I want to write this post for everyone, no matter your particular view of the end times (what scholars call eschatology). I have voiced my thoughts on the end of the world to some degree in other places. I’ve criticized what I deem to be “escapist” end-times beliefs. I’ve lamented the ways in which sketchy end-times theology hurts Christian political and cultural credibility. But here I want to speak to those who agree and disagree with me about the end. Even so, my friends who take a more Left Behind or “rapture” approach to the end of the world may find my comments most challenging because their movement is publishing most of the material shaping popular conception of Christian eschatology. But here is my fundamental plea to all of us:
Stop obsessing over the end of the world. Enjoy creation now as a gift of God.
Too often Christian reflection on the end times gets reduced to a potluck scripture showdown wherein we use our pet verses in an attempt to read the tea-leaves, or the stars, or the blood moons, or the activities of Israel in order to determine some kind of reasonable expectation for when the end is going to come about. Our minds become so fascinated and fixed on the idea of getting raptured out of here, and God’s tribulation wrath on those left behind, that we fail to see that this present moment is a gift of God.
Creation, time, space, love, truth, goodness, and beauty are not afterthoughts in God’s plan to save the world. Each plays an intricate role in that plan. Each contributes something the overall whole of the gospel. Each reminds us of God’s good intentions for his world and the inhabitants thereof. And no matter your eschatology, you are called to live in creation, time, space, love, truth, goodness, and beauty at least until God takes you out of this world.
Now, then, understand the two claims I’m making.
- Creation is, in one way or another, part of God’s plan to save the world.
- God has left you in creation for the present time.
This means, therefore, that as long as you are a participant in this creation, you are receiving creation as a gift of God. Creation is a gift to those who do not believe – he causes the rain to fall on the fields of the just and the unjust. Creation is a gift for those of us who do believe – it is the stage upon which we enact and embody God’s salvation plan until he sees fit to change things.
Creation is God’s gift to us. And despite its groaning and brokenness, it still bares the marks of its Creator.
Why then do we continue to look for escape?
Through creation, God is inviting us to participate in his rescue mission. We get to be a part of his story of salvation and resurrection. The journey toward that promised salvation matters to God, else he wouldn’t have left us here. The journey is the ambiguity and the tension, the place of love and grace, into which the New Testament documents spoke. Even the reflections of Paul and John the Revelator on the end of the world were not intended to help us read the tea-leaves, but were intended to teach us to be faithful right now, no matter our circumstances.
I understand there are biblical injunctions to look for the second coming of Christ, so, please, no one quote Bible verses at me to disprove what I’m saying. But the point of every one of those passage is to remind the church, whatever its present situation, to live faithfully within that situation. The Bible’s eschatological, end-times teaching never intends to take us out of the present moment and plant our hearts solely within the future or in the next world. The Bible wants ethical, good, beauty-seeking, truth-telling Christians to firmly plant themselves within this world and for this world. Because God is for this world.
Creation, despite its brokenness, despite its festering wounds, despite its mourning, is God’s gift to us. No matter your view of the end of the world, this present moment is where God has called you to live and move and have your being. So let’s stop waiting for the end of the world, let’s stop moving the political chess pieces around to manufacture our particular version of the end, and let’s start receiving creation as a gift. Let’s receive each moment and each person as an opportunity to participate in God’s salvation plan.
Read more from this author at www.tom1st.com.