Why Eschatology Matters Part One

Christianity is an Eschatological Worldview

Pop culture tells us that waiting is for losers, why not seize the day and have your best life right now? Admittedly, patience, persistence, perseverance are not my favorite words. They convey yearning, unsatisfied expectations and unrequited love.  While Augustine advised “Patience is the companion of wisdom”, waiting is always proportionately difficult to the object of one’s passion. Accordingly, a milestone of maturity is met when a child learns to delay gratification. Remember as a teen anticipating your driver’s license? The wait seemed interminable. Rites of passage creep ever so slowly. Yet one finally arrives at adulthood and then ponders, “Is this all there is?” Christianity answers this question with a profound negative. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

Despite the sentiments of those who relegate the book of Revelation to the first century, Christianity is a profoundly eschatological faith. It’s inescapably so. New Testament scholar Gordon Fee writes, “The theological framework of the entire New Testament is eschatological.”[1] The Greek word for the end is eschaton, in this context meaning when God brings our present age to consummation. There is a tension inherent in the Christian worldview that eclipses all the yearnings of adolescence. It is the groaning of creation itself (Rom 8:22). Skeptics of the bible err when they pose the problem of evil, even natural evil, as contradictory. For it is not as if God has ignored it. Evil was served notice at Calvary and we await it’s eviction at the eschaton. Revelation chapter twenty assures the believer it is imminent and given biblical prophecy’s unrivaled record of literal fulfillment our confidence is deserved. Evil will not stand long in God’s economy.

The Jews in Jesus’ generation had an eschatological worldview. They believed they lived on the very threshold of time, when God would miraculously intervene into history and bring peace and justice. The source of their hope was scriptural. The new covenant spoken of by Jeremiah will be realized (Jer 31:31–34; 32:38–40). Sin and disease will be vanquished (e.g., Zech 13:1; Isa 53:5). An era of prevailing righteousness (e.g., Isa 11:4–5), when humanity will peacefully coexist (e.g., Isa 2:2–4) and even the law of the jungle will be supplanted by love (e.g., Isa 11:6–9). They were justified in their hope but the majority missed the mark. I can certainly sympathize with their error. After all, the supreme God, creator of the universe, had exclusively entrusted them with his written revelation. Surely as His people they were first in line?


The Jewish Eschatological Hope

The Eschaton

This Age

(Satan’s Time)

The Age to Come

(The Messianic Kingdom)

Sin

Sickness

Demon Possession

Evil triumphs

Righteousness

Health

Holy Spirit

Peace and goodwill

The Son of Man will come with the clouds of heaven.  In the presence of the Ancient of Days, He will be given dominion and glory and a kingdom, so that all peoples, nations, and men of every language will worship Him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)

God had in fact promised that a day was coming when “men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zec. 8:23). Their racial pride blinded them to the international aspect of that promise. But not merely pride, they were understandably frustrated. They had rebuilt the holy temple after subjection to the Babylonians and Persians only to suffer the supreme indignity by Antiochus Epiphanes slaughtering swine on the altar of God as an offering to Zeus. Thus a national myopia set in, the Jews saw themselves separate and supreme. Where this fails is in not seeing the underlying spiritual deception influencing these nations. We do not struggle against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. God wants to redeem people of all nations and races.

Eschatological tension reached fever pitch when John the Baptist announced “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John the Baptist was widely regarded as a true prophet and stands squarely in the prophetic tradition that the Day of the Lord points much more to darkness than to light for those who think they have no sin (Amos 2:4–8; 6:1–7).[ii] Imagine the horror of the Pharisees and Sadducees when John called them a “brood of vipers” (Mat 3:7) and admonished them not to presume their favored status. Later Jesus himself used the same language (Mt 23:33). The Prophet Isaiah had listed specific miracles that only the true Messiah would do. Jesus set about doing each one (e.g., Luke 11:20; Matt 11:2–6) much to the chagrin of the offended religious leaders.

