Eschatology is the part of theology which deals with "the last things," the future of the world and the conclusion of history. Christians know, of course, this is all summed up in the second coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment.
In the final Sundays of Trinity Season, the readings from the Epistles begin to pound away at this theme. On Trinity XVIII, we hear of "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." On Trinity XIX, we are reminded that by the Holy Spirit we are "sealed unto the day of redemption." On Trinity XX, we are admonished to "redeem the time, because the days are evil." On Trinity XXI, we hear of an "evil day" ahead of us, when we will truly need the "whole armor of God."
On Trinity XXII, the tone is less somber, with the promise "he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." On Trinity XXIII, we hear a thrilling promise: "we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed unto the body of his glory." And today, Trinity XXIV (the last Sunday for which the Prayer Book counts from Trinity), we read of "the hope that is laid up for [us] in heaven," and of our becoming "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
These references to "the last things" are more than throwaway lines in passages with a different focus. This sustained theme of the Great and Awful Day, hammered in with the mallet of repetition, over the final Sundays of Trinity Season, really rushes the season toward Advent, when the consummation of history is announced with a loud blast.
What should we learn from this series of gentle hints of Eschatology? First of all, we may be sure there will be an End. History will not ramble on forever without a goal. Neither will it be snuffed out by some intended accident. As the hymn tells us, "God is working His purpose out," and He means to bring that plan--a plan that involves each of us--to its perfection.
Second, speaking from a strictly human perspective, the future is dire. The Christian Gospel offers no false optimism of inevitable progress. The NT speaks more than once of a great tribulation before Christ comes again. But this tribulation is not final.
Third, the consummation, End, Goal, and Perfection of all things is when Christ returns visibly to this world. We affirm this every time we say the Creed together: "And he shall come again with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end." LKW