The Importance of Knowing the End
I.) What is Eschatology?
We are entering a realm of study called Eschatology. It is the doctrine of last things. This comes from the Greek word Eschatos meaning last, and ology meaning study of. Every single person has an eschatological view. Every person believes something about the end. Even the atheist has a doctrine of last things. To the atheist, people are a product of chance, this life is all there is, and when it ends a person ceases to be. In the end there is no retribution for evil, because our being a product of chance means morality is a product of subjectivity. If there is no God, there is no transcendent moral standard. You cannot tell me what is good and evil, and I cannot tell you what is good and evil. Morality is subjected to the individual; therefore, the individual better do what makes them happy, because this life is all that there is. It is a dismal and depressing view, but a view nonetheless with dangerous consequences.
Again, every person has a view of the end time, and the question every person needs to ask about his or her view is this, is it true? What is the foundation for your view? Is it yourself? Do you really trust yourself to know for certain what lies ahead? I hope not! We do not even know what tomorrow holds, or the rest of this day for that matter. What is the foundation for your view? Is it dependable? Our understanding of the end times is one of great importance.
II.) The End According to Christianity
The Christians understanding of the things to come is to be based solely on the Word of the Living God. A view forged by the Scripture is a double-edged sword that causes dread for the unbeliever, but hope for the one who has turned from their sin and their works and has entrusted themselves to the Person of Christ and His vicarious death on the cross in their place.
Every believer in Christ shares a basic view of the end times. It is that it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment. It is knowing, that after Christ rendered Himself as an offering for our sin by being nailed to the cross at the hands of godless men, God raised Him from the dead three days later. It is acknowledging that forty days after His resurrection He ascended into the heavens in a cloud before His disciples, and Acts 1:10-11 says:
“10 as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. 11 They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.”
It is recognizing that He is coming back for His people, and to deal out retribution to those who do not know God and those do not obey His gospel. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 says:
“These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”
It is understanding that there will be a day when God will judge every person whose name is not written in the Lambs book of life for every sin they have ever committed. It is realizing He will cast them into outer darkness for all eternity in the lake of fire where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Where their worm will not die and the fire will not be quenched. This should be to the dread of the unbeliever.
The longing hope of the believer is knowing that because He lives we too shall live; we who have been saved by His grace through our faith in His Christ according to His Scripture and for His glory alone. The resurrection of Christ does not only vindicate Jesus as the Son of God. It does not only demonstrate that we have been justified before God by His blood. It does not only show that we have been freed from the slavery of sin and raised to walk in the newness of life as slaves of Christ. It proves that we who have positionally died to self in order to live in Christ will be glorified for all eternity as He is. Colossians 3:3-4 says:
“3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
1 John 3:2 says, “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” We will be thoroughly saved! Sins penalty will never touch us, sins power will have no grip on us, and sins presence will have no place in us. God will save us from Himself, by Himself, through Himself, to Himself, and for Himself. Revelation 21:3-7 says:
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” 6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.”
Revelation 22:3-6 says,
“3 There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him;4 they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.5 And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever…6 These words are faithful and true…”
This is a basic view held among Christians of the order of major things to come. We know these things will happen, because the One who was dead but now is alive declared they will occur, “These words are faithful and true.”
III.) Differing Interpretations
We are now preparing to study a teaching of Jesus Christ known as The Olivet Discourse. The sister texts are found in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21:5-36. It is no surprise that there is much debate over this text. The obvious debate stems from the skeptic who claims this portion of Scripture proves that Jesus did not know what He was talking about because He says in Mark 13:30, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” The thinking is that Jesus did not physically return in the lifetime of the disciples; He is therefore a liar. It was R.C. Sproul who said:
“I do not think a week went by when I was in seminary that some biblical scholar did not seek to rub our noses in the difficulties of the Olivet Discourse, trying to use the text to disprove the inspiration of the Bible. When Bertrand Russell wrote his essay ‘Why I Am Not a Christian,’ he cited the Olivet Discourse as one of the chief reasons for his rejection of Christianity. He declared that even though Jesus’ prophecies about the destruction of the temple and of Jerusalem were amazingly accurate, His credibility, and that of the entire New Testament, collapsed when He failed to return within a generation of the delivery of the Olivet Discourse.”
For the record, I respectfully disagree with Sproul’s interpretation of the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse, but I agree with him that this text causes much controversy with the skeptic. Hopefully by the end of our study through Jesus teaching we will see that the issue lies not with Jesus and His Word, but with the interpreter and their interpretation.
