Eschatology: The study of the end times

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By Al Earley

As a collegiate and religion major in the 1970’s I encountered a book that had many people wondering about the future. “The Late Great Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey took a speculative look at a variety of historical events and tried to blend sections of scripture that are difficult to understand with those events to come up with an approximate date of when the end history as we know it on earth would occur. This is known as the eschaton and the study of the end of time is known as eschatology.

He came to the conclusion the world would end in the 1970’s. Of course he was wrong.

He followed that up with many other books through the decades that have tried to impress upon people that the end of times is upon us.

I have learned to be suspicious of people who sell books that try to predict the eschaton. If they really believed in their predictions why sell the books? Why not give them away? Won’t it all end before they can enjoy the financial benefits?

Please forgive my cynicism. It grows out of the countless predictions that have been wrong in just my short lifetime.

A recent example of this was 14 years ago when our calendars switched to the year 2000. The book of Revelation speaks of a time known as the “Millennium” an important interval lasting for 1,000 years when Christ rules. This wonderful time of universal peace is surrounded by times of difficulty known as the “Tribulation” and a history ending war known as “Armageddon.” People got caught up in things like Mayan calendars and forgot that our time is not God’s time and they guessed that somehow God would be impressed to act when our calendars moved to 1-1-2000. Fortunately, few Christians got caught up in all the hysteria when the year 2000 arrived and we all survived.

There are lots of terms connected with eschatology and those that find such things important to predict disagree with each other on many points. I find Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:36 to be the most important words on this subject that is difficult to predict.

He says, “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

At the risk of over simplification, these are a summary of my beliefs about the eschaton.

First, there is a cosmic battle raging on earth. It is a battle between good and evil and we are a part of that battle. We can be certain of one thing when the end comes – God wins! Therefore, no matter how hard it is to be faithful we are to keep the faith. This has been a powerful word of comfort to the countless martyrs who have died for the faith through the centuries.

Jesus warned us to be ready!

Live each day as if it could be your last. The fact is it certainly could be. No one knows when an accident, some act of violence or any number of other surprises could end our lives.

If we haven’t accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, do so. If we have, then commit yourself to growing as a disciple. Live each moment as if it could be your last by glorifying God.

So many of Jesus’ teachings and parables call us to live our lives with urgency. Even though every person who has tried to predict the end of times has been wrong it doesn’t mean that the eschaton couldn’t start in the next moment.

What do you think about the eschaton? I encourage you to have a conversation with someone about it.

Ask one another what you believe about end times predictions and the symbolism found in the Bible. What does it mean to live as if today could be your last day? Should you change some things about the way you live? Are you living the faith journey God wants you to live at this point in your life?

Al Earley is pastor of La Grange Presbyterian Church. To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see www.lagrangepres.com. The views in this column are those of the writer.