Saturday, January 2, 2010

Back from the Future

As 2009 came to an end and the new year came, I found myself also reading about the end of "this present evil age" and the beginning of the fullness of "the age to come"--that is, I read through Revelation.* One thing that strikes me about this book is that in it God reveals history's (read: His story's) end even while we're yet living in the midst of it. It's often said that we're on a "spiritual journey" or that "life is a story to be discovered," or "take up the pen and write your own story." Even the great German poet Rainer Maria Rilke urges us to "live the questions now" so that perhaps "someday far in the future, you will gradually . . . live your way into the answer" (Letters to a Young Poet, 4). But God, however, has already given us the destination and the resolution. Revelation calls us to live with the future certain and clear: The Lamb who was slain is really the victorious King of kings and Lord of lords. He triumphs over all that is evil and selfish and impure, and he alone holds the keys to a blessed, joyful future of peace and gladness in the presence of God. We know that Good (God and his church) wins and Evil (Satan, the world, and fallen human desires opposed to God) loses. The question becomes, as frequently begged in Revelation, Whose side will you be on? Will you be one who, with Christ, overcomes?

The Bible is chock full of eschatology, the teaching about the "last things." Knowing the end from our place in the middle of the story ought to be an amazing thing. We're able to live backwards from the future and choose our side right now. We learn that if we choose by acts of our will an unrepentant way of life that is self-seeking, impure, lustful, and insubordinate to God, then nothing but unmitigated suffering is stored up for us. But we also learn that if by submission to Jesus we "wash our robes in the blood of the Lamb" (7:14; 22:14) and long for holiness, purity, and righteousness--living out what the Holy Spirit works within us as we are united to Christ by faith--then we will find everlasting refreshment, peace, and joy in God.

Of course, the story ends with a wedding feast, the great celebration in which Christ the Bridegroom is joined to his Bride, the church (19:7-8; 21:2). If our future as baptized Christians is in union and fellowship with Christ as in a marriage, then what is today but our time of engagement and devoted preparation? St. Paul picked up on this when he warned the Corinthian church that "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).

During the months of my engagement to Olivia before our wedding, we knew with utmost concern that we had to remain pure. We knew that any sort of stumbling during the engagement would be devastating and costly enough to us, and grievous to God. But it was really the hope of having the most possible freedom and enjoyment on our wedding day and of preparing for a lifetime of marriage that drove us to watchfulness, patience, and self-control. And it was so worth it! If that was for a "mere" human marriage that serves mainly to purify one another for the Day of Christ, then how much more should we concern ourselves with the Wedding Day to come! If I found so much happiness and rejoicing in the love of our mutual dedication to one another for our own earthly marriage, how much more wonderful and amazing will be our delight in Christ if we devote ourselves wholly to him?


*I am not saying that Revelation is strictly future-oriented and that all within it or within the Kingdom of God awaits the future. Certainly the gospel message is that in Jesus Christ the kingdom (reign) of God (basileia theou) has already come to this world and is beginning to beat back the darkness of sin and the evil one. I also believe that Revelation is probably best understood as several different images about the span of history from the New Testament era through time to the final Judgment, the Day of the Lord.

1 comment:

Halfmom said...

great analogy, Drew