Eschatology is the study of last things–events that will occur in the end-times. The word comes from the Greek word eschaton which refers to the end or final things. In theology, Eschatology specifically focuses on the study of the prophetic books of the Bible and Christ’s prophetic teachings–primarily those prophecies that are yet unfulfilled. It includes study of the rapture, the Tribulation, the second coming, the Millennium, final judgment, and eternity. It focuses on the prophetic books in scripture and Christ’s prophetic teaching.
The study of Eschatology is important because prophecy makes up a great amount of the biblical text. Eschatology also confirms the validity of God’s Word as we witness prophesied events being fulfilled in detail. The study of Eschatology motivates believers to remain true to the faith, as it gives details of their eternal destiny with God.
There are some details about future events which are not revealed in God’s Word and that which is revealed has been interpreted in different ways by theologians. It is not necessary to understand all the conflicting opinions regarding prophecy. Most of these interpretations center on the exact timing of certain prophetic events or specific details of these events.
What is important to foundations of the Christian faith is a general understanding of what the Bible says will happen in the future. Though some issues of Eschatology appear complex, the ultimate conclusion is that Christ will reign forever and believers will be with Him for all eternity. The following outline details the important events of Eschatological studies.
The word “rapture” refers to a Latin term that means to be “caught up.” The Bible does not use the word “rapture”, but it speaks clearly of a time when believers in Jesus will be taken to be with Him in an instant.
The Bible teaches that the Lord will return to earth for believers. Jesus promised His followers:
…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3)
This event can take place at any time, and thus it is referred to as the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul provided details about Christ’s return:
But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
From this passage we learn that:
-Christ Himself will return (verse 16).
-There will be a resurrection from the grave of those who were believers when they died (verse 16).
-There will be a rapture, which means “the act of taking a person from one place to another.” Living believers will be taken from earth to meet Christ (verse 17).
-There will be a reunion between believers who have previously died, believers living at the time of Christ’s return, and their Lord Jesus Christ (verse 17).
Some people believe the rapture will occur before the period of time known as the Tribulation and that believers will not have to experience any of this terrible time on earth. Others believe the rapture will happen midway through this period. Still others believe the rapture will happen at the end of the Tribulation. The different views of the timing of the rapture result from various interpretations of the prophetic information given in Scripture. What is most important is to know you are a true believer and will be ready to go with Jesus when He returns.
The Bible tells of a terrible time on earth which is called the Tribulation (Revelation 7:14 and Matthew 24:21-22). The Tribulation is also referred to as “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:5); the “day of wrath” (Revelation 6:17); and “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7).
The Tribulation will last for 42 months or 1,260 days (Daniel 9:24-27). It will be a very difficult time. There have been many difficult times in the world down through history, but three things will distinguish the Tribulation from all other times of trouble.
-First, it will be worldwide and not just local: Revelation 3:10.
-Second, people will realize the end of the world is near: Revelation 6:16.
-Third, the intensity of the trouble will be greater than ever before experienced:
During the Tribulation there will be a series of judgments from God on those remaining in the world. These are described in Revelation chapters 6, 8-9, and 16 and Matthew 24:4-14. The major purposes of the Tribulation is to pour out judgment on wicked men and nations (Revelation 3:10; 6:15-17; 11:18; 14:10; 16:1; 19:1-2) and to prepare the nation of Israel to receive their Messiah (Deuteronomy 4:27-31; Jeremiah 30:7; Daniel 12:1; Revelation 7:1-8).
The Tribulation will immediately precede the Second Coming of Christ and the Millennium (Matthew 24:15-31 and Revelation 19:11-21).
THE SECOND COMING AND THE MILLENNIUM
After the Tribulation, Jesus will return to earth (His second coming), defeat the enemy, and rule the earth in righteousness (Zechariah 14:9; Daniel 7:14). The Millennium refers to the thousand year reign of Jesus on the earth. The city of Jerusalem will be the center of government (Isaiah 2:3) where Jesus will rule and reign (Daniel 7:14).
Here are some of the characteristics of the Millennium reign of Jesus:
-War is eliminated: Isaiah 2:4.
-The presence of God will be manifested: Ezekiel 37:24-28.
-People will have a personal relationship with God: Jeremiah 32:31-33.
-The Holy Spirit will be manifested: Joel 2:28-29.
-Believers will be Spirit-taught: Isaiah 11:9; Jeremiah 31:34.
-Righteousness will reign: Isaiah 11:3-5.
-There will be peace: Isaiah 35:10; 65:25.
-There will be great joy: Isaiah 35:10; 51:11; 65:18-19.
-There will be justice: Isaiah 65:20-23; Zechariah 14:17-19.
-The curse on the earth is reversed: Isaiah 11:6-8.
-Productivity will increase: Isaiah 35:1-2; Amos 9:13.
-There will be changes in the animal world: Isaiah 65:25; 11:6-8.
