How Will History End?


This message comes with a “spoiler alert.” If you have ever read a movie review online, you have come across a “spoiler warning,” where the reviewer warns you that he is going to give the ending away.

This morning, we are going to talk about the end. Not the end of a movie, but the end of human history.

In theology, we call this eschatology, which comes from a Greek word, eschaton, meaning “end.”

Depending on your theological background, you may have encountered two extremes: those who obsess over eschatology and those who ignore it.

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible helps us chart a course through both extremes, saying, “Properly understood and applied, eschatology has a powerful, positive significance for Christians. It is to be a source of comfort (1 Thes 4:18), of encouragement (1 Cor 15:58), of challenge to watchfulness and faithful service, and the assurance of reward (Mt 25:14–30).”[1]

Properly understood, eschatology helps us frame our understanding of the gospel. God’s redemptive purposes for history are designed with an end in mind.[2]

The beginning of history (the inauguration of the gospel’s promise) is described in Genesis and the consummation of history (the fulfillment of the gospel’s promise) is described in Revelation, among other places.

When it comes to the book of Revelation, two events that loom large in the conversation are usually “the millennium” and “the great tribulation.”

It would be possible for us to wade deep into the interpretive debates over those events. But my purpose is to cut through the confusion and make this study as simple as possible

  • For example, Revelation 20 seems to teach a pre-millennial view of the millennium.
  • But the Old Testament prophets sound like post-millennialists.
  • Then, reading the apostle Paul, post-tribulation amillennialism, or what I prefer to call “realized millennialism,” seems to make the most sense.

But there is no need to stressed over nailing down the correct view, as another view synthesizes them all together – a view affectionately called pan-millennialism, which teaches that it will all pan out in the end! 😊 Jesus wins. He reigns. Will return… this is the main point of John’s vision in Revelation.

Since the OT prophets and the Revelation describe eschatology in more apocalyptic terms, I think the best route for us to take concerning a discussion of eschatology is to focus on Paul’s clearest teaching on the subject, which is in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11.

The question is: How will history end? And why does it matter?


[1] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Eschatology,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 717.

[2] Hoekema, The Bible and the Future, p. 25