I get the question a few times a year: “Why does it matter whether we get future right? Everything will get sorted out when we get there. What we need to worry about is the present—being what God wants us to be and doing what God wants us to do right now.”
An interesting strategy, but one we’d be ill-advised to employ anywhere else in life. Who, for instance, says, “Why does it matter what will happen when I hit 65 or 70 and need to retire? Everything will get sorted out when I get there. What I need to worry about is the present.” OK, so some people do live that way, but it’s hardly a good idea. The prudent person anticipates the future and prepares for it (Prov 27:12, etc.).
Now this is just an analogy (no, retirement isn’t heaven and heaven isn’t retirement), but one point of significance stands out: a wise person lives his life today in view of the kind of future he wants and expects—and we do things differently based on our vision of the future. Some people build a financial portfolio; others concentrate on a strong family; others construct a legacy of industry, charity, or Gospel ministry. Perhaps nothing in life reveals our worldview more clearly than what we do now in our pursuit of what we anticipate will be a life well lived.
The same is true of biblical eschatology. Our view of the end defines our life now. If we believe that the church is tasked with building a constituency for a future and literal kingdom, then we will build and join churches with a very focused and evangelistic mission. If we believe that the church is tasked with developing a comprehensive kingdom in which every sphere of culture is brought under Christian control, we will build and join churches with a broad mission that calls everything “kingdom work.” If we believe the church is the kingdom, then we will build and join churches that promote whatever spiritual graces, doctrines, and activities we imagine to be most suited to children of the king.
And we need not stop with our view of the kingdom. Our views of imminency, the fate of the unredeemed, the fact of tribulation, the role of ethnic Israel, the status of the biblical covenants, even our views of the intermediate state all color, to some degree, the way we think and act and live today. And just as we may reach the end of our natural life and conclude, greatly dismayed, “I went about this all wrong,” so also we may reach the end of our spiritual walk to discover the very same thing.