What should the proper stance be for the Christian in regards to the future? It seems in our day that many Christians are apprehensive about the future. Particularly in the West, whenever you open a newspaper or turn on the news, things seem to be getting worse and worse. Moreover, the “world” seems to be more and more antagonistic toward the Gospel. Presented with this narrow description of reality, the Christian can be tempted to believe that things are indeed only getting worse and worse.
Thankfully, the Christian need not depend on The New York Times and Fox News to decide for themselves whether we should be optimistic or pessimistic about the future. The question comes down to what the Christina will believe is the true nature of reality. Is the world we live in a world that is ruled by the Sovereign King Jesus or is a world ruled by the random and raging forces that are bound to push the gospel further and further to the margins of society?
Peter Leithart’s book Against Christianity profoundly challenges many assumptions about the nature of things that Christians have become prone to accept. Leithart explains that if we believe that the gospel of the risen Christ is the framework from which we view reality then there will be necessary repercussions toward the way we view every area of society, including politics.
Systematic pessimism is simply a disbelief that the gospel describes the way things really are. For if the gospel describes the way things really are, it describes the way politics really is, and that should make it clear politics is not the autonomous secular sphere imagined by modern politicians. It should make clear that politics can be shaped to the gospel and that the kingdoms of this world have and will, more and more, become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ. (pg. 147)
The author of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that faith is confidence in that which we hope for (Hebrews 11:1). What are we claiming we have faith in if the only thing we are confident about is a pessimistic future? What is the hope of the Christian? If it is anything less than the submission of the world to the reign of Jesus through the spread of the gospel message I suggest to you that your hope is not the hope of the apostles. The author of Hebrews claims that we are to be confident about this hope. Before his ascension Jesus proclaimed to his disciples that ALL authority in Heaven and on Earth had been given to him and on that basis his church should go out into all the world and disciple the nations.
This is not a picture of defeat that Jesus is painting. On the contrary it is marching orders from a king. A king proclaiming his rule. The church is to be a prophetic messenger to the world. A messenger that there is a new king who’s rule is established. In short, the message of the gospel is a message that is future oriented. Listen to Leithart again:
The God of Israel is not the God of the dead but of the living. For His city, the future is always the touchstone. His city now is not a preserve of the city of yesterday but an anticipation of the city of tomorrow. (pg. 113)
Most New Testament theologians agree that the eschatology of the New Testament can be described as a tension between the “already” and the “not yet”. The “already” highlights the reality of what the gospel has already accomplished. The “not yet” highlights the reality of what the gospel is going to accomplish in the future.
I do not believe that it is too much of a stretch to say that many Christians are not encouraged enough by the “already” of the gospel and are not near hopeful enough for the “not yet” of the gospel. As Christians who are firmly rooted in the victory of Christ displayed in his death, resurrection, and ascension, we should be affirmed in our security in Christ, grateful for our salvation in Christ, and anticipatory about our future in Christ.
We are not to lose hope because we are not to lose faith, and faith is the assurance of those things we are hoping for, the renewal of all things in Christ.
Food for thought.