Eschatology

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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

eschatos   1 Corinthians 15:20

Since eschatology, throughout much of church history and in much common speech today, often means the study of events still future, this article will first explore the traditional discussion of these things. Second, however, it will consider eschatology as the breaking of the future into the present and the meaning of this for Christian life.

The Millennium For the last century or so, different overall eschatological perspectives have usually been classified according to their viewpoint regarding the millennium. The “millennium” (from the Latin mille , meaning “a thousand”) refers to the 1,000 year reign of Christ and His saints described in  Revelation 20:4-6 . Not all proponents of the various millennial views, however, insist that this period must last exactly 1,000 years. There have been three basic millennial perspectives. Each has existed in a more general and a more specific form, although these have not been entirely consistent with each other.

1. Premillennialism Premillennialists hold that Jesus will return before (“pre-”) He establishes a millennial kingdom on this earth. This return will be necessary because forces hostile to God will be governing the world, and Christ must conquer them before He can rule. Towards the end of the millennium evil will again arise, and it will have to be defeated once more before God's cosmic rule is perfected. Until the fourth century, the early church was generally premillennial. This perspective, which placed the church in sharp conflict with the Roman Empire, declined rapidly after Constantine made Christianity the Empire's favored religion. In subsequent centuries premillennialism was often held by radical groups at odds with state-supported religion. Those who hold the general expectation that Jesus will return before establishing an earthly millennium are called “historic premillennialists.”

Premillennialism's more specific form is qualified by the adjective “dispensational.” Dispensational premillennialism acquired its specific shape during the ministry of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), founder of the Plymouth Brethren. It has remained popular among many American fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. Dispensationalism contrasts God's way of working in at least two historical “dispensations”: those of Israel and of the church. See Dispensation .

Under the Israelite dispensation, God sought to establish an earthly, national kingdom centered in Palestine and governed by social and cultic laws. When Jesus came, He presented Himself as the King of this kingdom. According to dispensationalists, however, the Israelite, or “kingdom,” dispensation did not end when the Jewish nation rejected Him. Dispensationalists claim to interpret all biblical prophecy literally. They argue that many prophecies regarding Israel—such as the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, the rule of a Davidic king over a universal, earthly realm of peace—have not yet been fulfilled. Therefore, these prophecies will be fulfilled, and the kingdom dispensation will be completed, in a time still future.

Ever since Israel's rejection of Jesus, however, God has worked through the dispensation of the church. Instead of being primarily concerned with one nation, God now calls all peoples. Instead of establishing a geographical kingdom, God gathers them into the church. Instead of being deeply concerned with the socio-political affairs, God's work in the Church Age focuses chiefly on spiritual matters. This dispensation, however, will cease at a particular point. When Jesus returns to gather His church ( 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 ), He will rapture it out of the world, and the kingdom dispensation will be reactivated. It will climax when, after several years of tribulation, Jesus returns with the church to center His millennial rule in Palestine.

2. Postmillennialism Whereas premillennialists hold that Jesus will return before the millennium, postmillennialists maintain that He will return after (“post-”) an earthly kingdom is established. This means, however, that the millennium will be simultaneous with an era of ordinary human history. This viewpoint was first comprehensively articulated by Augustine (354-430), who regarded the establishment of the church since about Constantine's time as the rule of Christ with His saints. Postmillennialism has often been the general perspective of Roman Catholic, Reformed, and other socially established churches. It became popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth century evangelical revivals, which emphasized social transformation. Today some socially-minded evangelicals are reviving it.

In a general sense, postmillennialism serves as a label for any eschatology which expects religious and social activity to play a large role in establishing God's kingdom. All such movements acknowledge that this kingdom is not yet fully established, for much evil still exists. They also grant that evil may sometimes gain the upper hand. Nevertheless, they hold that history and society in general have been and will be brought increasingly under Christ's rule and that the kingdom's advance is closely related to that of certain social and religious forces.

In the general sense, then, movements such as the early twentieth century “social gospel” and contemporary liberation theologies can be called postmillennial. Such theologies, however, seldom involve detailed theories as to how history will end. Many expect God to act entirely through the social forces presently at work. Accordingly, they interpret phenomena such as Jesus' return and the final resurrection as symbols rather than as historical occurrences.

In the more specific sense, postmillennialists are those, such as many reformed evangelicals of the last few centuries, who regard Jesus' return as an historical event and enter into discussion as to show how the final events will occur. They often anticipate a brief outbreak of evil before Christ comes and acknowledge that His rule after this time will be more pervasive than before. Although they insist that the church must significantly influence the socio-political sphere, they usually place evangelism at the heart of the kingdom's advance.

3. Amillennialism By adding the prefix “a-” (meaning “not”), amillennialists express their conviction that no historical period called the millennium does or will exist. In general sense, amillennialism can refer to everyone who interprets all language about a final, earthly realm of peace in a spiritual manner.

Paradoxically, it was during late antiquity, as many church leaders were adopting a postmillennial perspective, that much popular piety ceased hoping for any historical millennium and, focusing entirely on the afterlife, became amillennial. In this general sense, amillennialism tends to be individualistic, concentrating on the heavenly destiny of each person rather than on the future of this earth. It includes much medieval mysticism. Even modern existentialist theologians, such as Rudolf Bultmann, who regard futurist eschatology as mythological and emphasize encounter with God in the present, can be included under this general label.

During the nineteenth century, however, “amillennialism” was applied increasingly to a more specific eschatology. Like postmillennialists, these amillennialists believed that Christ was already reigning with His saints. They argued that He was doing so, however, in heaven with departed Christians, and not through specific ecclesiastical or social movements. Like premillennialists, these amillennialists expected Jesus to return, to conquer His enemies and to rule over a transformed earth. His perfected rule, however, would be established immediately, and not preceded by an interim called the millennium. This specific form of amillennialism, then, is far less individualistic than the general one, and views history before Jesus' return much as does the more general, or “historic,” premillennialism.

The Order of the Final Events Proponents of both forms or premillennialism, and of the more specific forms of post-and amillennialism, have often minutely debated the order in which the final events will occur. While this emphasis has been criticized for obscuring eschatology's deeper theological meaning and its practical significance, it demands attention in a general treatment of the subject.

People claim the Bible describes five major final events: Jesus' return, defeat of evil, resurrection, judgment, and renewal of the cosmos. Postmillennialists and amillennialists expect them to occur more or less together and to be preceded by a troubled time called the Great Tribulation ( Mark 13:19 ) during which the antichrist will rule. They also anticipate a large-scale conversion of Jews before the end.

