Eschatology In The Pentecostal Church
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The doctrine of eschatology like other Christian doctrines is usually understood in various ways by various scholars because of its various implications. Some scholars consider it as a matter of historical phenomenon of Christ's own days of humanity. While others suggest it as a fulfilment of prophecies of Jewish messianic Lordship of the Son of Man as was prophesised by Old Testament prophets .Most of them opine it as a matter related to end days of this age. But I am to focus on the returning of Jesus Christ's in the light of Christ's own teaching and the implications of his teachings for the doctrine of eschatology in the Pentecostal church. These implications may be:
1:- Undetermined time of his return.
2:- Signs of his return.
3:- Coming of Son of Man on clouds OR rapture.
4:- A thousand year's reign of Christ with his saints.
5:- Persecution and tribulations of the believers
6:- Battle between Jesus' army and devil's army.
7:- Final judgment of all the nations and tribes of the world.
DEFINITION OF PAROUSIA:-
Doctrine of eschatology is often substituted with word Parousia. The word Parousia can be defined as: 'The expected return or the second coming of Jesus Christ in which he will announce the last days and the final judgment by God of humanity'.
DEFFERNT VIEWS OF SCHOLARS REGARDING THE RETURN OF CHRIST:-
It is noticeable that some scholars consider the second coming of Christ as an interim phenomenon between Christ's death, resurrection and his second coming. But according to Rudolf Boltzmann's view point, in Jesus' mind there was to be no interval between his death and his second coming. He further argued that Jesus' eschatology is essential to grasp the right knowledge of his life. Albert Schweitzer like Rudolf emphasised that it was supposed by Christ during his own life. He insisted: 'This is also true with respect to his view that, in Jesus' mind, his death and the parousia of the Son of Man were simultaneous'. Similarly, C.H.Dodd opposed the idea of interim between Christ's death, resurrection and second coming on the clouds. Moreover He highlighted that it is evident from the Acts and Pauline letters that kingdom of God is already very much in power. He reiterated that it is clear from Christ's own teachings that his kingdom is already with them. He said: 'Jesus brought the kingdom and was the kingdom; the whole complex of events comprising Jesus' ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection themselves constitute the coming of the kingdom'.
The comprehensive picture of eschatology is clearly visible in the synoptic gospels in Mathew: 24, Mark: 13 and Luke: 21. Synoptic Gospels presents Jesus as the Son of Man who will return soon to take the believers and judge the world as is also written in (1thess 4:16-17).But these passages of gospels have been wrongly interpreted as is usually said that these passages of gospels describe those events that had occurred in Jesus' own life. But the reference to 'some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom' (Mathew10:28) must not be understood as related to the coming of Christ rather this passage clarify the time span of forty years between the time of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem and temple. Furthermore Mathew 10:23 cannot be considered as concerning the final returning of Jesus Christ; the indications to the second coming of the Son of Man and the final judgment of the world are always emphasized and re-emphasized with the note of delay. This note of delay is again and again highlighted in the parables of 'my master is delayed', 'the bridegroom was delayed'. According to some scholars, although the signs of Jesus' second coming have even already come true in his resurrection, yet his resurrection cannot be taken for his second coming. As a great theologian as well a reformer asserted that Christ will come again.' Calvin affirmed that Christ would come again, and the renovation of the world had," in a manner "already begun, in Christ's glorified humanity'.
Second coming of Christ like his first coming was prophesied by the Old Testament prophets, especially by Daniel and Isaiah. Daniel prophesized:' In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like son of man, coming with clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence'.(Daniel 7:13)The second coming of Jesus as a an event of future is also evident from the signs of his second coming.
UNDETERMINED TIME OF SECOND COMING OF CHRIST:-
Time of second coming of Jesus is unknown to Humanity because Jesus did not mention exactly when he would return to take his people. It is only known to God the Father because of his unlimited knowledge, sovereignty and omnipotence. Jesus said:' No one knows about the day or hour ,not even the angels in the heaven , nor the Son but only the Father'.(Math.24:36) Suddenness of Christ's return is explained in the synoptic gospels in line with the days of Noah , an unexpected time when people were doing normal activities of life like now-a-days.
SIGNS OF CHRIST' S SECOND COMING:-
Many religio-political , socio-economic and natural signs can be taken into account as for as second coming of Christ is concerned. The prophecy of future catastrophes like famines, earthquakes, pestilences, rising of one nation against another nation, kingdom against another kingdom, economic depressions, particularly the destruction of the Holy city of Jerusalem is stressed upon in the synoptic gospels. Pentecostal churches attach much importance to these signs as the eschatological signs of end days. It is evident from the daily happenings of the world: natural disasters in one part or another part of the world. Economic depression and recession throughout the world is another major factor which is significant to the second coming of Christ. Famines are visible in the world today. In the world Press Report, Michael Ignatieff wrote:' Famine has come to Africa. Again, twenty-six million people are at risk in Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Malawi, Angola, and Mozambique. In all these places ....civil war conspires with drought in wiping out the human race'.
World religions and human values are preferred to Christian and spiritual values because false prophets and false Christ, as was prophesized by Christ, are dominant in this world. Nations and kingdoms are seen at daggers drawn in today's world as western nations are fighting against Eastern nations to establish peace in the world. Nuclear race has started which may lead to third world war. Rapture is also considered essential in the Pentecostal church as being a sign of Jesus coming. 'Rapture is the term commonly used to designate the catching up of Christians at the second coming'.
SECOND COMING OF CHRIST AND ITS PENTECOSTAL IMPLICATIONS:-
Firstly, Living believers will be taken up by Christ to receive him.
Secondly, the Devil will be trapped for a thousand years and those who died in Christ will be raised to rule over the world with Christ for a thousand years. It is very significant here that some Premillenials are not agreed with the Pentecostals along with Seventh Day Adventists as well as Millenarians on the issue of a thousand years reign of Christ.
Thirdly, Satan will be released after a thousand year's rule of Christ and he will rebel against the dominion of Christ to deceive the nations and persuade them to war against God. 'When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released'. Persecution of the church must be occurred and borne by the believers before the consummation of the world. 'The tribulations will be a time of unparalleled horror for all those left behind to live through the final seven years of this age'. But Satan's rebellion will be destroyed and the dead will be raised to face the final judgment of God, established through Christ who will defeat the Devil along with his armies.
Finally, there will be final judgment in which Christ will separate believers from the non-believers as sheep from the goats. Those who had been martyred for His name will be privileged to share the throne with Christ. They will rule over the other nations and God will rule over them forever. Every individual from all the nations is to be judged by God in accordance with their treatment with His disciples as well as their works. As Gray notes: 'the main point of the parables about his kingdom is the acceptance or the rejection of the Christian faith'.Saints will also get a varied degree reward in return of their service for God and His kingdom.
It can be said that although the claims of some scholars as well as sings regarding the second coming of Christ has provisionally been proved during and after the life of Christ, yet stances taken by giants of theology cannot be ignored that second coming of Jesus is a phenomenon of future which is evident from its various eschatological implications. Signs of return of Christ which occur at present days are leading this world to its consummation as well as to the restoration of the original orders of the earth and heaven which are called new earth and new heaven.
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