This period will end when Satan is freed and stages a final revolt against God (Revelation 20:7-9). Sadly, even after 1,000 years of God’s reign, some people will openly oppose God and rebel (Zechariah 14:17-19). God will send fire from Heaven and end all opposition. Satan will be cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Revelation 20:10) and there will be final victory over Satan, demons, sin, evil world powers, and death (Revelation 20).
Here is a summary of the events associated with this period of time:
-The return of Christ: Rev 19:11-18.
-Satan bound from operating for 1000 years: Revelation 20:2-3.
-The marriage of the Lamb: Revelation 19:7-10.
-The Battle of Armageddon: Revelation 14:14-21; 16:16.
-A great earthquake: Revelation 16:18.
-The judgment of the nations: Matthew 25:31-46.
-The Antichrist and False Prophet cast into the lake of fire: Revelation 19:20-21.
-Jesus establishes His Millennial Kingdom: Revelation 20:1-6.
-Satan is released one last time: Revelation 20:7-9.
-There is a final rebellion: Revelation 20:7-9.
-Satan is cast into the lake of fire: Revelation 20:10.
Here is a summary comparing the rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ:
The Rapture The Second Coming
Timing: Can occur at any time. General signs precede it.
1 John 2:28; 3:2 Matthew 24:33
Believers’ Jesus returns for believers. Jesus returns with believers.
Involvement: 1 Thessalonians 4 Revelation 19:8,14
Purpose: Jesus catches up believers and Jesus defeats the enemy and
returns with them to Heaven. establishes His Kingdom on earth.
1 Thessalonians 4:17; John 14:3 Zechariah 14:1-3; Revelation 19:15-16
FINAL JUDGMENT AND ETERNITY
All created beings will be judged by God. This is known as the time of final judgment. For detailed teaching on eternal judgment, see chapter ten of the Harvestime International Network course entitled “Foundations Of Faith,” available at http://www.harvestime.org
Judgment will be done on the basis on the Word of God and the outcome will separate all of mankind into two categories:
Unbelievers: Those who died as unbelievers will be resurrected to face judgment. Because they did not repent from sin and accept Jesus as Savior, they will be condemned to eternity in Hell (Revelation 20:12-15).
The Bible teaches that Hell was originally designed for Satan and his demons (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10), but Hell is also the destination of those who reject Christ as Savior (Matthew 13:41,50; Revelation 20:11-15; 21:8). Hell is conscious torment where there is fire, weeping, and grinding of teeth (Matthew 13:50); there is no death and the fire is not quenched (Mark 9:48); and it is a place of fire and brimstone (Revelation 14:10). Hell is eternal (Revelation 14:11). It is called the second death (Revelation 20:14) and is reserved for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:15).
True believers: True believers will be judged on their works, not to determine their eternal destiny (Romans 8:1; John 5:24; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Those who repented from sin and accepted Jesus as Savior will spend eternity in Heaven in the presence of God (Revelation 21).
There are five specific rewards mentioned in Scripture, referred to as “crowns”:
-A crown of rejoicing for those who won people to Christ: 1 Thessalonians 2:19.
-An incorruptible crown for those who conquered the flesh: 1 Corinthians 9:25.
-A crown of life for those who successfully endured trials: James 1:12.
-A crown of righteousness for those who loved and looked for His appearing:
2 Timothy 4:8.
-A crown of glory for feeding and ministering to the flock of God: 1 Peter 5:4.
The greatest reward, of course, will be eternal life in the presence of God.
Heaven is a real place as Jesus repeatedly claimed to have come “from Heaven” (John 6:41, 52); after His resurrection He ascended into Heaven; and someday He will return from Heaven (Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). He is currently in Heaven preparing a place for believers (John 14:3).
In Heaven, believers will have resurrected bodies (Romans 8:17) and there will be no sin, sickness, or sorrow. There will be no more death, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4). We will be forever in the presence of God (Revelation 22:3-5).
PROPHETIC BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
Harvestime International Network Legacy Bible Outlines provide notes for all of the prophetic books of the Bible. These outlines will enable you to study further on Eschatology. The books of Daniel and Revelation are especially relevant to Eschatology, and the outlines for these books include commentaries. Study these two books to expand your knowledge of eschatology.
Following is a summary of the prophetic books of the Bible. All of the outlines for these books are in the Old Testament Legacy Bible Outlines with the exception of the book of Revelation, which you will find in the New Testament Legacy Bible Outlines. All studies are available free at: http://www.harvestime.org
Isaiah: Warns of coming judgment against Judah because of their sin against God.
Jeremiah: Written during the later decline and fall of Judah. Told of the coming judgment and urged surrender to Nebuchadnezzar.
Lamentations: Jeremiah’s lament (expression of sorrow) over the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon.
Ezekiel: Warns first of Jerusalem’s impending fall and then foretells its future restoration.
Daniel: The prophet Daniel was captured during the early siege of Judah and taken to Babylon. This book provides historic and prophetic teaching which is important in understanding Bible prophecy.
Hosea: Theme of this book is Israel’s unfaithfulness, their punishment, and restoration by God.
