In his magisterial The Pauline Eschatology, Geerhardus Vos contrasts how eschatology is treated by modern Christians in their dogmatic formulations, and how it was treated by the first Christians. For most of us (modern people), eschatology is that last section in our ST volumes. But Vos argues that this is not the only way eschatology has been treated.
We think and theologize out of the present into the future, because our base of existence is in the present. Whether this is as it ought to be need not be here considered; it certainly is a matter-of-fact state of mind. To the early Christians a different orientation had been given, and that not merely as a matter of practical religious outlook, but likewise through the teaching of Revelation. The ultimate things were brought forward in their consciousness, in order that in the light of these they might learn the better to understand the provisional and the preparatory. For the ultimate is in a very important sense the normative, that to which every preceding stage will have to conform itself to prove the genuineness of its Christian character…. The light of the world to come cast its clarifying and glorifying radiance backward into the present through the medium of teaching and prophecy concerning the future.
Boy, Vos is tough reading! (His shorter writings are especially verbose.) But the content is rich RICH RICH!!! It is sad that this gold bullion is usually neglected by preachers who think it is too heady to make good gospel preaching, or it is made to sound irrelevant by preachers who prefer to wax eloquent than to lead their flock to the green pastures where they can best feed. May we never forget to forge through Vos’ writings and strive to make the ‘stuff’ of his approach understandable to all those entrusted to our care!