Eschatology is the study of last things. When we think of end times studies, we typically think of charts and millennial views. While that is certainly part of it, it actually encompasses so much more. As people living in the last times, we “already” experience aspects of God’s kingdom, but there are still things that are “not yet.”
We are living in the last times. This isn’t some prediction based on current events, but a simple teaching of the Bible. The time between the first and second coming of Christ is referred to in the New Testament as the “last days.”
Eschatology is the study of last things. When we think of end times studies, we typically think of charts and millennial views. While that is certainly part of it, it actually encompasses so much more. As people living in the last times, we “already” experience aspects of God’s kingdom, but there are still things that are “not yet.” D.A. Carson explains:
The New Testament shows how Christians are squeezed between the “already” of what has arrived and the “not yet” of what is still to come. Let me give you some examples: we already have the forgiveness of our sins, but we do not yet have the consummation which Christ’s death and resurrection have secured. We already grow in sanctification, but we have not yet been glorified. We are squeezed between the already and the not yet; already it is the last hour of this age which is decaying and will pass away. But it has not yet passed away, and the new heavens and the new earth have not yet dawned.
If we don’t understand this tension, we are liable to get an incorrect balance. When we assume blessings that are “not yet,” meaning they will not be realized until the return of Christ, it’s called “over-realized eschatology.” While this might seem to some a meaningless, impractical error, it actually reveals itself in very practical ways. Here are three dangers of an over-realized eschatology:
1. Health And Wealth ‘Gospel’
I’ve had conversations with people who might ridicule the lavishness of certain “prosperity gospel” preachers, yet they sincerely hold to certain aspects of such teaching. They might say things like, “God doesn’t want us to be sick.” According to them, if Jesus paid the penalty for sin, and sickness is the result of sin, then to live as believers means that we will not face such sickness.
Jesus has certainly taken the penalty for sin, and sickness is a result of the curse of sin. However, one of the problems with this teaching is wrong timing; it applies future blessings to the time we live in now…it’s an over-realized eschatology.
Praise God, there will be a time when God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). However, if you look at that verse in context, you see that God doesn’t promise such healing in this life, he promises it after the first heaven and earth have passed away and the new heaven and earth have come (Rev. 21:1).