E is for Eschatology

“Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Look at that low plane, fine, then
Uh-oh, overflow, population, common group
But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself”

December 21, 2012: the most recent day that the world was supposed to come to an end. I remember this particular day because I remember posting on social media the song quoted above, “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” by R.E.M.

Eschatology is a theological term that simply refers to the end times and the events that accompany Christ’s return. Christian culture is completely infatuated with the end of the world. Whether it is driven by an unnatural fear and death or by religious fanaticism, the end times, particularly end times prophecies, is a major discussion in Christian circles. Bookstores are flooded with people attempting to tell the average, pious, Christian consumer what the end of the world is going to look like and when exactly it will take place.

To be completely honest, this is an unhealthy obsession that is all too common in the Christian church. In my experience, many people will think more about the end than about some of the things that matter more, the things that matter for the here and now. I have seen people so worried about whether or not there will be a literal dragon when Jesus comes back that they ignore the task of loving our neighbor. When Jesus gave the “Great Commission”, he did not say “spend your time creating charts and graphs, predicting when I will come back”! Instead, he said to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing and teaching them.

This is one of the greatest frustrations I have with this topic of eschatology. Authors write books, pretending that they know what’s going to happen at Christ’s return. They use fear-filled imagery to help sell their books and so people are consumed by the fear of what will happen. And when they begin to see the world through this lens, they begin to neglect the commands of Christ to live in the present moment by loving and serving others. Christ himself, the fully divine and fully human one, said that no one knows the day or the hour, but Christians run around as if they know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen. It’s silly, really.

So What?

You may be asking yourself, “Ryan, why are you telling me all of this?” This is a fair question.

I am telling you all of this for a few different reasons:

  1. God has not given us a spirit of fear. If fear is your primary motivation, or your primary motivator, for learning about end times theology, please know that it is an unhealthy one. God has given us a more important thing to focus on at the end of time. If you read the Bible, you will see that God promises that he has already won. We do not need to worry about the outcome because the Triune God has already prevailed through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  2. Dwelling on the end times promotes selfishness. As I have stated above, when we are worried about what will happen at the end, we will tend toward focusing ourselves inward rather than outward. We will look for ways to build up our “apocalypse shelters” rather than our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. It promotes an unhealthy view of God’s creation. Most literature about the end times focuses on how we need to get off this planet and how we can do whatever we want with creation because it’s “just going to be burned up anyway.” This is not how the Bible portrays the end, however. Creation is good and the book of Revelation states that there will be a “new heaven and a new earth”. There will be a restored creation and, in the mean time, we are to take care of it as God commanded us to in the beginning. I have written more on this topic in the post entitled “This is Home: A Vision of a Renewed Creation”.

My purpose in writing this post is not to change your mind about what is going to happen in the end times. It’s not even to discourage you from thinking about it (because it is fun stuff to discuss). My hope is that it will push you to look beyond the end times, since we can’t know all the details anyway, and to look to Christ, his commands, and his example instead.

Next Post: F is “For the Beauty of the Earth”


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