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End Times Perspectives – Eschatology – Premillennialism – Apocalypticism

Are we at the End, the Beginning, the Beginning of the End – or somewhere in-between?

By Denis Korn

Once again I will share what I believe to be a very thought provoking and timely article.  Many of the points raised are an excellent starting place to help stimulant discussion and contemplation.

I realize that some of this material may be a bit “academic” and some of the terminology may be unfamiliar, however there is much here for serious reflection and study.  Posts such as this one relate to preparedness by pointing out some of the philosophical and historical background to the contemporary cultural and religious  influences that many people have as they prepare for a variety of potential challenging scenarios.

This post is the conclusion for a Masters Thesis I wrote 12 years ago at California State University Sacramento – with the rather academic title of Christian Eschatology, Premillennialism, and Apocalypticism in Contemporary American Culture. Essentially it is a study of end times perspectives both religious and secular and its influence on our current culture.

Contemporary events have stimulated a great deal of speculation as to where our culture is in the context of history and prophesy.  I believe this conclusion to be very relevant today – so I am pleased to share it with you.  It is a bit lengthy, so I have begun with a few excerpts to pique your interest.

~ From the standpoint of the present, the allure and hope of the future is never static.  As events unfold throughout one’s life both inwardly and on the world’s stage, the yearnings and details of a fulfilling future move in and out of focus like a photographer preparing to take a picture of an object in the distance.

~ As much as some Christians strive for a distinctiveness, consistency, and certainty in their explanation of millennial events, it has not come to pass.

~ Thought has dominion over behavior, and apocalyptic thoughts can produce apocalyptic actions.  At the same time utopian and hopeful thinking can result in encouraging and useful conduct.

~ Although Christian, secular interests, and other religious perspectives are often opposed to each other on many differing fronts, there is a mutual bonding in certain present-day apocalyptic conclusions.

~ It appears the long hoped for reformations in the affairs of men have still eluded our civilization.

~ Some contend that the signs are pointing to imminent apocalypse and vindication of the premillennial view in the short term, while others contend that the able communicators of premillennial doctrine can manipulate the meanings of signs or any geopolitical crisis to justify whatever interpretation is desired and appropriate.

~ It is possible that for many standing so close to the edge of the apocalypse for so long has taken its toll.

~ The question arises—is this just another opportunity to investigate a historical-cultural phenomenon brought about through scenarios of disaster and unrest, or are the events and conditions on the planet today satisfying the circumstances required for a truly significant transformation in the course of human affairs?

~ Scholars both Christian and secular with years of study, with mastery and fluency of all relevant languages, and with the resources of great institutions of learning, and colleagues with extraordinary minds at their disposal continue to disagree.

~ What is the common man with limited knowledge and resources to conclude?  With so many options how can one truly discern a cosmology that is relevant and true?

First of all you must understand this,

That in the last days scoffers will come,

scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying,

“Where is the promise of his coming?

For ever since our ancestors died,

All things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!”

2 Peter 3: 3, 4 (NRSV)

Thesis Conclusion

From the standpoint of the present, the allure and hope of the future is never static.  As events unfold throughout one’s life both inwardly and on the world’s stage, the yearnings and details of a fulfilling future move in and out of focus like a photographer preparing to take a picture of an object in the distance.  So it is with the Christian who hopes for and anticipates the millennium, and the secularist, Native American, New Age believer, and the devotees of other religions who contemplate the world’s destiny.  All look to the future with only the past and present as a guide and with a perception dependent upon each one’s unique experience.

Eschatology and apocalypticism are areas of study filled with variation and subjectivity.  As much as some Christians strive for a distinctiveness, consistency, and certainty in their explanation of millennial events, it has not come to pass.  The differing viewpoints are far apart as to the specifics on timing, human involvement in outcomes, and the condition of society as a whole.  While there is agreement on an ending to earthly events and the eventual judgment and reign of Christ, everything occurring until then is open to diversity of interpretation.  Even though there is not a consensus on the specifics, the conclusions that one reaches concerning the impact of future events on humanity and culture have a very definite and profound influence on individuals and society as a whole.

This influence ranges from the decisions made by powerful leaders in government, education, and business, to the attitudes taken into daily life by individuals who are parents, friends, and co-workers.  Thought has dominion over behavior, and apocalyptic thoughts can produce apocalyptic actions.  At the same time utopian and hopeful thinking can result in encouraging and useful conduct.

As one surveys the events occurring in the world today from an eschatological and apocalyptic perspective, there are essential choices to be made.  Whatever might have occurred in the past and no matter how many generations have stood on similar ground, humanity once again finds itself at a significant crossroad to the future.  The attention given today to millennial, apocalyptic, and humanitarian issues attest to the importance of these themes.

