And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.Luke 1:66-80, ESV
What is Eschatology? This term refers to the beliefs of a Christian about the end of redemptive history. Eschatology is one of the major divisions that you’ll find in almost any systematic theology book. There is something very peculiar about Eschatology in comparison to other major topics of Christian study. What is so peculiar about it?
Let’s compare the topic of Christology (the study of Christ) with Eschatology (the study of last things). There is a very specific orthodox view on who Jesus is. The very earliest records available to us of Christians after the time of the apostles, like Ignatius and Irenaeus, reveal that our Christology has not evolved over time. The scriptural account of the person and work of Christ was maintained and defended throughout Christian history. Orthodox Christians has always confessed the humanity and deity of Christ, His virgin birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, glorious ascension, and His future return for final judgement. That short list of doctrinal points has been formally codified in the Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, Athanasian Creed, and the great english protestant confessions of faith from the seventeenth century. All of this is to help us realize there is a very specific and even narrow Christian view of Jesus.
Eschatology has understandably not received the same amount of attention and definition from the Christian church throughout its history. This should not give us the impression that Eschatology is unimportant. God forbid. There actually is a very specific Eschatological point that has been maintained by all Christians everywhere at all times and it is part of the Apostle’s Creed, “he will come to judge the living and the dead” and “the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.” Nearly all Eschatological points that are not uniquely connected to Christology are simply not definitional of a Christian. Let me put this in another way. A person may rightly be called a Christian who believes and confesses the aforementioned Christology, but if you were to gather a dozen of these Christians in a room to discuss Eschatology they might all have slightly different viewpoints. How is that possible? Eschatology is important, but it is not definitional to your Christianity.
At John the Baptist’s birth, his father regained the ability to speak. Immediately upon his tongue being “unloosed” he was filled with the Spirit of God and began to prophesy about the coming Messiah and his newborn son as the Messiah’s forerunner. As Zechariah was rehearsing God’s promises made to Israel through David and Abraham he ascribed an end (eschatology) to which God had intended His promises to lead. His prophetic eschatological word was this, “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” God’s Spirit working in and through Zechariah gives us this insight. God’s plan of redemption was not merely to forgive our sin and guilt for this life, but also to lead us into everlasting life where we will live holy and righteous lives in God’s presence without the terror of His judgment. We might say this is the goal of God in giving us His Son. Redemption has eternal consequences or a better choice of words would be eternal blessings. God’s glorious act is performed once and the effect is carried through all eternity. Praise God!