Eschatology of the New Testament
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The Relation of Manich├Žism to Christianity.
... at a perfectly satisfactory theology, cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology,
and this is ... of Christianity as they are delineated in the New Testament and in ...
/.../chapter viii name relation of.htm

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians
... (2) The eschatology of this ... large number of peculiar expressions that are not found
in the rest of Paul's writings, nor in the entire New Testament. Cf. ...
/.../drummond/introduction to the new testament/the second epistle to the 2.htm

An Anonymous Sermon, Commonly Called Clement's Second Letter to ...
... happened by the middle of the second century, for by AD180 the New Testament canon
was ... The urgent note of the old eschatology is still present (chs.12:1; 17:4-7 ...
/.../richardson/early christian fathers/an anonymous sermon commonly called.htm

The Epistles of St. Paul
... for discrediting those Epistles in the New Testament which bear ... by the attention
given to eschatology, or doctrine ... So they attempted a new and artful plan for ...
/.../pullan/the books of the new testament/chapter viii the epistles of.htm

Watchfulness; the Coming of the Lord.
... 20:5. Probably it is based upon the Pauline eschatology rather than upon ... The conclusion
is abrupt, and in Apostolic Constitutions the New-Testament doctrine of ...
/.../the teaching of the twelve apostles/chapter xvi watchfulness the coming.htm

... [465] The Teaching's liberal attitude toward the New Testament canon, apparently ...
of the high place accorded women, of the lively eschatology in connection with ...
// christian fathers/introduction 5.htm

Apocryphal Gospels.
... Apocrypha of the New Testament. ... It is found, he says, in both dialects of the Coptic:
the eschatology of it is not inconsistent with an early date: the feast ...
/.../unknown/apocrypha of the new testament/part i apocryphal gospels.htm

The Second Epistle to the Corinthians
... Meyer, Alford, Expositors Greek Testament. ... does no more than mark the transition
to a new subject (cf ... that it exhibits a part of the apostles eschatology, 4: 16 ...
/.../drummond/introduction to the new testament/the second epistle to the.htm

... We can best understand Irenaeus' tendency to even a literal eschatology of the ... he
is the first Christian writer who worked with the New Testament much as we do ...
// christian fathers/introduction 8.htm

... Schubert with Beethoven.' [2] Here we miss the Pauline themes of faith-mysticism,
eschatology, and justification. ... [2] AH McNeile, New Testament Teaching in the ...
/.../moffat/the general epistles james peter and judas/introduction 2.htm

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Eschatology of the New Testament









