Last Things First
It is a commonly held notion among Christians today that if you want to avoid an argument in polite Christian company, don’t talk about eschatology. Well, the sentiment to avoid arguing with a Christian brother or sister may be commendable, however, the reality is if you desire to speak about the redemptive work of God in any meaningful way, you will inevitably speak about eschatology.The Scriptures are eschatological. That is, from the first things, the Scriptures are concerned with last things. The first promise God gave to sinful humanity was an eschatological promise; it was a promise of rebuke to the Enemy and a promise of hope to God’s people. Following the Fall, in Genesis 3:15, God says to the Serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” These are the first words spoken about the last things. These words form the substance of our eschatology; they are the foundation of our hope, the ground of our worship. In rebuking the Serpent, God also reminds Adam and Eve that their past sin will result in a present war that will have a victorious future. Subsequently, today this truth should drive our lives and worship to reflect all that God has done, is doing, and has promised to bring to pass. Our worship must maintain an eschatological bent to it. That is, it must seek to reach into the past, understand its place in what God is doing in the present, but always keep an eye toward the future.
Eschatology is most frequently spoken about in terms of what will take place. There is a preoccupation with future events and apocalyptic understandings of Scripture. While there is a necessary emphasis upon things to come in the study of end times, eschatology is also and equally about those things that have already occurred. To understand biblical last things, we must understand biblical first things. And to properly worship the God who is the Ancient of Days, we must make sure we understand the days from which we have come. A worship that is void of remembrance is worship worth forgetting. But the people of God who appreciate their Sovereign are those who sing and pray of a past deliverance from sin and death wrought only by the hand of the Almighty. In other words, worship that glorifies God and enjoys Him is worship where the worshipers know that who they were always empowers who they are.
Not only is eschatology about what has happened, but it is also about what now is happening. Everyday, God is writing chapters in the grand drama of redemptive history. Providence works in the world now just as it did in the time of Abraham and Joseph. As the remarkable Puritan pastor Lemuel Haynes once said, “He who observes providence has providence to observe.” Rather than being preoccupied with political campaigns and staying up late wondering if your favorite candidate is winning or losing, be so diligent in watching eschatology unfold all around us as daily the Lord of the Harvest is plucking brands from the fire and gathering them into His storehouse awaiting that last great harvest morning. Everyday, our worship should say that God is alive, and that He is bringing about redemptive glory in, around, and through us. In other words, worship that glorifies God and enjoys Him is worship where the worshipers see God today doing as He always has done.
If there is anything that marks out the Christian in this world, it is this simple four-letter word, hope. Hope is like faith, it is only as strong and sure as the object in which it is placed. A world without Christ is hopeless, not because it does not hope but because it hopes in temporal, flimsy, impotent things. Yet the Christian has a hope assured because like Adam and Eve, God’s eschatological Word is ultimately a Word of certain hope. No matter how dark the hour or grim the prospects, the first thing we should remember is that the last thing will be our victory. The first thing we should remember is that Satan is going to bruise the heel of the Anointed One and, as a consequence, will win some battles temporarily. But the last thing we must not forget is that our Anointed Savior and King is going to crush Satan’s cranium, using our feet to do so (Rom. 16:20) and ultimately gain an unparalleled total victory. If that is not worth a shout, I don’t know what is! In other words, those who glorify God and enjoy Him are those who worship Him in assured confidence that the present battles have a God-glorifying victorious outcome.
From the beginning, we are promised a glorious end. Indeed the end shall surpass the beginning. Adam and Eve’s communion with God was broken. Our communion with God shall be unbreakable. Adam and Eve’s worship was interrupted. Our worship shall be uninterrupted. This should be the thread that moves throughout our lives and worship today. Is there anything more noble, more lovely, more virtuous, of a better report, and more worthy of our praise than the glorious thought that the end for which we have been created shall be greater than the beginning in which we were created? The next time you have opportunity to have direct input in the worship of the saints today meditate upon this, “Last things First.”