February 7, 2012

An Eschatology of Hope

The new issue of The Princeton Theological Review is now available online and contains my article, "Toward an Eschatology of Hope: The Disappearance of the Sea in Revelation 21:1 and its Significance for the Church." In describing his vision of new creation, John says that "the sea is no more." This essay interprets that statement in light of Jewish symbolic associations with the sea. In Jewish literature, the sea was commonly associated with that which is antithetical to God's purposes and to his people. So, the eschatological elimination of the sea is a image of hope that God will one day deliver creation from all that is antagonistic to his purposes. I conclude the essay with three tasks in which the Church must engage in order to regain and promote a firmly hopeful eschatology. Here's a preview:
We have seen that, when read in light of Jewish apocalyptic literature, the disappearance of the sea in Rev 21:1 paints a symbolic picture of a day to be longed for, a day when God will remove from the created order all that is evil and antithetical to his purposes and to his people, a day when creation will emerge from its sorrow into the bliss of God's manifest presence. This is a day of hope, and in the Apocalypse of John, it is that day for which the faithful around the throne and upon the earth await with eagerness. And yet, we live in a day when much of the church is highly influenced by the anti-creational theology of the best-selling Left Behind series. Many Christians have been thrice duped by the triply-failed doomsday predictions of Harold Camping. Even more recently, Pat Robertson pointed to the August 23, 2011, earthquake in Washington, DC, as sign of God's coming judgment. It would seem that bookstores and the airwaves are seldom short of end-times paranoia and pessimism. Such well-known and highly publicized eschatology is damaging to the Church in its poor handling of scripture and the unnecessary mockery that comes when Camping-like predictions fail to be realized. The remedy to this problem is for the Church to articulate a thoroughly biblical eschatology of hope with an optimistic view of the future that God will draw the nations to himself and one day bring full and final renewal to all that he has made. The question before us then is this: In light of the scriptural vision of new creation, how do we regain an eschatology of hope? In an effort to move toward such eschatological renewal, I propose three essential tasks. These three are certainly not intended as an exhaustive list but as key elements necessary for the stated goal.
Read the whole thing here (scroll down to p. 49). 

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1 comment:

ἐκκλησία said...

Matt, congrats on being included in the Princeton Theological Review. Nicely done!

In biblical language 'mountain' ([Jer 51:25]) or 'mountain of the Lord' (such as in [Isa 2:1-5]) is something tangible, real, and prophetically literal (or seems to be, at least, to most).

Without having read your article, what is your sense of the usage of 'sea' ([Isa 57:20][Isa 60:5]) as a concrete representation of something prophetically literal?