When is the End Not “THE” End: Biblical Eschatology (1)
Jews viewed their history and their life with God to have many “ends” and “days of the Lord” and also “the” end of history and “the” “day of the Lord.” This means much that we have taken as true about “eschatology” and “end times” must be rethought anew.
Some of the assumptions we have made about these matters also need reconsideration. Chief among them is that no Jew ever thought about the “end” of history as the dissolution of time and space and life in some other “spiritual” realm with God completely discontinuous with life as we have known it. Rather, they always thought in terms of a renewed, or restored creation, different and unimaginably better than the fallen creation we have known, yet still discernably continuous with that creation. Whatever the “end” is, then, it ends with humanity and God together inhabiting this creation restored to what God always intended it to be.
A second assumption we must query is about what we call the “end times.” In popular theology (the Left Behind series) the “end times” is presented as a fairly short, intense period packed with all sorts of “end time” events (Great Tribulation, rapture, Armaggedon, etc.). In the New Testament, however, the “end times” begin with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul can speak to the Corinthians as those “to whom the end of time has come” (1 Cor.10:11). The rest of the New Testament speaks similarly. The “end times” have begun with the advent of Jesus Christ! Thus all these other things (Great Tribulation, etc.) have to be rethought.
I want to keep the posts in this series brief, so this is all we’ll cover here. We have set out the fundamental direction (toward God’s new creation) and the basic time frame (from Jesus on = end times) in which we have to work.