Mark 13:1-23 – How the Future Informs How The Church Lives in the Present

Can passion for the world to come actually bear good fruit in this present world? Doesn’t such a future orientation make us subject to the old charge that Christians are so heavenly minded we’re no earthly good? Doesn’t it lead to a withdrawal from this present world?
Certainly many people have thought so. Henry David Thoreau laid the blame squarely at the feet of the founder of Christianity. “[Jesus] taught mankind but imperfectly how to live; his thoughts were all directed toward another world.” Thoreau believed people too interested in obtaining eternal life in the world to come were in fact useless in this world; they “have a singular desire to be good without being good for anything.” In fact, some Christians have actually argued that because God intends to destroy this present world, it doesn’t matter what we do with it. Is this a necessary implication of the biblical encouragement to focus on the world to come?
Within the creative tension of restlessness and patience, as the Christian leans forward toward God’s eternal future, the actual result is productive engagement in the world and spiritual transformation within. C. S. Lewis’s words on this matter are justly famous: “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. . . . It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
The church in ages past has embraced the practical importance of eschatology. Perhaps more than any other individual, Jonathan Edwards modeled this superbly. George Marsden writes, “If the central principal of Edwards’ thought was the sovereignty of God, the central practical motive in his life and work was his conviction that nothing was more momentous personally than one’s eternal relationship to God. . . . He built his life around disciplines designed constantly to renew that eternal perspective.”
I wonder if others think this way about me: that they can understand my thoughts and actions by considering the life to come. For Edwards, the life to come had intensely practical concern—-it affected his everyday life. It should be the same way for us. Eschatology is a largely untapped resource for Christian life and ministry within the evangelical church today. I pray the “when” of our living will increasingly shape the “how.”

Stephen Witmer

Read Mark 13:1-23. Do you think often of the world to come after this one ends? What difference would it make in your life to live every moment in light of eternity? What is one practical way that you can start doing that today?

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms by Elisha Hoffman

Posted on: March 7, 2019 - 7:27PM

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