Saturday, July 6, 2013

"...death is swallowed up...." (Eschatological Vision, Part III)

Beyond the doors of night...
"Instead of bronze I will bring gold, and instead of iron I will bring silver. Instead of wood, bronze; instead of stones, iron. I will make your overseers peace and your taskmasters righteousness. Violence shall no more be heard in your land, [nor] devastation or destruction in your borders. You shall call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun shall no more be your light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. The sun shall no more go down, nor the moon withdraw itself, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of mourning shall be ended." Is. 60:17-20

"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.... Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and He will be 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." Rev. 21:1-4

"Oh, death is swallowed up. / It owns nothing in me." -My Epic

Oh, the agony and the ecstasy...
The third and final element in the Christian eschatological vision is the unstoppable redemption. This final piece gives to the vision the balance of truth. Here the optimism is fully balanced with the pessimism, which is the way it ought to be, for there is incomplete truth in both positions: things are as dark as you think they are, but there is still hope. And not just any hope, but an unstoppable hope, an inevitable, irrevocable hope. The culmination of the Christian eschatological vision is a glorious future where God and all good things ultimately triumph over all things dark and evil and sad. If it sounds like a Disney movie, then you're not far from the mark; all good (and even campy) stories have an inkling of this truth in them. Good will triumph over evil. It will be a long dark road, a long dark night of every soul, before it happens, but it will happen. There is no stopping it.

Like a light bomb, sucka.
Evil-doers and seducers will wax worse and worse, and worse still, and darkness will spill out and over all without measure, filling the heights and depths with its horror and ennui, until the very sun burns out and the moon burns red. Then the winepress of wrath will bleed much blood. Then the final invasion will commence, the final strike of the rebellion, the final movement of the symphony. The Word who spoke all things will return to un-speak them so that He may re-speak them, the sword of His mouth dividing asunder the very joints and marrow of existence so that they may be reset and refitted. The Light of lights will come crashing through, shattering the very dome of the universe like the shell of a rotten egg. Then all beauty will be awakened and the death curse revoked; then all street-rats and paupers will be made princes, and every mad and greedy oppressor hurled into howling isolation; then all things will become as a star, burning with the brightness of His glory, with those who are one with His glory enduring to the end. And they all will live happily ever-after, to the end of days and beyond.

All our colorful metaphors, from Scripture to Saturday morning cartoons, are trying to point us to one truth: victory is coming. It is inevitable; all things are moving towards this purpose because all things were built for this purpose: redemption, renewal, glory. This is not mere optimism, where everybody will wax better and better (with slight hiccups here and there) until we all flourish in the final enlightenment and eternal hug-fest of tolerance. Nor is it mere pessimism, where evil will wax worse to no end, until every star burns out and all energy is expressed and entropy works out its final corrosion, and the only "peace on earth" will be in the deathly static and silence. This, my friends, is the Christian story, the story of the Great God who made all things, of finite man ruining all things, and of that same God redeeming all things. It is the best of all stories put together into a perfect picture, which is how you know it is true; and not just true but beautiful also. For there is nothing more beautiful then the vision's ultimate refrain: "Death is swallowed up in victory, and shall be no more." Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2013

P.S. For thoughts on how to practically live within this eschatological vision, start here, here, here, and here.

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