Sunday, December 06, 2009

Advent as an Eschatological Event

Listen to this. The Prophet Isaiah pictures a new world for the people of God: an end to oppression and bloodshed.
2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

3 You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice
when dividing the plunder.

4 For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.

5 Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire. (NIV)
What an incredible promise! Look at what the guy is saying: warfare itself, and the tools of warfare, and the terrible effects of warfare, all this will be burned away. Destroyed. Up in smoke.

What do you do with such obviously eschatological passages? It's all so . . . far away. And yet Isaiah, in his prophetical way, speaks of all this as if it has already happened. On a people who walked in darkness, a light has dawned.

Has it? And has this light ended all oppression and warfare? And is there peace on earth? Is every garment rolled in blood now burned and gone, and all the wounded healed?

No. And Yet Isaiah doesn't allow us to think of this as merely a supremely optimistic prediction of some great future day. The light has dawned, and even a people who did not walk in the light of the Lord now do walk in that morning light. Because a child was born!
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
It's a familiar "Christmas" passage, of course. But do we stop to think how strikingly stark this juxtaposition is? The tools of war all done away with (because there will be no need of them), and even the blood-soaked bandages of war destroyed forever, because "to us a child is born!"

What a thing to say about "a child!" That upon a child's shoulders shall be the government, the rulership, of all. And this child will be called "mighty God." He is God's provision for the peace of the world, and he is God himself!

I am reminded of the Apostle John's words about that same child:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. (ESV)
And I am reminded also about what blogger Robin Parry recently posted: "the coming of God-in-Christ is an eschatological event from first to last." [HT: Barry Simmons]

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