Illinois Christ, not in a pre-written program.
Illinois Theological Seminary An Examination of Methods For Evaluating the Doctrine of the Last Things A Research Paper Submitted to Rev. Jose Oliveira For Biblical Anthropology In Partial Fulfillment Of The Masters of Divinity Degree In The Illinois Theological Seminary By Henri Dormevil Dacula, Ga October 28, 2011 Contents The Doctrine of the Last Things………. …… ………………………………….
……….. ……………1 Introduction……………………………… ………………………. …………. ……………..
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………. 2 Eschatology in Philosophy and Religion………………………….. …….. …. ………….
.. ………….. 3 Eschatology in the History of the Christian Church……………….. ………………….
……. 4 The Relation of Eschatology to the Rest of Dogmatic……. …. ……….
……………5 The Name of “Eschatology”…………….. ………….. ……………………………………. …………….
6 The Contents of Eschatology: General and Individual Eschatology….
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……. 7 Individual Eschatology………………………………………………………………………………….. 8 Death……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 9 Intermediate State………………………………………………………………………………………10 Resurrection……………………………………………………………………………………………. 11 Judgment……………………………………………………………………………………………….
12 Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………….. ……. 3 Works Cited………………………………………………………………………………. ……………14 Introduction Eschatology is one of the most important subjects in our Christian faith.
As believers we are saved by hope, hope for a future centered in a predestined Person, Jesus Christ, not in a pre-written program. But we have seen that the shape of that future is distorted when the problems of a particular period lead us to fashion a system we then impose upon the Bible to support a chart of events, so that hope changes its focus from the Savior ever with us to the supposed signs of the times of His Coming.This is a study of systematic theology as it pertains to the doctrines relating to the end of the age. And without any doubt that it is important to note that this is a rather controversial area among evangelicals. Nevertheless we need not feel that we must accept any concepts in their en-tirety if we can scripturally justify our own point of view. But we must develop some framework for approaching Scripture and the issues involving the Second Coming of Christ. The below fol-lowing subjects are a suggested framework to help us begin to think through issues surrounding this event that is so often spoken of in the Old and New Testament.
Eschatology in Philosophy and Religion A doctrine of the last things is not something that is strange to the Christian religion. My daughter Jenny who is sixteen now always raised the questions, “what is the final destiny of my life. ” “Do I perish at death, or do I enter upon another state of existence. ” Naturally, I always tell that her that as long as you believe that the history of the world had a beginning, it will also have an end you are right with God. I don’t think she has a clue about what I mean.Maybe some phi-losophers might have a better answer. Plato taught the immortality of the soul, that is, its continued existence after death, and this doctrine remained an important tenet in philosophy up to the present time.
Spinoza had no place for it in his pantheistic system, but Wolff and Leibnitz defended it with all kinds of argu-ments. Kant stressed the untenableness of these arguments, but nevertheless retained the doctrine of immortality as a postulate of practical reason. The idealistic philosophy of the nineteenth cen-tury ruled it out.In fact, as Haering says, “Pantheism of all sorts is limited to a definite 1 1 John McIn-tyre, Systematic Theology Part 2, Bibliolife (October 9, 2009) mode of contemplation, and does not lead to any ‘ultimate’. ” Not only did the philosophers reflect on the future of the individual; they also thought deeply on the future of the world. The Stoics spoke of successive world-cycles, and the Buddhists, of world-ages, in each of which a new world appears and again disappears.
Even Kant speculated on the birth and death of worlds.As everybody can notice none of these philosophers have a view of the concept of a perfect world which will arise by Divine design in the future at the end of days. One thing which is so interesting is that every religion has its own eschatology. Buddhism has its Nirvana, Mohammedanism, its sensual paradise, and the Indians, their happy hunting-grounds. Belief in the continued existence of the soul appears everywhere and in various forms, Says Millard J. Erickson: “The belief that the soul of man survives his death is so nearly universal that we have no reliable record of a tribe or nation or religion in which it does not prevail.
