Religion has never been at peace with this idea of an endless development or the total ruination of the world.  There are various reasons why it was kept from adopting these philosophical theories.  It is obvious that all such theories fail to do justice to the value of personhood and tend to sacrifice it to the world as a whole.  They further fail to appreciate the significance of the life of religion and morality and assign to it a position far below that of culture.  And, finally, for the present as well as for the future, they only build upon forces immanent in the cosmos and take no account whatever of a divine power that governs the world and, ultimately, by direct intervention, causes the world to fulfill the purpose laid down for it.  All religions, therefore, have another outlook on the future.  All of them, more or less, clearly know of a struggle between good and evil.  All of them cherish the hope of the victory of the good, in which the virtuous are rewarded and the wicked are punished.  And, as a rule, they consider the future attainable in no other way than by a manifestation of supernatural forces.

Persian religion even expected the appearance, at the end of the third world period, of the third son of Zarathushtra, Saoshyant, who would introduce a thousand-year kingdom of peace and complete the redemptive work of his father.  Among the Muslims, along with belief in the return of Jesus, there gradually arose the expectation of a Mahdi who would take believers back to the golden age of the “four rightous Khalifs.”  In Israel, future hopes were based on the foundation of the covenant God had established with Abraham and his seed.  For this covenant is everlasting and is not nullified by human unfaithfulness.  Even in the law, God repeatedly testifies to the people of Israel that, when they violate His covenant, He will visit them with the most severe punishments but, afterward, will again have compassion on His own.  When, on account of its sins, Israel is scattered among the nations and its land is devastated, in that day the Lord will arouse His people to jealousy by His acceptance of other peoples, bring His people to repentance, lead them back to their own country, bless them with innumerable spiritual and material blessings, and bring vengeance on all their enemies (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 4.23-31; 30.1-10; 32.15-43).  Following the promise to the house of David that it will be made sure and that its throne will be established forever (2 Samuel 7.16; 23.5; 1 Chronicles 17.14), what increasingly gains prominence in Israel’s future hopes is that its conversion and restoration will be brought about by nothing other than the anointed king of the house of David.  These ideas were further developed in prophecy and, despite the peculiar features they bear in each of the prophets, assume increasingly firmer forms.

From: Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 4: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation by Herman Bavinck; translated from the Dutch by John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), pp. 647-648.  The translation is of the second Dutch edition of 1911.


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