What are some of the historical trends over the last 2,000 years as relates to Christian eschatology?
For all of these things, I am looking in the long-term and overall. These trends haven’t all been constant.
1. and 2. Communications and knowledge. Basically, the ability to communicate has increased. If humans are the ‘body of Christ’, then that body has added important aspects of its nervous system. Of course, a lot of the new communications is noise or spread of falsehoods or ‘misdirection’, yet if you were to think of humans as a super-organism on the likes of an ant colony or bee colony (the latter being a traditional Christian motif for understanding human relations), one would expect for a kind of communication system to develop along with the organism.
Combine this with humans having increased significantly their understanding of cause-and-effect systems in the universe. This has led to various things, such as making the idea of humans as stewards of the Earth (and even the entire universe) something that sounds much more plausible now as opposed to 2,000 years ago, or the idea of physical bodies that are immortal more plausible.
These changes in plausibility of core ideas related to Christianity weren’t just coincidental to Christianity – the rise of science was caused by Christian institutions (such as the various universities), Christian men (most of whom in the early, most difficult stage of science were devoutly pious), and specifically Christian motivations (such as wanting to understand the mind of God better, believing that God would create a basically reasonable physical universe, and so on).
Countering this, you have a seeming decrease in the output:input ratio for important scientific progress. Simply put, the average scientist seems to be achieving much, much less than the average scientist 150 years ago (indeed, the decrease in impact of a given scientist seems to track the rise in secularism). Nonetheless, a good case can be made that significant scientific progress is still being made, and science has now become a global (instead of almost entirely European) process.
3. Rise of Christianity. The idea that Christianity would become a global phenomenon was not in evidence in the first century A.D. Indeed, the first disciples of Jesus of Nazareth didn’t even know most of the land mass in the world that existed. The idea that Christianity even could reach ‘every tribe and every nation’ was, practically speaking, impossible when they were given the ‘great commission’. Yet, first it expanded around the Mediterranean, then through Europe. Then with the rise of the European explorers, it moved to the Americas and parts of Asia (such as the Philippines). Throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, it has continued to expand, in particular in Asia and Africa.
Of course, this has not been a one-sided affair. You also have the rise of secularism (in particular in Europe, but also to a lesser extent in the United States). You also have a parallel rise of Islam (although originally known as a Christian heresy, due to its reliance on Jewish and Christian stories and the recognition of Jesus of Nazareth as a prophet), and the removal of Christians from various parts of the Middle East. Yet, on the whole and overall, we are continuing to see Christianity expanding, both in numbers of adherents and geographical reach.
These are a few trends that might be relevant for a Christian eschatology. Where does that leave us as far as evidence for this or that eschatology?