59. Eschatology: The Doctrine of Last Things
Purpose: The purpose of this session is to acquaint the disciple with the major teachings related to things that are yet to come.
1. The disciple will understand the meaning of the term, “The day of the Lord.”
2. The disciple will grasp truths concerning the resurrection of the dead.
3. The disciple will have an understanding of truths related to the millennial reign of Christ.
4. The disciple will have a cursory understanding of the judgments.
Then the angel said to me, “These words are reliable and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must happen soon.” (Look! I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy expressed in this book.)
1. Sharing and prayer.
2. Discuss the material.
3. Develop a prophetic map.
4. Discuss new terms.
5. Questions for review and discussion.
The Doctrine of Last Things
This is a study of systematic theology as it pertains to the doctrines relating to the end of the age. It is important to note that this is a rather controversial area among evangelicals. The following ideas pertain to the author's particular bias. You need not feel that you must accept these concepts in their entirety if you can Scripturally justify your own point of view. But you must develop some framework for approaching Scripture and the issues involving the Second Coming of Christ. The following is a suggested framework to help you begin to think through issues surrounding this event that is so often spoken of in the Old and New Testament.
It is also important to know that theology or doctrine becomes a topical approach to great themes taught in the Scripture, so we will intentionally not go verse by verse, but rather theme by theme.
I. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ (to earth).
All eschatology centers around this theme, that Christ is going to return to earth in the same way He left it.
A. This was promised at His Ascension, Acts 1:8-12.
How did He return to heaven?
2. From the Mount of Olives.
3. In human form.
4. In a cloud that received Him.
It is important to understand that His return is to be visible and in a body such as we have that can be touched, seen, and recognized. It will not be in spirit form.
B. Promised by Jesus Himself, John 14:1-3.
Jesus promised that if He went away, He would surely come again and receive us. This certainly cannot be fulfilled through the coming of the Holy Spirit, as some would tell us.
C. The epistles speak of it, 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 2 Peter 3:10; Jude 14,15; and 1 John 2:28.
D. Revelation gives a grand picture of the event, 19:11-15.
II. What is Associated with the Second Coming of Christ?
A. The resurrection of the dead in Christ—the FIRST resurrection. 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. Revelation 20:6.
The nature of the resurrection of the body is such that bodies will bear resemblances to earthly bodies, except for their perfection. They will be glorified bodies, never able to die again, bodies free from the infirmities brought about in our earthly bodies because of sin.
Mortal bodies will give way to immortal, corruptible bodies will give way to incorruptible. And at this point, our sanctification will be complete, and we will be glorified. For those who are alive at His coming, there will be instantaneous change that will take place the moment we see Him, 1 John 3:2.
How is His Second Coming referred to in practical ways, or how can I view His return? 1 John 2:29, (a purifying hope) and Titus 2:13, 1 John 3:3 (a blessed hope).
B. The Judgments
It is important to differentiate judgments in Scripture. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation (judgment) for those in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? Simply that Christ has paid the penalty for my sin, and that is a question that is settled forever as far as the sin question is concerned. I need NEVER fear the penalty for sin in my life. Christ has paid that once for all!
"Payment God does not twice demand,
First at my bleeding surety’s hand
And then again at mine,"
But there are judgments that will take place at the coming of the Lord. This brief section seeks to delineate these judgments and help you understand them.
1. The Bema, 2 Corinthians 5:10
The Bema or judgment seat of Christ is a believer’s award seat. Only those who have positional relationship with Christ will be there. The word Bema is used because of the nature of this time of evaluation. The Bema was the award seat at the Corinthian games. No one was ever punished at the Bema for failure to achieve. However, those who did achieve would come to the Bema and receive their ivy wreaths for a job well done, a race well run. In the same manner, every believer will appear before the Bema in order to sift and separate from his life that which was worthwhile and that which was worthless. 1 Corinthians 3-4 deals in more detail with the Bema.
a. Results of the Bema:
We will receive distinction which we will carry with us for all eternity. These are called crowns elsewhere.
b. The Time of the Bema:
The Bema will take place immediately upon the return of Christ when we are caught up in the air to meet the Lord.
2. The Judgment of Living Nations, Matthew 25:31-4
This is a judgment that will determine which nations and people living on earth will go into the millennium when Christ sets up His kingdom to reign over the earth. The criteria for this judgment seems to be the treatment of the Jews (His brethren) in various ways during the tribulation. The time of the Judgment of Living Nations will be when the Lord Jesus returns with His Church to set up His kingdom over the earth at the end of the great tribulation.
3. The Judgment of Israel and the unbelieving world at the end of the Church Age. The Great Tribulation —the time of Jacob's Trouble
4. The Judgment of the Great White Throne, Revelation 20:11-15. This is the final judgment of humans who have lived on the earth.
