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Home Special Topics Eschatology Yu Pui Man: Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 1)
Yu Pui Man: Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 1) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:26

Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 1)


Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok

Author: Yu Pui Man


1. Introduction

There is the human phenomenon of expecting a life beyond, or the meaning of life in this world. The term eschatology (eschatos – end, last, final)[1] emerged in the seventeenth century, and the doctrine of the last things relates to resurrection, judgement, heaven and hell, or issues after one’s death. It is also the final end for the world, its nature and history. [2] Scripture alone is the guide to eschatology. Only Biblical kerygma, God and His creation, Christ and the Holy Spirit is to be proclaimed, received and lived out in the eschatological perspective.[3]

People living in this postmodern age are aware of the fragility of the environment. [4] Life is full of ambiguities and dangers. Socio-political context [5] may have altered people’s eschatological views, asking who is God and what God is like. Culture, modernity, technologies, ecological and nuclear catastrophes threaten to stifle hope at a personal, social, national and global level, with people caring more about lives before rather than after death. Hope is a universal characteristic of human existence;[6] but only a future for which we can hope for gives meaning to life. The church’s mission in meeting these challenges are to participate in the culture, critiquing it, witnessing to it and not to lose their own source of hope. The church is to manifest itself with Christians articulating and bearing witness to their faith so that others come to believe too. Christian hope is grounded in God’s faithfulness to His creation and His providence of a redeemed and restored creation; and Christians are to live in commitments to God’s revelation.

2. The Day of the Lord and the Last Judgement

In OT “the day of the Lord” signifies a time when God intervened actively in history, primarily for judgement. (Zep. 2:2) In NT the term exclusively means the end times; and scholars differ about the starting point of the day of the Lord when the earth will be renewed. [7]

Amos emphasized the day of the Lord as a day of darkness; (Amos 5:19-20) and Schwarz wrote that “the end of the days” or “in the latter days” (Is. 2:2; Jer.23:20; 30:24; Ezek. 38:16; Hos. 3:5) point to the day of the Lord and coming of His Kingdom, as the prophets realized that a new creation and a full salvation could only be reached through absolute destruction. [8]

The day of the Lord is a day of final judgement and a day of grace; and marks God’s final victory over His enemies in “the fullness of time” when time will be taken up into eternity. [9] The unbelieved are vulnerable to God’s wrath. God’s people should be holy as God is holy;[10] and the OT shows God is faithful to His promises though His people did not live up to the covenant. Christians under devine grace and love are to be thankful because being in union with Christ, mercy triumphs over judgement. (James 2:13)[11]

3. The Eschatological Figure of Jesus – His Death and Resurrection

The New Jerusalem is described as having a river of life and a life-giving tree, thus soteriology cannot be separated from eschatology.[12] In NT Jesus is understood as the Messiah.[13] The first Christian community witnessed that Jesus was Christ, the hoped-for Messiah. Christian eschatology is about the return of Christ, now hidden in the activity of the Spirit, but will be manifested in end times; and this Christian eschatological belief is basis of history’s telos.[14] It is important that man focus on the eschatos and not on the eschata, on Jesus Christ as He is the First and the Last, and the Living One, (Rev. 1:17) transforming the future of humanity and its history; and this truth is not to be replaced.[15]

The hope for a new world is grounded on the Christ event. Through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, creation is set free from its bondage of decay with redemption of believers’ bodies and a new life, because “He who raised Christ from death will give life to your mortal bodies also”. (Rom. 8:11, 19-23). Consummation is the disclosure of the new world enabled by and started in the resurrection of Christ. All things have been created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16) [16]

Jesus’ resurrection, central to the Gospel and Christian faith, is the first fruit of the dead presupposing Christians’ hope of resurrection, a “newly embodied life”. (1 Cor. 15:29-34; 15:20-23) Paul compared the present and future bodies bringing out a tension between continuity and discontinuity which is illustrated with the metaphor of the sown seed and plant. (1 Cor.15:36-38; 42-44) Paul also used the metaphor “tent” for the body in which we live, (2 Cor. 4:13-5:10) and this tent will be replaced with a “heavenly dwelling”. [17]

Resurrection and God’s Kingdom are eschatological symbols, with resurrection indicating a Kingdom beyond historical experience and beyond death. [18] Resurrection is the power of the future already at work in the present and the proleptic anticipation of Jesus’ final reign. [19]

In John, realized eschatology is presented with believers having eternal life now. (Jn. 3:36; 5:24-27; 11:24-27; 17:3) [20] Resurrection is also a cosmic hope for the redemption and renewal of the cosmos; (Rom. 8:19-22) and God will be all in all.

