Eschatology and Human History – Part 1
Eschatology and Human History
We dwell in ignorance of history, uncertain about its origin, the direction in which it is heading, and its final destination. Concerning eschatology, or the doctrine of the Last Days, many Christians believe literally what is written in the Bible: “the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire”;1(II Pet. 3:12)CEV|KJ|NI “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall from heaven”;2(Matt. 24:29)CEV|KJ|NI and “with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet . . . the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.”3(I Thess. 4:16-17)CEV|KJ|NIOne pertinent question for Christians is whether these events will take place literally or whether the verses are symbolic, as are many parts of the Bible. To address this issue, we should first understand such fundamental matters as the purpose of God’s creation, the meaning of the human Fall, and the goal of the providence of restoration.
The Completion of God’s Purpose of Creation
and the Human Fall
We have discussed how God’s purpose in creating human beings was to rejoice with them.4(cf. Creation 3) Thus, our purpose of existence is to bring joy to God. What must we do to bring joy to God and fully manifest our original value?
Created beings other than humans are endowed with the innate nature to grow to maturity naturally and become object partners which bring God joy. Human beings, on the other hand, can become true and authentic object partners who bring joy to God only through their free will and free actions.5(cf. Creation 5.2.2) They cannot become the object partners who inspire God with joy unless they understand His Will and make effort to live accordingly. Hence, human beings are endowed with emotional sensitivity to the Heart of God, intuition and reason to comprehend His Will, and the requisite abilities to practice it. A person who relates with God in this manner will attain perfection of his individual character. Adam and Eve prior to the Fall, as well as the prophets of every age, had some ability to converse with God because they had these innate faculties.
The relationship between God and a person who has attained individual perfection can be compared to that between the mind and the body. The body is the dwelling place of the mind and moves according to the mind’s direction. Likewise, God abides within the mind of a fully mature person. Such a person becomes a temple of God and leads his life in harmony with His Will. A perfect individual is fully attuned to God, just as the body resonates with the mind. For this reason it is written, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”6(I Cor. 3:16)CEV|KJ|NI and “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.”7(John 14:20)CEV|KJ|NI A person who has perfected his individual character becomes a temple of God, and the Holy Spirit abides within him. Living in oneness with God, he acquires a divine nature. Thus, it is impossible for him to commit sin or to fall.
A person who has perfected his individual character embodies total goodness and fulfills the purpose of creation. If a person embodying total goodness could fall, this would lead to the illogical conclusion that goodness contains the seed of its own destruction. Moreover, if human beings, who were created by the omnipotent God, could fall even after becoming perfect, we would have reason to doubt the omnipotence of God. God is the absolute and eternal Subject. To give Him true joy, His object partner must necessarily also be eternal and absolute. For these reasons, a person who has perfected his individual character can never fall.
Had Adam and Eve reached perfection, being thereafter insusceptible to sin, they would have borne good children and founded a sinless family and society in complete concordance with God’s blessings.8(Gen. 1:28)CEV|KJ|NI They would have founded the Kingdom of Heaven, which consists of one great family with the same parents. The Kingdom of Heaven has the form of an individual who has achieved perfection of character. Just as the members of the human body are coordinated in horizontal relationships with each other and move as one in response to the vertical commands of the brain, in this society people will form cooperative horizontal relationships with each other and live together in tune with the vertical directions emanating from God. No one will harm his neighbor, since if one person were to suffer pain, everyone in this society would experience the Heart of God who shares in that person’s grief.
