Missional as eschatological

In the context of a faculty presentation on the missional church, John Muether made the helpful point that mission, unlike worship, is temporary. I took this to be his corrective to how public worship is often reshaped into a pep rally for the rest of the week rather than the thing toward which all obedience points. (John can correct me if that’s not what he meant or if he has a better way of saying it.)

In looking at Kline’s Kingdom Prologue – the section headed “Eschatology of the Image” (p. 57 in my old 8.5 x 11 edition), it occurred to me that eschatology is temporary in the same way. By “eschatology” Kline is not referring narrowly to the way the last days play out. He is invoking the robust, all-encompassing connotation of the term that sees the whole of history having an eschatological character – in the way he (or was it Vos?) said “eschatology precedes soteriology.”

There was an eschatology in the garden even before the fall – the state of probation.

The situation never existed in which man’s future was contemplated or presented in terms of a static continuation of the original level of blessedness. For the God in whose likeness man was made is the consummating God of the Sabbath.  This sabbatical aspect of the divine image was present in the image as imparted to man and it came to expression in the promise of consummation contained in the creational ordinance of the Sabbath. Blessing sanction promising a consummation of man’s original glory as image of God was thus built into man’s very nature as image of God. This eschatological prospect was in-created. It was an aspiration implanted in man’s heart with his existence as God’s image. (KP 57)

Kline explains further, but the above is what provoked the following thought:

Is not the concept of “missional,” in its best biblical sense, not the same thing as “eschatological” (in its best biblical sense)? My point in posing the question is to make an appeal to those who are deeply informed by the kind of Vos/Kline/Ridderbos/Gaffin biblical eschatology to which I aspire. Would you be as suspicious of a missional concept of the church if it were simply the redemptive-historical, Pauline eschatological concept? This would include the whole gammut of sacraments, Christ and culture, church discipline, etc. – everything you are suspicious that missional types often or do leave out?

Second issue – looking at eschatological as missional brings me either an epiphany or a brief dizzy spill from too much caffeine which seems like an epiphany. Do we biblical theological types tend to look at the whole panorama of redemptive history as one in which God is on the move, sovereignly advancing his program of redemption, except for the current epoch? Have the excesses and errors of evangelicalism or ecumenical activism,  wherein everything is on the stage of history and there is no one behind the curtain, caused us to strive so much to bring attention to the One whose drama it is, that we have neglected our own eschatological character and role? (This is probably more of a rhetorical question.)

At any rate, if we are willing to place a high value on the eschatological character of history from a biblical point of view, which is temporary, then it seems we should be as willing to do the same for the mission of the church (at its biblical best). If so, then the next discussion is how the eschatological connects the Lord’s Day/public worship and the mission.

MJG

For those interested, Kingdom Prologue may be downloaded in its entirety at http://www.god-centered.com/resources/kingdomprologue.pdf.

About Mike Glodo

Mike Glodo is Associate Professor of Biblical studies and Dean of the Chapel at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando where he teaches biblical studies, preaching, and pastoral theology. He served six years (2000-2006) as Stated Clerk of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
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