Overview of Revelation: What is Eschatology?

Eschatology is a Greek word meaning “the study of the last”.  In Revelation, eschatology refers to the study of End Times.  However, in Christian eschatology, it’s also the study of the end of life, the end of an age, the end of the world, etc.  More specific, it includes the study of the Second Coming of Jesus, the judgment of the world, the resurrection of the dead, and the creation of a new heaven and earth.  Further, the nature of the millennium, the intermediate state, the concept of immortality, and the eternal destiny of the wicked is also included.

For Christians, this is the study of what the Bible says about all of the above–chief among them being the Book of Revelation.

Within eschatology, there are various interpretations on what exactly the writings refer to.  Chiefly, these are preterism, historicism, futurism, and idealism.

Preterism from the Latin praeteritus, meaning “gone by” is the belief that all the prophecies of the Bible have already been fulfilled in the past–mainly in the first century AD in reference to the Book of Revelation.  Preterists believe the book of Revelation was written about the present conditions of the Jewish people and Christians in the Roman Empire and was written in a prophetic manner to hide the meaning from pagans.

Preterists see Christ’s second coming as spiritual and not physical and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD as the final judgment and we are already living in a new earth.

Historicism is the belief that biblical prophecy is fulfilled in the past, present, and future–meaning prophecy is continually being fulfilled.  This view tries to associate biblical prophecy with actual historical events and people.

Futurism is the belief that biblical prophecy will be fulfilled only at the end of the age.

Idealism is the belief biblical prophecy is symbolic only–meaning it doesn’t refer to actual events but serves only a warning to mankind about behavior.  Revelation is a general discourse on the inherent good and evil in mankind, which is constant and never changes throughout time or history.  This view asserts good will triumph over evil but ignores the hows and whys and whens of it all.  This view dismisses entirely the book of Revelation as an apocalyptic writing.

Many scholars don’t neatly fit into any of these categories and instead hold a mixture of beliefs. I have no idea where BSF will fall within these categories or if they will pick at all.  For now, just know the different viewpoints while studying the book of Revelation.  This will help give you the tools to decide for yourself what you think God is saying here.

Remember, always go back to God’s word.  And if it doesn’t make sense, that is okay.  We can never know what God knows nor is His ways ours.  Our job is to try to learn about Him through His word and be ready when He speaks.  And studying the Book of Revelation will help us to do just that.


9 thoughts on “Overview of Revelation: What is Eschatology?

  1. Well done. I am sure BSF will take a middle of the road approch in its course development. At the end of the day, as you said, it is all about God’s word.


  2. What is your opinion about BSF using the new NIV version of the Bible.

    I have been in BSF for a number of years and had gone through a complete round.


    1. Hey Ida,

      Not a fan. I like the old NIV version. My kids have the new version in their bibles (which I bought and didn’t know there was an updated version) and we read out of my old NIV bible instead because I can’t stand some of the PC wording. It’s as if Bible publishers don’t trust us and don’t want to offend us. I have no problem with “man” or “mankind” instead of “humankind” or “people”.

      In fact, I prefer mankind. For we are mankind.

      It bothers me because I am a literalist. I prefer as close of a translation from the original Greek as possible. Changing wording to please feminists and the like frustrates me.

      I’m a purist. Keep it pure. I can take it from there.


      1. I was disappointed with the decision to go with the new NIV. The publishers had made a promise that the new generic neutral would NEVER replace NIV84, but look what happened. (BSF was moving from KJV to NIV at the time, and needed that assurance.)

        It also compromises some of the leaders, Southern Baptists. The SB Convention has recommended the non use of the new NIV. SB’s are the majority in this area and they are being asked (told?) to go against the advice of the church to which they belong.

        I also heard at an Area Retreat ((2007 or so) that some of the memory verses in the School Program had completely changed in meaning going from NIV84 to the new NIV.


  3. Thank you. I like the older NIV version as well. I appreciate you and this website to help others to understand more of God’s word.


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