What is Eschatology? - Eschatology is a derivative of the Greek word eschatos meaning the end, final, destiny and the logy meaning the study of. The oxford dictionary (2016) definition is the theological study of death, judgment and the final destiny of mankind and the soul.
Two main thoughts of eschatology separate into; the first being the end of human life, immortality its soul and reincarnation, the second is general eschatology which is concerned with the return of the messiah, heaven and hell, judgment and resurrection. Within this is a definition argument around Eschatology and if there is a wider context to include social systems, exploitation and marginalisation.
In the twentieth century, Schwarz's (2000) used the wording eschatology to describe a broader sense of the end of the world by incorporating western social systems, values and world views,” He believed the manmade Time of Tribulation was social structure, exploitation and marginalisation. Schwarz also believed Eschatology also is determined by and determines our understanding of the humanity of body and soul, and value systems and worldviews”. (Schwarz 2000). Wager (1982) also uses the broad definition of eschatology to define a more encompassing end to civilisation and life “Eschatology seeks and analyzes answers to the question of what will happen at the end—the end of time, the end of man, the end of civilization”.
Philosophers have researched the role Western society played in the study of eschatology. Heidegger a German Philosopher (1975) believed “Being in itself is inherently eschatological”, meaning that understanding human life as a linear journey, is within the context of eschatological thinking. The “connectedness” of life can only be understood through “meaning.” Therefore, there must be some understanding of a whole which is constituted from the past (memory) and future (potentialities) (Guignon 1998:132-133) in (Dilthey 1962). This wider thinking also collects the purpose and meaning within personal lives and suggests eschatology is embraced as humanity tries to fulfil its purpose.
Western society is predominantly of Christian faith and the perspective of Christianity is one born of apocalyptical thinking. Christianity was born 'announcing its imminent doom' (Crowe 2006:130) Western media is flooded with the concept of apocalyptic events, Heaven and Hell and more recently global warming and earth degradation. Eschatology is different for every culture and belief system for this assignment Eschatology will start with the time of tribulation within the Bible.
Chapter 2 – The Beginning of the End: Events of Tribulation
Both the Old and new testament pertain to a Time of Tribulation such has never been known, this is a natural or manmade disaster of great magnitude. Jesus said 'There will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever will be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake, those days will be shortened.' [Mt 24:21-22]
Christian scholars believe the time of tribulation in scripture will descend in Three catastrophic judgments(seals, trumpets and bowls) and thus signs of the Time of Tribulation : The Seven Seals that were used to seal the documents of revelation held by God (Revelation 5.1) The first four seals represent the release of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse war, pestilence, famine and death, the seals end with an earthquake causing devastation and an astronomical time of upheaval when the first Trumpet sounds.
Daniel 9:24-27 states the time of tribulation will last for 7 years and is crucially separated into two parts lasting 3.5 years each. The time of Tribulation is estimated to see a death toll of approximately 80% of people and although God is capable of the destruction of man immediately, he needs this time to save man’s soul. https://biblefaq247.com/the-time-of-tribulation-part-1/(2017)
Matt. 24:24; 2 Thes. 2:8-10 discuss the occurrence of great magic and supernatural phenomenon in this time of tribulation as never seen before in the history of man, as God and Satan battle for the souls of man. Satan for a time will inhabit the earth in the guise of God and will lead men to their deaths as his reign continues. Within the first half of The Time of Tribulation, the antichrist is assassinated but returns to life a wealthy and powerful figure who will reign the Christian church and effect great influence over the western world. Whilst the seven seals are said to take approx. 25% of the world population at the 3.5-year mark The anti-Christ protects Israel as they receive the temple mount returned to them, this agreement is then broken and he persecutes them in the “abomination of desolation” (Matt. 24:15). The anti-Christ is removed from heaven for 1260 days confined to earth with Gods people, he causes untold persecution and death to the world with another 55% if the population persecuted.
The seven trumpets blow at each stage which comprises the rise of the anti-Christ whom will bring war, starvation, plague and the death of Christians (Revelation 6:1-2,3-4,5-6,7-8,9-11) The Seven Trumpets are equated to times of ecological phenomenon hail, fire, the darkening of the sun and moon. Revelation 11:15 'And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.'' The seven Bowls follow the final trumpet, and this becomes Gods wrath on the world as the Anti - Christ inhabited the kingdom on earth with wickedness and those who do not believe in God will die.
Although a focus for many religions is the chronology of when Jesus will rise again and if this is during or after The Time of Tribulation remains questionable.
