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What the Bible Says About the End Times: 5 Essentials

We at RENEW.org suggest a common approach for difficult theological questions like the ones we encounter when thinking about the end times. You might call the approach “bullseye theology.” We look at all teachings in God’s Word through a framework which prioritizes essential, “bullseye” beliefs and moves outward from there.[1]

  1. There are essential elements (beliefs and responses) in the Bible that are essential to your eternal destiny and hope. These are bullseye beliefs for the Christian. They are “first-bucket” issues; they are “written in blood.”
  2. There are important elements in the Bible that are important for your faithfulness to God and to living as God intended, even as our salvation does not depend on getting them right. These are “second-bucket” issues; they are “written in ink.”
  3. There are personal or disputable elements that God leaves to us as personal preferences or truths about which there is enough clear evidence for clarity. These are “third-bucket” issues; they are “written in pencil.”

“We look at all teachings in God’s Word through a framework which prioritizes essential, ‘bullseye’ beliefs and moves outward from there.”


There are five key end-time teachings that are part of the essentials of the Christian faith, and in this article, we will take a brief look at them. You can think of them as phases that provide an outline for the end of human history as we know it. Here are the five teachings:

  1. We are waiting for Jesus Christ’s return (the “second coming”).
  2. The return of Jesus brings about the final resurrection (the “resurrection of the dead”).
  3. The resurrection of the dead leads to God’s definitive judgment (the “final judgment”).
  4. The unsaved will go to eternal punishment (“hell”).
  5. The saved will go to paradise with God (the “new heaven and new earth”).

As we will show throughout this eBook, these five teachings are clear in the New Testament, they are imbedded in the essential elements of Scripture, and they are reflected in the earliest Christian summaries of the faith, created just after the New Testament was written, often collectively referred to as “the rule of faith.”[2]


What the Bible says about end times: “These five teachings are clear in the New Testament, they are imbedded in the essential elements of Scripture, and they are reflected in the earliest Christian summaries of the faith.”


For example, the early church leader Irenaeus summarizes the faith in about 180 C.E./A.D. Again, his summary and other summaries like his are often described as “the rule of faith” or “the rule of truth.” These are summaries of the faith that were taught to the earliest converts. A key summary provided by Irenaeus starts with these words:

“For the church, although dispersed throughout the whole world, as far as the ends of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples, the faith in one God the Father Almighty, who has made the heaven, the earth, the seas, and all things in them; and in one Christ Jesus the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who has proclaimed through the prophets the plans of God. . . .”[3]

Irenaeus then moves on to describe a summary of what God accomplished in Jesus Christ for us and God’s future plans for both angels and humans. Notice his description of the five key elements of the faith that relate to end times (we have numbered and bolded them below).


“Irenaeus then moves on to describe a summary of what God accomplished in Jesus Christ for us and God’s future plans for both angels and humans.”


“. . . and the comings of Christ, both the birth from the virgin, the passion, the rising from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and 1) his coming [again] from heaven in the glory of the Father for the summing up of all things and 2) the raising of all humanity, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, God, Savior, and King, according to the good pleasure of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, in earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to him [Phil. 2:10–11], and that 3) he might make a just judgment on all, that he might send the spiritual hosts of wickedness, the angels who transgressed and went into apostasy, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemers among 4) human beings into the eternal fire; but 5) might grant incorruptible life and eternal glory to those who are righteous, holy, and keep his commandments, and who persevere in his love either from the beginning or by repentance, and surround them with eternal glory.”[4]

The Apostles’ Creed has become the most famous early summary statement of faith. Its early version may also go back to the second century, as with Irenaeus’s statement. There are numerous denominations that use the Apostles’ Creed as one of their statements of faith, including Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Congregationalists.


What the Bible says about end times: “…his coming [again] from heaven in the glory of the Father for the summing up of all things…”


Irenaeus’s statement is the clearest of the earliest summaries, and the early version of the Apostles’ Creed has similarities to it. Notice how it describes four of the five key elements of what the Bible says about the end times. We have numbered and underlined them, too.