Regardless of the purity of the people of this society, if they were living in primitive circumstances like cavemen, this could not be considered the Kingdom of Heaven which both God and human beings desire. God gave us the mandate to have dominion over all things.9(Gen. 1:28)CEV|KJ|NI Hence, to realize the ideal of creation, people of perfected character should advance science, harness the natural world, and create an extremely pleasant social and living environment. This will be the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Once people have attained full maturity and enjoyed life in God’s earthly Kingdom, then when they shed their physical bodies and pass into the spirit world, they will form the Kingdom of Heaven in heaven. Accordingly, God’s primary purpose of creation is to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Human beings fell while they were immature and still in their growing period. We have already clarified why the growing period was necessary and what the evidence is for the conclusion that the first human beings fell while immature.10(cf. Creation 5.2.1) Due to the Fall, human beings could not become temples of God; instead, they united with Satan and became his dwelling places. They failed to cultivate the divine nature; instead, they acquired an evil nature. People with evil nature have propagated evil through their children, constituting evil families, evil societies and an evil world. This is the hell on earth in which we have been living. In this hell, we cannot properly form cooperative horizontal relationships with one another because our vertical relationships with God have been severed. We perform deeds harmful to others because we cannot feel the pain and suffering of our neighbors as our own. Once people have accustomed themselves to living in hell on earth, when they end their physical life, they naturally enter hell in the spirit world. We have not built the Kingdom of God, but instead established the sovereignty of Satan. For this reason, Satan is called the “ruler of this world”11(John 12:31)CEV|KJ|NI and the “god of this world.”12(II Cor. 4:4)CEV|KJ|NI
God’s Work of Salvation
The sinful world brings humankind sorrow and causes God to grieve.13(Gen. 6:6)CEV|KJ|NI Would God abandon this world in its present misery? God intended to create a world of goodness and experience from it the utmost joy; yet due to the human Fall, the world came to be filled with sin and sorrow. If this sinful world were to continue forever in its present state, then God would be an impotent and ineffectual God who failed in His creation. Therefore, God will save this sinful world, by all means.
To what extent should God save this world? He should save it completely. First, God must expel the evil power of Satan from this sinful world,14(Acts 26:18) CEV|KJ|NI thereby bringing it back to its original state prior to the Fall of the human ancestors. Salvation must then continue until the good purpose of creation is fulfilled and God’s direct dominion is established.15(Acts 3:21) CEV|KJ|NI To save a sick person is to restore him to the condition of health he had before the illness. To save a drowning person is to restore him to the state he was in before he fell in the water. Likewise, to save a person suffering under the yoke of sin means to restore him to his original, sinless state. In other words, God’s work of salvation is the providence of restoration.16(Acts 1:6)CEV|KJ|NI; (Matt. 17:11)CEV|KJ|NI
The human Fall was undoubtedly the result of human mistakes. Nevertheless, God also assumes some responsibility for the outcome because it was He who created human beings. Therefore, God has felt compelled to conduct the providence to correct this tragic outcome and to restore human beings to their true, original state. Furthermore, God created us to live eternally. This is because God, the eternal subject partner, wanted to share eternal joy with human beings as His object partners. Having endowed human beings with an eternal nature, God could not, by the laws of the Principle, simply annihilate them just because they fell. If He were to do that, He would be violating His own Principle of Creation. The only choice left to God is to save fallen people and restore them to the original, pure state in which He initially created them.
When God created human beings, He promised to help us accomplish the three great blessings.17(Gen. 1:28)CEV|KJ|NI He declared through Isaiah, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it,”18(Isa. 46:11)CEV|KJ|NI meaning that despite the Fall, God has been working to fulfill His promise to us through the providence to restore these blessings. He sent Jesus to restore us to our original, ideal state, as we can discern from Jesus’ words to his disciples, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”19(Matt. 5:48)CEV|KJ|NI An original, ideal person is one with God and has realized a divine nature; thus, with reference to the purpose of creation, he is perfect as God is perfect.
What is the goal of the providence of restoration? It is the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven, which in its totality is God’s good object partner and the fulfillment of His purpose of creation. The center of God’s Kingdom on earth is to be human beings. Although God created the first ancestors with that intention, they fell; hence, His Will for the earth was not realized. Since then, the primary goal of the providence of restoration has been nothing less than to rebuild the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Jesus, who came to complete this goal, told his disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”20(Matt. 6:10)CEV|KJ|NI He also said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”21(Matt. 4:17)CEV|KJ|NI His words testify that the goal of the providence of restoration is the establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
As clarified above, God’s work of salvation is the providence of restoration. Human history can be seen as the history of the providence through which God has been trying to save fallen people and work through them to restore the original, good world. Let us examine this idea in various ways, beginning with the history of the development of cultural spheres.
