Primer on Eschatology 1

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1. What is eschatology?

Eschatology is the study of the last days; a person’s eschatology is his view of the last days. The word is less frequently applied to the doctrine of heaven and hell.

2. The last days of what?

The answer to that question divides Christians into various schools of thought.

3. What is the millennium?

The millennium is a period of one thousand years prophesied by the apostle John in Revelation 20.

4. What does the word “hermeneutic” mean?

Hermeneutics refers to the art, science and methodology of biblical interpretation. Obviously the way someone interprets the Bible will have an impact on the interpretation of the prophecies of the Bible. Thus the question of hermeneutics is very important in debates over eschatology.

5. What is a futurist?

A futurist is one who believes the prophecy of Revelation is yet to be fulfilled (that is, it is still future).

6. What is a historicist?

A historicist is one who believes the prophecy of Revelation was fulfilled, and is being fulfilled down through church history.

7. What is a preterist?

A preterist is one who believes that the prophecy of Revelation was largely fulfilled in the first century.

8. How can I keep the different schools of thought straight in my mind? What do the various terms mean?

In our discussion of the various schools of thought (using the word millennium), the easiest way to remember what the names mean is to concentrate on the prefix before the word millennial. That prefix tells when the return of Christ is anticipated with regard to the millennium. It is important to remember that all the evangelical schools of thought listed below firmly hold to a belief in the literal and physical return of Christ.

9. What is historic premillennialism?

Historic premillenialism is the view that Christ will return prior to the millennium, and that He will reign on earth during the millennium. The word historic is used because some of the early church fathers (like Justin Martyr) held this position.

10. What is amillennialism?

Amillennialism holds that there will not be an earthly millennium. The prefix therefore is one of negation. The amillennialist does not believe there will be a literal millennium on earth. Rather, he interprets it in a spiritual sense, with glorified saints reigning with Christ in heaven.

11. What is dispensational premillenialism?

Dispensational premillenialism is a variant form of premillenialism which arose in the nineteenth century, and is held by a large number of American evangelicals today. Many more Christians, who would not call themselves dispensationalists, have nevertheless picked up quite a few unique dispensational assumptions (as seen in their assumptions about Armageddon, the Beast, 666, the Antichrist, etc.).

This view is that Christ will return prior to the millennium, but there are many additional aspects to this position besides what is found in historic premillenialism.

12. What is unique about dispensational premillenialism?

The distinctives of dispensationalism are numerous. Among others, it teaches that there will be a secret coming of Christ seven years before the millennium, that Christ will preside over a reestablished Jewish state during the millennium, Temple sacrifices and all.

13. What is postmillennialism?

Postmillennialism is the view that Christ will return at the end of the millennium. The millennium is generally understood as a golden age of gospel expansion, wherein the Great Commission is fulfilled. At the end of that period of time, when the nations have all been brought to the discipleship of Christ, He will return and destroy the last enemy, which is death.

13. Can any of the terms above be combined?

Yes. Premillennialists of all kinds are futurists. They believe that the prophecies of the “end times” are largely unfulfilled. Postmillennialists and amillennialists can be either historicists or preterists.

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