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A Theology of The End

Updated: Dec 21, 2023


“We believe that Jesus is coming back to earth in order to bring this age to an end. Jesus will reward the saved and punish the wicked, and finally destroy God's last enemy, death. He will put all things under the Father, so that God may be all in all forever. That is why we have urgency for the Great Commission—to make disciples of all nations. We like to look at the Great Commission as an inherent part of God’s original command to “be fruitful and multiply.” We want to be disciples of Jesus who love people and help them to be disciples of Jesus. We are a movement of disciples who make disciples who help renew existing churches and who start new churches that make more disciples. We want to reach as many as possible—until Jesus returns and God restores all creation to himself in the new heaven and new earth.” - Renew Network Faith Statement
“First, speculators will always speculate. Second, when we prioritize prophetic speculation, we forget our mission and abandon the hope that Christian eschatology gives the church. If you want to see Christians fight, bring up the end of the world” - Dayton Hartman

*This blog will be updated throughout December of 2023, as we work through this sermon series


Revelation wasn't written to make American Christians afraid. It was originally written to make Asian Christians strong [those John wrote to from Patmos in Asia Minor]. [Greek] νικάω (nikaō) meaning to conquer or prevail is used 17 times in Revelation, out of only 28 New Testament references. The return of Jesus and the eschatology of early Christians calls for hope and anticipation, joy and confidence. We want to foster a similar hope in our theology and sermon series on the end by focusing on the essentials and not speculations [1000 year reign, antichrist, tribulation, blackhawk flying locusts, etc.]. The essentials of the end are foundational to Biblical orthodoxy and the focus of the early church credes. These five orthodox elements will be the focus of our sermon series and blog to equip us to adequately disicple others on the end.


Why is the Return of Jesus so Important?

It is the final battle that ends the war with evil, brings the resurrection of the dead and leads to victorious, eternal life.

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven" - Acts 1:11

The Second Coming of Jesus expounded upon in the book of Revelation symbolizes the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The cosmic battle between the Lion-Lamb, representing Jesus, and the dragon, symbolizing Satan, unfolds through persecution and seduction, challenging believers to embrace sacrifice and prayer. As Christians navigate the spiritual warfare between D-Day (Calvary) and V-Day (the Second Coming), the call to discipleship remains clear: to trust and follow King Jesus. The promise of victory has already been secured through the sacrifice of Jesus, and believers are encouraged to remain faithful to the Lamb and His kingdom, knowing that the outcome of the war has been decided and eternal life awaits the steadfast.


Discussion Questions:
  • In your own words, what is the point of the D-Day and V-Day illustration for end times?  

  • Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4. How do these words impact your sense of urgency to share the gospel? 

  • Which end times events triggered by Christ most excite you? Which most worries you? Why? 

  • Why are the Bible’s teachings on the end important to share with people whom you are discipling?


What is the Promise of the New Heaven and the New Earth?

The saved will live eternally with God on a new earth, a home of righteousness.

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.  — 2 Peter 3:13

The biblical narrative echoes the faith of figures like Abraham and Paul, who longed for a heavenly home and the fulfillment of God's promise. The anticipation is not merely for a picturesque landscape but centers on the presence of God. Heaven, depicted in Revelation, is not just a realm of perfect delight but also perfect submission to God's will, echoing the Lord's Prayer: "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

However, the paradox of perfect submission and delight is addressed through the concept of righteousness. True righteousness aligns one's desires with God's, transforming the heart to beat in harmony with His. It's not just about experiencing heaven personally, but becoming a conduit for others to glimpse its beauty. The transformation into righteousness, facilitated by trusting and following Jesus, is portrayed as the key to making heaven truly heavenly, both for oneself and as a beacon for others.


Discussion Questions:
  • How will the new heavens and the new earth differ from the current state of the world?

  • How was Jesus an Eden taberncaling amongst us? (John 1:14)

  • What is meant by overlapping or shared space? What are thins spaces?

  • Throughout history, there's a recurring theme of humanity resisting God's close presence. Why do people often resist the idea of God dwelling among them? How can we overcome this resistance in our own lives and help others embrace the idea of God being with us?

  • The Bible begins and ends with a perfect relationship between God and humanity. How does the promise of the new heavens and new earth fulfill the overarching narrative of God's plan for creation?

  • How is the imagery of the new heaven and new earth crafted in Revelation 21?


How do we navigate Hell [eternal punishment] in light of God's love?


The unrepentant will painfully suffer eternal separation from God.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  — Matthew 7:13–14

The uncomfortable topic of hell is a subject that Jesus, surprisingly, spoke about more than anyone else in the Bible. There is a common disbelief in hell's existence. The central question emerges: How can a loving God condemn individuals to eternal suffering? God's love is inseparable from His justice, pointing to the cross as the embodiment of both. Without the reality of hell, God's justice, our freedom to choose, Jesus' truthfulness, the necessity of salvation, and the true nature of heaven would lose their significance. God doesn't abruptly switch from love to wrath. God's patience and provision of escape reassure us. Knowing and fearing God ultimately eliminate other fears.


