Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Mission and Eschatology (1)

Seeing that I did a PhD on Mission and Eschatology (available on the internet but unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on how interested you are in reading a thesis – only available in Afrikaans except for a summary included which was written in English), I thought that it would be good to share something of my ideas about these two topics. I’m not intending to write only about this one topic in the next few weeks, because I still want to write about other matters as well, but in between I am going to write about this.
For those who may not be familiar with the term eschatology, this concerns the teachings about the end times, but, as I continue with these posts, it will become clear that not all of us understand the same thing when we speak about eschatology. Many people, probably most “evangelical” people, consider eschatology to be the things of the future, those things which we read about in the books of Daniel and Revelations. Furthermore, most people run away from this topic because it is so difficult to speak about the things of the future. I have found very few people, other than pastors and theologians, who have the ability to speak in an understandable way about the message of Revelations, not because they are not capable of doing so, but because they consider the eschatology as something of a taboo subject. And to be quite honest, those Christians who do dare to speak about the topic, usually interpret it only, as stated above, as the things which have to do with the future – in other words they regard both Daniel and Revelation as prophesies, waiting to be fulfilled.
David Bosch was the one who really made me understand to what an extent one’s eschatological understanding influences one’s thoughts on a variety of topics, including one’s understanding of missions. In an article which he wrote in 1982 he said:

I wonder whether the real difference between “ecumenicals” and “evangelicals” (and, may I add, between different brands of “evangelicals”), does not lie in the area of eschatology… Until we clarify our convictions on eschatology, we will continue to talk at cross purposes.

When I read this paragraph and did further research on the topic, I realised that this may be the very reason why we don’t make much progress when speaking about missions in churches: our understanding of eschatology have still not been sorted out. For the past few years that I had gone to Samara in Russia, I have been teaching students at the Bible Institute there about Biblical eschatology, and it has been amazing to see, once we agree upon our understanding of eschatology, how easy it becomes to speak of missions and how alike our understanding of missions become.
In a next post on this topic, I will try to explain a number of eschatological models commonly found amongst Christians. If you are interested in the topic, you may want to evaluate yourself beforehand by answering the question how you personally understand the end times: near, far, real, symbolic, catastrophic, gradual, spiritual, social? Or perhaps something entirely different to this.


Friday, November 9, 2007 - Posted by | David Bosch, Eschatology, Mission, Russia, Theology


  1. I would love to read your dissertation on Mission and Eschatology. I would also love to speak with you about it. I am doing some writting about this right now.

    Comment by Tim C | Monday, August 17, 2009 | Reply

  2. If you cannot read Afrikaans, you may still benefit from the bibliography at the end of the thesis. And I would appreciate conversing with you about this topic.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Reply

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