When Will Christ Return? Why Your Eschatology Matters
Paul wrote two letters to the Church in Thessalonica, both of which address the question of the second coming. What is more interesting than trying to untangle what exactly he was teaching in regards to eschatology is the other issues he address in relation to the second coming.
- Paul encourages the believers in Thessalonica to be strong in the face of persecution (1 Thess. 2:14, 3:1-4).
- Paul addresses sexual immorality in the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 4:1-8).
- Paul wants them to continue loving one another (1 Thess. 4:9-10).
- Paul wants them to work hard (1 Thess. 4:11-12).
It seems Paul had to write a couple of letters to the Thessalonians because their misunderstandings regarding the second coming were affecting their behavior. They were grumbling about persecution, they were engaging in sexual immorality, they were questioning the need to continue loving one another, and they were growing lazy. He doesn’t tell them when Christ will return, but he does give indication that their understanding of Christ’s return matters.
I get a kick out of my Christian brothers and sisters who claim to be pan-millennialists; it will all “pan out” in the end, they say. They are not alone, but they are a good example of those Christians who believe eschatology is not worth worrying about. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, however, indicates otherwise. Eschatology, Paul would argue, is more than just your view of the end times, but it is a motivating factor in the way you live your life.
It must be admitted that if you believe the world is going to get worse before the end, then there is little reason to do much to prevent or change that.
It must be admitted that if you believe the world is one kingdom that will get worse, while the church is another kingdom that fights for survival through the veracity of its doctrine, then you will do little for the life of the world, and will instead focus your energies on debating and refining the finer points of doctrine.
It must be admitted that if you believe the world is going to get better as the Church is faithful and grows to fill the world as the waters cover the sea, then you will work toward that end.
It must also be admitted that while these things should be true if ideas do in fact have consequences–they do–you have seen examples where it is not. I, for example, have a friend who is an ardent dispensationalist (the kind who, when he was a pastor, counseled his people to vote for the worst candidate so as to bring about the rapture sooner) yet works tirelessly to fight politically for the restoration of our God-given freedoms. I would describe him as a contradiction in terms. He seems to be the example of a case where ideas do not have consequences. It just shows that God uses us for good in spite of our bad doctrines or that we are happy to live in a state of cognitive dissonance, maybe both!
The fact remains, exceptions aside, that ideas do have consequences. Our eschatology does affect our behavior. It changes the way we raise our children, they way we work at our job, the way we do education, the way we worship, the way we interact with the world, the way we interact with creation and creation institutions. And, as Paul pointed out to the Thessalonians, bad eschatology can make us lazy, sexually immoral, unloving and unkind, and ungrateful.
If you don’t have a settled eschatology, then you’re probably just following the default of the evangelical zeigeist: dispensational premillennialism. If you don’t have a settled eschatology, then you need get one because it does affect the way you live. If you don’t have a settled eschatology, then get studying, it matters.
Matt Bianco is a PCA elder, a happy postmillennialist, a husband, and a father.