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Archive for the ‘eschatology’ Category

The Mayan Calendar has run out, giving tweet-fodder to wits all over the world. Some of the better ones:

And perhaps my favourite…

What’s it like to live beyond the end of the world?  What’s it like to find yourself on the other side of judgement day unscathed?

Well Christians ought to know.  We are 8th day people.  Through Christ we’ve been taken through the history of the old world, beyond the limit of the old Adam and into a whole new calendar.

From creation, the week has proclaimed God’s work in giving life (cf Exodus 20:8-11; Deut 5:12-15).  Day 6 is the pinnacle of His work – the Day of Man.  Day 7 is the Day of Completion.  On this day, the finished work of giving life is celebrated and rest is brought.

When Jesus died on the 6th day, He was summing up Man and the death he must die (“on the day you eat of it you will surely die” – Gen 2:17).  On the 7th He rested in the tomb.  The 8th day was the first day of a whole new week, a whole new world.

And ever since, the Lord’s people have been 8th day people, celebrating His resurrection into new creation life.  We don’t live like old covenant people, with the day of rest and completion yet future.  We have no work to do in order to arrive at the end of the world.  Christ has taken us through our death and judgement – through the End and out into a New Beginning.

“Worldly” people are 6th day people. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we’re dead.

“Religious” people are 7th day people.  Appearing in their own person at the End and hoping to be let through.

Christians are 8th day people.  We’ve burst through to the other side.  The old calendar is gone.  The old code is gone.  The old man is gone.  There’s nothing ahead to judge or condemn us.  It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

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Rich Owen’s preached a corker of a series on Christ’s return:

Other sermons from City Evangelical Church, Leeds here.

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Dev points us to Peter Leithart reflecting on nature and super-nature.  It’s reminded me of some diagrams I’ve been meaning to draw for a while…

Maybe it’s been since the Enlightenment and/or maybe it’s come through Aquinas with his Aristotelian nature/grace divide, but either way… Today we tend to imagine the interaction of nature and “super-nature” like this:

Nature is the solid and certain thing.  And it has its own self-determined course.  But every now and again this ethereal, super-natural world shows up and freaky stuff happens.  Then it’s back to business as usual.

Of course once you grant the certainty and self-sufficiency of “nature” you’re already committed to explaining away all “freaky stuff.”  And, hey presto, naturalism.

Many of us will know how infuriating it is to engage with an atheist who has already defined God out of the equation through assumptions like these.  There is, perhaps, only one thing more infuriating.  That is the Christian who shares the atheist’s assumptions but protests loudly: “No, seriously guys, God is really at work because I could tell you some seriously freaky stories…”

No, no.  We need to frame the whole thing more biblically.  I suggest, like this:

It’s the old creation that is, in some sense, less real than the new.  It is subject to futility and plunging down into death.  There is an arrow here – there is a direction – but under Adam, that direction is downwards.

Overall however there is progress because the second Adam has come.  And He brings new creation.  The reality of this in-breaking kingdom holds true in Christ Himself and spiritually we belong to that new reality, even as we wait in this passing age.

See the Leithart article for more on this eschatological view of “supernature”.

But let’s ask:  What does it look like for God to show up?

Well God is at work in the Old Creation and intimately so, it’s just that Old Creation goes from life to death.   This is God’s alien work, but His work nonetheless.  Overall though His proper work is the renewal of all things under the feet of Christ (from death to life).  Therefore the signs of His coming kingdom are restoration and recreation.  Freaky is not really the point.  New life is.

I have some friends who appreciate my emphasis on “the word” but wish I would equally emphasize the work of the Spirit.  I long more and more to be a man of the Spirit but they mean something different by that phrase.  When pushed on how Spirit-filled ministry looks, they point to miracles, tongues and words of knowledge.  They are adamant that the word – proclamation, preaching, teaching – is absolutely vital.  A necessary foundation.  But, they say, we also need God to show up.  And, again, when pressed on what they mean they point to experiences in worship, of being slain in the Spirit and miracles.  These are the unmistakeable signs that God is alive and well and active in His world.

