Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Some thoughts arround eschatology and ministy
Jesus Christ is coming back! This is a promise of God foreordained, he will come on the clouds of heaven and every eye will see him, he will make all things new. He will be the instigator of the New Heavens and the New Earth. This is a fantastic promise, and because of the assurance of the hope to which we are called we should be faithfully anticipating this day with great joy and certainty. This event should cast a shadow of optimism over every aspect of Christian Ministry. If there was no second coming perhaps Hegelatarian ideology of the world realising itself dialectically may make an appearance. This, however, would not only make a dramatic difference to our Biblical doctrine of God, and distort Ministry. Ministers would not be able to provide adequate reason for persevering under suffering for instance.
Christ’s return is the origin and propagator of the hope and optimism that Ministers live by and teach to their flock. His return brings the New Creation, where we will be like Christ, perfected, clothed completely in righteousness, and sinless. His return ‘will be the decisive inauguration of the next stage in God’s history.’[*1]
Everyone will be resurrected, as all were born in Adam, all will be raised with Christ, believers to eternal life and non-believers to eternal punishment. This resurrection will be the transforming of our existing bodies, completing them in Christ through his victory over death. ‘In the very arena where death has done its worst, in the body, God proposes to achieve his victory for us and in us.’[*2]
In light of this, a Ministerial understanding of eschatology, which doesn’t allow for bodily resurrection, is denying Christ’s victory over death and the continuity of the old creation. Ministry with an incorrect understanding of resurrection may have a more mythological view of heaven, which would be out of step with the Biblical picture of paradise where we experience to some degree like we do now. These paths may also lead Ministry to Gnostic routes of ‘anti-flesh’ doctrines.
Everyone will be judged. No sin goes unpunished, it will be justly paid for either by the cross or eternal judgment in Hell. Christ himself is the judge of the living and the dead, and the benchmark by which humanity is judged. Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats easily and permanently. Note the fundamentally Christological focus of this, which should be reflected in ministry.
This makes Ministry crucial, to encourage believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and to warn those who do not believe. Without final judgement there will be no need for Ministers to teach fleeing from sin and the wrath to come and no need to warn/witness to unbelievers.
There is a Heaven and a Hell; again, if there was not, then Ministry need not focus on witnessing or warning non-believers or encourage believers to be assured of their salvation and flee sin. Further, if there is no Judgement then a mockery is made of the cross, for God’s righteous and just wrath had to be satisfied, if there will be no judgement then there need not have been a cross, if there will be no judge, there need not have been a resurrection.
The future that the God promises in his Word lends much to our understanding of Ministry: Ministers should be teaching believers faithfully from the Word that Jesus is returning and with him the New Creation, that God will wipe every tear from our eyes, there will be no more effects of the fall, we will be perfectly united to Christ, and it will be paradise. Ministers need to know this joy in their own hearts so to lead by example and teach. Ministers, who will be judged more strictly, need to be guarding their hearts from sin so to be above reproach in order to faithfully teach, administer the sacraments, and discipline in light of the resurrection and judgement to come.
[*1] P. Jensen, At The Heart of the Universe (IVP, Leicester, 1991), p. 30
[*2] Jensen, At The Heart of the Universe, p.31