Eschatology and Church History Part I -- By: Earle E. Cairns

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 115:458 (Apr 1958)
Article: Eschatology and Church History Part I
Author: Earle E. Cairns

Eschatology and Church History
Part I

Earle E. Cairns

[Earle E. Cairns is Professor of History and Department Chairman at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.]

[Reprinted with permission from the Wheaton College Faculty Bulletin, June, 1957.]

Because eschatology deals with the things which are connected with the termination of human history and the beginning of the eternal order and because church history deals with the actions of God and man in history, the two are intimately associated. Indeed, the themes of the Jewish restoration to Palestine, the advent of Christ, the first resurrection, the Antichrist, the tribulation, the millennium, the second resurrection of the wicked, the great judgment, and the introduction of the eternal divine economy, unlike the views of the neo-orthodox who place them outside history, are all in history.

It must also be borne in mind that the events relating to the final acts in the drama of history are rooted in Jewish prophecy rather than pagan literature. The evangelical does not believe that Biblical eschatology is the result of historical conditioning of the Jews to pagan ideas which they supposedly borrowed from such people as the Persians. In contrast, eschatology is the result of the historical objective revelation to the Jewish prophets of the will of God concerning the end of history. Amos believed the Lord would do nothing without revealing “his secrets unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Eschatology seeks to provide the answer to how the conflict of good and evil in history will end. The ancients deplored the decadent present and looked to the idealized past for their golden age. Such was the

approach of Hesiod and Confucius. Others, such as Marx, looked to the near future and present for the ideal order which would be consummated by human effort. The Christian church has always thought of its golden age as a future kingdom in which the will of God would be done on earth. Contemporary postmillennialism looks to the development of a kingdom in which Christ’s ethics will be realized by an evolutionary process through the efforts of the church after which Christ will come. The amillennialist and the premillennialist are not so optimistic, but look for the kingdom to be realized at the supernatural, cataclysmic coming of Christ.

In the light of the above discussion the interest in eschatology shown by the church in various eras of its history is worthy of study. The preparation of this article convinced the writer that the interest of the church in eschatology is in direct ratio to its internal circumstances and to th...

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