Eternity

Practical Eschatology

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next… . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity [New York: Harper Collins, 2001], 134.)

“Eschatology” is the study of last things, or end times. For many, that term sounds like little more than an academic label, fit only for theology textbooks and doctrinal debates.

But whether we use the term “eschatology” or not, the study of the future is of vital imporance for believers. Biblical eschatology is far more than an academic topic to be debated. In His Word, God has revealed truth about the end of the age, and that truth is intended to do more than merely generate colorful charts or provide fodder for bestselling novels.

Why has God revealed so much about the future to His people?

At least three answers to that question might be considered, demonstrating that the future is meant to edify and encourage believers in the present. Our understanding of future events ought to impact our present reality in substantive ways.

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Heavenly Clarity

Reposted from The Cripplegate.

One of my favorite Christian stories is Pilgrim’s Progress. First published in 1678, the full title of John Bunyan’s classic is The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come.

The well-known allegory follows a man, who comes to be called Christian, as he flees from the City of Destruction and enters through the narrow gate, finding eternal life at the cross, and feeling the heavy burden of his sin fall off and roll away.

As he journeys along the King’s Highway toward the Celestial City, he encounters many dangers and temptations along the way—from Vanity Fair to Doubting Castle until he finally crosses the River of Death and reaches his destination.

One of my favorite scenes takes place when Christian and his traveling companion, Hopeful, make there way to the Delectable (Delightful) Mountains. There they meet a group of shepherds who seek to encourage them as they continue on their journey.

These shepherds take Christian and Hopeful to what Bunyan describes as, “a high hill, called Clear.”

There Christian and Hopeful are given what Bunyan describes as a “perspective glass” (what we might call a telescope), and as they look through the lens from the top of this mountain peak, they get a glimpse of the gates of the Celestial City in the distance.

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Eternity: All Praise, All the Time?

What will eternity be like for believers? Recently, in a couple of separate conversations, I heard two believers express the idea that in our eternal state, we won’t care about any of the kinds of things that interest us here and now. We won’t be curious, won’t be seeking answers, won’t be striving to be productive or improve ourselves or our surroundings. One of the two indicated that “ignorance is bliss” and that not knowing or caring about answers to life’s questions will be a key feature of the joy of heaven.

I suggested that there are compelling reasons to believe our experience of life in eternity will not be that different from life as we know it now—that we were created to be curious, creative, intellectual, and productive, not just spiritual and relational, and that our final form must include all of what we were originally intended to be.

So will eternity reveal a glorious perfecting of our original design as humans, or a scrapping of that design for something fundamentally different?

Big Changes

Scripture does provide ample evidence that major changes await believers after this life. One of the most loved examples comes from the apostle John.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (ESV, 1 John 3:2)

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