1. Definition

2. Signs Preceding the Parousia

3. Events Preceding the Parousia

(1) The Conversion of Israel

(2) The Coming of the Antichrist

4. The Manner of the Parousia


1. Its Universality

2. The Millennium

3. The Resurrection of Believers

4. The Resurrection-Body







I. Doctrinal and Religious Significance.

The subject of eschatology plays a prominent part in New Testament teaching and religion. Christianity in its very origin bears an eschatological character. It means the appearance of the Messiah and the inauguration of His work; and from the Old Testament point of view these form part of eschatology. It is true in Jewish theology the days of the Messiah were not always included in the eschatological age proper, but often regarded as introductory to it (compare Weber, Judische Theol. 2, 371). And in the New Testament also this point of view is to some extent represented, inasmuch as, owing to the appearance of the Messiah and the only partial fulfillment of the prophecies for the present, that which the Old Testament depicted as one synchronous movement is now seen to divide into two stages, namely, the present Messianic age and the consummate state of the future. Even so, however, the New Testament draws the Messianic period into much closer connection with the strictly eschatological process than Judaism. The distinction in Judaism rested on a consciousness of difference in quality between the two stages, the content of the Messianic age being far less spiritually and transcendentally conceived than that of the final state. The New Testament, by spiritualizing the entire Messianic circle of ideas, becomes keenly alive to its affinity to the content of the highest eternal hope, and consequently tends to identify the two, to find the age to come anticipated in the present. In some cases this assumes explicit shape in the belief that great eschatological transactions have already begun to take place, and that believers have already attained to at least partial enjoyment of eschatological privileges. Thus the present kingdom in our Lord's teaching is one in essence with the final kingdom; according to the discourses in John eternal life is in principle realized here; with Paul there has been a prelude to the last judgment and resurrection in the death and resurrection of Christ, and the life in the Spirit is the first-fruits of the heavenly state to come. The strong sense of this may even express itself in the paradoxical form that the eschatological state has arrived and the one great incision in history has already been made (Hebrews 2:3, 1; Hebrews 9:11; Hebrews 10:1; Hebrews 12:22-24). Still, even where this extreme consciousness is reached, it nowhere supersedes the other more common representation, according to which the present state continues to lie this side of the eschatological crisis, and, while directly leading up to the latter, yet remains to all intents a part of the old age and world-order. Believers live in the "last days," upon them "the ends of the ages are come," but "the last day," "the consummation of the age," still lies in the future (Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; Matthew 24:3; Matthew 28:20 John 6:39, 44, 54; John 12:48; 1 Corinthians 10:11 2 Timothy 3:1 Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 9:26 James 5:3 1 Peter 1:5, 20 2 Peter 3:3 1 John 2:18 Jude 1:18).

The eschatological interest of early believers was no mere fringe to their religious experience, but the very heart of its inspiration. It expressed and embodied the profound supernaturalism and soteriological character of the New Testament faith. The coming world was not to be the product of natural development but of a Divine interposition arresting the process of history. And the deepest motive of the longing for this world was a conviction of the abnormal character of the present world, a strong sense of sin and evil. This explains why the New Testament doctrine of salvation has grown up to a large extent in the closest interaction with its eschatological teaching. The present experience was interpreted. in the light of the future. It is necessary to keep this in mind for a proper appreciation of the generally prevailing hope that the return of the Lord might come in the near future. Apocalyptic calculation had less to do with this than the practical experience that the earnest of the supernatural realities of the life to come was present in the church, and that therefore it seemed unnatural for the full fruition of these to be long delayed. The subsequent receding of this acute eschatological state has something to do with the gradual disappearance of the miraculous phenomena of the apostolic age.

II. General Structure.

New Testament eschatology attaches itself to the Old Testament and to Jewish belief as developed on the basis of ancient revelation. It creates on the whole no new system or new terminology, but incorporates much that was current, yet so as to reveal by selection and distribution of emphasis the essential newness of its spirit. In Judaism there existed at that time two distinct types of eschatological outlook. There was the ancient national hope which revolved around the destiny of Israel. Alongside of it existed a transcendental form of eschatology with cosmical perspective, which had in view the destiny of the universe and of the human race. The former of these represents the original form of Old Testament eschatology, and therefore occupies a legitimate place in the beginnings of the New Testament development, notably in the revelations accompanying the birth of Christ and in the earlier (synoptical) preaching of John the Baptist. There entered, however, into it, as held by the Jews, a considerable element of individual and collective eudaemonism, and it had become identified with a literalistic interpretation of prophecy, which did not sufficiently take into account the typical import and poetical character of the latter. The other scheme, while to some extent the product of subsequent theological development, lies prefigured in certain later prophecies, especially in Dnl, and, far from being an importation from Babylonian, or ultimately Persian, sources, as some at present maintain, represents in reality the true development of the inner principles of Old Testament prophetic revelation. To it the structure of New Testament eschatology closely conforms itself.

