Eschatology. “The study of the end.” Or, “What we believe about The End.”
In Christian circles, eschatology is drawn to the fore when people are predicting that the world will end on a particular date. Or when we are trying to convince someone to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior before it’s too late.
But all of this puts the accent on the wrong syllable (as Mrs. Heavener used to say in Spanish class, giving due stress to the second syllable of the word “syllable” for good measure: syl-LA-ble).
And this month’s Christianity Today has an outstanding, short essay by David Neff putting things back in order.
Neff makes six points about Christian eschatology:
- Biblical eschatology is about justice
- Biblical justice is about eschatology
- Biblical eschatology is about the world’s divine destiny
- Justice announces the kingdom’s arrival
- Sacrificing for justice is an act of faith that God will make good our sacrifices
- Jesus’ parables of judgment are often about justice
When you survey this list, one thing that sticks out is that eschatology is very much this-worldly. It is one of the ironies of traditional evangelical (Dispensational) eschatology that its focus on “the end” has made it other-worldly, so concerned about the coming of Jesus that it has taken all attention away from the world in which we live.
Why ironic? Because Jesus’ proclamation of the end served notice that the days were numbered for the powers that were disordering his world: hunger was disappearing with the advent of a kingdom of abundance. Sickness was being undone with the advent of the kingdom of healing. Exclusion was disappearing with the advent of the kingdom of transforming embrace.
The end means that God is bringing justice.
For the end to have drawn near means that the justice for which we wait in the days ahead is reaching backward and invading the days in which we live.
It is in the face of this, the advent of the justice of God, that Jesus proclaims, “Repent, for the reign of God has drawn near!”