2 But in these religions all is vague and uncertain. It is only in the Christian religion that the doctrine of the last things’ receives greater precision and carries with it an assurance that is divine. These religions need to accept the testimony of God respecting these, or continue to grope about in the dark. If they do not wish to build the house of their hope on vague and indeterminate longings, they shall have to turn to the firm ground of the Word of God. Eschatology in the History of the Christian ChurchA classical eschatological text occurs both in Isaiah and in Micah (Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:1-4), where a vision of universal peace emerges.
In the latter days the mountain of God will be established as a center for pilgrimage by nations from afar, and the heavenly judge will bring peace (“They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks”, Isaiah 2:4). The messiah comes to the forefront in several eschatological passages, especially in Isaiah. This wondrous child-prince will remove the yoke of bondage and remove every reminder of war (Isaiah 9:1-7).According to Isaiah 11:1-9, the Spirit of the Lord will rest on the “stump” from Jesse, who will judge wisely and inaugurate an era of tranquility when the original paradise will be restored. The notion of a surviving remnant occurs with considerable frequency in the Bible. Millard J.
Erickson, Christology Theology, Baker Academic; 2 edition (August 1, 1998 Some people might think that there has never been a period in the history of the Christian Church in which eschatology was the center of the Christian thought.If we go back a little bit to the very first period the Church, we would see that the Church was perfectly conscious of the separate elements of the Christian hope, as, for instance, that physical death is not yet eternal death, that the souls of the dead live on, that Christ is coming again, that there will be a blessed resurrection of the people of God, that this will be followed by a general judgment, in which eternal doom will be pronounced upon the wicked but the pious will be rewarded with the ever-lasting glories of heaven.But these elements were simply seen as so many separate parts of the future hope, and were not yet dogmatically construed. There are many people who simply be-lieve in a literal millennium, and that would include classical postmillennialists as well. But in order to establish premillennialism in the early church, it will need to be shown that, a) the Church believed that Christ’s Return would take place before the millennium and b) the Church believed that the millennium was a literal earthly reign.It is difficult to establish the eschatologi-cal beliefs of many church fathers, as some seemed to change their view over time, and others were just inconsistent.
However, we shall see that true premillennialism was rare in the early church (it did exist), and those who did hold this view had other eschatological beliefs that are inconsistent with the modern view. A new wave of Premillennialism appeared, which is not li-mited to the sects, but has also found entrance in some of the Churches of our day, and its advo-cates suggest a Christian philosophy of history, based particularly on the study of Daniel and Re-velation, and help to fix the attention once more on the end of the ages. ”3 The Relation of Eschatology to the Rest of Dogmatic Reformed theologians on the whole saw this point very clearly and therefore discussed the last things in a systematic way. However, they did not always do justice to it as one of the main divisions of dogmatic. Dr.
Kuyper correctly points out that every other locus left some question unanswered, to which eschatology should supply the answer. In theology it is the ques-tion, how God is finally perfectly glorified in the work of His hands in anthropology, the ques-tion, how the disrupting influence of sin is completely overcome; in Christology, the question, how the work of Christ is crowned with perfect victory; in soteriology, the question, how the work of the Holy Spirit at last issues in the complete redemption and glorification of the people of God; and in ecclesiology, the question of the final apotheosis of the Church.All these ques-tions must find their answer in the last locus of dogmatic. Haering testifies to the same fact when he says: “As a matter of fact it (eschatology) does shed a clear light upon every single section of doctrine. But I don’t think that eschatology can answer all these questions. Unfortunately, vari-ous Biblical passages predicting that the future is ambiguous. The events themselves are open to many interpretations because there is no clear indication of either their timing or sequence.
Some Christians believe that “millennium” does not mean a time interval of exactly 1,000 years. Rather it refers to a long interval of time. Some Christians interpret events mentioned in the Christian Scriptures as descriptions of real happenings in our future; others interpret them symbolically and/or as events that have already occurred.
