Eschatology is a branch of theology or religious belief concerned with the ultimate destiny of the universe or of mankind. Many relate this with the return of Jesus Christ to overthrow the Antichrist; and the culmination of history with the destruction of this world. In more general terms, it refers to the moral significance of the belief that time and history are working towards an ultimate end. In Amos 1 and 2, “Day of the Lord” was seen as a day for judgement of evil, applying to everyone: Jews and non-Jews; it is therefore a universal judgement.
It was implied in Amos that it was to be a day when the whole physical world would be transformed. The entire physical order had to change for judgement to take place. It was unsure though what was to happen to human beings. Many do not believe that anything happens after death; these people are usually atheists. They have scientific explanations and physical evidence that the body is buried, which then decays, leaving nothing. Most people believe in a further life, that one form of life dies and another continues in a different shape/form.
It is difficult for people to explain what to expect n a further life as it is all a speculation. Most people believe that the after life is a completely different form of life, it is a spiritual existence rather than a physical one as it is just one’s Soul that moves on. One’s after life can be seen as being better of worse than their previous life depending on judgement, on what kind of a life they lead in their physical existence.
The after life is not seen as being constrained by time, space, aging as this life is, therefore it is extremely difficult to conceive as we are so conditioned to the physical life that we have. A common question is “where do those in an after life live? “, ‘where’ and ‘live’ are both physical terms which cannot be applied to an existence that is not physical. If one looks at the bulk of the Old Testament, it is clear that teaching is that one dies and that is it; one can only survive through their children.
However we are given hope in SHEOL; the place for all the dead, where there is no form of discrimination. But it is the place of shadows; ones existence is so vague, grey and shadowy that you are barely aware you yourself exist, let alone anyone else existing. But the Maccabean Wars change all this (164-161BC); this was a key period when he Jews fought against the Greeks in the efforts to protect Jewish practices. During this war, the Jews faced a major dilemma; one of the distinct Laws is to preserve the Sabbath.
Therefore the Jews could not be expected to fight on the Sabbath, as it is regarding as doing work. This did not stop the Greeks from proceeding, and therefore many Jews were tragically killed. This was seen as many dying out of loyalty to the law through execution. Hosmoneans, Pharisees, decided they could break this important law and fight on the Sabbath. The moral problem that arises is associated with God’s justice; all these Jewish Martyrs had died for their law and beliefs. Generally these men would be young and unmarried. People were seen as dying in obedience to God but having no chance of immortality.
Therefore Jews developed the idea of life in terms of reward, leading to “resurrection life”, which was restricted to only those men at the who died at the beginning of the war. However, this idea spread to warriors who had died fighting, not specifically for abiding the law of the Sabbath. “Resurrection life” is not a reincarnation, it is seen as a 2nd life, a raising of something dead. This leads to two main ideas; that “resurrection life is not like this life as it is a second life in the immediate presence of God and secondly because it will be an endless life.
Jews fused the Day of the Lord (universal judgement) and the resurrection together; good people were seen to be judged into heaven and the bad into infinite punishment. Ernst Bloch rejected the notion of Christian eschatology as a theory of events which at the end of time would “break into history from the outside”. He believed that eschatology was a matter of present hope, even any form of hope against all present reason. ‘Hope alone is to be called “realistic”, because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught’.
The promise could be expressed only in terms of the present, as “affirmation and negation” of the present, not as a mystic future. The content of the promise was that the world had a history which was open to God’s future. This dynamic understanding of revelation as a story of what was possible in the near future stemming from present action, was about real historical possibilities. Many saw the eschatological perspective as striping ethics of its historical density and leaving it occupied with formalities that have no concrete meaning in relation to others.