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The Eschatology of Work

As has been noted, there is a difference between a hierarchy and an elite. The one is work oriented, the other privilege and leisure oriented. For a people to accept the fact of hierarchy means to accept a given variation of responsibilities in society. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 12:3–31

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony,
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As has been noted, there is a difference between a hierarchy and an elite. The one is work oriented, the other privilege and leisure oriented. For a people to accept the fact of hierarchy means to accept a given variation of responsibilities in society. Paul speaks of this in 1 Corinthians 12:3–31; he speaks of the body as one with many members or parts, all sharing a common life and purpose in Christ. The unregenerate lack such a oneness except in sin. The redeemed are still given to the divisiveness of sin because of their imperfect sanctification, but they also have the Holy Spirit and His call to unity. Their being thus moves to this unity in Christ, and a recognition of the hierarchy of callings and functions in Him.

When we recognize the one body, and a hierarchy of functions therein, we accept our calling and responsibility within it, and we respect the status of others, both “above” and “below” us. Such a hierarchical society does not preclude change nor rise and fall in status, because responsibilities govern place, not elitist principles of position. The idea of a hierarchy presupposes, among other things, two facts. First, position depends upon God’s authority and order, not man’s. There is a given, sacred order in all creation. Man’s order must seek to follow and be governed by God’s order as set forth in His law-word. Humanistic concepts of order are thus negated. Second, the Biblical doctrine of mankind has certain necessary implications. Man was created a covenantal creature, so that, whether in sin or in grace, he is governed by that fact, judged or blessed by it, and surrounded by God’s covenant and law as the condition of his life. The air man breathes is covenantal air. The requirement of the covenant is that humanity become one body in Christ. The functioning body, Paul reminds us, moves as it is directed by the Head, Jesus Christ. Its unity benefits all equally. The joy and victory of the Head is at the same time the joy and victory of all its members.

Life in the hierarchy of the body militates against envy, and, in perfection, precludes it. It should not surprise us that Helmut Schoeck, in his study of Envy (1966), found Christianity alone successful in combating the socially destructive force of envy. Envy grasps at privilege, because it equates life with it. It seeks privilege for itself while resenting privilege in others.

There is another aspect of importance here. To accept our place and responsibility in life and society means to be free of envy and the guilt created by envy. The envious are easily conned into guilt; they are made to feel guilty about the starving people of India, the lot of the American Indians, and much, much more. It should be noted, however, that guilt is a paralyzing force. Those conned into guilt are not moved to action. Missions to Hindus and to American Indians are almost exclusively by Christians, not by guilt-mongers and guilt bearers. Elitism and envy are productive of guilt and inaction. They are also destructive of work, because their essence is inaction, and they are nonproductive social forces.

Godly work is purposive and thus is governed by an eschatology. Basic to an eschatology is a faith. George Orwell, in an essay of March 3, 1944, spoke of the decline of belief in life after death, a disbelief he shared. Western culture has been built on a faith in God and life after death, heaven and hell. Orwell felt that civilization could not be salvaged unless man could “evolve a system of good and evil which is independent of heaven and hell.” The psychological difference which disbelief makes for man Orwell felt is too great to be overlooked.1 To hold that the individual at death perishes forever means that the only “immortality” is the limited one which collective groups have, most notably the state. As a result, the scientific state, as the agency which some believe will conquer death and human ills, becomes the de facto god and the sole vehicle of ongoing life. The state’s triumph over sin and death becomes man’s sole hope of escaping the crushing forces of sin and death. Hence, more power to the state. In the eschatology of unbelief, man has a choice between personal oblivion and the possible conquest of sin and death by the scientific socialist state. In such a perspective, no prospect pleases, because every prospect is vile!

We began our study of work with a verse which we can now return to from another perspective, Psalm 126:6:

He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.

The premise of the verse is a famine situation; the sower takes the “precious seed,” much of the family’s survival food, to sow his fields, trusting that neither storm nor drought will destroy his crops. In time, his act of faith is blessed, and he reaps a rich harvest. The implication is that godly faith works with a faith in God’s future. A fallen world, sickened by the curse, creates crises such as famine. In such a situation, the godly will work under God with a faith in God’s future, and they shall return, bringing their sheaves with them.

Because the world is God’s creation, it accomplishes God’s purpose. This is true also of the curse. The curse saves God’s eschatological movements in history by destroying man’s efforts to play god and by forcing men to a dependence on Him.

