Eschatology 101 – Categories

Almost every question evangelicals will ask about eschatology can fit into one of five categories:

Interpretive perspectives

This category deals with issues relating to one’s interpretive grid: Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology, or Salvation-History, and the attendant issues each perspective attempts to address such as the relationship between the church and Israel, the relationship between Old and New Testaments, the nature of eschatological writings and their genre (e.g., is Revelation prophecy, apocalyptic, epistolary, all, none, or a combination and if so what combination?).

Much of the material covered under this category is foundational and will yield interpretive presuppositions that will largely (though not completely) determine how an interpreter answers the questions of the remaining four categories.

The future of ethnic Israel

This category deals with exactly what you would think from reading it: Is there a future for ethnic Israel in the outworking of God’s plan? Or can we expect to see nothing more happen to ethnic Israel beyond individual ethnic Jews coming to faith in Christ during the normal course of Christian evangelism?

This is one is tricky because even if you say no to the first question I pose and yes to the second, you still have to address the issue. You can’t simply say, “No” and leave it at that; you have to have a reason why there is not future for them. I say this not to sway to one side or the other (because I think Dispensationalists and Covenant Theologians are both wrong and right about it) but because too often my covenantal brethren are too quick to say no but not only do they offer no explanation or reason, when you engage them on the topic it is clear that they really haven’t given much thought to it one way or the other.

The future of the church in the world

This category deals with issues relating to the church and her presence in the world in relation to the Second Coming of Christ. Will she be raptured out before cataclysmic events previous to the end of time? Or will she be here through those events yet preserved? The nature of these events and to what extent we see them as God’s wrath will determine our answers to these and other questions.

The Lord’s Return and the events surrounding it

Into this category we fit more than just the question of the timing of the Rapture, it must also hold questions surrounding the Seventieth Week of Daniel, Armageddon, Antichrist, and related issues. Like the question of Israel above, each of these issues must be explored and understood before we can reach a conclusion on it. It is not enough simply to say, “The Seventieth Week of Daniel is still in the future,” we have to be able to justify why we believe that and teach it. We also have to hold our view in humility because many of these questions can be answered from Scripture in multiple ways.

The Millennium

For me this is no longer the watershed interpretive issue it used to be. Postmills will probably always be like Apple fans: a little elitist and taking pity on those poor folk who just can’t see it their way (I write this on my Mac as one guilty of such).

Dispensational Premills seem to be getting a little softer as the years go by (or as each successive generation grows up) until eventually, hopefully, we’ll find some Dispies who won’t automatically accuse amills of denying Scripture.

Historic Premills and Amills are, always, have been, and most likely always will be just a hair apart.

But with the eclectic interpretive view of Revelation being made more well-known by G. K. Beale and Grant Osborne (it’s been around for a while but most evangelicals were firmly entrenched in futurism) in their respective commentaries on Revelation, it seems we might be seeing a renaissance of healthy Revelation commentaries.



About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies, Theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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