Glossary of Theological Terms Used in the Study of the End Times ~ Part 1

The End Times

In my last post, we reviewed what Yeshua had to say about the End Times in the Olivet Discourse contained in Matthew 24 & 25.  I pray that you have had a chance to review that by now.  In this post, as in the last series we did on Eternal Security, I want to start with a glossary of terms that are commonly used in a study of the End Times.

From Gk. eschatos, “last,” and logos, “study.”  A theological term employed to designate the doctrine of last things, particularly those dealing with the second coming of Christ and the events preceding and following this great event. [1]

There are two basic ways of approaching eschatology. The first, which has been most common over the centuries, focuses on those final events or situations which have not yet occurred. These are, chiefly, Jesus’ return, the millennium, the last judgment, the final resurrection, and heaven and hell. Over the last century, however, scholars have generally agreed that the New Testament was written in an atmosphere pervaded by eschatology. Early Christianity was rooted in the paradoxical conviction that the last things had “already” occurred, even though they were “not yet” fully completed. (Jesus’ resurrection, for instance, was understood as the beginning of the final resurrection of the dead. [2] This conviction lay at the heart of the early church’s joy and hope. It shaped its understanding of Jesus, salvation, mission, and all else. Accordingly, when scholars speak of eschatology today, they are often referring not simply to events which have “not yet” occurred, but chiefly to the way in which the last things are “already” present, and to the attitudes and expectations which this arouses. [3]

In Sha’ul’s writings to the church in Thessalonica, he was reassuring the Believers that “we who remain alive when the Lord comes will certainly not take precedence over those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a rousing cry, with a call from one of the ruling angels, and with God’s shofar; those who died united with the Messiah will be the first to rise; then we who are left still alive will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and thus we will always be with the Lord. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (CJB)

In my research for this series I ran across the following quote regarding the study of eschatology that I think we all need to keep in mind as we proceed on our digging into this subject:

“One of the greatest needs in the discussion of eschatology is humility. We should seek to keep a proper perspective on such matters—not elevating a minor issue to a major one, or making a litmus test out of debatable doctrine. This does not mean that we cannot have convictions on debatable matters, but we must recognize our finitude and the lack of explicit clarity in the Bible on some eschatological issues. Below is a brief list of end-times matters on which Christians legitimately disagree.” [4]

Plummer goes on to specifically list: The Rapture, The Book of Revelation, The Millennium, and The Nation of Israel.

The Four Views [5]
There are four commonly accepted Messianic views for interpreting the Book of Revelation.  During this series, I will be sharing each as we do our verse-by-verse study for those camps that have taken a position on the subject.  It may be helpful to print out the PDF version (see below) and keep it handy to refer back to as we go along.
Historicist Approach:
This is the classical Protestant interpretation and sees Revelation as a prewritten record of the course of history from the time that Yochanan transcribed the message to the end of the world.  Fulfillment is in progress at present and has been unfolding since Yeshua’s resurrection.
Preterist Approach:
This views Revelation’s prophecies as already having occurred in the ancient past.  While they were future to Yochanan when he transcribed, they are now past from our vantage point.    I must admit, it’s hard for me to wrap by head around this view.
Futurist Approach:
This view asserts that most prophecies of Revelation have not been fulfilled and await future fulfillment.  Many who hold this view apply everything after Chapter 4 to a relatively brief period of time before the return of Yeshua.
Idealist Approach:
This view does not attempt to find individual fulfillments of the visions but takes Revelation to be a great drama depicting transcendent spiritual realities between Yeshua and HaSatan.

In my next post, I want to define dispensationalism and present the most popular views of the millennium and rapture of the saints before we start dissecting Revelation.  As we go through the letter, I’ll do my best to present the different views as we come to passages that are interpreted differently by the adherents to those views.

Click her for PDF Version.

[1] The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary.

[2] “But the fact is that the Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

[3] Holman Bible Dictionary.

[4] 40 Questions About Interpreting Bible by Robert L. Plummer

[5] Revelation: Four Views, Revised & Updated by Steve Gregg.  I will be using this text extensively, but not exclusively, as we dig into this fascinating book of God’s Word.  For the serious student, I would highly recommend purchasing your own copy.  I got mine on Amazon.


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