Eschatology is the name academics gave to the study concerned with prophetic end-time events.
Earlier I was meditating on the divisions caused in the Church over eschatology and lamenting the power that pride has over the subject. I feel the division among brethren, and many Christians subsequent reaction of repulsion, are the egregious casualties of this affair. But it should not be this way!
So I felt compelled to look at some of the marks of good eschatology. These are not meant to support any one eschatological position over another, rather, they are meant as principles by which we can judge our own positions; they are principles that have helped me to move away from certain views because they did not bear these marks.
ESCHATOLOGY ISN’T SEPARATE FROM FAITH
We must bear in mind that eschatology is not separate from the faith; the same marks of soundness that apply to the other aspects of our faith also apply here!
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Our understanding of eschatology should not create panic, weakness, or an unstable mind in us; if it is from God it will be in accordance with the Spirit that He has given to us.
AGREES WITH THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
Acts 17:11 “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.
One of the foremost marks of good eschatology is that it is in agreement with the whole of God’s counsel on the subject.
This principle has personally led me out of many errors as I found that the positions I held did not agree with God’s revelation! If God had intended for us to take our understanding of end-time events from only one book, He would have given us only one book.
NOT OF PRIVATE INTERPRETATION
2 Peter 1:19-21 “And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit”
You might call this “a mark of humility”, or “a mark of unity”, or “a mark of submission”, or perhaps you might call it “a humbling mark of submission that brings unity”? Either way the mark is clear that good eschatology is such that has been sharpened by the whole body of Christ and not one that originates and is contained within a single human source.
Far too often we are afraid of allowing our eschatology to be examined by others, and when we examine other people’s eschatology, we often times do not afford them the patience and time necessary for this process of public interpretation to take place.
I thank God always for the brothers in my life who have sharpened my eschatological positions over time. But I thank God the more for the irreplaceable and undeniable work of the Counselor in leading me into all truth! For in a place of public interpretation how are we to know which is the voice of God and which is the voice of man unless it is the Holy Spirit bearing witness to the truth?
And so this mark humbles us among one another and draws us desperately near to the feet of the Counselor who will lead us all into the truth!
THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S INSTRUCTIONS
1 Timothy 1:5 “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from a sincere faith”
Good eschatology will not work contrary to sound teaching, rather, it will agree with the purpose of God’s commandments: it will produce love, first for God, then for His creation (the pinnacle of which is mankind).
Now it’s important to understand that this love is from a “pure heart”, a “good conscience”, and a “sincere faith”. Some who do not possess these may argue that any eschatology which includes God’s severe judgment upon sinners would diminish our love for God, but that is not so for those who are born of the Word by the Spirit of God! Good eschatology, not to mention sound doctrine, does not appeal to the state of corrupt men, rather, it pulls corrupt men out of the mire and washes their hearts, cleanses their conscience, and purifies their faith, if they will have it at all.
Thus we must ask whether our eschatology builds up love from a pure heart, or defiles the heart with pride, bitterness, and hate? Does it build up our love from a good conscience, or does it go against our consciences that were made clean by the sacrifice of Christ? Does it build up our love from a sincere faith, or does it lead us astray from the faith that was once and for all delivered to us by Christ?
FERVOR FOR CHRIST’S RETURN
One of the marks of good eschatology that is nearly impossible to fabricate is a sincere fervor for the return of Christ!
Revelation 22:17, 20 “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly’.”
Good eschatology will produce in all the saints of God a fervent and unquenchable desire for Christ’s return! It causes the things of this world “to grow strangely dim”, and magnifies the things of Christ.
We should examine ourselves to see whether or not our eschatology produces a greater desire for life on this earth, or life in the age to come?
DRIVES HOLINESS AND GODLINESS
Jonathan Edwards, who preached a sermon back in the 1700’s entitled “sinners in the hands of an angry God”, during which people fell out of their seats and clung to pillars in repentance, prayed “Oh God, stamp eternity on my eyeballs.”
2 Peter 3:11-12 “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”
If you do not have eternity in view, I am certain you will not live a life of holy conduct and godliness in this seductively wicked world!
Peter combined three of the most unpopular topics in the Church today into one unequivocally important lesson: holiness, judgment, and the fear of God are necessary to the Christian life, and to grasp these three you must have the King of king’s return in mind.
One of the clearest marks of good eschatology is that it drives you to live a life of holy conduct and godliness. Any eschatology which leaves your everyday life wholly untouched is shallow and good for nothing but temporary intellectual stimulation- and the Church definitely needs no more of that!
1 John 3:2-3 “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be, but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is. And every man that has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure.”
Good eschatology will inspire sanctification in us through hope! Eschatology that produces no sanctification through hope does not have Christ in view!
Your eschatology is the lens through which you peer into eternity, without it, your hope becomes obscure and fuzzy. You need good eschatology to have strong hope in Christ so that you can weather the storms and persevere to the end.
Untold desolation has happened in the Church because we have lost sight of eternity! When I was in high school and college I was a runner. I ran cross country and track- I loved running! I learned very early that it is imperative to form that when you are sprinting that you keep your eyes forward and fixed on the finish line. You can’t take your eyes off the end or you lose momentum. In much the same way the Church has drifted aimlessly and lost focus on our goal because of our eschatology. Many Churches meander from trend to trend because they have taken their eyes off the end!
If your eschatology is good, it will stabilize your faith and produce a sound mind, a strong faith, a fervent perseverance, and a lifestyle of holy conduct and godliness, but if your eschatology is bad all kinds of things can go wrong; a bad eschatology produces an unstable mind, robs the work of evangelism, causes panic, and creates apathy.
Don’t let anyone rob you of the vast treasures of Bible prophecy! Jesus told the Church to “watch and pray” because He wanted her to be prepared for the end and keep alert.