I believe in God the Father almighty;
and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended into heaven,
sits at the right hand of the Father,
1) whence he will come to 3) judge the living and the dead;
and in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Church,
the remission of sins,
2) the resurrection of the flesh,
5) life everlasting.[5]

Unlike Irenaeus’s statement, the Apostles’ Creed is not explicit about hell, but can be seen as presuming it—as the opposite of life everlasting. The same truths are found in the Nicene Creed, another early ancient creed that is widely accepted by Christians.

We are not pointing you to Irenaeus’s rule of faith or the early creeds as any kind of final authority. We are merely pointing to them as early summaries of the Christian faith which focus on the same kind of teaching we are going to focus on from God’s Word throughout this eBook. It is helpful to know that our summary of the five key doctrines is similar to the earliest Christian summaries of end-times teachings. But to be clear: the sixty-six books of Scripture alone are our final authority on these questions. We are a people who follow God’s Word.[6]


What the Bible says about end times: “…whence he will come to judge the living and the dead…”


As mentioned in chapter 1, we also want to acknowledge upfront that there are end-times topics in Scripture which don’t rise to the level of being essential to the faith. Rather, they have been understood by Christians in a variety of ways throughout history and are better categorized as either important (secondary) or personal (third-level) teachings. We suggest they should be seen in the third, personal category. These topics include the following five topics:

  • The Millennium – a 1000-year reign of peace described in Revelation 20[7]
  • The Antichrist (and other evil leaders) – an evil figure possibly described in 2 Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13[8]
  • The Rapture – the possibility that all Christians will rise up to meet Christ before he returns, often seen as a way of separation so that Christians avoid the judgment of the Tribulation[9]
  • The Tribulation – the possibility of a set, 7-year period of cosmic disasters, persecution, and evil before the final end[10]
  • The restoration of ethnic Israel – the restoration of Jewish people and Jerusalem into God’s final plans[11]

Each of these five topics also deserve careful attention, but none of them can be considered essential doctrines in historic Christianity. (For more on Christianity’s central doctrines, see 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Hebrews 6:1-3; Acts 10:34-43; Ephesians 4:4-6.) The biblical interpretation surrounding these five disputable topics often hinges on whether a passage ought to be interpreted more literally or more symbolically as well as on the meaning of the symbols.[12]


What the Bible says about end times: “There are end-times topics in Scripture which don’t rise to the level of being essential to the faith.”


By contrast, the five essential elements described above are foundational to biblical orthodoxy. They are the heart of what Scripture teaches about end things and should be foundational to the beliefs of Christians today.


[1] For more exposition of Renew.org’s model, see Chad Ragsdale, Christian Convictions: Discerning the Essential, Important, and Personal Elements (Renew.org, 2021).

[2] Everett Ferguson, The Rule of Faith: A Guide (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015).

[3] Everett Ferguson, The Rule of Faith: A Guide (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015). Kindle Edition, 4.

[4] Everett Ferguson, The Rule of Faith: A Guide (Eugene: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015). Kindle Edition, 4.

[5] See, “The Apostle’s Creed: It’s History and Origins” https://www.logos.com/grow/the-apostles-creed-its-history-and-origins/ (accessed May 21, 2024).

[6] See Renew.org’s posture on Scripture articulated in Orpheus Heyward, God’s Word: The Inspiration and Authority of Scripture (Renew.org, 2021). 

[7] See Robert Clouse, The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1977).

[8] See Kim Riddlebarger, The Man of Sin: Uncovering the truth about the Antichrist (Baker, 2006), and Robert Gundry, First the Antichrist (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1997).

[9] See Gleason Archer, Paul Feinberg, Douglas Moo, and Richard Reiter, The Rapture: Pre, Mid, or Post-Tribulational? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) and Dave MacPherson, The Incredible Cover-Up (Medford: Omega Publications, 1975).

[10] See Cornelius P. Venema, The Promise of the Future (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), George Ladd, Last Things (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1978) and Louis Berkof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1939).

[11]See Bock and Glaser, To the Jew First: The Case for Jewish Evangelism in Scripture and History (Kregel, 2008), Hans K. LaRondelle, The Israel of God in Prophecy (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 1983), and Louis Berkof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1939).

[12] See Ted M. Dorman, A Faith for All Seasons: Historic Christian Belief In Its Classical Expression (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1995).


Check out podcast episodes by Bobby and Anthony on end times HERE.

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