Eschatology – matters concerning the last, or final, matters such as death, judgment, the future state of things to come.
Everyone, both Christian and non-Christian, has a view on eschatology. Christians like to think that they have a fairly precise view and understanding of what that word means insofar as their Christianity is concerned. For many years the writer of this document was part of the above group of Christians until I encountered a group of biblical passages that I will be sharing with you in this Learning Activity. The result of these passages caused me to totally rethink and revamp my eschatological view.
A. In Matthew 10:22, 23, Jesus told His disciples to “….endure to the end,” and that by the time they had finished going through the towns of Israel the Son of man (Jesus) would have come. The Greek word used here for come is #2064, erchomai, which means “to come from one place to another.”
1. What “end” do you think Jesus was referring to ?
2. In whose lifetime do you think the passage seems to indicate that this coming of Jesus would take place?
B. Since Matthew 16:28 states, “Truly, I (Jesus) say to you (His disciples, see verse 24) there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man (Jesus) coming in his kingdom.” The word used here is the same Greek word, #2064, as used above.
3. As you read the verse above, in whose lifetime did Jesus say He would be coming back to set up His kingdom?
C. Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:34-36 that all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah….would be avenged upon the generation to whom He was speaking.
4. When and by what means was that generation avenged for what Jesus had told them?
D. In Matthew 24:14, Matthew writes that the gospel of the kingdom would be preached in the entire world and then the end would come.
5. What end was Matthew writing about?
6. Since the Bible states in Mark 16:20; Acts 24:5; Romans 1:8, 10:18, 16:26, and Colossians 1:5, 6, 23, that what Matthew had written about (the kingdom being preached in the entire world) had been fulfilled, why do some Christians today believe that we must evangelize the world to fulfill the Matthew 24:14 prophecy?
E. In Matthew 24:34, Jesus stated that everything He had spoken about (the entire text of Matthew 24 up to the point of His statement) would take place before “this generation (the one He was speaking to) will not pass away (physically die) till all these things take place.”
7. When do you think that the things Jesus said would pass away actually did pass away?
F. In Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62, Jesus told Caiaphas the high priest (see verse 57), that Caiaphas himself would see (in his own lifetime) the Son of man (Jesus) coming on the clouds of heaven!
8. What do the passages above indicate to you as the time when Jesus came to earth a second time?
G. In Mark 9:1, Jesus said that there were “some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.”
9. If Jesus was being honest, why do you think there are Christians who are still waiting today for the kingdom to come and even pray “thy kingdom come” in their prayers?
H. In Mark 13:30, Jesus is quoted as saying that all the things that He had spoken about to His disciples in that chapter would take place before the generation to whom He was speaking had passed away.
10. If Jesus told the truth above, when did the things of Mark 13 take place?
I. In Mark 15:43, it is stated that, “Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was himself looking for the kingdom of God…”
11. Why do you think that Joseph of Arimathea was looking for the kingdom to come in his lifetime?
12. When did the kingdom finally arrive?
J. Since Jesus told His disciples in Mark 13: 1-10, a number of events would take place in THEIR generation, see verse 30, as well as in Matthew 24:34…
13. How is it that some in Christianity today say these things have NOT YET taken place?
K. In Luke 3:7, John the Baptist asks the following question of the multitudes that came to him to be baptized, “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”
14. When you look at the wording of that statement, is it not reasonable that whatever wrath that was to come would affect those to whom he was speaking?
15. What do you understand to be the wrath that John the Baptist was speaking of?
16. When did that wrath actually come?
L. In Luke 5:36-38, Jesus uses two parables; the parable of the old and new garments and the parable of the old and the new wine.
17. What do you think Jesus was trying to tell the people about with these two parables?
M. Read Luke 9:27.
18. What does Luke 9:27 tell you about the timing of the arrival of the kingdom of God on earth?
N. In Luke 12:40, Jesus spoke to His disciples and told them that, “You must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an unexpected hour?”
19. When Jesus told His disciples the above, do you think He was talking to them about something that would happen in their lifetime or something that would happen 2,000 or more years later?