Moore wrote that George Ladd proposed an evangelical inaugurated eschatology to establish the present and future aspects of the reign of Christ as Messianic King. Ladd wrote that the Kingdom has arrived “already” in the person of Jesus; but will continue till His return for the “not yet” consummation in the Millennial Kingdom and the eternal state. The Christ event is not preparation of the Kingdom, but actualizing the Kingdom in history. [21] The key element in inaugurated eschatology is the One whom God has exalted as “both Lord and Christ”.[22] Jesus’ proclamation and apostolic witnesses are eschatological in nature and is centered on the Kingdom. (Acts 2:14-36) The “already” and “not yet” aspects of the Kingdom are seen in the identity and mission of Jesus as Messiah; and also reflects Christ’s coming in terms of fulfilling the Abrahamic and Davidic Covenants. (Luke 1:32-33; 55; 68-75) This theology links Christ’s coming, resurrection and ascension to the Kingdom promises in the covenant. (Gen 3:15; 17:6; 2 Sam. 7:12-16) [23] The resurrected Christ has assumed His eschatological reign from His Father’s right; (Ps. 110; Acts 2:34; Rom. 1:3-4) and is the forerunner of the eschatological Kingdom. (Heb. 1:10-13) Eschatolgy thus presented also provides a Biblical understanding of the relationship between the inaugurated Kingdom and the coming of the Spirit. Jesus’ saying of sending the “living waters” of the Spirit (John 7:38) is implicitly eschatological; as “living waters” points to the OT teaching on the eschatological Kingdom. (Zech. 14:8-9)[24]

Fiddes wrote that Adventum is not just “what will be” but “coming towards the present”, and is a “completion of the way” of Christ “in His eschatological person”. Parousia means arrival or presence, indicating the already existing Lordship of Christ, which is hidden to many, will come to open presence. Paul used the OT term “the day of the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; Phil. 1:6; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2) as the day God will manifest Himself in judgement and blessings.[25]

Hart wrote that the Christ event exposes the falsehood of worldly teleology. By belonging to Christ, one has the freedom from death brought about by man’s own wills and doings. Jesus’ breaking of the bondage of death has enabled the power of new life passing onto all humanity, but Easter will be completed only in the raising up of the entire body of humanity in the eschatological restoration of creation. For the present, the Church as the mystical body of Christ is the visible form manifesting the as yet invisible.[26]

The linearity symbol of theological conviction of history indicates that history is moving toward one God-intended end anticipated in Christ. The hope with Christ’s victory is alive despite the darkness of this world as Christ is the light; and life is a gift of God through Christ’s atoning death.[27] The world, though now ravaged by sin, is being redeemed by Christ who invites believers, empowered with the Spirit, to join Him in bringing the world to submit under God’s will. Faith in Christ is confidence of Christ’s coming for the eternal Kingdom that is in the making.[28]

4. Eschatological Hope and Fulfillment of God’s Promises

Hope is the expectation of something good or something desired to be fulfilled, though there is no guarantee, so hope differs from guarantee. [29] In Christian hope God is the object hoped for, and the ground for our hope. (Titus 2:13; Ps. 71:5) Christians await with confidence as “hope does not disappoint” (Rom. 5:5) with Christ in us through the Spirit; even though they don’t know when it will be fulfilled. (1 Thess. 5:1-10).[30]

Christian eschatology embraces destiny of individuals and the world with the hope of a transcendent future which is determined decisively by Jesus’ resurrection. Hope signifies telos (goal or purpose), and eschatological hope beyond death is participation in the everlasting life of the eternal God through faith in the resurrected Christ, and God’s promise is the reason for eschatological hope. Christian eschatology unites future destiny of man to that of individuals of all ages and this vision overcome interests of individual and society. This hope includes the final future of an individual and all creation. One’s relationship with God will not end beyond the hour of death. The faithful will go to heaven and be with the Lord, (1 Thess. 4:17) will have the image of Christ, (1 Cor. 15:49) with bodily transformation. (Phil. 3:21) The return of Christ will inaugurate consummation of the history of salvation with communion of a renewed humanity in God’s Kingdom. Resurrection means salvation, (Is. 26:19) and eternal life in communion with God. [31]

