Why did God make Eschatology so Confusing?

Many people complain, “If God wanted to communicate about the end of human history, why didn’t he just give a clear, concise, and detailed account? Why do we have to appeal to hundreds of passages—scattered throughout the Bible?”

When addressing the subject of eschatology, we need to have a humble posture in regards to what was revealed, because God is the one who is ultimately in charge, and he must have reasons for withholding certain details. More observations are certainly in order:

First, if we eliminated all confusing portions of theology, we would be in big trouble theologically! In fact, we would miss out on some core Christian doctrines. Walvoord writes, “Certainly if one is to reject a doctrine because it is complicated, no theologian could for a moment accept the doctrine of the Trinity or debate the fine points of the relation of the two natures in Jesus Christ.”[1]

Second, the Bible predicts that future prophecy will be difficult to understand. Daniel was frustrated with the visions that he was getting about the end of human history. At the end of his book, he finally asked God, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” and “What will the outcome of all this be?” (Dan. 12:6, 8 NIV) After the vision of Daniel 8, we read, “I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up again… but I was astounded at the vision, and there was none to explain it” (Dan. 8:27). If you are frustrated with prophecy about the end of history, don’t despair; you are in good company with the prophet Daniel! Even Daniel (the prophet) struggled with understanding it.

Third, because of the fanaticism of biblical prophecy, God might want to keep these things partially hidden until the end of human history. If the end of history were clearer, then people might try to self-fulfill these things on their own. Because they are partially hidden, this cuts down on a lot of this sort of nonsense or insanity. Consider how many false messiahs and cult leaders have claimed to be the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus predicted that this would happen (Mt. 24:4-5, 24). Even with clear biblical instructions on this, many have been persuaded by evil false teachers into spiritual darkness.

Daniel this concept in this way, “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Dan. 12:9-10 NIV). Here, God explains that he wants to keep these truths partially hidden (even from Daniel), so that “none of the wicked will understand” (Dan. 12:10a). Perhaps, God has purposely kept portions of the end of history veiled, so that no one could attempt to self-fulfill these prophecies.

However, the angel also tells Daniel that in the future “those who are wise will [in that final generation] understand” (Dan. 12:10b). This passage tells us that we are not meant to understand all future biblical prophecy, but then again, we are not intended to. The people of that generation “will” understand it, when it happens. In other words, God has given just enough information for the good guys to understand, but not enough for the bad guys to understand it.

Fourth, the difficulty and complexity of biblical prophecy adds to its credibility. The Bible doesn’t simply give us one or two specific predictions. Instead, it gives us a general scenario that even secular people can attest to. Remember, Jesus told us that there would be general “signs” of his coming (Mt. 24:33). When these signs are all compiled together, we can know that the end of history is approaching. This general scenario adds to the Bible’s credibility in a way that a few specific predictions could not. As we consider the thousands of passages, from dozens of different authors, spread across centuries and even millennia, we can recognize a unique mark of inspiration. How could this many people, over this much time, give such an incredibly coherent picture of the end of history?

Fifth, while the details are difficult to discern, the main markers are made easy. Don’t get bogged down with the details of eschatology. Instead, try to get the overall picture, and work your way from the clear to the unclear. Remember, the main points are easy to understand. John says that we should “read” and “hear” the words in Revelation (Rev. 1:3). Get the big picture and work your way inwards for the details. Similarly, when you build a puzzle, you often begin on the edges and work your way inward from there. In the same way, when you study prophecy, begin with the clear portions and move on to the unclear portions.

This is really true in multiple different disciplines. For instance, Stephen Hawking doesn’t know everything about astrophysics, but he still knows something about it. My car mechanic doesn’t know everything about car transmissions, but he still knows something about them. In the same way, while we aren’t given exhaustive truth about the end of human history, we are still given some truth. God has put us on a “need-to-know” basis concerning the end of human history. He has not revealed everything to us, and we need to be humble enough to be content with that.

The main message of the Bible’s view of the end of human history is clear. For instance, in one of his teaching tapes, NT scholar Stanley Toussaint tells a story about talking to an uneducated man, who was reading the book of Revelation. Toussaint was surprised, because the man didn’t know much about the Bible, but he was reading Revelation, which is a difficult book to understand and comprehend. Toussaint asked him, “Do you understand what you’re reading in there?”

“Oh, of course!” the man said, casually. “We’re gonna win!” This captures what we should take away from a study on the end of human history. While the details are often “through a mirror dimly,” we can still know that we will eventually see him “face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12). We should keep in mind that the main message of the Bible is always the plain message.

Conclusion: Humility is needed

Modern people expect biblical prophecy to read like a newspaper report of a plane crash. We want dates, details, and descriptions. The biblical account does not read like a newspaper story, but it also never claims to be written in this way. When we read the Bible, we are not given what we think is important. Instead, we are given what God (the author) thinks is important. Think about it like this. Imagine that you write a eulogy for a loved one for their funeral, and the IRS writes a document about your loved one after they die. Will these two accounts be similar? Of course not. You will no doubt emphasize different aspects of the person’s life from different perspectives. Similarly, God emphasizes certain things about the end of human history. We might want a blow-by-blow report, but this is a false expectation. God emphasizes what we need to know for a reason. Often in prophecy concerning the end of history, God emphasizes his sovereignty, his power, and his reward for those who persevere. This is important—not the details. Thus the interpreter needs to learn to be content with what God has revealed, rather than frustrated or fanatical with what he hasn’t revealed.


[1] Walvoord, John. “Amillennial Eschatology” Bibliotheca Sacra. October-December. 1950. 14.