All people, in all ages and places, including even the most evil, have an original mind which inclines them to repel evil and seek goodness. People’s intellectual understanding of what goodness is and how goodness is achieved has differed according to time, place and individual viewpoint; this has been a source of the conflicts which have made history. Nevertheless, everyone cherishes the same fundamental goal of finding and establishing goodness. Why does the original mind irrepressibly induce people of every age and every place to do good? God, the Subject of goodness, created human beings as His good and worthy object partners in order to fulfill the purpose of the good. Despite Satan’s crippling efforts, which have rendered fallen human beings incapable of leading a life of total goodness, the original mind remains intact within them and prompts them toward goodness. Hence, the ultimate desire of the ages is to attain a world of goodness.
However hard the original mind may struggle to attain goodness, we can hardly find any examples of true goodness in this world under the sovereignty of evil. Human beings have thus been compelled to seek the source of goodness in the world transcendent of time and space. This necessity has given birth to religion. Through religion, fallen people mired in ignorance have sought to meet God by ceaselessly striving toward the good. Even though the individuals, peoples and nations which championed a certain religion may have perished, religion itself has survived.
Religion has endured through history despite the rise and fall of many nations. In the history of China, the Chao dynasty and the Warring States were followed by an era of unification in the Ch’in dynasty. This was followed by the Former Han, Hsin, Later Han, the Six Dynasties, and an era of unification in the Sui and T’ang periods. They were followed by the Five Dynasties, Northern Sung, Southern Sung, Yuan, Ming, Ch’ing, the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China. In its history, China has experienced many cycles of the rise and fall of dynasties and numerous transfers of political power, yet the religions of the Far East – Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism – have continued to thrive. The history of India has witnessed the empire of Mauryas followed by the Guptas, Harsa, Calukyas, the Mughals, Maratha, the British Raj, and today’s independent India. Despite the rise and fall of many kingdoms, the religion of Hinduism has survived and prospered. In the history of the Middle East, the Umayyad Caliphate was followed by the Abbasids, the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, the colonial period, and today’s Arab states. Despite these changes in political sovereignty, the religion of Islam has endured and continued to thrive. In the history of Western Europe, we find that the center of power changed many times, from Rome to the Carolingian court, to the cities of Renaissance Italy. Spain and Portugal then became the leading powers of Europe, followed briefly by France and the Netherlands, and then England. In the modern era, the leadership of the West has been divided between America and the Soviet Union. Despite these political changes, Christianity has continued to flourish. Even under the despotic regime of the Soviet Union founded upon Marxist materialism, Christianity remains vital and inextinguishable.
If we were to examine the rise and fall of nations, we would find numerous instances in which those nations which persecuted religion have perished, while those which protected and fostered religion have flourished. Often, the people who rose to the position of ruler of a nation were those who most highly esteemed religion. History thus assures us that the day will surely come when the communist world, which is persecuting religion, will perish.
Many religions have left their mark on history. Among them, the religions with the greatest influence formed cultural spheres. The major cultural spheres which have existed at various times in world history numbered between twenty-one and twenty-six. With the flow of history, lesser cultural spheres were absorbed by, or merged into, the more advanced spheres. Through the evolution of cultural spheres, as they were buffeted by the rise and fall of nations, four great cultural spheres have survived to the present day: the East Asian sphere, the Hindu sphere, the Islamic sphere, and the Christian sphere. The current trend has these four spheres forming one global cultural sphere based on the Christian ethos. This historical development is evidence that Christianity has, as its final mission, the accomplishment of the goals of all religions which have sought the ideal of goodness. The history of the development of cultural spheres, each with its stages of expansion, decline and convergence, is ultimately aimed at constituting one global cultural sphere based on one religion. This demonstrates that the essence of human history has been the restoration of one united world.
