Introduction to the Study
It is important to know that before God laid the foundations of this world, God had a plan and a goal to be attained in it. His plan and goal can be clearly seen by looking at the account of creation. Shortly after He created this world, He planted a garden east of Eden. The quality of life in this garden was superior to the quality of life in the rest of the earth. The Garden of Eden was not created by God but rather was planted by God after creation as a seed in God’s field, the earth. In this garden, we see the intersection of two worlds, the created spiritual world and the created natural world (Colossians 1:16-17). It was, in fact, the intersection of the kingdom of God and this natural world in one small corner of the earth. This intersection or the combining of two worlds can be evidenced by taking note of the fact that there were both natural beings and spiritual beings living there. There were also natural trees and spiritual trees growing there. God gave man, not the devil, dominion to rule over the earth. This was to be accomplished by filling it through fruitfulness and multiplication of mankind created in the image of God. However, God made it clear that Adam would have to subdue it and take authority over it. Later, when God was speaking to Moses, He restated His purpose for the earth. He said He wanted the whole earth to be filled with His glory and, as surely as God lives, He would see to it that it came to pass. This could only happen by taking the quality of life resulting from the intersection of the kingdom of God and God’s natural earth to the four corners of this earth.
For 6,000 years, God has waited patiently for His purpose and goal to be accomplished in this earth. Man has failed to accomplish his God-given role in bringing this to pass. However, God will see His purpose fulfilled as He works through man in the last 1,000 years or the seventh millennium. This is commonly referred to s the millennial kingdom. I believe we are living in a time when the saints who are here on this earth will clise out one age and usher in a new one. I believe many alive today will be a part of the terminal generation of this age.
As we draw near to the end of this age, it is important for us to prepare and position ourselves to advance His kingdom. Why? Because our task of filling the earth with the glory of the kingdom of God is destined to happen in the midst of extreme adversarial conditions as prophetically set forth in the Scriptures. The charge given to man in the very beginning could not be accomplished without man subduing and taking dominion. This infers a warning from God that there would be resistance to the God-given commission. Adam failed this commission in his day, but for those of us charged to fulfill it in our day, nothing has changed. Neither the commission nor the resistance, which is hell-bent on foiling the plan God destined to be fulfilled through and by man, has changed. It is important for us to realize that the resistance is spiritual in nature. It resulted from eating of a spiritual tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Instead of subduing and taking dominion over the devil in the garden, man’s dominon to rule was both abdicated by Adam and usurped by the devil. Because of Jesus, the last Adam, God’s Great Commission will be fulfilled as all the kingdoms of this world will be subjugated and put under the feet of God and His kingdom. It will be the best of times; it will be the worst of times … best for the church and worst for the world and for the kingdom of darkness.
For this reason, a study of eschatology may be more important than many Christians think. Before undertaking this study, I want to state four positions that represent the mindsets of mose Christians concerning eschatology. I do this that you might decide which mindset best represents your current thinking. I’m only using four positions. There may be others that would more accurately identify the position you currently embrace as well as what you are sensing about the times in which you are living. Take a moment to consider with which of these four you most closely identify.
- I sense the imminent return of Christ any day now.
- I believe we are in the last days but certain events must come to pass before Christ can return.
- I do not sense Christ’s soon return and it could be many years before His coming.
- I do not believe in a literal second coming of Christ and a catching up of His church since the saints of God will usher in the kingdom of God without His return.
Guidelines for Section One
Now that we have somewhat located ourselves concerning eschatology, I want to discuss the general guidelines we will implement in the two sections of this book. Section One of this book, WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ON ESCHATOLOGY FROM THE EARTH, will focus on what Jesus taught His disciples concerning eschatology during His earthly ministry. Section Two of this book, WHAT JESUS TAUGHT ON ESCHATOLOGY FROM HEAVEN, will focus on what Jesus taught concerning eschatology from heaven to those on this earth, such as the apostles and prophets of both the Old and New Testaments.
In Section One, we want to operate on a “what if” premise. The premise is, “What if there were no other Scriptures in all the Bible dealing with the subject of eschatology except what He taught on the Mount of Olives recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. What truth could we learn and know about the inevitable eschatological events God has predetermined on this earth even before its foundations were laid?” Should not the events and timeline of both the earthly and heavenly accounts of eschatology be the same? What Jesus taught from heaven will never disagree with what he taught on earth.
Eschatology is something that many people are interested in. There are so many varied positions, but I want to try to keep it simple. It is my primary purpose not to present any particular bent, position, or opinion concerning eschatology in this section of the book. I simply want to look at what Jesus taught His disciples while He was with them on the earth. For the most part, I am not going to use any other prophetic books, such as Isaiah or Zechariah or Hosea or Daniel, or even Revelation, the last book of the Bible.
When studying eschatology, the thing that often makes it difficult and confusing is that the scholar approaches it from a topical viewpoint. This approach attempts to find and then glean from the entirety of the Scriptures all that pertains to the vast subject of eschatology. It is not an easy task to form one’s position using this approach.
Understanding what the prophets of old have spoken is indeed a difficult task. Often, even the prophets who spoke did not understand that which they were prophesying. A classic example of this would be Caiaphas, the high priest at the time of Jesus’ death. From his office of high priest, he accurately prophesied the Word of God. He prophetically declared by the Spirit that it was both the will of God and expedient that one should die for the nation. See this scripture:
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a
council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
He did not know he was prophesying about Jesus. As a matter of fact, Jesus was brought before him and condemned by the very high priest who uttered the prophecy.
