Essential Eschatology by Jay Phelan is both a thought-provoking book for Christian lifestyle and a theological book. Dr. Phelan makes sense. I am going to review all chapters of his book, starting with the first two chapters in this post. Incidentally these two chapters are on Amazon where you can read them and order this book.
Phelan begins by postulating that both Jews and Christians believe that God intends to bring his great work of creation to completion. (p. 16) He reveals that eschatology is more grand than just prediction, charts and "left behind" theology. Phelan writes:
Eschatology is not about the end only, but also about the beginning and middle of faith and life as well. . . God's promise is "new heavens and a new earth" (Is. 65:17; Rev. 21:1-4). But this does not mean God's future is a remote reality we passively await. For Christians the future spills into the present. Jesus would assert that in a profound sense the kingdom of God was already here. (p. 17)At points Jay will sound unorthodox. For example, he mentions that "Jesus took his cues from the book of Isaiah and framed his ministry around the book's hopes and expectations." (p. 20) I gulped when I read that and wondered how his editor from IVP Academic would let that fly--is taking your clues academic language I wondered. I believe that the Son of God did not need to take His clues from Isaiah--He is all-knowing and didn't have to study Isaiah even though He did quote Scripture. He even pointed out to His parents that He was about His heavenly Father's business--not Isaiah's business.
Chapter two starts with this question:
Why do we need to reclaim a vibrant Christian eschatology, an eschatology that is not merely abstract speculation or smirking complacency? Isn't Christian eschatology a discredited doctrine valued only the scholars and fanatics? (p. 30)To answer this question he looks to history. He points out that early Christians believed in the resurrection of Christ and their own resurrection. He directs our attention to LIVING BETWEEN ROMANS 13 AND REVELATION 13.
We respect the state and its authority as a gift from God. But we are wary of the state and its authority because of the pressure of compromise.Instead we seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness as we read in Matthew 6:33. We put the end in view. We need to trust God in the here and now, even though we might live in an atmosphere of postmodern despair. We need Christian community rather than escapism. He concludes chapter two by saying:
Some [Christians] perhaps view the coming end of the world with gloom and hopelessness. Others may view it with gleeful expectation. Christians accept neither extreme. We see both as self-indulgent and escapist. (p. 48)When my husband was entering into the hope of the resurrection with his death at the end of June, we both worshipped our LORD together. One of his last senses to go with his dementia was his hearing. We listened to hymns and he moved his hand as if he was conducting a choir. He was looking forward to our LORD who would take his soul. We await that time when the LORD will return and believers' souls will be reunited with our bodies. Jews and Christians live with hope.
That hope, that faith, cannot be shaken as Hebrews 12:28 reads. One of my friends, Mary, sent me that verse recently in our daily email exchange of Scripture. We are receiving that kingdom already and we do indeed have that hope. Let us worship! We who believe in God's purposes for His world can worship now and that worship will never end.