One of the challenges about studying eschatology is that there are so many details that we can easily drown in a sea of triviality. It helps to take a step back, to look at the big picture. Before we get into specific passages and specific topics, we need to look at eschatology as a whole, in an overview fashion.
Throughout the history of the church, there have been four basic approaches that have been articulated regarding eschatology. Each of these four approaches makes sense within themselves. Intelligent, godly men have held to each of these four positions.
Each approach begins with a set of principles. Often, these principles are not consciously adopted, but they are unconsciously assumed. They function on the level of presuppositions. That is, they are subconsciously or unknowingly adopted.
We will briefly define each approach before taking a look at each one in detail.
1) Futurism interprets most of the prophecies as still awaiting future fulfillment (hence, “Futurism”), with the bulk of the prophetic texts being fulfilled at the end of history.
2) Historicism interprets most of the prophecies as being fulfilled evenly throughout the history of the church (hence, “Historicism”) by specific events.
3) Idealism interprets most of the prophecies as being fulfilled throughout the history of the church, but in a general way, not in specific events (hence, “Idealism”).
4) Preterism interprets most of the prophecies as already fulfilled in the past (prater is Latin for “past”, hence, the name Preterism), specifically in the first century AD.