The church seems divided on the matter of eschatology—the study of end times (lit. last things). A silent majority would rather just wait and see and stop studying dragons and beasts for the time being, and the remainder are consumed with timelines and specific referents. Both groups wish the other would just take a few small steps in their direction.
So, how should we think about the last things?
If you are not normally interested in these end times conversations, please keep reading just for another minute. I want to propose that the reality that our Bibles have chapters and chapters (even books) dedicated to explaining the end times—beasts, dragons, and all—is a manifestation of God’s love for us. These things are not in our Bibles to confuse the church, but because God cares for her so.
God is not obligated to pull back the curtain of the future. He did not have to reveal hidden things. But He has done so in love for His people. God has split the space-time continuum in His Word because the most loving gift He can give is a glorious vision of His own power and authority.
I have been preaching through Daniel for my congregation. As I preached through chapter after chapter of this intriguing book, we have encountered statues, beasts, and horned-goats that persecute people. As I wrestled with how to explain these things, prophecy began to produce joy and trust in my soul—trust in God’s control, and joy that God has a plan. This is what these parts of Scripture are for.
Though it often doesn’t seem like it, prophecy and apocalyptic literature are not primarily intended for debate topics. They were intended for our delight—to place our hope in the One who will make all things right, and has a plan to do just that.
The following are seven implications of eschatology and prophecy that demonstrate that prophecy is a practical, even loving gift to us.
1. Eschatology and prophecy are among the greatest evidences that God is real.
God’s Word is His own testimony of Himself—He breathed the words of the Bible out (2 Tim. 3:16). As such, we would expect the Scriptures to have a divine and supernatural tone to them that proves they are from God, not men (cf. 2 Peter 1:20–21). And that is exactly what we find in these prophetic passages.
Take the book Daniel, written in the sixth century BC. The prophecies in Daniel are so intricate that no explanation is possible except that God has peeled back the fabric of reality and revealed Himself and His plans to man. Scripture—especially prophecy— is its own witness that God is who He has revealed Himself to be.
2. Eschatology and prophecy are proof that God has sovereign control.
Passages about the end times demonstrate the sovereignty of God. The fact that God predicts the future is proof that He has predestined the future. He doesn’t just know what will happen—He hasn’t just seen the tape before. He ordains what will happen (cf. Isaiah 46:9–10). And this puts a stake in the heart of fear and anxiety, because we can trust the One who sovereignly controls the future.
3. Eschatology and prophecy demonstrate God's control over sin and evil.
Eschatology assures believers that God does not passively allow sin and evil (and then scramble to make the best of it), but has, in fact, actively ordained it to advance His good purposes.
Evil actions and events are predicted by God to come in the future (e.g., the antichrist and his reign of terror). In a mystery that is too deep for our minds, even sin and evil must finally, in the end, serve the unfolding plan of God.
Thus, we can know that whatever transpires in this world, God governs all that comes to pass. And one day, when Christ returns to establish His kingdom, He will make all things right.
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4. Eschatology and prophecy liberate us to live abandoned to Jesus Christ.
Eschatology is proof that the outcome is secure – the happily ever after (following hardship) of the church has already been written. Visions of Christ’s global kingdom (cf. Dan. 7:13–14; Rev. 20:4–6) are in the Bible to free us in the present to live bold lives, wholly submitted to Christ.
Eschatology frees us to kill sin, to suffer hardship, to be rejected, to fight materialism, to sacrifice our lives, and to proclaim the gospel to the lost, no matter the cost to ourselves. Why? Because in the kingdom, believers win it all in the end! Believers will suffer nothing for Christ’s sake that won’t be reversed and lavishly restored when He returns to the planet.
5. Eschatology and prophecy conquer the fear of persecution and death.
Consider the glimpses in Scripture of the future resurrection (cf. Dan. 12:2; Rev. 20:4–6). Or, consider the passages that tell of all of God’s redeemed throughout the ages gathered in satisfied splendor worshiping God and the Lamb (cf. Rev. 7:9–10). What do we see in the text? Us. We are among those resurrected and living and worshiping in the kingdom. We will be resurrected and glorified and co-reign with Christ (cf. Rev. 5:10). These realities should conquer all fear of persecution and death.
How so? Because the glimpses we see of a future resurrected, imperishable humanity make how and when we die less relevant. Why? Because in Christ, no matter how or when we die, at the end of the age we will be raised to life. Therefore, eschatology gives us a lion-hearted courage (and broken-hearted compassion) to proclaim the gospel even if it costs our lives.
6. Eschatology and prophecy are our spiritual collateral that all of God's promises are sure.
What do we do with prophecies made in the Bible that have already been fulfilled? For example, the predictions of Daniel 8, 9 and 11 were fulfilled over 2,200 years ago. Why are these relevant and helpful to our lives? Because their fulfillment is proof—a spiritual collateral that everything else in God’s Word is certain.
This is the essence of faith—not some irrational leap into the unknown, but clinging to what is known, namely, the promises of God found in His Word! And we know we can trust them, because God’s Word has proven always to be true.
7. Eschatology inevitably points us to the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
In the end, the most important thing about our eschatology is the supremacy of Christ. The entire plan of salvation is designed to put Him on display as a treasure of infinite worth.
We all long for a world free from sin, evil, tyranny, injustice and, yes, pandemics. We ache for bodies no longer subjected to the curse of death and decay. We wait for the curse to be reversed and the spell of sin to be lifted, and every one of those things will be accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. At the center of our eschatology must be an all-sufficient Savior who will bring about a global renewal and the paradise we crave, but have yet to taste.
A well-balanced theology must include eschatology—it feeds our souls as we await the final chapter of God’s plan. It should create within us a confidence in God’s Word, and a longing for the coming day in His kingdom when we will see Him face-to-face.