We believe in the bodily resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous, the righteous to everlasting communion with God and the unrighteous to everlasting separation from God.
Within the American Christian culture today, there seems to be a persistent fascination with end times. We read books, engage in debates, form end times charts, and even guess about when it will take place. Granted, none of this is necessarily wrong because there should be a fair amount of pursuit, for every believer, to know what Scripture says about the future of the world. Yet what appears to be the result of our understanding of the future isn’t as much unwavering hope as it is fear, uncertainty, pessimism, worry, anger, and paranoia.
When the Apostle Paul addressed eschatology, the study of the last days, he never used it to scare people into fearful living, but rather he leveraged eschatology in a way that was much more life-giving:
“But we do not want you to be uniformed, brothers…for this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
(1 Thessalonians 4:13, 16-18)
Paul’s purpose was to inform and encourage! As Jeff Medders says in his work Rooted, “If eschatology is not encouraging and life-directing, it’s not biblical.”
A Lens for Your Future
How do we adopt a more biblical way of viewing our future and the future of the world? The answer is to seek to view all of life as God views all of life, and He views life through the lens of the Gospel. The Gospel is not only a collection of truths to be believed, but it is also an astounding story to be experienced. Four words help create a Gospel lens for viewing our future and the future of the world.
The first is creation. Genesis 1 says that in the beginning God created all that exists, creating all things right and good. This includes the cosmos, earth, creatures, humanity, etc… The great implication here is that in this period (Genesis 1 and 2), everything that God has created is functioning the way God intended for all of His creation to function.
The second word is fall. Genesis 3 describes the sobering event that changes everything. Sin enters the world, and everything that was perfectly created is now broken. The effects of the fall are easy to spot; just look around and you’ll see how sin entered the world in the form of corruption, poverty, oppression, prejudice, relational dysfunction, suffering, pain, death, etc…
The third term is redemption. Scripture says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5) God was never in a panic when the fall occurred. God’s redemptive plan has always been in motion, and the apex of His redemption story is His son stepping down into the mess of broken humanity and offering redemption through His grace. Did you notice that Paul says Jesus’ timing was perfect? (Galatians 4:4) Jesus didn’t come a moment too early nor a moment too late; He came at exactly the right moment.
The final word is restoration. The restoration of all that was broken by the fall culminates in Christ’s final return. (Revelation 21:1-5) When He comes, God’s people will know of no more death, cancer, injustice, poverty, shame, abuse, addiction, hatred, and idolatry. Sam Storms puts it this way: “The eschatological hope of the Christian is inescapably earthly in nature. God’s ultimate aim in the redemption of His people has always included the restoration of the nature creation.” A restoring work by God, for His people and His creation, will be sufficient for all of eternity.
Because of the Gospel, this is your future! The disciple John got a glimpse of your eternal future and shared, “No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.” (Revelation 22:3) Your future is one of complete transformation into Christ-likeness, completely restored and freed from sinful nature. Your future is one of eternal worship where we will stand in the complete glory of God, singing as we have never sung before, worshipping without difficulty because of the mere beauty and glory of God.
As the Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards proclaimed, “If we can learn anything of the state of heaven from the Scripture, the love and joy that the saints have there, is exceedingly great and vigorous, impressing the heart with the strongest and most lively sensation of inexpressible sweetness, mightily moving, animating, and engaging them, making them like to a flame of fire.” In the restoration of all things, every day will be the best day, and everything sad will come untrue.
Your Future and Your Today
How does your incredible future effect your life now? How you live today communicates everything about what you believe your future to be. With the security of your future comes freedom from the things of this world, certainty of your future, freedom from a life of insecurity, freedom from people and circumstances defining you, peace that overwhelms fear, worry, and pressure, an ability to live with whole-life generosity, and an urgency to make disciples now. Does your life reflect a forward-looking theology?
Heaven by Randy Alcorn
The Gospel as Center (The Restoration of All Things,
Sam Storms) edited by Carson and Keller
Rooted by J.A. Medders and Brandon D. Smith