by Mike Ratliff
21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. (John 16:21 ESV)
noun ( the eschaton) Theology
the final event in the divine plan; the end of the world.
ORIGIN 1930s: from Greek eskhaton, neuter of eskhatos ‘last.’
Confession of Faith:
Q. Which is the ninth Beatitude?
A. The ninth Beatitude is, Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Q. What is required in the ninth Beatitude?
A. The ninth Beatitude requireth living out the laws of Christ in all aspects of life, before all men, and bearing public witness to Him in word and deed.
Q. What is forbidden in the ninth Beatitude?
A. The ninth Beatitude forbiddeth concealing our loyalty to Christ, either by action or inacation, so that we might have the approval of this world in the present age.
Q. What is the reason annexed to the ninth Beatitude?
A. The reason annexed to the ninth Beatitude is that, while open allegiance to Christ and profession of his witness will draw spite from the world, our reward will be great in the age to come, like unto the prophets who have gone before us.
The positive confession ministries, health, wealth, and prosperity ministries, seeker-sensitive ministries, and ministries such as that of Joel Osteen have one thing in common. They all focus on salvation being a deliverance unto blessings in the here and now. Some even go so far as to teach that we do a disservice to people if we preach or teach that Man is lost and separate from God because of sin. They teach that this drives people away from the Church. Some water down the Gospel and refuse to ever mention repentance as of primary importance in the genuineness of ones salvation. What did our Lord teach about this?
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:23-26 ESV)
Our Lord describes the salvation of those who become His disciples as them denying themselves, taking up their crosses and following Him. This is a description of dying to self and thereby gaining life. Who does this?
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)
Notice that the way that leads to life is hard and few find the gate that leads to it. This is why entering by this gate and remaining on the path that is hard requires the believer to deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow our Lord. How does Christ further describe the genuine Christian walk?
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:11-16 ESV)
Being salt and light in this wicked and dark world is the role of the Church and for each individual Christian. Just as the prophets in the Old Testament were treated horribly by those to whom God sent them, so will the world persecute those who are salt and light. It is quite easy for us to hide in our churches, being visibly a Christian on Sunday, but what about the rest of the time? If our witness to the world around us is mostly non-existent then we are not being salt and light. No, we are being conformed to this world and even becoming friends with it. What would happen if we did walk before the world as Christ commands? What would happen at work or school if everyone witnessed a believer who would not compromise with the world? Wouldn’t persecution come?
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. (1 Peter 4:12-19 ESV)
Look at Peter’s exhortation of us in this passage. We are to be bold for our Lord and endure the resultant persecution by rejoicing. Why? We rejoice in our sufferings because we are sharing in Christ’s suffering. What is the focus here for us? Isn’t it to view the temporal as our time of suffering and we endure it because of what awaits us with God? The Eschaton should be our focus. This is viewing our fiery trial as important and viable as part of God working in us, not something to resent and thereby allowing it to lead us into bitterness. We then view the tests and trials as God’s handiwork in conforming us unto the image of His Son.
13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. 16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:13-18 ESV)
The Christian temporal focus should be on obedience by and through the grace of God as our Lord gives us His joy. How do we do this? It is through the Means of Grace. That would include hearing the Word of God preached, prayer, fellowship with other believers, Bible study, worship, et cetera. As we draw near unto God like this we cannot do so in our pride. This is why God must humble us in the fire.
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober- minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11 ESV)
The Christian is called to obedience and repentance my brethren. This is the reason the gate is narrow that leads to the narrow and difficult path which is the only way to God. Who is exalted by God? Only those who humble themselves under his mighty hand are exalted. They do this by casting all of their anxieties upon Him. No one is saying that suffering is pleasurable nor is it something to take by a “grin and bear it” attitude. No, we suffer and we hurt and we are tempted in every way possible to take the easy way out. However, we are called not to “grin and bear it,” but to cast all of our fears and doubts on God as we suffer. We can do this because of the promise of what awaits. This is exactly how our Lord Jesus was able to come as a Man, be tempted in every way that we are, to be surrounded by wickedness and then be murdered as a criminal. He was able, as a Man, to do this because of the promised joy that awaited Him in accomplishing the atonement for our sins.
When we suffer because of being salt and light in this sin-sick world then we are sharing in our Lord’s suffering. Also, the Eschaton not only includes the end of all things, but in it God will vindicate His people. He will separate the wheat from the tares. He will judge everyone. His righteousness and justice will prevail. Those who are truly His will receive their reward and be exalted because of their suffering in the temporal for being salt and light.
Soli Deo Gloria!