This leaves the passages open to many conflicting beliefs about the end times. A lot of intra-denominational and inter-denominational strife has re-sulted from disagreements about end time prophecy.For example, the Roman Catholic Church and most mainline and liberal denominations do not have expectation that Rapture will occur in the way anticipated by many fundamentalist and other evangelical faith groups. Roman Catho-lics generally follow the teachings of Augustine and the Protestant reformers, and accept Amil-lennialism. However, they do not generally use the term. They anticipate Jesus coming to Earth and gathering the Church together. As a matter of fact, we have to admit that eschatology always tries to remove all doubts in which some doctrines cannot find a clear answer.
The Name of “Eschatology”In general, the term “eschatology” designates the doctrine concerning “the last things. ” The word “last” can be understood either absolutely as referring to the ultimate destiny of man-kind in general or of each individual man, or relatively as referring to the end of a certain period in the history of mankind or of a nation that is followed by another, entirely different, historical period. Even though the Bible has no word for the abstract idea of eschatology, but the doctrines of Creation, Providence, Miracles, Prayer, and Eschatology, all share a common element and are therefore best considered together.That is, they are all concerned with the manner in which God deals with the Creation in created time. It is very interesting to realize that an important founda-tion underlying these doctrines is the linear nature of history. It may seem obvious, as there is nothing in ordinary human experience, scientific discovery, nor the archaeological recovery of artifacts, that contradicts the simple fact that time flows in one direction.
Notice that we can’t escape eschatology. If we reject Christian eschatology, we only subs-titute some other version of eschatology.The famous statement, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” is an eschatological statement. It is true that the Old Testament does not contain as much on the topic of eschatology as the New Testament or even the later Jewish writings known as the Apocrypha. Jeremiah 31 Chapter 31 opens with a covenant formula typical to both Jeremiah and Ezekiel 35 and speaks of a future time when the world will be reordered in some way and thus serves as an interesting comparison in eschatology.
The following proverb in verse 29-30 is a wiping of the slate with God – no longer will people suffer for the sins of their forefathers. It does, however, say that each man will die for his own sins. This at first seems incongruous with Ezekiel’s vision of for-giveness, but is negated in verses 33-34 where it explicitly states that everyone will “know” God, that he will forgive their sins, and he will remember them no more, and striking evidence for an egalitarian community.All of these things are made possible directly by the fact that God has forgiven, and Chapter 31 ends with a section about rebuilding Jerusalem in which it is signifi-cantly larger than it was at the time. The subject of eschatology plays a prominent part in New Testament teaching and reli-gion. Christianity in its very origin bears an eschatological character.
It means the appearance of the Messiah and the inauguration of His work; and from the Old Testament point of view these form part of eschatology.It is true in Jewish theology the days of the Messiah were not always included in the eschatological age proper, but often regarded as introductory to it. We have seen that The New Testament draws the Messianic period into much closer connection with the strict-ly eschatological process than Judaism. The distinction in Judaism rested on a consciousness of difference in quality between the two stages, the content of the Messianic age being far less spiri-tually and transcendentally conceived than that of the final state.Today I think that it is neces-sary to keep this in mind for a proper appreciation of the generally prevailing hope that the return of the Lord might come in the near future and we have to remember that Apocalyptic calculation had less to do with this than the practical experience that the earnest of the supernatural realities of the life to come was present in the church, and that therefore it seemed unnatural for the full fruition of these to be long delayed.The subsequent receding of this acute eschatological state has something to do with the gradual disappearance of the miraculous phenomena of the apostol-ic age. The Concepts of Eschatology: General and Individual Eschatology We know that the name “eschatology” calls attention to the fact that the history of the world and of the human race will finally reach its consummation.
It is not an indefinite and end-less process, but a real history moving on to a divinely appointed end.However, in the Old Tes-tament the destiny of the nation of Israel to such an extent overshadows that of the individual and that is to say that only the first rudiments of an individual eschatology are found. The individualism of the later prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel, bore fruit in the thought of the intermediate period. In the apocalyptic writings considerable concern is shown for the ultimate destiny of the individual. But not until the New Testament thoroughly spiritualized the conceptions of the last things could these two aspects be perfectly harmonized. Through the centering of the eschatological hope in the Messiah, and the suspending of the individual’s share in it on his personal relation to the Messiah, an individual significance is necessarily imparted to the great final crisis.
