Biblical Eschatology is defined as the study of the Messiah and the Redemption, and this starts in Genesis. There are three terms that are related to eschatology found in the Scriptures. The first is “Acharit Yamim” meaning the “Last Days” found in Isa 2.2; Micah 4.1 The next one is “Ik’vot Ha Mashiach” or “Footsteps of the Messiah” found in Psalm 89.51 and “Chevlai Shell Mashiach” or “Birthpains of the Messiah” in Matt 24.8. Ask for a book on Eschatology in a Christian bookstore and you will get a book on the Second Coming but there is much more to this concept.
In Acts 11.1-15 we have a statement by Peter about the non-Jewish people becoming believers in Yeshua. In Acts 15.6, they came together for a council, which is a Sanhedrin or Beit Din of believers in Jerusalem. Acts 15 12-13 we learn that Ya’acov, or Jacob (translated as “James”) is the Nasi (president)) of this council. They decide that the non-Jewish believers do not need to be ritually circumcised according the 18 Edicts of Beit Shammai, and give four standards that the new non-Jewish believers were to do, along with all the chapters in the Torah associated with them, and that they were to go to the synagogue to learn Moses (Acts 15.21). Up to this point, a non-Jew who believed would go to the synagogue, follow the Torah as it applied and learn and were known as Godfearers. They could go on to become a proselyte if they desired. In Acts 21.15-18 we have another Beit Din and Paul gives an account of what was happening among the nations. Jacob (James) is again the Nasi of the Board of Zekenim (elders) and he is the spokesman for the Knesset. After hearing Peter in Acts 11.18, the elders changed their doctrine concerning what to do with the non-Jews and agreed that God had granted repentance to the non-Jews without becoming Jews first. This was the main issue in the first century, and the Book of Galatians deals with this also. After deciding this and after these councils, they had a major problem facing them now.
In Acts 10, Cornelius was a Roman Centurion who was a believer in the God of Israel. He was a “Phoubemenoi” or “Godfearer.” Lydia in Acts 16 was a “Sebemenoi” which means a “worshipper” and a synonymous term for a Godfearer. These Godfearers had the Jewish back-round in Jewish thought already when they became a believer in Yeshua because they were going to the synagogues and learning. Jacob (James) and the Jewish believers know that pagan, Gentile Hellenists are becoming believers now without first becoming Jews through ritual circumcision, a man-made doctrine, or being a Godfearer first, like Cornelius and Lydia. They knew that the non-Jews who will be coming into the faith down the road will not have this back-round in Jewish thought. They realized that they were going to have to send some people out to these non-Jews in the world, and those sent out would have to be “Chachamim” or “wisemen” and sages in the Torah. They had to be knowledgeable in the Scriptures far and above the Zekan or elder, a real serious scholar.
Paul was probably the best qualified scholar in the first century to do this, and he was sent to the non-Jews. This is because the Jewish people were already trained in eschatology and everything else, but the non-Jews for the most part hadn’t been, so they needed the best teacher in existence at the time. In the twenty-first century, we have the same problem. However, back in the first century they could identify what was pagan, but not so much now. They had to deal with the Greek language and that is why Jewish scholars wrote the Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Tanak. But, the word “salvation” in Greek has a different concept attached to the word than the Hebrew concept. So, when a Greek becomes a believer and he reads the Septuagint (LXX) about salvation, he attaches the Greek concept to the word, not the Hebraic one. So, here is a question. Salvation as presented by Yeshua was unknown by the Jews? True or false? That is false, but many teach it and you will find it in books.
So, the men in these councils in Acts will try to get the Scriptures out to the people. They need to get the correct concepts behind them as well so that the people in Ephesus are getting the the same information as those in Jerusalem. How do they get all the pagan concepts out of their thoughts and beliefs? They must become a “Talmid” or a “student” of the Scriptures. They must have an understanding of the Jewish concepts found in Heb 6.1-2, like Teshuvah (repentance); Emunah (faith); Tevilah (baptism); Semichah (laying on of hands); Techiyah (resurrection) and Mishpat (judgement). These are defined as elementary principles of the faith. Rom 9.4 also has a list including the adoption; the glory; the covenants; the giving of the Torah; the service (in the Temple); the promises and the fathers. Now, all of these have a Jewish understanding. Can you define them? Here is a basic understanding of these concepts.