Historic premillennialists also expect Israelite conversion and the Great Tribulation to occur before Christ's return. However, they divide each of the other four final events into two phases. (1) At Jesus' return: antichrist will be defeated, and Satan will be bound (though not wholly destroyed); then “the just” alone shall rise from their graves; they will be judged and rewarded for their good works; and the millennial kingdom will be established. (2) Then, after the millennium: Satan and all evil will be destroyed; then the “unjust” will rise; they will be judged for their evil works; and the new heavens and new earth will descend (compare  Revelation 21:1 ).

Dispensational premillennialists further subdivide this scheme. They distinguish two phases in Jesus' return. In the first, He will rapture the church. The Tribulation and Israel's conversion will follow (although in some versions, the rapture will occur in the middle of or even after the Tribulation). Then Jesus will return to defeat antichrist, bind Satan, and establish a Judeo-centric millennial kingdom. From then on, events will proceed much like those of historic premillennialism. The resurrection, however, must now occur in three phases: at the rapture, all who have died in Christ to that time will be raised; at Jesus' second return, those martyred during the Tribulation will rise; finally, after the millennium, the “unjust” will be resurrected. Judgment, too, will proceed somewhat differently: “the just” who join the rapture will be rewarded then, while those raised at Jesus' second return will be rewarded only after the millennium, when “the unjust” are raised and judged.

The Last Judgment While traditional eschatological discussion has been preoccupied with millennial issues for over a century, several other doctrines have received attention through much longer periods of history. Many ordinary Christians and theologians have been concerned not with exactly when the last judgment will occur, but with how many will be judged favorably, and with how the condemned will be punished.

1. Universalism Over the centuries, most Christians have believed that some people will finally be saved while others will be lost. They often assumed that the latter would outnumber the former. By the early third century, however, Origen (185–254) was teaching “universalism”: the doctrine that everyone would finally be saved. (Origen even included the devil in that number, although this particular addition brought the church's official condemnation.) While universalism was revived from time to time, it was never widely accepted until the nineteenth century, when liberal Protestantism emphasized the goodness of human nature and often extolled God's love to the exclusion of final judgment. In this century, although talk of divine judgment has become more acceptable, even some fairly conservative theologians, such as Karl Barth, have apparently been universalists.

Numerically speaking, opponents of universalism have more biblical texts on their side. The Old Testament abounds with annihilating judgments ( Exodus 14:23-28;  Joshua 7:24-26;  Jeremiah 51:39-40 ). Jesus proclaimed negative judgments in parables ( Matthew 13:1 ) and many other sayings ( Matthew 5:29-30;  Matthew 11:21-24;  Matthew 23:33 ). Paul often spoke of future condemnation ( Romans 2:5-9;  Romans 2:1 or.   Romans 5:10;  1 Thessalonians 1:10 ) as do other New Testament writings ( 2 Peter 3:7;  Jude 1:14-15;  Revelation 20:11-15 ).

Universalists, however, can cite passages emphasizing God's desire that everyone be saved ( 1 Timothy 2:4;  2 Peter 3:9 ). They also argue that the scope of salvation becomes continally wider as biblical history advances ( Romans 5:15 ). Finally, certain texts seem to directly teach universalism: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” ( 1 Corinthians 15:22; “[Jesus'] act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all” ( Romans 5:18 RSV; compare   Ephesians 1:10;  Colossians 1:20;  1 Timothy 4:10;  1 John 2:2 ).

Positions on universalism, however, are not influenced by specific biblical texts alone. One's views on the character of God and of humanity and of salvation play important roles—sometimes in emotional ways. Universalists find negative judgment incompatible with God's overwhelming love and the dignity of the human person. Opponents of universalism feel that it seriously undercuts the urgency of the call to repentance and the firmness of God's justice and ignores too many biblical texts.

2. The Nature of Hell Negative judgment results in consignment to hell. Most Christians have supposed that this will involve eternal conscious torment. This seems to be taught by texts which speak of hell as enduring forever ( Isaiah 66:24;  Mark 9:48;  Revelation 14:9-11 ). Others, however, have argued that such texts should be taken figuratively since for them such a penalty is incompatible with God's mercy and also is disproportionate to all sins that a finite being could commit. Moreover, some find the eternal existence of hell inconsistent with the perfected rule of God over the cosmos. Accordingly, some have proposed that hell consists simply in the annihilation of “the unjust,” involving their immediate loss of consciousness. Others have suggested that a gradual annihilation or deterioration of the wicked may be involved. Most evangelical Christians continue to expect a literal hell of torment. See Hell .

The Final Resurrection While the hope of resurrection has frequently been expressed in liturgy, hymns, and playful speculation, it has received far less theological discussion than have hell and judgment. Perhaps this is because most have regarded the affirmation of resurrection as far less problematic. In recent decades, however, some have questioned whether resurrection is compatible with another notion widely held since the first Christian centuries: the immortality of the soul.

Belief that the soul is inherently immortal implies, first, that every person passes immediately and automatically into God's presence at death. Yet this seems contrary to the biblical depiction of Death as an enemy barring the way to God and overcome only by Jesus' painful dying struggle and His resurrection. Second, since only the soul is immortal, this view implies only one part of the person comes directly into God's presence. This seems to contradict the biblical emphasis on resurrection of the body. Finally, if the soul passes immediately into God's full presence, eschatological hope would focus on the individual's death rather than on the return of Christ and the renewal of the cosmos. In other words, belief in inherent immortality of the soul tends to make one's eschatology spiritualistic and individualistic; belief in resurrection emphasizes eschatology's physical, historical, and corporate dimensions.

If a future resurrection be our ultimate hope, though, many will wonder: where are our departed loved ones, if they are not yet fully enjoying God's presence? Some, such as the Adventists, have long responded that souls simply sleep until the resurrection. Some talk of a distinction in eternity and historical time. Others think it best to simply affirm that the dead are somehow “in Christ.” While the uncertainty involved may unsettle some who are bereaved, this approach can also help people deal realistically with the tragedy that is still involved in death.

Event and Meaning As judgment and resurrection have been discussed, it has become increasingly clear that eschatological discussions arise not merely from speculation about future events, but also from the hopes, fears, and perplexities which anticipation of these events arouses. Upon closer examination, this also proves to be true of millennial questions. For when people ask about the relationship between the millennium and the present, they often are seeking to determine what kind of actions and attitudes are appropriate in the present. For instance, postmillennialists will usually conclude that because the millennium is already here, vigorous involvement in certain social movements is imperative. Premillennialists may conclude that because the millennium is not yet here, social involvement is not appropriate; or perhaps that radical, counter-cultural criticism and involvement are called for.

