If 2020 has done anything in the church, it’s brought out some of the craziest ideas about every catastrophe and polarizing event we’ve been struck with. Most commonly, 2020 has brought up more frequent discussion among Christians regarding eschatology or theories about the “end times”.
If you’re a pastor I’ll bet you regularly have at least one random person telling you their newest “prophecy” about what’s to come in the form of: “God told me…,” “I had a dream…,” or “I heard from a preacher about…”. In my time pastoring a church, I’ve noticed most people assume a view of the end times by osmosis. For the American church, it is a very cursory understanding of dispensationalism. After discussing with a leader in our church that there were other views out there that didn’t involve a rapture or a literal seven year tribulation, he responded, “I never knew there were other views”.
Helping to Hope
In times of uncertainty and chaos (like 2020), where our hope truly lies is brought to the forefront. Any hope not grounded in Christ and our assurances in him can become all-consuming. When this happens, it’s important as a pastor to help people keep eschatology in its rightful place.
Eschatology is a doctrine of secondary importance – you can have a different view of how Jesus will make all things new (Rev 21:5) and still be faithfully orthodox in your beliefs. If you are pastoring people towards a more robust eschatology and a less robust Christology you’re putting the cart before the horse. There is one thing that unites different orthodox views of the end times and that is the ultimate victory of Jesus over the sinful and broken world we inhabit and our place with him.
If you find yourself positioned to discuss “end times”, any basic Christian teaching would do well to include these points:
- We do not put our hope in our eschatology; we put our hope in the Lord Jesus
- We do not find our lifeline in knowing exactly what will happen and how God is going to make the world right again; we find our hope in Jesus who will make the world right.
- We do not trust in our understanding of the mystery of the return of Christ, but in Christ himself who will make the mystery plain when we see him face-to-face.
Help your people hope in Jesus. If they are fearful, concerned, or confused, spend more time showing them that when their present hope is in the victory of Jesus, their future hope is assured (Titus 2:13) in him as well.
Secure the Foundation Before Wading into the Weeds
When feeding your sheep with the rich and abundant food of the Gospel, their condition will be such that even though many of them might hold different views on the return of Christ, they will be filled with that which is of first importance – the Good News of the resurrected Christ (1 Cor 15:3-4) who brings confidence to the fearful and life to dead bones. Once their footing is secure, the secondary matters of eschatological interpretation are easier to navigate.