This post is aimed at exploring three aspects of eschatology : history, faith, and epochs.
- History–eschatology is the study of the last things, but as I wrote previously here (https://kiskivalleypca.org/2022/09/07/the-already-and-not-yet/) it’s not always the very last things, but more like the latest things, so the last to come so far. The only way the last things come is by God’s intervention into man’s existence which is mediated by space and time–God works in history for man’s redemption. Eschatology is a historical reality lived out in the present lives of God’s people, not in the world because unbelievers haven’t partaken of God’s historical work by faith. As God is working for believers’ redemption and he does it in history, we often refer to his work and the biblical revelation in terms of “Redemptive History”. That’s a term you’ll want to hold on to as well.
- Forward looking faith–believing something happened in the past that you didn’t see is a start, but trusting God for the future is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Forward looking faith isn’t just something you muster up inside of you because doggone it, you know you should. No, forward looking faith is a gift from God (James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.). So, this kind of faith and trust is both anxiously waiting and hoping for Jesus’ return and is partaking of the resurrection strength available to believers, we believe not by our strength, but by Christ’s strength in us. That work being wrought in the believer’s soul is an eschatalogical work inasmuch as it is part of the inheritance earned by Christ on the cross in history for us.
- Epochs or eras, generally speaking, are distinct periods of time. For our purposes we see these periods of time in the Bible, and importantly we see records of the transition into new epochs too. The Exodus of Israel from Egypt didn’t see the nation go straight from Egypt into The Promised Land, there was an epoch in which the “Wilderness Generation” lived. 40 years they wandered the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula (probably, though the Bible doesn’t make that clear, because that wasn’t the point of recording it) because they failed to believe God could deliver the Canaanites into their hands (Numbers 13-14, it’s a great story you should read it!). There were different epochs from the patriarchal age to Sinai, which includes the wilderness as a transition period and epoch to itself in a sense, and then The Promised Land, the consummate epoch. Canaan, The Promised Land is a place, for sure, but as a biblical concept we can see it as an epoch as well. It was a type of the ultimate eschatological promise of he New Heavens and New Earth. In these epochs, there was something to look forward to, because not all God’s promises had been fulfilled. At the same time, there was an historical aspect, because each epoch was based on/begun by God’s historical work. So, this is why epoch deserves a mention all its own, because there’s a sense in which the next epoch of redemptive history “breaks into” the present one throughout the Bible.
Our understanding of realized eschatology is an incredible boon (I’ve always wanted to use that word!) to our daily living in God’s presence. This doctrine reminds us that, as the church in Christ we are his body and bride because of his accomplished work (history), living by his resurrection power (forward looking faith), and through that power we are the New Creation even though we are living in the midst of the Old (epoch). Now, if only I can “believe the things I know to be true!” (My friend Conley Brown would always ask me to pray that for him–hopefully he’ll come our way one day and yinz can meet him) Lord, help us to believe! Grant us strength–the same strength that raised Jesus from the dead is the strength that gave us life in him, grant that strength to poured out upon us again! Amen.