I don’t want to talk about eschatology in the church. But we should.
“All my life I had heard words such as, “Let God in your life;” “Give God a chance,’ “Accept him as your Savior and you will discover the rich meaning of life:” I gradually began to understand that these phrases and others like them turn the gospel inside out. I once understood the gospel as God asking me to let him into my narrative, to find room for him in my heart and life. But now I realize that God bids me to find my place in his narrative. In God’s story, he, with his own two hands-the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit-recapitulated and reversed the human situation so I can now live in him.”
One of the trends that I am seeing over and over in the material that I have been reading is the overt nature in which my own apprehension of the eschatological dimension of worship is stunted. I think this is because I am gun shy of the whole topic. Not because it isn’t important; rather, because in many church contexts as soon as the words “eschaton” or “end-times” are uttered people would come out of the wood-work like a comicon convention with their Tim LaHaye books and their Jack Van Impe brand predictions about a dispensational pre-millennial rapture/tribulation/new world order.
In addition to all of those positions being recent developments in the church, biblically ridiculous, and not to mention a bit convoluted to unpack, the bigger issue is that people get offended (read: angry) when we use the term eschatology to mean something more biblical, more reformed, more in line with the arc of redemptive history that God has created and is taking the whole world to. But people don’t want to hear that. They want to talk about how Obama is the anti-Christ, how the USA will escape a military takeover because of some obscure passage in Daniel, or something else. They don’t want to consider for a moment that a proper view of the eschaton involves God not letting any part of the fall be victorious in this world. The whole world was cursed, humanity included, and the whole world is being redeemed, including the ransomed of humanity.
But it was tiring to even write that; finding the strength to step in the fray and teach that seems like it would be a whole lot of work.
The reading in Webber, Mouw, Meyers, Frame, and others have pointed out that worship is both remembrance (reminder) and rehearsal. It seems like not dealing with eschatology head on is kind of like permitting kudzu to grow. Eventually you are in a losing battle with the weed just trying to keep it from completely eclipsing everything instead of doing the hard work of preventing those seeds from being planted in the first place.
Observe these few quotes from When the Kings Come Marching in: Isaiah and the New Jerusalem
“But the Holy City is not wholly discontinuous with present conditions. The biblical glimpses of this City give us reason to think that its contents will not be completely unfamiliar to people like us. In fact, the contents of the City will be more akin to our present cultural patterns than is usually acknowledged in discussions of the afterlife.”
And this one:
“We – at least many of us – seem to assume that the present patterns and entities of corporate life will simply be done away with when the time for “heaven” comes.”
If we prepare the church for its place in the New Heavens and New Earth, we must begin to think of the new creation in language that the Bible refers to it. Which means that we must not grow weary in speaking against the salesmen and panic-mongers who try to hijack the entire narrative of eschatology in the church.
Oh yes. One other thing. The world is not going to end on May 21, 2011. We aren’t smarter than Jesus.