Eschatological hope is related to God’s promises, and to hope is to trust God’s constancy and that the present is on way to perfection. Hope is related to the Triune God, the sovereign and intended fulfillment of the steadfast love of the Father, Son and Spirit, so that by grace a person is born anew, and can look joyfully beyond the present , thus shaping the practices of Christian hope.[32]

Christians existing in “eschatological situation” define hope not by self-realization, but as “one under the promise inserted into the hidden history of Jesus Christ.” [33] This new life is a life towards the future in which God’s purpose will be completed. Hope is the spiritual knowledge (Rom. 8:24) of our future good given by the Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance; (Eph. 1:14) and such knowledge is the basis for believers’ action towards the future.[34]

One needs to be sure that one’s hope rests upon reality or things actually happened and not ideation.Christian hope focuses on the crucified and risen Lord, and redemption constitutes new beginnings. Believing sinners are forgiven through Jesus’ atoning death and are justified with a new identity as God’s adopted children with the promise of eternal life,[35] and in baptism, the new life is hidden with Christ in God, [36] focusing on God and His coming reign. Christians turn to the future because it is already secured. This future good is Christ Himself, (Rev. 1:17) and to turn to Him in hope is the only way forward. Christians are confident in God’s providence and long for the full realization of life with Christ.[37] Because of God’s loving kindness and faithfulness believers can have hope, just as the Israelites even when they were in Exile; (Lam. 3:21-23)[38] but nonbelievers have no hope. (Eph. 2:12).

Sauter quoting Calvin wrote that “hope is nothing else than the expectations of things that faith has believed to be truly promised by God.”[39] Christian hope relies on the Christ event as the “already” of salvation, and the “not yet” of eschatological expectation.[40]

The Lord is truthful and He keeps what He promises. (Ps. 33:4) God opens up a stretch of space and time in which He acts. [41] The theological interrelation of promise and fulfillment points to God’s speaking and acting, which cannot be separated clearly but form a unity. Promise invites believers to sense the consummation of God’s ongoing work.[42] Fulfillment characterizes ways God acts to pursue His will, and God will realize His promises in His own ways, often in ways contrary to human expectations. Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension are the fulfillment of the promises of God. Believers are to expose and entrust themselves to the Word of God. Renewed listening to God’s promises awakens hope in God.

Hope in Christ is a living hope, the hope of an inheritance reserved in heaven which nothing can destroy; (1 Pet. 1:3-4) and Christians have eternal security (John 10:28) if they do not turn to sin; and nothing can separate believers from the love of God.(Rom. 8:38-39) This stands in contrast to secular hope.[43]

5. Death as Gate to the Eschaton - Immortality and Christian Faith

The denial of death and quest for immortality are seen in present-age cryogenics, and also in Qin Shi Huang of China in third century B.C. As a consequence of the Fall, all are sinners; (Rom. 5:12) and the wages of sin is death, (Rom. 6:23) and all will die. (Heb. 9:27) Death is not the default setting for humanity, but represents God’s judgement for sin. (Gen. 2:17) Life and death in the Bible are not limited to the biological level. Most important is having a life reconciled in relationship with God the Creator. Existence without eternal life in Christ is death; but believers at death are on way to heaven, they will live even after death, (John 11:25-26) in a new perfected body; (1 Cor. 15:35-56) while unbelievers are resurrected into eternal death. (John 5:28-29) [44] Physical death is irreversible, and decisions made in this life have eternal significance.[45]

The Christian message announces victory over death. [46] In one sense Christians already experience the power of resurrection. (John 6: 50; 11:25-26) Death is the transition from this life to the life to come. Stephen was received by Christ at death (Acts 7:54), the poor man is carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22); and Jesus assured the thief that he will be with Him in paradise. (Luke 23:43) Scripture tells that unbelievers will be in sheol or hades. [47]

