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Barbeque and Eschatological Hope

June 22, 2011

I’ve often said to my wife that two of my love languages are barbeque and eschatological hope. This blog is about the latter (though I will accept recommendations on the former).

Seriously, though, few things stir my heart more than the hope that God will make all things right in the end. That’s what I mean by eschatological hope. It’s a big word, but eschatology (es-kuh-TOL-uh-jee) is simply what we believe God will do in the end. And what we believe about the end makes all the difference in the present.

For instance, knowing who’s going to win the football game before it’s over would obviously be a lucrative advantage for a bookie. But think about the player on the field. What if you already knew the outcome—that you would win? How does that shape how you play? How would that knowledge affect your focus and perseverance if you’re down 45 points going into the half, with your starting quarterback out on injury? Knowing the end in advance has the power to change everything about the present. That’s why eschatological hope is so important.

In short, eschatological hope acknowledges three things. First, that hope is necessary, because this world doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. We may feel this reality in different ways, but we all feel it. Whether it’s the decay of our bodies, the estrangement in our relationships, the corruption in our societies, the greed in our hearts, or the emptiness in our souls—we all feel the brokenness of this world, and we all acknowledge that something needs to be done about it.

According to the Bible, that problem boils down to something called sin—human rebellion against our creator God and his rightful rule over his creation. God made people to be his children and royal servants, who enjoy relationship with him and make much of him throughout all creation (Gen. 1:26-28). But we liked his job better than ours, and so since our very first parents we’ve sought to knock God off his throne and run the world for ourselves, with the result that the very fabric of creation has been corrupted (Rom. 5:12; 8:20-22; cf. Gen. 3). Enter death, decay, bitterness, spite, envy, disease, disaster, and distance from God. Something definitely needs to be done.

Second, eschatological hope means that God will be faithful to do something about it in the end. Sin, evil, and death will not prevail. There is hope. But hope in this sense is much stronger than its typical use (i.e. “wish”); it is more like “confident expectation.”  God will be faithful to rescue his people and destroy his enemies (1 Cor. 15:21-26). He will reclaim this world for himself and his people for his purposes, renewing all things in a new creation—the new heaven and new earth, wherein righteousness dwells (2 Pet. 3:13; cf. Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1-2). There will come a day when “death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

But third, an eschatological hope shaped by the biblical storyline asserts that what God promises to do in the end has already begun in advance and in part through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The eternal judgment that waits for wicked at the end was poured out on Jesus in advance to atone for those who cling to Christ in faith (Jer. 25:15-38; Matt. 26:39; Rev. 19:11-21). The bodily resurrection that all God’s people look forward to in the new heaven and new earth (Dan. 12:1; Jn. 11:24) broke into this old fallen world when Christ was raised on the third day, and breaks into our hearts by the Spirit in anticipation of our full resurrection to come (John 5:24-28; Rom. 8:10-11; 1 Peter 1:3).

In this light, eschatological hope is necessarily a gospel-centered hope. For only the gospel message of Jesus Christ allows us to be both honest and hopeful before the reality of sin in this fallen world, because only the gospel of Christ supplies an adequate solution in God’s sufficient grace—accomplished in the cross, to be completed in the new creation.

And so it is that we live today in the meantime—between the already and not yet of God’s redemptive plan, between the cross and new creation. And in this meantime, we will taste both the joys of new creation and the bitterness of this fallen world. What will help us navigate—give us perspective and fuel perseverance, even when the trials we face make no sense and offer no apparent resolution? We need a gospel-centered vision of eschatological hope.

This blog is dedicated to feeding eschatological hope. The shape of the content will vary from time to time, ranging from articles and links to resources to the occasional book review or interview. But each post will in someway (hopefully) contribute to helping readers navigate life in a fallen world in the power and hope of the gospel.

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, ESV).

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