The word ‘eschatology’ comes from the Greek eschatos, meaning ‘last’, and commonly refers to the study of ‘the last things’. This is a vast subject, and the following outline refers the reader to articles in this Directory that deal with its many topics. In its broader aspects, eschatology is concerned with all matters relating to death and the afterlife (Ps 16:11; Dan 12:2; Luke 16:22-23; Heb 9:27-28; see DEATH; HADES; PARADISE; SHEOL). More specifically it is concerned with issues relating to the return of Jesus Christ and the new age that will follow (see JESUS CHRIST, sub-heading ‘Christ’s return and final triumph’). Human history is tied up with the mission of Jesus Christ. At his first coming Jesus brought God’s plan of salvation to its fulfilment through his life and work, and particularly through his death and resurrection. God intervened in human history, and the ‘last days’ began (Heb 1:1-2; 1 Peter 1:20; see PROPHECY; QUOTATIONS).
Those ‘last days’ have continued through the present age and will reach their climax at Christ’s return. The coming ‘day of the Lord’ will be that final intervention of God that brings human history to its destiny (Matt 24:29-31; 2 Peter 3:3-4,10; see ANTICHRIST; DAY OF THE LORD). To have a proper understanding of matters concerning Christ’s return, a person should consider them in relation to matters concerning Christ’s earthly ministry as recorded in the Gospels. Christ’s victory at his second coming will represent the triumphant climax of the kingdom that he brought at his first coming. The kingly Messiah and heavenly Son of man, having died for sin, will return to reign (Matt 25:31-34; see KINGDOM OF GOD; MESSIAH; MILLENNIUM; SON OF MAN).
The return of Christ will bring about the victorious resurrection of believers, but that resurrection is possible only because of the victorious resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:20-23; see RESURRECTION). Christ’s return will also lead to final judgment, which means judgment not just for believers, but for all people. The one who died to save people from condemnation and give them new life is the one who will finally declare whether they suffer eternal condemnation or enjoy the heavenly blessings of the new age (John 5:22; 2 Cor 5:10; see JUDGMENT; HEAVEN; HELL). At his first coming Christ dealt with sin and showed his power over it. When he returns he will remove sin and all its evil consequences finally and completely. His victory will include the healing of the physical world, the destruction of death and the punishment of Satan (1 Cor 15:25-26; Rev 20:10; see NATURE; DEATH; SATAN). Christ and his people together will enter into the full enjoyment of the eternal life that he has made possible for them. The ‘new heavens and new earth’ will be a new order of existence where God is supreme and all people find their full satisfaction in him (1 Cor 15:28; Rev 21:1-4; 22:1-6; see ETERNITY; LIFE).