Eschatology. End times. My eyes rolled back in my head as I contemplated the Womenary syllabus. All those hard words: Covenant Theology, Dispensational Hermeneutic, the Rapture, the Tribulation, Pre-Post-A-Millennialism. Could I make sense of what I was about to learn? Did I want to? After all, Jesus said, “No one knows the day nor the hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36, NIV). However, since Eschatology is a part of God’s counsel, I must gather what I can in my finite brain.
Coincident with Eschatology last semester fell football season. If you are not a fan, I apologize; surely you’ll be able to make application. I loved the following clear-cut visual from Eric Barton, Womenary professor. His family plate was full on October 1st with domestic tasks, so diplomatically he set his DVR to record the Baylor/Iowa State game. At 6pm, game well over, he turned on the TV and settled in to root for his team.
From the kickoff, things were dismal: passes were incomplete, Baylor’s defense was sadly lacking, ISU was scoring, and Barton was groaning. He shook his head, and decided to check on the final score and stop wasting his time. Much to his surprise, Baylor had won. Now he had to watch the rest of the game to see how that was possible. Now every bad Baylor play, instead of causing him great consternation, elicited a sigh of relief: It’ll be okay. In the end they win.
And that’s the way it is with Eschatology. We know we win in the end, so we can laugh at all life throws at us in the interim.
HOPE: H-aving O-nly P-ositive E-xpectation. That’s what my pastor says. Knowing about end times fills us with hope rather than fear; hope in a Person, hope in eternal blessings. He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV). We get hung up on what we cannot understand, when we should trust the Father. One day, future, everything will indeed be beautiful.
After all, all Scripture is eschatological, Genesis to Revelation. From cover to cover Eschatology shows us how God’s plan comes together. Original sin impacted all of creation; but in the Garden, God stepped in. To the serpent He said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers” (Genesis 3:15, NIV). At the right time Jesus would come between us and that snake.
And on it goes, through the major and minor prophets, through the apostles and the epistles, ending in Revelation. Is it true that there is nothing new or novel in Revelation? Do the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1 and Daniel 7 and Zechariah 14 and Zephaniah 3 and a lot of Jeremiah paint the backdrop? Look carefully: John saw and heard what he said he saw and heard, yet much mimics Old Testament prophecy.
My husband makes house calls for Hospice. More often than not those family homes are located on back country roads to nowhere. You can imagine his great consternation when the GPS responds: no digitalized roadway. And the verbal directions are illustrative: take FM 236 for 2.38 miles, turn right past the green dumpster, look for the yellow mailbox and the red pickup in the side yard, only to find the lane circled around and there was a green dumpster at either end. And no yellow mailbox—it had been replaced when someone knocked it off. You get my drift.
As I was beginning to get the drift of the imagery in prophecy. Sometimes it was clear, sometimes clear as mud, sometimes circular, sometimes repetitive. But in the end we will get to our destination.
Jesus’ remarks about the end times in Mark 13:5-37 (NIV) can probably be condensed into this: “Watch out that no one deceives you” (13:5); “do not be alarmed” (13:7); “Be on guard! Be alert!” (13:33). He likened the process to “birth pains”. As you who have been there know, they come and go, increasing in intensity as delivery nears.
The pattern emerges. Instead of fear, I am eager to delve deeper into what was promised, good and bad. I am particularly intrigued as John writes about the unveiling of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1, NIV). As he, John, testifies to everything he saw—that is the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (1:2), he pulls us in: Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it (1:3). Blessed are the teachers. Blessed are those who study what God has said and take it to heart. That’s us.
To quote Barton, the aim of all study is the “right, reverent, regular, recognition of God”. We want to think rightly of God. So I settled in to learn what my brain could absorb. Better than that, I began to crave Christ more. There are signposts that I can pay attention to, even if I don’t comprehend their full significance. I am content to leave the detail with the Lord, trusting His infinite wisdom.
As Eschatology is in the rearview mirror of this Womenary cycle, be sure to catch it next time around. I’ll certainly be ready for review by then, if the Lord tarries.