In doing this, however, it discards the impure motives and elements by which even this relatively higher type of Jewish eschatology was contaminated. In certain of the apocalyptic writings a compromise is attempted between these two schemes after this manner, that the carrying out of the one is merely to follow that of the other, the national hope first receiving its fulfillment in a provisional Messianic kingdom of limited duration (400 or 1,000 years), to be superseded at the end by the eternal state. The New Testament does not follow the Jewish theology along this path. Even though it regards the present work of Christ as preliminary to the consummate order of things, it does not separate the two in essence or quality, it does not exclude the Messiah from a supreme place in the coming world, and does not expect a temporal Messianic kingdom in the future as distinguished from Christ's present spiritual reign, and as preceding the state of eternity. In fact the figure of the Messiah becomes central in the entire eschatological process, far more so than is the case in Judaism. All the stages in this process, the resurrection, the judgment, the life eternal, even the intermediate state, receive the impress of the absolute significance which Christian faith ascribes to Jesus as the Christ. Through this Christocentric character New Testament eschatology acquires also far greater unity and simplicity than can be predicated of the Jewish schemes. Everything is practically reduced to the great ideas of the resurrection and the judgment as consequent upon the Parousia of Christ. Much apocalyptic embroidery to which no spiritual significance attached is eliminated. While the overheated fantasy tends to multiply and elaborate, the religious interest tends toward concentration and simplification.

III. Course of Development.

In New Testament eschatological teaching a general development in a well-defined direction is traceable. The starting-point is the historico-dramatic conception of the two successive ages. These two ages are distinguished as houtos ho aion, ho nun aion, ho enesios aion, "this age," "the present age" (Matthew 12:32; Matthew 13:22 Luke 16:8 Romans 12:2 1 Corinthians 1:20; 1 Corinthians 2:6, 8; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4 Galatians 1:4 Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 2:2; Ephesians 6:12 1 Timothy 6:17 2 Timothy 4:10 Titus 2:12), and ho aion ekeinos, ho aion mellon, ho aion erchomenos, "that age," "the future age" (Matthew 12:32 Luke 18:30; Luke 20:35 Ephesians 2:7 Hebrews 6:5). In Jewish literature before the New Testament, no instances of the developed antithesis between these two ages seem to be found, but from the way in which it occurs in the teaching of Jesus and Paul it appears to have been current at that time. (The oldest undisputed occurrence is a saying of Johanan ben Zaqqay, about 80 A.D.) The contrast between these two ages is (especially with Paul) that between the evil and transitory, and the perfect and abiding. Thus, to each age belongs its own characteristic order of things, and so the distinction passes over into that of two "worlds" in the sense of two systems (in Hebrew and Aramaic the same word `olam, `olam, does service for both, in Greek aion usually renders the meaning "age," occasionally "world" (Hebrews 1:2; Hebrews 11:3), kosmos meaning "world"; the latter, however, is never used of the future world). Compare Dalman, Die Worte Jesu, I, 132-46. Broadly speaking, the development of New Testament eschatology consists in this, that the two ages are increasingly recognized as answering to two spheres of being which coexist from of old, so that the coming of the new age assumes the character of a revelation and extension of the supernal order of things, rather than that of its first entrance into existence. Inasmuch as the coming world stood for the perfect and eternal, and in the realm of heaven such a perfect, eternal order of things already existed, the reflection inevitably arose that these two were in some sense identical. But the new significance which the antithesis assumes does not supersede the older historicodramatic form. The higher world so interposes in the course of the lower as to bring the conflict to a crisis.

