The Back Story:
(God, lucifer, man, salvation, God...)
A long time ago, on this very planet, before this planet's existence in the physical realm, there was a being that always was and always will be (although maybe we cannot truly fathom it yet). This being, the creator, God, first made the angels, a vast amount of superior beings. Some of the angels rebelled, led by one who was called Lucifer.
After the angels, God decided to create humans, beings made in His own image (whatever that might truly mean). He first created a physical place, the earth and the heavens, and populated it with the seeds of life we see today, changed somewhat but the same at the core.
He then created men. And from men he created women. And Lucifer told Eve that surely she wouldn't die if she ate the one fruit God had told them not to eat - the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
After eating the fruit of our own freewill, God placed a curse upon humankind. No longer would we live forever or have it easy. We would know physical death and have a hard time getting the earth to support us. "By the sweat of your brow." Or something to that effect.
Many years after this, after God began interacting with man through the Jewish nation, He sent His Son (God in human form) to earth to sacrifice Himself for our original sin in the Garden of Eden. It was declared in a New Covenant that whosoever should believe that Jesus Christ was who He said He was would be saved.
(What does the word mean? Why care about it?)
Eschatology comes from the Greek word eskhatos and means, "last." Christian eschatology concerns itself with God's endgame, the last sputtering breaths of existence as we know it.
One of the biggest reasons I believe eschatology is important is that Jesus Christ repeatedly told us to watch for the signs - admonished us for knowing when it would rain next, but not when the Son of God would return for the end of this earth as we now know it.
Prophecy in the Bible
(Not everyone believes the same thing.)
Ask most people on the street what book of the bible deals with the end times and they will invariably answer Revelations. While that book does indeed concern itself with the end times, it's interesting to note that a majority of the rest of the books of the bible also deal with the time period at the end of the world as we know it.
From Jesus himself (Matthew 24) to minor (Joel) and major (Ezekiel) prophets, a large portion of the text handed down to us deals with what will happen in a final seven year period.
(The common elements in most Christian Eschatology.)
The different camps all roughly believe the same thing: Jesus comes back, the dead are raised, everyone is judged, good are rewarded, bad are punished, etc. The specifics are where people start to branch off in their own directions, though.
According to the prophet Daniel (whom Jesus refers to in the Olivet Discourse), there will be a seven year period at the end of the world in which the anti-christ (literally, one against Christ) rises to power and tries one more time to deceive as many people as possible before the end.
During this final seven year period many things will happen according to prophecy: two witnesses will show up preaching the Word (eventually killed then raised to heaven), the anti-christ will show up with false signs and wonders, the seals will be broken and many billions of people will perish on earth.
Halfway into the final seven year period, some believe the Jewish temple will be rebuilt on the Temple Mount. I'm not sure about this myself yet. From this temple (or what Jesus referred to as the Holy Place), the deceiver will liken himself to God and demand that humans worship him or die.
Sometime between the halfway point and the end of the final seven years (Jesus said He would cut the time short, lest every last one of us died), Jesus will make His triumphant return. The sky will go dark, the moon will turn red, a trumpet will sound, and the dead shall rise first. Then, those few who are left alive on the planet and believe will rise up to meet Him in the air.
Then, a battle will take place; Satan and the world vs. Jesus and the saints. Jesus wins. The serpent is locked in the bottomless pit. Jesus rules the planet from Jerusalem. We have our new bodies. A new heaven and a new earth have been established.
One-thousand years later, satan is let loose for one last battle, still thinking that he can win or that at least he should take as many of us with him. This is the battle of Armageddon. Lucifer loses and is cast into the pit for eternity.
Yes, yes, sounds like a fairy tale to you perhaps, with consumerism and the worship of Mammon running rampant, but I believe it's true. (And yes, I lust after material items too, although I try not to do this.)
This is a very basic outline of some of the major events that are scheduled to happen. I've purposefully left out many details (the Gog Magog war for one, the identiy of the Whore of Babylon/Mystery Babylon/Daughter of Babylon, The Seven Seals, etc.) If this doesn't flounder and sink in the queue, maybe one day I'll come back to the issue and go over some of the details.
