Eschatology is the part devoted in The Bible to the study of the end of time, the return of Jesus and other such accounts. The subjects of eschatology include the Rapture, the Resurrection, the Millennium, the Tribulation, the Binding of Satan, Armageddon, the Final Judgment, the New Earth and the New Heaven.
The eschatological details in the New Testament are found in Mark 13, Mathew 24, Luke 17, 2 Thessalonians, and particularly, the Revelation.
Approaches to Eschatology Study:
They are based mostly on contents of the Revelation.
- Preterism: It is a viewpoint that all prophecies have been fulfilled in the past, particularly during the First century. According to this, the prophecy in the Revelation has been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Partial Preterism holds that most prophecies have been fulfilled in the lifetime of Jesus and the early church, and Full Preterism holds that all Bible prophecies have been fulfilled in the same period.
- Historicism: This approach considers that the Book of Revelation is symbolic of the struggle of Protestantism to endure the persecution of the papacy. Events like the Great Tribulation are viewed as occurring in the period of supremacy of the Pope in the period 538 to 1798 AD.
- Futurism: Most events are still waiting to happen like the end of the world and end of the age. This view says that most prophecies will bear fruit during a period of global chaos termed the Great Tribulation.
- Idealism: There is a symbolic interpretation of the Book of Revelation and other eschatological material in the Bible. Some of these viewpoints interpret events on an existential level. For example, they consider the Beast and Babylon to signify an era of social injustices.
Death and Afterlife:
The Catholic Church holds that every person gets his eternal retribution for his immortal soul, at the instant of his death and either gets entry to heaven (either immediately or after purification) or will be condemned to hell.
Concept of purgatory:
This is a belief of the Catholic Church in a spiritual state called as purgatory in which exist souls are neither condemned to hell nor invited to heaven. They must undergo a process of purification before being accepted into heaven. But this concept is rejected by most Protestant Churches.
Resurrection of the dead:
According to Revelation, there will be two resurrections. They are separated literally by a thousand years. The first will be during the Return of Jesus and the second will be after his 1000 year reign on earth.
State of body: Most viewpoints agree that the body raised after death will be a spiritual body.
This refers to the rise of all, still living, to join the resurrected dead. Some hold that the Rapture, the Return of Jesus and the Resurrection will occur simultaneously.
The Great Tribulation:
This is the event of great destruction, which will happen to humanity unexpectedly and forcefully. Jesus says that no one knows when this time will dawn, except for God, the Father.
The Abomination and Desolation:
This term occurs in the Hebrew Bible. When this event occurs, and Jerusalem is in danger, the disciples Mathew and Luke say all must flee from Judea to the mountains. Preterist approach alludes to this event as occurring in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some also call this period as one where a treaty will be signed between Israel and the Anti-Christ.
The Prophecy of Seventy Weeks:
The first 69 weeks cover the first coming of Jesus, but the last week represents many years of tribulation slated to occur at the end of this age, directly before the Millennium of Peace.
The Second Coming:
Most Christians believe that Jesus will return from clouds of heaven amidst lightning and thunder with great power and glory. Those who died in Christ will rise. Also, the rapture will take place where the living will join the resurrected dead.
Last Day Frauds:
At the time of tribulation, false prophets and false messengers of Christ will rise. This is the work of Satan. They will pretend to be Angels of Heaven.
The Marriage of the Lamb:
Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was sacrificed for the sins of humanity, will marry his bride, the righteous, and this will be followed by a great celebration in heaven.
There will be great tribulation on earth as the end of the ages approach. Lord Jesus will come in great glory along with the saints. The army of heaven will appear in white clothes on white horses like those in rapture and those resurrected. The Lord will come in great fury, to judge humankind.
In the end, the forces of anti-Christ will be routed, and he will be cast into the lake of fire. His lord and master, Satan will be enslaved by God. According to the Revelation, this is followed by a thousand years of blissful rule of Christ on earth. Just like human bodies are changed into spiritual bodies, animals on earth will co-exist happily as in the days of Eden.
The End and the Judgment:
As per the Bible, the Millennial Age closes the history of the earth, but that is not the end of the story. After this period, Satan will be released, and he will spur the kingdoms all over the Earth to battle each other. But his last attempt to destroy the city and people of God will end disastrously. God will bring Satan to judgment and will flay him with fire and brimstone.
The Last Judgment:
The defeat of the devil sees him cast into a lake of fire along with the false prophets. His followers will also be subject to judgment in the Second Resurrection, especially those, who were not part of the First Resurrection.
Those who were judged in the First Resurrection are considered blessed. They and those who were part of the Rapture are excluded from the Last Judgment.
New Earth and Heaven:
God promises a new earth and heaven. The earth will be a land of joy and peace. Here, there will be no more sorrow, death nor pain. Everyone will have access to the Tree of Life, which no longer bears the curse on Adam.
These are the major themes of Christian Eschatology.