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Volume 14, Issue 5: Doctrine 101

Eschatology and Gospel

Patch Blakey

Although varied in many aspects, each of the three major millennial views (other than postmillennialism) is alike in that they each see the world growing over time more morally corrupt, with the eventual triumph of sin over all cultures, until at the very end of history, Christ returns to conquer evil and save the world. Those who subscribe to one of the first three views find themselves in a contradictory situation—obligated on the one hand to proclaim the saving grace of God through preaching the gospel, yet simultaneously firmly convinced that despite the best efforts of the Church, the world will still sink in moral decrepitude because of the triumph of evil in history.

But what does eschatology, the study of the end-times, have to do with the gospel? Plenty! The gospel is the "good news" or "tidings of good things" (Rom. 10:15). Christ Himself came to save the world, not to judge it (Jn. 12:47, 4:42, 16:33, 3:16).
Did Jesus accomplish His stated purpose? On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished!" (Jn. 19:30). Was He simply confessing that His opportunity to save the world had passed, and He finally came to the tragic realization that He had failed in His God-ordained mission? Was He dejectedly acknowledging that the powers of darkness had thwarted Him and sin would still prevail in the world because He had not conquered it? Was sin to rule in the world until the end when He would get His second chance to try to crush it? Does all this sound like "tidings of good things"?
Now, I know of no one who professes Christ who would willingly agree with any of the above paragraph. To the contrary, Christians would vehemently and rightly assert that when Christ said, "It is finished!" He was victoriously proclaiming that He had successfully accomplished His purpose. They would zealously acknowledge that Christ conquered sin and the powers of darkness (Jn. 1:29, Col. 1:13), that sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom. 6:14), and that the darkness is now passing away (1 Jn. 2:8).
The gospel is the message of the long-promised and earnestly awaited hope of God's redemption of His people. This promise first began to be revealed immediately after the fall of mankind in Adam when God told the serpent, "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed [Christ]; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel" (Gen. 3:15). This was the initiation of God's covenant of redemption.
God's redemptive purpose is manifested further in His covenant with Noah to preserve mankind, "And I will establish My covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth" (Gen. 9:11). God's promise of redemption is amplified yet further in His covenant with Abraham, "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and your seed after you in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto you, and your seed after you" (Gen. 17:7). Even the Law, given through Moses, had a redemptive purpose in showing man his sinfulness and his need for a Savior. The Law, represented in the Ten Commandments, is also an expression of God's covenant of redemption. "`Write these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.'. . . And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments" (Ex. 34:27-28). And again with David, speaking of the Christ, the Lord promised, "He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Sam. 7:13).
Some might protest that Jeremiah spoke of a new covenant, "Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant. . . I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:31,33). Granted. And who is the Mediator of the New Covenant? Christ (Heb. 9:15; 12:24), Who fulfills the Old Covenant (Mt. 5:17)!
So what has the gospel to do with eschatology? Is the gospel that we preach one of hope or despair? Is the gospel "the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16)? Is Christ indeed seated at the right hand of God the Father (Heb. 8:1), having received all authority in heaven and earth, commanding that His people, the Church, go and make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-20)? Has Christ been commanded to be seated until all His enemies are made a footstool for His feet (Heb. 1:13)? Is God a man that He should lie or the son of man that He should change His mind (Num. 23:19), thus making His promises of no effect?
Therefore, in preaching the gospel of hope and of a victorious Christ, do we simultaneously find ourselves guilty of contradicting that gospel with an eschatology of pessimism? Are we deprecating the efficacious atoning work of Christ on the cross by teaching that Christ only managed to save just a few as the world speeds on its downward spiral toward the victory of sin over history? How does your eschatology stack up with the saving gospel of Christ?

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