I learned a new phrase this week: “immanentizing the Eschaton”. The penny explanation of this million dollar phrase is “trying to create heaven on earth”. In politics, those who perhaps believe there is no life everlasting, no Judgment Day, and no God, try hard to make the world a better place through dreaming big dreams and doing whatever it takes to make those dreams come true. In theology, the phrase means to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ for his so-called thousand year reign of peace on earth.
When it comes to the end of the world, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. The end of all things is at hand. The unbelieving world wants no part of a world turned to ashes by fire. They doubt there was a flood that deluged the world, while Noah and seven others survived in an ark with all sorts of animals. Since there is no Noah, no ark, and no flood, it’s convenient to try to create some sort of perfect society on earth. This is not to say we should go out of our way to make the world a better place in a civil way. You’re never going to get heaven on earth, no matter what Congress or any other legislative body makes into law.
When the world seems to be at the height of its striving and ability, here comes the end of days. We know from God’s Word that everything we see will have an end. Saint Peter gives us a good picture of the end of the world in today’s Epistle. Simply put, There will be an end to this world where everything we see will perish. Believing there is an end to this world should lead us to be prepared for the end.
Immanentizing the Eschaton perhaps has its beginning in the sarcastic words Peter puts in the mouth of scoffers: Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. Everything seems to go along as it has for centuries. Seed and harvest, summer and winter, frost and heat, and all other natural events continue. Therefore there will be no end because that’s the way it is. Those saints of the Old Testament who died in the faith of the future promise of Jesus Christ never saw Him. Isn’t that enough evidence to show Christians their clinging to the promise of the coming of Jesus is silly?
What scoffers inconveniently forget is that judgment has already happened once in this world. The same earth that came out of water in the speaking of the creative Word was flooded by water from above and below in the flood. The wickedness of man set the washing away of the world into motion. The flood is the prelude and certain sign of the second and final judgment. The first judgment came through water. The final judgment comes in fire.
This final judgment is not a matter of “if”, but “when”. Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. Centuries come and go. For us it is one hundred years. For the Lord it is barely the blink of an eye. He is above time and space.
Nevertheless, God is patient with the unbeliveing world. The Word of repentance and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ still goes out into the world. There comes a day, however, when our heavenly Father’s patience will be exhausted. Then the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
It’s hard to picture in our mind’s eye the destruction of heaven and earth. Perhaps you heard last week about the man who literally dissolved in one of the boiling hot geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Think of how everything you see, even this church building, even your home, will disappear. All the elements, the raw materials of heaven and earth will melt with fervent heat. The glory of earth will be dust and ashes. Most of all, in the judgment and condemnation of godless people, those who scoff at any notion of the Christian faith will be cast into the burning lake of fire, where their worm will not die nor will their fire be extinguished.
Our heavenly Father has made arrangements for you to miss that burning lake of fire. We wait for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. The existence of this world is coming to an end. In its place comes a new world from which all traces of sin and death have been removed, from which the godless are excluded. Saint John received a glimpse of what this new creation is like in Revelation, where the New Jerusalem has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Still our heavenly Father has patience. Still His Word of reconciliation in Jesus Christ goes forth into the world. There is a wrath to come that no immanentizing the Eschaton is able to fix. The Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, soon calls us to the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom that has no end. We wait in patient endurance for His coming. When He comes, the dead in Christ will rise to meet Him with those of us still living. Together we go into the New Creation, free from sin, free from death, free to be who we are meant to be in Jesus Christ. Be at peace, beloved. The end is near, thanks be to God!