Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The End Is Near...

Apocalyptic fervor seems to be at an all time high. We are on the verge of the conclusion of the Mayan calendar, global warming threatens to drastically change the landscape of our world, and the recent economic crisis has lead many to believe that we are fast approaching the end of days. Frightened readers may find solace in the knowledge that even before the dawning of a new millennium prognosticators predicted the ending of our world. Fortunately to this point every Nostradamus has been incorrect in their predictions.

As Christians we are called to be an eschatological people. For some this means a constant mining of the apocalyptic Scriptures for hidden insights about the coming world catastrophe. These insights are appealing to much of our world, some having so much appeal that their unveiling is the cause for rampant fandom resulting a fervor that distracts many well meaning Christians from the crises on which their attention should fall.

What is the telios of the Christian life? Paul makes it abundantly clear, building upon his understanding of what the atonement accomplishes. Our goal is new creation [2 Corinthians 5:17]. We are to live with the end in mind; our attention should be fixed on the future of God, coming to redeem all things, and to restore all of the created order. What Paul calls us to is a life lived in expectation of that future goal, we are to model new creation in our lives in the here and now.

Unfortunately, we are often distracted from the grandiose nature of that goal. A narrow understanding of what the life and death of Jesus on the cross accomplishes easily distracts us. We want to subsume the work of Jesus into a single narrative that focuses its attention primarily on how we get to heaven when we die. But the atonement accomplishes so much more. In his death and resurrection Jesus says no to the powers of this world, he defeats death, evil, and faithfully does what Israel could never do. This work is based primarily on the faithfulness of God to his covenant with Abraham.

Jesus death on the cross inaugurates a new eschatological reality. We are to live out lives today in anticipation of the future coming of God, the restoration of all things, and the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth. Our future goal is not disembodied bliss, but rather a world where God runs the show. In anticipation of that reality, we must begin to ask ourselves some probing questions.

First, what would our family, our neighborhood, our city, our country, and our world look like if God were running the show? Our lives should propel our world in that direction. Our sphere of influence should resemble heaven a little more because we are in it. If there will be peace in heaven, we should be peacemakers in our families. If there will be plenty for all in heaven, we should strive to ensure that no one is without when we have the means to bless them.

Second, we recognize that living out Christian ideals is not a matter of adherence to a list of rules to which we are obligated to follow out of fear of divine retribution. Nor are we simply free to live in a world of grace without consequences because we serve a God who is overflowing with forgiveness. Rather, we understand that our lives are to be lived in anticipation of our redemption. We are an eschatological people, not because we long for the end of time, or the removal of ourselves from this evil world, but rather because we long for the day when God will restore all things. In anticipation of that restoration, our lives serve as glimpses into that future reality. This eschatological anticipation motivates us to live up to the standards of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7]. We are neither trying to earn God’s favor, nor are we taking advantage of His grace. We are striving towards the goal of completion when we will be made whole.

Finally, because we are an eschatological people we will seek out others who share our convictions and hopes of reaching fulfillment. The path that leads to completion is not to be traveled in seclusion. We are a community of called out people challenged with the task of orienting our lives around the reality of the resurrection. We cannot traverse this path alone, nor were we meant to. Living in anticipation of the end means a radical change in lifestyle, commitments, and values. This transformation is designed to take place within the context of a community of believers who challenge, prod, and dare us to take the next steps toward our goal. We are not meant to walk alone on this road, for God has called out others just like us to be an eschatological people.

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