O. In Luke 12:56, Jesus told His disciples that they were hypocrites because they did not know “…how to interpret the present time?”
20. What did Jesus mean when He made the statement above to His disciples?
P. In Luke 13:9, Jesus states that if the fig tree did not bear fruit next year that Jesus would then cut it down.
21. In light of the fact that in Scripture the fig tree represents Israel, what do you think He meant by making that statement?
Q. In Luke 16:17, Jesus said that, “…it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one dot of the law to be void,” when in the previous verse He said that the law only lasted until John?
22. What meaning do you get from that passage?
R. In Luke 17:20, Jesus said that the Pharisees would not see the coming kingdom by signs because the kingdom was in the midst of them?
23. What understanding do you see in this passage?
S. “And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
(Luke 18:7, 8).
24. What does the passage above tell you about the return of Christ?
T. Read Luke 19:41-44 and answer the questions blow about that passage.
25. Why do you think Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem?
26. When Jesus states in verses 43 and 44 that the enemy would cast up a bank about Jerusalem, surround Jerusalem, and dash the inhabitants of Jerusalem to the ground and not leave one stone upon another, what event was He speaking about?
27. What do you think Jesus meant by saying that the events He spoke of in verses 41-44 were because “you did not know the time of your visitation?”
U. The Luke 21: 5-32 passage has come to be known as the Olivet Discourse. In a number of places the word “YOU” is used, see verses 12, 13, 15, 19, and 20.
28. Who do you think is being referred to as the “YOU” in these places?
V. Luke 21:33 reads, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
29. Since verse 32 states that this event would take place during the generation of the disciples, verse 33 cannot possibly be referring to the literal, physical heaven and earth. What does heaven and earth mean?
W. In Romans 16:20, the Apostle Paul states that the God of peace will soon crush Satan under the feet of the Roman believers.
30. When did God crush Satan?
X. Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 7:26-29, that the time was short of the present distress so the Corinthians should stay married if they were married, and stay single if they were single.
31. Why do you think Paul told the Corinthians what he told them?
32. What do you think the “distress” was that Paul was referring to ?
Y. In 2 Timothy 4:1, Paul tells Timothy that Jesus Christ would judge the living and the dead at His (Christ’s) appearing and that His kingdom would also take place at that time.
33. When do you think this judgment time took place?
34. When dd Christ appear as Paul told Timothy?
35. When did the kingdom of God fully take hold?
Z. In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul states that the Lord would give him a crown of righteousness on “that Day” as would all those who loved his (referring to Christ) appearing.
36. What is the “Day of the Lord,” and when did it take place?
37. When did Paul get his crown of righteousness?
38. Do you think you will someday get a crown of righteousness?
39. When did Christ “appear” as Paul stated in this passage?
AA. In 1 Peter 4:7, writing to the Jewish exiles of the dispersion (see Chapter 1:1), Peter tells those people living at that time that “…the end of all things is at hand…”
40. What did Peter mean when he wrote the end of all things is at hand?
BB. In Hebrews 10:37, the Hebrew writer states that in a “little while” the coming one (a clear reference to Jesus) shall come and will not tarry.
41. As Christians we believe the word of God to be true and if you believe that it is when did Jesus come?
CC. James, writing to the twelve tribes in the dispersion (see James 1:1), states that the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:8), and the judge (a clear reference to Jesus) is standing at the door (James 5:9).
42. If James is correct, when did the Lord come and bring His judgment?
DD. John, writing in 1 John 2:18, states that it was the last hour when he wrote those words and that many antichrists had already come, therefore he knew that it was the last hour.
43. Why are some Christians today still anticipating the coming of an antichrist?
EE. In 1 John 2:28, John wrote to those who were living circa AD 60-65 that, “when he (referring to Christ) appears we (which included John and those to whom he was writing) may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.”
44. When did Christ appear to them and when was “his coming?”
FF. When 1 John 4:3 was written that verse said that “…the spirit of antichrist….is in the world already.”
