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Theological doctrine of the last things, or the end of the world. Mythological eschatologies depict an eternal struggle between order and chaos and celebrate the eternity of order and the repeatability of the origin of the world. The most notable expression of mythological eschatology is in Hinduism, which maintains belief in great cycles of the destruction and creation of the universe. Historical eschatologies are grounded in datable events that are perceived as fundamental to the progress of history. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all have historical eschatologies. Eschatology in the Hebrew Scriptures sees the catastrophes that beset the people of Israel as due to their disobedience to the laws and will of God and holds that conformity to God's plan will result in renewal and the fulfillment of God's purpose. In Christianity, the end times are thought to have begun with the life and ministry of Jesus, the messiah who will return to establish the Kingdom of God. Millennialism focuses especially on Christ's second coming and the reign of the righteous on earth. In Shi'ite Islam it is believed that the mahdi, or restorer of the faith, will come to inaugurate the last judgment, in which the good will enter heaven and the evil will fall into hell. In Buddhism, eschatological traditions are associated with the Buddha Maitreya and with Pure Land Buddhism, as well as with individual efforts to achieve nirvana.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on eschatology, visit Britannica.com.