Eternity in our hearts?

As a community, we carry an eschatological hope centred in our eternal destiny (Ro 8:22-25 & Heb 11:13-16) and orthodox Christianity is clearly eschatological.  In other words, it transcends the here-and-now and points forward to a future hope that one day will be realised. 

Although rooted in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, these historical events, that form the foundation of Christian belief, can never be an end in themselves.  J Gresham Machen, in his influential little book: 'Christianity and Liberalism,' said as much when he wrote that:

Christianity is not engrossed by this transitory world, but measures all things by the thought of eternity.

Much harm is done to the Christian faith when its eschatological dimension is either forgotten or as is more often the case deliberately ignored.

That Christianity is infused with an awareness of eternity is obvious from reading the New Testament.  The Apostle Peter refers to Christians in this life as ‘aliens and strangers’ (1 Peter 2:11) and constantly points them forward in their thinking toward the eschatological fulfilment of their faith in Jesus, which he describes as the ‘coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time’ (1 Peter 1:5).

We are encouraged repeatedly as Christians to not identify with this world and its structures and institutions, but to focus solely on the coming of the Lord from heaven to earth.  The Apostle Paul makes this point explicitly in Romans:

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (Romans 8:23-25)

Consequently we are called as Christians to resist all earthly agents who seek to lay claim to our ultimate affections and loyalties.  In Luke’s gospel Jesus says:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Every earthly bond, even the love that exists between family members, must not be allowed to trump our ultimate allegiance focussed as it is upon the immanent return of Jesus.  Our affections must never be allowed to settle in the here-and-now.  Indeed that is what makes Christianity so counter-cultural, the subversive commitment to not identify ultimately with anything in this world.

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