Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end times".
The word arises from the Greek meaning "the study of", and first appeared in English around 1844. The Oxford English Dictionary defines eschatology as "the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind".
In the context of mysticism, the term refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and to reunion with the Divine. Many religions treat eschatology as a future event prophesied in sacred texts or in folklore.
Most modern eschatology and apocalypticism, both religious and secular, involves the violent disruption or destruction of the world; Christian and Jewish eschatologies view the end times as the consummation or perfection of God's creation of the world, albeit with violent overtures, such as the Great Tribulation. For example, according to some ancient Hebrew worldviews, reality unfolds along a linear path ; the world began with God and is ultimately headed toward God's final goal for creation, the world to come.
Eschatologies vary as to their degree of optimism or pessimism about the future. In some eschatologies, conditions are better for some and worse for others, e.g. "heaven and hell". They also vary as to time frames. Groups claiming imminent'' eschatology are also referred to as doomsday cults.
Religionprogressive revelations in which successive messengers or prophets come from God. The coming of each of these messengers is seen as the day of judgment to the adherents of the previous religion, who may choose to accept the new messenger and enter the "heaven" of belief, or denounce the new messenger and enter the "hell" of denial. In this view, the terms "heaven" and "hell" become symbolic terms for a person's spiritual progress and their nearness to or distance from God. In Bahá'í belief, the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, signals the fulfilment of previous eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity and other major religions.
ChristianityChristian eschatology is the study concerned with the ultimate destiny of the individual soul and of the entire created order, based primarily upon biblical texts within the Old and New Testaments.
Christian eschatological research looks to study and discuss matters such as the nature of the Divine and the divine nature of Jesus Christ, death and the afterlife, Heaven and Hell, the Second Coming of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Millennialism, the end of the world, the Last Judgment, and the New Heaven and New Earth in the world to come.
Eschatological passages occur in many places in the Bible, in both the Old and the New Testaments. In the Old Testament, apocalyptic eschatology can be found notably in Isaiah 24–27, Isaiah 56–66, Joel, Zechariah 9–14 as well as in the closing chapters of Daniel, and in Ezekiel. In the New Testament, applicable passages include Matthew 24, Mark 13, the parable of "The Sheep and the Goats" and the Book of Revelation — Revelation often occupies a central place in Christian eschatology.
The Second Coming of Christ is the central event in Christian eschatology within the broader context of the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Most Christians believe that death and suffering will continue to exist until Christ's return. There are, however, various views concerning the order and significance of other eschatological events.
The Book of Revelation stands at the core of much of Christian eschatology. The study of Revelation is usually divided into four interpretative methodologies or hermeneutics:
- The Futurist approach treats the Book of Revelation mostly as unfulfilled prophecy taking place in some yet undetermined future.
- The Preterist approach interprets Revelation chiefly as having had prophetic fulfillment in the past, principally in the events of the first century CE.
- The Historicist approach to Revelation provides a broad view of history, identifying figures and passages in Revelation with major historical people and events. This is the view Jewish scholars held, along with the early Christian church, and it was prevalent in the writings of Wycliffe and of other Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley.Other supporters of this view include Sir Isaac Newton and many others.
- The Idealist approach sees the events of Revelation as neither past nor future actualities, but as purely symbolic accounts, dealing with the ongoing struggle and ultimate triumph of good over evil.
HinduismThe Vaishnavite tradition links contemporary Hindu eschatology to the figure of Kalki, the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu. Before the age draws to a close Kalki will reincarnate as Shiva and simultaneously dissolve and regenerate the universe.
Most Hindus believe that the current period is the Kali Yuga, the last of four Yuga that make up the current age. Each period has seen successive degeneration in the moral order, to the point that in the Kali Yuga quarrel and hypocrisy are the norm. In Hinduism, time is cyclic, consisting of cycles or "kalpas". Each kalpa lasts for 4.32 billion years and is followed by a pralaya of equal length, which together makes one full day and night of Brahma's 100 360-year lifespan, who lives for 311 trillion, 40 billion years. The cycle of birth, growth, decay, and renewal at the individual level finds its echo in the cosmic order, yet is affected by vagaries of divine intervention in Vaishnavite belief.
Some Shaivites hold the view that Shiva is incessantly destroying and creating the world.
IslamThe sayings of the Prophet Muhammad regarding the Signs of the Day of Judgement document Islamic eschatology., ca. 1238. Shown are the 'Arsh, pulpits for the righteous, seven rows of angels, Gabriel, A'raf, the Pond of Abundance, al-Maqam al-Mahmud, Mizan, As-Sirāt, Jahannam and Marj al-Jannat.
The Prophet's sayings on the subject have been traditionally divided into Major and Minor Signs. He spoke about several Minor Signs of the approach of the Day of Judgment, including:
- Abu Hurairah reported that Muhammad said: "If you survive for a time you would certainly see people who would have whips in their hands like the tail of an ox. They would get up in the morning under the wrath of God and they would go into the evening with the anger of God."
- Abu Hurairah narrated that Muhammad said, "When honesty is lost, then wait for the Day of Judgment." It was asked, "How will honesty be lost, O Messenger of God?" He said, "When authority is given to those who do not deserve it, then wait for the Day of Judgment."
- 'Umar ibn al-Khattāb, in a long narration relating to the questions of the angel Gabriel, reported: "Inform me when the Day of Judgment will be." He remarked: "The one who is being asked knows no more than the inquirer." He said: "Tell me about its indications." He said: "That the slave-girl gives birth to her mistress and master, and that you would find barefooted, destitute shepherds of goats vying with one another in the construction of magnificent buildings."
- "Before the Day of Judgment there will be great liars, so beware of them."
- "When the most wicked member of a tribe becomes its ruler, and the most worthless member of a community becomes its leader, and a man is respected through fear of the evil he may do, and leadership is given to people who are unworthy of it, expect the Day of Judgment."
JudaismJewish eschatology discusses events that will happen in the end of days, according to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish thought. This includes the ingathering of the exiled diaspora, the coming of the Jewish Messiah, afterlife, and the revival of the dead Tzadikim.
Judaism usually refers to the end times as the "end of days", a phrase that appears several times in the Tanakh. The idea of a messianic age has a prominent place in Jewish thought and is incorporated as part of the end of days.
Judaism addresses the end times in the Book of Daniel and in numerous other prophetic passages in the Hebrew scriptures, and also in the Talmud, particularly Tractate Avodah Zarah.
Old Norse religion
ZoroastrianismFrashokereti is the Zoroastrian doctrine of a final renovation of the universe when evil will be destroyed, and everything else will then be in perfect unity with God. The doctrinal premises are:
- Good will eventually prevail over evil.
- Creation, initially perfectly good, was subsequently corrupted by evil.
- The world will ultimately be restored to the perfection it had at the time of creation.
- The "salvation for the individual depended on the sum of thoughts, words and deeds, and there could be no intervention, whether compassionate or capricious, by any divine being to alter this". Thus each human bears the responsibility for the fate of his own soul, and simultaneously shares in the responsibility for the fate of the world.
Analogies in science and philosophy