This brings up a second, but not so obvious debate over this text, and it is one that occurs among genuine believers in Christ. All Christians will agree on the major tenants of the things to come, but not every Christian will agree on the events leading up to those things. Among Christians there are roughly three different views of the end times: Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, and
Premillennialism. We will not go in depth into these, but we should consider their general teachings in relation to the Olivet Discourse.
Amillennialists believe there will not be a literal millennial reign of Christ before the end of the world.Most of the events Jesus taught in His discourse were fulfilled in 70 A.D with the destruction of Jerusalem. This means they do not believe in the rapture of the church. This is a popular view held by many respected teachers throughout the history of the church and even today. Men such as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, B.B. Warfield, and the late R.C. Sproul held this view.
Postmillennialists are similar to Amillennialists in that they believe a majority of what Jesus taught in His discourse came to pass when Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. They believe the church will be the vessel through which God ushers in the Millennium. This will be achieved by the people of God proclaiming the gospel. In a sense they believe the world will become a better place. The Millennium will not necessarily be a literal 1,000 years, but once it is completed Christ will return. Two reputable teachers who held this view were Jonathan Edwards and Loraine Boettner who described Postmillennialism as this:
“That view of last things which holds that the kingdom of God is now being extended in the world through the preaching of the gospel and the saving work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of individuals, that the world is eventually Christianized, and that the return of Christ is to occur at the close of a long period of righteousness and peace commonly called the ‘Millennium’…the second coming of Christ will be followed immediately by the general resurrection, the general judgment, and the introduction of heaven and hell in their fullness.”
Premillennialists believe that though Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple did occur in 70 A.D, His Olivet discourse should be interpreted with a futurist view. That is to say, we should understand that these events have not occurred yet, but will one day take place before the Second coming of Christ and the establishment of His literal Millennial Kingdom.
Now there are four different types of Premillennialists:
1.) Pretribulationism which is the belief that the church will be raptured before the seven year period of great tribulation, so that we will not experience the wrath of God being poured out on the earth.
2.) Midtribulationism which is the belief that the church will be raptured during the midpoint of the great tribulation period.
3.) Posttribulationism which is the belief that the church will be raptured at the end of the tribulation after having gone through it while being protected by God.
4.) Partial-rapture Tribulationism which is the belief that the church will be raptured at different increments throughout the seven years of tribulation.
IV.) Commanded to Be Alert
I say this not to bog you down with a bunch of information, but so we may understand that genuine brothers and sisters in Christ differ over this portion of Scripture in many ways. Now I will be teaching through this section from the belief of a pretribulation rapture of the church and a premillennial return of Jesus Christ.
Understand that Amillennialism, Postmillennialism, Premillennialism, Pretribulationism, Midtribulationism, Posttribulationism, Partial-rapture Tribulationism are all eschatological views that fall under the category of non-essential for salvation. Meaning we should be able to respectfully and loving disagree with other believers who hold different views on the end time events.
Eschatology is important, and it is an area of thought that captivates the mind people, especially the Christian. The disciples were captivated by it, in Matthew 24:3 they say “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” No doubt many of us have the same questions. Through the next several weeks we will examine His answer.
We should also understand that non-essential does not mean not important. Some doctrines may not be essential to salvation, but they are essential to rightly handling the Word of the Living God which we are commanded to do to the best of our ability. Some jokingly consider themselves Pantribulationists which they say is the belief that it will all pan out in the end. This is certainly clever, but it is not the attitude or mindset Jesus commands us to have. Jesus says:
1.) Mark 13:5, “See to it (Be Alert) that no one misleads you…”
2.) Mark 13:9, “Be on your guard…”
3.) Mark 13:14, “…Let the reader understand…”
4.) Mark 13:23, “…take heed; behold I have told you everything in advance.”
5.) Mark 13:29, “…when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door.”
6.) Mark 13:33, “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is.”
7.) Mark 13:35, “Be on the alert…”
8.) Mark 13:37, “And what I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’”
Christians should content themselves with not caring about the end times because it is all going to “pan out anyways.” That is borderline fatalism. We are called to understand what will occur and commanded to take heed, be on guard, be alert, and recognize when Christ is near. We are the readers that are to understand, and what Jesus said to the disciples here He says to all of us, “Be on the alert!”
 Hebrews 9:27
 Acts 2:22-23
 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10
 Mark, R.C. Sproul; Chapter 46 The Olivet Discourse, Part 1 (13:1-8)
 The Millennium, Loraine Boettner; Page 14
 2 Timothy 2:15