Escha - What?

Eschatology is the study of the end times.  I know that there are a number of people who take the position that the study of the end times is pointless.  God is going to follow His own timeline and Jesus Christ will come when He is good and ready.  In other words, there is no good reason to contemplate the end of this age and the possible signs leading to that end as according to certain Bible verses, we have been in the end times since the lifetime of Christ.  In addition each generation has believed that it was going to be the generation that witnessed the Rapture or the Second Coming of Christ.  That being the case, it is a waste of time and effort to spend time in this endeavor.  If this is the case, why should we do it?

Many commentators point to the resurrection of Israel as a nation in 1948 as the seminal event portending the final stage to the “end of the ages” or the “end of the world.”  World War II and the Holocaust served as the catalysts for the establishment of the nation of Israel which then began welcoming the Jewish people back to their homeland.  The reason most often given for the importance of this year as the triggering point from a historical perspective is contained within the scriptures of the New Testament, particularly in those passages commonly referred to as the “Olivet Discourse” of Jesus Christ.

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  Matt. 24:34 (KJV)

In this instance the phrase “[t]his generation shall not pass” literally means, according to the original wording, that this “genea” (translated a generation; by implication, an age (the period or the persons, i.e. age, generation, nation, or time) shall not “parerchomai” (translated go away or figuratively speaking, perish) (See Strong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary). 

Speculation was made that the word “genea” referred to a specific period of time and that the period of time to be considered was 40 years.  The 40 year time period originated with the idea that the generation of unbelieving Israelites died over a 40 year period while wandering in the wilderness after the exodus from Egypt.  The speculation concerning the 40 year time period was obviously incorrect as the Rapture did not occur on or before 1988.

Additional speculation contended that the word “genea” referred to a 120 year period as was established as a lifetime granted on earth to each person by God.  If this were the case, then the possible period preceding the advent of the Rapture could be sometime before 2068.

3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. Gen 6:3

Still more speculation concerning the word “genea” reduced the period to 70-80 years.  Under this scenario, the Rapture would happen sometime before the year 2018 or possibly 2028. 

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Ps 90:10

The other possible explanation for the word “genea” concerned the idea that this generation would not pass away meaning that a person alive in 1948 would still be alive when Jesus came again.  It would be someone from that generation who would witness the Rapture.

The purpose for this discussion centers on the question posed by Jesus’ disciples concerning the end of the world.  In the Olivet Discourse, Jesus answers the question posed by His disciples as follows: 

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? 4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.  9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.  10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. 12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.  Matt. 24:3-14.

Many take the position that we have been living in the end times since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and given the increase in worldwide phenomena such as volcanoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, the end must be nearing.  Clearly, in the passages indicated above, Jesus counseled his disciples to make sure that they were not deceived and that there would be many signs such as false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes in many places.  There would also be persecution for His sake coupled with betrayal and hatred.  False prophets would come and mislead many and due to the increase in iniquity, love would grow cold. This would be the beginning of sorrows or trials.

The final statement set forth in verse 14 of this passage makes it abundantly clear that the Gospel must be preached to the entire world as a witness to all the nations before the end of the age.  It is at this point that Jesus says that the end will come.

As He was prone to do, Jesus used a parable to convey the truth of what He was saying later in this same chapter of Matthew.  Israel was at this time largely an agrarian society so the parable that Jesus used was something that each of His disciples would have understood.  Additionally, He used the well-known story of Noah and the deluge to emphasize a certain idea.

32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:  33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, 39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. 40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. 42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.  Matt. 24:23-42.

According to these verses, we can recognize the seasons even if no one, including Jesus as the Son of Man, knows the day and the hour.  When we see these things happening, the end is near, even at the door. 

He went on to state that this coming would be entirely unexpected as people would be behaving in a typical fashion.  They would be carrying on in their usual daily activities; there would be no announcement as happened with Jonah and Nineveh that God was going to act on a certain date.  Quite to the contrary, two would be working and one would be taken while the other would be left.  However, in verse 42 Jesus did not suggest that it might be a good idea of we sort of kept looking up; He said “Watch.”  The reason is that we do not know the hour when the Lord will come.

Jesus went on to emphasize this teaching once again in the following verses.  By so doing, He desired to convey the importance of this particular teaching.

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.  Matt. 24:43-44.

This passage stands for the proposition that He will come as a “thief in the night” or when it is completely unexpected.  He even goes on to tell us that He will come when we think that He isn’t coming.

For the third time in this chapter alone, the last set of verses in Matthew 24 stress the idea that He is going to come on a day when the servants are not looking for Him.  The servants will not even be aware of the hour of His return.

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, 51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Matt. 24:45-51.


That day will be a terrible time as there will be great mourning and distress for those who are unprepared.  It is very easy for us to imagine that He is not coming at all but just because Jesus has delayed does not mean that it is not going to happen.

9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. Acts 1:9-11

The 25th Chapter of Matthew goes on to set forth two more parables which illustrate the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the eternal consequences for those who are unprepared. 

Getting back to the question posed at the beginning of this writing:  Why should we be concerned about eschatology or the study of the end times?  It is precisely for the reason that Jesus talked about it.  It is very important as we should be able to recognize the season and understand that time is growing short.  If time is growing short, then there should be an increased sense of urgency on our part as there is limited time available to fulfill the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20).  There are untold numbers of people who have not made a decision for Jesus Christ and while we cannot make a decision for them, we certainly want to make sure that we have done everything that could be expected of us before we depart this earth.  I do not want to think “What if?”  “What if I had just said something to my family, friend or co-worker?”  “What if I had just made that extra effort to demonstrate Christ’s love?”  “What if I had just taken the time?”  “What if” can be a terrible thing. 

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