Eschatology

 

Whilst the church’s efforts to bring about a better world have eternal significance; such a kingdom will be of a temporal nature.  However, his kingdom present will eventually lead to his kingdom future.  An eschatological hope grounded in the return of Christ Jesus and the fulfilment of his Father’s mission: a kingdom future that will last for eternity.  A number of writers have attempted to portray the vast dimension that eternity presents:

 

Imagine a rock rising out of the sea: a massive slab of rock, one hundred miles high and one hundred miles wide.  Then, once every 1,000 years a seagull comes and rests on top of the rock and sharpens its beak.  Thus when that rock has been worn away, you will have had a glimpse of eternity.  Heard at church service - author unknown

 

When we’ve been there a thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.  (Newton u.d.)

 

Such descriptions put into perspective our limited life-span here on earth.  The church’s work to alleviate poverty, to bring about a just and peaceful world, to advocate for the vulnerable and marginalized in society will provide relief to many – a relief that for an individual may span a lifetime, 50 years, 60 years – maybe even reaching 100 years: a relief that may span generations.  But in relation to the eschatological hope, such a time span is but a minute drop in a vast ocean – and this eschatological hope should constantly encourage and inform the church as it participates in God’s mission.

 

Eschatology provides a worldview framework for the church’s mission in the contemporary age.  For the world and the Christian faith community we live in the present era of the already-not-yet.  We have tasted the goodness of the eternal community and fellowship with God through Christ.  At the same time we have not entered into the fullness of God’s future community. (Vencer 2002, p29)

 

It is important for those concerned for human transformation to keep the end of the story in mind.  This is where the triune God is going.  This is the best human future.  (Myers 1998, p42)

 

We need an eschatology for mission which is both future-directed and oriented to the here and now.  It must be an eschatology that holds in creative and redemptive tension the already and the not yet; the world of sin and rebellion, and the world God loves; the new age that has already begun and the old that has not ended; justice as well as justification; the gospel of liberation and the gospel of salvation.  Christian hope does not spring from despair about the present.  We hope because of what we have already experienced.  Christian hope is both possession and yearning, repose and activity, arrival and being on the way.  Since God’s victory is certain, believers can work both patiently and enthusiastically, blending careful planning with urgent obedience, motivated by the patient impatience of the Christian hope.  The disciples’ being sent to the uttermost ends of the earth (Acts 1:8) is the only reply they get to their question about when God would be inaugurated in its fullness.  (Bosch 1991, p508)

 

The Church serves the kingdom by spreading throughout the world the "gospel values" which are an expression of the kingdom and which help people to accept God's plan. It is true that the inchoate reality of the kingdom can also be found beyond the confines of the Church among peoples everywhere, to the extent that they live "gospel values" and are open to the working of the Spirit who breathes when and where he wills (cf. Jn 3:8). But it must immediately be added that this temporal dimension of the kingdom remains incomplete unless it is related to the kingdom of Christ present in the Church and straining towards eschatological fullness.

 

The many dimensions of the kingdom of God do not weaken the foundations and purposes of missionary activity, but rather strengthen and extend them. The Church is the sacrament of salvation for all mankind, and her activity is not limited only to those who accept her message. She is a dynamic force in mankind's journey toward the eschatological kingdom, and is the sign and promoter of gospel values. The Church contributes to mankind's pilgrimage of conversion to God's plan through her witness and through such activities as dialogue, human promotion, commitment to justice and peace, education and the care of the sick, and aid to the poor and to children. In carrying on these activities, however, she never loses sight of the priority of the transcendent and spiritual realities which are premises of eschatological salvation. (Paulus 1990, section 20)

 

God acts in history and creates a people of God.  But human history has been separated into sacred – where God is at work among his people  - and secular.  The key to uniting them is to regard human history from the perspective of the final Kingdom in which God will fulfil his purpose by the renewal of all creation.  (Sugden & Barclay 1990)

 

An eschatological viewpoint on engagement with the poor, it gives members of the church and Christian organizations an unimaginable assurance in times of trouble and personal risk.  Even to the ultimate point of risking one’s life, as particularly experienced by the early church, the early missionaries and experienced by the faithful today:

 

...it is quite clear that the eschatological certainty of eternal life gives freedom to risk one’s present life.  (Petersen 1998, p24)

 

 

   
 

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