Luther wrote that flesh and blood must die and rise in a new spiritual being in order to reach heaven. Those in Christ do not perish in death, (1 Cor. 15:16-23) but are said to be asleep. “Asleep” is theological and eschatological, corresponding to entering God’s rest. (Heb. 4:1-11) [48] Immortality is conferred to believers and in eternity Christians drink the water of life; (Rev. 22:17) [49] and with resurrection believers are elevated into the presence of God.[50]

6. Heaven and Hell

For Luther, those fallen asleep in Christ are raised to life at Christ’s return. For Calvin there is the immortality of soul, and there is an intermediate state between death and the final resurrection.[51]

Sheol (Hebrew meaning grave, pit) is a place of darkness (Job. 10:21-22) where the dead do not have communion with God, (Is. 38:18) though God has power over life and death. (Job 26:6-14; Prov. 15:11; Ps.139:7-12; 1 Sam. 2:6)[52] In Jewish literature there were separate divisions in sheol for the righteous and unrighteous,[53] paradise is a kind of interim heaven, and hades a kind of interim hell. Hell, with an eschatological concept, is final destiny for unbelievers under the wrath of God. [54] Death and hades will be cast into the lake of fire, (Rev. 20:14) or gehenna.[55]

Hart wrote that the Kingdom is an event involving election and rejection. Hell is in sinful hearts that are against the truth about Christ. It becomes visible as hell under the light of Christ. Damnation is the resistance to divine love; and hell is the soul’s refusal to become vessels for the beauty of God. [56] Barth wrote that there exists an inevitable enemy that one cannot resist without God’s aid. [57] Hell in NT can mean death and its power; but Christ has conquered death and death for Christian is not hades or hell.[58] Luther’s discovery of a gracious God overcame his fear of hell and Christians need not be afraid of judgement.[59]

In OT heaven denotes the source of salvation, God and His power and His transcendence. (1 King 8:27)[60] Biblical hope is based on faith in the God “who gives life to the dead”; (Rom. 4:17)[61] and believers’ names are written in the book of life. (Rev. 20:15) Being in heaven is being with God in an indestructible communion of life. [62]

Heaven refers to the future home of believer and present dwelling place of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:1-2; Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10) Heavenly places suggest blessings perceived by faith here and now (Eph. 1:3, 20-21) as citizens of heaven. (Phil. 3:20-21)[63] Heaven is a consummation of the Christian doctrine of salvation. [64]

Christians confess “resurrection of the body and life everlasting”, though knowing little about it. [65] God’s promise contained in the Christ’s event provides a realistic hope, not a utopian dream, but vision of the New Jerusalem, (Rev. 21) where believers see God face to face, (1 Cor. 13:12) and God will be “all in all”. (1 Cor. 15:28)

[1] W.L.Kwok, “TH513 Lecture Handouts” (Hong Kong: Alliance Bible Seminary, 2011), Lesson 9. - Gerhard Sauter wrote that eschatos isthe coming one”, the Messiah.

[2] David Fergusson, “Eschatology,” in The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine, ed. Colin E. Gunton (Cambridge University Press, 2002), 226.

Zachary Hayes, Visions of a Future (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992) 32. - Theological vision mediated by apocalyptic literature, which is a revelatory genre, discloses an otherworldly transcendent reality envisaging eschatological salvation in a supernatural world. And eschatology is a theology of history, concerned with looking expectantly to God’s fulfillment in a transcendent realm.

Eschatology is vision of life seeing history moving towards a God-appointed end. The theological significance of apocalyptic is the ultimate destiny both of an individual and that of whole of god’s creation. This raises the question of the nature and meaning of human involvement in this world and is important in the development of Christian eschatology. Controversial areas of eschatological hopes: setting a date, the Millennium, universal salvation.

[3] Hans Schwarz, Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 367. - quoting Friedrich Beiber and Thomas Finger

The apostolic proclamation that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Cor. 5:18-19)

[4] Miroslav Volf and William Katerberg ed.,The Future of Hope (Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), ix.

Medical science, economic growth, technological advances, fast flow of information demanding fresh attention, and politics are changing the lives of mankind in this postmodern world. In reality the world is full of uncertainties: climatic disasters, disregard of eco-environment, famine; nuclear catastrophe, political tensions, terrorism and counterterrorism; fraud in food production are just some of the many aspects affecting lives in this globalized world. In some countries end-state is a secularized “classless- society” of the communism vision, hope inspiring revolution activists, but for Christian the future is dependent on God, man’s effort for political changes in anticipation for a just one may result in more tyranny is leaving people without genuine hope of moral and material improvement and in turn creates tension between secular and theological eschatology.