It is a judgment of "the dead". It is not a general judgment of believers and unbelievers. Resurrected saints will have reigned with Christ for 1,000 years and are in their glorified bodies. Why a judgment for the lost? It is a judgment of all who have desired to stand in their own righteousness in refusing the righteousness of Christ. Their bodies are possibly "the books" and are raised because the record of their deeds are in their bodies. This judgment takes place at the end of the millennium and at the end of all time. Eternity follows.
5. The Judgment of Fallen Angels, Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4
There is no indication of the time of this judgment, although one might expect that it takes place at the end of all things, and some- where around the time of the Great White Throne.
The foregoing are judgments that relate to things in the future. It is important to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" with respect to these. All judgments are not the same. It is also important to fix forever in our minds that believers are exempt from any future judgment!
III. When is Christ Coming?
This is an important question. The return of Christ has seemed to be considered imminent throughout all of the Church Age. That is, there has never been a group of people in time that couldn't feel that the Lord could come at any time. That is as true today as it has ever been. But Scripture has some specific things to say about the time of His return and we will try to summarize these things for you.
A. No one knows the day nor the hour, Matthew 24:36-42. From time to time there are those who predict the coming of the Lord and ultimately are embarrassed. One of the greatest efforts to decide on the date was involved in the origin of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in the 1800's.
B. The Second Coming of Christ seems to be associated with the completion of the "Mystery of Iniquity," 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8.
C. The full working of the "Mystery of Iniquity" is held back by ONE Who hinders. This One may very well be the Holy Spirit Who is in the Church. Since He is promised to the Church until the very end, He cannot be taken out of the way without the Church also being taken out of the way. This will signal the first phase of the return of the Lord.
This is the last of several studies in Bible doctrine. We are providing these as part of the materials for our discipleship ministry because we want to be sure you are well-grounded with ability to handle the Scriptures with increasing effectiveness. Let's first clarify terms. The word "theology" means "the study of God". The word in the original Greek for God is the word "theos". Therefore, the study of God is called ________________ . There are many areas in theology. One of these, is called "eschatology". This is the study of "last things," or things that relate to the end time. It is called eschatology because the word in Greek for last is "eschatos". Therefore, eschatology is the study of __________ things. Perhaps this is a new word for you. _________________ is the study of last things.
It is important to understand that theology is a study of great topics of major Bible themes. Because of this, we will not be studying verse by verse necessarily. Rather, we will consider the themes taught in the Scripture and attempt to gather together Biblical data that relate to these.
Most teaching concerning eschatology, or _________ things, centers around aspects of the Second Coming of Christ. That Christ will return to earth and rule on the earth is a stated fact of Scripture. Look up the following verses and complete the statements about the teaching concerning the Second Coming of Christ.
1. Acts 1:8-12. Read this passage carefully and answer the following questions.
a. How do we know that Jesus ascended visibly from the earth and what cues in this passage speak of his visible return?
b. What form did Jesus have as He ascended into heaven?
c. Who do the men in white apparel seem to be?
d. What did these two men say about the return of Christ?
This is crucial inasmuch as Jehovah’s Witnesses and others say that the Lord Jesus has already returned to earth in secret.
2. John 14:1-3. Read this passage carefully and notice that Jesus Himself promised to return. What did He say He would go away and do?
a. Where are these places?
b. What does He say He will do upon returning?
c. Why is this important to you?
d. Some say this was fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Why could this not be true? Look at the verse carefully and answer.
3. 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17. Again, read the verse carefully before you answer the questions. What about this verse indicates that it is a very personal return of Christ to earth?
a. What is to accompany the return of Christ?
b. What is going to happen when Christ returns?
c. Who are the "dead" in Christ? cf. Rev. 20:4, 5.
d. Who are those who are "alive and remain"?
e. What will happen to us at that very moment? 1 Corinthians 15:51-54
f. This is the first phase of the Second Coming of Christ and the "first" resurrection. What is involved at the second resurrection? Revelation 20:12
An event included in the "first resurrection" —the translation of the Church —is often called “the rapture.” The "Day of the Lord" is another term that you might become familiar with. This term does not refer to an actual day, but rather to a period of time that begins with the "rapture" of the Church and ends with the judgment of the "Great White Throne."
4. Jude 14,15. Jude speaks of the coming of Christ with "ten thousands of His saints." To whom does this statement regarding His saints refer? cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14.
According to the statement in Jude, what will happen when the Lord returns?
5. 1 John 2:28. What should be the result of the anticipation of the coming of the Lord?
How does this come about?
6. Revelation 19:11-16. This is something of an elaborated description of what the return of the Lord will be like as seen by dwellers on earth. How do we know that this describes the Savior?
