– The term eschatology:
• Means "the science or teachings concerning the
• Derived from the Greek eschatos ("last") and
eschata ("the last things"), the term does not
seem to have been in use in English before the
nineteenth century, but since then it has become
a major concept, especially in Christian theology.
– Most religions entertain ideas, teachings, or mythologies
concerning the beginnings of things: the gods, the
world, the human race. [See Cosmogony and Cosmology.]
– Parallel to these are accounts of the end of things, which
do not necessarily deal with the absolute and final end or
with the consummation of all things.
– The end may be conceived positively, as the kingdom of
God, a "new heaven and a new earth," and the like, or
negatively, for instance as the "twilight of the gods."
– Sometimes these accounts refer to events expected to
take place in a more or less distant future. There is
considerable overlap with messianism, which
may, therefore, be considered as one form of
eschatology. [See Messianism and Millenarianism.]
– An important distinction has to be drawn between
individual and general, or cosmic, eschatology.
• Individual eschatology deals with the fate of the
individual person, that is, the fate of the soul after
death. This may be seen in terms of the judgment of
the dead, the transmigration of the soul to other
existences, or an afterlife in some spiritual realm.
• Cosmic eschatology envisages more general
transformations or the end of the present world. The
eschatological consummation can be conceived as
restorative in character, for example as the Endzeit
that restores the lost perfection of a primordial Urzeit,
or as more utopian, that is, the transformation and
inauguration of a state of perfection the like of which
never existed before.
• Jewish Religion:
– In the Hebrew Bible the terms aharit ("end") and
aharit yamim ("end of days") originally referred to a
more or less distant future and not to the cosmic and
final end of days, that is, of history.
– Nevertheless, in due course eschatological ideas and
beliefs developed, especially as a result of
disappointment with the moral failings of the Jewish
kings, who theoretically were "the Lord's anointed"
of the House of David.
– In addition, a series of misfortunes led to the further
development of these ideas:
• The incursions and devastations by enemy armies; the fall of
Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 587/6 BCE;
• The Babylonian exile;
• The failure of the "return to Zion" to usher in the expected
golden age so rhapsodically prophesied by the "Second
• The persecutions (e.g., under the Seleucid rulers and reflected
in the Book of Daniel);
• The disappointments suffered under the Hasmonean kings;
Roman rule and oppression;
• And finally the second destruction of Jerusalem by the
Romans in 70 CE, which, after the failure of subsequent
revolts, initiated a long period of exile, tribulation, and
"waiting for redemption."
– The predictions of the Old Testament prophets
regarding the restoration of a golden age, which
could be perceived as the renewal of an idealized
past or the inauguration of a utopian
future, subsequently merged with Persian and
Hellenistic influences and ideas.
– Prophecy gave way to apocalypse, and eschatological
and messianic ideas of diverse kinds developed. As a
result, alternative and even mutually exclusive ideas
and beliefs existed side by side; only at a much later
stage did theologians try to harmonize these in a
– Thus there were hopes and expectations concerning a
worldly, glorious, national restoration under a Davidic
king or victorious military leader, or through miraculous
intervention from above. The ideal redeemer would be
either a scion of the House of David or a supernatural
celestial being referred to as the "Son of man."
– Significantly, Jesus, who seems to have avoided the term
messiah, possibly because of its political overtones, and
preferred the appellation Son of man, nevertheless was
subsequently identified by the early church as the
Messiah ("the Lord's anointed"; in Greek, christos, hence
Christ) and was provided with a genealogy (see Mt. 1)
that legitimated this claim through his descent from
– Redemption could thus mean a better and more peaceful
world (the wolf lying down with the lamb) or the utter
end and annihilation of this age, the ushering in, amid
catastrophe and judgment, of a "new heaven and a new
earth," as in the later Christian beliefs concerning a last
judgment, Armageddon, and so on.
– The doctrine of the resurrection of the dead played a
major role in the eschatological beliefs held by the
Pharisees and was also shared by Jesus. The chaotic
welter of these ideas is visible not only in the so-called
apocryphal books of the Old Testament, many of which
are apocalypses (i. e., compositions recounting the
revelations concerning the final events allegedly granted
to certain visionaries), but also in the New Testament.
– The message and teachings of the "historical Jesus" (as distinct
from those of the Christ of the early church) are considered by
most historians as beyond recovery. There has
been, however, a wide scholarly consensus, especially at the
turn of the century, that Jesus can be interpreted correctly
only in terms of the eschatological beliefs and expectations
current in the Judaism of his time.
