Water Mosaic echoes from home

pondering the mysteries, simplicity, and humor of life

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Significance of Eschatology

*Warning* Theological Musing Ahead *Warning*
Our triune God has displayed his presence, mercy and grace in the formation of the world, the events of the crisis, Israel’s history, the voices of the prophets and poets, the Messiah’s life and death, the outpouring of the Spirit, and then continuum of God’s agents in the world (the church). We have witnessed a story that is beautiful and rich with history and meaning. But our story is not finished. It is on a trajectory to continue towards the final fulfillment of God’s Kingdom. In a sense God has been calling the story (history even) as well as his people forward into the future to embrace each other and God’s ultimate dream for this world.

In reading Scripture, most of the authors speak about the movement of history towards the eschaton (end times). From Isaiah’s prophetic voice announcing that the lamb will lie down with the lion and swords beaten to plowshares to the ‘renewal of all things’ language of Paul, we can see that history has a purpose and a goal to which it is moving towards. Some may boil the eschaton down to the ambiguous writings of John in his vision Revelation. While this letter has rich metaphors and a deeply convicting message, we should be wary of our curiosity to look for ‘the signs of the end times.’ Not that our curiosity should be stifled in anyway in re-imagining the eschaton motif, but our efforts should focus on the coming of God in the here and now. To further explain this idea we look to the language of the “old age” and the “new age” in the New Testament. Until Christ’s entrance into the world, the old age had been moving along just fine from the beginning of the crisis in our story. Even though creation was still considered good, it was deeply wounded by harmful activity such as shame, hate, violence, selfishness and a host of other viruses that still plague the human race. As we saw in the creation narrative, God created all things with room to grow and progress towards its initial eschatological goal. God stepped into history as a person and ushered in a “new age,” one that would look totally different from the present aeon. And so from that time on, Jesus showed people how to be human in the new age (intended humanity), and what ethics constitute as Kingdom living. Jesus was himself the eschatological human, one that all would hopefully emulate and practice living such as he did. Moreover, the forming of the body of Christ, not to mention the pouring of the Spirit, was intended to be the foretaste of the eschatology. The ethics and activities of the church flow from its identity in the new age.

The implications of the eschaton to our church are unfathomable. Besides having our theology entrenched in the idea of eschatology, our lives should be oriented towards God’s dream. Jesus prayed for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. We would do well to follow his example. Our attitude concerning the ‘end times’ should avoid the pop-culture’s view of the rapture where we hope we aren’t left behind and face the antichrist from the Middle East named Nicholas. Let us be mindful of what Peter said, “We wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” Since God will refine all things on earth, we should view the things around us as redeemable and worthy of our attention (i.e. environment, poverty, economics). God will bring about the Kingdom on his time, but in the meantime we are agents of this eschatological presence in the here and now. May we embrace creation and all that are in it and live out God’s telos, inviting all along our journey.