Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Comedy or Tragedy?


When people ask me if I'm optimistic or pessimistic about the future, I say, "Both, of course!"

I'm very optimistic about the grace of God triumphing over evil. In the end, God wins. Evil will be banished and righteousness will prevail. Leland Ryken describes the scene of the new heaven and new earth portrayed by the apostle John:
The climactic vision of Revelation is this vision of heaven. It is pictured in symbolic terms--as a transformed or new place and as a city that combines features that no earthly city can possess. The emphasis is on motifs of permanence and transcendence; splendor; the bliss and perfection of the citizens of the city; the beauty of the place, freedom from intrusions of sin; absence of fallen experience; the banishment of all evil; the satisfaction of all human needs and longings; the life-giving, light-shining presence of the Lamb... The garden of perfection at the beginning of the Bible is here completed in a city of perfection.

I'm very pessimistic, however, about the progress of mankind. Despite centuries of medical, scientific and technological advances, we are still plagued with the vices of pride, greed, lust, malice, envy, as well as the challenges of poverty, disease, famine and natural disaster that only add to the misery of our mismanagement. If the future of the planet rests in the hands of men and women, then what is to come is bleak indeed. Those who stand opposed to God in the end will be "thrown into the lake of fire...and be tormented day and night forever and ever" (Revelation 20:10).

Of course, there is hope. Augustine, in his monumental work The City of God, meticulously traces Biblical history and describes the peace and happiness belonging to the heavenly city, or the people of Christ, both now and hereafter. Those in the kingdom of God have a very bright future. Those, however, who reject God and the salvation he offers through Christ face heartache without hope in this life and certain judgment in the life to come.

The love that wins is the love that lost. Jesus was cut off by God the Father on the cross so that those who trust in him will be given new life. Those who reject Christ will themselves be cut off, and that without remedy.

Another way to state this is to ask the question: Is the story of the world a comedy or a tragedy? The answer according to Scripture and Augustine (and the historic creeds of the church) is, of course, both. For those in the city of God "all will be well" despite the hardships endured in this life. It is the comedy from which all others find there true source. For those in the city of man, the tragedy finds its fitting end.

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