This also tends to give greater prominence to the intermediate state. Here, also, apocalyptic thought had pointed the way. None the less the Old Testament point of view continues to assert itself in that even in the New Testament the main interest still attaches to the collective, historical development of events.Many questions in regard to the intermediate period are passed by in silence. ” The Old Testament prophetic foreshortening of the perspective, immediately connecting each present crisis with the ultimate goal, is reproduced in New Testament eschatology on an individual scale in so far as the believer’s life here is linked, not so much with his state after death, but rather with the consummate state after the final judgment. The present life in the body and the future life in the body are the two outstanding illumined heights between which the dis-embodied state remains largely in the shadow.
But the same foreshortening of the perspective is also carried over from the Old Testament into the New Testament delineation of general escha-tology. The New Testament method of depicting the future is not chronological. Things lying widely apart to our chronologically informed experience are by it drawn closely together. This law is adhered to doubtless not from mere limitation of subjective human knowledge, but by rea-son of adjustment to the general method of prophetic revelation in Old Testament and New Tes-tament alike.
Today many people deal with general eschatology because it deals with future events that will happen to the entire universe, including the millennium, rapture, and tribulation. And this is the reason we have seen there is always some debate regarding the specific timeline and activities in general eschatology. Debates include the literalness of the rapture, its placement in the tribulation, the length of the tribulation, the events during the tribulation, and the literalness of the millennium. While some other people are more interested about personal eschatology because it deals with future events that happen to individuals.
This includes what happens to the saved and the lost both after deaths on this earth and at the coming judgment. Death Death and the future state are by their very nature mysteries incapable of solution apart from the revelation that has been given in Scripture. There is a tendency on the part of many people to avoid any serious discussion or even thought on the subject of death. Yet every person knows that in the normal course of events sooner or later that experience will happen to him. My mother always says that nothing is more certain about life than the fact of her death.
It may be long delayed, but it will surely come. All human history and experience point to that conclusion. It has been demonstrated a thousand times in the lives of those about us who have been called from among the living. Heart attacks and other diseases, accidents, wars, fires, etc. , have taken their toll. Death is no respecter of persons.
It may come to any one, young or old, rich or poor, saint or sinner, at any time or any place. But we three categories of deaths: physical, eternal and spiritual death. Spiritual death means the separation or alienation of the soul from God.It is in principle the condition in which the Devil and the demons are, but since in this world many descent into evil is restrained to some extent by common grace, it has not yet proceeded to such a degree of depravity as is found in them.
This was the primary penalty threatened against Adam in the Gar-den of Eden. Since man can only truly live when in communion with God, spiritual death means his complete undoing and the continual worsening of his condition. It means that while man may still perform many acts which are good in themselves, his works never merit salvation because they are not done with right motives toward God.Spiritual death, like a poisoned fountain, pol-lutes the whole stream of life, and were it not for the restraining influence of common grace or-dinary human life would become a hell on earth. The opposite of spiritual death is spiritual life.
It was this to which Jesus referred when He said to Martha: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die,” John 11:25, 26. And again, “He that heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but bath passed out of death into life,” John 5:24.Physical death means the separation of the soul from the body. This, too, is a part of the penalty for sin, although, as indicated in the preceding section, it is not the most important part.
In contrast with the angels, man was created with a dual nature, a spirit united with a body. He receives information through the avenues of sense. His body is the organ through which he makes contact with other human beings and with the world about him. When he dies he loses that contact, and, so far as we know, the spirits of the departed have no further contact with the living nor with the world about us.We do not know what the process is by which angels, who are pure spirits, communicate with each other, but presumably it is direct communication without intervening means, similar to what we refer to as thought transference or intuitive knowledge. At any rate the Bible gives no reason to believe that the dead can communicate with the living, but quite the contrary.
