Anyhow, recently I read some J. I. Packer on eschatology, and he made some helpful comments I thought I would record here. They come from Honouring the Written Word of God (Paternoster, 1990), in the chapter entitled "The Challenge of Biblical Interpretation: Eschatology"...
Eschatology is the study of the last things, God's future, God's fulfillment of his purpose of perfecting his creation by eliminating from it the disorder brought into it by sin and reconstructing everything in its final perfect form. Further, the biblical presentation of this great theme is like an ellipse with two foci, a single oval figure with two points inside it each of which is just as central in its significance as the other. The two foci are global eschatology (which has to do with the future of our Lord Jesus Christ and this whole world) and personal eschatology (which has to do with the future of the individual Christian and the individual unbeliever). [p.200]
The perspective set forth in the New Testament is what is usually called inaugurated eschatology, that is, the belief that the kingdom of God is here and the powers of the kingdom are at work already. The gospel is the good news that heaven has already begun here on earth for those who are Christ's. The long expected king of Old Testament prophecy has come. [p.200]
Never underestimate the theological significance of eschatology. In the schools, very often eschatology has been the poor relation in the theology courses. Coming last it has often been, to speak frankly, skimped in teaching. Partly, I think, this is because professors have not always known what to say. In addition, everyone who works in the classroom knows things often take longer to teach than you anticipate, so that the final bit of any course nearly always gets skimped. That's universal teaching experience. But it is a very sad thing that eschatology should ever be skimped because, as you can already see, it is a matter of enormous importance, very much a part of the glory of the gospel and very important for every Christian to understand... Eschatology is first the key to understanding the unity of the Bible... Eschatology is, further, the clue to understanding the nature of the Christian life. That life is essentially a life of hope, a life in which nothing is perfect yet but the hope of perfection is set before us... Third, eschatology is the key to understanding the shape of world history... The people of God have always been at the centre of world history... Finally, eschatology is supremely relevant for teaching the gospel in these days, considering what we are up against. On the one hand, there are utopian hopes, false hopes of different kinds offered by different people... On the other hand, we face a great deal of pessimistic hopelessness on the part of people who feel that they have seen through the false hopes of society and now have no hope at all... We need to speak loudly and clearly about the glory of the Christian hope. The world needs to hear that word from our lips. [pp.201-202]
the Bible is an Oriental book, and its testimony to the future is given in Oriental fashion. It is given in a pictorial, evocative, evaluative and imaginative way, rather than in the sort of reportorial prose which is informative in the way that a newspaper report of things is informative. This is the way that the Oriental mind, through which God gave us his Word, focuses and formulates and presents these coming realities. [p.203]
As wise persons preparing for vacations tidy up, pack their bags and get ready well in advance, so should we prepare for the meeting with Jesus that will close our lives in this world. Keep short accounts with God and 'live every day as if thy last', just as the hymn says. And while our life continues, let us work and pray for the advancing of the kingdom. When Christ appears publicly in this world, in what posture should he find the church? Praying for revival and planning world evangelism, surely. Let us see that when he comes for us, whether it is soon or late, those are the tasks in which he finds us engaged. [p.212]