[5] Such as demolition of the Berlin wall, the September 11 event in New York and the recent unrest in Africa and Middle East.

[6] Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 233. - Fergusson quotting Ernst bloch.

[7] Walter Elwell, ed., Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998), 588.

Donald Bloesch, The Last Things (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 62-63. - In realized eschatology (See footnote # ) fulfillment took place in Christ’s incarnation; and in futuristic eschatology consummation will take place in His second advent in setting up the eternal Kingdom. The attitude of the church is one of expecting and waiting. Bloesch 67 wrote that the day of the Lord also signifies the crisis of death besides comprising an event in history. Death as gateway to victory, a parousia of the Lord and manifestation of His glory. (Ps. 73:24; Acts 7:55; Luke 23:42) Death is also related to judgement. (Eccl. 11:26-27; Luke 12: 16-21; 12:20)

[8] Schwarz, Eschatology, 44.

Schwarz (390) - quoting Martin Luther that this world is a preparation and scaffolding for the other world, and the scaffolding will be torn down as soon as the house is finished.

[9] Bloesch, The Last Things , 62-63.

The day of the Lord will be a time of rejoicing as well as for judgement (Amos 5:18-20; Zeph. 1:14-16; Joel 2:1-11; Is. 34:8; Mal. 4:1; Rom. 2:5-9; Heb. 10:31; Rev. 6:16-17). The day of judgement is also for the church (1 Pet. 4:17; Luke 12:47-48; Matt. 8:12; 13:41-42); and also judgement of our works (Matt. 12:35; 37; Rom. 2:6-13; 1Cor 3:13-15; Rev. 20:12), though we are saved despite of our imperfect works. The everlasting divine order will be established in the fullness of time. – (Bloesch, 66) quoting Hendrikus Berkhof.

kairos means divinely appointed time and chronos indicate clock time .(Mark 1:15; Matt. 26:18; Gal. 4:4-5; Eph. 1:10)

[10] Exod. 19:6; Lev. 11:44; and God has given His law to His people for the gracious ordering of and caring for life.

[11] Bloesch, The Last Things , 70.

[12] John A. McGuckin, “The Book of Revelation and Orthodox Eschatology” in The Last Things,ed. Carl E. Braaten, and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 119. – Rev. 2:1-2.

[13] Schwarz, Eschatology, 44. - Messiah, (Hebrew, Christos in Greek) or the Anointed One, usually denotes the king of Israel ( 2 Sam. 1:16) who was anointed when he was designated king; and there was hope that a God-provided figure, a Messiah, will come to deliver the Israelites, though Messiah in OT is not used in an eschatological context.

[14] John Webster, Word and Church. Essays in Christian Dogmatics (Edinburgh: t & t clark, 2001), 274.

Eschatology is confessing Jesus’ name, confessing that He’ll come, Promises in the bible eschatology distinguishes eschatology from predictive futuriam, as in the creedal confession that “He will come again” is as certain as God is the creator , that Christ suffered died and resurrected, which is the assurance of faith. Eschatological certainty is based on confidence in God’s promises; and not certainty by spiritual hope. God’s promise is hidden and God is beyond human grasp.

[15] Webster, Word and Church, 274.- eschatos is Christ; (see also footnote #1) and the eschata (Matt.12:45) is “the last state”.

[16] Schwarz, Eschatology, 389-390.

[17] Keith Innes, “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity,” Evangelical Quarterly 81.2 (2009): 132.

Gordon D Fee, The Fisrt Epistle to the Corinthians. NICNT. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987),1Cor. 15. - 1 Cor. 15:28 The resurrection of Christ has determined our existence for all time and eternity. Christ is the first fruits of those who are His, who will be raised at His coming. 15:50 - Our present body form composed of flesh and blood is subject to decay, thus is not suited for eternal longevity.

There will be cosmic redemption as suggested by Eph. 1:10, and gathering up of all things through Christ with a cosmic reconciliation leading to universal peace. (Col. 1:15-20)

[18] Hayes, Visions of a Future, 146 - The Kingdom of God is a symbol of collective state of salvation in which the final relation between God and His Creation will be realized. Jesus’ resurrection is affirmating that the Kingdom has been realized in Christ and is the anticipation of what God intends for the world.