I just wonder whether a Christianized version of the Enlightenment worldview is going on.  “Nature” equals the ordinary operations of church – church structures, preaching, band practice.  But when God shows up it’s freaky stuff.  There is normal life that grinds along according to rules and regulations.  Then there is the Spirit who, almost by definition, works outside of structures.  Regularity and order is fine.  But Spirit equals spontaneous and sporadic.

What would it look like to see the work of the Spirit in the context of the second diagram?  Here word and Spirit are not two spheres of activity (one being “natural” and the other “supernatural”).  Word-and-Spirit is the way the gospel of Christ is proclaimed.  And in that context we see new life.  Through the gospel, the Spirit spotlights Christ.  He opens hearts to Jesus.  He draws believers to their Lord and to each other.  He empowers the church to live in love.  And yes He heals today, of course He does.  But the healing is not the point where God shows up.  Both the word of the Kingdom and the signs of the kingdom (which include all kinds of new life) are the work of the Spirit.

 

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 Thanks to Harold Camping, today is pretty much the one day I don’t expect Christ to return.  What a shame!  Never mind eh.  Begin again tomorrow.  Sunday would be a better day for it anyway – the Lord’s Day does mean “Day of the Lord” after all.

Of course, through the gospel, Christ’s return is not Doomsday, but the Happy Last Day.  If we know Jesus then Judgement Day has passed.  It fell on Christ crucified and we look with eager longing for the appearing of our Friend and Saviour to put all things right.

Heidelberg Catechism

Question 52. What comfort is it to you that Christ “shall come to judge the living and the dead?”

Answer. That in all my sorrows and persecutions, I, with uplifted head, look for the very One, who offered Himself for me to the judgment of God, and removed all curse from me, to come as Judge from heaven, who shall cast all His and my enemies into everlasting condemnation, but shall take me with all His chosen ones to Himself into heavenly joy and glory.

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!”  (Rev 22:17)

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The myth of the ‘delay of the parousia’ has largely grown up in the modern world to fill the vacuum left when scholars insisted that the resurrection didn’t happen. For the early Christians, God’s new world – the world where God’s writ runs – had already begun, and they were living in it by the power of the Spirit.  (NT Wright, here)

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Also…

The new NIV has Isaiah 9 saying:

7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.

This departs from the traditional translation: “of the increase of his government.”  Would I be right in guessing that King James’ translators were more post-millenial than we tend to be??

To be fair ‘greatness’ does seem a more straightforward translation of the word.  But the context of “no end” and “forever” makes ‘increase’ a more than acceptable translation too.

I just wonder whether the new NIV translators have been thrown by the murky ambiguity of Isaiah’s words here.  I mean, who, after all, can discern the referent here within the rich tapestry of rise and fall in the history of Israel’s kings.  After all wasn’t Solomon also Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace… (snark, snark, gripe, grumble).

 

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The Christian is expectant.  We wait for Christ our Bridegroom.

But how do we wait?  Like this?

look-up

I recently read Sam Harris quoting this statistic: 44% of Americans believe Jesus will ‘certainly’ or ‘probably’ return in the next 50 years.  That’s not 44% of American Christians.  That’s 44% of Americans!

Now I think Jesus could return today.  But I also think He could be another few millennia.  I’m not sure it’s fruitful to put a time frame to this.  But perhaps we know people who scour the newspapers for signs of antichrist – certain that the end is nigh.  And by nigh – they mean Tuesday week.

Just before Jesus ascended His followers wanted to get an eschatological timetable from Him:

Acts 1:6-9:  So when they had come together, they asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

They wanted to know times and seasons.  Jesus says ‘That’s not your job!  Your job is to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

We do not wait by worrying about when.  We wait by witnessing.

Notice how Acts 1 continues:

10 And while they were gazing into heaven as He went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Even as Jesus goes – even as they’re told that Jesus will return the same way! – the disciples receive a rebuke for gawping at the skies.  They’ve been given their marching orders.

The posture of the church as we wait for Christ is not stationary, faces heavenwards.  It’s, verse 8, moving out from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth witnessing to Christ.

people-together-arrow

We wait by witnessing.

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