In any case, the more one penetrates into the questions which underlie traditional eschatological discussions, the more one recognizes that eschatology has to do not only with the future, but also with the present. The last things, at least insofar as they arouse hope, fear, and perplexity, are already alive in the present. But this insight reminds us of the verdict of contemporary scholarship: that ever since Jesus, the final age is “already” present, even though it has “not yet” been fully consummated. Indeed, if modern scholars are correct, eschatology cannot be adequately understood unless the present as well as the future is discussed. Let us see, then, what eschatology looks like when the “already-not yet” dynamic of the New Testament is taken into account, when eschatology is viewed as the in breaking of the future.

New Testament Eschatology What features were essential to the eschatological atmosphere that pervaded the New Testament era—and therefore to a full understanding of eschatology in general? Jesus' contemporaries felt that they were living at the end of an “old Age” dominated by forces which opposed God. Pagan gods and pagan political rulers seemed to hold all things in their grip. They afflicted Yahweh's righteous remnant with suffering and death. Pious Israelites cried out for deliverance. They expected Yahweh to intervene radically in world affairs. More specifically, they expected God, first, to judge and defeat His enemies; second, to rescue His people and raise the righteous dead; and third, to inaugurate the “new Age” of life and peace through the Spirit.

The gospel story tells how God did these very things—though in an unforeseen and surprising way. Instead of coming as a warrior Messiah to destroy the pagan nations and their gods, God came as a humble Servant who was put to death, but then was unexpectedly resurrected. Yet as the early Christian community pondered these things, they began to acknowledge that they had rejected Jesus and had therefore participated, whether actively or passively, in putting Him to death. However, this meant that not only pagans, but they, too, were God's enemies ( Romans 5:10 ). By crucifying Jesus, they, too, had come under God's judgment. In fact, the last, decisive judgment of the world had “already” occurred. They, along with all humans, had been pronounced guilty! As Jesus said in John's Gospel, “this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” ( John 3:19 ).

The early church also discovered that the anticipated resurrection of the righteous dead had “already” occurred—although again in a surprising form. For instead of all the righteous being raised, Jesus alone had been, as the “firstfruits” of final harvest ( 1 Corinthians 15:20 ,  1 Corinthians 15:23 ). His resurrection had two astounding consequences. On one hand, since Jesus was again alive and continuing to offer love and forgiveness, no one who had rejected Him need remain under God's judgment. Those who repented of their sin could receive new life in fellowship with Him. On the other hand, by overcoming death, Jesus had conquered the strongest of those evil forces which oppose God (1Corinthians 15:26, 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ). Since this power had been defeated, no other power in heaven and earth could separate those who participated in Jesus' resurrection from God ( Romans 8:37-39;  Ephesians 1:18-23;  1 Peter 3:21-22 ).

Third, the early Christian community discovered that the “new Age” of life and peace had “already” begun among them through the outpouring of God's Spirit. They began to understand that the Spirit, like Jesus, was the “firstfruits” of a new creation ( Romans 8:23 ), while those who turned to Christ became the firstfruits of a new humanity ( Romans 16:5;  James 1:18;  Revelation 14:4 ). Yet the “new Age,” too, was present in an unexpected way. For although the powers which dominated the old Age had already been defeated, they were “not yet” wholly destroyed. Indeed, even as the Spirit impelled the early Christians to spread the good news among all nations, they experienced opposition much like that which Jesus had suffered.

The early church, then, continued to live in an atmosphere charged with eschatology. Like Jesus' contemporaries, they continued to struggle with forces which opposed God and to long eagerly for God's final triumph and deliverance. Yet they did so with a difference. For their conviction that the new Age had broken in imbued them with certainty of victory. Convinced that new ways of living were possible through the Spirit, they began to serve each other, to share their wealth, to bring people from all social groups into their fellowship.

General Implications for Eschatology Traditionally, the study of eschatology has suffered from two attitudes: neglect and overemphasis. Since eschatology has focused on events which have not yet occurred, many Christians have ignored it; and many theologians have treated it as an appendix at the end of their systems. Other Christians and theologians, however, have become so obsessed with these events that they have dealt with little else. Both attitudes have been encouraged by the separation of eschatology from the rest of Christian life and doctrine. If the “last things” have been occurring since Jesus' time, they must be far more relevant to the main themes of Christian activity and thought.

The preceding sketch of the New Testament perspective does not necessarily support any traditional eschatological scheme. Neither does it mandate any particular way of doing eschatology. Nonetheless, we can usefully draw from it several suggestions as to how eschatology as presently understood by biblical scholars might influence eschatology as traditionally discussed by theologians.

When the last judgment is regarded solely as a future event, it often arouses perplexity as to who will be rewarded or condemned and fear as to whether I might be condemned. It is more in line with biblical thinking to affirm that the last judgment, in the most decisive sense, has already occurred in Jesus' death and resurrection. Final judgment is not determined primarily by how many good or evil deeds one will do, but by how one responds to the judgment which these events already make upon oneself and the world. This emphasis, indeed, may not relieve all discomfort. It speaks about judgment in relation to concrete historical events and not solely in reference to an unknown future. It speaks, moreover, of events through which God's love, forgiveness, and triumph as well as condemnation are revealed. If eschatology can deal with the last judgment in this light, it might appear more clearly not only as an exercise of God's wrath, but also as the manifestation of His love and the consummation of His triumph.

When resurrection is regarded as wholly future, it often seems to stand in sharp contrast to one's present life. Earthly existence appears as a struggle which we must endure, largely on our own, until we are suddenly translated into a totally different realm. If resurrection, in the most decisive sense, has already occurred in Jesus' triumph, then the strength which it unleashes is available to us now. Further, if all resurrection is rooted in Jesus' resurrection and if one's own resurrection is not totally a distant, isolated event, then the resurrection life already brings one into fellowship with Jesus and with all others who participate in it. If eschatology can deal with future resurrection in this light, it might appear more clearly as the joyous manifestation, perfection, and culmination of the life which all Christians now share in Him.

Finally, a deeper understanding of the “already-not yet” life on the new Age might help Christians relate more effectively to society at large. Postmillennialists, emphasizing that God's kingdom is already present, have usually been active in society, but have sometimes been unduly optimistic about possibilities for positive social change. Premillennialists, on the other hand, regarding God's kingdom as partially or wholly future, have often recognized the massive scope of evil in the world; but they have sometimes been unduly pessimistic about the value of social involvement. Perhaps a recognition that the new Age is both present and future and that neither side of this paradox dare be ignored could help the church maximize the strengths of different millennial perspectives without being overcome by the weaknesses of any. See Christology; Kingdom Of God; Millennium; Revelation, Book of.

Thomas Finger

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

ESCHATOLOGY is that department of theology which is concerned with the ‘last things,’ that is, with the state of individuals after death, and with the course of human history when the present order of things has been brought to a close. It includes such matters as the consummation of the age, the day of judgment, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, the millennium, and the fixing of the conditions of eternity.

