Eschatology The Last Days Have Begun

The last days began already with the work of Jesus Christ in his death, resurrection and ascension

“The death and resurrection of Christ marked an eschatological event in advance of the end of all things. So, for the New Testament it is not as if the kingdom was offered only to be postponed. A postponed kingdom or eschatology is false according to Scripture.”

 

I want to start this little essay by asking a somewhat provocative question: “When does eschatology begin?” Eschatology is a fancy little theological word that means the doctrine of the last things. Another way of putting the question to you is: “When do the last days begin?”

In evangelicalism, options of the end times abound. On the millennium, you can be pre-millennial, a-millennial or post-millennial. If you are pre-millennial, you can be pre-trib, post-trib, mid-trib, pre-wrath rapture and maybe some yet undiscovered combination. As one cartoonist portrayed it, Jesus himself might well look at the complex eschatological landscape with all its charts and quip “I’d come back just as soon as I can figure out when.”

So we return to our question: “when do the last days begin?” The Biblical answer is surprisingly and, given today’s climate, controversially but nonetheless resoundingly: the last days began already with the work of Jesus Christ in his death, resurrection and ascension. If we are going to follow Scripture, we should not look to the future and say “when do they start” but instead we should be looking to the past and saying, “How did they already start?”

When discussing eschatology, we should start with Jesus’ message. Jesus began his preaching with the proclamation that “the Kingdom of God/heaven is at hand.” His driving out of demons showed us the kingdom of God had come (Matt. 12:28). The kingdom of God/heaven can be defined as the ‘reign of God.’ This reign of God is the promise of the Old Testament manifest in the Son of David. This reign will triumph over the whole world, defeat evil and be an imminent administration of eternal sovereign rule that God has always exercised. In this respect, the ‘kingdom of God’ is an eschatological event–a climax of the end time promises of God wherein God draws near.

The Old Testament saints believed that history moved in straight line. It was not cyclical based on crop cycles, calendars or repeated patterns like pagans and Greeks thought.  While the calendar of the Old Testament repeated feast and sacrifices, these were anticipatory of the once for all climax at the end of the age. They expected history to have an end or goal. Specifically “this present evil age” would give way to “the age to come.” Evil would be undone and God’s reign would be present. But Jesus starts his ministry by telling us “the kingdom of God has come” meaning the age to come is dawning or breaking into history with his work. History is on the cusp of its intended climax. His work ushers this in bringing to fulfillment.

When later New Testament writers look at what has happened in Jesus, they show us that the promised last days have dawned. Peter tells us by quoting Joel 2 that in the events of Pentecost the last days have dawned (Acts 2:17). Hebrews begins by recounting how the climax of God’s revelation is in the Son: “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” It is the New Covenant which is the covenant of the last days (Heb. 8:8,10; 10:15-18).  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross comes now “once at the consummation of the ages” (Heb. 9:26). Paul records that Jesus was born of the woman “in the fullness of time,” language that denotes the eschatological climax of God’s historical program. 1 Corinthians 10:11 tells present day believers that the Old Testament is for “our instruction on whom the end of the ages has come.”

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