Redemption and Eschatology

Richard Gaffin wrote in an article I just read on Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology:

If there is one conclusion that a redemptive-historically sensitive interpretation of Scripture has reached, it is that eschatology is to be defined not only with reference to the intermediate state of individuals following death and to the second coming of Christ but inclusive of his first coming and the present existence of the church in the world. (Westminster Theological Journal 38:298-299, 1976.)

What he means, of course, is that keeping the BT storyline of the Bible in mind reminds us that the Redemption of Creation-Fall-Redemption applies to more than individual souls. The whole world is going to get bought back, too. Animals, even dirt, are going to get renewed, restored to their original purpose. In fact, I think Gaffin might be willing to say that the whole world is being bought back, not just that it will be.

But I ask both of the readers of my blog: why do I still feel uncomfortable with the implications often drawn from this truth—a truth I fully believe? N.T. Wright, for example, uses the coming renewal of the world (in his new book Surprised by Hope) to get to forgiving third-world debt. Others get to soup kitchens and AIDS hospitals. Christians are to do good works, but is it wrong for me to leave these things to the United Methodists and focus my energies on verbally sharing the gospel? Perhaps I’m simply magnifying my office; others are called to do these things as their primary ministry.

This question may become a theme on this blog. This post is one of my initial stabs.

Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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