Schwarz, Eschatology, 46. - Though (Ezek. 37:1-14) concerns the restoration of the Israelites after the return from exile, Schwarz wrote that the metaphor of the resurrection of the dead stresses the miraculous aspect of God’s restitutive action in resurrection of the dead.

[19] David Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 230.

[20] Though the return of Jesus is also reflected; (Jn.5:28; 1 Jn. 2:28) with the Spirit continuing the mission of Jesus among believers. There is a tension between the present realized eternal life and the future fulfillment in the Kingdom.

[21] Russell D. Moore, The Kingdom of Christ (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), 32.

[22] Moore, The Kingdom of Christ, 56. - Reformed tradition tends to emphasize the Kingdom of Christ in almost present spiritual terms. 2 Sam. 7 can be used for understanding the NT witness to the Messianic Kingdom; and that the present Kingdom is not just spiritual. Evangelical amillennialist (such as Berkhof) emphasized the present Kingship of Christ articulating it in spiritual and soteriological terms

[23] Michael Sleasman, “Swords, Sandals and Saviors” in Everyday Theology, ed. Kevin J.Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 144. - In OT, hope is related to covenant and promise; and the hope of Israel rested in the positive fulfillment of the promises in the Creation, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic and Davidic covenants. (Gen 9:1-17; 12:1-3; 15:1-21; 17:1-22; Deut.6:8-30; 2Sam.7; 1Chron17) Exodus is the backdrop against which Israel’s experience of hope unfolded.)) The hope for God’s people is twofold: a restored relationship with God and a Messianic future. In NT Heb. 4 echoes the new exodus and the promised land of the Kingdom of God. In the history of Israel we see the Israelites time and again ignored god’s promises of curse and the prophets called them to repent and to live awaiting the coming of Zion, the New Jerusalem.

In NT instead of hoping for God’s action, hope is focused on Christ whose life, death, resurrection and ascension are the fulfillment of all the promises of God. Jesus’ resurrection enables believers to anticipate their own resurrection. Because of what happened to Jesus, His disciples went forward.

Believers are living in a time of overlapping ages, this sinful world and also the eschatological Kingdom of god, which has begun but not yet fully as indicated in the Lord’s Prayer.

[24] Moore, The Kingdom of Christ , 35-36. - Recent theological discussions agree that eschatology focuses primarily on the Kingdom of God with heightening emphasis on evangelical theology.

[25] Paul S. Fiddes, The Promised End (Blackwell Publishers, 2000), 154.

Moore, The Kingdom of Christ, 32 - Parousia is not when Jesus assumes, but when this already existing reign is revealed to the blinded cosmos, and quoting Moltmann: parousia can be awaiting in the promise of God

Hayes, Visions of a Future, 163. - Parousia can mean presence or arrival. If emphasis is placed on arrival parousia is a future event bringing history to an end. If emphasis on presence, it is the abiding presence of Jesus, not a return of the Lord who has been absent from the world since resurrection, but symbolises completion on a cosmic scale of the process begun in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; or the consummation of history in God.

“rapture” is from latin rapere: meaning “caught up” (1 Thess. 4:17) and is “parousia” in Greek.

[26] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 406, 411.- Hart writing on Gregory of Nyssa’s universalism that Gregory saw two “gatherings” in his doctrine of the church: a former “in part” gathering with the Spirit acting in the Church ; and the latter “whole “ gathering of the restoration of all things , when the single body of humanity will be recognized as the body of the Logos.

[27] Hayes, Visions of a Future, 151.

[28] Bloesch, The Last Things , 59 . – Bloesch quoting Calvin

[29] Ernst Bloch (an atheist materialistic, maxist philosopher, and has influenced Jurgen Moltmann’s theological model of hope /1959) wrote on hope in everyday form of this world: hope is the vigorous stimulating human energy to imagine possibilities and to anticipate their reality in order to bring them into effect.

Michael Sleasman, “Swords, Sandals and Saviors” , 143. - Movies are popular and important medium in contemporary culture; and have become the new text by which questions about life is posted. Commenting on the film “Gladiator”, Sleasman wrote that the film addresses disillusion by hopes that disappoint, and hope that does not fail and eternal. Marcus Aurelius’s vision is a dream of freedom; and for Maximus is hope in the afterlife. The hopes of these characters resonates human experience of hope: for power and position, family and children, for acceptance and tranquility, for a just society.

