Coming to The End

Eventually, almost all Christians are curious about the "end" or the "eschaton" as it is called in Greek. When people study about the end, it is called "eschatology". What follows is an analysis of a friend's initial foray into outlining his basic eschatological understanding. I do not intend to be overly critical, however I want to be objective.

When it comes to measurement, we go by rules such as 12 inches equaling 1 foot, however before this was standardized the actual length of a foot varied (source). As with measurement, many parts of theological beliefs have been standardized. As I give an analysis, I may cite these standardizations rather than simply giving my own opinion.

A START AT THE END

I call my friend's views, a "start" because he is really just starting to look at eschatology and will need to factor in a lot more concepts but he starts with 3 main points, taken primarily from 2 Thessalonians 2 wherein we read of a "Great Apostasy" or falling away from the Faith.

  1. Everyone will know who is the Son of Perdition (v3-4)
  2. "Christians" will come under execution and only the Elect will survive (v7, 13)
  3. Always continue in the word of God no matter what your eschatological beliefs may be (v15)

Now, what does the Christian "measurement" say about these verses and are the measurements the same as my friend's conclusions? First, I will make the assumption that my friend considers the Son of Perdition to be synonymous with The Antichrist (not a, antichrist but a specific entity or person). The conclusion from his first point seems to be that he believes that the Son of Perdition will be obvious to all people, everywhere. That perhaps he will be an international figure. My friend is not the first to conclude this.

The Reformers understood this Man of Sin/Son of Perdition to be embodied in the Popes of Roman Catholicism in general. They often eluded that the falling away was first when Islam took over the Greek/Eastern Orthodox and then ultimately when the Roman Catholics (Papists) set up a nationalized Christianity. However, there have been less specific interpretations of the Man of Sin/Son of Perdition. The Geneva Bible notes for example say:

"The apostle foretells that before the coming of the Lord, there will be a throne set up completely contrary to Christs glory, in which that wicked man will sit, and transfer all things that appertain to God to himself: and many will fall away from God to him." - source

Thus, if the falling away was past, as in the rise of Islam and the institution of Roman Catholicism, it is very well that people may conclude v3 speaks of the past. Indeed, some preteristic interpretations link this not with Islam or Roman Catholicism but with Rome either via Titus (the General who overthrew Jerusalem) or some other Roman ruler such as Nero. - source Since preterism has all things culminating by the year AD70, they have to associate the falling alway and the Son of Perdition with events and persons before that time. But the stark reality is that there is no record of a general Christian apostasy at that time. As a matter of fact, Christianity continued to grow at astonishing rates, engulfing most of the Middle East and eventually the Roman Empire.


Many modern evangelical Christians (not necessarily from a Reformed background), will conclude that the falling away and the Son of Perdition is yet future. They often associate this with a time that Christianity will be all but wiped out on the earth. The assumption is, that whether all people will recognize the Son of Perdition for who he is, the remaining true Christians will.



POINT 2
That Christians will become persecuted more and more, even to the point of being hunted and executed is not a new interpretation. Again, the preterists might point to the persecutions under Nero when he actually would use Christians as human torches in the Coliseum. - source Entire movies have been made about a future time when the world gets so bad that the remaining Christians are hunted down. (see movie Rumors of Wars) So again, this interpretation is not outside the "measurement" of standardized Christianity.



POINT 3
2 Thes 2:15 isn't so much about continuing in the Word of God no matter what your eschatology may be, but rather it is about "holding to the doctrines" that Jesus and apostles taught. This is a major issue since now it gets into deciding what doctrine did Jesus and the apostles teach. For example, John Gill says of this text:

"...meaning the truths of the Gospel, which may be called traditions, because they are delivered from one to another; the Gospel was first delivered by God the Father to Jesus Christ, as Mediator, and by him to his apostles, and by them to the churches of Christ; whence it is called the form of doctrine delivered to them, and the faith once delivered to the saints: and also the ordinances of the Gospel which the apostles received from Christ, and as they received them faithfully delivered them, such as baptism and the Lord's supper; as well as rules of conduct and behaviour, both in the church, and in the world, even all the commandments of Christ, which he ordered his apostles to teach, and which they gave by him" - source



For me, this is doubly important in light of the doctrine of God being in control. If we believe God is in control, then the basic beliefs and teachings He intended His collective Church to "hold fast" onto, must be easily discerned throughout history. When someone comes along advocating something completely foreign to those "traditions" which were passed down throughout the Christian ages, they should immediately become suspect. It is like a person in America trying to convince you that Communism is really America's heritage. So, while I agree that the text urges the Christian to continue in God's Word; it is not that we should no matter our eschatology. We should always be conforming our beliefs, including our eschatology to the Bible and the controlling guidance of God throughout the ages. Believing some radically different doctrine, such as preterism is outside the concept of holding the "traditions" once delivered to the saints.

2 Peter 3

My friend also pointed to 2 Peter 3 as part of his eschatology. Indeed, these passage are eschatological in nature. Verses 3-4 speak of scoffers or mockers who will come ridiculing that Jesus hasn't returned. What is interesting is that these verses actually speak against preterism's idea that Jesus came back in AD70. Why? because why would people be scoffing at such a short delay?
Verse 8 speaks of God's perception of time as being a thousand years and a day without much difference. Again, this speaks against an AD70 return since there would be little reason to make a point about time if Jesus had returned in that relatively short period.
Verse 10 reiterates a point often made in the Bible; that the Lord's return would be sudden and unexpected, like a thief who happens upon you before you are aware. Again, this speaks against preterism because preterism often teaches a certainty of Jesus' return by AD70.

CONCLUSION

To conclude my analysis, I only say this; that a person may attempt to answer every detail by trying to connect dots within the Bible or they may attempt to get the overview. While my friend seems to have an eschatology that has the world getting worse, to the point of the Man of Sin taking over the world and killing Christians, my friend should consider if he wants to attempt to answer any more questions within his eschatology. Things like; what will happen to the planet earth. Will it be destroyed or go on indefinitely? Does my friend even want to bother with answering these questions? Does the Bible address more issues on eschatology? What other chapters and verses might shed more light on the end? Lastly, how will my friend interact with people who have a more developed eschatology (even if speculative)? They will press him to answer further. They may even accuse him of having a poor or undeveloped eschatology. How will he handle these issues. After all, some of the first questions people often ask about a person's eschatology are:

  1. Are you premil, amil, postmil or historicist/
  2. Do you believe in the Rapture?
  3. Have you read the book of Revelation?


My friend should consider bible-based responses to these questions. If he just dismisses them, people will think his views are undeveloped, even if they are not. But, all in all; eschatology is a tricky topic, not because it is terribly difficult but because it is one part of Christian belief that gets many people excited or adamant about what they believe. People are often less passionate about questions of the structure of church officials or mode and method of baptism. My friend has made a good start toward knowing more about the end.

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