The passing over of the one contrast into the other, therefore, does not mark, as has frequently been asserted, a recession of the eschatological wave, as if the interest had been shifted from the future to the present life. Especially in the Fourth Gospel this "de-eschatologizing" process has been found, but without real warrant. The apparent basis for such a conclusion is that the realities of the future life are so vividly and intensely felt to be existent in heaven and from there operative in the believer's life, that the distinction between what is now and what will be hereafter enjoyed becomes less sharp. Instead of the supersedure of the eschatological, this means the very opposite, namely, its most real anticipation. It should further be observed that the development in question is intimately connected and keeps equal pace with the disclosure of the preexistence of Christ, because this fact and the descent of Christ from heaven furnished the clearest witness to the reality of the heavenly order of things. Hence, it is especially observable, not in the earlier epistles of Paul, where the structure of eschatological thought is still in the main historico-dramatic, but in the epistles of the first captivity (Ephesians 1:3, 10-22; Ephesians 2:6; Ephesians 3:9, 10; 4:9, 10; 6:12 Philippians 2:5-11; Philippians 3:20 Colossians 1:15, 17; Colossians 3:2; further, in Hebrews 1:2, 3; Hebrews 2:5; Hebrews 3:4; Hebrews 6:5, 11; 7:13, 16; Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 11:10, 16; 12:22, 23). The Fourth Gospel marks the culmination of this line of teaching, and it is unnecessary to point out how here the contrast between heaven and earth in its christological consequences determines the entire structure of thought. But here it also appears how the last outcome of the New Testament progress of doctrine had been anticipated in the highest teaching of our Lord. This can be accounted for by the inherent fitness that the supreme disclosures which touch the personal life of the Saviour should come not through any third person, but from His own lips.

IV. General and Individual Eschatology.

In the Old Testament the destiny of the nation of Israel to such an extent overshadows that of the individual, that only the first rudiments of an individual eschatology are found. The individualism of the later prophets, especially Jeremiah and Ezekiel, bore fruit in the thought of the intermediate period. In the apocalyptic writings considerable concern is shown for the ultimate destiny of the individual. But not until the New Testament thoroughly spiritualized the conceptions of the last things could these two aspects be perfectly harmonized. Through the centering of the eschatological hope in the Messiah, and the suspending of the individual's share in it on his personal relation to the Messiah, an individual significance is necessarily imparted to the great final crisis. This also tends to give greater prominence to the intermediate state. Here, also, apocalyptic thought had pointed the way. None the less the Old Testament point of view continues to assert itself in that even in the New Testament the main interest still attaches to the collective, historical development of events. Many questions in regard to the intermediate period are passed by in silence. The Old Testament prophetic foreshortening of the perspective, immediately connecting each present crisis with the ultimate goal, is reproduced in New Testament eschatology on an individual scale in so far as the believer's life here is linked, not so much with his state after death, but rather with the consummate state after the final judgment. The present life in the body and the future life in the body are the two outstanding illumined heights between which the disembodied state remains largely in the shadow. But the same foreshortening of the perspective is also carried over from the Old Testament into the New Testament delineation of general eschatology. The New Testament method of depicting the future is not chronological. Things lying widely apart to our chronologically informed experience are by it drawn closely together. This law is adhered to doubtless not from mere limitation of subjective human knowledge, but by reason of adjustment to the general method of prophetic revelation in Old Testament and New Testament alike.

