By Stan Friedman
CHICAGO, IL (December 20, 2013) — Eschatology has nothing to do with Christians going to heaven but everything to do with heaven coming to earth and the current mission of the church, declared Jay Phelan, senior professor of theological studies at North Park Theological Seminar, during the first-ever COVTalk on Wednesday.
The talk was webcast live from Covenant Offices and is now available for viewing on CovChurch.tv.
Drawing on Isaiah 11 and the Book of Revelation, Phelan said, “We don’t believe in an eternity in heaven, we believe in a new heavens and a new earth.”
That destiny began with the birth of Jesus, whom the prophet Isaiah looks forward to when he foretold the day when child would lead his people to a time in which the lion will lie with the lamb, and justice will truly be for all. The incarnation was the in-breaking of the kingdom of God.
That is why, Phelan said, “I think Christmas is the quintessential eschatological holiday,” bringing together in one sentence the name of a holiday too often viewed prosaically with a doctrine too often misunderstood or deemed irrelevant.
Eschatology is not about making predictions of when, where, and how, or determining who will be in and who will be out, said Phelan. “At the heart of eschatology is the mission of the church.”
That mission is lived out in the church, as well, added Phelan, whose book Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope was recently published. “The church is a place where we are not smugly and passively waiting for the end but a place where we are collaborating with God to make all things new.”