LAST THINGS The Doctrine of:
May 15, 2011
A summary of the Christian Doctrine of Last Things. Comic and Personal Eschatology collide to make up the study of last things
The doctrine of last things is best covered in the following areas of study: Cosmic and Personal Eschatology. Within these two areas of the doctrine several speci>ic subjects will be covered. Eschatology must be approached from a biblical theological approach and therefore this summary will touch on eschatology as it is presented in the Old Testament and the New Testament. The following subjects will be included in order to have a robust view of eschatology: Death, judgment, resurrection, hell, new heavens, new earth and the kingdom. These subjects will be broached as this summary gives a thorough examination of the doctrine of last things. In the Old Testament, the doctrine of last things shows up in the >irst verse of the Bible. “In the beginning…” tells us there is a starting point and implies there must be an ending point, that is, “end times” or “last things”. The law repeats this phrase several times, “in the days to come”. This is an
anticipation of something that the future holds for the “people of God”. The prophets talk of the day of the Lord and Zion, that holy mountain. This is eschatological language looking forward to judgment and renewal (Isaiah 10, Book of the 12). Jeremiah 31 references a coming “new covenant” that God will make with Israel. The Writings too, look ahead to “the day to come”. In the New Testament, the gospels assume the reader and the hearer have an understanding of Old Testament prophecies. The gospel writers continue to communicate how one should respond to these coming events with warnings like, “Watch wisely!” and “Serve faithfully!” as we see the day approaching (Matt 24-‐25). 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4-‐5 look ahead to “restoration” and “the day of the Lord”. The New Testament culminates with the book of Revelation, which reveals, in symbolic terms, how the restoration will take place. Revelation shows God’s people how the
world should be and will be, which gives the people of God a charge to work towards this ideal now. A complete view of the cosmic eschatology must include the views on the Millennium, the time when Christ will reign for 1000 years as the Messiah King. Each view of the millennial reign of Christ; Premillennial, Postmillennial and Amillennial as well as the different views of the timing of the Tribulation will determine a lot about one’s understanding of eschatology. The rapture of God’s people and the timing of this event are often talked about in Christian circles, but this event will not be discussed here because it is not the focus of the text. The focus is the bodily return of the Christ (1 Thess 4). In Personal Eschatology, death is where the discussion must begin. Whether it is physical, spiritual or eternal, death will occur to all individuals. Because all humans are sinners, death is the penalty for sin (Rom 6:23). Christians will only experience a physical death because Christ paid the ransom for sin and died in our place (Rom 5:8). All of those not trusting in Christ will face eternal separation from God’s presence to bless. This death subjects the non-‐believer to God’s >inal judgment and eternity spent in the eternal “Lake of Fire” (Rev 20:11-‐15). The believer will likewise be judged, but judgment for the believer occurs at the judgment seat of Christ. This is where believers will be judged on their faithfulness to Christ and they will be given rewards, or lose rewards based on the visible evidence of their faith (Rom 14:10)
There will be a resurrection of the dead, either to life or condemnation (John 5:19-‐30). Jesus is the one who gives life and judges the believer and the unbeliever (John 5:19-‐30). This resurrection to condemnation will send the unbeliever to hell, which is eternal conscious torment and separation from God’s presence to bless (Mark 9:43). God will restore His creation with a new heavens and a new earth. This is not some place where we will go when we die, but rather a place that will come to earth transforming and renewing the entire universe (Rev 21:2). This is where the kingdom of Christ will reign and all of God’s people (those in Christ) will receive their inheritance: everything (R. Moore). The forever King will reign on the forever Throne in this restored creation. The old order of things is gone and the new is come. There will be no weeping, no hurt or pain because Christ is on His eternal throne, present with His eternally good creation. The doctrine of last things covers so many areas that the Christian can get distracted and hung up on. It’s easy to get into disagreements and maybe even heated debates about who is right and who is wrong. This doctrine is supposed to charge Christians to live a certain way before the Lord, now and in the future eschaton. The doctrine of last things points to a day when God’s people live before Him, with Him in the promised Zion.