V. The Parousia.

1. Definition:

The word denotes "coming," "arrival." It is never applied to the incarnation of Christ, and could be applied to His second coming only, partly because it had already become a fixed Messianic term, partly because there was a point of view from which the future appearance of Jesus appeared the sole adequate expression of His Messianic dignity and glory. The explicit distinction between "first advent" and "second advent" is not found in the New Testament. It occurs in Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Abraham 92:16. In the New Testament it is approached in Hebrews 9:28 and in the use of epiphaneia for both the past appearance of Christ and His future manifestation (2 Thessalonians 2:8 1 Timothy 6:14 2 Timothy 1:10; 2 Timothy 4:1 Titus 2:11, 13). The Christian use of the word parousia is more or less colored by the consciousness of the present bodily absence of Jesus from His own, and consequently suggests the thought of His future abiding presence, without, however, formally coming to mean the state of the Saviour's presence with believers (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Parousia occurs in Matthew 24:3, 17, 39 1 Corinthians 15:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 4:15; 1 Thessalonians 5:23 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 8; James 5:7, 8 2 Peter 1:16; 2 Peter 3:4, 12; 1 1 John 2:28. A synonymous term is apokalupsis, "revelation," probably also of pre-Christian origin, presupposing the pre-existence of the Messiah in hidden form previous to His manifestation, either in heaven or on earth (compare Apocrypha Baruch 3:29; 1:20; Ezra 4; APC 2Esdras 7:28; Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Testament of Levi 18; John 7:27 1 Peter 1:20). It could be adopted by Christians because Christ had been withdrawn into heaven and would be publicly demonstrated the Christ on His return, hence used with special reference to enemies and unbelievers (Luke 17:30 Acts 3:21 1 Corinthians 16 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8 1 Peter 1:13, 10; 1 Peter 5:4). Another synonymous term is "the day of the (Our) Lord," "the day," "that day," "the day of Jesus Christ." This is the rendering of the well-known Old Testament phrase. Though there is no reason in any particular passage why "the Lord" should not be Christ, the possibility exists that in some cases it may refer to God (compare "day of God" in 2 Peter 3:12). On the other hand, what the Old Testament with the use of this phrase predicates of God is sometimes in the New Testament purposely transferred to Christ. "Day," while employed of the parousia generally, is, as in the Old Testament, mostly associated with the judgment, so as to become a synonym for judgment (compare Acts 19:38 1 Corinthians 4:3). The phrase is found in Matthew 7:22; Matthew 24:36 Mark 13:32 Luke 10:12; Luke 17:24; Luke 21:34 Acts 2:20 Romans 13:12 1 Corinthians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 3:13; 1 Corinthians 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14 Philippians 1:6; Philippians 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4 (compare 5:5, 8); 2 Thessalonians 2:2 2 Timothy 1:12, 18; 2 Timothy 4:8; Hebrews 10:25 2 Peter 3:10.

2. Signs Preceding the Parousia:

The parousia is preceded by certain signs heralding its approach. Judaism, on the basis of the Old Testament, had worked out the doctrine of "the woes of the Messiah," chebhele ha-mashiach, the calamities and afflictions attendant upon the close of the present and the beginning of the coming age being interpreted as birth pains of the latter. This is transferred in the New Testament to the parousia of Christ. The phrase occurs only in Matthew 24:8 Mark 13:8, the idea, in Romans 8:22, and allusions to it occur probably in 1 Corinthians 7:26 1 Thessalonians 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 5 Besides these general "woes," and also in accord with Jewish doctrine, the appearance of the Antichrist is made to precede the final crisis. Without Jewish precedent, the New Testament links with the parousia as preparatory to it, the pouring out of the Spirit, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the conversion of Israel and the preaching of the gospel to all the nations. The problem of the sequence and interrelation of these several precursors of the end is a most difficult and complicated one and, as would seem, at the present not ripe for solution. The "woes" which in our Lord's eschatological discourse (Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21) are mentioned in more or less close accord with Jewish teaching are:

(1) wars, earthquakes and famines, "the beginning of travail";

(2) the great tribulation;

(3) commotions among the heavenly bodies; compare Revelation 6:2-17.

