Eschatology: What About the End Times?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, March 1, 2021 4 comments

by Katie Erickson

One of life’s great mysteries is what will happen in the end times. The primary reason it’s a mystery is that it hasn’t happened yet. How will the world end? When will it happen? What will those events look like? These concepts are alluded to in the Scriptures, but the answers given are not clear and detailed - at least in our limited understanding while on this earth.

One related topic that we do have slightly clearer answers on is what happens to a person when they die. The Bible does tell us about heaven and hell (click the links for more on each). Roman Catholics also believe in purgatory as a place people go after this world but before they go to heaven or hell. While we don’t know the details of heaven and hell, we know that heaven is where we will exist with God, and hell is the complete absence of God.

How does the timing work after a person dies? Are you immediately sent to your “final destination,” or do you exist in some other space for a while, or do you have no sense of time at all? There are a lot of opinions on these matters, but we don’t have clear answers to these questions from Scripture. There are 3 primary positions held by Christians on this topic. The first is that a person goes immediately to purgatory. When their sin is “taken care of” by enough prayers being offered for them by those who are still alive, that person goes to heaven. If a person has committed a mortal sin, however, they go directly to hell; they would also go to hell if they’re still in purgatory when Christ comes again. The second position is some sort of intermediate state between earthly life and the new heaven and the new earth that will happen in the future. The third position is that a person is immediately judged upon their death and then proceeds to heaven or hell depending on their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, onto the bigger topic - the end of the world. When will it happen? Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36: “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” This is mind-blowing when you look at it in the context of the Trinity; the Father, Son, and Spirit are three persons yet one God, and there’s this one piece of information that is not shared among them; only the Father knows it! So, anytime someone claims to know the day or the hour that the world will end, the world will definitely not end at that day or time, or else that would go against this passage of Scripture.

One commonly disputed point regarding the end of the world is that of the millennium, a period of 1000 years that is introduced in Revelation 20. There are also 3 positions on this: amillennialism, premillennialism, and postmillennialism. Amillennialists believe that the 1000-year period does not represent a specific time period but the reign of Christ in heaven during the current age of the church. Christ will return again at the end of history, so the church presently lives in the final era. Premillennialists believe in a literal interpretation of the book of Revelation regarding the last times, including a rapture of believers, a seven-year time of tribulation, a reign of Christ on earth for 1000 years, and a final victory over evil. (This is the view held by the authors of the popular Left Behind series.) Postmillennialists believe that the millennium is a time period of undetermined length where the world is at peace, and Christ will return at the end of this period.

Various theologians over the years of church history have held each of these positions, and they each have Scripture passages that they use to support their views. So which is actually true? That is the ultimate question.

Personally, I’ve been asked which view I hold, and I had to write a paper stating my view on it as part of a theology class when I was in seminary. My official belief is that I don’t know, and I’m really glad that God does know how it’s all going to play out! Many people worry about the end times and what’s going to happen, but I’ve landed on this position of really not caring about it. Sure, I’m looking forward to being in heaven and meeting Jesus face-to-face someday; but it’s because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection that I know I don’t have to worry about how this world will end. I am living in this world for whatever the span of my life here ends up being, whether I die a natural death or if Jesus comes again before my time comes, but my true home is in heaven, thanks to the work of Jesus on the cross.

If we’re currently living in that 1000-year period, then I will still end up in heaven for all eternity because of Jesus. If there will be a rapture, tribulation period, etc., then I will still end up in heaven for all of eternity because of Jesus. If there will be 1000 years of peace before Christ returns, then I will still end up in heaven for all eternity because of Jesus. That’s all that really matters. Sure, it’d be great to know the details, but that’s clearly not something that God wants to reveal to us just yet.

What do you believe about what happens after death? What do you believe about what will happen in the end times? If you do not yet have that faith in Jesus Christ that you will end up with God for all eternity, please reach out to us at Worldview Warriors; we’d love to talk with you about that!

While today is very likely not the end of the world, this is the end of my blog post series on theology. I hope you have enjoyed digging into all of these topics with me!

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gss said...

Katie, Thanks for this introduction and "clarification" in regards the End Times. I was just asked about the rapture and when/how it would happen a few days ago and didn't know how to answer because I didn't "know enough". I tend to me a premillenialist, but not sure where that believe came from. But like you, I am not worried about it becaue I know where I will be, with my ABBA. Wondering what your thoughts are in particular about the rapture. By the way, I am going to give my old friend, who just became a Christian fairly recently, the link to your blobs. Her name is Jennifer in case you hear from her. Bless you for sharing your knowledge and becoming my friend. Praise God.

Katie said...

Thank you for reading and for sharing the blog site!

Honestly, I've gone back and forth on my views of the rapture. I've studied both sides and how they base their views on Scripture, and my decision is that it may happen or it may not; God is in control of that. If I had to choose, I think I'm leaning more toward it not happening, but I'll still be ready if it does.

Silvernights said...

Hi I'm Jennifer �� Glennda's friend.
My husband and I had been trying to determine if the rapture was supported by scripture. Not having found a real definitive answer on my own; I was left wondering if there was no answer in scripture or if I was just looking in the wrong place.

Katie said...

Hi Jennifer, thanks for reading! I have not yet found a clear answer in Scripture on the rapture. I know both sides of the discussion claim that Scripture supports their point of view, but in all my research I do not believe it's clear. What is clear is that we need to be ready in our faith no matter what God has planned!