Essay, Research Paper: Eschatology Of The End


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What happens to us all when we die or when the universe comes to an end? Is it
all just over? Does history proceed with a purpose? If so what is the
culmination of that purpose? Everyone from scientist to theologians agree that
the world as we know it will eventually end? The question I want to address is
does that eschatological moment, or end mean the destruction of the earth with
fire and brimstone or is does a more glorious end await us? Is there a
possibility of an alternative end, without the desolation some have used to
describe it? If one looks deep enough maybe some of these answers can be found
in the book of revelations. Over time the Book of Revelations has received
numerous, some even contradictory interpretations, but after all of those
different outlooks, it is usually conceded that the book is an essential tool
for understanding eschatology. "Eschatology" comes from the Greek word
of eschatos, meaning "last." Eschatology is generally considered to be
the doctrine of the last things. Numerous writers have concluded that
Eschatology should include the notions of judgement and salvation, both things
writers assume to be certain at the end of oneís life. Bauckman (1980, p 470)
states In contrast to cyclical conceptions of history, the biblical writings
understand history as linear movements toward a goal. God is driving history
towards a goal. God is driving history towards the ultimate fulfillment of his
purpose for his creation. So biblical eschatology is not limited to the destiny
of the individual; it concerns the consummation of the whole history of the
world, towards which all Godís redemptive acts in history are directed. Horton
(1994, p. 599) shares this view of Baukman but adds, "Believers have a
better hope in and through Christ, who himself is our hope (Col. 1:27; 1 Tim
1:1)." Many believe that the foundation for a better hope along with the
events involved in the consummation of the history of this world, are detailed
in the Book of Revelation. Without this book little could be known about this
area. Revelations provides us with insight into the eschatological field. There
is a variety of eschatological understandings in Christian thought that comes
from these areas, (1)interpretation of the Book of Revelation as a whole,
(2)from the interpretation of Revelation 20, and (3)from whether the
hermeneutics employed tend to interpret the Bible more literally or more
figuratively (Horton, 1994, p. 619). There are various views that seem to
interpret these three criteria in extremely different ways. Four principal view
points have addressed the interpretation of the Book of Revelation. Those
interpretations consist of Preterist, Historicist, Idealism, and Futurist.
However, because of time and length constraints I am only going to discuss the
first and last. The Preterist view and the Futurist seem to be the overwhelming
favorites of the Christians of today. The Preterist view events of the end times
as a past fulfillment. Preterist comes from the Latin word praeter meaning
"past." Preterist feel that the culmination of the "end
times" in Revelations is a reality that has already been fulfilled.
Preterist take an extremely optimistic view of the Parousia. A Preterist does
not fear the end of the world described in Revelations. According to Preston,
Preterists prescribe to the notion that the Bible speaks not of the "end of
time" but a "time of end." Preterists hold that in Revelations
John was writing about a time of end for the old covenant age of Israel. From
this stand point Preston notes that John did indeed believe that he lived in the
final times and was a witness to this passing of the torch from the old covenant
to the new. The Preterists argue that this was in the end that John was
describing in his Revelations. So consequently, the Preterists do not fear the
final times and second coming of Christ, as do the Futurists. The Preterists say
that the descriptions in Revelations have already been fulfilled and that
Christians have no need for an apprehensive attitude toward the end of time.
Stevens goes on to point out that the for the Preterist, "evil has already
been Ďdecisivelyí subdued by the second appearance of Jesus Christ, and that
Christ has fully and finally consummated His victory spiritually and given us
our inheritance in His eternal (spiritual) kingdom." The Preterists live
with a positive outlook and an optimistic mindset. They feel that this superior
to the pessimism and paranoia that surrounds the Futuristic life. Preston
interprets what God states in Genesis 8:21, "I will never again destroy
every living creature as I have done," literally. The Preterists and
Preston believe that for many years the concentration of this passage has been
placed on the "as I have done." By placing the emphasis on the
"as I have done," people assume that God merely promises not to
destroy the world again by a flood. Preterist suggest placing the stress of the
"every living creature," they feel this scripture is God telling
humans that he will never again annihilate the world. So, for the Preterist
there is no fear of the intense Tribulation, Antichrist, and Armageddon.
However, the Futurist views are rooted in the these three ideas. Another manner
in which Revelation may be understood is the Futurist viewpoint, which views
most of the book of Revelations (chapters 4 - 22) as prophecy yet to be
fulfilled. Ryrie (1978, p. 1785) believes the Futurist view is the only logical
interpretation of the text. Indeed, as Gentry (n.d.) states, The first sentence
of John's prophecy has become the title of the entire work. And from that title
we are clearly told that this work was to be a "revelation." The Greek
word for "revelation" is apokalupsis, which means an "opening up,
uncovering." John intended his book to be an opening up of divine truth for
his original audience. He wrote to reveal, not to conceal truth. Futurists take
a much more literal interpretation of Johnís accounts of the end times in his
Revelations. The Futurists, as the name implies, think that the words of John
are a fulfillment yet to come. A Futurist believes that at the end of time there
indeed will be a realization of all the events described in Revelations. The
Tribulation, Antichrist, and Armageddon are going to be a reality just as John
has stated. It is from the Futurists' view that a great deal of parallels is
drawn to other scriptures. The Futurists argue that these other scriptures are
the foundations for all of the evil they see in the end times of Revelations.