Christian hope is not material conceptions of hope focused on elements of this world, or some ideal social state or government; but is attended by humility and patience, acknowledging that we are not masters of our own fate. Christian hope is based on Biblical and theological accounts and not on contemporary culture. The Biblical understanding of hope is the hope created by God and is given to those God elected. (2 Cor. 1:20) No one can “possess” this hope because God plants and nourishes it. A human hope could be disappointed. The grace of God enables believers to participate in His covenant of promise and share the God-given hope. Eph. 2:12-13???

For believers, hope is an authentic mode of existence in God’s redemptive history that culminates in a telos in which God makes all things new. Christians with eschatological expectation are entailed to ethical and moral practices here on earth while waiting for Christ’s return. (Col. 3:1-14; 1 Pet. 1:13) Sleasman 147-48

[30] Volf and Katerberg ed., The Future of Hope, 208-09.

[31] Wolfhart Pannenberg, “The Task of Christian Eschatology’ in The Last Things,ed. Carl E. Braaten, and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002), 9. - Pannenberg believed that hope for life beyond death, at individual and societal level, is essential for human living and NT confirms that such a hope is found in the gospel.

Resurrection and transformation are conceived as a single event (1 Cor. 15:50)

[32] John Webster, Confessing God. Essays in Christian Dogmatics II. (t & t clark, 2005), 200.

[33] John Webster, Confessing God , 206. - Webster quoting Gerhard Sauter, 1996. p197.

Gerhard Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007),179. - Sauter wrote that covenantal theology divides history and help us to understand the momentous events in relation to the coming of the Kingdom providing a concept of progressive salvation history. Eschatology is not just a coherent account for the hope that is in Christians, but opens theology with a sensitivity for history (quoting Martin Kahler 1898 /252) encouraging us to ask what is God’s living will in what we experience and what is God’s verdict on what happens. It is important that we first ask about God’s will and then how it can be brought into line with stories in human history. God steps into our life and make us recognize God’s will, and one can perceive only retrospectively God’s providence and these spiritual experiences are the sense of true hope.

One is to hope as a sinner redeemed and appointed by God to attain perfection together with the communion of saints.

[34] “The spirit of wisdom and of revelation” enlightens one “to know what is the hope to which God has called us” (Eph. 1:18)

[35] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad, 164.

[36] Kwok, “TH513 Lecture Handouts”, Lesson 9.

[37] John Webster, Confessing God , 206.

[38] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad, 127.

God’s children can always pray and turn to God in times of crisis.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in his prison cell in 1943: he believes that god will give man all the power we need to resist in all time of stress.

[39] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad , 20-21. - John Calvin (Instruction in Faith 1537) according to Calvin, hope looks forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise.

[40] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad 20-21.

Salvation is which is interpreted as the release from the binding forces of the world, and unity with God.

[41] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad , 53. - In order to review events and categorize them for historical understanding, man place themselves in times.

[42] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad , 53. - The Christ story is a diverse unity of promise and fulfillment. God promises that those in Christ may hope in God, and expect something new from God. To read a Biblical text as promise means to hear it as God’s promise of faithfulness.

[43] Sleasman, “Swords, Sandals and Saviors”, 144. - which includes broad experience of humanity and existing culture. A Christian is not a being-toward-death, but a being-toward-life or even being-toward-resurrection

[44] Ben Peays, “Fantasy Funerals” in Everyday Theology, ed. Kevin J.Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 219.

Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 230. - At death man enter some intermediate state, perhaps asleep or having a disembodied existence, but will resurrect with Christ’s return, (the parousia) which will be followed by the judgement and final destiny either in heaven or hell.

[45] Hayes, Visions of a Future , 97.

[46] Bloesch, The Last Things , 125.

The sting of death (1 Cor. 15:55) can be overcome only in Christ, and death for those in Christ is a passageway to eternal life, not a payment for sin; and Jesus was put to death in the flesh, but was made alive by the Spirit. (1 Pet. 3:18) Bloesch. quoting Bonhoeffer “death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom”; and quoting Athanasius “those in Christ know that in dying they no longer perish and that resurrection will render them incorruptible.”

