Monday, January 23, 2006

Eschatology and the Jesus Community

Over at "Jesus Creed" Scot McKnight has an interesting posting, survey and discussion happening on eschatology. Having come back from Ohio (an aunt who is a Christian is now "with the Lord") one is again reminded that we live as resurrection people living something of the world to come in this present age. Yet awaiting the resurrection of our bodies and creation in Jesus.

Eschatology (study of end times) has fallen on hard times among so many of us who once were enthusiasts. I remember reading Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth. At that time I thought eschatology was where it's at. After all, Jesus was coming back sooner than later: Israel had fulfilled prophecy, and now antichrist was surely alive. Almost everything, if you'd believe all the books like Lindseys', was in place. Dispensationalism by a number of its scholars has been modified so that many who call themselves dispensationalists today can scoff (and do) at Tim LaHaye's Left Behind series.

Eschatology is an area I need to work on. I'm not sure where I stand, though I'm friendly with what I understand of historical premillennialism as well as amillennialism. And something of the preterist view needs to get a better look from me. And I'm happier overall Scripturally with a postribulational than pretribulational view. Who really knows the answer to these questions?

What's essential to believe is that Jesus is coming back. That the kingdom of God will then come in its fullness bringing in the new creation to include everything and everyone (not in a universalist sense). And that we as the Jesus community today, live something of the essence of the age to come. We are an eschatological people. Our lives pointing to a kingdom that is not of this world, but already present in Jesus.

I'm afraid we lose alot of the richness of the Biblical account when we force it to conform to our paltry human theological systems. This is not at all to say that we should thumb our noses at theology. We should be seeking understanding from Scripture, including, surely, the acknowledgement that we simply don't know on some matters.

Maybe our theological emphasis on eschatology needs to be focused on how this is important now. As to what we look forward to, what we experience of it now and what we're to be doing because of this.

Our "hope" and lives should be the eschatological book that is read. Witnessing to the work of Jesus now, that in no way can be finished in this life alone, as we see when loved ones die and in so many other ways in this world. It is a work that points towards a greater fulfillment.

God help us, as the Jesus community, to live what we are: that city on a hill, pointing to the new Jerusalem to come. That others might catch a true glimpse and join us in this love that will never end. Amen.


Wayne Leman said...

Ted, my background and subsequent eschatological journey are very similar to yours. I appreciate your conclusion. That's really what it's about.

Ted Gossard said...

Thanks so much for your input and encouragement Wayne.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just ran across your interesting site. Also found an equally interesting web piece. Go to engines like Google or Yahoo and type in "Pretrib Rapture Diehards" (while noting LaHaye's hypocrisy) to see some long covered up evidence about the pop rapture view. L.N.

Ted Gossard said...

anonymous, thanks for the tip. I'll look that up later.

I don't question LaHaye's motives. For one thing, only God can do that. And another: I think Christians should think and hope the best of each other.

Thanks again,

Ted Gossard said...

Only God can know and make a true judgment on each one's heart- is what I meant.

RonMcK said...

You said that it is important to believe that Jesus is coming back, but I sense that this might not be enough

I believe Jesus is coming back, but it is more important to understand and believe what he and the Holy Spirit are doing now through the church.
Believing that Jesus is coming back to do what the Holy Spirit failed to do produces Pessimistic Christianity.

Ted Gossard said...

ronmck, I agree with you.

I am referring to that as important as to our eschatological beliefs in terms of last events.

As is pointed out in the blog, though, eschatology for me has more to do with the here and now, then with the "sweet by and by". And in that it certainly has to do with the work of the Holy Spirit in our midst now, as we live out the essence of the age to come in this life.