For all intents and purposes, the world looks as though it is headed to hell in a hand-basket. The pastor friend of mine, from Friday's visit, had a very bleak outlook on the community. In fact, he said, "Show me one place that has been changed by the church serving others in a social way!" I was appalled at his ignorance for lack of a better word.
This morning, over breakfast with another friend, we were talking about the seeming hopelessness of the world. My friend sees humanity at its worst on a regular basis.
Hope is in short supply, and many ministers, my Friday visit included, should be ashamed when they fail to have or give hope to others and about our world. But often they are unable to give hope because they lack a good understanding eschatology and the role of the Messiah. Eschatology is the technical word for the study of the end of things. Apocolypse focuses on one theological viewpoint's definition of the world ending in a mass destruction.
But the Bible is clear that a "new" heaven and earth will not necessarily be a re-created world following the destruction of this one. It will be a transformed world. I think the Bible speaks of heaven and hell as points of hope. I would also put the "new heaven and new earth" in this same role.
Here is the promise: "Someday, everything will be set right!" Someday there will be true peace. Someday, there will complete forgiveness. Someday, there will be justice. A good eschatology is the basis of Christian hope. It encompasses the culmination of God's plan for humanity and the role of Jesus, our redeemer and Messiah, in that process.
If a person's view of the end times makes them think, "Someday we will escape all this!" Then their emphasis is in the wrong place. The question is "What are you doing now?"
Having a Kingdom of God mindset, a missional mindset, means that we view ourselves as God's ambassadors, his hands and feet in this world, and if the world is going to hell in a handbasket then the church is failing in its mission. We are called to change our world. We are called to discover what God is doing and join.
Too often, though, we are content to be comfortable.
Jesus tells Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not stand against it." A few years ago I preached a sermon titled "The Church Should Go to Hell!" based on this passage. My point was that if we simply define hell as fire and brimestone, then we have blinded ourselves to the pain and hurt in the world around us. For some people fire and brimestone would be a welcome relief from what they have endured here on earth. It is to these people's lives that we, as a church, are called to bring the Kingdom.
I want to continually ask myself, "What am I doing to bring the Kingdom of God to the world around me?" "How am I leading my church against the gates of hell?" "Am I leading toward hope?"