What is eschatology? Eschatology comes from the Greek word eschatos, which means last, end, or final.1 Therefore, eschatology is the study of last things. Everybody has a form of eschatology. For some, eschatology brings despair because everything ends in death—including the individual and the universe. Some have a vague hope of the afterlife. For Christians, they should have a certain hope because God has laid out his plan for the end times in Scripture; God did this to encourage his saints and prepare them for what is ahead.
There are two types of eschatology. (1) There is personal eschatology, which includes the future of individuals, including death, the intermediate state, the resurrection, judgment, and eternity. It answers the question: what is a person’s individual destiny? (2) The other type of eschatology is cosmic or general eschatology. It describes major events that will affect the entire universe, such as the tribulation period, the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, the millennium, the final judgment, and the coming eternal kingdom.
The Importance of Eschatology
Why is it important to study eschatology? It is important for many reasons:
1. Studying eschatology is important because it keeps us from being ignorant about God’s future plan and missing the benefits of that understanding.
Revelation 1:1 says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must happen very soon. He made it clear by sending his angel to his servant John.” Christ intended for his servants to understand God’s future program. Not only did he reveal much of the end-time events to the apostle John to share with believers, but he also shared much about the end-times while he was on the earth before he died (cf. Matt 24). It was never God’s will for his saints to be uninformed. In 1 Thessalonians 4:18, Paul said this in the context of teaching about the second coming and the rapture of saints: “Therefore encourage one another with these words.” By understanding eschatology, believers can find encouragement.
2. Studying eschatology is important because it provides joy and hope in uncertain times.
Though it may seem like everything in the world is falling apart, we should have hope because we know how things end. For the sake of example, it is like watching a championship game which one’s favorite team is playing in. Watching the game often comes with moments of sheer excitement when one’s team is doing well and moments of terror when the team is losing. However, when watching the game while knowing the outcome, a person typically does not get too high when things are good or too low when things are bad because the person knows the outcome. Though he may not know all the particulars of the game, the fact that he knows how things end protects his emotions. Likewise, studying eschatology does the same for the believer. When the world and other believers are distraught or overly optimistic because of events happening in the world, the believer who has devoted time to studying eschatology is more sober-minded. Consider the following verses. In 2 Corinthians 5:8, Paul said, “Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Paul was full of courage when facing the prospect of death because he knew death led to being home in the presence of Christ. Likewise, in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, Paul said, “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope.” In this context, believers were anxious about the futures of deceased believers; however, by understanding the rapture, which will happen at Christ’s coming, they could have hope instead of grief.
3. Studying eschatology is important to encourage us towards holy living.
In 1 John 3:2-3, John said this about the second coming and the glorification of saints:
Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is. And everyone who has this hope focused on him purifies himself, just as Jesus is pure).
Those hoping in Christ’s coming and our subsequent glorification purify themselves from sin. In 2 Peter 3:10-11, Peter said the same thing about Christ’s coming and his renewal of the heavens and the earth by fire.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; when it comes, the heavens will disappear with a horrific noise, and the celestial bodies will melt away in a blaze, and the earth and every deed done on it will be laid bare. Since all these things are to melt away in this manner, what sort of people must we be, conducting our lives in holiness and godliness,
These eschatological events should lead us to pursue holiness and godliness. Therefore, in contrast, those who are not hoping in Christ’s coming will often lead slothful, compromised lives.
4. Studying eschatology is important as it equips us for every good work, even as studying Scripture in general does.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul said, “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.”
Eschatology is as inspired as God’s words on creation, salvation, and sanctification. As we study them, God teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains, and equips us for good works. Therefore, when we do not know Scripture, including eschatology, it hinders God’s ability to use us in certain ways. This is important to consider since eschatology is probably the most neglected doctrine in Scripture.
5. Studying eschatology is important as a proof of the reliability of Scripture.
In the same way that Scripture was accurate concerning prophecies about Christ’s first coming, we can trust the Bible is accurate about the second coming and other end-time events. While these events materialize in front of us, we should gain even more confidence that Scripture is God’s Word and trustworthy in all it says.
6. Studying eschatology is important for drawing our hearts to worship God who is in control of history.
In Romans 11:33-36, after describing how Christ will return and save the nation of Israel (v. 25-27), Paul breaks out into praise. He says:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.
Seeing God’s sovereign hand bring about his prophecies throughout history cannot but display God’s glory and therefore increase our worship of our all-knowing and all-powerful Creator.
In eschatology, God reveals his will for the last days to believers. He reveals these things to teach his saints about his glory and control over history, to encourage them in uncertain times, and to equip them for good works, amongst many other things. For these reasons, let us not neglect eschatology but instead enthusiastically study it together. May God, through the Holy Spirit, reveal his glory, power, and sovereignty to us, so we can have hope and strength in these last days!
- What stood out most in the reading and why?
- What are some important reasons for studying eschatology?
- Why is the study of eschatology often neglected?
- What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?
Copyright © 2021 Gregory Brown
Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.
Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.
All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.
BTG Publishing all rights reserved.
1 MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R. (Eds.). (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (p. 828). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)