In part 1, we explored the importance of eschatology within the outworking of our faith and practice in ministry. Eschatology was then explained in the context of the Kingdom of God which entered our world at the first coming of Jesus Christ. What needs to be determined and understood is whether we should hold the “realized eschatological view” or the “inaugurated eschatological” view in terms of how it could impact our ministry.
In our diverse missionary team in South Sudan, consisting of people from various nations, each of us chose a path in how we would present Jesus Christ—like different colours of thread weaving together a tapestry that we hoped would bring God glory. What we came to realize is that the locals equated our God and our Jesus on the same level as their witch doctors and rain makers. These people were often bound by fear: If they did not make an offering each year to the rain maker they firmly believed that rain will not come to their fields, on which their wealth depended. In sickness, these people would make offerings to the witch doctor, believing that it would bring them good health. In my studies of Scripture and of the Lopit people in South Sudan, I wanted to present Jesus to them as their King, not as an ancestorial type King, but a present living King that would bring love into their lives, that would cast out all fear (1 John 4:18).
It is the Present Kingdom
A main focus of the New Testament is that in the person and work of Jesus the kingdom of God became a present reality. Following Jesus’s crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension, he is now reigning at the right hand of the Father and will return to reign eternally (Storms 2013, 280; Zuck 1991, 23). The New Testament portrays the kingdom of God as both a present reality and a future hope. This picture has given rise to “the eschatological tension which permeates the entire New Testament” (Padilla 1984).
The Future consummation of the Kingdom
According to Riddlebarger (2013, 126), Matthew wrote about God’s kingdom in terms of it being already present but not yet consummated. Matthew 13:24–39, 22:1–14, 25:1–13, and 25:14–30 are all parables that Jesus used to explain the future consummation of his present kingdom. The parable of the Sower (Matt 13:3–9, 18–23) shows that the Kingdom of God is inaugurated by the sowing of the Word of God (v. 19). The sons of the Kingdom and the sons of the evil one will live alongside each another in the world until the great harvest when God will separate them at the time of Judgment (Matt 13:24–30, 36–43) (Burrows 1987).
The parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matt 22:1–14) indicates that when Christ returns, a great eschatological feast will be held for all of God’s redeemed people—those who are wearing an appropriate wedding garment (the righteousness of Christ). Both the Old and New Testament believers will enjoy the feast (Matt 8:11; Luke 13:28–30), otherwise known as the Wedding Feast of the Lamb (Rev 19:7, 9).
The role of and motivation for missions today and in the future, specifically in terms of the kingdom of God, provides a message for Christians today. On the one hand, it teaches us that the kingdom of God has already come in the person of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, it teaches us that his kingdom will be consummated at his Second Coming.
The Kingdom of God is entered into by being born again through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. It is both present and future, it is “inaugurated eschatology.” As a missions team in South Sudan, with different gifts and colourful threads, we wove the most beautiful tapestry of dramas and plays in the Lopit language in the context of their culture and understanding. We brought the person of Jesus Christ and his redemption into the midst of their tribal kingdom. It was the first time for them to understand that Jesus Christ came to earth, is our King, and was the perfect sacrifice for all sin and sickness. The present Kingdom extended through the preaching, dramatizing, and singing the stories from the Word of God in the Lopit language. These plays were transformed into Lopit films which we made and took to unreached parts in the Lopit mountains. It was hard work, many hours in prayer too but the fruit was seeing some young men and women making a decision for Jesus Christ, their king. Some stopped making offerings to the rain maker and witch doctors. This caused a huge outcry in the villages to the point that I was asked to meet with the chiefs and leaders of the village. They were still bound in fear that if certain members in their village did not make offerings there would be no rain. I can remember in their midst praying to Jesus for rain.
It took a whole week of heat and dry ground but those of us who believed in Jesus as their king held firm to our convictions. Then one evening on my way home climbing the mountain to my Sohot village it started to rain heavily. I came to the dance area of my village and I did not realize the men leaders were all huddled in the drum hut. I started to dance and sing “Homobino Yesu Hai,” which means “Thank you Jesus for the rain!” Then I heard them starting to drum, echoing my song, a new song of Lopit praise. I saw Jesus penetrate their lives and it gave me such hope that Jesus is all powerful; he is our redeemer, our King and when he returns, he will draw men and women from all nations to himself. All will be made new, it will be glorious!
Short Bio: Catherine Falconer completed her masters in theology at the South African Theological Seminary(SATS) in 2019. She was a missionary in various parts of Africa for more than ten years. She served in Sierra Leone with Mercy Ships and later with African Inland Mission for more than 6 years in South Sudan, in a tribal Lopit village in the mountains. During that time she studied her Bth with SATS. She has particular interests in missions and eschatology. Catherine is married to Robert and they have 2 boys named Ezekiel aged 5 and Gabriel aged 3.
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