Orthodox Eschatology

            This paper will address the topic of the boundaries of orthodox eschatology and argue that the three essential orthodox doctrines are 1) Christ’s literal return to the earth; 2) the bodily resurrection of all the dead; and 3) the final judgment of all people[1]. In addition, Christians should allow room for diverse views on the details of end-time topics, including 1) the millennium, 2) the rapture, 3) the tribulation period, and 4) the transition to the new heaven and new earth. Finally, I will conclude with the implications on this thesis on the Christian life.

            The three doctrines are essential orthodox doctrines because they are the plain teachings from the scriptures, attested by the apostolic church fathers, confirmed by the creeds, and held by all major works of systematic theology since the Reformation. Matt 24:27, 30, 44; 25:31; John 14:3; Acts 1:11; 10:42; 17:31; 1 Thes 4:16-17; Tit 2:13; and Rev 1:7; 22:12 together clearly testify that Christ will physically return to the earth to judge all people who will be resurrected from death. Additionally, Didache[2], Polycarp[3], Justin Martyr[4], and Irenaeus[5] attest to these essential orthodox doctrines. Furthermore, the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds also attest to these three orthodox doctrines. Finally, reformer Calvin[6], Reformed theologian Berkhof[7], dispensational theologian Chafer[8], Methodist theologian Miley[9] and Pentecostal theologian Duffield and Van Cleave[10] all attest to these orthodox doctrines in their systematic theology.

            However, there were multiple views on the details of the end times. First, there are three views of the millennium: the premillennial, amillennial, and postmillennial. Second, there are three views on the rapture: the pre-tribulation, mid-tribulation, and post-tribulation views. Third, there are four views of the timing of the tribulation period: the preterist, the historicist, the idealist, and the futurist views[11]. Fourth, there are two views on the transition to the new heaven and new earth: the ex nihilo (2 Pet 3:10)[12] and the regeneration[13] views (Rom 8:18-25; Rev 21:1-5).

            On the one hand, if a Christian does not have a clear understanding of the essential doctrines, he will not be able to distinguish a cult from orthodox Christianity. But, on the other hand, if a Christian does not understand he should allow room for diversity of views on the details of end-time, he will be intolerant of other views, or worse, would attack others who hold different views as non-biblical or even as cults.

            In conclusion, I have argued that Christians should know the three essential orthodox doctrines and allow room for diversity of views on the details of the end time. I have provided biblical, historical, and theological support for the orthodox doctrines and the implication of this thesis on the Christian life.


[1] Mark Hitchcock, The End (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2012), XIV.

[2] Didache 16:1-8.

[3] Polycarp to the Philippians 2:1-18.

[4] Justin Martyr, Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, Chapters 80-81.

[5] Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.2.3; 5.19.2.

[6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Edinburgh: 1845), XVI.17.

[7] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing co., 1938), 353.

[8] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 4.367.

[9] John Miley, Systematic Theology, Volume 2 (Hunt & Eaton, 1893), 444–45.

[10] Guy P. Duffield, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (L.I.F.E. Bible College, 1983), 520–34.

[11] Hitchcock, The End, 38–48.

[12] Hitchcock, 447–59.

[13] Michael Svigel, “ST5106 Course Notes Unit 03b” (unpublished class notes for ST5106, Dallas, TX, 2022), 146–156. Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and Thomas Aquinas held this view. See Randy C. Alcorn, Heaven (Wheaton, Ill: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004), 155.

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