[47] see also section “Heaven and Hell”

Bloesch, The Last Things , 129. - Those who died in Christ will be further clothed ( 2 Cor. 5:1-5) and will be invested with glorified bodies and will be like angels (Luke 20: 34-36) The common understanding in Biblical times was the dead are clothed in some kind of body. (1 Cor. 15:35; 1 Sam. 28:44; Matt. 17:3-4; Mark 9: 4-5; Rev 7:9 11:12)

[48] Bloesch, The Last Things , 129-130. Jesus speaks of “ falling asleep” as a name for death (John 11:11)

Bloesch wrote that at death the body (soma) is changed from flesh, (sarx) which decays, into glory (doxa), the divine element; Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Cor. 15:50)

[49] Bloesch, The Last Things, 132.

[50] Bloesch, The Last Things ,132. - “I will raise him up at the last day”,(John 6:54) to raise up means to be elevated into the presence of God.

[51] Bloesch, The Last Things, 35-36. Karl Barth believed that everyone has immortality in Christ. Bloesch also uphold an intermediate state for the saves and damned; and the gulf between heaven and hell is irrevocable for man.

Bloesch wrote that eternal life and eternal death begins now depending on our response to God’s offer of salvation Judgement is based on spiritual condition and relationship to God, either with everlasting rewards or to eternal punishment.

[52] Schwarz, Eschatology, 398. - Ps. 89:48

Hayes, Visions of a Future, 32. - For Jews life after death is associated with the underworld. In Greek Homeric literature, the underworld is hades, and in the Bible it is sheol.

[53] see also Luke 16:19-31

Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 952 - paradise is described as Abraham’s bosom, (Luke 12:66) or under the alter (Rev. 6:9) The intent of Luke 16:19-31 is not to give topographical information about the realm of the dead but to warn those who are not prepared for life after death.

Bloesch, The Last Things ,138.

[54] It is described in terms of darkness, irreversible pain, anguish and loneliness, (2 Pet.2:17; Matt. 22:13; 25:41) which is due to separation from God forever, because one has turned away from God.

[55] Bloesch, The Last Things ,138,

Hayes, Visions of a Future , 32. - Gehenna (Greek) (Mark 9:48) refers to the valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem which is a cultic site where human sacrifice was offered. (2 kings 23:10; 2 Chron.28:3) and it is a place of inextinguishable fire with undying worms for those who against God. (Is. 66:24)

Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. 952. - Gehenna is a symbol of unending fires where the lost is consumed in torment, symbol of judgement imposed on idolatrous and disobedient; (Jer. 7:31-34; 32:35) and the place of the dead or the place where the wicked dead are tormented before the final judgement.

[56] Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite, 399-400. - For Eastern Christian thought, death, sin or hell speaks of the same deprivation, and is consigned to the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:14) Hell is no place within creation, though its dominion is suffered everywhere.

[57] Bloesch, The Last Things , 58.

[58] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 912-13. Peter Davids in elwell

[59] Schwarz, Eschatology, 398, 400. - With Christianity becoming the official religion under Constantine (ca. 280-337) there is emphasis on the final judgement and possible damnation for Christians with unchristian lives. Hell was a significant topic in the Middle Ages and Martin Luther’s fear of personal damnation is a factor in the Reformation.

[60] Schwarz, Eschatology, 398.

Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 940. - heaven can imply a lower, physical or upper, spiritual realm

Bloesch, The Last Things , 138. - The eternal heaven signifies the very presence of God. According to Barth, eternity is God’s spaciality and God is beyond the highest heaven. (1 Kings 8:27). The eternal heaven is at the same time the new heavens and earth.

[61] Also, God’s life-giving power in 1 Sam. 2:6; Deut. 32:39; Job 19:25.

[62] Hayes, Visions of a Future , 191.

The creedal statement of “communion of saints” points to the church in this world and also fellowship with those in Christ in heaven

[63] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. 940. - They are to observe laws of their homeland, (Acts 22:28) to seek things that are above, (Col. 3:1) and not standards of the world.

[64] Alister McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven (Blackwell Publishers, 2003). 164.

[65] The Apostolic Creed.

Schwarz, Eschatology, 403. - quoting Martin Luther “as little as children know in their mother’s womb about their birth.”


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