Saturday, August 23, 2014

Eschatology is Doxology:

The Presence of the Future 

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.

These words are the last two lines of the English version{1} of the Gloria Patri. It is a confessional prayer that has its origins in the Second Century undoubtedly linked directly to the original Disciples of the Lamb of God. Particularly in mind would be Polycarp of Smyrna{2} (69-160AD) a disciple of the Apostle John.

Divine Harmony

What is the “it?”  It is the Glory of God.  God was glorified in His creation and He will be glorified in His re-creation.  The Divine tension of these two anchor points sustain and direct all that goes on in the interim.  So to speak, the harmonic tune is set and all else conforms to its pitch–thus accentuating the fact that every seemingly finite transaction traces its origin to the Decree of the Infinite: “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” Acts 4:28 

The first lines of this doxology read:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;

If we even have a modicum of understanding of the Divine process, we will be apprehended by the realization that the course of our own lives are also so ordained. “But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, was pleased...” Galatians 1:15 May we not neglect the fact that this is that which is pleasing to God. And from Isaiah: “Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother's womb he has spoken my name.” Could anything be any more unalterable? 

Many of us are very familiar with this hymn of praise - others maybe not so much - yet the question is still begged: “Do we really believe what we have been confessing?”  The Glory of God is that which has always been and always will be. A world without end always has its course determined by this consummate disposition. Annihilation of His creation has no place in the epilogue of the Song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!” Revelation 15:3 

Continuing in this vein: “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:” Colossians 1:16{3}  How is it possible that that which was created not only by Him, but also for Him, could ever cease to exist?  And how does that influence our message? Are we only trying to save souls for a heavenly abode or is our eternal hope a company of transformed beings inhabiting a transformed creation? We must concur with the last word of the Gloria Patri: “Amen!”  That is to say, “So be it Lord!” 

The Presence of the Future 

Eschatology is a big word and is subject to much speculation. To many it only points toward that which is to come.  I believe it is much more expansive than that.  It looks back to what once was - the original intent -  while pointing toward that which will be–thus determining what is. "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:8  

Gleaning from N.T. Wright: “So when I (and many others) use the word eschatology we don’t simply mean the second coming, still less a particular theory about it; we mean, rather, the entire sense of God’s future for the world and the belief that that future has already begun to come forward to meet us in the present.”{4}

Pan Out?

Many of a well-meaning disposition eschew the whole proposition by saying something like, “Well, it will all just pan out in the end.”  Undoubtedly this attitude has come as a result of the controversy often arising when such matters are discussed.  However, the unintended result is a diminution of the purpose and plan of God.

In response we must assert, “Does God have a plan or not?”  With the emphasis of this treatise being the proposition that He does we then ask, “How does He allow us to be privy to it?” The finality of our rejoinder can only be, “By His Word!”

A word of caveat would be appropriate at this point. I am not intending to advocate a particular position in this musing.  After forty years of preaching, teaching and study of the Word of God, I have not emphatically landed on any one perspective. I am more sure of what I cannot countenance while looking forward with continued expectancy to that which is to be revealed. In this journey I am becoming more and more apprehended by the Glory of God and am thus propelled onward. 

The Revelation 

Many turn to the Book of the Revelation for answers to what seems to be an insurmountable puzzle. Yet, when this seminal panorama is viewed only through futuristic lenses the result is to be dragged down even deeper into a quagmire of befuddlement. The Revelation is that of Jesus Christ who we have already seen is He who was, who is and who is to come–encompassing all of eternity from beginning to end. Please do not call this book Revelations - at least not in my presence. It is like the scratching of fingernails on a chalkboard. As the purpose of God is solely singular in the Son so is the Revelation of God.

Another great disservice to the Revelation is to refer to it as the apocalypse with the denotation being the final destruction of all things.  Some things are to be destroyed indeed, but that which is eternal is only purified. Wood, hay and straw are consumed while gold, silver and jewels are refined–becoming even more glorious. The book is apocalyptic indeed for the word means the revelation of the divine purpose.  The connotation of widespread disaster is the weakest definition possible and should be relegated to the dustbin of misnomer.  


So then, why does it matter?  My conviction is that a solely futuristic perspective of the consummation of all things - or a disinclination toward an authentic Biblical understanding - provides no energy or focus toward societal transformation. Thus the eschatological hope of Paul is conveniently - should we say comfortably - set aside: “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. That the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:19, 21

Looking again to N.T. Wright: “In his appearing we find neither a dualist rejection of the present world nor simply his arrival like a spaceman into the present world but rather the transformation of the present world, and ourselves within it, so that it will at last be put to rights and we with it. Death and decay will be overcome, and God will be all in all.”{5}


This malaise of unfocused fervor has only crept into the evangelical church in its somewhat recent history - early 19th Century - resulting in an abdication of its societal obligations into which other organizations full of altruism, but devoid of eternal consequence have flooded. Many of these organizations by their very names or emblems indicate their original connection to eternal purpose - yet the glory has departed. 

When message and method are no longer linked the witness becomes incredulous with confusion being the result. Genuine seekers are faced with a bewildering dilemma in their search for authenticity. Some of whom are labeled as postmodernist are those involved in just this pursuit.


There must be a return to historic relevance such as found in the Gloria Patri for the church to fully execute her mission in the earth and to be presented to her Lord and Savior without spot or blemish.  I see our Faithful Father raising up just such a company who are rejecting the recent faddishness - modernity - of the church in their quest for relevance. Some are too quick to say that they have left the church - might not the truth be just the opposite? 

The following stanza which will serve as our benediction is one of the most comprehensive eschatological statements I have ever read–succinctly summarizing all that I have been saying..

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
Maltbie Babcock - 1901

And for our concluding amen

“On that day the church will be presented faultless before God by the obedience, suffering and triumph of Christ, all sin purged and its wretched effects forever banished. God will be all in all and his people will be enthralled by the immediacy of his ineffable holiness, and everything will be to the praise of his glorious grace.” The Gospel Coalition 

{1} Book of Common Prayer edited by Thomas Cranmer in 1552 representing the Reformed perspective of faith. Archbishop Cranmer was later burned at the stake for the unswerving faith that had gripped his soul - ushering him into eternity and the fulness of the Gloria Patri. 

{2} He has come to be know as The Heretic Fighter - he also suffered martyrdom at the stake. 

{3} The through or by of John 1:3 can just as easily be translated for: “All things were made (for) him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

{4} Wright, N.T., Surprised By Hope, HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2008, p. 122

{5} Ibid, P. 142 

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