At the Tower of Babel, an elitist conception of society was brought to confusion by God. Babel was not ruled by a productive goal under God but by a conception of elitist order. Some of the documents of Freemasonry claim a descent for that fraternity from the builders of Babel. The goal of Babel was the unification of mankind outside of God; its created order had as its goal power and status, not godly work. Its imitators in Freemasonry come together with no production goal but a dream of rule, set forth by Albert Pike in Morals and Dogma. Pike declares, “Masonry is the apotheosis of WORK.”2  However, what is meant by work is Masonry, and its goals. Hence, “When the Brethren meet together, they are at labor.”3  The works moreover are to be aimed at social change in line with Masonic goals; they will in time “cleanse” the “Augean Stables of the World” and “the accumulated uncleanness and misery of centuries.”4

Too often, the church has a like goal. True work is seen as institutional, i.e., in terms of the institution of the church rather than as unto the Lord. The scope of the eschatology of work is thus reduced to an institutional level.

When work is God-centered, it moves in terms of the premise of Psalm 126:6, namely, that the God-given order of creation, as well as the providence of God, works to further all efforts in His name and for His glory. These efforts and work are more than ecclesiastical. At least two to four times a month, I hear from very able and superior people who, with a deepening faith, feel impelled to enter some form of “full-time Christian service.” Every honest calling is, however, an area of full-time Christian service. To limit God’s service to a particular sphere is to have a non-Biblical conception of the sacred and secular, and to limit godly work to a single sphere. This false division has been a significant part of our present cultural crisis. The world has been secularized by making all non-ecclesiastical work outside of or peripheral to the realm of the sacred. Because God made the world, He made all things good (Gen. 1:31) and all things holy, set apart for Him. Things are profane when men and their motives are profane. The clergy can be and often have been profane, and the same is true of every profession, calling, or variety of work. Work becomes holy when it is governed by God’s law-word and eschatology.

In our time, because of the prevalence of profane thinking, false notions proliferate. One has reference to hierarchy and work. The fact of a hierarchy of functions does not mean a hierarchy of importance in the purposes of God. In 1 Corinthians 12:3–31, when Paul speaks of the body, he stresses the unity of the body. Every member is a necessary part of the living organism. The liver may be never seen, but its function is life-sustaining, and, without it, the body perishes.

Elitism wants a world of people made in its own image, and it cannot tolerate what is the essence of the body, unity in diversity. Paul asks, “If the whole body were an eye” (1 Cor. 12:17), how could there be any functioning, or how could there be a body? The illness of one member or part of the body is the illness of all, of the total body (1 Cor. 12:26).

Some would limit Paul’s metaphor of the body to the church. Rather, because the word used is ecclesia, the meaning of which is congregation, assembly, or realm, the reference is to the Kingdom of God. It was then mainly limited to some small congregations, but it was God’s realm which Paul has in mind.

The word ecclesia comes from the Greek origin of ek-kaleo, to summon an army to assemble, from kaleo, to call. It was in origin a religious-political assembly. The LXX uses ecclesia to translate qabal, the Hebrew word which in its earliest use meant to summon to war all the men capable of bearing arms (Gen. 14:14; Num. 10:2; etc.). In Ephesians and Colossians, ecclesia has a cosmic scope. Paul at times speaks of the ecclesia as a building in process, a metaphor he merges with the idea of a body. The ecclesia can be a small group meeting in a home, and it is also a cosmic power. It is also a family, and the members are brothers and sisters and a Kingdom under Christ the Lord.

All the members have a function, a local function within the house congregation, and a function in the world, wherein they manifest the works of Christ in and through them. The body does not exist for the institution’s sake, but for Christ and His worldwide Kingdom. If the church has a false eschatology, its work will have a false focus. If a church is not governed by the dominion mandate and a call to victory, it will be governed by defeatism.

Meanwhile, the elite will work for an elitist society in which they are everything, and the people are nothing. The “scientific” interest in cloning is elitist. The dream from Plato’s day has been to command cow-like masses who will serve the purposes of the elite. The dream of cloning is a hope to stamp out docile creatures who will serve the elite as their social slaves. This is a profane eschatology, and a dream of a man-made hell.

1. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, eds., The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: As I Please, 1943–1945, Vol. III (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1968), 103.

2. Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Washington, D.C.: 1871; 1950), 340.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid., 230.

R. J. Rushdoony
  • R. J. Rushdoony

Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916–2001), was a leading theologian, church/state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical law to society. He started the Chalcedon Foundation in 1965. His Institutes of Biblical Law (1973) began the contemporary theonomy movement which posits the validity of Biblical law as God’s standard of obedience for all. He therefore saw God’s law as the basis of the modern Christian response to the cultural decline, one he attributed to the church’s false view of God’s law being opposed to His grace. This broad Christian response he described as “Christian Reconstruction.” He is credited with igniting the modern Christian school and homeschooling movements in the mid to late 20th century. He also traveled extensively lecturing and serving as an expert witness in numerous court cases regarding religious liberty. Many ministry and educational efforts that continue today, took their philosophical and Biblical roots from his lectures and books.

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