In this section we will use an expository teaching approach. An expository approach is a verse-by-verse study of a portion of Scripture. Another reason for this approach is that the Bible only records one time where Jesus taught extensively on the subject of eschatology during His earthly ministry. This teaching is commonly referred to as the Olivet Discourse. The Olivet Discourse is found in three of the four gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Only John does not record Jesus’ eschatological teaching that was spoken on the Mount of Olives. John, the apostle whom Jesus loved, did weigh in on what Jesus taught eschatologically in the last book of the Bible, Revelation. The apostle John was caught up into the third heaven long after Christ’s ascension to receive this revelation. Consequently, John does not share what Jesus taught on this subject both on the earth and from heaven. There should be no doubt in the heart of any believer that these teachings would be in total agreement, especially since both are recorded in the Scriptures. In Section One of this book, our scriptural focus will be limited almost entirely to the Olivet Discourse and, even more specifically, to Matthew 24 account.
An Important Question to Ask Ourselves
Before we begin our study, let us consider and meditate on an important question. The question is, “Does the Bible indicate that all Christians need to prepare for the last days or only those who will be alive in the last days?” If your answer is, “Only those who will be alive in the last days,” then answer, why is it Paul taught the Thessalonians to prepare for the day of the Lord? Did the Holy Spirit not know that these Christians would not be alive in the last days? If your answer is, “All Christians throughout all ages need to prepare,” then should it not be of extreme importance to know for what we are to prepare? With that in mind, let us begin our study of what Jesus taught on eschatology while on this earth. It is more important than many Christians and even Christian leaders are willing to acknowledge. This is clearly seen in the latter when we take note of how seldom the last book of the Bible is incorporated into their Sunday morning sermons. Knowing about the last times could make a difference between being a victor in the coming spiritual warfare or being a casualty thereof. Remember, Paul gave warning to Timothy about the perilous times that would come in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1). In taking heed to this warning, let us begin our study with an open heart. Let us too be noble like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see if the things being said are true. This may require you temporarily laying aside any preconceived notions or positions on this very important subject in order to objectively examine the merits of what is being said.
Two Types of Scriptural Fulfillments
It is especially important before beginning to deal with eschatology that we understand how God brings about the fulfillment of predictive Scriptures. Often predictive or prophetic Scriptures have more than one fulfillment. When these fulfillments occur, they happen literally. There can be one or more typological prophetic fulfillments, which we will term a literal typological prophetic fulfillment. However, there can only be one ultimate prophetic fulfillment, which we will term the literal ultimate prophetic fulfillment.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. The tabernacle of Moses, the tabernacle of David, Solomon’s temple, the rebuilt temple, and Herod’s temple were all literal yet typological fulfillments of an ultimate prophetic intention of God. They were types and shadows of something very real, conceived of in the heart of God. Though these types and shadows are not the ultimate consummation of the real, they point to and give a partial picture of the God-conceived reality. Though these shadows reveal some of what God has conceived in His heart, only the body or object that cast the shadow can ultimately reveal the fullness of the God-conceived reality.
In the case of the various tabernacles and temples, they were types and shadows that prophetically pointed to the true temple of God made without man’s hands. These were all pointing to a temple made of living stones whose architect, foundation, and builder was God alone.
Another example of this multiple fulfillment principle can be seen in the predictive Scriptures prophesying of the coming of the one who would be the Messiah, the Redeemer, and the Savior of mankind. These prophecies were given many years before the reality of them actually happened. Looking back, we now know that Jesus was the ultimate consummation of these Scriptures. However, there were several literal yet typological fulfillments of this prophetic promise of God. Abraham, Joseph, and Mises were types and shadows of the body that cast their shadows. The body that cast their shadows was none other than Jesus, the true Messiah, Redeemer, and Savior.
16Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: 17which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
—Colossians 2:16-17 KJV
Before concluding this principle, let me give one other example of a literal typological prophetic fulfillment and the literal ultimate prophetic fulfillment from the Scriptures.
1For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
This Scripture declares that the law of Moses or the Old Testament was just a typological fulfillment of something greater to come. It was only a shadow which was to serve as a hit or picture of the body that cast this shadow. Later on in this same passage of Scripture, the body which cast this shadow of the greater thing to come was identified. It had to do with where the law of God was written as well as with a person. IN the Old Testament the law was written on stone, but in the New Testament the law of God was written on the hearts of God’s people. The One who was sacrificed for sin and sat down at the right hand of God was none other than Jesus Christ.
11And every priest stands ministering daily and offer-
ing repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.”
The Old Testament, or the laws of Moses, is an example of the term this author has coined as a literal typological prophetic fulfillment. The New Testament, or the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus (God’s law written on man’s heart), is an example of the term this author has coined as the literal ultimate prophetic fulfillment.
The literal ultimate fulfillment/interpretation of Acts 1:8 is not limited to Jerusalem or Judea but to the entire world. That is a typological fulfillment pointing to an ultimate prophetic reality that would occur at the end of the age.
The literal ultimate prophetic fulfillment interpretation of Pentecost in Acts 2 foes beyond just Jewish Christians receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The literal ultimate prophetic fulfillment of Joel 2 declares that the Holy Spirit was to be poured out on all flesh, not just Jewish flesh as on the day of Pentecost.
In studying the doctrine of eschatology, it is important to understand and employ this principle of the two types of predictive, scriptural fulfillments. And now, let us begin our study of what Jesus taught while on this earth concerning the subject of eschatology.
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