From the July/August 2019 issue of Discern Magazine

What Is Eschatology? (And Why Do You Need to Know?)

The study of events that will happen from now through the return of Christ and what will follow thereafter is vitally important. Why is learning about these end-time events so crucial for Christians?

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Eschatology is the study of “last, or final matters, as death, the Judgment, the future state, etc.” ( The term eschatology is derived from the Greek word eschatos, which means “last in time or in place” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).

So what is so important about eschatology? Simply put, our understanding of the doctrines dealing with last things is a foundational component of our faith.

Having an understanding of the Bible’s teaching regarding end-time events gives us a basis for hope. With hope, the future we envision with God comes alive. This hope inspires us to dedicate our lives to our Creator and to live by His commands.

Hope is one of the key ingredients of faith, and the Bible has much to say about this Christian attribute. In the Old Testament the Psalms often admonish us to have hope in God, in His Word and in His mercy (Psalm 130:7, 5; 147:11).

Along similar lines, Jeremiah wrote, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:7, emphasis added throughout).

The end times begin

The end time is a major topic of the Bible. Patriarchs and prophets in the Old Testament wrote of this age. Prior to his death, Jacob gathered his sons to tell them what would befall their descendants “in the last days” (Genesis 49:1). And Daniel recorded a prophecy of a conflict between a king of the South and a king of the North that would occur “at the time of the end” (Daniel 11:40).

So, when were these end times predicted to begin? Actually, they have already begun.

The book of Hebrews tells us that God “has in these last [eschatos] days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:2). And on the Day of Pentecost, Peter told the crowds that they were seeing the beginning of the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that the pouring out of the Holy Spirit would “come to pass in the last [eschatos] days” (Acts 2:17).

In his epistle Peter also told the people of the first century that Jesus “was manifest [made visible] in these last [eschatos] times for you” (1 Peter 1:20).

From these passages, we see that the end times began at the first coming of Jesus. And we are much closer to the end now!

End-time events

After Jesus gave a prophecy about the destruction of the temple, His disciples asked Him, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

The answers Jesus gave provide an excellent outline of eschatological events.The answers Jesus gave provide an excellent outline of eschatological events. These include religious deception, wars, famines, pestilences, tribulation, cosmic disturbances and His return. These seven events correspond to the seven seals found in the book of Revelation.

Adding to this eschatological frame, the Bible reveals that in the last days leading up to Christ’s return, people in general will become very selfish, proud and unholy. These are just a few of the traits mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

The Bible also predicts a future time of grave national decline for Jacob’s descendants. This decline culminates in what Jeremiah described as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Careful study of Bible prophecy and history shows that this refers to the American and British peoples. For further study, see the article “Jacob’s Trouble: What Is It?” and the free booklet The United States, Britain and the Commonwealth in Prophecy.

These troublous times for the English-speaking nations will spread to all nations and threaten the very existence of human life on this planet. As Jesus told His disciples, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).

The book of Revelation adds that a civil power called the beast will lead a group of 10 nations in war against Christ when He returns (Revelation 17:12-14). Christ will be victorious, Satan will be bound, and a 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth will commence (Revelation 19:19-21; 20:1-4).

The good news of eschatology

After Jesus returns, the earth will become peaceful and abundantly productive as people learn and follow God’s instructions. After the 1,000 years have ended, people who never knew God’s expectations will be brought back to life to have their opportunity for salvation.

God’s seven annual holy days picture His plan of salvation for mankind. To learn more about these days of worship and their meanings for us, see the booklet From Holidays to Holy Days: God’s Plan for You.

There are many additional end-time events that could be added to this brief outline, and many of them are covered in the “Prophecy” section of Life, Hope & Truth. But now that we’ve considered an overview, let’s note what Christ had to say about our study of eschatology—our focus on end-time events.

The significance of eschatology for us

As Jesus finished answering His disciples’ questions about His coming and the end of this current age, He gave them and us an important command. He said, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

Luke quotes Jesus saying, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

The Greek words translated “watch” in these two passages mean to be awake, alert and vigilant. In short, watching end-time events unfold is a command from Christ that helps us remain faithful to God and focused on His coming Kingdom. For help staying up with world events and understanding their connection to biblical prophecies, continue reading Discern magazine and subscribe to our “Insights Into News and Prophecy” blog and our Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter, which includes World Watch Weekly.

About the Author

David Treybig

David Treybig

David Treybig is a husband, father and grandfather. He and his wife, Teddi, have two grown children and seven grandchildren. He currently pastors the Austin, Texas, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association. He has served in the pastoral ministry for over 40 years, pastoring congregations across six states.

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