EschatologyEschatology is literally the study of last things. It comes from the Greek word eschaton referring to the end or last things. In Christian theology, the term "Eschatology" specifically focuses on the study of the prophecies of the Bible, primarily those prophecies that are yet unfulfilled.
Eschatology is considered of great importance within Christian theology for many reasons. First, prophecy makes up a great amount of the biblical text. Studies have shown that 27 percent of the Bible is prophetic in nature. Second, Eschatology proves the divine power of God. For example, when the Bible speaks of one who would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) named Emmanuel (meaning "God with us") and the prophecy is specifically fulfilled more than six hundred years later in Jesus, it affirms the ability of God to reveal the supernatural. Third, prophecy motivates Christians to live holy lives, knowing that many of the Bible's as-yet unfulfilled prophecies speak of the believer's future home with the Lord.
Within Eschatology, many specific areas of interest are typically addressed. They include:
The Rapture: The word "rapture" refers to a Latin term that means to be "caught up." The Bible speaks clearly of a time when believers in Jesus will be taken to be with Him in an instant. This event can take place at any moment (referred to as the imminent return of Christ) and is described clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.
The Tribulation: In the last days, Daniel, Revelation, and other prophecies speak of terrible times of suffering and judgment that will take place over a seven-year period. A global leader known as the Antichrist will emerge and control all commerce and finance (Revelation 13).
The Second Coming of Jesus Christ: A pretribulational view of theology (the teaching that the rapture will take place before the seven years of tribulation) focuses on the second coming of Jesus Christ at the end of the tribulation period at the final battle of Armageddon. Jesus defeats Satan and those who follow him, and then Jesus begins His reign from the Davidic throne in Jerusalem for the millennial kingdom.
The Millennium and Beyond: There is much discussion regarding whether the millennial kingdom is literal or figurative. A literal perspective teaches that the 1,000 years mentioned four times in Revelation 20:1-7 refers to a literal 1,000-year period during which Jesus will reign as king with His people in Jerusalem. At the end of this period will be a final rebellion, a final judgment, and a new heaven and earth where Jesus will reign with His people forever from the new heavenly city (Revelation 21-22).
The Role of Israel in the End Times: Theologians have debated the role of Israel in the end times in various ways over the centuries. Unfortunately, many have taught a form of Replacement Theology that states Christians have replaced Israel and the blessings to Israel now fall on the Church. Yet Scripture is clear that God has plans for Israel, both for its people and as a nation. A more literal approach views Israel as God's special people who will continue to receive the fulfillment of God's promises to them now and in the future. From among Israel, many already follow Jesus as Messiah and will do so in the future.
Though many of the issues of Eschatology may appear complex, the ultimate conclusion is that Christ will reign forever and His people will be with Him. Titus 2:13 (NIV) teaches, "we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."