Eschatology: God's Love with an Exclamation Point!
Have you ever been afraid of being left behind? Did you ever wonder if you would wake up one morning to find your parents and family raptured while you remained alone on earth? Or, did you ever worry about bar codes, computers, and a cash-less society for fear of unknowingly accepting the mark of the beast? In the last 40 years, it was next to impossible to grow up in an evangelical church in the United States without encountering eschatology in overdrive. Beginning with Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth, continuing with the A Thief in the Night series of films in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and culminating with the Left Behind series of books and films in the 1990’s and 2000’s, evangelicals have had a lot to say about eschatological, end-times events. Much of the accentuated emphasis was, without question, for a good purpose in hopes of waking a sleeping world to the danger of God’s final judgment and wrath. Unfortunately, one of the side effects, at least in my personal experience as a youngster, was to leave me in a perpetual state of fear—especially when combined with the worry of the Soviet Union raining down nuclear warheads on us!
The real point and purpose of eschatology is not fear mongering in hopes of producing conversions. Rather, for a Christian, the whole point of eschatology is to give comfort, foster hope, and produce joy all in anticipation of the glories to come. We’re too easily drawn into the seemingly mysterious details of unfamiliar images in the Book of Revelation and other parts of Scripture written in apocalyptic genre to the point that we risk missing the forest for the trees. Jesus said in John 14, “I go to prepare a place for you.” To that he added the promise of his return to take us to be with him in that place prepared for us in his Father’s house. That’s the most basic point of eschatology: Jesus is coming again and we’ll be with him forever.
Not only is the promised return of Christ the most basic point of eschatology, it provides the key to understanding and appreciating all eschatology. For, at the center of eschatology is Jesus himself. God’s plan and purpose from eternity is to shower his love on his own through the Lord Jesus. God guided all history to lead up to the Savior’s arrival two-thousand years ago. As the Apostle Paul puts it, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons”(Gal. 4:4–5 ESV). It was in “the fullness of time,” that is to say, it was at the precise moment in history that God determined was right. This is God working out his plan.
Just as God guided all history to the Savior’s arrival, he now guides all history toward the promised return of Christ. Everything that takes place has its role, however small, in the movement toward Jesus’ return. The Apostle Peter referenced God’s direction of history when he spoke of the one “whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:21 ESV). As God prepared for the first arrival of Christ, he is making all things ready to send Jesus again at the precise moment he has chosen.
What does that return mean for you and me? It means the experience of God’s love in the highest because Jesus is the highest expression of God’s love and he’s coming for us. Listen to the words of Eph. 2:4-7, ““But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (ESV). The immeasurable riches of his grace in Christ Jesus! Eschatology is the expression of God’s love with an exclamation point!
So, when you think about “end times” and “eschatology,” let your heart be drawn to Christ and your mind to God’s love. Then, get on your knees, bow your head, and, empowered by the Spirit, voice your adoration to our triune God for his love for you.
Michael J. Matossian was ordained to gospel ministry in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1998. He has served since 2009 as Senior Pastor at Emmanuel OPC in Wilmington, Delaware. He holds a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Marquette University. He and his wife, Judy, and their Son, Matthew, are all natives of southern California.
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