The writer will only touch on the differing trains of thought on the second coming as it is outside of the scope of this paper. However, it is useful to understand that many beliefs are held regarding The Second coming of Christ and for these faiths, this is the main area for argument. Each faith tries to ascertain how bad the suffering will be for each religious sect.
Post- terbulism believe that Christians will embrace the suffering through the rein of the antichrist, they will suffer for their religions and belief in God. And for this reason, the post-tribulationists believe Christ will not return until the end of the tribulation. Pre -turbulist belief Christ will come at the beginning of the time of tribulation and protect his followers, Hogan (2018) categorically states pre-turbulists have been misled with the chronology of Gods raptures and Christianity will suffer The Time of tribulation (Hogan 2018) Premillennialists believe: “Christ's return will coincide with the time of great tribulation.” And thus, Christians will die for their beliefs in God.
Chapter 3 - The Timing of Tribulation
Over many years, a methodology has been used to try and define the time when the world will end. One methodology used was looking at ancient civilisations for patterns that may be remerging which would be similar to the signs of historical pre societal collapse and Tribulation.
At the University of Connecticut and evolutionary anthropologist Turchin (2010) believed an equation that he had been using to look at cycles of predatory and prey animals may be adapted to look at the cycles of the rise and fall of ancient civilisation his view is that oscillation of populations can equate to ecological changes with animal and man. His thesis works on the premise oscillation of society population and how the similarities of the distance between the marginalised became wider and more unstable. Turchin applied this equation to historical data in the late 1990s to link social factors such as health, inequalities, political stability and wealth. He found some worrying re-occurring cycles in society today which may be predicting the end of Western civilisation. Turchin 2010 believes that to date the world’s richest 1% owns half of the wealth as a “top predator”, in comparison to the gap between everyone else being, “the prey”. He believes this distance has been growing since 2008 and so the cycle of the end of Western civilisation has begun. Turchin states that he is unable to predict what will happen or how it will happen, but his cycle equations only predict a large-scale force incident of a catastrophic nature. (spinney 2018). Turchin (2010) believes that this is a 50-year cycle which is due to reach its finality in 2020 after a turbulent period of unrest (Spinney 2018)
Cole-Turner (2012) compared Hal Lindsey (1981) and Ray Kurzweil (1998) who described two separate theories of oscillation of society and nature that could predict future events to forecast the future of the cosmos, world and civilisation vs Armageddon. Although the works were very different the similarities led to a secular and religiose countdown of just one generation before the end of time.
The second coming of the messiah is said to be imminent with the Jewish messiah clock uniquely counting the years down to redemption. Vilna Gaon 18th century Judaic scholar spent his life working towards the ideal time of the second coming of the Messiah. Gaon used Hebrew and Jewish sources to calculate the second coming. He used the six days of creation and equated this to 1000 years in time for every day “For one thousand years in Your [God’s] eyes are but a day that has passed.” (Psalms 90:4) the Jewish clock today is at 5779 of the 6000-year finality of the second coming Eliyahu Berkowitz, (August 17, 2015)
Whether The second coming is before, during or after Jewish religion believes the end is near.
Chapter 4 - Man-Made Tribulation: The Industrial Revolution
Eschatology and society- Societal structure has become a complex matrix one which may be the cause to the end of days. The Man-made collapse of Western civilisation is a concept scientist, Theologians and Historians have been philosophising about for many years as a beginning to eschatology and specifically The Time of Tribulation. Scientist and Historians look back at the collapse of civilisations such as the Roman Empire. This historic view is to see how the collapse was a direct response to societies actions, poor leadership, environmental degradation and climate change, very similar to western civilisation today. Kemp (2019). Futurism eschatology describes parallels between historical events and historical societal collapse and wagers this against current events to predict the time of tribulation, the thesis is ' that at a certain given time the prophecies will be fulfilled during a global time of chaos known as the Great Tribulation ”. (Missler, 2000).
“The Industrial Revolution was a historical period which spanned between the 18th and 19th centuries. It was a period when urbanisation and industrialisation took place in the predominantly agrarian and rural societies in Europe and America” (Wong 2018). The industrial revolution was meant to catapult western life into financial productivity and an easier lifestyle however the compromise was the loss of so many benefits in the environment and the community. The destruction of the preindustrial revolutionary structure of society came at a great cost to the Earth's environment, it saw an increase in environmental degradation and the impact on the human condition. (Mc Lamb 2013) The industrial revolution was a catalyst to the environmental abuse of the planet via exploitation of fossil fuels, trees and pollution and this rise in productivity came at the cost of health, welfare and happiness of the lower class.
