Eschatology, the view of last things is finding a much needed resurgence these days. I have always been drawn to apocalyptic movies as a kid. I love the end of the world movies like Deep Impact, and recently 2012. They have a riveting effect on me and fuel my fascination with the future.
What I see in the gospels is a Jesus that was fueled by a vision of the future that was radically breaking into the present. When Jesus said the Kingdom of God was at hand, he was talking about the rule of God. And the future is the only time and place that the rule of God will be consummated. When Jesus healed someone, he was pointing to the future and saying, when the rule of God is consummated, there will be no sickness. When he fed the 5000, he was pointing to the future when all physical needs would be met. When he forgave sins, he was pointing to the future when relationships would not be fractured and we ourselves would not be fractured by our experience of the fallen nature.
When we talk about being missional, we need to, as Hirsch explains in his book ReJesus, recalibrate back to Jesus. But the conversation must go a bit deeper here. Going back to Jesus is a monumental task in and of itself, but once we get there, I think we will be confronted with another question: Where did Jesus get his mission from? When we are trying to understand what our mission is, we go back to Jesus. He embodies and enacts the mission. He is our paradigm. To be missional means to tap into Jesus as the source and energy of our mission. But where did Jesus get his mission from? What was the paradigm he operated in? We tap into Jesus, but what did he tap into?
I think a better way to ask this question is: What was tapping into Jesus? The Spirit of God is what transported that future, New Creation into the present and infused Jesus with the power to embody and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. The future broke into Jesus through the Spirit in a most powerful, yet graceful way. Jesus was apocalyptic, but he was eschatological too. His message of the Kingdom was apocalyptic because it was charged with hope and judgment for the present context, but it also stretched out to encompass the meta-narrative of history, which means it was eschatological. Apocalyptic is eschatology on steroids. Jesus was both because he had a message for the present, but this message was anchored in a future that had yet to be realized. Jesus message of the Kingdom was both apocalyptic and eschatological because he was a portal through which a future rule found a present expression.
When we talk about returning to Jesus we will inevitably run into this amazing subject of the Kingdom of God and eschatology. This should have major implications for the missional conversation. I am grateful for people like NT Wright who have uncovered the sometimes mysterious connection between eschatology and mission. If the mission is understood in the context of Jesus, and Jesus understood his mission in the context of the Kingdom of God, then we have a sort missional-eschatological helix to run through. Will come up with a diagram on this one later.