Second, we can deduce that human history is the history of the providence of restoration by observing the progress of religion and science. It was discussed earlier22(cf. Introduction) that the purposes of religion and science are to overcome the internal and external aspects of ignorance in fallen humankind. Although they have been working independently with little connection to each other, religion and science inevitably must converge. Today they are on the threshold of reaching this destination, where they will resolve all their problems together in one united undertaking. This trend shows that human history has been walking the providential course to restore the world to its original state.
Had it not been for the Fall, the development of the intellectual capacity of our early human ancestors would have enabled them to reach the highest level of spiritual knowledge, thus naturally stimulating their knowledge of the material world to develop to a corresponding degree. Science then would have advanced rapidly in an extremely short period of time, and today’s level of science and technology would have been attained in those days. However, due to the Fall, human beings plunged into ignorance and could build only a primitive society, far beneath God’s original ideal. Long ages passed before people could overcome this ignorance through the advancement of science. The modern world of highly developed technology has now brought us externally to the threshold of the ideal society.
Third, by examining trends in the history of conflict, we can understand that human history is the history of the providence of restoration. Battles over property, territory and people have continued without interruption, expanding their scope in step with the progress of human society. The scale of these struggles has broadened from the family level to the levels of tribe, society, nation and world until today, when the democratic world and the communist world confront each other in a final conflict. In these Last Days of human history, heavenly law has descended upon the earth in the name of democracy, bringing an end to the long phase of history in which people sought to obtain happiness by seizing property, land and people. At the conclusion of World War I, the defeated nations gave up their colonies. At the end of World War II, the victors voluntarily liberated their colonies and provided them with material aid. In recent years, the great powers have invited weak and tiny nations, some smaller than one of their own cities, to become member states of the United Nations, giving them equal rights and status in the brotherhood of nations.
What form does this final war between democracy and communism take? It is primarily a war of ideologies. Indeed, this war will never truly cease unless a truth emerges which can completely overthrow the ideology of Marxism-Leninism that is threatening the modern world. Communist ideology negates religion and promotes the exclusive supremacy of science. Hence, the new truth which can reconcile religion and science will emerge and prevail over the communist ideology. It will bring about the unification of the communist and democratic worlds. The trend of the history of conflict thus confirms that human history is the providential history to restore the original, ideal world.
Fourth, let us investigate this issue from the words of the Bible. The purpose of human history lies in the restoration of the Garden of Eden with the tree of life standing at its center.23(Gen. 2:9)CEV|KJ|NI; (cf. Fall 1.1.1) The Garden of Eden does not refer to a specific geographical location where Adam and Eve were created, but includes the entire earth. If the Garden of Eden were limited to the small region of the globe where they were created, how could humanity be confined to such a small place and still fulfill God’s blessing to multiply and fill the earth?24(Gen. 1:28)CEV|KJ|NI
Because the first human ancestors fell, the Garden of Eden was claimed by Satan, and the way to the tree of life at its center was blocked.25(Gen. 3:24)CEV|KJ|NI It is written in the Book of Revelation:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. –Rev. 22:13-14CEV|KJ|NI
Human history began with Alpha and will end with Omega. At the end of history, the hope of fallen people will be to wash their sin-stained robes, enter the restored Garden of Eden, and approach the long-lost tree of life.
Let us discuss further the significance of this verse. The tree of life represents the True Father of humanity who, as we have seen, was to have been Adam had he perfected his character. Due to the fall of the first parents, their descendants were corrupted with the original sin. To be restored to the state of true, original people, we, as Jesus said, must be reborn.26(cf. Christology 4.1) Therefore, history has been humankind’s search for Christ, the True Father of humanity, the one who can give us rebirth. In this verse, the tree of life which the saints of the Last Days may approach is none other than Christ. Thus, the Bible teaches that the goal of history is the restoration of the Garden of Eden with Christ, who is to come as the tree of life, as its center.
