We see the same truth in the arena of raising children. Children are called to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3), and as parents we want to train them in the things of the Lord (v. 4). We recognize that children need discipline, and we discipline them so that they will develop godly character. Our children should be well behaved and godly, faithful and dependable (Titus 1:6). If our children are wild and out of control, we are shirking our responsibility as parents.
But there is also the danger of overrealized eschatology (thinking we can receive the fullness of glory now), and we can make the mistake of expecting heaven on earth in raising our children. We can fall into the trap of expecting perfection from our children without even realizing it. When this happens, we begin to correct our children excessively, and we may end up exasperating our children by constantly harping on their faults, and the end result is that our children become discouraged and disheartened (Col. 3:21). We see again that the teaching about the last days is immensely practical. We train our children to be obedient, but we don’t expect them to be perfect.
THE LAST DAYS AND CHURCH LIFE
The last days are here. Jesus is risen and the Spirit is given. In particular, the Spirit is poured out on the people of God, on the church of Jesus Christ. The church is Christ’s body, and it is filled with Christ’s fullness (Eph. 1:23). The church should be the place where all are reconciled to one another, so that blacks and whites, men and women, white-collar workers and blue-collar workers find their unity in Christ (2:11–22). Indeed, God’s wisdom is disclosed to the angelic powers in the church (3:10), so that they look at the church and see the grace and power of the Lord. The church should be the vehicle through which the gospel goes out into the community and into the world. The world notices as members of the church love one another (John 13:34–35) and realizes that Jesus is the Christ.
The church is transformed by God’s grace and is maturing into what God wants it to be (Eph. 4:11–16). Still, the church won’t be free from spots and wrinkles and blemishes and scars until the day of redemption (5:27). We long for heaven and earth, and so we easily become dissatisfied with our church, even if the church is strong and good and mature. We may see the specks and scars and begin to criticize our church instead of loving and supporting it.
We might think that the idea that we live in the last days is an abstract doctrine unrelated to everyday life. But when we consider the matter further, we see that it is immensely practical, for it affects our view of sanctification, family life, church, politics, and much more. We can fall prey to underrealized eschatology and become apathetic and satisfied with the status quo. At the same time, we may make the mistake of embracing an overrealized eschatology and expect heaven on earth. We can see why we need God’s Word and God’s Spirit to keep on track as we live between the times.