**Note before we get started. Since I’ve written this article, I have started a new series that expounds upon some key points I make in this article. When I’m finished with it, I’ll link the series here. It is a four-part series on the subjects of partial preterism, God’s Sovereignty (determinism/Calvinism/Augustinianism), God’s love (free will/Arminianism/Pelagianism), God’s wrath (justice/judgment/retribution), and God getting what He wants (apokatastasis/universalism/reconciliation). It still won’t be exhaustive, but it will be a little more detailed than this. If you have any questions or want a more detailed response, you can contact me, and I’ll be happy to chat. (Bonus Article on Full Preterism)**
First things first, iron sharpens iron….
Eschatology means the study of the end. This is an article about my understanding of biblical eschatology. I’m not posting this article saying that there aren’t weaker points here or there that I need to think on or saying that I have it all figured out. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have answers for things one might object to that are well thought out, prayed over, meditated on, and discussed with others. I’m as confident about my understanding of eschatology as anyone else.
That doesn’t mean I’m right or that another view is right, necessarily. It just means that I didn’t pull it out of the air. Scripture, history, reason, and the character of Jesus all influence my understanding as much as I hope it does anyone else’s understanding. My reason for sharing my understanding is that iron sharpens iron. I want to share my journey so that I can teach, be taught, understand others, be understood by others, and practice the art of unity regardless of uniformity.
**I don’t plan on going into details yet. But I’m sure I will in the future. I’ve just been asked a great deal about what my view is, so I thought I’d post about it. If you have specific questions just let me know, and I’ll be glad to answer when I can!**
That said, my eschatology is one of hope for all. When I say hope I don’t mean “gee, I didn’t study for my math test. I sure hope I pass the final.” No, I mean the biblical definition of hope, “confident expectation.” Confident expectation falls short of saying “this is the only way to understand that” or “that has to be the way this works.” However, the humility in “hope” should not be understood as saying “without conviction, knowledge, and confidence.” I have an eschatology that optimistically looks forward to hope in this life and the one to come. I’m not ashamed of it.
I am a partial preterist. For me, that means I understand all of Matt. 24 to have already happened, most of 1 Thess. 4, and most of Revelation. I believe there is good evidence for taking an earlier date for the book of Revelation. Before year 70 (the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and her temple). Though, my understanding does not demand that date for Revelation to be accurate. The point is that 70 was a HUGE year. I’ll write more on that in a future article, but it is a pretty explicit fulfillment of the OT and the “end of the age” (That is, the “age” of the Jewish covenant).
Which leads me to another part of my eschatology. I’m a postmillennialist. You don’t have to be a partial preterist to be postmill, nor the other way around. But many times, it works out that way. For me, being postmill means that I believe that, as of year 70, we have been in the kingdom of Jesus for a symbolic 1000 years (Revelation 20).
For me that means that, until 70, all who died were asleep in a place of rest. Since 70, the dead in Christ (including all who are saved by faith) are reigning with him as souls, void of their new “supernatural” (more than *just* natural…1 Cor. 15) bodies until final judgment. Meanwhile, the rest of the dead (those without Christ) remain as they are, asleep. At final judgment, those in Christ who are still living on earth will join those who are dead in Christ and they all will appear before the throne of God with those outside of Christ. The salvation of those in Christ will have already been judged through the finished work of Jesus, but they will receive a reward for their works (1 Cor. 3). Those outside of Christ are judged by the words of Jesus and their works. Those written in the Book of Life will enter into the fullness of the new heavens and new earth. Those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be put into the Lake of Fire.
Between now and then, I believe the trajectory of the world is up. Are their major ups and downs (nationally, naturally, individually, etc.)? No doubt! But the trajectory is up, and it likely has a long time yet to continue. Some postmill thinkers believe there will be a time where the symbolic 1000 years transforms into a literal and rapid trajectory. A “Golden Age” of sorts. I’m not opposed to that, obviously, but I’m somewhat agnostic regarding that.
My postmill position is somewhat like the amillennial view in that I don’t think it’s an “either/or” situation. I think that the symbols are specific in Revelation, but I also think they play a part in the heavenly realm (maybe primarily?) and that they play a part in giving us an understanding of how God’s providence plays out beyond the first century. However, I think that whatever happens in the heavenly inevitably transforms the earthly. Hence the trajectory.