1. Eschatology of the OT . In the OT the future life is not greatly emphasized. In fact, so silent is the Hebrew literature on the subject, that some have held that personal immortality was not included among the beliefs of the Hebrews. Such an opinion, however, is hardly based on all the facts at our disposal. It is true that future rewards and punishments after death do not play any particular rôle in either the codes or the prophetic thought. Punishment was generally considered as being meted out in the present age in the shape of loss or misfortune or sickness, while righteousness was expected to bring the corresponding temporal blessings. At the same time, however, it is to be borne in mind that the Hebrews, together with other Semitic people, had a belief in the existence of souls after death. Such beliefs were unquestionably the survivals of that primitive Animism which was the first representative of both psychology and a developed belief in personal immortality. Man was to the Hebrew a dichotomy composed of body and soul, or a trichotomy of body, soul, and spirit. In either case the body perished at death, and the other element, whether soul or spirit, went to the abode of disembodied personalities. The precise relation of the ‘soul’ to the ‘spirit’ was not set forth by the Hebrew writers, but it is likely that, as their empirical psychology developed, the spirit rather than the soul was regarded as surviving death. In any case, the disembodied dead were not believed to be immaterial, but of the nature of ghosts or shades ( rephaim ).

The universe was so constructed that the earth lay between heaven above, where Jehovah was, and the great pit or cavern beneath, Sheol , to which the shades of the dead departed. The Hebrew Scriptures do not give us any considerable material for elaborating a theory as to life in Sheol, but from the warnings against necromancers, as well as from the story of Saul and the witch of Endor (  1 Samuel 28:3-18 ), it is clear that, alongside of the Jehovistic religion as found in the literature of the Hebrews, there was a popular belief in continued existence and conscious life of the spirits of men after death, as well as in the possibility of recalling such spirits from Sheol by some form of incantation. The legislation against necromancy is a further testimony to the same fact (  Deuteronomy 18:11 ). Early Hebrew thought also dealt but indistinctly with the occupations and conditions of the dead in Sheol. Apparently they were regarded as in a state resembling sleep.

There is no thought of resurrection of the body in the OT, the clause in   Job 19:26 generally used to prove such a point being more properly translated ‘apart from my flesh.’ The resurrection expected was not individual, but national. The nation, or at least its pious remnant, was to be restored. This was the great evangel of the prophets. In the midst of this prophetic thought there was occasionally a reference to individual immortality, but such a belief was not utilized for the purpose of inculcating right conduct. Yet the new and higher conception of the worth of the individual and his relation with Jehovah paved the way to a clearer estimate of his immortality.

The later books of the Canon ( Psalms 49:1-20;   Psalms 73:18-25 ) refer more frequently to immortality, both of good and of evil men, but continue to deny activity to the dead in Sheol (  Job 14:21;   Job 26:6 ,   Psalms 88:12;   Psalms 94:17;   Psalms 115:17 ,   Ecclesiastes 9:10 ), and less distinctly (  Isaiah 26:19 ) refer to a resurrection, although with just what content it is not possible to state. It can hardly have been much more than the emergence of shades from Sheol into the light and life of the upper heavens. It would be unwarranted to say that this new life included anything like the reconstruction of the body, which was conceived of as having returned to dust. In these passages there are possibly references to post-mortem retribution and rewards, but if so they are exceptional. OT ethics was not concerned with immortality.

In the Hebrew period, however, there were elements which were subsequently to be utilized in the development of the eschatology of the Pharisees and of Christianity. Chief among these was the Day of Jehovah . At the first this was conceived of as the day in which Jehovah should punish the enemies of His nation Israel. In the course of time, however, and with the enlarged moral horizon of prophecy, the import of this day with its punishments was extended to the Hebrews as well. At its coming the Hebrew nation was to be given all sorts of political and social blessings by Jehovah, but certain of its members were to share in the punishment reserved for the enemies of Jehovah. Such an expectation as this was the natural outcome of the monarchical concept of religion. Jehovah as a great king had given His laws to His chosen people, and would establish a great assize at which all men, including the Hebrews, would be judged. Except in the Hagiographa, however, the punishments and rewards of this great judgment are not elaborated, and even in Daniel the treatment is but rudimentary.

A second element of importance was the belief in the rehabilitation of the Hebrew nation, i.e . in a national resurrection . This carried within it the germs of many of the eschatological expectations of later days. In fact, without the prophetic insistence upon the distinction between the period of national suffering and that of national glory, it is hard to see how the later doctrine of the ‘two ages,’ mentioned below, could have gained its importance.

2. Eschatology of Judaism . A new period is to be seen in the OT Apocrypha and the pseudepigraphic apocalypses of Judaism. Doubtless much of this new phase in the development of the thought was due to the influence of the Captivity. The Jews came under the influence of the great Babylonian myth-cycles, in which the struggle between right and wrong was expressed as one between God and various supernatural enemies such as dragons and giants. To this period must be attributed also the development of the idea of Sheol, until it included places for the punishment of evil spirits and evil men.

This development was accelerated by the rise of the new type of literature, the apocalypse , the beginnings of which are already to be seen in Isaiah and Zechariah. The various influences which helped to develop this type of literature, with its emphasis upon eschatology, are hard to locate. The influence of the Babylonian mythcycles was great, but there is also to be seen the influence of the Greek impulse to pictorial expression. No nation ever came into close contact with Greek thought and life without sharing in their incentive to æsthetic expression. In the case of the Hebrews this was limited by religion. The Hebrew could not make graven images, but he could utilize art in literary pictures. The method particularly suited the presentation of the Day of Jehovah, with its punishment of Israel’s enemies. As a result we have the very extensive apocalyptic literature which, beginning with the Book of Daniel, was the prevailing mode of expression of a sort of bastard prophecy during the two centuries preceding and the century following Christ. Here, however, the central motif of the Day of Jehovah is greatly expanded. Rewards and punishments become largely transcendental, or show a tendency towards transcendental representation. In this representation we see the Day of Judgment, the Jewish equivalent of the Day of Jehovah, closing one era and opening another. The first was the present age, which is full of wickedness and under the control of Satan, and the second is the coming age, when God’s Kingdom is to be supreme and all enemies of the Law are to be punished. It was these elements that were embodied in the Messianic programme of Judaism, and passed over into Christianity (see Messiah).

