Thursday, August 20, 2020

YOUR ESCHATOLOGY DETERMINES HOW YOU THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE




The word  eschatology" is  composed  of the  Greek  words 'eschatos' and 'logos' - literally translated  as  "the word about the last things".  Eschatology   is the doctrine or the word about the last things, or if you like, the doctrine of the future

Everybody has a view about the future, even if it is vague or not thoroughly thought through.

Atheists or Agnostics believe that there is no God.  If this is what you believe, then it is also likely that you will believe that after you die, you will simply will vanish into a state of non- existence.  The effect that this eschatology has on your thinking  will probably lead you towards  living a self-centered, hedonistic (pleasure centered) lifestyle. Since if there is no afterlife, you  have  to get the maximum out of this life. According to this view  there  is no point in living a moral life.

Other major world religions  such as  Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism believe in the existence of  gods or  God. Their followers tend to be mindful of   their continued existence of life after death. They all believe in some form of future judgement and a golden new age. All these religions have a moral or ethical code associated with their respective religion. The fear  of their god(s) will inspire them to restrain themselves  in  areas  which that religion may prescribe,  because they know  that they will have to give an account  of their deeds before their god(s)  in the  afterlife.

In Islamic eschatology, the day of judgement is characterized by the annihilation of all life, which will then be followed by the resurrection and judgment by God. The righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Paradise), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (Hell)[1]. A Muslim will think of the performance of  the  5 pillars of Islam [2] as  his  door  into paradise.  A  radical Muslim suicide bomber will think of his suicide as a pleasing work to Allah, and he will think of paradise and its sensuous rewards in the afterlife.

Salvation and  the future  for a Hindu is called Moksha. Moksha is when an enlightened human being is freed from the cycle of life-and-death (the endless cycle of death and reincarnation) and comes into a state of completeness (Nirvana). He then becomes one with God.  There are four ways to Moksha[3].

The Buddhist sees human evil not primarily as sin against God. Human evil is grounded in fundamental ignorance and blindness  to  our true nature.  A Buddhist  works  for his future salvation  by seeking  liberty  from such bondage through the transformation of his  consciousness  towards  an awakening  of his true  Buddha nature.

The Jew will think of his salvation has been primarily conceived in terms of the destiny of Israel as the elect people of Yahweh. Good works and the keeping of religious rites are  seen as sufficient grounds of acceptance before God and entrance into the afterlife.  

This also goes for the many pseudo- Christian groups who teach their followers that their entrance into a heavenly future is by means of keeping a system of religious rites and good works. 

Jehovah’s  witnesses  believe in an afterlife  but  not in  an eternal hell.The Seventh day adventists similarly  believe in an afterlife, but teach the  annihilation of the wicked. 

We thus  see that all these religions  have a future state  in view. Their followers think, work and  act accordingly.

BIBLICAL CHRISTIANITY

Biblical  Christians  similarly live in anticipation of the future life.  Christians believe that they must give a future  account of themselves to God. Whilst biblical Christians have an ethical and moral code and an understanding of the importance of good works   in this life, they know that ultimately they will be admitted into God’s presence only through trusting in  the merits of Christ’s righteousness alone.  Salvation is  through faith alone, by God’s  grace alone, in Christ alone.

FURTHER THOUGHTS  ABOUT CHRISTIAN   ESCHATOLOGY

It is very clear that the Bible points Christians towards  an optimistic  future. 

Jesus  the Christ, the  promised Messiah of the Old Testament  was miraculously conceived by Mary [4], and born in time to  bring about  God’s  consistent promise  to redeem  a chosen  people  for Himself.  When Jesus [5]  entered upon His ministry, He taught that with Him the kingdom of God had arrived[6]. By His death on the cross He had secured the salvation of His people and by His death He had destroyed the stronghold of Satan[7]. When He  ascended back to the Father[8], He promised to come again to judge this earth, and  to usher in  the new heavens and earth[9] and to crush Satan's present dominion. Christians have a strong and positive eschatology of victory. They have a strong view of the future.

Much of the  New Testament is concerned directly or indirectly with eschatology- with future issues.   So,  in terms of eschatology Christians  are not dealing with a minor doctrine. The doctrine  of the last things  strongly affects how Christians think and behave NOW.

