A biblical view of eschatology shapes faithful ministry in the present, said panelists during an April 14 event hosted by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at The Gospel Coalition (TGC) National Conference, held April 13-15 in Orlando.
“In my lifetime, eschatology has gone from an argument to a debate to a necessary way of life,” Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. said, describing the theological climate change from his childhood to the present. “Our life and ministry right now makes no sense unless everything that is promised about that coming King is true.”
The panel discussion examined issues pertaining to eschatology, a Christian view of the end times, in conjunction with the TGC National Conference theme, “Coming Home: New Heaven and New Earth.” More than 6,000 church leaders, laymen and students from all 50 states and 50 countries attended the three-day conference.
Joining Mohler on the panel: Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Miguel Núñez, senior pastor of Iglesia Bautista Internacional in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and president of Wisdom & Integrity Ministries; David Uth, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Orlando; and moderator Matthew J. Hall, vice president of academic services at Southern Seminary.
Moore, whose Ph.D. dissertation at Southern Seminary focused on the kingdom of God, said eschatology should drive people to the church where Christ is presently reigning until his return. According to Moore, the church in the present age is a source of hope to Christians as a glimpse of heaven and a witness to unbelievers inviting them to inherit the kingdom of God.
“The primary thing that eschatology has to do for us is to remind us that we’re part of this big, global body of Christ,” Moore said, “and to give us a sense of confidence and of the right sort of disturbed tranquility.” Moore, former dean of Southern’s School of Theology and senior vice president of academic administration, defined “disturbed tranquility” as the groaning of the fallen world and the peace anchored in Christ’s accomplishments.
Among the implications of the church in eschatology, Moore said, are how the church disciplines its members, administers the Lord’s Supper, and gathers for worship on Sunday.
“Eschatology isn’t just something we have fixed out there at the end of our Bibles or at the end of our doctrinal statements, it ought to be something we see lived out every single Sunday morning and in the mission of the church,” Moore said.
Núñez, who graduated from Southern with his D.Min. in December 2014, said many Christians are too focused on eschatology at the neglect of present age. How Christians live in the present is connected to their hope and belief in the Second Coming, Núñez said.
“In view of that end, we should be living in a more righteous way precisely because there is a coming King before whose throne we have to bow,” Núñez said.
Uth illustrated biblical eschatology with the 2011 college football regular season matchup between LSU and Alabama, which the Tigers won 9-6 in overtime. Although he recorded the game while at a church service, Uth said a church member told him the outcome before he could watch the replay. An LSU fan, Uth said that knowing the outcome allowed him to have confidence while watching the game when his team made costly mistakes.
“When you understand the ending, it changes everything,” Uth said. “From a pastor’s perspective, this is a great time to be a church – when there’s a chaos everywhere, when there’s confusion and the world seems to be in upheaval – man, this is a great time to hold this Book and say, ‘It’s going to be OK because we know the end.’”
The panelists also noted the lack of instruction Christians hear from the pulpit concerning eschatology and the need for discussing the issue biblically. Núñez described the rise of the prosperity gospel in places like Latin America and the need to confront the secularism of the movement that values material possessions over the eternal riches of God’s kingdom. Concluding the panel, Mohler praised evangelical efforts like the TGC National Conference in promoting a mature theological discussion on the issue of eschatology.
More information about the TGC National Conference and upcoming resources is available online at thegospelcoalition.org.