February 16, 2021
Eschatology: a Forgotten Theology for Our Perilous Time
Eschatology (the study of the end) still matters.
Matthew 16: 1-3
“The religious leaders wanted a sign. Jesus answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is blue.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is black and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you fail to interpret the signs of the times.””
“Right through here. You know what to do. Sit down and keep quiet.” Middle School… When we got there early, we had to sit in the cafeteria and wait for the bell to ring. In those moments of waiting, some serious theological conversations took place. Most of my friends and I attended the same youth group. In those days, everybody was talking about the end of the world. There was a sense that Jesus was going to return at any moment. Our young formative minds latched on to the drama of it all. Basically… The world is so evil that Jesus was going to come back, pick up his followers and then slowly destroy everything left. Ours was a culture of trying to interpret the times. Everybody seemed to think that every significant event was going to be the indicative moment that the skies would split and Jesus would come pick us up. Early one morning, one of my friends came running up to the rest of us. “Just put everything down. You don’t need it. Jesus is coming back right now.” I freaked out. I didn’t know if I was ready. I started praying as hard as I could to make sure that I was going to get picked up. In the midst of it all, somebody had the sense enough to ask, “How do you know for sure?” My friend replied with deep conviction, “Tammy Wynette just died.” There was no hesitation in my response, “Who in the hell is Tammy Wynette?” As my friend explained the eschatological value of country music, my worries of impending doom quickly subsided. Then as now, apocalyptic ideas have often been silly, uninformed and fed by personal fears/hysterias. However, we can’t allow such foolishness to keep us from honestly interpreting/responding to what is going on in the world around us. The signs still matter.
We are in the midst of the worst global pandemic ever.
We face some of the most serious weather challenges ever.
We are witnessing some of the greatest humanitarian disasters ever.
We constantly hear of wars and rumors of wars.
The list goes on and on.
The various consequences of our existence/sins/neglect/dispassion are plain to see.
While we are able to name all of these things, we struggle to understand what they mean. As a result, we continue living as if they are not happening. I don’t believe these are signs that Jesus is coming back. I gave up on the palm reading foolishness many years ago…but I do believe that we are experiencing a judgment that is being handed down by creation itself. We cannot ignore the signs of the times. Informed eschatology is important…because it is the study of the end that can keep us from getting there. We have failed to care for our earth. We have failed to care for each other. We have failed to care for ourselves. We have failed. The end is near…but it doesn’t have to be. Judgment can be turned into repentance. We can walk back our mistakes. We can choose to love again. We can plainly see the signs of the times…we can turn our hearts toward restoration…and we can be saved. The end is not a question of interpretation…it is one of motivation.