The Eschatology of Jesus: Introduction and the Kingdom of God in the Old Testament

Author’s Note: This is a two part series. Tommorrow we will wrap things up with the Kingdom of God in the New Tetstament along with a conclusion.


Castle-ClipArt--Graphics-Fairy2Introduction

To truly understand eschatology and its implications for mankind, there must be an understanding of Jesus’ teachings on eschatology. Eschatology is the study of the end times; the last days as it is called in the Bible. In the Bible there are two ways of referring to eschatology used by Jesus. The first way that Jesus refers to eschatology is in the words the “last days” (John 6:39). The original Greek word used for  “last” is ἔσχατος [eschatos /es·khat·os/]. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon defines it as: “1 extreme. 1a last in time or in place. 1b last in a series of places. 1c last in a temporal succession. 2 the last. 2a last, referring to time. 2b of space, the uttermost part, the end, of the earth. 2c of rank, grade of worth, last i.e. lowest.”[1]

The second way that Jesus refers to eschatology is in the words “the kingdom of God” (Matthew 3:2). The original Greek word used for kingdom is βασιλεία [basileia /bas·il·i·ah/]. Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon defines it as: “1 royal power, kingship, dominion, rule. 1a not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom. 1b of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah. 1c of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom. 2 a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king. 3 used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah.”[2]

The “etymology” of the word eschatology in its narrow sense deals with “death, judgment, and the end.”[3] In its wider sense of the word, eschatology deals with “all concerns that one might have in view of the end, death, and judgment.” So as a result, all that deals with life and its values is eschatological. In Mark 2:1-12 Jesus heals a paralytic man and says, “Your sins have been forgiven.” Jesus’ statement to the man, that his sins were forgiven, is eschatological since forgiveness of sin is a concern today as well as the future, on judgment day. The man’s decision to believe in Jesus was made in the present, and at the same time it was a decision that was “valid for the eschaton.”[4]

Jesus is the greatest authority on eschatology because, after all, Jesus is God and eschatology is the study of God bringing an end to the world as we know it and ushering in the kingdom of God. Hence, when undertaking a study of eschatology, it would be intellectually dishonest not to take into account Jesus’ teaching on the subject.

So what did Jesus teach about eschatology? These series of posts are an attempt to answer this all important question by referring to the writings of several different scholars published in various scholarly journals.

In order to accomplish a study like this, the student must start with the Old Testament to gain an understanding of eschatology as viewed by those who lived and worshiped God during that time. One important reason to start with the Old Testament is that it was the Bible that Jesus used and quoted from. Next would be to look at the words of Jesus Himself about the last days and the kingdom of God as it is found in the New Testament.

Kingdom of God in the Old Testament

Many people think that the Old Testament is nothing more than a compilation of stories dealing with the history of the nation of Israel. While this may be in some sense true, it is much more than that. It is the story of a God who has sovereignly worked throughout the history of the world to fulfill His promise that He made to Abraham—a promise that is fulfilled in the New Testament by Jesus.

There was no New Testament when Jesus walked on the earth, so in order to understand Jesus’ understanding of eschatology it is imperitave that this study begin in the Old Testament with the relevant passages that are related to eschatology. It is in this way that the reader can better understand what Jesus’ mission was in relation to eschatology and why He says what He says about the last days.

From the Beginning in chapter three in the book of Genesis, the reader is presented with a problem. Satan tricked Adam and Eve and sin entered into the world. God then tells the serpent that in the end he (the serpent) will lose: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” From that point God puts into place His eschatological plan to save His creation from the effects of sin.

Understood nationally

The resources that help us understand the expectations of the Jewish people at the time when Jesus came into the world are from the intertestamental period.[5] During this period the nation of Israel experienced a time of turbulence that includes being ruled over by other nations and the nation’s uprisings (conflicts of rebellion) against these rulers. So it comes as no surprise that the Jewish people expected that when the kingdom of God finally did arrive, there would be a restoration of the nation of Israel.[6] On this hope of national restoration Wright writes:

So Jewish hopes at the time of Jesus, then, focused primarily on the restoration of Israel, with the closely attached implications for the nations. The restoration of Israel and the ingathering of the nations were seen in eschatological terms as the final great act of God, the Day of the Lord. The two things would be part of the same final event that would usher in the new age, but the restoration of Israel was logically and in a sense chronologically expected first.[7]

In the Old Testament the hope of restoration can be found in “Jeremiah’s ‘Book of Consolation’ (Jeremiah 30-34), in Ezekiel’s vision of the new land and temple (Ezekiel 40-48), in the soaring vistas of new creation and redemption in Isaiah 40-55.”[8] This future restoration would mean “peace and universal rule for the nations (Zechariah 9.9ff).”[9]

The Messianic kingdom

Jesus understood the kingdom of God in the Old Testament differently—as a Messianic kingdom. Jesus consistently referred to Himself as the Son of Man, found in Daniel chapter seven. In this vision Daniel writes that the Son of Man was coming with the clouds and He was presented to the Ancient of Days (v. 13). He continues to write that dominion of a kingdom was given to the Son of Man where all men of all languages will serve Him, His dominion will be everlasting, and it will not be destroyed (v. 14). He also used language found in Isaiah in several places in the New Testament. Heinitz writes:

In His home synagog, after reading from Is. 61:Iff., He said that that Scripture had been fulfilled in their hearing (Luke 4:21). Moreover, when the disciples of John the Baptist came to ask whether Jesus indeed was the One “who is to come,” Jesus responded by referring to the blind, the lame, and the lepers whom He had healed (Matt. 11:5), and He used the language of Isaiah (29:18; 35:4-6; 6l:lff.).[10]

Jesus not only understood the kingdom as Messianic, but He also proclaimed that it was present and yet in the future.


[1] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001).

[2] Ibid.

[3] Kenneth Heinitz, “Eschatology in the Teachings of Jesus” Concordia Theological Monthly Vol. 41, No. 8 (1970), 451.

[4] Ibid., 451.

[5] Christopher J H. Wright, Knowing Jesus: Through the Old Testament (London: Marshall Pickering, 1992), 137.

[6] Ibid., 139.

[7] Ibid., 140.

[8] Ibid., 139.

[9] Ibid., 139.

[10] Ibid., 453.

Advertisements

About Peter van Brussel

Peter is the Director of For His Glory Prison Ministry. Peter holds a BA in Pastoral Studies from Southwestern College, a MA in Theological Studies, and a M.Div. from Liberty University. Peter is married to Niki, and has two children. He has been saved by grace and seeks to share the Gospel with those who have been forgotten.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s