Monday, March 21, 2005

An Eschatology of Hope

I grew up in a dispensationalist environment (if you don't understand this terminology, it would be directly analogous to the Left Behind book series), where I remember as a child being afraid that Jesus was going to break through the clouds at any moment and rescue us from the world that was clearly going to hell (more and more so every day). The emphasis always seemed to be on what God had done in the past and at the same time a resignation when looking towards the future. As I have grown in my theological studies and understandings, I have begun to recognize how this has lead both in my life (and in the conservative evangelical church at-large) to a general apathy when it comes to the world around me. I mean, why spend your time and resources in this world, when Jesus is just going to take us out of it an anytime (and in fact I remember being taught as a child that he would for sure came back by the year 2000 -- AT THE LATEST)? I was finishing a book today by one of my favorite authors and he was talking about a new eschatology, and this really charged me up... "Jesus went everywhere preaching, 'The kingdom of God is at hand,' loosely paraphrased, he was saying, 'The kingdom of God is ahead in the road.' It isn't behind us, back in 'Bible times,' as I thought in Sunday school. It is ahead of us. It is not here fully yet, though it is in some way among us...Few things could change the church...as much as putting the weight on the future rather than the past...Leaning forward in this way, we will be filled with hope, not dread; energy, not nostalgia...We will assume that God is still building and working -- and will not become tired or distracted from his plans." That feels so much better to me...and gives me such more more reason and excitement about living in the world today!

1 comment:

ryan said...

But isn't that exactly what dispensationalism is? Dispensationalism is the dividing of all time into discrete periods. To say that the kingdom of heaven is at hand is to say that it is not in this discrete time period, but is yet in the road.
I also wonder, have christians been looking forward to an event that we really should be dreding? Even if the faithful are taken, what of the rest? A belief in a rapture should fill us with fear, not for our own sakes, but for our neighbor. Would God please grant us another day before he returns...