When the Bible states that a new heaven and new earth will appear in the Last Days,27(Rev. 21:1)CEV|KJ|NI it means that the old heaven and old earth under the bondage of Satan will be restored as a new heaven and new earth under the God-centered dominion of Christ. The Bible also states that the whole creation, groaning in travail under satanic tyranny, awaits the revealing of the sons of God.28(Rom. 8:19-22)CEV|KJ|NI Created beings do not await the restoration of true children of God in order to be burned in fire and perish in the Last Days; rather, they wait to be made new.29(Rev. 21:5)CEV|KJ|NI They will be made new by being restored to their original position under their rightful masters, the true sons and daughters of God, who are able to govern them with love.
Having examined human history from various standpoints – the development of cultural spheres, the trend of religion and science, the trend of the history of conflict, and the evidence in the Bible – it has become clear that human history is the providential history to restore the original, ideal world.
The Last Days
Due to the crime of the Fall, the three great blessings God had granted our first ancestors were not fulfilled based on God’s love and Principle, but instead were actualized in an unprincipled way under the tutelage of Satan. Human history since then has been the history of God’s providence of restoration. Despite its evil beginning, the world under the sovereignty of Satan must one day be transformed into the world where goodness reigns, where the three great blessings are fulfilled centered on God. The Messiah comes at this time of transformation.
The Last Days is this time, when the evil world under satanic sovereignty is transformed into the ideal world under God’s sovereignty. Hell on earth will be transformed into the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Therefore, it will not be a day of fear when the world will be destroyed by global catastrophes, as many Christians have believed. In fact, it will be a day of joy, when the cherished hope of humankind, the desire of the ages, will be realized.
Since human beings fell, God has attempted more than once to consummate His providence to put an end to the sinful world and restore the original, good world.30(cf. Foundation 1) Nevertheless, at each attempt, human beings failed to fulfill their portion of responsibility, thus thoroughly frustrating the Will of God. Consequently, dispensations of the Last Days have been repeated several times. This can be confirmed by a close study of the Bible.
God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”31(Gen. 6:13)CEV|KJ|NI This indicates that Noah’s day was the Last Days. God wanted to destroy the corrupt, evil world which had been ruled by Satan since the time of the human Fall. He intended once and for all to purge sinful history, biblically reckoned as 1,600 years, by the Flood. In its aftermath, God intended to raise up Noah’s family, who worshipped Him and no other, and resurrect the world of God’s sovereignty upon the foundation of their faith. This is how the time of Noah can be considered the Last Days.32(cf. Foundation 2) Nonetheless, when Ham, the second son of Noah, committed a sinful act which reaffirmed the Fall, Noah’s family could not fulfill its portion of responsibility on behalf of humankind, and the Will of God was frustrated.33(Gen. 9:22)CEV|KJ|NI
God has foreordained the fulfillment of His Will; hence, the goal of the providence of restoration is unchanging and shall be fulfilled without fail.34(cf. Predestination 1) Therefore, even though the providence of restoration was not accomplished through Noah, God called upon other prophets to prepare anew the basis of faith. Upon this foundation, God sent Jesus to vanquish the satanic sovereignty which has held this world in thrall and to establish the God-centered ideal world. Accordingly, Jesus’ day was also the Last Days. This is why Jesus said that he came to bring judgment,35(John 5:22)CEV|KJ|NI and why Malachi prophesied of Jesus’ coming:
Behold, the day comes, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up . . . so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. –Mal. 4:1CEV|KJ|NI
Jesus came to restore the original, ideal world. However, when the people of Israel did not believe in him, the human portion of responsibility was left unaccomplished. This meant that the fulfillment of the Will of God had to be prolonged until Christ’s Second Advent.
When the disbelief of the chosen people led Jesus to go the way of the cross, he could accomplish only spiritual salvation. It remains for him to return and accomplish the goal of the providence of restoration both spiritually and physically and restore the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.36(cf. Messiah 1.4) Hence, the day of the Christ’s Second Advent is also the Last Days. For this reason Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of man”37(Luke 17:26)CEV|KJ|NIand prophesied that many natural calamities would break out at his return.38(Matt. 24:7, 29)CEV|KJ|NI