Eschatology was once deemed one of the most important sub-disciplines within biblical studies. Ernst Käsemann even proclaimed a half century ago that “apocalyptic was the mother of all theology.” Unfortunately, the place of eschatology in the church today seems to be alternating between eschato-mania and eschato-phobia. Christian literature is full of fictions (and non-fictions) that spend an unhealthy amount of time and energy making end-time predictions, insisting that the drama of “the end” is going to play out according to a literal (and often atomizing) interpretation of certain eschatological passages in the Bible. However, when the biblical authors speak about the eschaton, their primary focus is not so much on the end of time per se but on pastoral concerns in the here and now. They were interested in the end because of how our hopes and fears impact the way we live our lives, knowing that there is an end to our lives and eventually to human society as we know it.
This course is primarily an exegetical study of the main eschatological passages in the Bible. Following a two-step hermeneutical approach, we will look at: (1) what these passages meant in their original context and (2) what they mean to us in our contemporary setting. The course consists of three learning components. First, we will examine various prophetic and apocalyptic thoughts before the times of Jesus and look at how various biblical eschatological traditions were developed from these ideas. Second, we will read through the major eschatological passages in the New Testament and discover unifying themes of biblical eschatology by carefully reading through the text in the original context. And finally, we will look at the contemporary significance of the selected texts and discuss how they help shape an eschatological lifestyle, i.e. a Christian way of life that does not lose sight of the second coming of Christ.
- To become familiar with the main eschatological passages in the Bible for use in teaching and preaching ministry
- To gain an understanding of problems and issues in the controversial areas of Christian eschatology and to be able to identify the text(s) that illuminate the options
- To become competent interpreters of the text
- To gain a positive appreciation of theological unity and diversity in the Bible
- To allow the eschatological passages to motivate, form, and transform our faith, worship, and Christian way of life
- To develop skills in interpreting the eschatological passages in the Bible in terms of their theological, historical, and social context
- To explain key topics and terms related to biblical eschatology
- To be able to evaluate apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic artwork in various media (music, films, literature, TV shows, etc.) from a biblical perspective