2. A belief, or a doctrine, concerning ultimate or final things; such as, death, the destiny of humanity, or the Final Judgment of God.
3. A Christian term that means the study of the end of history from a religious perspective.
Christians of every age since the death of Jesus have been anxiously awaiting the second coming, and looking for advance signs of his return.
Anticipation was intensified as the last year of some centuries approached; particularly 1000 A.D. and 1500 A.D. It was also particularly intense just before the start of the year 2000. The anticipation subsided considerably on January 1, 2000; but it is still an expectation by many Christians.
According to Matthew 24:35-36, Jesus said that no one knows the exact date and time of the end of the world: "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
Despite these words, many Christians still have attempted to predict the year and month; but not necessarily the day and hour of the end.
They also believe that those who reject their message will be destroyed including those who willfully refuse to obey God and that such action will shortly take place at Armageddon, ensuring that the beginning of the new earthly society will be composed of willing subjects of that kingdom.
The Hebrew word Mashiach (or Moshiach) means anointed one, "messiah", and refers to a human being who will usher in a messianic era of peace and prosperity for both the living and the dead.
Judaism has taught that a moshiach ("messiah") will bring about a revival of both the ancient united Kingdom of Israel and its ancient form of sacrificial worship in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Eschatology is therefore, not the end of the world but its rebirth instituted by Jesus and continued by his disciples, an historical (rather than a transhistorical) phenomenon.
Those who believe this viewpoint generally dismiss the "end times" theories, believing them to be irrelevant.
They contend that what Jesus said and did, and told his disciples to do also, are of greater significance than any messianic expectations.
This view is more attractive to many people, especially liberal Christians, since it reverses the notion of Jesus' coming as an apocalyptic event, something which they interpret as being hardly in keeping with the overall theme of Jesus' teachings in the canonical gospels, and are troubled by its firm association with evangelicalism and conservative politics.
Instead, they say that eschatology should be about being engaged in the process of becoming, rather than waiting for external and unknown forces to bring about some kind of "end of the world" or prophetic destruction.
Traditionally, the church has taught that the second coming will be preceded by a global crisis with the Sabbath as a central issue.
It is believed that when Jesus returns, the righteous will be taken to heaven for one thousand years. After the millennium, the unsaved will be punished by annihilation while the saved will live on a recreated Earth for eternity.