Eschatology Definition

What is eschatology?

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Eschatology, the word has traditionally been defined as the doctrine of the last things based on the etymology of the word eskatos and logos, eskatos meaning the last things, and it's traditionally had to do with both individual eschatology and what we might call cosmic eschatology. Individual eschatology deals with death and the intermediate state; cosmic eschatology, things like the second coming of Christ, the final judgment, the general resurrection and eternal destinies, heaven and hell. I like to look at eschatology in a broader sense, however. If eschatology is associated with the second coming only, then we lose a lot of the eschatological aspects in the Gospels and in the teachings of Paul. Christ's first coming was just as eschatological as his second coming, and if we see that and understand that, then we can start to have a broader biblical theological view of eschatology, and the last things began with the first coming of Christ. If we understand that, we realize that, also, all of the Old Testament preparing for the first coming of Christ and looking forward to it is also eschatological.

So, eschatology really begins with Genesis and ends with the book of Revelation. And a lot of people today get excited about eschatology because they get excited about pinning the tail on the Antichrist and figuring out, you know, all these dates. For me, the most exciting part about eschatology is the Christological aspect of it. If we look at the first verses of Revelation 21 and 22 that describe the new heavens and earth, it talks about the doing away with pain and death and dying and sorrow. There will be no more of these things. The former things have passed away. And that's great, but even better is that we're going to be face to face with Jesus Christ. That's what excites me about eschatology, not trying to figure out when the second coming or when the rapture is going to be, or whether this person or that person is the Antichrist. It's being face to face with Christ. That is the heart of eschatology.

Answer by Dr. Keith A. Mathison

Dr. Keith Mathison is Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College.