The idea of individual immortality is also highly developed in the apocalypses. The condition of men after death is made a motive for right conduct in the present age, though this ethical use of the doctrine is less prominent than the unsystematized portrayal of the various states of good and evil men. The Pharisees believed in immortality and the entrance of the souls of the righteous into ‘new bodies’ (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . XVIII. i. 3), a view that appears in the later apocalypses as well (Eth. Enoch 37 60, cf. 2Ma 7:11; 2Ma 14:46 ). This body was not necessarily to be physical, but like the angels (Apoc. [Note: Apocalypse, Apocalyptic.] of Baruch and 2 Esdras, though these writings undoubtedly show the influence of Christian thought). There is also a tendency to regard the resurrection as wholly of the spirit (Eth. Enoch 91:18, 92:3, 103:3f.). Sheol is sometimes treated as an intermediate abode from which the righteous go to heaven. There is no clear expectation of either the resurrection or the annihilation of the wicked. Resurrection was limited to the righteous, or sometimes to Israel. At the same time there is a strongly marked tendency to regard the expected Messianic kingdom which begins with the Day of Judgment as super-mundane and temporary, and personal immortality in heaven becomes the highest good. It should be remembered, however, that each writer has his own peculiar beliefs, and that there was no authoritative eschatological dogma among the Jews. The Sadducees disbelieved in any immortality whatsoever.

3. Eschatology of the NT . This is the development of the eschatology of Judaism, modified by the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

( a ) In the teaching of Jesus we find eschatology prominently represented. The Kingdom of God , as He conceived of it, is formally eschatological. Its members were being gathered by Jesus, but it was to come suddenly with the return of the Christ, and would be ushered in by a general judgment. Jesus, however, does not elaborate the idea of the Kingdom in itself, but rather makes it a point of contact with the Jews for His exposition of eternal life, that is to say, the life that characterizes the coming age and may be begun in the present evil age. The supreme good in Jesus’ teaching is this eternal life which characterizes membership in the Kingdom. Nothing but a highly subjective criticism can eliminate from His teaching this eschatological element, which appears as strongly in the Fourth Gospel as in the Synoptic writings, and furnishes material for the appeal of His Apostles. It should be added, however, that the eschatology of Jesus, once it is viewed from His own point of view, carries with it no crude theory of rewards and punishments, but rather serves as a vehicle for expressing His fundamental moral and religious concepts. To all intents and purposes it is in form and vocabulary like that of current Judaism. It includes the two ages, the non-physical resurrection of the dead, the Judgment with its sentences, and the establishment of eternal states.

( b ) In the teaching of primitive Christians eschatology is a ruling concept, and is thoroughly embedded in the Messianic evangel. Our lack of literary sources, however, forbids any detailed presentation of the content of their expectation beyond a reference to the central position given to the coming day of the Christ’s Judgment.

( c ) Eschatology was also a controlling element in the teaching of St. Paul. Under its influence the Apostle held himself aloof from social reform and revolution. In his opinion Christians were living in the ‘last days’ of the present evil age. The Christ was soon to appear to establish His Judgment, and to usher in the new period when the wicked were to suffer and the righteous were to share in the joys of the resurrection and the Messianic Kingdom. Eschatology alone forms the proper point of approach to the Pauline doctrines of justification and salvation, as well as his teachings as to the resurrection. But here again eschatology, though a controlling factor in the Apostle’s thought, was, as in the case of Jesus, a medium for the exposition of a genuine spiritual life, which did not rise and fall with any particular forecast as to the future. The elements of the Pauline eschatology are those of Judaism, but corrected and to a considerable extent given distinctiveness by his knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus. He gives no apocalyptic description of the coming age beyond his teaching as to the body of the resurrection, which is doubtless based upon his belief as to that of the risen Jesus. His description of the Judgment is couched in the conventional language of Pharisaic eschatology; but, hasing his teaching upon ‘the word of the Lord’ (  1 Thessalonians 4:15 ), he develops the doctrine that the Judgment extends both over the living, who are to be caught up into the air, and also over the dead. His teaching is lacking in the specific elements of the apocalypses, and there is no reference to the establishment of a millennium. Opinions differ as to whether St. Paul held that the believer received the resurrection body at death or at the Parousia of Christ. On the whole the former view seems possibly more in accord with his general position as to the work of the Spirit in the believer. The appearance ( Parousia ) of the Christ to inaugurate the new era St. Paul believed to be close at hand (  1 Thessalonians 4:15;   1 Thessalonians 4:17 ), but that it would be preceded by the appearance of an Antichrist (  2 Thessalonians 2:1 f.). The doctrine of the Antichrist, however, does not play any large rôle in Paulinism. While St. Paul’s point of view is eschatological, his fundamental thought is really the new life of the believer, through the Spirit, which is made possible by the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ. With St. Paul, as with Jesus, this new life with its God-like love and its certainty of still larger self-realization through the resurrection is the supreme good.

( d ) The tendencies of later canonical thought are obviously eschatological. The Johannine Apocalypse discloses a complete eschatological programme. In the latter work we see all the elements of Jewish apocalyptic eschatology utilized in the interest of Christian faith. The two ages, the Judgment and the Resurrection, and the final conquest of God are distinctively described, and the programme of the future is elaborated by the addition of the promise of a first resurrection of the saints; by a millennium (probably derived from Judaism; cf. Slav. Enoch 32, 33) in which Satan is bound; by a great period of conflict in which Satan and his hosts are finally defeated and cast into the lake of fire; and by a general resurrection including the wicked for the purpose of judgment. It is not clear that in this general resurrection there is intended anything more than the summoning of souls from Sheol, for a distinction should probably be made between the resurrection and the giving of the body of the resurrection. This resurrection of the wicked seems inconsistent with the general doctrine of the Pauline literature (cf.   1 Corinthians 15:1-58 ), but appears in St. Paul’s address before Felix (  Acts 24:15 ), and in a single Johannine formula (  John 5:29 ). The doctrine of the ‘sleep of the dead’ finds no justification in the Apocalypse or the NT as a whole.

4. Eschatology and Modern Theology . The history of Christian theology until within the last few years has been dominated by eschatological concepts, and, though not in the sense alleged by its detractors, has been otherworldly. The rewards and punishments of immortality have been utilized as motives for morality. This tendency has always met with severe criticism at the hands of philosophy, and of late years has to a considerable extent been minimized or neglected by theologians. The doctrine of the eternity of punishment has been denied in the interest of so-called second or continued probation, restorationism, and conditional immortality. The tendency, however, has resulted in a disposition to reduce Christian theology to general morality based upon religion, and has been to a large extent buttressed by that scepticism or agnosticism regarding individual immortality which marks modern thought. Such a situation has proved injurious to the spread of Christianity as more than a general ethical or religious system, and it is to be hoped that the new interest which is now felt in the historical study of the NT will reinstate eschatology in its true place.