45. If the inspired word of God is true, then why are there some Christians today telling us that someday in the future antichrist will be coming?
NOTE: In order to understand a number of the following Bible citations it will be necessary to look at a smattering of Koine Greek. To begin with we need to be concerned with the Greek words “tachei” and “tachu.” These words, in their various tenses, are translated as “shortly,” and “quickly.” The words do not mean anything like “soon,” in the sense of “sometime,” but rather as “swift,” “now,” “immediately,” “hastily,” and “suddenly.” The word meanings are critical to understanding the “imminency” that is being communicated in the vision of the book of Revelation of John. These words in no way indicate something that could be expected to take place two thousand years or more into the future!
There is a principle in Bible interpretation that instructs us to always look at other passages in the Scriptures that use the same word to see if they throw light on how that same word is used throughout the Bible. When we do that for these words here is what we find:
“Make friends quickly (tachu) with your accuser, while you are going with him to court…” (Matthew 5:25). The use of the word tachu here indicates imminence. Action is now not some time in the distant future!
“Then go quickly (tachu) and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead….So they departed quickly (tachu) from the tomb…” (Matthew 28:7, 8). Here again we see an immediate response being communicated by the word tachu.
“…but bring quickly (tachu) the best robe, and put it on him…” (Luke 15:22). Again, tachu indicates and elicits a rapid response near to the time of the event!
“And when she heard it, she rose quickly (tachu) and went with him” (John 11:29). Again, a use of the word indicating imminence.
A student of the Bible must ask themselves the question, in the passages above, are the actions described still waiting to take place? Of course not! So why do some think we can delay other biblical uses of this word just because they do not neatly fit our preconceived theology of eschatology? As you will not see as we move forward with the text of Revelation it will become clear that the vision we have under study is NOT something that would be expected to take place two thousand or more years into the future!
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon (tachei) take place…” (Revelation 1:1).
“Repent; or else I will come quickly (tachu), and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:16).
“Behold, I come quickly (tachu): hold fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Revelation 3:11).
“And he said unto me, These sayings (are) faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to show his servants the things which must shortly (tachei) be done” (Revelation 22:6).
“Behold, I come quickly (tachu): blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7).
“And behold, I come quickly (tachu); and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his word shall be” (Revelation 22:12).
“He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly (tachu). Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).
Does the group of passages above sound like ones that have to wait 2,000 years or more to take place? NO! They reek with imminence!
Another word in the book of Revelation that begs for imminency is the Greek word “eggus” which has the meaning of “at hand” or “near.” This word appears in the following passages.
“…for the time is at hand (eggus)” (Revelation 1:3).
“…for the time is at hand (eggus)” (Revelation 22:10).
Still more imminency is indicated by the Greek words “mello,” and “mellei.”
“Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall (mellei) be hereafter” (Revelation 1:19).
“Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall (mello) come upon the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Revelation 3:10).
The meaning of these words are given to us: “is about to come.” When these words are used with the aorist infinitive the preponderance of use and preferred meaning is “be on the point of, about to be.” The same is true when these words are used with the present infinitive. The basic meaning as given by the scholars Thayer and Abott-Smith is “to be, about to” and the word “mellei” with the infinitive expresses imminence such as the immediate future. This causes us to understand that the word usage in Revelation 1:19 and 3:10 portray an expectation of soon or quick future occurrence. This kind of language should lead us to conclude that the prophecy in the vision of Revelation was something that was to take place very close to its being revealed to John!
This Learning Activity should result in the reader concluding that there has been a long history in Christianity that has incorrectly thought that Christ wold physically return a second time when the biblical facts support a spiritual return which would not have been observable in the physical realm! That spiritual return took place in AD 70 when God used the Roman Army to destroy the physical city of Jerusalem, the Temple, and the entire Jewish religion. Anything that represents what God destroyed was the subsequent work of man and NOT of God.
There is a cliche in Christian circles that states:
When the Bible contradicts my theology, it’s time for me to change my theology!