Furthermore, I believe in something more than “inaugurated eschatology” (already in name but not yet in reality) and less than “realized eschatology” (it all is ours now in its fullness). All blessings in Christ ARE ours, we ARE the kingdom, we ARE the spiritual Israel, we ARE the new heaven and new earth (NHNE)…and so on. That said, I also believe that we experience that in its fullness when death (including the “second death”) is defeated and God is all in all. God will be handed the New Jerusalem (NHNE, perfected kingdom, etc.) in its fullness, renewed in every positive way and we will enjoy it eternally.
The Psalms, Isaiah, Jesus, Peter, and Paul all say that the last enemy to be destroyed is death, and after that, the kingdom is handed over to the Father. I believe that means all death, not just physical OR spiritual, but both. That said, even if we say that it’s just spiritual death, we have to deal with that. Which we will in a minute (second death).
Satan was bound in 70 (Revelation 20), we are in the kingdom now, and he will be unbound at the end of the 1000 years but will be largely unnoticed before being cast into the Lake of Fire. We are still fighting his influence and our selfishness regardless of his binding, but he will not stop God’s will from being done on earth as it is in heaven. The gates of death (hell/hades) will not prevail against the kingdom. The kingdom will destroy all boundaries. Death will no longer exist in any form.
“Okay cool, but what is this Lake of Fire stuff?”
I’m what’s often called a “hopeful Christian universalist.” I mean “hope” in the same way I did above. Christian universalism means that all will ultimately be saved through Christ. Every knee will bow, and every tongue confess gladly. It is also called “ultimate reconciliation” to get the point across without being confused with other types of non-Christian universalism.
The river of life in Revelation is also a river of fire in Daniel (chapter 7). The river of fire in Daniel extended outward from the throne past the boundaries of the city. The same river that runs right into a lake in Revelation. And next to it, is a tree meant for the healing of the nations. The tree of life. The very floor of heaven is fire (Revelation 15). A refiner’s fire is used to restore what has been utterly destroyed (Sodom, Jerusalem, Edom, etc.) in places like Isaiah, Zephaniah, Malachi, Peter, 1 Cor. 3, etc….the gates are never shut…. we will all be baptized and salted with fire and its GOOD for us!
Now, admittedly, one could read the Lake of Fire as total annihilation (conditionalism). That’s a legitimate view. On my less confident days, I lean in that direction. But regardless of if one is a hopeful universalist or a hopeful conditionalist the second death has to end. Eternal conscious torment is not an option unless we are to say that Jesus never defeats His last enemy.
Why? As Paul says to the church at Corinth, death has to be defeated. Period. Most people think that means all types of death, but at the very least, it’s spiritual death. The Lake of Fire is the second death. What’s the first? Physical! Second death is spiritual. What was Adam’s death about in Paul’s reference in 1 Cor. 15? Hades must be destroyed. The second death. The spiritual death. The death that those who reign with Christ will not endure (Rev. 20). It’s the last enemy. Its gates cannot prevail. Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and those not written in the Book of Life are put into the Lake of Fire.
Until death is defeated God the Father has not received the completed kingdom in its fullness, all in all. Those put into the Lake of Fire must be destroyed because the Lake of Fire, second death, must be destroyed. Now that can happen through ultimate destruction or ultimate restoration (freely and gladly confessing Christ as Lord… as Scripture says all of mankind will do).
My hope, and I have as many reasons for it as anyone else has for their understanding, is that all will ultimately choose Christ. The entities married to death have no life in them and will ultimately be no more (death, hades, Satan, etc.). But I am confidently expecting that God’s holiness is fire, and His fire is refining. The consuming fire and the sun that blinds is the fire that warms and the sun that gives life to those ready to receive Him freely. We have free will, but He is irresistible.
My eschatology is not without biblical, historical, and philosophical precedent. That doesn’t mean it is right or wrong; it just means that it is, and has always been, a legitimate and respected view. Especially the first 400 years of Christianity.
My eschatology is one of hope. Hope for the world to come, hope for the world we live in now, and hope for those made in the image of God who are “without hope” in this world. God wants to save all, He is able to save all, and he will save all. And He will do so without taking away anyone’s free will to love and be loved, or to reject Him. But nothing can separate us from the love of God in this life or the next. – Jesse