How important is eschatology/having sound eschatological convictions in day-to-day Christian living?
There are several views in eschatology—especially when it comes to reading the last book of the Bible. The views range from preterist readings of Revelation―believing that it was all completed in the first century―to futurist readings―believing that much of it has not yet taken place. In trying to make sense of the full biblical narrative on the end times, people have held to views where there is a rapture before the tribulation, a rapture mid-tribulation, or a rapture/second coming event at the end of the tribulation. Some have argued for a literal 7-year tribulation, others have argued that the length of time in Scripture for that event is symbolic. There are multiple views related to the millennium—a time of peace before the final judgement, and regarding the final judgement and the institution of the eternal state as well.
With so many different views held by genuine believers, it is easy to see why questions about sound teachings are necessary.
While there are many major and minor views about issues related to eschatology, all Christian denominations and churches have traditionally held to some standard beliefs. The first such belief is that Jesus is going to physically return. This belief is essential because it is rooted in the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Christ and culminates in the bodily resurrection of all believers.
The second foundational teaching is that there will be a time when God brings judgement to the world in the form of tribulation. While not everyone agrees with whether or not Christians will be here for that, we all agree that this tribulation is a taste of God’s wrath poured out on those who reject His rule and authority over their lives.
Third, orthodox Christians all hold to the belief that there will be a time of judgement. While not all believers agree with the nature of the judgement, all agree that Christ is the Judge and that He holds the fate of all mankind in His hands (John 5:26-27).
Finally, we believe that there will be an eternal state. The Bible says that God will be reshaping heaven and earth, bringing the two together as the New Heavens and Earth where God will dwell among His people for eternity (Revelation 21:1-3).
These four convictions are important to day-to-day Christian living because they affect how we think and act in our communities. That our Lord and Christ will return one day fills us with hope as we live in a world where many of us face persecution for His sake. That tribulation and judgement is coming should spur us to evangelism—telling others about God’s kingdom and His gospel. As Christians, we should desire for all people to be saved, enter into fellowship with God, and build a relationship with their Creator now. We also should hope for all people to have that relationship extend to the eternal state. God Himself desires that all people be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Neither the Lord’s return nor the escalating dangers in the world are things believers should fear
The teaching about the eternal state reminds us that God is making all things new and all wrongs right. It provides us with a hope that God is bringing final justice and that He will rule with righteousness. Though we have known this all along, it can be hard to continue to believe it as we see the rampant evil in the world around us. But know, also, that God’s timing is not ours—He makes things right in His time. I believe He is slow to bring judgement now because He is giving everyone who will live the ability to accept the gospel—it’s His mercy.
It is easy to get stuck in the weeds of eschatology. And so, here is a helpful reminder: the Lord has not returned yet. We will not have it all figured out on this side of eternity. Beliefs about the end times do not necessitate a break in fellowship with believers who do not see things exactly as you do.
We must also remember that these beliefs must be held in their proper perspective. I hear stories of people pulling their children out of school because they believe the Lord is about to return. Instead, we should be living our life as if it will continue, always trusting in the will of the Lord (James 4:13-15).
I also hear people making predictions to usher in the return of Christ. These predictions often result in mental gymnastics where people try to make the Bible say things it does not explicitly or implicitly say to cause people to fear. The return of the Lord is not something that believers should fear. The escalating dangers in the world around us is not something believers should fear.
All of what we are told about the return of Christ, the end of the world, and the beginning of the eternal state are put in the Bible to give us hope. Hope for the future and hope in our God is why these beliefs are important to day-to-day life. It is not so that we can make ourselves anxious about where the world is going. The world may be a scary place, but we find comfort in a God of love who is making all things right.
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