It is not unusual for people to wonder how their lives and everything around them would come to an end and what may be after the end. Eschatology, the doctrine of the “last things”, raises many questions regarding the last days, and although it does not give one common answer, the church has come to some agreement (Tennent, 2009, p. 221). Eschatology and its relation to the global mission can be seen throughout the visions of preacher Johnathan Edwards and Chinese Christians.
The first way to see the relation of eschatology to the global mission is by looking at Johnathan Edwards’s understanding of it. Throughout history, global missions have been related to eschatology regarding the end times and anticipation of Christ’s return (Tennent, 2009). Edwards believed that before the millennium, there would be a global expansion of Christianity which would unfold in several stages and would converse Muslims and Jews (Tennent, 2009).
He assumed that until the millennium, the church would be persecuted by heretical Christians from the inside and the non-Christian world from the outside (Tennent, 2009). Finally, Edwards believed in the vital role of prayer in uniting the whole world (Tennent, 2009). All said above are the features of Edwards’s eschatology in relation to the global mission towards the golden age of the church and return of Christ.
Another way to see the relation of eschatology to the global mission is by looking at the history of Christianity in China. While most often, the gospel is told to spread towards the west, there is evidence of Nestorian Christians’ presence in China starting from AD 635 (Tennent, 2009). However, for centuries Nestorian Christians could not enter Chine due to its isolation policies, and later, with the beginning of Communist rule, Christians in China were persecuted and not treated well (Tennent, 2009).
The government perceived Christianity as Western aggression against China and facilitated the destruction of church buildings prohibiting all public expressions of faith (Tennent, 2009). Despite that, the number of Chinese was continuously growing as they learned how to survive and prosper in a hostile environment (Tennent, 2009). The state of the Christian church in China is important in understanding the eschatological vision of Chinese Christians and its role in the global mission.
Although located in two different parts of the world, Jonathan Edwards’s and Chinese Christians’ eschatologies have some similar aspects. Both believed that the extension of the church would happen before the millennium (Tennent, 2009). Both expected global expansion of Christianity in the latter days, but Chinese Christians connected eschatology and its success to “the fulfillment of the Great Commission” and preparation for Christ’s return (Tennent, 2009, p. 241). With that being said, Chinese Christians have a positive perspective of the global mission in the latter days, differentiating from the Western church’s perception.
There are many questions regarding eschatology in the eyes of the Christian church. As noted by Tennent, a scripture passage that captures the eschatological vision for the mission can be seen in Matthew 24:14 (2018, p. 222). The belief that the gospel would be spread to all nations in the latter days can also be seen in Isa. 49:6; 56:6 – 8, Acts 1:8; 15:14 – 18, Rom. 9:24 – 26 Eph. 2:11 – 20 (Tennent, 2009). Eschatology and the mission are related to the belief of the end times.
To conclude, eschatology plays a role in global missions concerning the end times and return of Christ. The role of eschatology in the Western church can be seen from the perspective of Jonathan Edwards. At the same time, Jonathan Edwards’s eschatology has similar aspects to the eschatology of Chinese Christians, as both believed in the expansion of the church preceding the millennium. Although different in background and conditions of life, they are alike in the perception of eschatology and the global missions.
Tennent, T. C. (2009). Theology in the context of world Christianity: How the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology. Zondervan.