>I’d like to do a short series of blog posts on “eschatology on the minds of the New Testament writers.” Since redemption begins immediately after the fall in Genesis 3:15, and God is restoring His creation to original perfection and summing up all things in Christ, it should come as no surprise that the one of, if not, the most, prevalent themes in all of the scriptures is eschatology. (end-things i.e. where God is moving redemptive history)
Eschatology may seem to be relegated to the guys with charts and endless conjectures about the timing of events such as the “rapture” and “the millennial kingdom” etc. …not that there is anything wrong with charts. :) My father-in-law told me the other day: “You know that half-hour of silence that it talks about in Revelation… that’s when everybody changes their charts.” (LOL, I got a kick out of that.) Maybe he’s right?
Eschatology (study/theme of end-times) was not a sideline hobby-subject for the New Testament writers it was and is central to the gospel! One of the most prevalent themes of Paul’s letters to the churches is “the Day of the Lord”. A common phrase used by the Hebrew prophets to identify the end-time “Day” when the Messiah would judge the nations (cf. Psalm 2). Paul saw the entirety of his life’s work and mission in context to the day of the Lord. In his mind, the gospel and the very framework of his own life was set in context with the coming “Day”.
“But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Romans 2:5-8
“…on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” Romans 2:16
Notice, here in Romans, how the gospel was to be understood and proclaimed within the context of the coming judgment of the Lord, at the day of the Lord.
Read through these next verses, (don’t gloss over them) and see the context in which the “day of the Lord” is set, in the mind of Paul. All of his life’s work, mission, and even the gospel itself only has weight and coherence within the context of the Day.
“…who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 1:8
“…each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.” I Corinthians 3:13
“…you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.” I Corinthians 5:5
“…just as you did partially acknowledge us—that on the day of our Lord Jesus you will boast of us as we will boast of you.” 2 Corinthians 1:14
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
“so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:10
“…holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:16
“For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.” I Thessalonians 5:2-4
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction…” 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
“…which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12
“…may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:18
“Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8
“…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:25
(All scriptures quoted from the ESV –my emphasis added)
Paul had more than vague notions of end-time judgment in the background of his theology; instead, “the day of the Lord” was a central theme in his writing and apparently, his thinking and living, as well. A real bodily return of the Messiah Jesus to the earth, at the Day of the Lord, when He will bring everything into subjection to Himself -All nations, governments, peoples, and even death itself, and delivers the kingdom to the Father.
“Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” I Corinthians 15:24-28
For Paul, the basis of his expectation of reward, his instruction to the churches he was discipling, and the very fabric of the gospel itself was wound up in the climax of the Day of the Lord. Far from an afterthought, I submit to you, the Day of the Lord ought to be a central feature in our own thoughts, discipling and trajectory of life as it was for Paul and the Biblical authors.
May it be true of us, that we are living for more than vague notions of “eternity” but we are living with expectancy of a real day that Jesus Christ will return and judge the living and the dead with the fullness of punishment and reward.
Stay tuned for, “Eschatology on the minds of the New Testament writers: the bodily resurrection”