Some believers wonder if eschatology, the study of the last things, is really important for them and for the church in general today. Regardless of where you land on eschatological issues, the answer to that question is a resounding and emphatic yes. A growing number of believers seem to think that it is OK to just ignore this area of theology in the name of unity, but it is not. Yes, eschatology matters! Eschatology matters and cannot be ignored for a number of reasons.
First and most importantly, it matters to us because it was important enough to God for Him to communicate about it, a lot, in His Word. While some think eschatology is only discussed in Revelation, that is simply not the case. There are passages of eschatological importance found in every major division of the Old and New Testaments. The Torah, or books of Moses, contain numerous references to eschatology, such as Genesis 49:10-12, which looks to a world wide ruler from the tribe of Judah, to whom obedience and tribute will be given by the peoples of the world. Also the writings, or the poetic books, of the Hebrew Bible contain numerous references to the end times. Psalm 2 with its picture of the messianic worldwide reign is clearly eschatological, and huge swaths of the book of Daniel, part of the writings not the prophets in the Hebrew canon, are clearly eschatological. And of course much of the prophetic writings are eschatological in nature. Isaiah chapters 24-27 are referred to as the little apocalypse and form much of the background for the book of revelation. Not only that, but in large part the final 27 chapters of Isaiah deal with the end times. Likewise much of Ezekiel is eschatological as is the much of the writings of the minor prophets, notably Joel, Malachi and Zephaniah. Likewise eschatological themes are found in the Gospels (the Olivet Discourse), Acts (1:6-8; 2:20), and the epistles (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Thessalonians 5; 2 Thessalonians. 2; 2 Peter 3:1-13 etc.). It is clear from the sheer amount of eschatological information in the Bible, and the even distribution of that information, that God expects us to understand the end times, and that is reason enough to study it.
And when we study eschatology our understanding of God and His character deepens and so will our worship of him. His Holiness, justice, and His mercy on His people are all prominent themes of eschatological passages. To know God fully we must know His plan for the end. It is, I think, significant that in Ezekiel many passages describing eschatological events, both judgment and restoration are closed with the refrain, “then they will know that I am the LORD.” Whatever we can understand about the LORD’s plans for the end will help us to know Him more fully.
Another key aspect of eschatology we must appreciate is the revelation to the ultimate solution to the essential problem of world, sin. While Christ’s work on the cross released individual believers from the curse of sin, it did not yet remove the curse of Genesis 3 that came through the disobedience of Adam. Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22 form an inclusio around the redemptive history of sin in the world; in essence how things are, is bracketed by those four chapters that describe how things should be. It is in the last days, before the re-creation described in Revelation 21-2 (which parallels in many ways Genesis 1-2) that sin will ultimately and finally be dealt with by God, as He pours his eschatological wrath out on The Day of the Lord and again after the rebellion at the close of Christ’s millennial reign. There can be no real understanding of God’s final plan for dealing with sin without understanding eschatology.
Likewise the covenants of the Old Testament can only be fully appreciated in the light of an understanding of eschatology. The land promises in the Davidic covenant will not be fulfilled until the second coming of Christ, and we must study the last things to understand how. The Davidic covenant has not yet been fulfilled, contrary to some assertions by theologians who have not rightly studied eschatology, or have radically reinterpreted the eschatology of the Old Testament. To truly understand God’s faithfulness to David and this covenant, deep study of eschatology is required. The same is true of the New Covenant. To understand the riches that will accompany the inclusion of Israel in salvation (Romans 11:13) we must plumb the depths of eschatological passages.
But eschatology isn’t just a matter of understanding things and having proper theology; understanding God’s plan for the end is tremendously encouraging to us as believers. Revelation is the only book of the bible that expressly promises those who read and understand it will be blessed. This revelation, or unfolding, of the end time events is a gift from God blessing and encouraging the Church. To fail to study this expressly eschatological book is to miss a profound blessing. A thorough understanding of eschatology also helps us endure in the face of trials. In 2 Peter 3 the Apostle encourages Christians facing persecution by reminding them of the eschatological promise God will come and judge sin and not one wrong will be overlooked. This is a powerful truth we must embrace as we live in an evil and fallen world, and this truth is made more vivid when we have a right understanding of Eschatology.
Understanding eschatology will also spur you on to holy living, as you realize Christ could return at any moment, He will judge sin, and He will reward His people. While this concept is universally affirmed by believers, it is only through the study of eschatology where these rewards become real in our minds and we realize there is great continuity between the present world, the coming millennial reign of Christ, and the eternal state. Understanding the reality of eternity will help us to live in light of it.
For all of these reasons the study of eschatology matters to us as a Church and as individual believers. It will deepen your understanding of God and His plans, and your walk with Him. So do the hard, but right, thing; crack open the Bible, implore commentaries, and books and learn what God has reveled about the culmination of His Plan for this creation, because yes, eschatology matters.