In the coming weeks, the Lord willing, I would like us to take time on this blog to study what the Scriptures teach about individual or personal eschatology. Eschatology is a theological term and is derived from two Greek words, eschatos and logos, which when combined basically mean “the study of the last things.”
There are two aspects to the study of last the things. The first aspect is called individual or personal eschatology and the second one is called world or general eschatology. In the coming weeks we will focus on the former. This means that we will concentrate more on death and what happens after a Christian has closed his eyes in this life and opened them in the next.
In my Christian experience, I have noted that personal eschatology is one of the doctrines that are least discussed among Christians. It is also rarely preached in our churches. Yet in many Reformed and Presbyterian congregations, every Lord’s Day we confess our strong belief in this doctrine by reciting the Apostles’ Creed and say, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”
There could be a number of reasons why we rarely talk of death and the life after. First, I would argue that even for us Christians it is often hard to talk about death, let alone our own death, because it makes us and those we are talking to feel very uncomfortable. Yes, we know that we have been liberated from death’s power (John 11:25). Of course, we fully understand that death is a defeated foe (1 Cor. 15:54-57), but still because death is very unnatural to us (since man was initially created never to die until sin entered the world) we experience a certain type of uneasiness to talk about it. We would rather bury our head in the sand, as it were, and discuss other doctrines.
Second, related to the first reason, we hardly think or talk about personal eschatology because we often view it as distant. Not many Christians, more especially, younger Christians tend to think that today might be our last day on this earth. We often think that God will grant us many years to live in this world before he calls us to glory or the Lord Jesus comes again. But the truth is that none of us knows for certain. The Lord does not guarantee us the next minute (James 4:14b, 15). The Scripture also reminds us again and again about the brevity of life. Just consider some of the words it uses to describe our life: vapor (James 4:15), flower (Psalm 103:15), and handbreadth (Psalm 39:5). Our lives are indeed very short; therefore, we always need to be ready to either die or see our Lord coming in glory soon.
Third, we hardly discuss personal eschatology because sometimes we are so much consumed with the blessings that the Lord has given us here on earth and in the process forget the glories of the life to come. This is truer in places and nations that are very prosperous by our worldly standards. For example, for the four years that I have lived in North America, I have observed how easier and more comfortable life is for many people here than for many in my beloved continent of Africa. Sadly, some Christians are blinded by the plenty and pleasantness of this life hence forget that the glories of heaven can never be compared to anything here on earth. I do not say this to instill an unnecessary sense of guilt for my Western brothers and sisters; however, this is the reality that we all need to face and guard against (1 Tim. 6:6-10).
Fourth, on the other hand, some due to poverty and suffering, they experience in this world, tend to focus more on what the Lord can do to deliver them from these ills and in the process forget the glories of heaven. This is very true in many places like my continent of Africa where the so-called prosperity gospel continues to grow in leaps and bounds. One would think that poverty and suffering would cause people to think of heaven more, but this is not always the case.
Lastly but not least, we don’t discuss personal eschatology as much as we ought to because a good number of Christians are ignorant of what the Scripture has to teach us on this subject. If you are to go out on the streets and ask those who profess to be Christians on what happens during death and after, you will get various responses and some might not even be biblical. For instance, consider how common it is to hear among Evangelical Christians statements like, “The deceased is now looking down from heaven on us with joy” or “Heaven has gained another angel.” These statements reveal our ignorance on the subject.
So, because of these reasons, I strongly believe that we need to take our time and study personal eschatology so that we are not ignorant of God’s design for our future as individuals. Furthermore, if we constantly think of heaven or the Second Coming of Christ, our relationship with Christ here on earth would be enhanced even more. That’s what will look at in the next post, the Lord willing.