Christian Theology in a Thumbnail: Eschatology (10)
Did you know the “end times” has already begun? Check out 1 Corinthians 10:11 or Hebrews 1:2. And that’s what really important about eschatology, teaching about the end times. Though most us tend to be more interested in various schemes purporting to explain how the history of the world will end, there is no “one” scheme the Bible attests and its interest in the end times is far more about how it impacts the present than when or how it will occur.
Creation itself is the “beginning of the End.” That is, creation looks forward to its completion in the Kingdom of God (see Rev.21-22). The End is the End of the beginning. That is, the completion of creation. And Christianity claims that with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead the End has begun, even though it will be fully consummated until his return!
That means the church lives between the time of the inauguration of God’s new age and its fulfillment at his return. Living between the times like this means that we begin to live the future of God’s kingdom even now in the middle of the old age of sin, death, and the devil which continues on even though those powers have been defeated. Our lives as God’s people are thus conflicted as we seek to live the new age of God faithfully.
This is analogous to the situation of the Allied forces in World War II in the European theater after the storming of Normandy and the victory there. Henceforth there was no doubt about the outcome of the war in that theater (D-Day). Battles, however, continued as the Allies continued to fight to root out the remaining pockets of resistance of the Axis forces. It was nearly a year later before V-Day when the treaties were signed and hostilities finally ceased.
The end times means for biblical writers that what God has done in Christ has brought the future into the present. This future-now-present conditions everything we do henceforth and enables us to live “ahead of our time” (as it were). The distinctiveness and credibility of the gospel depends on how well we as God’s people live faithfully out of this future-now-present. And it’s the ministry of the Holy Spirit to do just this in and through us. The life we now live in the power of the Spirit is the life of the age to come lived now, which, interestingly enough, is just what the phrase “eternal life” means in John’s writings.
BTW, if you’re waiting on the Rapture, you need to know that that is simply a fig-newton of a particular 19th century understanding of the End. There is no such thing!