I became a Christian and began to attend a church right before my sixteenth birthday. A few months later, my pastor began to preach through the New Testament letters to the Thessalonians. He told us that those letters would teach us much about “eschatology.” But at the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. “Eschatos” is the Greek word for last. So, eschatology is the study of last things or end times.
As I grew in my faith, I noticed that some Christians are fascinated, even obsessed by this topic. They chart out the timeline of end times events in meticulous detail. They link current events in Israel to biblical prophecies and the return of Christ. They speculate as to who might be the Antichrist and when the Rapture will occur. Their excitement, however, does not always translate into spiritual growth.
During Bible college and seminary, I learned that other Christians approach biblical teaching on the end times from a very different perspective. They consider many of the Bible’s cataclysmic prophecies to be poetic descriptions of Christ’s spiritual accomplishments. So, they tend to ignore prophetic passages of Scripture to focus on the New Testament doctrine of salvation. But the writings of the New Testament are filled with anticipation of future events. Without understanding the end times, you will not grasp what we are saved from or what we are saved for.
So, how should we approach the study of eschatology? Rather than obsessing over it or avoiding it, we must see the vital role that it plays in the Christian life. I think the best way to keep this focus is through verse-by-verse Bible study of books like 1 and 2 Thessalonians.
Paul described the Christians in Thessalonica by saying,
For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Th 1:9-10 ESV).
In these two letters he shows how the anticipation of the end times must shape how Christians relate to God, to personal trials, to one another, and to the unbelieving world. So, I am calling our study, “Waiting for Jesus.” It will begin on Sunday, June 6, and will continue through the end of September. I encourage you to read ahead and to invite someone to join us.
May God cultivate a spirit of waiting in us!
– Bryan Craddock