Teshuvah is repentance, to turn back to God. Emunah is confidence, action and is a verb. It includes the three elements of love, the commandments and understanding. Anything less than this is not faith. Tevilah is plural and this also involves repentance, service in the Temple, any change of status, of people and vessels that are tamai (unclean). Semichah is the laying on of hands signifying a person or an offering comes from the one performing the semichah involved and it is not a point of contact. Techiyah is the resurrection, involving two different types. There is the First Resurrection that will involve the believer and it comes in stages. The Second Resurrection involves the unrighteous and happens at one time. Mishpat is the judgement, a Yom Ha Din or “Day of Judgement.”
Adoption involves the chosenness of Israel, Mount Sinai, betrothal and wedding, among other things. The glory is the “kivod” or “radiance” which is the tangible manifestation of God when Messiah comes. The covenants involve the many covenants in Scripture like the Adamic, Noahic, Sinai, Moab and the New Covenant. The giving of the Torah involves Mount Sinai, the kedusha and betrothal of Israel to God at Shavuot. The service is the avodah involving all the Temple services given by God. The promises include the Kingdom of Heaven, redemption and restoration. The fathers are all the prophets, sages, kings and priests that went before and some are listed in Heb 11. These are just the basics, and they need to be understood in their Jewish context in order to understand the Scriptures, and this was the task of the teachers sent forth in the first century. It is still the task today, but people are being taught Greek and non-Jewish concepts instead.
Now, we are going to spend some time discussing the concept of time in Jewish thought, and this is reflected in the Scriptures. There is the concept of the 7000 year Plan of God. Before creation, God was in what was called the Olam Haba (Coming World). God will create the world that would go on for 7000 years. The first 6000 years would be called the Olam Ha Zeh (present age) followed by a period of 1000 years called the Atid Lavo (future coming). The Olam Ha Zeh will be divided into three, 2000 year periods. The first 2000 years is called “Tohu” which means “desolation.” This refers to the creation that was desolate at the beginning, the first sin, the first murder and the flood which occurred during this time. The next 2000 year period is called “Torah” meaning “instruction.” This was when Abraham was called and instructed, Israel delivered out of Egypt, the Torah was given and the Kingdom of Israel was established. The third 2000 year period is called “Yom’ot Ha Mashiach” meaning “the Days of the Messiah.” This was when the Jewish people expected the Messiah according to Daniel’s prophecies, and he did come.
At the end of the 6000 years, the people would enter a 1000 year period. A period of seven years would happen at first called the “Birthpains of the Messiah” ending in the coming of the Messiah to conquer God’s enemies and judgement, and an entering into the Messianic Kingdom for the remainder of that 1000 years. At the end of this 1000 year period, everything will be restored and given back to the Father, and the people would enter into the Olam Haba again. The purpose for all this is the restoration of man and the earth. The Messiah will be the “agent” or “sh’liach” of God, empowered by the Ruach Ha Kodesh to bring all of this about. We enter into that redemption and restoration by emunah, or faith. The Basar, or “good news” also known as the “gospel” says that Yeshua has come to initiate this redemption.
One can be in the Olam Ha Zeh (this present age) physically, but also be in the Olam Haba spiritually. Heb 6.5 mentions this fact when it says that there are people in the Olam Ha Zeh who “have tasted of the World to come (Olam Haba)” but not in the fullness of it. We can have several ages going on at the same time, depending on the state that a person is in, or an event. When a miracle happens in the Olam Ha Zeh, it is the Olam Haba coming upon the person or event. Non-Jews must be taught all this, including the who, what, where, when, why and how.
Here is a concept. The Yom’ot Ha Mashiach is not over till the end of the Atid Lavo because they “overlap.” The Atid Lavo is the Kingdom of God on earth. The Yom’ot Ha Mashiach is the Kingdom of God in the heart. The Olam Haba will have three applications. All the righteous will have restored bodies (1 Cor 15.24) and is called the Olam Haba “major.” But before one receives their new body when they believe, they are in the Olam Haba “minor.” Yeshua was in the Olam Haba at his resurrection, but functioned in the Olam Ha Zeh when he appeared to people. The Olam Haba is also known as “forever and ever” or “L’Olam Vaed” (world without end). It is also known as “Gan Eden” (Garden of Eden) and “Paradise.” When Paul said he was “caught up to Paradise” in 2 Cor 12.4, it was another way of saying the “Olam Haba.”
In Part 2, we are going to put all of this together and begin to interpret some verses, using what we have learned.