Patrick Colquhourn head of Policing, in 1814 welcomed the industrial revolution as an entrepreneur and British contemporary thinker, not only in a position of power but a supporter of the Prime minister and cabinet, he maximised profits for English higher class and criminalised monetary crimes by hanging. He opposed the end to slavery in which England as the hierarchy and his colleagues would lose profit by having to pay for a workforce and so the fight for greed and power grew. (Linebaugh 2015)
Many would suggest the increase of productivity through industry and technology gave society the choice of how to live, depending on financial circumstances however this is” subjected to its context—viewing from the perspective of the global economy, we are marching towards advancement. Conversely, viewing from the perspective of global climate, we are striving towards displacement.” (Wong 2018) The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluding that there are more than 95% probability that human activities have taken a toll on our planet in the past 50 years, which leads us to global warming.” the significance of this is an increase in frequency and damaging heatwaves, storms causing untold damage , higher oceans and floods. The world population will suffer disproportionately and with disparity, for those who cannot adapt to suffering the greatest impact. (IPCC 2018)
Boyers (1998 )cites that Marx and Engels (1848) wrote a Conflict Theory in 1848 around the societal led destruction of western society , The Communist Manifesto stated that capitalism, like previous socioeconomic systems, would inevitably produce internal tensions leading to its destruction ', 'a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large.'
Many Marxist believed this explosion of mass production caused greater gaps between the rich and poor and the exploitation of fossil fuels would lead to a historical collapse, Chris Harman stated: 'There is still a compulsive quality to its prose as it provides insight after insight into the society in which we live, where it comes from and where it’s going to. It is still able to explain, as mainstream economists and sociologists cannot, today's world of recurrent wars and repeated economic crisis, of hunger for hundreds of millions on the one hand and 'overproduction' on the other. “(Harmen 2010) Harmen 2010 deducts that in a political world of power and money vs the working class, still tribulation of great magnitude is going unchecked, as the rich continue to be comfortably ignorant and the poor/working class are held accountable. Marginalisation has been highlighted through research and studies of low-class social groups within society especially in Third World countries and how they are vulnerable just by nature of the systems that rule them. Socio-environmental changes leave the marginalised without options of how they live and even leads them to occupy hazardous areas such as slums, high-risk areas of weather changes such as earthquake, tornadoes pollution and tsunamis. These inequalities limit choices of these groups,' leading them to degrade landscapes and occupy hazardous environments, constraining their abilities to cope with environmental changes' (Blaikie and Brookfield 1987; Robbins 2004) Much of this marginalisation can also now be applied to Western society and not just the third world countries. As western lower and working-class occupy housing which is dangerous to health and sanitation, the homeless who are vulnerable to weather changes and starvation.
Britain is one of the most affluent countries in the EU however 2.1 million children live in poverty. 10.9 million people are ‘poor’ in Britain in 2008/9, London the most unequal place to work in the UK, 2.2 million pensioners are living in poverty and at risk of hypothermia and illness. And disgustingly Britain has the highest percentage of the population living in poverty compared to other EU countries. (Rowntree 2010)
The majority of the vulnerable are unable to adapt to world climate change and they live every day in local time of tribulation.
The proof that not only did the Industrial revolution catapult the west into a Time of Tribulation, but this man-made horror has impacted the ecological and environmental health of the planet and the survival of man as a fact-based argument of undeniable science.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascended out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them (Revelation 11.7)
The choices society has made have been led by a capitalist hierarchy who use their power to pass legislation and law. This leadership has led society from stewardship view of Christianity to greed and wealth focused lives and this started the paradoxical journey towards societal collapse as within the Roman Empire. The Beast “represents religious, cultural and economic powers within society which work to compel people to give their allegiance to the state or governmental powers” (Wilcox 1975)
Within scripture, scholars speculate of “The Beast 'Anti-Christ 'is a representation of certain social injustices, such as exploitation, distribution of wealth via an unfair social class system, which inevitably is constructed via politics, power and inequality and this is the metaphorical Beast. Michael Wilcock (1975) states 'Religion, indeed is too narrow an identification of the second beast. He is, in modern parlance, the ideology-whether religious, philosophical, or political-which 'gives breath to' any human social structure organized independently of God.' Ellul (1987)
However, critics such as Idealism eschatologists views The book of revelations as a literal interpretation of scripture. Taubes (2009) stated, 'idealist eschatology came about as Renaissance thinkers began to doubt that the Kingdom of Heaven had been established on earth Rather than the