Discussion questions:
  • In the past, what has been your view of who goes to heaven? 

  • Why do you think Jesus spoke of hell? Can you recall other biblical passages about hell? 

  • Why are many Christians hesitant to share the truth about hell with people they know are spiritually lost?  

  • Are you hesitant about sharing the truth about hell? If so, why?


How can I help others prepare for the end [the resurrection of the dead]?

If we truly love others, we will show them Jesus and tell them about him and heaven to come.

The second coming of Jesus will also bring forth the resurrection from the dead of all who have lived. For the disciple of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead will be an exciting reality. The new bodies we will receive will not be made of flesh and blood; rather, they will be imperishable, glorious, and powerful bodies. Our new bodies will be fitted for the new heaven and new earth. But most importantly, our new bodies will be ideally suited for an eternal life of intimate communion with God.

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  — 2 Corinthians 5:20

What is the Final Judgment?

It is when God, the Righteous Judge, declares each person saved or condemned.

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.  — Romans 14:12

Five orthodox, essential elements of what the Bible teaches about the end:

• The second coming

• The new heaven and new Earth

• Eternal punishment

• The resurrection of the dead

• The final judgment


Biblical Interpretations of the End

Luke Donatello gave us an overview of interpretations on the end. He discussed the main message of the Book of Revelation, focusing on the victory achieved through Jesus's blood and the power of testimony. He stressed the importance of endurance, particularly during hardships and persecution, and highlighted that those who persevere will triumph. Despite challenges, sin and death have been overcome, and Jesus remains in control. With that focus in mind, here is a breakdown of end times views.


Preterism

This view sees the vast majority of prophesy as complete. It is held by many biblical scholars today. Symbolic imagery is about events in the past and Revelation is all about the first century. These Christians believe that Jesus is currently reigning in heaven and on earth, through the church. The 1000 years are symbolic of a long undefined time which began when Jesus resurrected, bound Satan, and the church was inagurated. The only future expectation is the second coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, and heaven and hell.

  • Notable Representatives: N.T. Wright, R. C. Sproul


Amillennialism

This is the belief that Jesus is reigning in heaven and on earth now, through the church. The 1000 years are a symbol of an undefined period which began at the resurrection, when Satan was bound, and the church was inagurated. Because he is bound, Satan cannot stop the church from expanding to the nations. There is not a stark contrast between Israel and the church. Rather, the church is the spiritual fulfillment of Israel, because Christ is true Israel. This reign will last until just before the end, when Satan is freed. Augustine championed this view, as well as Roman Catholics and initially most Protestants. Because the world itself is full of turmoil and evil, there will be growing wickedness and tribulation in the world. There is not a specific antichrist, but a man of sin could fulfill an antichrist archetype. Jesus’ second coming will save his followers from annihilation at the hands of Satan. His second coming will usher in the final judgment and then the full consummation of his kingdom.

  • Notable Representatives: Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, C. S. Lewis


Postmillennialism

This view holds that things will keep getting better! Though we wish this was true, very few scholars believe this anymore. These Christians believe we will experience a golden age of world peace in the future, before Jesus returns. It may be 1000 years, but that number is most likely symbolic. Despite setbacks, the Church will gradually convert the world through the preaching of the gospel, and most will become Christians. There will be peace on earth, and life will get better. At the end of this “golden age,” Jesus will return, the final judgment commence, and the new heavens and the new earth will be revealed. This is the favorite view of liberal Protestants, but it was also the view of early Puritans. Postmillennialism predates preterism from around the 1600s. This was the view of the second great awakening evangelist Alexander Campbells, who wrote the Millennial Harbringer. Campbell's views of ushering in the millenium through world evangelism and unity between denominations was disrupted by the horrors of the American Civil War.

  • Notable Representatives: Jonathan Edwards, Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott


Historic Premillennialism 

This view is that when Jesus returns to the earth, he will usher in a literal 1000-year period of peace and prosperity on earth, with a rebuilt temple. At the end of the 1000-year reign, there is a final judgment. Before the return of Jesus and his 1000-year reign, there will be growing evil and tribulation in the world. Jesus’ second coming will save his followers from destruction at the hands of Satan. Then, again, after the 1000-year reign, there will be growing wickedness, as Satan is once more allowed to deceive the world. But then God will institute the final judgment and Satan will be ultimately defeated. This thinking was popular in the early church and is a widely held view by many Evangelical scholars today.

  • Notable Representatives: Iraneus


Dispensational premillennialism 

Around 1840, Christians stressed a distinction between God’s dealings with Israel and the Church. The thinking was that history should be divided up into different periods called “dispensations.” In these dispensations, God treats epople differently. So, many Old Testament prophesies were never meant to apply to the church (as the other interpretations typically believe), but they will apply to Israel at the end, when God focuses back on that dispensation. Based upon a novel view of Daniel 9, they came to believe that seven years before the full second coming of Jesus there will be a partial coming where Jesus secretly removes (raptures) Christians before the tribulation. This became a popular view among many popular writers in the USA, such as Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth, The Left Behind Series, etc.

  • Notable Representatives: John Macarthur


Book Recommendations for Further Study: 


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