  • The Bible strongly encourages Christians to think about the future and plan for it with the wisdom that God has given them in His Word.
  • Christians are encouraged to think of and plan for their day of death.
  • Christians  think about their  future standing before God.
  • Christians think about  their  material investments now in terms of gaining riches in heaven. Christians think about the doctrine of  future rewards in heaven.  (e.g. Matt. 6:1-6)
  • A significant component  of the  completion of their  salvation (i.e. their death,  glorification and  resurrection)  is still before  the Christian. 
  • Eternity  awaits. The most significant part of a Christian’s  life is yet before them.

Eschatology makes a difference  to the way Christians  view  and  act in their world.

Christians believe that  their  world must become a better place as it  comes under the progressive influence  of the gospel, as each  Christian  takes responsibility for  the gospel in their sphere  of influence.  This pattern of thinking was deeply embedded  in  the 16th Century Reformation, particularly in  John Calvin’s teaching. This optimistic  worldview, rooted in their understanding of  Christ's victory on the cross, led to the incredible spread of the Protestant movement in terms  of   an applied biblical theology, resulting in the Protestant work ethic.

Sadly,  following  the  spread of God centered  Protestantism and  its resultant blessings,   Christians  became increasingly passive  about their future. This may have been  the result of increasing material  prosperity, which tended  to make them unguarded, lukewarm, self satisfied  and therefore apathetic about the future.

A number  of thinking Christians  have also argued  that the  advent of the 19th century   pre-millenial,  and  in particular the  dispensational form of eschatology did much to destroy  the  a-millenial and  post millennial  optimistic eschatological frameworks  that once governed 16th century  Protestantism.

One of the strong tenets  of the pre-millenial  view is that the world will  get more and  more wicked before Christ’s  return. This  thought combined  with  the thought that the great tribulation, and the rapture of the church  was at hand gave rise to  the idea that Christians  had to withdraw  from society until Jesus came  to deliver them.

Many Christians influenced by such thinking  have withdrawn  from many major battles that  were being fought  in the  20th century. One of the great battles of the early  20th century  was for the authority, inerrancy  and sufficiency of the Bible. Many Christians  have been quiet  in the recent  battles of the 21st century over issues of biblical  marriage, gender identity, human sexuality  and anthropology.

Christians now, more than ever,  must remember that the future  belongs to God and to them. 

Eschatology – the way we think about the  Bible and hence  about the future,  does have consequences!

It does matter how Christians think, pray, work, save, plan, invest, commit or not  commit to do things in the present.

Our view of the future affects our philosophy of life and living.  If there is no faith in the power  and promises of God then  there is no power in the present.  

It seems  as if  the present  church and society are  driven  far too little by biblical  eschatological realities. Modern Christians  tend to  be  more concerned about existential  issues  such as personal safety, ("what shall we eat", "what shall we wear", "where  do we live")  than they  are  about  the  future to come. In that sense few are future minded.

Ask God to help you to rethink your life's ultimate  priorities in  the light  of  what the Bible teaches about the future.  





[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_eschatology

[2]  THE 5 PILLARS  OF ISLAM: 1. Profession of Faith (shahada). The belief that "There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God" is central to Islam. 2. Prayer (salat) Muslims pray facing Mecca five times a day: at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and after dark 3.Alms giving(zakat). 4. Fasting (sawm) 5. Pilgrimage (hajj).

[3]FOUR WAYS TO MOKSHA 1. The Way of Action: This involves carrying out certain religious ceremonies, duties and rites. The objective is to perform works without regard for personal gain.2. The Way of Knowledge: This requires using your mind and philosophy to come to a complete comprehension of the universe.3. The Way of Devotion: Salvation is reached through acts of worship, based upon the love for a God (there are thousands of gods in Hinduism).4.The Royal Road: The use of meditation and yoga techniques. This method of reaching salvation is typically only used by wandering monks.

 [4] Matthew 1:18-25

[5] Jesus’  name – means Yahweh saves ( Matt 1:21)

[6] Matthew  3:2,4:17,23; 16:19; Luke 11: 20 ; 17:20,21

[7] Luke 11:14-23;

[8] Luke 24:50-53

[9] The Olivet Discourse in Matthew  24 & 25

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