– The Qumran sect (also known as the Dead Sea sect) was
perhaps one of the most eschatologically radical groups at the
time. In other words, he preached and expected the end of
this world and age, and its replacement in the immediate
future, after judgment, by the "kingdom of God."
– Early Christianity was thus presented as an eschatological
message of judgment and salvation that, after the crucifixion
and resurrection, emphasized the expectation of the imminent
• Kingdom of God:
– The prophets of the Old Testament, in speaking of the
Kingdom of God, announced in clear terms a greater and
more excellent kingdom to come, which would be
universal and include the Gentiles (e.g., Is. 49:6) and
would last forever (e.g., Dan. 2:44). The kingdom thus
referred to was not a new political empire but the
Kingdom of God founded by Christ, although even the
Apostles were slow to understand this (Acts 1:6).
– In the New Testament the term "Kingdom of God,"
although used frequently (Matthew uses the phrase
"Kingdom of Heaven"), is a very complex idea. Usually
the word has one of three meanings: the internal,
invisible Kingdom; the social and visible Kingdom; or the
final, triumphant Kingdom of God.
– The internal Kingdom of God is the reign of God in
the hearts of men by His grace. It comes unawares
and is within the souls of men (Luke 17:21), and
consists not "in food and drink, but in justice and
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).
– The visible Kingdom of God is the Catholic Church
founded by Christ. It is for all men, contains even
sinners, who will someday be cast out, grows from
small beginnings (Matt. 13), and is a gift of God's
love (Luke 12:32).
– The final Kingdom of God is the triumphant reign of
God and His Christ. When Our Lord shall return in
glory at the end of the world, the Kingdom shall
reach consummation (Rev. 19:11-16).
– Christ instructed His
followers to pray
for God's reign to
be perfect and
6:10). Then, at the
time of the
resurrection of the
dead, when the
Kingdom is perfect,
Christ will deliver it
over to God the
Father, and God will
be all in all (1 Cor.
• Second Coming of Christ:
– The Parousia, or second coming of Christ, frequently
mentioned in the Gospels, notably in Matthew 10:21-24;
16:27; Mark 8:38; 13:26; and Luke 9:26; 21:27. Christ gave His
followers no indication of when He would come again, but
many of the early Christians, associating the events mentioned
in the above passages with Christ's references to the
establishment of His earthly kingdom (the Church) and the
destruction of Jerusalem, firmly expected the second coming
within their own lifetime
– Though Christ left us completely ignorant of the time of His
second coming, we know from Scripture some of the signs
which will precede the Parousia. They include: the preaching
of the Gospel throughout the world; a great apostasy; the
return of Enoch and Elijah (in some form); the conversion of
the Jews; the coming of Antichrist; the darkening of the sun
and the moon and the falling of stars from the heavens; the
purging of the world in a universal conflagration.
– Originally, merely the sky, later the term used to
designate the abode of God and the blessed. …The many
Biblical uses of heaven (or, after the Hebrew, the
plural, heavens) in the first sense are sufficiently clear
and really need no comment, except, perhaps, to remark
that the words "heaven and earth" are a stereotyped
expression designating the whole visible universe (Gen.
– The notion of heaven as the abode of God and the
blessed is not really fully developed in the Old Testament.
It is only in the New Testament that the entirely spiritual
concept of heaven receives adequate
expression, especially in Revelation (Rev. 21), but even
here the doctrine is expressed in concrete, figurative
language, which must be interpreted in the light of
concepts current in the time when the New Testament
– In Heaven those who save their souls will be forever
united to God in perfect bliss and satisfaction. The
greatest joy in heaven will result from knowing and
loving God in the beatific vision (which see), but
there will also be lesser, secondary joys resulting
from companionship with Our Lord, the Blessed
Virgin, and all the angels and saints. The joy of the
saints in heaven will be eternal; they will never lose
– Not everyone, however, will have an equal share of
heavenly bliss, for each person's capability for
happiness will depend on the degree of sanctifying
grace he has at the moment of his death.
– There could be no evil or sin of any kind in heaven,
for God Himself will so completely satisfy everyone
that sin will have no attraction.
• “ESCHATOLOGY, Encyclopedia of Religion,
Vol.5, p.148 - p.150.
• “Kingdom of God”- “Second Coming of
Christ”- “Heaven”, in Encyclopedic Dictionary
of the Bible, Welcome to the Catholic Church
on CD-ROM of Harmony Media Inc.