During my first years of marriage over two decades ago, I was a selfish young man. Surely to the best of my abilities, I committed my life to Debbie. Yet, I viewed marriage as the environment where my needs, agendas and dreams were to be met. When they were met, I was happy. And when they weren’t met, I was miserable.
I’ve grown up a bit in the last twenty-something years (or at least I hope so). My view of my marriage is now shaped by the future; not what what I hope to get out of the marriage, but what we anticipate our lives will be together. We both dream of growing old together, wrinkled hands entwined, thoroughly enjoying each other. We dream of doing hobbies together, working on the house together, eating out together, serving together. Truly best friends.
That future shapes our present. It’s not just something for which we hope. Rather, in some ways that future comes rushing into our present and determines how we speak and act toward each other now. The vision of that future reality sets the trajectory of our present reality so we will eventually land in that future. In theological terms, we’re experiencing “inaugurated eschatology.”
As Christ’s apprentices, that’s how we should always live our lives on an even grander scale. Through his resurrection, Jesus has released his Father’s New Creation within this present creation. St Paul states that if anyone is in Christ, the person is the New Creation (2Cor 5:17). And in another passage, he states that what truly matters is the New Creation (Gal 6:15). Finally, St John describes the ultimate future reality as the first heaven and earth giving way to the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21:1).
Through Scripture, we’re given glimpses of what God’s New Creation will be like. It will be the answer to Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s justice will roll like a mighty river as he sets everything right. Evil will finally be vanquished and God will dwell with his people and truly be their King. Creation will be restored and God’s glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the seas. God’s humanity will be resurrected and ready to live in this new environment as modeled by Jesus’ own resurrection.
One can only imagine how God’s restored Creation will impact society, technology, politics, economics, business, domestic and foreign policies, environmental issues, medicine, law, education, relationships and all other facets of society.
As we view signposts in Scripture pointing toward God’s New Creation, we are challenged and compelled to embrace “inaugurated eschatology.” As the New Creation in human form, we are to let even the vaguest imaginations of God’s restored future shape our present.
While the myriad applications exceed the purpose of this post, I would like to offer one application with which I’ve been challenged. In his commentary, Hebrews for Everyone, NT Wright states:
“True gratitude both for the present world and for the world to come is the deepest and truest form of worship… When you bow down before the living God and thank him from the bottom of your heart for what he’s done and for what he will do, it is as though you are a priest in the Temple, offering the purest, most unblemished sacrifice. Only much, much more so. That is the privilege of the being a follower of Jesus the Messiah. That is the life to which our fiery God now calls us.”
Not only am I to thank God for what he’s done and is doing, but what he will do. As a I’m being restored by Christ into a Eucharistic being, my gratitude must expand to encompass what God will do. And as I learn to be genuinely thankful for God’s future, even when my personal brokenness prevents me from being ready for it myself, I’m discovering that it’s shaping me and altering my current trajectory. In other words, being thankful for what is to come is making want to be ready for what is to come and more willing to cooperate with Jesus’ transformation in my life.