Eternal death is spiritual death made permanent. Dr. Berkhof, says “it may be regarded as the culmination and completion of spiritual death. The restraints of the present fall away and the corruption of sin have its perfect work. The full weight of the wrath of God descends on the condemned.
Their separation from God, the source of life and joy, is complete, and this means death in the most awful sense of the word. Their outward condition is made to correspond with the inward state of their evil souls. There are pangs of conscience and physical pain.
Intermediate State By the intermediate state is meant that realm or condition in which souls exist between death and the resurrection. That there is such a state is acknowledged by practically all who be-lieve in a resurrection and final judgment.The differences of opinion that exist have to do pri-marily with the nature of the state, chiefly in controversy with the Roman Catholics, as to wheth-er or not it is purgatorial in character; and with those who, as Jehovahis Witnesses and the Se-venth-day Adventists, believe in soul sleep between death and the resurrection; also to some extent with those who believe in a second chance or the possibility of repentance after death. Resurrection The resurrection of the dead is for Paul the final event on God’s eschatological calendar, the unmistakable evidence that the End has fully arrived.For Paul the resurrection has already taken place when Christ was raised from the dead, this setting in motion the final doom of death and thereby guaranteeing our resurrection. Christ’s resurrection makes ours both inevitable and necessary, inevitable, because his is the first fruits which sets the whole process in motion; ne-cessary, because death is God’s enemy as well as ours, and our resurrection spells the end to the final enemy of the living God who gives life to all who live (1 Cor 15:20–28). Believers there-fore live “between the times” with regard to the two resurrections.
We have already been “raised with Christ,” which guarantees our future bodily resurrection (Rom 6:4–5; 8:10–11). Judgment The concept of a final judgment on humankind at the end of history is found in Judaism and Christianity, Islam. It holds an important place in Judaic tradition, in which God’s judgment is regarded as operative both within history and at its end. The consummation of history is called the Day of the Lord, which is a day of judgment upon all who are unfaithful to God. Christian Eschatology owes much to this Hebrew tradition.
The New Testament freely employs the lan-guage and imagery of Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. It affirms the expectation that in the lan-guage of the historic creeds Christ “will come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. ” Many different interpretations of the meaning of this affirmation have been offered and, in particular, of the symbolic language employed in the New Testament to describe the inde-scribable.
But there is little doubt that the apostolic writers believed in the Second Coming of Christ and the Great Judgment Day as a manifestation of Christ’s eternal victory.Conclusion Through this paper what I have attempted to do is to give a brief outline of the future of mankind, and God’s plan for us in the future. Along the Louis Berkhof’s book we learn that the study of eschatology can be rewarding because of the glimpse of hope that we see in our future with the Lord, but it should also be a motivating factor in that we know the destruction that oth-ers will face without Christ. We as Christians, above all people should see the great need to share the gospel to a lost and dying world….
for we have read the end of the book!The Scriptures give several reasons why the study of eschatology is profitable for us. First of all it is for the purity in our life. It comforts us in our time of bereavement.
Thirdly, the study of eschatology gives us a divine viewpoint in our outlook. And finally, study produces motivation our faithful service. Biography Hoekma, Anthony A. , The Bible and the Future.
Grand Rapids: Wm Kik, J. Marcellus, An Eschatology of Victory. Philipsburg: Presbyterian & Reformed, 71 Groh, Ivan, Jesus Has Returned to Planet Earth. Peterborough: Inspirational Publications, 1984 Gundry, Robert H. , The Church and the Tribulation.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979 Ladd, George Eldon, A Theology of the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991 Morris, Leon, Apocalyptic. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974 Russell, J. Stuart, The Parousia: A Study of the New Testament Doctrine of Our Lord’s Second Coming. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985 Ryrie, Charles C. , Dispensationalism Today. Chicago: Moody Press, 1981 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of Man. William B. Eerdmans Publlishing company (September 1996) Andrew Perriman, The Coming of the Son of Man: New Testament Eschatology for an Emergin Church Paternoster (January 1, 2006) John Reid Noe, The Perfect Endin