The study of Christian eschatology has been an on-going process for centuries. Eschatology, or the study of last things, has both intrigued and astonished theologians and Christians across the world. The common conception for Christians is that life continues after death, where the soul of the deceased walks among fields and beings of beauty, a true enjoyment in the after-life. They believe that here they will meet the Almighty God, and it is here that the decision is made between heaven and hell. Scientists agree that one-day the existing universe will end, either by collapse or decay. With humans using the once considered "abundant" resources such as oil and various metals within the Earth, many Christians are becoming alarmed that the end maybe near. Scientists believe, however, that the Earth still has millions if not billions of years left.
With this in mind, a common notion is that because an apocalyptic event will not happen in our lifetime, why should we be concerned with what resources we use? Nevertheless, eschatology and the end of the world is becoming a widely studied subject. With books being published worldwide, people can gain a better understanding for what eschatology means and how they can be affected by it. One may gain more insight by looking at some of these books, such as John Galvin's "Faith and Future"; "The God of Hope and the End of the World", written by John Polkinghorne; O.F.M. Zachary Hayes's "Visions of a Future"; excerpts from Craig Evans and Peter Flint's "Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls" and Lisa McMinn's "Y2K, The Apocalypse, and Evangical Christianity".
John Galvin's "Faith and Future" analyzes three different interpretations of eschatology from a symposium given to mark the inauguration of the Pio Cardinal Jaghi Chair for Visiting Professors of Scripture and Theology, which was given at the Pontifical College Josephinum. The three speakers, Walter Kasper, Gerald O'Collins and Raymond E. Brown gave an overview of eschatological themes common today.
Kasper's ideas begin with that although freedom has been with humans for centuries, we have just begun to realize this within the last two hundred years. Because of this freedom, more changes have taken place within the societies we live in and the atmosphere that controls our lives. This freedom, which is constantly abused, may be the end of life, as we know it. With wars and violence continuing, innocent citizens, nature and the sources of our lives are being affected. Kasper identifies some factors for the distress as: "a catastrophic feeling of meaningless, an erosion of fundamental values and a complete lack of basic consensus." (Galvin, p.8) A very important question that Kasper addresses is do the apocalyptic ideas found in the Bible signify any meaning to people living in the twentieth century? Because of the before mentioned fact that the world has suffered massive change in the past two-hundred years, can anything stated in the Bible about the end of the world be taken seriously and if so what evidence is there? (Galvin pp. 10-11)
Gerald O'Collins main focus is on love and that without it humans cannot live. He examines many different notions of love and what it means within eschatology. He has developed eight characteristics of love and from these characteristics we can better understand why Christians believe in the after life and live their lives in good faith. The eight characteristics are: 1.) Love is creative, it gives life and brings into existence what is not created; 2.) reason alone can never account for the choice and intensity of love; 3.) love accepts and approves whomever it loves; 4.) the redemptive quality of love; 5.) real love is self-relevant and different; 6.) love reconciles and unites; 7.) the parable of the father ends with love; 8.) we love what is beautiful. A better connection can be found within the 5th characteristic, real love is self-relevant. He quotes Jesus by saying, "He...
Bibliography: Evans, C.A. (Ed.), Flint, P.W. (Ed.). (1997). Eschatology, Messianism, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Galvin, J. (Ed.). (1994). Faith and the Future. New York: Paulist Press
Hayes, Z. (1989). Visions of a Future: A study of Christian Eschatology. Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier
McMinn, L. (2001). Y2K, The Apocalypse, and Evangelical Christianity: The Role of Eschatological Belief in Church Responses. Wheaton College: EBSCO Publishing.
Polkinghorne, J. (2002). The God of Hope and the End of the World. London: Yale University Press.
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