People of the Future Living in the Present

If you are at all familiar with Christian theology, the word eschatology may excite you, but it may also give you the creeps. Lots has been said and is being said by Christians about what the final things will be like – heaven, hell, judgement and especially; the end times. 

Ultimately, eschatology is not about our curiosity about the final events. Our eschatology shapes our expectation of how God is bringing His Kingdom to earth – not just in the future, but also today! 

In other words; what we believe about God’s future plan for our world has a huge impact on how we live as His ambassadors in this world. Our vision of the future shapes our view of the present. 

This is why it is very important to consider our eschatology, because it directly impacts our discipleship to Jesus today.

In the Vineyard, our main framework for understanding the things concerning the end is “inaugurated eschatology”, a phrase coined by George Eldon Ladd, the theologian that is seen as one of the main voices behind what we now call Kingdom Theology. 

In this view, the Kingdom of God, which would be fully realized in the new heaven and the new earth that the final chapters of Revelation talk about, was inaugurated by the ministry of Jesus, made available to every believer through His death and resurrection, and spreads throughout the world through Spirit-empowered believers. 

Inaugurated eschatology means that the Kingdom is here already – because the Spirit is actively at work right now – but not yet, because it will only be completely realized when Jesus comes again. Therefore, the future age (the reality described in Revelation 21-22) is present in the here and now, but not yet fully realized. 

The ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ of the Kingdom is often explained by appealing to two major events in the Second World War. The deciding battle of the Second World War happened on June 6 1944, when the allied forces invaded the coast of Normandy setting foot on occupied France beating the Nazi forces, famously put on the white screen in movies like The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan

This was D-day (D for decision). After June 1944, the Nazis knew they were fighting a lost war. Yet, the Second World War only ended on May 8, 1945, also known as V-day (V for victory). Between D-day and V-day some of the hardest battles with the most deaths have been fought. 

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was D-day. The empty cross and the empty grave mean that He overpowered the powers of darkness and took away their power over humanity through sin. He died and rose again as the eternal King. Yet, V-day is still coming. Finally, after Jesus comes again to make all things new. 

The church then, is called to participate in God’s plan for the future. Having experienced the presence of that future Kingdom, she is now called to step out and advance the Gospel of the Kingdom all over the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet, this advancement of the Kingdom comes at the cost of much sacrifice, suffering, opposition and through many ups and downs. 

Embracing both the ministry of the Kingdom (already) and the mystery of the Kingdom (not yet), the church partners with the Spirit to usher in Kingdom breakthrough moments in our time. 

People of the future living in the present

So, what does all this mean for our everyday lives as disciples of Jesus? 

How does this view of inaugurated eschatology impact our expectation of how God will move in the here and now? And how do we live in relation to the second coming of Jesus? 

John Mark Comer says in his book Garden-City, that we are
“people of the future living in the present”. 

We are ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, citizens of the New Jerusalem, awaiting and announcing it’s arrival. This future is not something we can accomplish through human willpower or progress. It is a future that can only come through Christ’s return. Yet, as ambassadors of this coming Kingdom, N.T. Wright says; “we get to build for the Kingdom”. We won’t achieve it in the here and now, but we can actively announce it, and live in anticipation of its arrival. 

Let me close with three points to live as a people of destiny. 

We carry the ministry of the Kingdom & the message of hope

The future reality of God’s fully realized Kingdom in New Jerusalem, the complete restoration that one day touch the whole planet, is already at work in you and through you. The Holy Spirit wants to partner with you to see that Kingdom break through everywhere you set foot. Wherever you go, the Kingdom goes, because it is in you. 

If you will let Him, the Spirit will open your heart, open your ears, open your eyes to how He wants to use you to let that Kingdom break through, even in the most unexpected places. 

The Holy Spirit wants to use your hands to touch people with His healing.
The Holy Spirit wants to use your lips to speak words of hope and expectation that a time is coming when God will indeed make all things new, and that there is only one name by which we can be saved and that is the name of Jesus.
The Holy Spirit wants to use your brains, your sacrifice, and your blood, sweat and tears to bring justice and peace and restoration for the broken and hurt. 

You are an ambassador of the coming Kingdom, carrying the power of God’s restoration and carrying a message of hope. 

We carry a heart of prayer

Paul famously ends his first letter to the Corinthians with a transliterated word from Aramaic: Maranatha, meaning ‘Come, Lord’. This use of a transliterated word, instead of just saying ‘come, Lord’ probably means that this was a common phrase in the early church – a prayer for Christ’s return. But I see this one-word prayer as more than a prayer for Christ’s return. 

In the Vineyard, we have a phrase much like this: ‘come, Holy Spirit’. It is an invitation for the Spirit to move, and for God’s Kingdom to come to us here and now. 

This expressed desire for God’s Kingdom to break through in the here and now is the main way we can express our eschatological expectation. 

History has shown that a focus on ‘the end times’, calendars, schemes and systems can lead people to disconnect from everyday reality. But our Lord has placed you and me to live in this time in history to be ambassadors of His coming Kingdom. 

Our call, therefore, is not to sit out our time on this yet-to-be-restored planet, hoping that the end will come very soon. Our call is to partner with the Spirit to see His Kingdom come in the here and now! 

Every time we pray ‘come, Holy Spirit’ – or in the words of the Lord’s Prayer ‘Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven’, we are praying that heaven’s reality will break into our earthly reality. This makes every person turning to Jesus, every healing, every prophetic word, every revival or other move of the Spirit an eschatological event. 

We look forward with hope and confidence to that final breakthrough of the Kingdom, yet, we know that we can also see the Kingdom break through in the here and now.