One of the hardest things about seminary was reading Jürgen Moltmann. His works are dense and complex — well, they were for me at least! However, Moltmann has been a major, shaping influence on my thinking and on how I live as well. By trudging through his book Theology of Hope, I came to a better and more complete understanding of eschatology, the study of how human history will end.
Up until I read Theology of Hope, I was convinced that eschatology was something that got me through some boring sermons as a teenager (the book of Revelation reads an awful lot like the fantasy novels I loved then!), or an interest that only complete wingnuts had, or it was just an addendum slapped onto the end of a systematic theology. I certainly knew that you didn’t preach about it since I had heard so few sermons covering eschatology growing up attending church services.
Suffice it to say, my understanding of eschatology was seriously limited!
But then I read Theology of Hope. Moltmann helped me better understand why what we believe about the end matters. He helped me better understand the future-orientation of both Jesus and Paul. And Moltmann gave me an interpretative lense through which to understand the eschatology I read in the Bible and to apply it to my very own life in the here and now.
I want to share with you the passage that turned the light on for me:
From first to last, and not merely in the epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. (Theology of Hope, page 16)
Let that sink in for a minute. Really. Go back and read it again. And then again. Let it marinate with you for a little bit. Then read it again.
Okay, here’s how I understand what Moltmann is getting at: He’s saying that the future, namely Christ’s glorious return and God’s remaking all things new, is real. It’s so real that it has the power to change the present. The future can change the now.
Here’s one more way of saying the same thing: God is calling us to live the future into the present, just as Jesus prayed, “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The future realities that we read about in Revelation 4-5, 7, and 21-22 can begin to be realized now.
We can participate in God’s will to bring all people groups together, tearing down all the walls of separation.We can work with God in order to bring real peace and reconciliation in our world.
We can join in God’s work of recreation in our own lives, in the lives of others, and in our world.
Now we cannot do these things in our own power. It’s only through the working and empowering of the Holy Spirit within our communities!
The future is coming. It’s not a maybe kind of thing. The future reality is the real reality…and God is calling us to live that future reality into our present.
But how? How can we do this within a missional context (or any context for that matter!)?
- We can live in Christian community with people very different from us. The picture painted in Revelation 5 and 7 of those who will be present to worship God at the end is beautiful — there will be every sort of person there! Why then do we syphon our selves off into little affinity groups where everyone looks like us and thinks like us? The call of the Bible is as clear as the crystal sea: We are to be in community with those different from us.
- We can be workers of peace and reconciliation in our lives. As we look forward to the future reality that is being brought to fruition, it is obvious that Jesus created peace and reconciliation by offering his whole self up. We can follow suit. Peace and reconciliation are tough and costly, but not to pursue them is disobedience and, ultimately, sinful. So as we see brokenness, we must leverage all the power and influence we have to bring healing. When we see strife, we must work tirelessly to bring resolution.
- We can utilize our talents and gifts to bring new life to a dead world. Death is all around us. It’s in us. Our present reality is really pretty bleak if you think about it. We’re hurtling through space on this tiny spec of dirt…and then we die. Where is hope in that? Nowhere, that’s where! Our only hope must come from outside the system, from God himself. And God brought hope to us in the person of Jesus. As we follow him he will lead us into ways that bring life to our dying world. He’ll lead us to hydrate the thirsty trees that are desperate to bear fruit. And he’ll pour his refreshing water over our lives too, cleansing us and preparing us for our next steps.
How else can we live the future reality of God’s ultimate victory into our lives today? Let me know in the comments below!