I grew up in a Baptist church for the first twenty years of my life. One of the things that stand out during my time there was the preoccupation with end times. There were prophecy conferences every year, both the books and videos of Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind Series were watched by most of the youth group, and the latest must-read was Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. Consequently, the church at large was eagerly looking toward the imminent return of Jesus and many had adjusted their lives accordingly.
Although I no longer subscribe to some of those Baptist eschatological convictions I acknowledge there is something that has been lost in recent years. From all the sermons I’ve listened to, the blogs and books I’ve read, and the countless Christian conversations I have overheard or been a part of, it seems like eschatology has gone off the radar. The future realities of heaven, receiving glorified bodies, being rewarded, being delivered from the suffering and sin and going home to be with the Lord, are consumed with the present earthly realities. A tidal wave of intellectualism, materialism, and the digital revolution has crashed in upon the shore of the church obscuring her future vision.
Consequently, these earthly realities have eclipsed the ultimate reality that history has a definite final consummation in the second coming of Christ. Here the entire world will be judged, and the eternal destiny of all humanity will be judged on what they did with Christ. Further Christ’s return will usher in new creation with no disease, death, suffering and pain. We as believers will receive a glorified body which will be fundamentally the same, yet without the flaws.
If the church is to rise from its slumber, if we are to experience a greater revival in our personal lives, surely these eschatological realities need to play a larger role in our lives. The future and all its glorious hope and sombre truth, must impinge on the present and radically transform how we live, think, and understand ourselves in this present world. However, it must not only impact ourselves but also how we understand and relate to other believers and the wider community.
Only the future is the ultimate reality, and it must have a dynamic influence on our present lives if we are to have a significant impact on this present world. It is only the reality of what is at the end of life, that will motivate us to live with true purpose. So believer – take heart – we can have great optimism about the future, even though the world is dominated by darkness, evil and pessimism. There is a terminal point and may this profoundly impact our daily living and a tremendous hope for the future.
Steven Kilner is married to Jodie and has three sons, they have an eight-year-old, a six-year-old and a three-year-old. They attend Canterbury Gardens Community Church. Steven is studying theology at PTC and Jodie is undertaking a diploma in Nursing.