Jesus had announced that the kingdom was at hand (e.g., Mark 1:14–15; Luke 17:20–21) and authenticated himself with the correct signs. The Jewish apostles that made up the early church of course recognized this. Jesus wanted it to be known, even reading from the prophet Isaiah to confirm his intention. Luke records in chapter four “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Lk. 4:17-19)

This was straight from Isaiah 61:1-2 and He also boldly proclaimed “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (v.21). Yet it is quite telling that he stopped halfway through Isaiah 61:2 where “the year of the Lord’s favor” is followed by a comma then “and the day of vengeance of our God.” And there is the rub; the Jews wanted avenging yet Jesus stopped short. No one had understood that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 and the political kingdom entailed two visits with an indefinite interlude reserved for the redemption of the heathen nations. This is where Judaism is still left hanging today, in fact, hardened until the fullness of the gentiles comes in (Rom 11:25). Sadly, they are still waiting “on him whom they have pierced” (Zec. 12:10) because they would not acknowledge His first appearance.

To be continued…


[1]Fee, Gordon D. ; Stuart, Douglas K.: How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan Publishing House, 1993, S. 145

[ii]D. A. Carson, “Matthew” In , in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 103.

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

Comments

  1. Ricky Caven says:

    Great piece, waiting with baited breath for the next part. Such a timely word.

    In His service,
    Ricky

  2. Shelley says:

    I love this article I believe it has been the best one, yet. I especially like how you bridge both the Old and New Testment together so clearly. Thanks, for being so persistant in all where work, it will truly pay off.

  3. Mitch says:

    Great Article liked how you compared Old VS New Testament and bridging the gap so to speak making it clear. it’s been always kinda hard for me to Read & Understand the Old Testament in lieu of the New one sometimes because it looks like a different perspective maybe of God’s Wrath in the Old Testament when He kills people and such and then in the New Covenant with Jesus we see God’s Grace and Forgiveness and that wrath being poured out upon Christ on the Cross…..God Bless!

    Bearkiller777/Mitch

  4. chas4all says:

    Ye brothers and sisters , I noticed the “ESV” being used . I pray ye that you throw out that version and pick up an old King James version as the “ESV” right her makes Jesus Christ a liar
    “Joh 7:8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come.” – ESV

    “Joh 7:8 Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. – authoirized KJB
    Notice the word “yet” in the KJB . Whereas the ESV ommits the word and clearly attemps to make Jesus Christ a liar which He cannot be .
    Grace be with to you and Please pray over this issue as it is not good to use at the very least a watered down version , though I would be much more harsh of the versions which attempt to make Christ a liar

    • Cris Putnam says:

      It’s really nothing as nefarious as that sir. The manuscripts vary as to whether John wrote the word “yet” before “going up to this Feast.” But the events imply that Jesus did not go immediately but rather waited until halfway through it before making His appearance (v. 14). As in His response to Mary at Cana (2:3–4), Jesus followed the Father’s timing, not the commands of His own family. The KJV was excellent for the 17th century but it is riddled with minor textual errors and mistranslations. Language and historical scholarship has come a long way or do you happen to believe in unicorns?

  5. Elpidios says:

    Chris –
    Excellent series of posts, thanks for writing, and I pray it finds good soil in the heart of many that need to hear this message.

    The bible translations issue is a topic that is very close to my heart. The most loving and accurate way I’ve heard this most *devisive yet important* issue described is that: (almost) all bibles are swords, and able to deliver the core message of the true gospel (See 1 Corinthians 15, and John 3). However, some bibles are much “sharper” than others, while some are little more than speculative constructions which in all actuality never existed, built by theologians whose own personal beliefs & need to create a new “copyrighted version” heavily influence the wording of the text.

    Yes Chris, many of the words contained in the KJV no longer mean the same things as they have morphed into at the present. Who knows what certain words will mean in the future? (I would recommend referencing a “bible companion” by David W. Daniels or keeping an older Webster’s Dictionary close by). The KJV’s style and phrasing is different because it is the biblical usage based on the style of the Hebrew & Greek texts… (not just because it’s the “Elizabethan/Shakespearean” English).

    The best resource I can recommend on the issue would be “Answering the Myths of the Bible Version Debate” by David Cloud. Absolutely excellent documentation and explanation of this topic!

    Praise God that:
    “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” ~Jesus [Mat 24:35, Mar 13:31, Luk 21:33]

    In love and looking for his glorious appearing…

    • Cris Putnam says:

      Actually as a Logos bible software user I use many translations and the original language texts as well. Anyone with internet access can access multiple translations almost instantaneously, so there’s no reason to get hung up over this issue. Really it comes down to if one is so concerned about accuracy to make an issue of it, they should master the original languages. We are really blessed with resources. Thanks for your comment!

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