New Testament epistles are sprinkled with eschatological references which have led to confusion and the belief that the rules of hermeneutics must be re-written to accommodate particular eschatological systems. We will now survey how these Epistles make eschatological references and how we might best understand them.
A Sense of Imminence
¶ The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.
First Peter 4:7
The eschatology found in the New Testament Epistles conveys an expectation of imminence. Each of the writers had a sense that something was about to happen very soon. It could be argued that they were misguided and that the Scriptures accurately recorded their misinformed views. We see evidence of this sort of thing throughout the Old Testament where misinformed human perspectives were accurately recorded in God’s inspired Word. This includes such statements like, “from the rising of the sun” (Psalm 50:1; Isaiah 45:6; Malachi 1:11). Of course, we know that the sun doesn’t rise but from the perspective of the human authors it appeared to. But this doesn’t seem to be the sort of thing happening in the Epistles. Unlike the genre of the Psalms or Prophets, these eschatological statements found in the Epistles are not poetic. They are presented as statements of fact – often linked to an injunction (1Peter 4:7; Hebrews 10:24-25). If it is the New Testament perspective is actually just the accurate recording of misguided human opinion, it then makes the linked injunctions (moral commands) redundant.
For example, some time ago I was lecturing in a closed country on the topic of Hermeneutics (how to interpret the Bible) when one student asked me about the ‘Third Temple’ supposedly prophesied in the Bible as a sign of the last days immediately preceding Christ’s return. This student had innocently adopted an end-times-guess (adiaphora) as if it was a Biblical idea. My question in response to her question was which text in the Bible was she basing her question? She looked at me stunned! She thought I was playing some game with her. “Of course the Bible prophesies that the Temple will be rebuilt in the Last Days in order to usher in the return of the Lord!” she responded. Again I asked her – “Where?” I have asked this question in lectures in several countries and have never been shown where the Bible prophesies such a last days rebuilt (Third) Temple!
The End. That’s what the Greek word “eschaton” means. But a question that some are now asking is, “The end of what?” Up until recently most Christians would have said- the world, but now good Biblical scholarship is shedding greater light upon this highly controversial word and revealing that most of us may have been wrong!
When I went to church as a young boy, ‘End Times’ teaching was all the rage. Afterall, there were wars in the Middle East, famines in Africa, natural disasters in Asia, and economic struggles in Europe and America. There were conspiracy theories, global uncertainty, a worldwide fuel crisis, and the emerging cashless society. All of these things were apparently predicted in the Bible many thousands of years ago as being the last signs before the end of the world. As the last three decades have unfolded however, it has become obvious that none of these things have led to the end of the world, and now most people realise that the Bible doesn’t even make reference to them – let alone pinning the triggers for the end of the world upon them! With so much error in this speculation it’s little wonder that many Christians have put eschatology (the study of ‘final things’) either in the too-hard basket or now regard it as not worth worrying about because nobody knows anyway.
After years of studying the Book of Revelation, I have become persuaded of the Classical Preterist Position. One of the first objections raised against Preterism (often confused with Hyper-Preterism, or, ‘Pantellism’) is based on Revelation 1:7. Which says that when Christ ‘comes’, ‘every eye will see Him.’ Opponents of Preterism offer what they think is a death-blow to Preterism with this apparent ‘knock-out’ verse. As a Preterist, I have to admit, if their interpretation of this verse is correct, Preterism can not be true. Therefore, how we understand this verse will either destroy the validity of Preterism or, could it possibly validate it?
At the start of every new year there are always hopeful believers who claim that this is the year that Christ will come back. Some of these believers move beyond hope and practice unhelpful distortion of Scriptures to arrive at their wild guesses. Is there are genuine Biblical basis for believing that this will be year that the Lord will come back?
Take a Bible College Course on Jesus Christ (called “Christology”) and eventually you will study the incarnation of Christ and explore how His Divine and Human natures formed a union. The mystery of how God became man is further magnified when it is supposed that although Christ possessed all of the Divine attributes (immutability, eternality, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence) He was at times not utilizing His Divine nature and instead speaking from His limited Human nature. In this way, it is argued, Christ was actually ignorant of certain things. The most common proof-text to support this doctrine is Matthew 24:36.