7. What kinds of things will happen at the coming of the Lord?
a. 1 John 3:2
b. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
c. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
8. What should be our response to the truths set forth in these verses?
1 Corinthians 15:58
9. It is at this point in time that "glorification" becomes a reality. What do you remember from previous studies about the meaning of this term?
(See "positional truth"- session 6).
10. In 1 Corinthians 15: 51-57 who are the mortal? What is immortality? (or imperishable) What is meant by the term "corruptible"? (or perishable)
11. In relation to our early studies in basic theology, to what basic major doc trine is "glorification" linked strongly?
Associated with the coming or return of Christ are several specific judgments. Basically, the important consideration is that for us who are in Christ Jesus, there is no more Romans 8:1. What does this mean to you?
The simple reality is that Jesus paid the full penalty for our sins. As a result of this, we need never again fear judgment for sin. But there are judgments that take place at the coming of the Lord and we will attempt in this section of the study to look at some of these. We as Christians will have involvement in some of them, but not in others.
2 Corinthians 5:10
1 Corinthians 3:1-4:5
The word "Bema" refers to the award seat at the Olympic-like games at Corinth. No one was ever punished at the Bema for not achieving. Those who run in the Olympics who do not finish with at least a bronze metal are not punished because of their failure to place with the winners. In the same sense, to not run well in this race in the Christian life is to suffer loss, but it is not to be punished. All punishment for sin is gone with Calvary covering it all with total sufficiency.
1. First let's understand that this judgment seat is a place for the sorting out of works that are of value as opposed to those that have no value. Criteria involved seem to be twofold. But first, look again at 2 Corinthians 5:10. What is the purpose for the Bema?
Please note that the word translated "bad" is not the word that would relate to evil, but conveys the idea of "worthless", (kakos).
1 Corinthians 3:10 says what will be involved? _______________________ And vs. 13 of the same chapter tells us quality is one of the important measures of our work. Because of this, Paul tells us to not _____________ _______________, 1 Corinthians 4:5, because _____________________________________, and he is speaking of the Judgment Seat of Christ, or the B________.
3. What can be inferred by the pronoun "we" in 2 Corinthians 5:10?
4. The result of this discrimination of our works is far-reaching. From the following verses, see if you can determine how far-reaching this will really be.
1 Corinthians 15:40-42b
1 Corinthians 3:12-15
5. Look at the two passages below and try to see what two classes of works could possibly be referred to in the Corinthian passage.
a. Galatians 5:22-23
b. Isaiah 64:6
These look just alike, and it is only possible for deity to sort them out. Therefore, there is a need for a judgment. Why is there a "fear" related to these? 2 Corinthians 5:10-11
The Judgment of Living Nations
1. What event will take place before this judgment? vs. 31
2. Who will be judged at this judgment?
3. Who are the sheep and the goats?
4. What seems to be the chief issue involved in this judgment? i.e., what constitutes the behavior that categorizes one as a sheep and the other as a goat? vs. 37-45
5. Who are "His brethren"?
6. The time that has just preceded this great event is the tribulation period when great trouble will overtake the entire earth. The passage states that the criteria for entry into the Kingdom reign with Christ is "how the brethren were treated" by the Gentile nations on earth. It is obvious that no one is truly saved by any other means than faith in Jesus, Ephesians 2:8, 9.
Apparently trouble will be so great and issues so clear during the Great Tribulation, that those who truly know the Lord will also treat the Jews, God's chosen people, with respect, and they will also care for them. What will be the results of this judgment? vs. 46
cf. John 5:24.
The Great White Throne
1. At what point in time does this judgment seem to take place? vs. 5, 11-13
2. Where have the resurrected saints of the first resurrection been before this judgment?
3. What are some of the results of this judgment? vs. 12
4. Out of what were those raised judged? vs. 12
5. What are the books mentioned? vs. 12, 15
6. What suggests the finality of this judgment? vs. 14, 15
The Judgment of Angels
Jude 6; 2 Peter 2:4
Who are the participants of this judgment?
Why do they need to be judged?
The Time of His Return
See Matthew 24:36-42, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8. Then answer this question in your own words. When will Christ return?
Questions for Review and Discussion
1. What is missing in the life of a Christian who does not hold to the imminent return of Christ to earth?
2. Elaborate on the unique meanings that are found in the phrase: "The Day of the Lord."
3. List several things that will take place when the Lord returns to earth.
4. During the earthly reign of Christ, what will be the situation with Satan in the world, and how will this affect the problem of sin in the human race?
5. What problems are confronted when Scripture is interpreted as teaching only one general judgment at the end of time?
6. What aspect of eschatology gives you the most hope and comfort?
7. What aspect brings you the most difficulty or unrest?
Related Topics: Discipleship