unique in that it is the only belief that includes the concept of a rapture, a beast coming out of the Middle East, a literal 7 year tribulation, discusses a pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib, and mostly, the only view presented when it comes to the Evangelical Church today.

Postmillennialism is the belief that Christ will return after the 1,000 years.  This view is optimistic and focuses a lot on the postive things that are going on in the world.   It’s catch phrase is, “Ushering in the Kingdom”.

Amillennialism is the belief that there is no literal 1,000 years (because the prefix “a” means “no”).  This view accepts the world as it is and focuses on what we can do to make it better. It’s catch phrase is “The Now and Not Yet”.

Panmillennialism is the belief that God is in control so we don’t have to worry about the end.  This view is indifferent to the end times.  It’s catch phrase is, “It will all pan out in the end”.

Eschatology pie chart

 Among the Universal Church, considering all sects and denominations, Amillennialism is the most popular belief.

Now, you might be wondering why Revelation 20, has such a weight on it. What about the chapters before it? Well, there’s different ways in which to read Revelation (which Ruth will explain apocalyptic lit next week, and will expound on this more), but how you interpret Revelation, will usually determine what millennial view you hold. There are four traditional ways in which Revelation is interpreted: Historical, Futuristic, Preterist or Ideal.

Reading Revelation from a Historical point of view means a person will correlate parts of the past, present, and future events and specifically link those events to the ones in Scripture. So, for example, a person might say a specific chapter in Revelation is about the Kennedy assassination, and another chapter may be about the Missile Crisis, and so on and so forth.

A Preterist interprets Revelation similar to the rest of The Bible, by going back to the time that John the Revelator wrote the book (traditionally viewed either 70AD or 90AD) and what was going on with the people of the day in Rome.

Futuristic interpretation reads all events happening in the future.

In the Ideal view, there is no time or history attached to the book, but rather, it generally speaks of the fight between good and evil at any time or in any culture.

Traditionally, Postmillennialists use Ideal or Preterist interpretation. Amillennialist traditionally uses Preterest. Premillennialists typically use Futuristic. Panmillennialist use no specific measure of interpretation, actually, they may not even care what’s written in Revelation (to be honest). Now, to create a healthy view of end times, we actually use all of these interpretive types, however, I associated the type that is used in the majority of the text in correlation with the particular viewpoint. For example, Amillennialists will more likely than not, use Futuristic and Ideal in interpretation, but for the majority of the text, they use Preterest.

For a moment, I want to return to the concept of Dispensational Premillennialism. Like I said, it’s usually the ONLY view typically presented in the Evangelical Church today. However, if you are regular reader of this blog, you will know that just because something is the only thing you’ve been taught, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s Biblical. Two week ago, I dealt with the subject of the rapture, which you can read about here.

Eschatology scary for pets too

I knew there was something I forgot to tell Mordecai and Herby about! :-)

However, this is not the only reason Dispensationalism hasn’t proven itself to be a solid theology. Here are some more reasons:

1.) Dispensationalism isn’t hermeneutically sound. When we study any book in The Bible, we must first ask ourselves some important questions: who was the author? When was it written? Who was it written to? What was the culture like at the time it was written? What type of literary form is it? These kinds of questions absolutely have to be answered in order to take Scripture in context. Typically, people can answer these questions in various Biblical books, until they hit Revelation. Then suddenly it’s written from John the Revelator to some group of future people who are “left behind”. It’s similar to if my grandfather wrote a love letter to my grandmother about the bombing at Pearl Harbor and how he helped clean it up during WWII.  But instead of reading the letter in that context, I read it as though my grandfather is writing directly to me a letter about a bombing that will take place in the far future and I need to be ready for it.

2.) If all these events are happening in a far off future, then what does Revelation matter to me? What did it mean to the original readers in Rome? Absolutely nothing! In other words, we can read 65 books of The Bible and gain wisdom and lessons from the words written inside; however, that 66th book has absolute no importance for me. In fact, I don’t even have to read it, if I don’t want to.

3.) Speaking of The Bible as a whole, why am I interpreting Revelation about the future but the other 65 books of The Bible are interpreted completely different… except for maybe the end of Daniel. Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah were all prophecies but we don’t read them futuristically, so why do we do that with Revelation?

4.) Dispensationalism is based greatly on sensationalism. It’s supposed to make you scared, and save the tar out of you! Did Jesus use fear to scare anyone? Did Paul use fear to scare anyone? Nope, because that would be manipulation.

5.) Hollywood endorses it. That’s self-explanatory…

Eschatology left behind

6.) It promotes racism of Middle Eastern people, war, violence, vengeance, etc… All things Jesus spoke directly against in the Gospels.

7.) If we need a magazines, movies, books, newspapers, CNN, FOX, school shootings, wars, bombings, famines, injustice, etc… to be able to understand how The Bible directly applies to our lives today–We’re doing it wrong!

Let’s remember, just because it’s a popular view, does not make it a Biblical view. There is Spoon-Fed Pop Culture Theology out there, and you don’t have to disgust it just because it’s all you’ve ever heard all your life. I too was raised on Dispensationalism. I too had to wrestle with Scripture. I too struggled to work out what Revelation was all about. It was hard and it took time, but one thing is for sure, I never regretted it! In fact, it solidified by believes, it cleared up my thinking so I was enabled to actually understand Revelation for myself with having to read LaHaye, Jenkins, Haggie, or anyone else out there. And it handed me conviction and most importantly, gave me HOPE. If I had to do it all that theological processing all over again, I would do it in a heartbeat! Wrestling with Scripture is always worth your time!

ALWAYS!

Don’t be afraid to wrestle…

Eschatology hope

 

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