(The Future Prophecy is ancient history already.)
These people believe that all end time prophecy has been fulfilled, that it really only referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. This camp is split up into further divisions (causing even more confusion, not an accident, I imagine) with some believing Jesus has already been here and left while others believe Jesus has yet to return to earth to claim what was given Him although think a lot of stuff has already passed.
(Christians are superior to even the Jews and leave the planet before things get bad.)
This teaching (which I sometimes refer to as the American version of the end times) gained popularity in the late 19th century. Lately, it has found a following in the Left Behind series, which teaches this doctrine.
Basically, pre-tribulation is a belief that for some reason modern Christians (especially those in the U.S. of A.) are 'special' and different than the rest of the world in that they're whisked away (in the rapture) before the tribulation (the final seven year period) begins.
This belief, in my opinion, leads them to not worry about the hard times ahead for the world because they don't think they will be here. This also lends itself to a lot of the Holier-than-thou attitudes that abound in the world today
This teaching, however explained, says that Jesus will return twice, once for the special Christians living at the end of the world, and then once after all the bad stuff happens for the rest of humanity. Searching scripture, though, I can't find this. I see a glimpse of how it could be interpreted that way here and there, but when you put all the pieces of the puzzle together, it doesn't jive with the info we've been given.
(Christians will be present for most of the end times, but not the really, truly bad parts.)
People who are pre-wrath believe that halfway into the last seven years, when the anti-christ "defiles the holy place" (let him who reads understand) and demands to be worshipped, the Christian believers will be whisked away in the rapture.
This final three and a half years is the point things get really brutal on the planet and God's wrath is poured onto the Earth. This is a middle-of-the-road view that tries to incorporate some pre-tribulation and post-tribulation ideas.
(Believers will be here until they die or Jesus returns, most likely the former.)
This school of thought is the closest to scripture, in my most humble opinion. Post-tribulation teaches that humans (saved and unsaved, Jew and Gentile) are here in the thick of it until the very end when Jesus Christ returns.
This view teaches that scripture says those who profess belief in Jesus Christ in the end times will be put to death for their beliefs (it happens today in certain parts of the world). There is no fear, but on the other hand neither is there a desire to hasten the Day of the Lord, when Jesus returns. Jesus has conquered death (the curse) and yet He warned us the final days would be as no other days seen on the earth.
And from what I've been able to gather (as information and knowledge increases) this old planet has been through quite a bit since its inception. From earthquakes, wars, and the great flood (another hint at the end times answer), this planet has been battered and bruised as we (humans), made in the image of God, utterly wreck the planet.
(As an end time pilgrim watching for the signs, here's my take.)
I have to admit that I believe the bible teaches a post-tribulation rapture, that I will be here until I die or Jesus returns. This belief that leaves me at odds with the majority of those who profess belief in Jesus Christ.
The apostle Paul warned that in the latter days there would appear those who taught things that tickled the ear, that sounded too good to be true. If this doesn't refer to Christians believing that they're somehow better than the rest of the world and don't have to face the final years on this planet, I'm not sure what does.
A lot of people I talk to about this argue that it doesn't really matter all that much what you believe about the end times. I have to disagree with them, though. Jesus Himself told us to Watch over and over again while He was here in human form. Also, if you are taught and believe you will be raptured before the anti-christ appears and things get rough, why would you watch for his appearance?
The teaching also lends itself to those that would try to hasten (as if they could) end times scenarios by waging war on other countries, or whatever other means they employ behind the scenes. Perhaps they think it doesn't matter because they'll be taken before the ramifications of their actions come into being?
(What I hope to accomplish with this article, God willing.)
Although I've read to a degree about what other faiths believe in regards to the end times, I'd love to hear more about what you believe and why. Also, feel free to ask me to go into more detail on any points I've made. Maybe we could use this article as a jumping off point for some old-school K5 discussion?