An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


Theology of the last things, the end of time and history, the coming of the Kingdom of God. Use of the term dates from the nineteenth century. It is from the Greek, eschatos, “last.” Eschatology concerns the final end and meaning of all things, but it is possible to distinguish individual, social, and universal aspects of eschatology. The Christian hope is centered in the victorious Christ, who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and whose kingdom will have no end (see the Nicene Creed, BCP, p. 359; and the Apostles' Creed, BCP, p. 96). Some approaches to eschatology emphasize the coming of the Kingdom of God as a radical break from the existence of creation as we know it, or a breaking into time from the future. Other approaches emphasize that the power of God's Kingdom was inaugurated in Christ's life, death, and resurrection, and that God's power for salvation and the fulfillment of all things is currently active in history. Thomas Aquinas understood the ultimate end and perfect happiness of humanity in terms of union with God, which may be described as the beatific vision. He also held that each thing intends as its ultimate end to be united to God as closely as possible for it. The NT scholar C.H. Dodd presented a “realized eschatology” in which the perfect fulfillment of the messianic hope is realized in Jesus' incarnate life and earthly ministry. The Kingdom of God may be understood as already present through Christ's resurrection and yet to be fulfilled perfectly when Christ returns at the end of time. The theme of Christian expectation for the coming of Christ in power and glory is given liturgical expression in the season of Advent. The Prayer Book Catechism states that “the Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God's purpose for the world” (BCP, p. 861). The Catechism section on the Christian Hope considers such eschatological themes as the meaning of the coming of Christ in glory, the meaning of heaven and hell, prayers for the dead, the meaning of the last judgment, the meaning of the resurrection of the body, the communion of saints, the meaning of everlasting life, and the Christian assurance (BCP, p. 862).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.