Monday, June 18, 2012

Reading the New Testament's Eschatological Vision: Part Two

A missional reading of the New Testament’s eschatological vision steadfastly stands against all readings that promote a fixation on the assigning of times and dates as well as readers that call for a pullback from cultural engagement Christ followers.

First, it is enough to note that if the Biblical story was truly interested in providing a detailed and specific step-by-step guide to how the future will unfold, it could have easily accomplished this. Given the absence of this as well as the humorous but ultimately tragic attempts by so many “prophesy” experts to predict Jesus’ return, Christ followers will learn to live in a dynamic tension in which they recognize by faith that the future is secure while letting go of all need for details. On matters of the end, we are on a need to know basis and no matter how bad we might desire a roadmap to God’s future, the Bible does not provide one. We follow Jesus into the world on mission. This is the same Jesus who said, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven nor the Son, except for the Father alone.”

Second, God’s mission to bring reconciliation and redemption to humanity and all creation moves forward under God’s promise of a secure future. Rather than giving Christ followers a reason to pull back from missional engagement, the New Testament church evangelized in earnest in the expectation of Jesus’ imminent return and his ushering in of the Kingdom. The God’s future is beautiful. God’s future is secure. Therefore, the mission of God’s people goes forward in earnest. In the context of the New Testament, the earliest Christians were a tiny minority. They faced hardships and persecution for their allegiance to Jesus as LORD over against the Roman world’s suffocating vision for humanity. Early Christians found themselves persecuted and reviled by both Gentiles and Jews. Thus the choice to follow Jesus was costly. The New Testament’s eschatological vision therefore is profoundly concerned with grounding Jesus’ earliest followers with a courageous hope in God’s final victory so that they may function as instruments and agents of God’s reconciling Gospel.

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