Eschatology is the "doctrine of last things" and comes from the Greek word, eschatos (last). This area not only includes the return of Christ, but also heaven, hell, judgment, what happens after death, etc. However, most centrally, this addresses the timing and nature of the Kingdom of Christ, along with the timing and nature of the "Great Tribulation." These doctrines and teachings can be difficult. Each position has its problems and challenging texts; therefore we should not have breaches of fellowship because of eschatology. I have good friends and counselors that hold all the different evangelical views. Differences do not have to be divisive. Nevertheless, large portions of Scripture address these topics (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Zechariah, Matt. 24, Mk. 13, Luke 17, 21, Revelation, and many texts in the Epistles, to name a few). Therefore, as students of the Word, we must gain some knowledge and commit to some conclusions.
Eschatological Options - What are the ways Christians view eschatology? A simple map to understand this area is to address chronology and character. See the diagram following the discussion. The chronology of the Millennial ("1000" Messianic) Kingdom (Rev. 20): the Premillennial view has Christ returning before the Kingdom; Amillennial and Postmillennials believe the Kingdom is present now, before Christ returns.
The character of the millennial kingdom: Premillennial and Postmillennials believe the Kingdom’s character involves radical transformation of society/world. Amillennials believe the Kingdom does not necessarily affect a transformed society/world. Some Amills are closer to Postmills in this and some are very “Pessi-millennialist.” The chronology of the Great Tribulation (e.g., Mt. 24/Olivet Discourse): Futurists, Idealists, and Preterists can be mixed and matched with all the Millennial views, though for th most part Premills are futurists, Amills are idealists, and Postmills are preterists. Futurists (such as dispensationalists, i.e. “Left Behind”) believe the Tribulation is a seven year period before the Second Coming. Most dispensationalists believe the “Rapture” of the Church (1Th. 4) is the event that begins the Tribulation; other Premills believe the Church “goes through the Tribulation” and still others believe that the Church is “raptured” in the midst of the Tribulation. Idealists believe that general tribulation characterizes the entire period between Christ’s first and second return; Preterists (from Latin "past") believe the Tribulation happened in the first century, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.).
The character of the great tribulation: Futurists and Preterists believe that the Tribulation was a quite physical persecution which involved massive deaths and destruction; Idealists see that there are other tribulations beyond radical persecutions that apply throughout the entire time.
Eschatological Texts - What do the key Bible texts about the Kingdom and its nature and timing mean?
Revelation 19-20 is the passage that Premills use to assert Christ returns (19:11) and then He reigns for a literal 1000 years (20:4), prior to the battle of "Armageddon" (only mentioned in 16:16). Amills and Postmills agree that 1) Rev. 19 is not the "return of Christ,” but the advance of the Church and that Rev. 20 is speaking of the same era but viewing the Kingdom from a different vantage point (from heaven’s view; martyred saints reign with Christ in heaven before the Resurrection). There are variations on this within the views, but the chronology is the same.
Matthew 24 (the Olivet Discourse) describes the "Great Tribulation" (24:11, along with Mark 13, Luke 17 & 21). Futurists (e.g., dispensationalists) believe that this is a seven-year period (per their reading of Dan. 9:24-27) in the future just before the Second Coming. Idealists (mostly Amills) believe the "tribulation characterizes the entire" time between the Advents (C. Venema). Preterists believe this describes a past event, namely the siege of Jerusalem (70 A.D.).
Eschatological Proof for the Postmillennial-Preterist view - The view that I have since 1994 is that the Kingdom of Christ began with His resurrection-ascension and continues until His consumption coming at the Resurrection (at the end of this era). The “Tribulation” spoken of in the Olivet Discourse was specifically fulfilled in the Fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple (and other world-order changes) in 70 A.D.
1 Corinthians 15:22-26 is, I think, the most important text on the millennial question: "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