Considering how the issues of prophecy continue to be one of the most popular and interest-gaining subjects in theology (not to mention this being the year 2012!), I thought it well worth my time to write a primer on how to look at eschatological schemes. Eschatology refers to the “doctrine of the end times.” To be sure, there is no one “Christian” eschatology. In fact, there is not even one “Evangelical” eschatology. The history of the church has seen and allowed for much diversity concerning these issues due, in my opinion, to the relative obscurity of Scripture on the subject. The central issues, agreed upon by all orthodox Christians over the last 2000 years, are that in the last days Christ will come, there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a judgment will follow. Please keep that in mind.
There are a lot of fancy words used to describe how one might label themselves with regard to end-times issues. Pre-Millennial, Post-Tribulational, historicist, Chiliastic, Preterist, historic premillenialist (which seems to be the most popular these days), and are just some of these labels. My only goal here is to try to clear the cobwebs and help people construct a basic structure of the spectrum of eschatology in a nutshell.
There are two categories that I am going to introduce. Then I will follow by showing how these categories relate to the various positions held. These two categories are “Approach” and “Event.” As you will see there is an approach taken to each event. The events describe broad categories that are separated because of the nature, timing, and interpretation of the events they represent.
Category #1: Approaches to Eschatology
Preterist: Belief that the event(s) (such as the tribulation) happened in the past.
Historicist: Belief that the event(s) happen throughout history.
Idealist: Belief that the event(s) are symbolic or parabolic and are always present.
Futurist: Belief that the event(s) are yet future.
Category #2: Events of Eschatology
Event #1: Tribulation: This describes many apocalyptic happenings described primarily in Matt. 24 and Revelation 4-19. Included in this category is the anti-Christ, bowls of wrath, 144,000 witnesses, the Mark of the Beast, and the like.
Event #2: Millennium: This describes the reign of Christ on the present earth (i.e., before the new creation).
Event #3: The Second Coming and The New Creation: This describes the judgment and the creation of the new heaven and the new earth.
(Please note, I have not included issues of “personal eschatology” due to their lack of relevance to one’s eschatological scheme. Issues of personal eschatology include hell, the state of the soul between death and resurrection, etc.) Continue Reading →