Is civilization degenerating at an apocalyptic rate with or without demonic assistance, or is civilization just going through the valley ready to climb up a new mountain to a glorious horizon?

Although Christian, secular interests, and other religious perspectives are often opposed to each other on many differing fronts, there is a mutual bonding in certain present-day apocalyptic conclusions.  For the Christian premillennialist, Catholic apocalypticist, Native American, New Age believer, and secular apocalypticist, that communal ground exists within contemporary prophetic expression, which contains common strands of interpretation that tread through shared predictions.  The conditions extant throughout the world that for many Christians are the source of anxiety and fear stimulate a response that births apocalyptic and premillennial prophecy.  And with that fear comes the need for hope, which is provided in the premillennial system.

For many, human effort and time will produce fruit and an opportunity for a peaceful and harmonious world community.  Technology, science, global communication, education, and mutual beneficial interests will bring about transformation and universal charity.  For the Christian postmillennialist or secular utopianist it is time to get to work and not be so negative and defeatist.  The postmillennialist and amillennialist does not look upon the worldly influences as having more power than the sovereignty of God.

Given the state of political and social debate in our contemporary culture, the optimism expressed in the late eighteenth-century by Richard Price and Joseph Priestley seems sentimentally hopeful yet to many, unfortunately naive.  Asserted over two hundred years ago during cataclysmic political and societal events, it provides a stimulus for reflection while surveying the conditions of our own times.  “The virtuous would achieve God’s will on earth by combating and ultimately defeating the forces of corruption and evil.  Progressive changes in government would accomplish this task, because government controlled so many aspects of human life.”[1] It appears the long hoped for reformations in the affairs of men have still eluded our civilization.

The pessimist looks at the short term and the optimist at the long.  For the last three decades dispensational premillennialism has had the advantage of dominant cooperating media that emphasizes the negative and disastrous, and sympathetic premillennialist Christian leaders focusing on the crises and catastrophes of modern times to spread an apocalyptic message, which the premillennialist has felt was supported by the signs of the times.  Some contend that the signs are pointing to imminent apocalypse and vindication of the premillennial view in the short term, while others contend that the able communicators of premillennial doctrine can manipulate the meanings of signs or any geopolitical crisis to justify whatever interpretation is desired and appropriate.  They look to the long term for a turn around of events and a more positive outcome and are tiring of a barrage of fatalism and despair.  The secular, Native American, and New Age community likewise has those on both sides of the apocalyptic fence.

It is possible that for many standing so close to the edge of the apocalypse for so long has taken its toll.  Postmillennialism and amillennialism have been experiencing a revival in the last few years.  The demands placed on the average citizen just to maintain a comfortable and secure standard of living have not allowed for the option of apocalyptic scenarios.  Denial of the significance of prophesied apocalyptic events, and signs whether religious or secular, is the choice for many.  To entertain properly and evaluate a potentially cataclysmic situation one must imagine and formulate the personal reactions and emotions inherent in the predicament.  For many with families, businesses, commitments, debt, and plans for a peaceful future this is inconceivable.  For others denial is a flagrant avoidance of responsibility and dangerous to the individual and society.  Eugen Weber, in Apocalypses, suggests that we would do well to bear in mind Montaigne’s admonition: “It is a dangerous and consequential rashness, beside the absurd temerity that it entails, to despise that which we cannot conceive.”[2]

The question arises—is this just another opportunity to investigate a historical-cultural phenomenon brought about through scenarios of disaster and unrest, or are the events and conditions on the planet today satisfying the circumstances required for a truly significant transformation in the course of human affairs?

Not everyone can be right since so many predictions and interpretations do not correlate with each other.  Scholars both Christian and secular with years of study, with mastery and fluency of all relevant languages, and with the resources of great institutions of learning, and colleagues with extraordinary minds at their disposal continue to disagree.  Combine this with years of detailed analysis of every complementary subject and the wisdom of the historians of the ages, and still no consensus of eschatological principles.

What is the common man with limited knowledge and resources to conclude?  With so many options how can one truly discern a cosmology that is relevant and true?  For the Christian, perhaps the words of Blake apply to these enduring questions:  “The Beauty of the Bible is that the most Ignorant and Simple Minds Understand it Best.”[3]

Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men V, 1925[4]


[1] Fruchtman, The Apocalyptic Politics of Richard Price and Joseph Priestley, 45.

[2] E. Weber, Apocalypses, 233.

[3] Harrison, The Second Coming, 230.

[4] T. S. Eliot, Selected Poems (New York: Harcourt, 1936) 79, 80.

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