Of critical importance to the Christian faith is the doctrine of last things or “eschatology.” The Bible has much to say about the end to time and what will happen. In fact, our hope is based on these promises. Consider the following teachings of Scripture.
First, the Scriptures teach that Jesus will return. The Lord himself promised this before he left this world (John 14:1-3). As he ascended into heaven from Mt. Olivet, the angels announced that he would be returning in the same manner in which he left (Acts 1:9-11). As Peter preached to the people at the temple, he spoke of the risen Lord, “whom the heavens must receive until the times of the restoration of all things that were spoken of by the prophets,” (Acts 3:21). Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about their faith in Christ, reminding them that they had “turned unto God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven…who will deliver us from the wrath to come,” (1 Thess. 1:9-10). One of the clearest declarations of his coming is in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, where Paul centers in on what Christ will do with both living and dead Christians at his coming. So, the Bible says Jesus is coming again.
Next, the Bible tells us that there will be a great resurrection of the dead. Paul says this will happen when Jesus comes again (1 Thess. 4:14-15). Paul says it will happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Jesus says “the hour is coming when all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice and shall come forth, those that have done good unto the resurrection of life and those that have done evil unto the resurrection of condemnation,” (John 5:28-29).
Some people have come up with an erroneous theory called “the Rapture” based on misreading a couple of different New Testament passages. First, they have misread 1 Thessalonians 4:16, which says, “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” They have read this to mean that the Christian dead will rise first, before the non-Christian dead. They believe that the dead Christians will rise and the living Christians will join them to meet the Lord in the air. This is the “Rapture”. If one examines 1 Thessalonians 4 a bit more carefully, one gets a completely different picture. The non-Christian dead are not even discussed in that passage except to say that they “have no hope.” When it says “the dead in Christ shall rise first,” it means “first, before all the Christians are caught up in the clouds,” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). The unsaved dead are not discussed in that passage as they are in many others. Those who support the “Rapture” theory believe that some will be literally be taken from their cars while they are driving them, while others will be left behind (Matthew 24:40-41). A fairer reading of the Matthew text would indicate that as the angels descend to take vengeance on those who reject Christ, those who follow Jesus will be taken to be with him, while those who do not follow Jesus will be left to endure the vengeance of God and his angels. The “Rapture” advocates also misread Revelation 20:4-6. In this passage, it talks about the “first resurrection.” They see this as referring to the Rapture. In fact, a careful reading of the passage shows that it refers to the special treatment of the Christian martyrs, who “live and reign with Christ”, and has nothing to do with a “Rapture”. So, the Rapture theory says that there will be a resurrection of the Christian dead, then Christ will take the Christians to heaven. Then will follow the millennium. Then there will be the resurrection of the rest of the dead, and the final judgment.
In contrast to these views, Revelation 19-20 gives a different picture. It indicates that a) Christ will destroy the Roman empire, b) the millennium will follow, during which time the martyrs of the Roman persecution will be living and reigning with Christ in heaven, c) Satan will be destroyed, d) there will be a general resurrection of all the dead, e) there will be a judgment according “the books” and the deeds of those to be judged, f) those not found written in the book of life will be cast into the lake of fire, and g) those whose names are in the Lamb’s book of life will be allowed to enter the holy city, the New Jerusalem, which is also called “Paradise.”
Like Revelation, the book of 2 Peter refers to our future hope as “the New Heavens and the New Earth, in which righteousness dwells,” (2 Peter 3:13-14). Peter and the book of Revelation also teach that the present earth will be destroyed at the coming of Jesus (2 Peter 3:3-13; Revelation 21:1.
Along with the Holy City as the final resting-place of the people of God, the Scriptures teach that the rest of man will spend eternity in hell, a place of fire and torment and separation from God. Hell was made for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Jesus taught much about it (Matt. 5:27-30; Mark 9:48-49; Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 25: 41-46; Luke 16:24). John mentions it repeatedly in Revelation 14:10-11; 19:20; 20:10,15; 21:8. Hell is for those who sin, do not come to Jesus, or do not continue to walk with Jesus until they die. Those who stick with Jesus need not worry about hell (1 Thess. 5:1-11).