Such a reinstatement will include two fundamental doctrines: (1) that of individual immortality as a new phase in the great process of development of the Individual which is to be observed in life and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus. Distinctions can easily be drawn between the figurative media of NT thought and the great reality of eternal life taught and exemplified by Jesus. (2) The doctrine of a ‘Kingdom of God.’ This expectation, since it involves the elements of a loving personality like that of a God of love, involves a belief in a new humanity that will live a genuinely social life on the earth, although the conditions of such a life must be left undefined. In a word, therefore, the modern equivalent of Jewish eschatology for practical purposes is that of personal (though truly social) immortality and a completion of the development of society. Utterly to ignore the essential elements of NT eschatology is in so far to re-establish the non-Christian concept of material goods as a supreme motive, and to destroy all confidence in the ultimate triumph of social righteousness.

Shailer Mathews.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [3]

The word ‘eschatology’ comes from the Greek eschatos, meaning ‘last’, and commonly refers to the study of ‘the last things’. This is a vast subject, and the following outline refers the reader to articles in this Directory that deal with its many topics.

In its broader aspects, eschatology is concerned with all matters relating to death and the afterlife ( Psalms 16:11;  Daniel 12:2;  Luke 16:22-23;  Hebrews 9:27-28; see Death ; Hades ; Paradise ; Sheol ). More specifically it is concerned with issues relating to the return of Jesus Christ and the new age that will follow (see Jesus Christ sub-heading ‘Christ’s return and final triumph’).

Human history is tied up with the mission of Jesus Christ. At his first coming Jesus brought God’s plan of salvation to its fulfilment through his life and work, and particularly through his death and resurrection. God intervened in human history, and the ‘last days’ began ( Hebrews 1:1-2;  1 Peter 1:20; see Prophecy ; Quotations ). Those ‘last days’ have continued through the present age and will reach their climax at Christ’s return. The coming ‘day of the Lord’ will be that final intervention of God that brings human history to its destiny ( Matthew 24:29-31;  2 Peter 3:3-4;  2 Peter 3:10; see Antichrist; Day Of The Lord )

To have a proper understanding of matters concerning Christ’s return, a person should consider them in relation to matters concerning Christ’s earthly ministry as recorded in the Gospels. Christ’s victory at his second coming will represent the triumphant climax of the kingdom that he brought at his first coming. The kingly Messiah and heavenly Son of man, having died for sin, will return to reign ( Matthew 25:31-34; see Kingdom Of God; Messiah; Millennium; Son Of Man ) The return of Christ will bring about the victorious resurrection of believers, but that resurrection is possible only because of the victorious resurrection of Christ ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; see Resurrection ).

Christ’s return will also lead to final judgment, which means judgment not just for believers, but for all people. The one who died to save people from condemnation and give them new life is the one who will finally declare whether they suffer eternal condemnation or enjoy the heavenly blessings of the new age ( John 5:22;  2 Corinthians 5:10; see Judgment ; Heaven ; Hell ).

At his first coming Christ dealt with sin and showed his power over it. When he returns he will remove sin and all its evil consequences finally and completely. His victory will include the healing of the physical world, the destruction of death and the punishment of Satan ( 1 Corinthians 15:25-26;  Revelation 20:10; see Nature ; Death ; Satan ). Christ and his people together will enter into the full enjoyment of the eternal life that he has made possible for them. The ‘new heavens and new earth’ will be a new order of existence where God is supreme and all people find their full satisfaction in him ( 1 Corinthians 15:28;  Revelation 21:1-4;  Revelation 22:1-6; see Eternity ; Life ).

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [4]

( a ) The Jewish phraseology retained .-The ‘dramatic setting’ of Jewish eschatology is as vividly displayed in the Johannine writings as in any part of the NT. Our Lord is portrayed as the Messianic ‘Son of Man,’ who has ‘descended out of heaven’ ( John 3:13;  John 6:38;  John 6:42;   Copyright StatementThese files are public domain.Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission. Bibliography InformationHastings, James. Entry for 'Eschatology'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/e/eschatology.html. 1906-1918.

Webster's Dictionary [5]

(n.) The doctrine of the last or final things, as death, judgment, and the events therewith connected.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [6]

(a discussion of the last things, Ἔσχατα ), a branch of theology which treats of the doctrines concerning death, the condition of man after death, the end of this world period, resurrection, final judgment, and the final destiny of the good and the wicked. We treat it here,

I. In its Biblical Aspects, especially as to the doctrine of the Bible concerning the end of the world, denoted by the use of the phrase "last days," which is applied in the O.T. to the consummation of the Jewish economy by the introduction of the Messianic ( Isaiah 2:2;  Micah 4:1; comp.  Acts 3:1;  Hebrews 1:2), and in the N.T. is extended to the still expected developments of the divine purposes respecting the Church ( 2 Timothy 3:1;  2 Peter 3:3). (See Last Day).

1. The Maccabcean Age. In the O.T. prophets the return from Babylon is often made a type of the incoming of the more glorious dispensation of the Gospel. This is the first, more obvious, and most literal eschatological symbol, and much of the language (especially of Isaiah) bearing upon it has therefore a double sense (q.v.) or twofold application. SEE Restoration (Of The Jews )

2. The Chiliastic Period . This is the Christian, as the preceding was the Jewish view of the consummation of the existing divine economy, So Far As Relates To The Administration Of This World. It will be treated under MILLENNIUM (See Millennium) .

3. The Final Denouement Of All Terrestrial Affairs. This whole branch of the subject is particularly exhibited in our Lord's discourse to his disciples upon the Mount of Olives ( Matthew 24:1-51;  Matthew 25:1-46), in which the two scenes of the retribution impending over Jerusalem, and the final judgment, are intimately associated together, in accordance with that almost constant practice in the Hebrew prophets by which one event is made the type and illustration of another much farther in the future. (See Hyponoia).

This is emphatically exemplified in the vaticinations of ISAIAH (See Isaiah) (q.v.), who perpetually refers to the coming glory of Christ under the figure of the nearer deliverance from Babylon, both these denouements being projected upon the same plane of prophecy, without any note of the interval of time between; likewise in the visions of John in the Revelation (q.v.), where the dramatis personae are generic representations of certain principles constantly reappearing in the history of the Church rather than confined to particular characters at one time only. Such often repeated developments of divine providence are the "coming of the Son of Man" and its attendant phenomena, in the sketches or rather glimpses afforded us by the Scriptures into the future. (See Sign (Of The Son Of Man).)

As to the passage in Matthew, which forms the leading proof-text of eschatological treatises, the following expository hints will serve to clear up much of the obscurity and ambiguity which has been thrown around the text by the confused manner in which many interpreters have treated its predictions (see Strong's Harmony and Exposition of the Gospels,: § 123; Stier, Words of Jesus, in loc.; Whedon, Commentary, in loc.; Nast, Commentary, in loc.).

