Being one who is not yet fully settled on an eschatological scheme (I’ll say here, I think there are two viable options,) I am especially now looking for ways that Scripture may inform my understanding of the future in ways I may not have noticed previously. I don’t want to come to a conclusion hastily. I would like to clear away some self-imposed blinders and learn to think of the future in the same way that Jesus spoke of the future – and one thing I have learned is that, when one starts speaking the way the Lord and the New Testament writers spoke, one can expect to get some looks even from within the Church. I mean, there’s some strange stuff in the Bible, like “this is my body,” and “baptism now saves you.” (You see what I mean- I know you were about to give me one of those looks…)
One area that I am learning to correct my thinking is that of the Kingdom. In some sense, the Kingdom is now. That much is clear. The reality of the present tense of the Kingdom ought to enact an optimism in my thinking about the future. I should expect that the Christ’s Kingdom will spread over the earth, and that in this age, in some sense, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea. After all, our Lord told us that His Kingdom will grow slowly at first, gradually, but steadily, and will eventually become complete:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
So, one note to make about eschatology: the Kingdom of Heaven will not appear suddenly, but rather is growing gradually, until it is the tree whose branches take over the entire garden.
The Kingdom of heaven is, as we learn from listening to Jesus in the gospels, a kingdom of paradox. What we expect is not always what God has in mind. When we would expect a Kingdom that conquers in a great display of power (and there is plenty of that- read Psalm 2, for example,) God has planned for the Kingdom to grow and conquer gradually, until it envelopes the whole earth.