Tag Archive: Apocalypse

The Prophet Isaiah by Raphael (1511)

Proclaiming the kingdom of hope

Arias summarizes the present and imminent kingdom of God in one word: Hope.  In his life, teachings, and ministry Jesus celebrated, taught, and proclaimed hope.  He called his disciples and us to be people of hope, creatively and actively waiting for the kingdom. Our waiting, Arais suggests, “demands watchful expectation and trusting intercession” for the kingdom to come (83).  How do we announce the kingdom of hope today?

As proclaimers of hope we look to the future in both hope and fear.  We are fearful of the unknown, but hopeful for the “final date with God,” in which “God has pledged himself to humanity in Jesus Christ” (86).  The promise, hope, and expectation of the coming kingdom serves as the mobilizing power for the whole life and mission of the church in the world.  We announce the hope of the kingdom by living, working, and sharing hope.  To be an evangelist is to be a sign of hope, a servant of hope, a minister of hope (89).

The ministry of hope includes both annunciation and denunciation.  The ministry of annunciation “gives people the bread of hope instead of the stones of fatalism and resignation to hellish fascination with death and annihilation” (90).  The ministry of denunication denounces anything, any power, and any program or trend that opposes God’s purpose for humanity (92).

Arias also highlights martyria and consolation as ministries of the kingdom of hope.  Christians, he suggests, must be prepared for martyrdom.  A martyr – a witness who puts his or her life on the line – must be ready to do so in the name of the hope Christ proclaimed.  Tertullian’s words ring particularly true: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”  The ministry of consolation Arias describes is the ministry of defending the defenseless, giving voice to the voiceless.  Specifically, consolation involves defending human rights and caring for the brokenhearted in the most painful and repressive situations (98).

The hope of the kingdom through annunciation, denunciation, martyria, and consolation makes sense to me.  If we are able to witness to all of the areas surely we, as Christians, churches, and faith communities, can be witnesses and tools of the kingdom.  Announcing the reign of God is the duty of the Body of Christ.  Empowered by the Spirit, Christians and churches are called to be God’s instruments of kingdom-building.

However, Arias argues rather ambiguously on this point.  Throughout the chapter he repeatedly lifts up the “prophetic” nature of governments, politicians, and policies.  He hints that the way to fulfilling the prophetic hope of the kingdom is through the government.  Salvation seems to lie in the on-going work of the government, and Christians would do well to participate in that work.  Is it true that prophetic voices (even from Christians) are loudest and most effective through the government?

Surely the church will not abdicate her responsibility to elected officials.  Surely we have the creativity, imagination, and resources to proclaim hope in the world.  Perhaps the Church needs to hear the words of Augustine again: “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”  Let this, and not a campaign slogan, serve as the church’s credo and motivation for hopeful evangelism.

This is the seventh review in a nine-part series looking at Mortimer Arias’s Announcing the Reign of God.


Proclaiming kingdom come…

After discussing the present reality of the kingdom of God (chapter 2), Arias then examines the imminence of the kingdom.  He correlates the imminence of the kingdom to eschatological evangelism.  Though we are people who wait for the kingdom of God, we are invited in the present to be signs of the coming kingdom.

When looking at the future coming of the kingdom Arias highlights the eschatological nature of Jesus’ parables.  For example, in the Parable of the Sower he notes how the seed of the kingdom is already planted, but the harvest of the kingdom will be in the future (Lk. 8.5).  Likewise, Arias highlights the parables of crisis and parousia, which he believes have a clear future component (Mt. 24.43-44; Mk. 13.33-37; Lk. 12.41-46; Mt. 25.1-13, 14-30).  Finally, Arias argues that the Lord’s Prayer and the Beatitudes project the final consummation of the kingdom in its fullness.  For Arias, Jesus proclaims a kingdom that is imminent and looming.

However, Arias wonders if Jesus is an apocalypticist.  Are Jesus’ futurist sayings words of an apocalypticist or a prophet?  For Arias, an apocalypticist warns of an impending and unavoidable action in which world will end – total destruction of world (34).  Proclaimers of this view adhere to a deterministic future.  Prophets, on the other hand, appeal to human freedom, calling all people to lives of love and justice in response to God’s actions.  Prophets, then, proclaim an eschatological hope in God’s coming judgment and salvation.  Within this spectrum Arias concludes that Jesus was of the prophetic eschatological tradition.  Jesus spoke apocalyptically at times, but maintained a hope and love for humanity.

Arias puts together the eschatological puzzle this way: Jesus’ message is of hope in the midst of tribulation.   Jesus does not preach a message of terror, but a message to raise and preserve hope in the midst of persecution and oppression.  The core of Jesus’ eschatological evangelization, according to Arias, is that the future belongs to God.  With respect to contemporary evangelism, we are not prophets of doom, but evangelists of hope (39).

While Arias offers many great insights on eschatology and evangelism, this chapter is not his strongest.  Much of the material is simply descriptive of the gospels, lacking analysis or reflection.  Nevertheless, it is helpful to ponder the core nature of Jesus’ eschatological language.  Does Christ speak of the end times with doom and fatalism?  (At times, yes.)  Or is Jesus’ message of the kingdom one of hope and grace?  (Most often this is the case.)  What is the tone of many of our contemporary efforts to proclaim the coming kingdom?  Are we following the model Christ implemented (i.e. are we following Jesus’ kingdom evangelization Arias described in chapter 1)?  How might we be prophets of hope?  Into what situations are we [churches] currently speaking, or need to be speaking, hope, forgiveness, and love?

This is the third review in a nine-part series looking at Mortimer Arias’s Announcing the Reign of God.

Saturday evening I found myself watching tv with two individuals who are, at best, remotely Christian.  In fact, one told me earlier in the day that he didn’t want to come to my church the following morning because “people like David [me] are all liars.”  Okay, at least I knew exactly where he stood!  Anyways, that evening the three of us settled into the living room and began watching a show on the History Channel called Decoding the Past.  Specifically, the show explored the various apocalyptic traditions of people/groups such as Merlin and the Mayans.  I would not normally watch this kind of show, but I figured it might be informative and provoke some interesting conversation.

For the first hour and a half, the two persons who joined me in the room were engrossed in the program.  Nodding, commenting, and agreeing with the show’s description of Merlin’s and the Mayan’s apocalyptic views, the two were on the edge of their seats.  Until…..a teaser before a commercial break announced that the next apocalyptic tradition to be discussed would be from “the most quoted, sought-after, and accurate apocalyptic work in history: The Holy Bible.”  Upon the mention of the Bible, the two other individuals vanished.  Gone.  Out of the room.  Suddenly uninterested.

Why?  What is it about people that make them so hostile to any sort of Christian perspective?  Or maybe, what is it about Chrisitanity that creates such hostility?  Why, at the mere mention of anything Christian-related, do some people shrink away?  Of course, I don’t think Merlin or the Mayans got their apocalypse “right,” but I will at least listen.  Why is this “courtesy” not often reciprocated?

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