(1.) The question of the apostles ( Matthew 24:3) relates to two distinct subjects, namely, the "coming of the 'Son of man' to do these things," and the "end, of the world;" these two topics; therefore, are discussed by Christ in his reply. (More strictly, there are two questions concerning the First event, namely, "when," and "the sign." Mark and Luke evidently mean to confine their reports of this discourse to this former catastrophe, and therefore they do not mention the second inquiry as to the "end of the world" at all.) Yet, as the questioners apparently supposed that these two events would be simultaneous, or at least intimately connected (as the constant tenor of all former prophecies had naturally made them think), the answer also uses very similar language in treating them both, a style which their analogous nature peculiarly required. Still, the Great Teacher could not fail to give them true criteria by which to separate these two catastrophes, and for these we are to look in his language. That all the events predicted in Matthew's account as far as  Matthew 24:34 are connected with the former of these themes, namely, the demolition of Jerusalem and abolition of the Jewish polity, is certain from the declaration at that verse, that they should ALL occur within the then living generation; and the following verses are so intimately connected with these, both by continuity of idea and notes of simultaneousness, that a disruption anywhere before chapter  Matthew 25:31 would be very harsh and arbitrary. At this point, however, we discover clear intimations of a transition (easy indeed, as the typical correspondence of the two catastrophes would lead us to expect, yet a real and marked one) to the second subject, the general judgment. The change is introduced by the notes of time, "But unwarrantably omitted in our translation] when .... then," and by the loftier tone of the style, besides the distinctive mention of " all nations" as the subjects of that adjudication ( Matthew 25:32). In the latter portion of Christ's discourse alone is employed the briefer and more general mode of prediction usual with the prophets in prefiguring far-distant events, and here only is the language all exclusively applicable to the final judgment. The expressions deemed by some to point out such a transition at other points than those assumed above ( Matthew 24:35, and especially  Matthew 25:31) will be noticed presently; it is sufficient here to say in general that, as the passages embraced within the medial portion ( Matthew 24:27,  Matthew 25:30) are designed to be a link of connection between two judicial events so correlative in character, they naturally assume a style that might be applied to either, borrowing some expressions in describing the former which otherwise would belong exclusively to the latter. See a similarly blended style in describing the former of these two events in  2 Thessalonians 1:7-9; comp. with  2 Thessalonians 2:2; and comp.  Matthew 16:27-28.

Many place at the end of  Matthew 24:28 the transition to the final judgment; but it is difficult to extend 'the intimations of consecutiveness that follow ("[But] immediately after," "But in those days") over such a chasm. It is true, the description ensuing in  Matthew 24:29-31 is unusually allegorical for a prose discourse, but this is explained by the fact that it is evidently borrowed almost wholly from familiar poetic predictions of similar events. Many of these particulars, moreover, may refer, partially at least, in a literal sense, to the concurrent natural phenomena intimated in  Luke 21:11; and in their utmost stretch of meaning they also Hint at the collapse of nature in the general judgment. The objection of anachronism in this application of the "tribulation" of  Luke 21:29 as a Subsequent event, is obviated by considering that this term here 'refers to the incipient stages of the "tribulation" of  Luke 21:21, where the previous context shows that the distress of The First siege and preliminary campaign are "specially intended; Luke ( Luke 21:24) there gives the Personal incidents of the catastrophe itself as succeeding, with an allusion to the long desolation of the land that should follow; so that Christ here resumes the thread of prophetic history (which had been somewhat interrupted by the caution against the impostors who were so rife in the brief interim of the suspension of actual hostilities) by returning to the national consequences of the second and decisive onset of the Romans. The assignment of these events contained in the ensuing verses, as to take place "after the tribulation" (presumed to be that of the acme of the Jewish struggle), is the strongest argument of those who apply this whole following passage to the final judgment. But they overlook the equally explicit limit "immediately after," and, moreover, fail to discriminate the precise date indicated by "that tribulation." This latter is made (in  Matthew 24:21) simultaneous with the flight of the Christians, which could not have been practicable in the extremity of the siege, but is directed (in  Matthew 24:15) to be made on the approach of the besiegers. The consummation intimated here, therefore, refers to the close of the siege (i.e., the sack itself), and the preceding rigors are those of its progress. It ought, moreover, to be considered that the fall of the capital was but the precursor of the extinction of the Jewish nationality (here typified by celestial prodigies); the utter subjugation of the country at large of course following that event. Another interpretation is, that the following passage refers to a second overthrow (the final extermination of the Jewish metropolis under the emperor Adrian in a subsequent war), as distinguished from the first under Titus; this is ingenious, but would hardly justify the strong language here employed, and would, moreover, require the limit immediately" to be extended half a century farther, when the living "generation" must have entirely passed away. Nor at this later event could the "redemption" of the Christians properly be said to "draw nigh" ( Luke 21:28), the Jews having then long ceased to have any considerable power to persecute; compare the deliverance prophetically celebrated in  Revelation 11:1-19, especially  Revelation 11:8;  Revelation 11:13.

(2.) In the highly-wrought description of  Matthew 24:29;  Luke 21:25-26 (which constitutes the transition point or intermediate part of our Savior's discourse), the political convulsions during the acme of the Jewish struggle with the Romans are compared with a contest among the elements, in which the sun, moon, stars, earth, and waves join in one horrible war to aggravate human misery and desperation (comp.  Judges 5:20); the individual terms are therefore to be understood as merely heightening the general idea. To those who suppose the final judgment referred to in the expressions of this and the following verses, it may here be remarked that these symbolical phenomena of nature are all said to take place "immediately after [Mark, 'in'] ... those days," while the subsequent "coming" is made simultaneous by the word "then" used by all the evangelists; and all these events are specially noted as signals of a "deliverance" ( Luke 21:28), evidently the same with that of the Christians from Jerusalem's ruin and power to oppress be. fore alluded to; the whole being limited by all the evangelists in distinct terms to the present generation. In order to understand many of the phrases of this representation (as especially those of  Luke 21:30-31), the induction (so to speak) of a style of language usually appropriated to the second catastrophe (as intimated at the close of paragraph 1 above), must be borne in mind.

The first element of this "tribulation" (that affecting the celestial luminaries, a statement common to all the evangelists here) is cited from  Isaiah 13:10, a passage spoken with reference to the fall of Babylon; comp.  Joel 3:15, and many similar passages, in which the prophets represent great national disasters by celestial phenomena of an astounding character. All the following quotations, as they appear in the evangelists, are cited by our Savior with considerable latitude and irregularity of order, as his object was merely to afford' brief specimens of this style; but the general resemblance to the original pictures is too strong to be mistaken. See  Isaiah 34:4;  Isaiah 13:13;  Ezekiel 32:7, and especially  Joel 2:30, a prediction expressly quoted by the apostle Peter ( Acts 2:19) as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem.

