Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 1

Eschatology (the study of last things) is a very controversial subject.  There are a number of different views on how this present age will end and what will happen from the end of this age and on through eternity.  My purpose in this post is to identify the essential elements of a biblical eschatology, followed by a theme that I would consider almost as important.

 Any Christian eschatology that hopes to be orthodox must adhere to these elements:

1. The personal, visible, bodily return of Jesus Christ to this earth.

2. The resurrection of all people, both the righteous and the unrighteous (how this occurs is a matter of debate, but the resurrection itself should not be).

3. Final judgment of all people, which leads to

4. A final separation between believers and unbelievers in Heaven and Hell, respectively.

5. I would also add that with regard to personal eschatology (what happens to individual persons), one should also affirm, in addition to the resurrection of the body, the intermediate state of the soul between death and resurrection, which includes blessedness for those who are saved and torment for those who are lost.

To deny any one of these elements is to put oneself outside the orthodox tradition of Christianity.  There is, however, one more theme that I would like to mention here.  Not all Christians have held to it.  In fact, a large number of them haven’t, so I don’t think I can claim that it is essential to Christian orthodoxy.  However, it is very biblical, and I believe an understanding of it is essential to a solid grasp of a truly biblical eschatology.  That theme is the new creation.  God’s purpose for us and for this world is not to have immaterial spirits in an immaterial existence forever.  This creation is not destined for annihilation (nor are our bodies) but for renewal.  I believe the new creation, which we will inhabit for eternity, will be like this one in many ways, but without sin, death, suffering, evil, etc.  We will be embodied people.  I envision that we will continue to exist in space and time, with life and activities.  The new creation will probably be much like Eden.  There will be agriculture and art and music and recreation and architecture and all kinds of things that we take part in now, only they will be far better than anything we can imagine here.  The orthodox tradition has always maintained that God will raise our bodies from the dead.  Unfortunately, not all Christians have affirmed what seems to be a necessary corollary of that: God’s renewal of this world as the eternal dwelling place of the embodied redeemed.

In Part 2 I will address different eschatological views within the orthodox tradition.     

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2 Responses to “Elements of a Biblical Eschatology, Part 1”

  1. ali Says:

    I’ll be reading this series with interest. I’m preaching on the Resurrection from the Dead and Eternal Judgment this Sunday from Hewbrews 6:2 – certainly, since the two are one of the “basic teachings” then I’d agree they are fundamental to Christian belief. In fact, I would say that resurrection from the dead includes teaching on the intermediate state and new creation, and eternal judgment includes the final separation of saved and unsaved in heaven (new earth) and hell. And in Hebrews 6:1, resurrection from the dead and eternal judgment (along with baptism and laying on of hands) are called teachings about Christ. So, the visible return of Christ would be reasonably included in the mind of the writer of Hebrews here.

    There, that’s me trying to fit all you wrote above into the two verses I’m dealing with 🙂 I must be orthodox.

  2. Kiwi and an Emu. Says:

    […] Elements of a Bibilical Eschatology, Part 1.  What is included in any Christian eschatology. […]

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