In my last post I argued that we have this highly-saturated culture that outsources everything to the point that we’ve forgotten what it takes to commit to discipleship. This saturation has watered down our faith to a consumer mentality that says: do good, be a nice person, and you’ll get poofed to heaven when you die. This has made our spiritual journey one based on choosing programs more than being refined in the likeness of God.
If you think that way, you’re not alone. The dominant view of the future, at least in the west, is that Jesus is going to come back, judge the world, and take us all away to heaven to live happily ever after. Sounds awesome right? I believed that same view for the bulk of my life. So don’t miss church, be nice, close your eyes during worship songs and lift your hands at a 60 degree angle and you’ll be good to go.
The problem is that this is a theology of things happening to us. It’s like a bomb shelter or evacuation drill. Let’s get out of here and go somewhere else.
If this is true, if this is the hope of Jesus, then what’s the point of work? Rest? What’s the point of this life at all?
The kingdom of God calls us into active engagement. Let’s temporarily suspend debate about creation narratives and literal vs. allegorical readings of Genesis. Cool. In Genesis we read that we were created selem elohim - in the image of God. Selem or image is translated statue or idol - a visible representation of an invisible being. Therefore, we were created to be the visible representation of God in the world. That changes everything for us. It changes how we interact with the image of God in the world and how we choose to embrace our role as followers of Christ.
Here’s a nerdy term for us to learn today: eschatology - the study of end times. I believe that our belief about what happens at the end of life and what our eternity looks like has a radical impact on how we live our lives now.
It’s amazing to me that there are over a billion Christians on earth on yet we can have such a wildly differing view of what heaven and the return of Christ will look like based on our specific faith tradition. For example, here are four of the dominant Christian views of eschatology in line drawings.
When I look at these and ask which one is right my only answer is: “yes.” I really don’t know. I could find legitimate proof in scripture to uphold parts of any of those four.
Here's what I do know.
When I read scripture as a narrative I read the story of God restoring stuff. From Genesis 3-Revalation 22 God is actively restoring humanity back to God. I believe that the Church is the vehicle that God is using to restore all of creation. This is different than simply converting believers the way a post-millienialist might approach eschatology. I believe this is a restoration of everything. All things. The earth. Heaven on earth. What if heaven is eternity on this fully restored earth?
Is that too far outside our Sunday school box?
Consider this: the new world that we live in for eternity is never once called heaven by any of the biblical authors.
Jesus called it the renewal of all things in Matthew 19:28
Paul called it the kingdom of God and eternal life 1 Corinthians 6:10
Peter called it the time to restore everything Acts 3:21
So what will your role be? How will you use your work and your rest to be part of the restoration of all things so that the Kingdom of God can be present on earth?
to be continued….
Stay tuned for part 3 of this blog post. *Spoiler alert, it starts and ends with a naked man from the book of Mark.