Joel: Tells of the plagues which foreshadowed future judgment.
Amos: During a period of material prosperity but moral decay, Amos warned Israel and surrounding nations of God’s future judgment on their sin.
Obadiah: God’s judgment against Edom, an evil nation located south of the Dead Sea.
Jonah: The story of the prophet Jonah who preached repentance in Ninevah, capitol of the Assyrian empire. The book reveals God’s love and plan of repentance for the Gentiles.
Micah: Another prophecy against Israel’s sin. Foretells the birthplace of Jesus 700 years before the event happened.
Nahum: Tells of the impending destruction of Ninevah which had been spared some 150 years earlier through Jonah’s preaching.
Habakkuk: Reveals God’s plan to punish a sinful nation by an even more sinful one. Teaches that “the just shall live by faith.”
Zephaniah: Judgment and restoration of Judah.
Haggai: Urges the Jews to rebuild the temple after a 15 year delay due to enemy resistance.
Zechariah: Further urging to complete the temple and renew spiritual commitment. Foretells Christ’s first and second comings.
Malachi: Written after the return of God’s people from exile, the purpose of this book is to ensure that the hearts of the Jews was right and that they were keeping God first in their lives.
Revelation: A revelation of end-time events.
CHRIST’S PROPHETIC TEACHINGS
Study the prophetic teachings of Jesus using the following outline which is arranged by subject.
The Second Coming Of Jesus Christ:
Matthew 24:6-47; 25:1-13; 26:64
Mark 2:20; 8:38; 13:7-36; 14:62
Matthew 5:34,35; 23:37-39; 24:2
Luke 13:34,35; 19:42-44; 21:20-24; 23:28-31
Matthew 8:11,12; 10:6; 11:16-19; 15:24,26; 21:31,32; 22:2-7
Luke 7:31-35; 21:24; 22:67,68
John 4:22; 7:19,21; 8:37-47,49; 9:41; 10:26,32; 18:20,36
The Scribes, Pharisees, And Sadducees:
Matthew 12:34; 15:7-9,14; 16:6; 23:2-7,13-15,25-27,29-36
Mark 7:6; 8:15; 12:38-40
Luke 11:39,40-44,46-52; 12:1; 20:46,47
Matthew 8:11; 21:43; 22:8-10; 24:14; 28:19
Mark 13:10; 16:15
Luke 13:29; 24:46,47
False Prophets And False Teachings:
Matthew 7:15-18,20; 24:4,5,11,23,24,26
Luke 6:39,43,44; 17:1,2,22,23; 21:8
- Study the Harvestime Legacy Bible Outline Series and commentaries on the books of Daniel and Revelation available free at http://www.harvestime.org
- Study more on the resurrection and eternal judgment in chapters 8-10 of the Harvestime course entitled “Foundations Of Faith” available free at http://www.harvestime.org
- Use the following guidelines for studying Biblical prophecy:
-Study prophecy “in the Spirit,” not with your natural reasoning because “… the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
-Accept that prophecy can be understood as it is written without changes, additions, or speculations. God gave prophecy because He wants you to know about future events, so begin with the attitude that you will be able to understand it. If there are things you don’t understand, don’t get discouraged and quit. Record your questions for future reflection and continue on with your study.
-Do not change literal meanings to symbolic meanings unless the text clearly indicates otherwise.
-Keep in mind the times and circumstances under which the prophet recorded God’s message. Without knowledge of the historical background, expressions of that time may seem peculiar or difficult to understand.
-Remember that sometimes prophets describe future events as if they were continuous and successive, but there actually may be thousands of years between. This is called “the law of prophetic perspective,” meaning that prophecy can be fulfilled in various stages. Seek answers to these questions:
-Has the prophecy been fulfilled or is it yet to be fulfilled?
-Is the prophecy conditional based upon peoples’ response or is it unconditional?
-Does the prophecy have an immediate fulfillment, a future fulfillment, or both immediate and future?
-Keep in mind the “law of double reference.” In some passages, two distinct meanings are indicated. For example, in Revelation 4:1 John is caught up into heaven in the Spirit to be given the Revelation. The double reference in this verse indicates the rapture of the Church.
-Study passages within their context, as many times the text itself interprets a prophetic
vision or revelation. An example is Revelation 1:12-13 which is explained in 1:20. Also study each passage within the context of the total revelation of God’s Word. Remember that no prophecy is of private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), meaning it is not to be interpreted apart from the entire revelation of God’s Word.
-Remember that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “All Scripture” includes the more difficult portions, like prophecy.
-Understand that Jesus Christ is central to all prophecy (Revelation 19:10 and Luke 24:27).
-Recognize that much prophecy is symbolic. Some symbols are explained, such as in Revelation 1:20; 4:5; and 5:8. Other symbols, such as those used in Revelation 2:7 and 4:7, can be understood through Old Testament prophecies. Other symbols are not explained–such as Revelation 2:17.
- Study the following prophetic books using the Harvestime Legacy Bible Outlines
available free at http://www.harvestime.org