Book Entry: Introduction
November 7th 2017
Eschatology is the study of what the Bible has to say regarding what is going to happen during the end times. As you will learn within this book, Eschatology is an important aspect of the Christian’s Biblical worldview. Most don’t realize that fact and unfortunately, many treat the subject of Eschatology as an area of theology that should be avoided. How a person understands the subject of Eschatology, correctly or incorrectly, actually has an important impact on how that person lives their life, where it is they find themselves within God’s plan, how it is that that person should understand the Bible's prophetic passages, and how they should live their life in response to what God is going to do during the end times.
This may be the first time you have studied a branch of Systematic Theology. Whether it is or not, it is important for us to review how to go about the proper study of any major doctrine. Systematic Theology involves studying everything that the Bible has to say pertaining to a certain subject. The process includes applying all the methods of interpretation (hermeneutics) to each passage studied. The information from each passage that is relevant to the doctrine being studied is then organized and summarized systematically.
The most difficult part of Systematic Theology is the labor required to make sure you deal honestly and accurately with each passage which contributes to the entire study. With the subject of Eschatology, that can be a very daunting task seeing as how there are over 330 prophecies that speak to Christ’s First Coming within the Old Testament and within the entirety of the Bible, there are over 2,100 prophecies that speak to Christ’s Second Coming. Before you include any passage within your summary to a certain doctrine, you must be sure that you are using it according to its proper interpretation. There are common dangers in Systematic Theology that the student must avoid:
1. An incomplete study
There is danger in taking one incident or one passage and jumping to the conclusion that you understand everything that the Bible has to say on that particular subject. Systematic Theology is a lifetime task. Your knowledge of doctrine grows and improves with every passage that you interpret. Challenges from false teachers stimulate the need for further study in every generation.
2. Allowing one passage to overrule other passages
You must harmonize passages, while understanding how they fit together into the bigger picture of the doctrine you are studying. A common example of error comes by way of the Charismatic Movement where certain unique events recorded in Acts are used to overrule passages which teach what is “normal.” Acts 17:11 applies once again to this subject. One should be willing to investigate each passage as much as necessary to verify its proper application.
3. Using your theology to determine your interpretation
On one hand you know that the Bible does not contradict itself, and therefore any one passage will not overrule another. On the other hand, you must interpret each passage on its own and in its own context, and not jump to a conclusion about what it means because you “already know what it means” by way of your applied theological system. Within this book, we will be investigating both Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology. Instead of focusing upon a “system” of theology when one approaches the Bible, it is best to focus upon a hermeneutic (the art and science of interpreting Scripture) when undergoing a reading of the sixty-six books that make up the Bible.
4. Discounting the importance of doctrine
Many fall into the error of seeking “unity” by overlooking doctrine or by saying that doctrine is unimportant. On the one hand, there are genuine believers who do not yet have an accurate understanding of doctrine and some who hold to flawed doctrine in non-essential matters. We must recognize that they are part of the body of Christ. On the other hand, when one says doctrine is unimportant, the door is opened to allowing “winds of doctrine” to disturb the saints (Ephesians 4:14). “Truth demands scrutiny; Error demands tolerance.”
Having reviewed how one is to properly go about the study of any major doctrine, in this case Eschatology, the next major consideration is just where to start when it comes to studying what it is that the Bible has to say about the study of the end times. Did history have a start and will it have a conclusion? Is history linear or circular? Is Christ certain to return and if so, can the Christian know when that event will happen? Will there be a “rapture” of the Church or is that just fanciful thinking on some Christian’s part? Is God finished with “His chosen people,” the Jews, or has their opportunity faded into history?
Within this book, I’ve chosen first to “lay a foundation” with certain truths that the student of Eschatology must be anchored in before attempting to answer questions such as these. We’ll look at such subjects as the Bible itself, worldviews, Eschatology’s influence upon the world, and different systems of interpreting Scripture. As we progress further, we’ll work on providing insight and answers to the questions that the disciples asked our Lord regarding the end times:
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
Many Christians in the twenty-first century are asking these same questions. There is, however, a great deal of controversy in the area Eschatology, but that does not relieve us of our responsibility to study and to attempt to understand what the Bible teaches about the end times. A proper understanding of Eschatology will eliminate many of the fears that some have regarding the future. God is sovereign, He is executing His plan, and it will all unfold according to His perfect will and timing. This is indeed a great encouragement to all those who are in Christ Jesus.