Revelation Part Three: Deep Dive
YOUR ESCHATOLOGY MUST IMPACT YOUR ECCLESIOLOGY
This is an academic way of saying “What you believe will happen in the End Times must impact how you live your life in and for the Church today?”
C S Lewis said it best “It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
N T Wright in his revolutionary text Surprised by Hope confirms it again “what you think about death, and life beyond it, is the key to thinking about everything else – and, indeed, that it provides one of the main reasons for thinking seriously about anything at all.”
I am passionate about the understanding that what you believe will happen in the end, will either motivate you for the Church today or distract you from another mission. Let me explain, if you believe that heaven and hell are real places and that there is only one way to go to one and escape the other, then your belief will be reflected in your actions in evangelism. If you believe that hell is not, in fact, real and that everyone will have a choice for Christ until all are saved, then your passion for evangelism will be impacted. Or if you believe that Jerusalem plays a key role in End Times theology you will find yourself pouring your time and money into that passion, again, if you believe that this earth will be destroyed then your passion for stewardship of the earth will be restricted.
After studying Eschatology for the last six years and teaching on both End Times and the book of Revelation, I have noticed the impact that what we believe will happen in the end has upon our Christian lives. I know some will ask why we didn’t choose to study the book of Revelation here at TYB, as a blueprint for everything that will happen at the end. Why did I not teach about the Rapture, Post-Tribulation Dispensationalism, or Pre-Millennial Second Coming of Christ? I didn’t because I believe that Eschatology is a juggle of biblical interpretation and, within the Christian community, I find that most people are confused about what to believe and therefore stagnant in their mission for the Church. We are all waiting for the debate to end before we do something about the end.
But I strongly disagree, we are called to be vessels of salvation to a world that is going to have a final choice: heaven or hell. And that is very clear in the book of Revelation and without debate in the study of End Times. God’s End Times plan is for the redemption of humanity and the earth. If we put our focus on things that we feel are important in the End Times rather than our focus being on the mission of the Church in the world, bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, then I feel we have missed the point of Eschatology.
I have met Christians that get upset when I tell them my beliefs in relation to the Pre-Tribulation Rapture. They cannot understand how I believe that a loving God will not save us from the wrath that he is about to pour out on the earth in the Tribulation period. But my understanding impacts the way I live my life. My understanding that the rapture is a part of the Second Coming of Christ in one final moment means that I am going to live my Christian life not in an understanding of ‘escapism’ but in an understanding that I may need to be ready to face whatever it takes to follow Jesus in the end days. John Hosier in his book End Times puts it perfectly “In the final analysis, while Christians may have to agree to differ about this subject, on this one I’d prefer to prepare believers for this Tribulation and then be proved wrong than not prepare them and then discover I was wrong!”
Please excuse me for my passion in this last Deep Dive on Revelation, but this is my heart. I am very passionate about the Church getting a clear understanding of Eschatology but I am a little sick of the Church being more passionate about debating what we disagree on (in any doctrinal issue not just End Times) rather than getting together in unity and focusing on our main mission – His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
Our main mission is to build His Church, he instigated it in His life, we saw it gain momentum in Acts and now it is our turn. To be a light to our communities, to love and share the gospel with everyone we meet, and to be good stewards of creation until he comes back, so that when Jesus comes back we can say “I did everything I could to bring everyone with me.”
In this passionate final Deep Dive for this year, I want to remind you that our mission is to keep our eyes on the main point of Eschatology, to fill our churches with people who have faith in Jesus Christ so that when the final trumpet blasts we will bring as many home with us as we can. We can debate the book of Revelation and it’s meanings until as my Father says “until the cows come home” but ultimately we need to focus on the message and mission portrayed in the book, the ushering in of His Kingdom on earth.
When I started teaching on the book of Revelation, I received some advice, which was the best advice I have ever received. Pastor Mark Saundercock said to me “don’t get caught in the marshes Katie, stay in the river with everything you study.” As with most conversations that you have with Ps Mark Saundercock, you know you have been imparted with some incredible wisdom but it is going to take time to work it out. But then as I considered what he was saying and as I started studying Eschatology, it came back to me loud and clear. Don’t get caught up in areas in my study that are going to lead me into swampy, stinky, horrible conversations that are neither helpful nor fruitful. In Ezekiel 47 we see an account of the River from the Temple and this river has fruit trees on its bank that bear fruit in season. But 47:11 is this obscure little verse “But the swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they will be left for salt”. In your study, in every topic especially Revelations and End Times, don’t get caught in the swamps, the areas that lead you out of the main point of the river, to bring healing and salvation to the nations.
I love reading Surprised by Hope Tom Wright, as most of my students know, N T Wright is my all-time favourite theologian and scholar. I know some will disagree with me on this point, but let me tell you why? His theology has application. Even though he turned the theological world on its head in this book with his “life after life after death” teaching, the book is all about getting our thinking right in relation to End Times to motivate us to live it out here on earth.
This is why I have chosen to not present the book of Revelations from an End Times blue print perspective, Dispensational, Pre-Tribulation Pre-Millennial way. Or enter into the debates in relation to Post-Trib, Pre-Trib, Post-Millennial, Rapture and everything else in between, even though I teach this for a living. For us here at TYB I felt that if we did that, we would have sent your mind into arguments that divide the Church and distracted you from the main purpose of this book. Let’s focus on what we all agree on, rather than what we don’t. Let’s focus on the fact that Jesus is coming back and we are to build His Church, preach the gospel and bring as many as we can with us to the final eternal state.
In my final words for the book of Revelation I want to remind you of the words of Jesus when the disciples tried to distract him to tell them about the end of time
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times and dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And I say this to you – don’t get caught in the debates over what will happen in the end, whatever you believe, there is one thing we can all agree on and that is the main message of Revelation – God is totally in control and He is coming back soon. So today hear the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8 - receive power and GO into all the world and preach the gospel! Let your Eschatology impact your Ecclesiology. Let everything you believe will happen in the End Times make you more passionate for His Church and the mission to GO!