2002-06-26 - Define Eschatology
Daniel 2:47 The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery."
Today's question: "I hear two trains of thought from pulpits these days. One viewpoint pushes Heaven as our eternal dwelling place when Jesus returns. Another claims that the Earth will become our new home, with Jerusalem as our capital city. I've read and reread the Book of Revelation, but frankly, I'm still lost as to which viewpoint is supported by the Bible."
Today we start the summer questions (I look forward to these).
OK troublemaker, I am going to hit on your question, but not like you think. Believe me, I think your question is honest and genuine, and I don't think for a second that you are setting me up. However, there is such polarization in the Christian community on this issue, that there is no right answer I can give you. But I am going to try. Honestly, I never would have touched your question, because of the topic, but I promised myself I would answer the first question I got in this summer series, and you won the race. So here goes.
You mention that you have read and reread the book of Revelation. Then you know the outcome. We can do it in two words: "God wins." Now there is a lot more to the book of Revelation than simply saying God wins, but if you can walk away from it and say, "I'm not sure how God wins, but I know He does," you have the logistics you need, down cold. If we wanted to play smart, we could say, "God is Lord of history and He is bringing it to consummation in Christ." Who wants to play smart? God wins -- works for me.
There are many thoughts on eschatology, which means, basically, the science of the end times. There are so many thoughts on this subject that I often think it is almost unprofitable to discuss. There are many today that are convinced that we are in the "last days." They might be right, and honestly, I hope they are. However people on June 26, 1902 thought they were in the last days also. People on June 26, 1802 thought they were in the last days. People on June 26, 1702 equally thought the apocalypse was upon them, and so on ad nauseum. The last days mindset is nothing new. The real issue for us as believers, if we are convinced that God wins in the end, is that we now take that understanding and live for Christ.
I have deep theological convictions on this topic of end times, but honestly I could be landing on Mars with what I believe. If I hold onto salvation in Christ alone and seek to live to His glory, then it matters not if the heavenly Jerusalem is my home, if there is a heavenly city somewhere in the unknown outer reaches, or if heaven will be spent in my cookie jar. Rather than try to figure out the deep recesses of the mind of God, I will seek to live for Him, because faithfulness is a big enough hassle for my small world. Take that for what it is, but I am simply being honest here.
In some sense, I think my answer seems trite and not to the point. In some sense, that is intentional. Let me give you a recommendation of two books. One is by O. Palmer Robertson, "The Christ of the Covenants." Honestly, this book will not address your question directly, but it will hit, throughout it, on the very issue I think you are dealing with. That is my hunch book for you. One I am sure of is Louis Berkof's systematic theology. It is a basic theological book and has the strange title, "Systematic Theology." Funny how that works. I know that you are overseas and thus these might be hard to aquire. However, the cheapest place I know to purchase Christian books is www.cvbbs.com.
As I said above, the key to the book of Revelation, or make that the whole Bible, is that God wins. That is all we need to know. Can we have thoughts on how He wins or what it will look like? Sure. Would I stake my water bottle on those convictions? Nope. I have read the Bible. I have seen that the Jews missed out on the Messiah because they did not interpret things correctly. Am I any better than they? Sorry, but I'm either just not that Pharisaical to admit it, or too Pharisaical to do so.
I have wanted to say this from the outset and had no way of including it because it seems harsh, but here it is. Walk away from the book of Revelation and head for Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. No easy way to say it, but since we don't give out names here, you're safe. Just remember, "God Wins!" In fact, put it in writing above the title of the book of Revelation in your Bible. Years ago I wrote, "How to live like a Christian," above the title of Ephesians in my Bible. It was a wise move.
Soli Deo Gloria,