We’ve been studying eschatology in our doctrine classes for this past term, normally that would mean lots of discussion about the end of the world: whether we all get RAPTURED before or after the TRIBULATION, whether the ‘MARK OF THE BEAST’ is some sort of barcode or RFID tag, and whether the UN is really paving the way for THE ANTICHRIST. You know, interesting Sci-Fi type stuff, like in ‘Left Behind’.
Hey, that’s what ‘eschatology’ meant when I was a kid.
There’s certainly plenty of material in the news at the moment to give a Rapture Watcher pause for thought: The Global Financial Crisis, the arming of nuclear Iran and North Korea (Gog and Magog anyone?), a pandemic of Swine Flu (can anything be more clearly a sign of judgement than a plague of swine flu? clearly the work of the Pale Rider). The RAPTURE INDEX must be well into the Red Zone.
(Seriously, you should check out the Rapture Index, bookmark it! You’ll be pleased to know that: “To help the site survive the crush of traffic that the staff assumes will follow the Rapture it has a number of mirror sites that include raptureme.com, tribulation.us, rr-rapture.com, raptureready.net, and anti-antichrist.com.” Because everyone will want to know what happened to all the Christians after the Rapture, see?)
Sadly, that’s not what we’ve been doing in class. Instead, we’ve been working through the Lord’s Prayer as a framework for thinking about God’s purposes for this world and how, by the Spirit, they are brought to fruition in the person and work of Jesus. It’s been really good stuff.
David Höhne (our lecturer) is right to point out that the basic experience of prayer is eschatological. When we bring our prayers to God we are involving ourselves in the observation that this world has not come fully under the Lordship of Christ; we acknowledge that God has decisively acted against this condition; and we anticipate that God will bring his Kingdom to completion thus satisfying our deepest needs beyond all possible comprehension or desire. Every act of asking God for something is a gesture towards the End of the Age.
Every prayer is ultimately an elaboration on:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
But that’s not really what we talked about today either…
Uncharacteristically, today our class discussion did stray heavily towards the topic of THE END OF THE WORLD, although strangely enough, the actual topic was meant to be the eschatological implications of the prayer for forgiveness…
So what can we say of God’s plans for this creation? On the one hand we have the unmistakable implication that the New Testament draws from the Resurrection: that God’s new creation is a redemption of the Old – the buying back of something which had been lost and enslaved. It is the redemption from the grave of a lifeless corpse – one dead body raised is the living, breathing evidence that God can and will act to overcome the power of sin and death that has held the old world captive.
That act, is not less that a fundamental refoundation of the world, a reconstitution, it is re-newed, but it would not be ‘redemption’, there would be no ‘re-‘ if the new-ness which God brings involved forgetting the old and leaving it behind. Such an act would destroy the concept of redemption: you don’t buy back a child from slavery by having another child.
When he promises to ‘make all things new’ this does not mean that the old things are forgotten and set aside. They are the seeds out of which he will cause a new garden to burst into flower.
But on the other hand, we shouldn’t avoid the strong language of 2 Peter 3, which talks about the world in these terms:
They willfully ignore this: long ago the heavens and the earth existed out of water and through water by the word of God. Through these the world of that time perished when it was flooded by water. But by the same word the present heavens and earth are held in store for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. (2Peter 3:5-7 HCSB)
That is a promise of real destruction: before the resurrection came a real death. There is no path to the new creation that does not lead through violent destruction: what was true of Christ is true for all the world, it is true for us precisely because his death and destruction was for us.
Jesus, “who rescues us from the coming wrath” does so by suffering it for us, not by stopping it from coming. It is because we have already lived through the destruction of ourselves and our world in him, that we can speak now of being a ‘new creation’ in him. But there is no escaping the inverse conclusion that whatever is not in him has no future, or rather, its future is fire.
What is ‘in him’ and what is not? What will be, and what will not be, that is the question.