Every worldview has an “eschatology”– a view of how history ends.

Four Horsemen
The Four Horsemen

Christian eschatology diverges from Jewish eschatology by offering its own distinctive nuances to questions about such things as death, judgment, the afterlife, the intermediate state, resurrection, heaven, hell, and immortality. Since the text and context of the New Testament is steeped in the preceding concepts, an understanding of eschatology is essential to an accurate understanding of Jesus, His message, and the message of His disciples. From there, the relevance of eschatology flows naturally into church history and into Christian theology as well.

Eschatology is a subject of continuing importance today because associated controversies developed late in church history and continue even into the present. For example, dispensationalism presently vies with supercessionism in its approach to vindicating God from the charge of unfaithfulness in fulfilling His Old Testament promises. Dispensationalism mistakenly does it by relocating the fulfillment of God’s promises into the future where they will literally come to pass upon their originally intended recipients, whom God will bring back into existence for that very purpose. In contrast, the NT approach (supercessionism) is to reinterpret God’s promises in figurative terms and then to relocate their fulfillments from Israel to the church (spiritual Israel). The church therefore becomes the “grounded pillar of God’s truth”– His dependability– His faithfulness. It represents the inbreaking of God’s future, eschatological rule. In contrast to dispensationalist thought, it is the church, not Israel, that constitutes the people of God.

More broadly, eschatology is significant for the contemporary church because it provides an interpretive framework for all of life by informing the faith of individuals and communities of faith on such things as the nature of God, the cosmos, history, humanity, community, the good life, ethics, and morality. For humans, meaning arises, not just from what something is, but more importantly, from what it becomes– its telos. Eschatology provides the telos of human life. It furnishes and shapes a particular end-time orientation that orders the lives of individuals and community toward divine ends. Eschatology allows the human mind to join the divine mind in understanding the present from the perspective of the future. In doing so, humans are drawn, rather than pushed, toward God’s purposes.

Those divine purposes are preeminently communal. So Christian eschatology is especially important in contemporary society because it broadens the horizons of an individualistic culture to include communal and cosmic “ends.” It provides a “humane” alternative to the secular “futurology” of Darwinian Evolution and Scientific Naturalism.

Eschatology is therefore important in evangelism, offering hope in the midst of such hopeless ideologies. It is inherent to both the good news and the bad news of the gospel. It calls unbelievers to faith. It provides a point of contact with the secular world– an apologetic– a hermeneutic– a radical reorientation toward the world that many are looking for.

One of the most prominent concerns in contemporary society is the desire for justice. On one hand, eschatology inspires patience in the face of injustice by looking forward to and trusting in the divine reversal that God will accomplish when He acts decisively to alter the social and natural order. But on the other hand, eschatology is also restless in relation to the status quo. That restlessness serves as an impetus for seeking justice, fostering inclusion, demanding accountability, encouraging moral behavior, and most importantly, bringing about transformation.

And in a word, the essence of eschatology is all about “transformation.” Eschatology transforms by motivating and instructing believers. It encourages industry and perseverance in the faith. It relativizes hardships and deepens joys. It fortifies against temptations. It discourages a secular mindset. It reminds believers that the present form of this world is not their home. It prevents discouragement in the face of deepening social decay, the threat of sudden cataclysmic terrorist attacks, and rising hostility toward Christianity.

Finally, eschatology is arguably the most humanistic aspect of Christian faith in touching people in the midst of existential crises. It helps people through difficult times by giving them a story that interprets death, evil, pain, and suffering in meaningful ways. To a large degree, Christians don’t have to “make sense” of personal tragedies because Christian eschatology has already done that for them– in advance.

— historeo.com

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