“Now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (vv. 30–31).- Acts 17:22–34
Our brief study of Obadiah and its teaching on the day of the Lord provides us a good place to pause our study of the biblical prophets for a couple of days and consider some other things that Scripture says about eschatology—the doctrine of last things. For this study, we will use volume 8 of Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Foundations.
When Friedrich Nietzsche announced that “God is dead” at the end of the nineteenth century, he was not really making a metaphysical statement about the Lord’s existence. Instead, he meant that God was functionally dead in Europe. People had become practical atheists, paying little heed to the God of the Bible in whom most of them professed faith. This practical atheism coincided with the optimistic outlook on humanity’s future that was developing in the wake of great scientific and technological progress. Humanists were proclaiming an end to war, disease, and other ills because mankind now had the tools to channel its inherent goodness into a worldwide utopia that had no need for God.
World War I put to death much of this optimism, but even then, many people were convinced that the war was a fluke, the last gasp of primitive humanity, the “war to end all wars.” A few decades later, World War II destroyed the notion of inevitable human progress for any clear-thinking individual. We continue to live in the shadows of these events and the pervasiveness of metaphysical naturalism so that a gloom now hangs over Western culture. The problems of drug, alcohol, and sex addiction; crass materialism; and prevalent nihilism all betray a worldview that believes life is meaningless and that we need to do anything we can to avoid thinking about the implications of that horrible truth.
Of course, believing that we are cosmic accidents logically ends in the view that life is empty. If we were born without purpose and are moving toward a meaningless future, despair is the only honest response. But try as we might, we cannot shake the sense that we were made with a purpose and that there are things that ought not be done. The notion that we are accountable to someone higher than ourselves just will not go away. Even the most ardent atheist cannot escape his awareness of the final judgment to come.
We cannot ever get away from the notion of final judgment fully because God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl. 3:11). We know that the Lord has appointed a day of judgment for all. The question is, are we ready for it?
Religions created by mere men believe that we prepare for the final day of judgment by storing up good works, by doing the right things so that when we stand before the Creator, our eternal destiny is determined by our goodness. What they fail to see is that if any of us relies on our own deeds, our only destination will be eternal punishment. How, then, do we ready ourselves for the last day? We trust in Christ alone, the One in whose perfection we rest for the assurance of eternal life.
Passages for Further Study
2 Corinthians 5:10