In illustration of the angels spoken of in connection with these incidents ( Matthew 24:31;  Mark 13:27), it should be borne in mind that the Jew naturally associated a retinue of angelic servants with the advent of the Messiah in his triumphant career, and this idea Christ here accommodates, in order to assimilate this first with his final judicial appearance, and thus impress it more deeply upon his volatile disciples' mind (comp.  Daniel 7:10). The "angels" in this case are the providential means (including particularly the Roman invaders), by which the Christians' rescue from siege, sack, and especially persecution, was effected; and the "trumpet sound" refers to the warning intimations which the belligerent preparations afforded them, thus giving them at once an assurance and a signal of deliverance. In the similar language of  Matthew 13:41;  Matthew 13:49, the primary reference is to the general judgment. But in the passage before us it is to be specially noted that the "trumpet" is to "gather together his Elect" only, in distinction from the "all nations" of  Matthew 25:32. At  Matthew 24:44 (comp.  Luke 12:41), the discourse, which previously had been slightly tinged with allusions to the second judicial coming of Christ ( Luke 12:29-31), now begins to verge more distinctly to that final stage, as the reply to Peter that follows indicates. Still, there is no Mark that the transition to the last judgment is effected till  Matthew 25:31.

In the conclusion of the first topic of Christ's discourse ( Matthew 25:1-13; comp.  Luke 12:35-38 : the parable in  Matthew 25:14-30 is parallel with an earlier one of our Lord,  Luke 19:11 sq.), the near anticipation of the second topic produces almost a Double sense in this (and to a degree, in the preceding) parable, which is not so much the effect of direct design as the natural moulding of the 'language while on a kindred subject, by the vivid presence to the mind of a sublime one which is soon to be introduced; and, indeed, scarcely any phraseology (especially in the far- reaching style of allegory) could have been' consistently adopted which would not have been almost equally applicable to both events ... Still, a comparison of  Luke 19:13 with  Matthew 24:36;  Matthew 24:42 shows that the same occurrences (Jerusalem's siege and fall) are here Chiefly referred to.

(3.) The imaginative style of the representation of the judgment day ( Matthew 25:31-36), which is especially betrayed in the comparison with the shepherd, shows that many of its descriptive particulars are designed only for poetic "Drapery," needed to portray the actualness of that scene of the invisible world; the Body of reality couched under it consists in the fact of a universal discrimination of mankind at a future set timely Christ in the capacity of judge, according to their religious character, followed by the assignment of a corresponding destiny of happiness or misery Comp.  Romans 14:10;  Romans 14:12;  2 Corinthians 5:10;  1 Thessalonians 4:16.

See Cremer, Eschatologische Rede Christi (Stuttg. 1860); Dorner, De oratione Chisti eschatologica (Stuttg. 1844); Lippold, De Christo venturo oracula (Dresd. 1776); also the Theol. Stud. u. Krit. 1836, 2:269; 1846, 4:965; 1861-3; Jour. Sac. Lit. January 1857; Stowe, in Bibliotheca Sacra, 7:452. There are special exegetical treatises on  Matthew 24:1-51;  Matthew 25:1-46, in Latin, by Jachmann (Lips. 1749), Brandes (Abose, 1792), Rintsch (Neost. ad Oril. 1827), Kenon (Abo, 1798), Schmid (Jen. 1777), Masch (Nov. Bibl. Lubec. 2:69), Anon. (Lips. 1809); in German, by Crome (Brem. u. Verd. Bibl. 2:349), Ammon (N. theol. Journ. 1:365), Jahn (in Bengel's Archiv. 2:79), Anon. (in Eichhorn's Biblioth. 3:669; Beitriage z. Beford. 11:118; Tollner's Kurze verm. Aufsitze, II, 1:221-50): on Christ's coming (rapovaia, (See Advent) ), in Latin, by Tychsen (Gott. 1785), Schott (Jen. 1819); in German, by Baumeister (in Klaiber's Stud. I, 2:219-41; 3:1- 59; II, 1:1-104; 2:3-48), Schulthess (Neueste theol. Nachtr. 1829, p. 1848): on the phrase Ουδε Ο Υιος , in Latin, by Osiander (Tub. 1754): on the parallel passage of Luke, in German, by Goze (Sendschr. Hamb. 1783, 1784), Moldenhauer (ib. 1784, bis). See Kahle, Biblische Eschatologie (Gotha, 1870).

II. Theological Eschatology is a subdivision of systematic, and more particularly of dogmatic theology. It generally constitutes the concluding part of dogmatic theology, as it treats of what constitutes both for the individual Christian and for the Christian Church, as a whole, the completion of their destiny. As eschatology presupposes a belief in the immortality of the soul, some writers on dogmatic theology (as Hase) treat of it in connection with the doctrine of man, and before they treat of the Church. Others connect the doctrine of death with the doctrine of sin. On some points of eschatology, different views were held at an early period of the Church. Origen understood a passage in the Epistle to the Romans on the Apocatastasis (q.v.) as meaning a final reconciliation and salvation of the wicked, and this view has found some adherents at all times. (See Restorationists). In modern times, some go so far as to deny all punishment after the present life, and asserting the immediate salvation of all men, (See Universalists); while others teach that immortality will be the lot of only the good, and that the wicked, after their death, will be annihilated. (See Annihilationists). See also the articles (See Death), (See Intermediate State), (See Judgment), (See Heaven), (See Hell), (See Resurrection), (See Immortality). The Church of Rome developed the theory of a future state, different from heaven and hell, for which see the article PURGATORY (See Purgatory).

No point connected with eschatology has from the earliest period of the Church been more productive of excited controversy than the doctrine of the second advent of Christ and of the Millennium. For the history of this doctrine; see the article MILLENNIUM (See Millennium) . In German there are separate treatises on eschatology, e.g. Richter, Die Lehre Von Den Letzten Dinzgen (Bresl. 1833, 8vo); Lau, Paulus Lehre V. D. Letzt. Dingen (Brandenbl. 1837, 8vo); Valenti, Eschatologie (Basel, 1840, 8vo); Karsten, Lehre Von D. Letzten Dingen (Rostock, 3d ed. 1861); Schultz, Voraussetzungen Der Christl. Lehre Von Der Unsterblichkeit (Gettingen, 1861); Wilmarshof, Das Jenseits (Leipz. 3 parts, 1863-1866); Noldechen, Grade der Seligkeit (Berlin, 1863); Splittgerber, Tod, Fortleben u. Aferstehung (Halle, 1863); Rink, Vom Zustande nach dem Tode (Ludwigsburg, 2d ed. 1865); Oswald, Eschatologie (Paderborn, 1868). Hagenbach, Encycl. § 89; Herzog, Real-Encykl. 4:155.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [7]

The department of theology which treats of the so-called last things, such as death, the intermediate state, the millennium, the return of Christ, the resurrection, the judgment, and the end of the world.

References