The Two Ends

2 11 2007

Eschatology: The study of last things.

Teleology: The study of purpose.

In Christianity, I firmly believe, both of these studies work in ultimate conjunction with the other. Together they take hold of the entire concept of ultimate meaning in the universe. Christian teleology goes beyond simply asking or speculating about how it will all turn out in the end, but also draws upon why we are even here and what purpose it serves.

The late Pope John Paul II is quoted as having said that Christ is “the center of the cosmos and of history.”

I believe in Christ the very meaning of reality is found. That’s a fairly brief statement that carries a lot of weight. If you were to ask me how things came to be my answer would be Christ. If you were to ask me why things came to be my answer would be Christ. If you were to ask me where all things are purposed, my answer would be Christ.

Everything that is exists for and because of Jesus Christ.

He is the source behind creation, evolution, and all of history.

He is the force behind nature, physics and the atom.

He is the life that gives life to all things living.

If I may borrow an analogy from Plato, I’d say that Christ is the “Archetypal Man”–the Form that ultimately grants us our own humanity. Additionally He is the Human Telos, the grand purpose toward which our own humanity is ultimately destined.

He is Man as men ought to be, and His ministerial work is to take the ideality of His own perfection and make it a reality within men. Christ is man perfected.

The Second Adam.

“Perfection”, here, must be understood properly as “teleological maturity”, of something coming into its full potential. An adult chicken is the “perfection” of the chicken egg. Michaelangelo’s David is the “perfection” of that particular slab of marble. The Incarnate Christ is the “perfection” of man.

So taking these teleological ideas and drawing from them and bringing them over into eschatological discussion we inquire as to what the finality of all things will be.

To that end we have the words of God in St. John’s Revelation, “Behold! I make all things new!”

The apocalypse is not the destruction of the world, but is simply the disclosure, specifically the disclosure of Jesus Christ (the word “revelation” is simply a translation of the word “apocalypse” which means “unveiling”). The Apocalypse is the disclosure of Jesus Christ, not the destruction of the world. In fact the Apocalypse is the restoration, the renewing of the world. The becoming of the world to its original and eternally destined purpose of God who framed the heavens and the earth.

He who calls matter into being sets its course into its ultimate purpose, with its finality being found in the Same who is its Source. He who is the Beginning is the End, He who is the First is the Last, He who is the Alpha is the Omega.

Since “all things were created by Him and for Him,” He alone can is the means and end of the restoration of all things.

While the present “kosmos” is destined for fire, this is not the fire of destruction, but the fire of purgation, the “Refiner’s Fire” that makes gold pure in the furnace.

The kind of world we see in John’s Revelation in the end is one where there is no need for sun or moon or stars, because the very glory of God and the Lamb illuminate the heavens.

When discussing eschatology one may speak of “Unrealized Eschatology” which states that we must wait for God to act sometime in the future, and one may speak of “Realized Eschatology” which states that God is waiting for us to act.

We could potentially say that Premillennialism is “unrealized” and Postmillennialism is “realized”–the former says we must wait for Christ to come and establish His millennial kingdom and the latter says God is waiting for us to establish the kingdom here and now and then Christ will come.

This dichotomy ultimately misses a crucial point. That both are truth and both are wrong.

We are not merely waiting for God to act nor is God waiting for us to act–rather God has called us to participate in His own work.

That is our calling here and now, to take the hand of Christ and participate in His own ministerial work through the empowerment of the Spirit. To work with Him.

We are to understand the paradox between the present reality of the Kingdom as well as its future fullness. We are not waiting for a future Kingdom, and at the same time we are; we are not to establish a kingdom on earth and at the same time are called to establish Kingdom on earth. The former “a kingdom” meaning some geo-political entity, the latter “Kingdom” meaning the boundless reign of God through the preaching of the Gospel.

A key difference between “a kingdom” and “the Kingdom” is the former is “of this world” while the latter is “not of this world”; the former would simply be patterned after the things of this world while the latter is patterned after the things of God.

The former carries the sword the latter carries the cross.

Christians have no allegiance to the “powers and principalities” not because we are anarchists but because our allegiance is to a higher Power, the Principality of Christ embodied by the Cross.

Christ teaches “render to Caesar what is Caesar’s” but expressly forbids drawing the sword. St. Paul says to “submit” to the governing authorities which often meant nonresistance when the governing authorities (i.e. Caesar) decided to have the Christians killed.

In any case we speak of the Kingdom as “now and not yet”. This eschatological “tension” or “paradox” is essential to the Christian faith which can not speak of simply sitting around waiting for God nor presume that God is waiting around for us. There is the proactivity of God at work in the world and this proactivity takes place within His Church which is empowered by the Holy Spirit to do the things of Christ. The Church being as much transhistorical as it is historical, the work of God in history and working beyond it. The works are historical, but envelope around history.

What I mean, then, is that the Church is a sacred thread interwoven through history and all its parts, intersecting all things and through which God is drawing all things in, because the Church is the immanent expression of Christ in the world–He who sits at the right hand of God is immanent in the Church on earth–He who sat at the table with His disciples is at the Table every Eucharist.

The transcendent Christ is the immanent Christ. The Incarnation is not mere Christological dogma but immanent truth expressing itself through Word and Sacrament via His Holy Ekklesia.

Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age.

-Jon

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