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New Testament Eschatology - Introduction

From time to time, I hear a lot about the early church’s understanding of the ‘end of the world’ or their belief of the ‘Second Coming of Jesus’ as taking place within their generation. And it's usually not in a very good light. ‘They were obviously mistaken’ is often the remark I hear most. But what if it is we who are mistaken? I know, inconceivable, right. I don’t think so. I am hoping to do a series here on the 'end of the world' statements of the New Testament (or at least the major ones) and show that they were not mistaken in their understanding of the ‘signs of the times’.

Before we begin, however, let’s look at some terms that will have to be used. As most of you know, I try to refrain from using big ‘church’ words but from time to time they are necessary. And this is one of those times. (The reason I don’t use big church words is that they are like suitcases where ideas and thoughts and understandings are packed into them. To explain the words would mean a long time spent unpacking the suitcase. While such a pilgrimage would be very rewarding, doing so usually takes one far off course from the original journey.)

The first word is the word ‘eschatology’. It means the study of ‘last things’. Usually these ‘last things’ are the ‘Second Coming’ of Jesus, the Resurrection of the dead, the ‘Judgment’, etc. And, truth be told, even those terms and phrases probably need to be ‘unpacked’ for some of us. While this will be a study of eschatological statements in the New Testament, we will not actually be looking in detail about those things -- we won't be unpacking those terms and phrases. Perhaps in another series of articles.

Another term we will encounter will be ‘apocalyptic’. Apocalyptic is the name of a certain type of literature. It usually has many cataclysmic things in it – like the moon turning to blood, stars falling from heaven, etc. We have seen many a movie about the ‘end of the world’ and this term is usually the catalyst for such movies. But, actually, a better understanding of the word is ‘revelation’ or ‘revealing’. The idea is that of something hidden and then it is ‘discovered’ or ‘uncovered’. The literature that makes use of this type of genre is usually found in prophetic books like Daniel or Isaiah. And since most of us are not very familiar with those types of books in the Old Testament (and the imagery they use), we stumble with what they could possibly mean. But a proper understanding of just this type of literature is crucial to comprehend the New Testaments use of the genre.

So, there is our brief introduction. Next time we will look at some statements in the Old Testament.

Peace be with you.

OD

Comments

Pinball said…
This is a good intro! I can't wait to read the real thing.
Ted M. Gossard said…
OD,
Thanks. It especially hits home to me, your thought about big terms being like suitcases. That's a good one for me to remember. I try, obviously, to avoid that on my blog, as well. I picture myself speaking or trying to communicate to a typical congregation- and if unchurched I probably would be at least a bit different than I am- but I think in terms of that What you say about that here is a wise way of looking at it and explaining it by analogy.

I look forward, as well to your thoughts on this.
[...] statement about the ‘Son of Man’. Remember when we started this study we talked about suitcases? The phrase ‘Son of Man’ is a suitcase. Within that phrase, that suitcase, is the [...]
The Lou said…
This is good stuff.

As for using big words, we use big words or Bible terms at our church, but we always follow them with short statements to define them, (sanctification, the process by which God changes us to be more and more like Jesus that lasts the rest of our life) so those who are unchurched or are skeptics of Christianity can hear what we mean by those words. The other reason we feel its vital to use but explain big words is because we ask people to read their Bibles and we know they will come across those big words when they read. If we dodge them they will not be helped. But if we have given them short phrases to help define those words, they will be better equipped to understand the Bible when they read it.
odysseus said…
While I certainly agree, most of the words we use aren't in every translation of the Bible. For example, the word 'sanctification' neither appears in the New Living Translation (the one I use mostly on this site) nor the most widely read Bible translation, the New International Version. So, while I certainly agree, it would depend on the Bible that is read.

I think that your approach is a very good one. Using a suitcase is a great way of understanding each other, especially in a church setting. But when blogging, I find it not entirely useful. To me, it's best to keep things as simple as possible.

Thanks for stopping by, 'The Lou'. Come back often.

OD

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