By Meredith Cook
Eschatology matters. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, eschatology is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the last things: death, judgment, eternity, Christ’s return, etc.
There are varying perspectives on what will happen in “the end,” but at its most basic level, most, if not all, believers agree that one day Christ will return to gather all believers into His perfect kingdom, where we’ll dwell with Him forever.
When I say eschatology matters, I mean this simple truth shapes our perspective, motivates our good deeds, and sets our good works apart from those done by people who aren’t in Christ.
I was in a coffee shop when two ladies sat at the table next to mine. I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation about serving refugee women.
Though it sounded like a Christian ministry opportunity, at least one of them mentioned she was non-practicing Jewish. I heard her mention a lack of strong religious beliefs, specifically saying she didn’t have any concept of the afterlife.
She just wanted to help refugees because she thought it was a good thing to do. This simple statement may not have raised flags for most people, because a desire to help others is a good desire.
But what struck me about this woman was the disconnect between her disbelief in a life beyond this one and her desire to do good works. I agree with her that we should help refugees, but our motivations for doing good are completely different.
Eschatology gives us a unique motivation for good works.
Unlike the woman I mentioned above, my motivation for good works comes from the gospel. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, I’m transformed to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).
I work out of obedience to God’s Word. The Bible tells us to be “doers of the word” (James 1:22); I’m called to love my neighbor (Matthew 22:39). Believers should be devoted to good works (Titus 3:8).
But this motivation for good works is also future-oriented. It’s not just about what Christ has done in the past, but what He’ll do in the future. Believers know Christ will make all things new upon His return.
As we live in this time between Christ’s first and second comings, our good works—though imperfect—reflect the perfect kingdom to come. Our good works shine a light in a dark world so others might glorify God on the day He visits (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12).
Our eschatology sets our good works apart from those of nonbelievers.
Our belief in the promised kingdom is what distinguishes our works from those of a nonbeliever. Presumably, the woman I mentioned desires to do good works, hoping to make the world a better place.
However, we know sin will continue affecting this world until Christ returns. If a glance at social media isn’t enough to confirm mankind’s depravity, then the news is there to remind us atrocities such as human trafficking, political turmoil, and cancer continue.
At best, the non-believer’s good works will provide temporary relief for a particular hardship in a particular place for a particular person. Those who hope in their works often end up hopeless when, despite their hard work, injustice continues.
If we can’t make the world a better place on our own, then striving to do good is futile if there’s no life beyond this one. But believers know we’re not without hope. That’s why we continue working.
We’re compelled by the fact we see a world that’s not right, and we long for the day our world will be right. We do good works now because, in the Church, God has created a community of people who live out the kingdom ethic of justice.
Though we depict an incomplete picture, our good works demonstrate to the world what we look forward to when Christ ushers in His kingdom fully.
Always pair good works with evangelism.
Our eschatology gives us unique motivations for good works and it also gives us a unique method. As we do good works, we share the message of our hope in Christ.
The gospel is what compels us to good works so we must share this message with those whom we’re serving!
A couple of years ago, I heard the story of a teenager who got into some minor legal trouble. His Christian coworkers, who’d already been sharing the gospel with him, were able to help him.
Though he’d not yet accepted the gospel, their display of love coupled with their proclamation of truth supported the message they’d been sharing with him and opened a door for further conversation.
Good works are a great way to build bridges with those who need the gospel. But let’s make sure we share the message of hope that motivates us to love and good works in the first place.
Our eschatology is one of hope. We look forward to a day when sin, death, sorrow, and injustice will be no more. It’s this hope that uniquely motivates us to do good works while proclaiming the saving truth of the gospel.
We give the world an imperfect but hopeful preview of what’s to come. We know that in the end, Christ will fulfill His promise to wipe away every tear, to abolish death, grief, and pain, and to make all things new and dwell with His people forever.
Meredith is the wife of Keelan, an editor for IMB.org, and an M.Div graduate in Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.