Last Things Matter

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A couple of weeks ago I found myself listening to the same song over and over again as I walked and prayed about my then upcoming Easter sermon. The song was “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder.” This version is sung by Willie Nelson so the singer was unorthodox, but the lyrics were quite orthodox. The song, a song I heard my home congregation sing at least every other week it seems, is eschatology.

Eschatology (the doctrines associated with the last things or end times) matters. Has Christ abandoned us as orphans? No, he is returning for us. Is history a senseless carnival? No, it’s headed for a goal. Does our universe matter? Yes, God is redeeming it in Christ. Are our bodies more than just animated meat? Yes, they’ll be raised with Christ.

People who tell you they are not interested in eschatology are either confused or unregenerate. The foundational act of receiving Christ includes two acts of eschatology-confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God has raised him from the dead (Rom 10).

Now, what most Christians mean when they say eschatology doesn’t interest them is that prophecy charts don’t interest them, or that debates over millennial views or Rapture positions don’t interest them. That’s another story altogether (although these things are still important).

I’m emphatically not a dispensationalist, but I can gladly share fellowship with dispensationalists (how could I not? It was a church of dispensationalists who led me to Christ in the first place!). I’m not an amillennialist, but I can respect that view, and love learning and serving with my amil brothers and sisters. I don’t know a postmillennialist (unless you’re a friend of mine and you’ve been really quiet about it), but I enjoy reading a lot of godly dead postmillennialists (such as my hero Andrew Fuller).

We can’t, though, share a common witness with those who deny the resurrection of the body or the return of our Messiah Jesus or the judgment of wickedness. Those things are essential not only to our belief in the truthfulness of Scripture but to the gospel that saves.

Eschatology ought to fire up your adrenal glands. When you think about that Eastern sky exploding you ought to feel the zeal to evangelize, to congregationalize, and to live in the gratitude that when the roll is called up yonder, you’ll be there.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.