Eschatology, the study of end times, may be one of the most misunderstood and debated issues in theology. I have heard some people say: “It really doesn’t matter.” “It’s too complicated, why study?” And “Too many people fight over it, I don’t want to fight.” One famous pastor even said it’s sin and divides the church to have eschatology in your doctrinal statement.
Those objections may have a glimmer of truth to them. People can have differing views of eschatology (on some level) and still have the gospel right. People disagree over whether or not Israel will be restored and a seven year tribulation, but both groups still place their faith in Jesus Christ, have been atoned for, and will stand next to each other in heaven.
It can be complicated, but great rewards of hope await those who dig deep into God’s Word. Complicated does not equate to invaluable. Imagine if the Early Church took this approach to the attacks on the Trinity? Understanding the Trinity tests and stretches the mind, but what resulted from their debates edifies us today.
Although people argue eschatology, there is truth. God communicates to reveal himself. Every debate regarding doctrine should seek to know the truth. Predestination, gifts of the Spirit, homosexuality, and church membership all have different views, yet there is a truth, and we want to honor God by understanding Him accurately and knowing His Word. Fair warning; God did not create doctrine merely for debate purposes, but to transform us and our worship to Him.
The importance of eschatology cannot be undermined or neglected. Here are three reasons (in good preacher form) why eschatology matters to our soul.
First, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How does this relate to eschatology? First “All Scripture” means all Scripture, not just parts of the Scripture. The debate over eschatology centers around God’s Word. God inspired and declared profitable passages about the end times. God gave us eschatology deeming it profitable to our ministry. So when someone says, “It doesn’t really matter” or “it all pans out in the end.” God says eschatology profits your soul. When I hear profitable, I take note because I want profit. Profitable for what? Eschatology profits the believer by teaching us, reproving us, correcting, and training in righteousness. Yes, eschatology, understood affects our holiness. In fact, God says the purpose of Scripture is “that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Eschatology contributes to make me adequate and equipped for EVERY good work (= ministry).
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord”(1 Thess 4:13-17).
Look at what truths Paul comforts the Thessalonica church with:
- Paul reminds believers regarding the future resurrection for all believers. We may grieve when a believer dies, but it is a hope filled grief. We know God resurrects believers to a new life (1 Thess 4:13).
- Paul tells believers they will be raptured and always with the Lord. When the great day of the Lord comes and judgment upon the earth, believers will not be there. Paul expands on this in 5:9, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.”
- Finally, the Lord Jesus will return. This reminds us He is sovereign and He will return to judge and initiate the kingdom.
All of these truths fit under eschatology. You, believer, should find comfort in the future return of the Lord, the rapture, and your future bodily resurrection. God comforts us with His guaranteed victory over sin and unrighteousness. Death has no dominion over us. We are not destined for wrath because God rescued us from His wrath. Understanding the details about the end provides comfort and hope. In fact, a proper understanding will help us encourage “one another.” Knowing the end keeps me focused on the prize and goal awaiting us.
Finally, Matthew records the Olivet Discourse. Matthew writes his Gospel to make disciples (28:19ff). He records five major discourses teaching us how to follow Christ as His disciples. Each didactic discourses equips the disciple regarding proper thought and action. The Sermon on the Mount teaches disciples how to follow the Triune God, we can summarize it as “Be Holy for I am Holy.” Matthew 18 prepares disciples for life in the body of Christ — church. Matthew 13 teaches us about the kingdom. The Olivet Discourse explains the end times. Apparently when God decided what disciples need to know, He thought a discourse regarding the end times profitable.
Can you image the Trinity’s response to someone who doesn’t see eschatology as important?
“God, such a silly waste of time to think on and dwell on the End Times. It doesn’t even unify the church. How silly are you to include it in the book? Don’t you know only the doctrine of salvation is really important?”
Does God reply with, “You’re right, I made it too difficult and it really isn’t profitable for you. In fact, silly me, including doctrine potentially dividing the church. How dare I.”?? It seems silly doesn’t it. Because it is silly.
Is eschatology important? Yes, it is not written for the purpose of fighting with other Christians. Yes, eschatology is discussed from God’s mouth for our edification and understanding. Yes, we should find hope in the future. Yes, God sees it as important. If the Lord says it is important, then should it be important?