Tag Archives: Eschatology

Excuse me I believe your eschatology is showing

I think it is fair to suggest that whatever your view of the end of this age and beginning of the next age (eschatology is the fancy word for this doctrine) is will determine how you both live and engage in mission in this age.

If for instance, you believe that the goal of mission is to “save souls for heaven” – then your primary and over-riding concern will mostly likely be proclamation.  Telling people what they need to know in order to get them ready for heaven.  This life will have one primary purpose to keep yourself for heaven and to tell others about it. Your church will probably have a sharp distinction between word ministry/ proclamation and social works.  If you are really organised you might have a social work programme or two but you will spend large amounts of time making sure people know that you do not believe in the social gospel. But, at the end of the day, what really matters is getting people into heaven through hearing the gospel and making a decision for Jesus.  You might even say this is all that matters.

If, on the other hand, you hold to an in-breaking Kingdom of God paradigm, then you will see the Kingdom as not only, or even primarily, a future reality but crucially as a very real present dynamic.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus God’s end time kingdom has now broken into this world in the middle of history.  The Kingdom of God was not only announced in the gospel proclamation it was initiated in the life and mission of God’s people, the church.  One day we will see the Kingdom come in all its fullness and glory when our King Jesus returns but now the Kingdom grow largely unseen, through weakness and on the margins of society.

Life among God’s people will be a small and incomplete foretaste of what that Kingdom will be like when Jesus returns.  The people of God ought to be actively and intentionally living lives that embody that coming Kingdom.  Lives of justice, mercy, grace, peace, beauty, restoration and joy. The old discussion of social justice versus gospel proclamation goes out the window within a Kingdom “initiated and yet not complete” paradigm. We are both to proclaim the arrival of the Kingdom (with the cross at the centre of that proclamation!) and live within the in-breaking Kingdom as those who experience the foretaste of the life of the kingdom and who long for the full wedding feast of the lamb.

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Great Stories Have Great Endings 1

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Great stories have great endings. In fact I think it is the ending that defines the story…

In the urban spirituality of the city there is a somewhat accepted spiritual epithet that “it is not the destination that matters but the journey.”  This sounds really spiritual but in reality it is, quite simply, a load of cobblers (always wanted to write that, it just sounds so Dickensian).  The ending is that which gives shape and substance to the entire the story.

If the ending is tragic then the story is a tragedy, despite the moments of joy and laughter that may be found in the journey.  If the ending is happy then the story is a comedy (as defined by Buechner) despite the moments of sadness and tears which it may take to bring the story to the required happy ending.  The ending is not simply that which ends the story, it is that which gives shape, substance and even meaning to the entire story.

This is equally true for the Bible story as for any other story.

The biblical ending defines, shapes and gives meaning and significance to the biblical story. If the ending is rubbish or trite then the story is a waste of time. Certainly not something to base your life on.

To use some big words for a minute our ESCHATOLOGY defines our MISSIOLOGY which defines our ECCLESIOLOGY (HT to Alan Hirsch whom I ripped off slightly).  To translate our doctrine of the end must defines our mission which must shape our doctrine of church.

I have been reading, teaching and meditating recently on the end of the Bible story (Revelation 21-22).  A few things stood out for me:

1) God does it

This chapter is full of God’s work.  This glorious picture of the new heavens and the new earth- it is all God’s doing.  Only He can do. Only He will do it.  And as a result all the glory can only go to Him (21:2-5).

And the Lamb is at the centre of all that he does (21:9, 22, 23, 27; 22:1, 3).  Who is this Lamb? It is the the Lamb who was slain (5:6, 9).  At the centre of the New Creation is Jesus who died, for our sins (the Lamb who was slain).  The New Creation will forever be shaped by the king who died for his people.

What particularly struck me is that in Revelation 19 we have just had this picture of Jesus on the white horse, with eyes like blazing fire. A sword coming out of his mouth, He is crowned with many crowns, and the name King of Kings is written on his robe and on his thigh.   He comes to judge the nations and to rule them an iron sceptre.  It is a great and terrifying picture of a powerful and mighty king come in judgement

I think I have always assumed that it is this King who will be the centre of our worship in the new creation.  But when we come to Revelation 21-22 who is at the centre of the new creation, the Lamb who was slain!  Without reading too much into the picture language of Revelation, it is the pattern of the Lamb which is will shape the pattern of life in the new creation.

photo credit:  Olivander