For Jewish parallels to these, compare Charles, Eschatology, 326, 327. Because of this element which the discourse has in common with Jewish apocalypses, it has been assumed by Colani, Weiffenbach, Weizsacker, Wendt, et al., that here two sources have been welded together, an actual prophecy of Jesus, and a Jewish or Jewish-Christian apocalypse from the time of the Jewish War 68-70 (Historia Ecclesiastica, III, 5, 3). In the text of Mark this so-called "small apocalypse" is believed to consist of 13:7, 8, 14-20, 24-27, 30, 31. But this hypothesis mainly springs from the disinclination to ascribe to Jesus realistic eschatological expectations, and the entirely unwarranted assumption that He must have spoken of the end in purely ethical and religious terms only. That the typically Jewish "woes" bear no direct relation to the disciples and their faith is not a sufficient reason for declaring the prediction of them unworthy of Jesus. A contradiction is pointed out between the two representations, that the parousia will come suddenly, unexpectedly, and that it will come heralded by these signs. Especially in Mark 13:30, 32 the contradiction is said to be pointed. To this it may be replied that even after the removal of the assumed apocalypse the same twofold representation remains present in what is recognized as genuine discourse of Jesus, namely, in Mark 13:28, 29 as compared with 13:32, 33-37 and other similar admonitions to watchfulness. A real contradiction between 13:30 and 13:32 does not exist. Our Lord could consistently affirm both: "This generation shall not pass away, until all these things be accomplished," and "of that day or that hour knoweth no one." To be sure, the solution should not be sought by understanding "this generation" of the Jewish race or of the human race. It must mean, according to ordinary usage, then living generation. Nor does it help matters to distinguish between the prediction of the parousia within certain wide limits and the denial of knowledge as to the precise day and hour. In point of fact the two statements do not refer to the same matter at all. "That day or that hour" in 13:32 does not have "these things" of 13:30 for its antecedent. Both by the demonstrative pronoun "that" and by "but" it is marked as an absolute self-explanatory conception. It simply signifies as elsewhere the day of the Lord, the day of judgment. Of "these things," the exact meaning of which phrase must be determined from the foregoing, Jesus declares that they will come to pass within that generation; but concerning the parousia, "that (great) day," He declares that no one but God knows the time of its occurrence. The correctness of this view is confirmed by the preceding parable, Mark 13:28, 29, where in precisely the same way "these things" and the parousia are distinguished. The question remains how much "these things" (verse 29; Luke 21:31), "all these things" (Matthew 24:33, 14, Mark 13:30), "all things" (Luke 21:32) is intended to cover of what is described in the preceding discourse. The answer will depend on what is there represented as belonging to the precursors of the end, and what as strictly constituting part of the end itself; and on the other question whether Jesus predicts one end with its premonitory signs, or refers to two crises each of which will be heralded by its own series of signs. Here two views deserve consideration. According to the one (advocated by Zahn in his Commentary on Matthew, 652-66) the signs cover only Matthew 24:4-14.

What is related afterward, namely, "the abomination of desolation," great tribulation, false prophets and Christs, commotions in the heavens, the sign of the Son of Man, all this belongs to "the end" itself, in the absolute sense, and is therefore comprehended in the parousia and excepted from the prediction that it will happen in that generation, while included in the declaration that only God knows the time of its coming. The destruction of the temple and the holy city, though not explicitly mentioned in Matthew 24:4-14, would be included in what is there said of wars and tribulation. The prediction thus interpreted would have been literally fulfilled. The objections to this view are:

(1) It is unnatural thus to subsume what is related in 24:15-29 under "the end." From a formal point of view it does not differ from the phenomena of 24:4-14 which are "signs."

(2) It creates the difficulty, that the existence of the temple and the temple-worship in Jerusalem are presupposed in the last days immediately before the parousia.

The "abomination of desolation" taken from Daniel 8:13; Daniel 9:27; Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:11; compare Sirach 49:2-according to some, the destruction of the city and temple, better a desecration of the temple-site by the setting up of something idolatrous, as a result of which it becomes desolate-and the flight from Judea, are put among events which, together with the parousia, constitute the end of the world. This would seem to involve chiliasm of a very pronounced sort. The difficulty recurs in the strictly eschatological interpretation of 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 1, where "the man of sin" (see SIN, MAN OF) is represented as sitting in "the temple of God" and in Revelation 11:1, 2, where "the temple of God" and "the altar," and "the court which is without the temple" and "the holy city" figure in an episode inserted between the sounding of the trumpet of the sixth angel and that of the seventh. On the other hand it ought to be remembered that eschatological prophecy makes use of ancient traditional imagery and stereotyped formulas, which, precisely because they are fixed and applied to all situations, cannot always bear a literal sense, but must be subject to a certain degree of symbolical and spiritualizing interpretation. In the present case the profanation of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes may have furnished the imagery in which, by Jesus, Paul and John, anti-Christian developments are described of a nature which has nothing to do with Israel, Jerusalem or the temple, literally understood.

(3) It is not easy to conceive of the preaching of the gospel to all the nations as falling within the lifetime of that generation.

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Eschatology of the New Testament

Eschatology of the Old Testament

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