Last weekend in the Brookside Institute "Fuel for Faith" class, the topic for the session was "The End of the World. (Kind of.)" Jesus is coming back. History is moving towards a settled future where God wins and everything is as it should be. Beyond these foundational Christian beliefs, though, common consensus usually ends as words like "rapture," "tribulation," "Daniel's 70 weeks," "millennium," "antichrist," "Revelation," and more become part of the conversation. All of these words are often wrapped up in the topic of "eschatology" - the study of last things.
Whenever I talk about eschatology, I know some people of the people listening feed off any "end-times" discussion that uses any or all of the words mentioned above, and a certain approach to eschatology is THE lens through which they look at everything else. Others run away from anything that hints at "end times talk" because of the division they've seen it create or the intricacies involved they're not interested in. With either of these approaches, the emphasis of eschatology is often on its more speculative aspects (think charts, timelines, headlines, etc). People either love this stuff or they're turned off by it.
Now, I believe talking about and discussing some of these more speculative aspects of eschatology has its place (given the right context, approach, attitudes, and goals). I've graciously dialogued about these speculative aspects with others many times. But these speculative aspects of eschatology should never take the lead in our thinking about this topic. What should take the lead? What's one part of eschatology where we NEED consensus? Transformational eschatology.
Transformational eschatology is an approach to eschatology that acknowledges that - whatever else a certain passage might (or might not) be saying about charts and timelines - a primary purpose of most (all?) end-times passages is formation. In other words, eschatological passages aren't primarily about stirring controversy about the future but about shaping our actions and attitudes in the present.
Here's a sampling of passages I point people toward in the "Fuel for Faith" material that reinforce this point:
Endure, Be Ready, Advance, Hope
As I read through this sampling of passages, I see ways the many practical exhortations and implications fall into one of four categories:
What are some specific ways this sort of "transformational eschatology" can be lived out in your life? Why is this approach to eschatology important - instead of a one-sided "speculational" approach?
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