The Futurists believe that Johnís Revelations brings all of these past decrees
found in other scriptures to an ultimate end. For the futurist, the depth of
understanding of the consummation of this age that Revelation provides is
sublime. Nevertheless, as stated, Eschatological concepts are expressed in many
other passages of scripture. Revelation further contributes to an understanding
of Scripture by bringing these diverse strands into a tight, cohesive whole.
Futurists plead that Daniel referred to the Antichrist when he spoke of a prince
to come who would destroy the city and the sanctuary and bring about desolation
(Daniel 9:26). The apostle Paul also spoke of the Antichrist, "whose coming
is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders"
(II Thessalonians 2:9). He is the "son of perdition" (II Thessalonians
2:3) and "the Wicked" (II Thessalonians 2:8), "whom the Lord
shall consume," but cannot be revealed until his restrainer is removed at
the rapture of the Church (II Thessalonians 2:6-7). These are all passages that
the futurist draw from to convince themselves and others that what John speaks
of in the final times will indeed become a reality. After all, how many times
are the Old Testament declarations fulfilled in the New testament? In futurism
Daniel's vision of the little horn again refers to the Antichrist, the previous
beasts and horns being the formation of Empires yet to come (Daniel 7:1-11).
Daniel sees the little horn slain and destroyed (Daniel 7:11) and, in harmony
with Revelation, Daniel sees the return of Christ as "one like the Son of
man" coming with the clouds of heaven (Daniel 9:13). He would be given
dominion and glory and a kingdom that will know no end(Daniel 9:14). The
Futurist concludes that without the book of Revelation these threads of
predictive prophecy would be potentially meaningless, subject to immense
speculation. Without the book, the clear sequence of events and the relationship
between these prophecies would not be so noticeable. One final important
contribution that the futurist feel the Book of Revelation gives to eschatology
is an understanding of the nature of evil and its final overthrow. Caird (1984,
p.294) writes, John uses the most offensive language he can to delineate his
spiritual enemies (Balaamite, Jezebel, fornication, monster, whore), because he
is aware that they present themselves to the world in a much more attractive
light. No man chooses evil because he recognizes it to be evil, but always
because, for the moment at least, it appears to be good. The essence of evil is
deception and counterfeit. Satan is 'the deceiver of the whole world', who
misleads men by telling lies about God. The monster is the Antichrist, the false
Messiah, who makes blasphemous claims to deity. It bears 'deadly marks of
slaughter', which are a parody of the marks on the Lamb, and its deadly wound
has been healed in a mock resurrection (xiii. 3, 14). Its followers bear a brand
which is a travesty of the seal of God on the foreheads of the martyrs (xiii.
16). Its title, 'was and is not and is yet to be', is a caricature of the name
of God (xvii. 8; cf. i. 4). Evil will reach its final crescendo in the
Antichrist, inspired by Satan to perform false miracles (II Thessalonians 2:9;
cf. Matthew 24:24; Revelation 13:11-15). Interestingly, while Paul provides a
sketch of this human embodiment of evil (II Thessalonians 2:3-12), other New
Testament references find Antichrist already present in heretical teachings (I
John 2:18f., 22; 4:3). Nevertheless, the Eschatology drawn from the Book of
Revelation reveals that the powers of evil will be completely eliminated. It is
easy to see the distinct differences in beliefs from the Preterist to the
Futurist point of view. Now that I have discussed some of the views and meanings
behind Eschatology and the end time, which do we choose? Is it more logical for
the world to accept the view that the end is going to be filled with the worst
possibilities that man has ever known. Or does God not wish to subject the human
race to that sort of punishment. Obviously, the Preterist would say that it
makes no sense to live in fear of the end because there will be no evil end
times. Whereas, the Futurist are convinced that the end times is going to bring
about great tribulations of epic proportions. From a personal perspective, my
views are more in line with that of the Preterist. Although this view maybe
difficult for some to accept it seems to be somewhat more logical. However,
often I feel that the Preterist is not fully understood. One must recognize that
the Preterist is not convinced that the Christians will never have to suffer. On
the contrary, they perceive the fact that if Christ had to endure so may the
Christian. It seems that the Futuristic view is more of a traditional view and
the Preterist is slightly more enlightened. I know as a child in church I was
subjected to all the ideas that the Futurist present right down to the rivers
turning to blood. It would most likely be safe to assume that the same people
which prescribe to the Futuristic view also teach the angry God of the Old
Testament and the loving God of the New Testament, an idea which I have
expelled. For me the logic behind the Futuristic view does not hold. It flows
more logically for me that God has a master plan in mind. God created the world
out of love and he intervenes in the world because of his love for humans, at
least that is what I hold to be the truth. Obviously, the creation was not a
perfect one because humans sin every day, every minute, even every second. So,
why would God create this world, send his son to show us the way only to destroy
it in the end times? God already destroyed the sin infested world once, and that
did not eliminate the sin from the earth, so why would he do it again? God did
indeed send his son, the perfect human, to give us a light to live by so maybe
we are supposed to try to bring everything full circle. Man was once with God on
a higher level (i.e. Adam). Through sin we have been force out of all of Godís
glory maybe even become less human. Is it possible that sin clouds menís
vision, and makes them unable to see what God originally intended humans to be.
Therefore, he sent his son as a sort of reminder of what humans should be. Maybe
the reason he sent his son is because he wishes for man to be escalated once
again to that plateau from which Adam fell. The end is then not a condemnation
of man, but the completion of the journey of reinstating man to his original
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