An eschatology (pronounced es-kuh-tahl'-uh-jee) is a discourse about the “last things”, from the Greek word “eskhatos” meaning “last”. That means it is concerned about the final events and ultimate purpose of things. In terms of Christian theology, that amounts to God's final plan with people and the earth.
There are a number of divisions of the field eschatology, to refer to the end-time of specific aspects of the world. Some of the common terms are:
- Personal or Individual Eschatology. This deals with the eventual fate of the individual after death. It appears commonly in the Bible in the form of there being a resurrection from the dead.
- Cosmic Eschatology: At the opposite end of the scale, this is about the end of the world or whole cosmos.
- Corporate Eschatology: Corporate Eschatology refers to human-kind and human history as a whole, so it is more about future of the species, but not focused so much on the whole universe.
- National or Ethnic Eschatology: This narrows on to a specific national end-time. Most commonly it refers to the future of the nation of Israel in God's plan.
Apocalypse is a genre of literature. Specifically it is a narrative form of a revelation given to humans from a non-human source. It reveals a truth about the past, present or future, but most common use is in terms of the future.
As a result, apocalyptic literature is often concerned about eschatology, and eschatology often defined through an apocalypse. The term “The Apocalypse” is often used specifically to refer to the Book of Revelation in the new testament, because it is primarily apocalyptic writing. The name “Apocalyptic Discourse” is also given to the revelation of Jesus that is recorded in Luke 21, Matt 24, and Mark 13. It talks about things that were yet to happen before the plan of God would be fulfilled.
A parousia is the coming or arrival of an important figure of history. It is particularly used of the second coming of Jesus. In the book of Acts, it was recorded that Jesus was “taken up” off the earth while his disciples watched, but there was a promise of him again returning. This was quoted of an angels who appeared at that scene,
Acts 1:11: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." NKJV
This advent of Jesus returning is an integral part of the Bible, and appears either directly or by implication in many sections. In the Apocalyptic Discourse, Jesus had stated,
Luke 21:27: Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28. But when these things begin to happen, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is near." WEB
This is typical of the scripture, where the redemptive and resurrection aspects of the individual eschatology are tied to this event.
The Kingdom in Eschatology
Because the Kingdom of God is so closely linked to eschatology in the Bible, there is a series of terms that are used to describe the way in which the Kingdom could possibly fit into the end times and parousia.
- Futurist Eschatology. In this model, the Kingdom remains in the future and will disrupt history at the point in which it is introduced. This is the simplest scheme, and maps very easily into a two-age model. The present age is where we live now, and the age to come is the same as the Kindgom of God, and it will appear after the parousia.
- Realised Eschatology. In this model, the kingdom was fully realized in the first coming of Jesus. That means that the Kingdom completely exists now, and no future dramatic changes would be expected. (note: American spelling is “realized eschatology”)
- Inaugurated Eschatology. This scheme claims that the kingdom
arrived in part at the first coming of Jesus, but the full consummation does
not occur until 2nd coming. This is sometimes known as a
“partially realised eschatology”.
Proponents of this idea use the phrase “now, but not yet” to describe the presence of the kingdom. It is "Now" because Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom, like the planting of the mustard seed of the parable in Luke 13:19. But then it is still "Not Yet" because the kingdom not yet fulfilled. In the analogy this is because the mustard seed has not yet grown into the tree.