I want to try to break down one of those theological words that seem so intimidating: Eschatology.
Eschatology is doubly scary to most people because it’s the theology of the last things.
Sure, it encompasses theories of how that will come about and what all of those prophecies mean. But more often, at least in academic theology, it’s used to talk about “eschatological hope,” the hope that all things will be made right.
Eschatology is an essential part of Christian theology, but a lot of us are afraid of discussing the topic. I know that I was definitely in the camp that would shy away from discussions about the end of the world for a long time. It’s not necessarily that I was afraid of it, I was afraid of the crazy interpretations you often hear of the book of Revelation, and of the intense debates around issues like the Rapture.
But as I started doing some of my own thinking and writing, I came to realize that eschatology was an essential component in what I am trying to do. So much of my own writing and thinking is bound up in issues of suffering and oppression in our world. Without an eschatological hope, a hope in the peace that is promised in Scripture, all we have is despair.
It’s also easy, however, to make this hope a band-aid for present suffering.
We can adopt a mentality that we don’t need to work for justice and peace because eventually God will accomplish those things. A lot of theologians who deal with oppression of minorities critique much of theology for taking this attitude. It’s a valid critique, and one that we certainly need to be wary of.
But we also need to realize that in the face of oppression and suffering, in the face of uncertainty and despair, we have a hope that promises that one day there will be no more tears. There will come a day when Christ will establish his everlasting Kingdom and where the oppressors and wrongdoers will be judged. We long for that day. That longing for eschatological peace is a characteristic of the Christian life. We know that this isn’t all there is, that there will come a day that this, too, shall be made right.