From time to time, I hear a lot about the early church’s understanding of the “end of the world” or their belief that the “Second Coming of Jesus” would take 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. I know it’s hard to imagine but what if we’re mistaken? What if we’ve misunderstood what they meant? I’m hoping that this series on some of the major statements from the New Testament about the “end of the world” will show that they weren’t 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. My reason for this is because those words 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 suitcases and explaining their contents. While such a pilgrimage would be very rewarding, doing so usually takes one far off course from the original journey. From time to time, however, they’re necessary. And this is one of those times.
The first word is the word “eschatology.” It means the study of “last things.” Usually these “last things” include the “Second Coming” of Jesus, the “Judgment,” the “Resurrection of the dead,” 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 won’t be looking too deeply into those terms and phrases, though we will brush over them from time to time. Maybe in a follow up series.
Another term we’ll encounter will be “apocalyptic.” Apocalyptic is the name of a certain type of literature. This genre usually contains many cataclysmic images—the moon turning to blood, stars falling from heaven, etc. There’ve been many movies about the “end of the world” and this term is usually the catalyst for them. Actually, though, a better understanding of the word is “revelation” or “revealing.” The idea is that something hidden has been “uncovered” or “revealed.” This genre is usually found in prophetic books like Daniel or Isaiah. And since most of us aren’t 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 them is crucial to comprehend the New Testament’s use of the genre.
So, there’s our brief introduction. Click here for the next post in this series.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC