What Is Your Vision of the Future?
Navigating between competing eschatologies.
What is your vision of the future? Theologians have a special word for a vision of the future: eschatology. Eschatology is the ultimate end of all things and the trajectory towards which all things are moving.
Recently, someone shared with me their observation that there are three eschatologies offered to those serving in government, and everyone who supports their work.
We might call the first eschatology, “Make America Great Again.” As the statement implies, those supporting this vision for the future believe that our intended flourishing and glory has slipped away and not only should, but can, be restored.
We could call the second eschatology, “Build Back Better.” Like the previous alternative, those working towards this vision for the future believe that things are not the way they should be and that something better is not only desirable, but available.
While the particulars of each are not important, it can certainly be said that there are elements of these two competing visions for the future that Christians can support: free and fair markets, a renewed dignity of labor, ending homelessness and poverty, protection from crime, true justice, clean air and water, people of all races and nationalities living at peace with one another, and ending wars and suffering.
There is one more aspect that these eschatologies have in common: they are entirely and completely dependent upon people to bring them to fruition.
And here begins the many issues with both of these two visions for the future. Without the unwavering commitment and labor of their adherents, no progress will be made towards these long sought after goals. Further, while each group is working for their own eschatology, the other is leading an opposition in favor of theirs. Even if everyone would agree to support one of these two eschatologies, constant work is required to maintain the newly achieved utopia.
Finally, the fact that people are responsible for the achievement and maintenance of these visions for the future leads to the inevitable issue of our own character. How can these visions be maintained while we struggle with greed, envy, lust, pride, and self-centeredness?
While our commitment to these or similar eschatologies is laudable, we might also acknowledge that some might be inclined to resort to violence in order to achieve their goals or panic if they felt the opportunity for realizing their eschatology was slipping away.
Thankfully, there is another eschatology offered to us,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Here is a vision for the future which brings justice, peace, an end to all suffering and death, and offers dignity and flourishing to all. Further, there is no end to this state of affairs and no potential or unforeseen obstacles that may undermine it once inaugurated.
Most importantly, and unlike the other two, it is not dependent upon people to bring it about. This eschatology is one of certainty regardless of those who long for it or those who oppose it.
This vision for the future is one promised to all those who profess faith in Christ and comes about entirely through His finished work to overcome sin and death.
Like we discussed two weeks ago, all Christians are pilgrims committed to a long obedience in the same direction. That direction is towards this vision for the future, the promised Kingdom of God. Our chief role is not to bring it about, but to offer foretastes of this kingdom to all who we encounter along the way.
As we discussed last week, it is easy for us to get lost in the story and forget that we are still somewhere in the middle of the album. The final track is yet to come. But, just like the needle on the turntable, with each successive rotation of the album, the final track is approaching.
While Washington has placed most of us in a position to contribute towards one of the two previous eschatologies, let’s always remember that Christ has already assured us of our future.
Rev. Michael Langer is the Associate Director for the D.C. ministry.