Introduction to Eschatology

Pastor Gary Takahashi currently teaching his series on Eschatology. In light of this, we thought it would be helpful for the membership to have a basic understanding of Eschatology. This is an introductory article on the topic and written by one of our intern pastors, Raymond Kim. It is the hope that through familiarizing yourself with the terms and issues, the Second Hour series that Pastor Gary will be teaching through may be more meaningful and engaging.

The word eschatology comes from the Greek word, (eschatos), which means “last.” Thus, eschatology is the study of “last things,” i.e. the end times.

The first question that one must ask in the study of eschatology is: How are we to understand the timing of the prophecies of Scripture?

There are four views on the timing of Biblical prophecy:

(1) Preterism, which believes that the majority of Bible prophecy has already been fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70;

(2) Historicism, which believes that the prophesied events in the book of Revelation are currently being fulfilled in the present age;

(3) Idealism, which believes that Bible prophecy simply teaches timeless truths about Christianity and the world, and does not emphasize a past, present, or future fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and finally;

(4) Futurism, which believes that the major passages of Bible prophecy still await a future fulfillment, e.g. the Tribulation period, the second coming of Jesus Christ and His millennial kingdom.

The second question that one must ask in the study of eschatology is: How are we to understand the millennium, that is the thousand-year reign of Christ?

The three views on the millennium are:

(1) Postmillennialism, which believes that the physical return of Christ will occur after a golden age of peace and prosperity on the earth through the spread of the gospel (this view is unique in that it has a positive eschatology and it is believers who usher in the kingdom, not Christ);

(2) Amillennialism, which believes that there is no literal future thousand year kingdom (thus, no millennium) on the earth, but rather a spiritual kingdom that refers to Christ’s rule in the hearts of His people during the church age, and finally;

(3) Premillennialism, which believes that the millennial kingdom refers to a future, physical kingdom that Christ Himself will establish at His return. The kingdom, which will be centered in Jerusalem, will last for one thousand years, after which the current earth along with the heavens, will be destroyed and replaced by the new heavens and the new earth.

The third question that one must ask in the study of eschatology is: How are we to understand the timing of the rapture (1 Thess. 4:17), that is, the removal of people from earth to heaven?

Amillennialists and Postmillennialists regard the coming of Christ as a single event to be followed by a general resurrection and judgment, but within Premillennialism, five main views exist regarding the timing of the rapture of church:

(1) Pre-tribulationism, this view teaches that the rapture of the church will occur before the seven-year Tribulation period begins;

(2) Mid-tribulationism, this view teaches that the rapture of the church will occur at the midpoint of the seven years of Tribulation; that is, after three and one half years have elapsed;

(3) Pre-wrath Rapture, this view teaches that all Christians will be taken in the rapture approximately three-fourths of the way through the Tribulation period;

(4) Post-tribulationism, this view teaches that the rapture and Second Coming are facets of a single event which will occur at the end of the Tribulation period; thus, the church will be on earth during the entirety of the Tribulation period, and finally;

(5) Partial Rapture, this view teaches that only “spiritual” Christians who are watching and waiting for the Lord’s return will be taken up in the rapture.

The doctrinal conviction and position of Immanuel Bible Church after careful exegesis and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures is that we believe and teach that the majority of Bible prophecy still awaits future fulfillment (futurism), Christ will return to establish His physical earthy kingdom for a literal thousand years centered at Jerusalem (premillennialism), and that His church will be raptured before the beginning of the Tribulation period (pre-tribulationism) to the praise and glory of God the Father.