It’s the end of the world as we know it. Seriously. But this is no reason to panic, worry, or stock your pantry with jugs of water and pallets of astronaut ice cream.
Sadly, when some Christians begin to study Eschatology—the doctrine of the last things—they tend to get antsy, frazzled, angry at the world, or flat out paranoid. And there are other Christians who refuse to offer no more than a shoulder shrug when it comes to end times. They don’t care about seminary debates—premillennialism, amillennialism, postmillennialism, pre-tribulational raptures, etc. They’ll say, “I’m a pan-millennialist. I believe it’ll all pan out.” Others simply don’t care at all: “God will sort it out when I die.”
Others take the lead, confident—positive!—that their prediction is true. They make the charts our nonchalant friends ignore. They write books like 88 Reasons the World Will End in 1988. Of course, it never happens. We know the verse they seem to ignore: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36). These predictors change their formulas over and over again, never willing to admit that they’re simply wrong. They just write another book. Start another speaking tour. Name the next president or pope the Antichrist.
But all of these postures are wrong. Eschatology isn’t meant to freak us out or check us out; according to the apostle Paul, it’s meant to impact us right now. The Thessalonian Church is wondering about the return of Jesus, the resurrection to come, and what is going to happen to the church members who have already died. Paul writes:
“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 we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thess. 4:16-18)
What does Paul think the doctrine of Christ’s return, the resurrection, and eternal life with Jesus should foster among Christians? Encouragement. Empowerment. Whatever your position on eschatology is (or isn’t), if it doesn’t foster mutual encouragement of other Christians or empower you to live an eternity-driven life, you haven’t understood your eschatology.
In fact, the end of all things is the greatest hope the world has. If eschatology is not encouraging and life-redirecting, it’s not biblical.
The Church, Christ’s body, is called to live now in the light of the future. We live as though we jumped into a DeLorean and traveled from eternity to the present. Our lives are meant to reflect what they will be in the age to come. Life on the New Earth, were God’s Kingdom reigns forever, has begun through the Spirit living in us.
The triune mission carried out in the person of Jesus is our hope. We are forgiven because of Jesus. We are made new because of Jesus. We will be resurrected because of Jesus. We will live on the New Earth because of Jesus. We’ll live faithful on this Earth, waiting for the clouds to roll back with Jesus sitting on a white horse, ready to make temporary war in exchange for eternal peace. Let’s look to him. As Jim Hamilton says in his commentary:
We need the grace of Jesus. He was faithful unto death, and God raised him from the dead. We must follow him in faithfulness, and we need his grace to do so. Jesus was raised by the glory of the Father, and if we follow in his footsteps by grace through faith, we too will be raised to reign with him.
It’s the end of the world as we know it, and we feel fine. In fact, we remember, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:20–21).
This is adapted from the final chapter of my forthcoming book with J. A. Medders, Rooted: Theology for Growing Christians.