I had an email from someone asking me for a simple summary of where I am on eschatology. The short reply would have been ‘maybe this, could be that, then again…’ but I wrote a few more lines, so I will post it here over a few days. No worries it is not exhaustive by any means. Don’t expect a tome, and there is plenty of agnosticism in it all.
I will numerate the points and try to start with some foundational perspectives.
1) Jewish expectation was for the kingdom to come – i.e. movement is from heaven to earth. The meek will inherit the earth / the righteous rewarded.
2) So a problem is ‘what happens to those who have died who were righteous?’ The (pragmatic) answer was resurrection of the body. They will not miss out. This is the same question being asked in 1 Thess 4 – it is not a question about the rapture (or its timing) but about what will happen to those who have died. Our normal answer is ‘they are in heaven / a better place’ (could well be true but not the Jewish / Christian answer). Sleep until resurrection is also a possibility, and given the strong perspective on martyrdom there could even be two possible ‘after-death’ experiences for the believer (a HUGE topic that last comment).
3) Mission – to the ends of the earth was the mandate for the church. To proclaim that Jesus is Lord… so make a response to the message and receive forgiveness and the promise of resurrection etc. ‘If we have died with Christ we will also be raised with him…’
4) The controversy of the NT in the Jewish culture was that they knew the end would be marked by a) an outpouring of the Spirit of God and b) the resurrection of the dead. So on Pentecost we have a controversial message released. To cap it all they proclaimed that God had vindicated Jesus as the Son of God, none other than the One who had been ‘hung on a tree’ so he could not be (in Jewish eyes) the Messiah as such a person is cursed by God. Hence, Paul persecuted Jewish (there were no Gentile believers yet) believers in this Messiah. Being zealous for the law he needed to kill those blasphemers.