The End of the World, what did Jesus say?
Eschatology= the end times, the last things, the time when Jesus comes back.
1. The Restoration of Israel Eschatology Here/Now
Focus on God’s promise to send someone – a messiah, a deliver, a rescuer – to restore Israel. However, this view can focus too closely on the here and now of the restoration of Israel as the nation, and fail to see Jesus as Israel and as an agent of restoration for the whole world.
2. Kingdom Eschatology Here/Now and There/Future
Redefines restoration as a current activity which Jesus’ disciples participate in as a way of continuing the work of the Kingdom of God, which has already begun, yet will be fully realised/experienced/fulfilled in the future. The challenge of this view is that this ‘current activity’ can be reduced solely to social justice.
3. Futurist Eschatology There/Future
Focuses entirely on the future. This too is based on a biblical concept. However, this view taken to the extreme suggest that the church does not need to work for change now because everything will be replaced at some point in the future. This leaves no present hope for those who are marginalised and impoverished.
4. Over-Realised Eschatology There/Future and Here/Now
Considers that all the blessings of the future fulfilment of the Kingdom of God are available here and now. The challenge is that our faithfulness is measured by our material abundance (or lack of it) and no sense can be made of any experience of suffering.
The Text – Matthew 24
Begins with a description about what will happen before the Second Coming, and then continues on into chapter 25 with 9 parables, 5 short ones and 4 long ones, about The End.
The disciples ask ‘When will this happen?’ and Jesus launches into a description, not of when this will happen, but of what will happen. There will be international warfare, famines, false prophets, earthquakes, persecutions and executions.
The language that Jesus uses here to talk about The End is what is known as Apocalyptic Language. It’s full of imagery from Daniel and Zechariah, and is by nature metaphorical and symbolic. Jesus uses this language to describe the transformation which will take place when the kingdoms of the world will be overtaken by the Kingdom of God. Hence the language of warfare and famine, earthquakes and executions. There will be a clash, and with this clash comes conflict.
However, though this apocalyptic language is metaphorical and symbolic, the idea is that these words express were also a reality experienced by the Jewish people and Jesus’ followers. For generations and generations, they had experienced hardships, hostility and hatred.
By the time Matthew had written down Jesus’ words, the Jewish community had seen their temple destroyed, just as Jesus said they would. This meant that their worshipping life, their ritual practices, their identity, had to be redefined. Fresh in their memory were stories of destruction and derision.
The coming of the Son of Man who inaugurates and establishes the Kingdom of God and brings an end to suffering is of great comfort to those who are dislocated and dejected, and encourages and empowers them to be faithful. The comfort and assurance of Christ’s coming empowers us to endure.
Let me be clear: the end that Jesus brings to our suffering can be through miraculous experiences of physical healing or a long awaited change of leadership or the unexpected generosity of someone else, and through the equally gracious blessing of death. In death, we meet Jesus, our suffering ends and our life is restored.
In Christ, God is reuniting us to himself and to one another.
Don’t panic. Be patient.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
1. Consider your investment
The prophets Isaiah and Micah say that the people of God will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. We can transfer our investments from cluster bombs to biotechnology and cultivation.
2. Be Generous to Others
We shan’t stockpile our resources to serve only ourselves. We can be generous not only with the fruits of our labours, but also with the abundance we ourselves have received. We can feed the homeless, and the children who go to school without any breakfast because their parents can’t afford it, regardless of whether the money was spent on cigarettes instead of cereal.
In conclusion, the Good News is that Jesus has come, and he will come again. That does not mean that in the meantime he is absent. Rather, the nature of his presence with us now is different - he is with us by his Spirit. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant and the Chosen One, we are his church, his body, and as such we too experience what it means to suffer as well as what it means to be the ‘elect’. Jesus’ imminence (closeness/nearness), both in a personal, spiritual sense, and also in an eschatological sense, encourages us to persevere and endure through suffering, and to be faithful and obedient in our discipleship and service.