Western Christianity's Need For The Apocalyptic Gospel

Eschatology (and more specifically, first century Jewish apocalyptic eschatology) is increasingly rejected among Westerners because of how seemingly irrelevant it is to the ‘gospel’ that is popularly proclaimed: “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. With that ‘gospel’ message and a portrait of God whose highest purpose is to make someone feel free of the shame of their past and make them comfortable, prosperous, and generally happy before they die, there is little room to hear what the Bible truly says about the future.

Even if the common Western ‘gospel’ involves repentance (a change of behavior, a turning from one way of living to another), it is often analogous to procuring fire insurance. In this way, repentance lacks the “bite” that first century Jewish apocalyptic eschatology gives it.

Atonement is beautiful, but unto what? Jesus died and rose again and forgives the repentant and faithful, but unto what? A 1st century disciple would answer that question very differently than the average Western Christian.

A modern Christian might answer: “so I can go to heaven when I die.”

A first century disciple’s answer might be: “Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish messiah, will descend from the sky with fire and angels. He will render to each one according to their deeds. He died and rose so that I could inherit the Davidic kingdom and the resurrection of the dead.”

A lack of a real day of justice and a tangible hope beyond the grave has blunted our witness. To turn from sin merely because “we’ve experienced God’s love and just want to love him back” is noble and good, but does not engender perseverance when trouble or persecution comes.

How we live, speak, spend time, and use resources in this age is of utmost importance not just because “we want to love God” but because a real day of judgment and justice is coming. The night is far gone, the day is at hand. Therefore, we walk properly as in the daytime. (Romans 13:11-14)

We long for and eagerly await the day when the nations beat their swords into plowshares (Isaiah 2:4), people from every tribe and tongue stream to Jerusalem to hear the God of Israel’s instruction (Micah 4:1-2), all sorrow and sighing flee away, and the earth is restored to its original glory (Revelation 21:1-4).

Eschatology (and more specifically, first century Jewish apocalyptic eschatology) must inform discipleship. The Day of the Lord and the age to come ought to be the subject of our conversation and meditation, our primary source of joy and peace through the sojourn of this age. Clinging to the the promise of Jerusalem’s restoration, the salvation of Israel, and the subsequent blessing to the rest of the nations as promised to Abraham is like walking a narrow path. But wisdom will be justified when the Jewish messiah splits the sky.

May Jewish apocalyptic eschatology and “the gospel of the kingdom” – the Jewish messianic kingdom established in Jerusalem in the age to come – be our anchor and the message we proclaim with certainty and boldness.