The end is near! (Or is it?)
Eschatology. It’s a very fancy theological word that means “the study of end times.” It’s based on a Greek word eschatos which means “last things.”
In our EPC world (Evangelical Presbyterian Church…our denomination), eschatology is considered a non-essential. In other words, we affirm that faithful, Bible-believing Christians can disagree on these doctrines and not have that disagreement be a point of separation.
That is easier said than done. There are so many flavors of eschatology, it can make your head swim. There are dispensationalists. And those of us from the Reformed perspective.
There is the topic of the millennium, mentioned only in Revelation 20. Is that a literal 1000-year reign or is it a symbol for the age that has transpired since Jesus returned to heaven?
The Great Tribulation. Will there be a literal Great Tribulation? (And if so, greater only in scope than in degree, surely, since hundreds of thousands of Christians have already died for their faith down through the centuries. That would seem, at least for them, to be a pretty great tribulation, wouldn’t it?)
And…if there is a literal Great Tribulation, what about “the rapture?” Will Jesus return twice, first to take all the Christians out of the world and later, to bring final judgment? Or will he come only once at the end of all things? And if the rapture (based on 1 Thessalonians 4) is correct, will it occur before the Tribulation (pre-trib) or after the Tribulation (post-trib), before the millennium (pre-millennial) or after the millennium (post-millennial) or…if you don’t believe in a literal millennium, you are an A-millennialist. (Whew…)
All the various permutations are pretty confounding. And, it turns out, pretty divisive. Few topics in the Christian Church (the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, the equal calling of women) stir up quite as much fiery debate as eschatology. It would be easiest to avoid it the whole thing.
Well, we don’t. First of all, I preached a more-than-year-long sermon series on the book of Revelation. If you REALLY want to dig into what I think about this topic, here you go. Bring lots of popcorn. Here’s a link to all the sermons in print and audio on our website.
Luke’s gospel says less than Revelation, but Jesus certainly tackles the topic. And this Sunday, so will I. You may agree with what I say, may disagree…but I hope that we will be able to hold divergent views on this mystery in the spirit of love and unity that I have always experienced from my Sweetheart Church.
Anyhow, this Sunday…eschatology. Drum roll (or maybe, trumpet blast), please….