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Home Special Topics Eschatology Yu Pui Man: Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 2)
Yu Pui Man: Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 2) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 27 September 2011 14:41

Is Christian Eschatological Outlook Important for this World? (Part 2)

 

Referee: Dr. Benedict Kwok

Author: Yu Pui Man

 

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7. Justice and Love of God

God loves the world and wants all to be saved, (Rom.11:32; 1 Tim. 2:4) but God’s justice requires punishment for those not responding to God’s self-initiated reconciliation. (John 3:36; Rev.14:11) [1]Judgement is finalization of one’s life attitude and God does not choose hell as destiny for man. By rejecting the work of the Spirit, one is convicted of eternal sin, (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10) which deserves eternal punishment. (Matt 25:46) [2] There is no indication in Scripture that sinners in hell are capable of repentance and faith. Universalism[3] and annihilationism[4] are attractive, and the doctrine of hell may seem difficult for human sentiment and some think hell is incompatible with a God of love. If heaven is possible with man accepting God’s gift, then hell is possible with the same freedom of rejecting it. Human actions have consequences; and the reality of hell has to be taken seriously. Negligence will have ill effects on the church’s mission. [5] Despite sincere concern regarding universalism, one can only hope without knowing whether God’s grace will persist. [6] McGuckin in describing the icon of Pantocrator wrote that eschatology is about hope of healing and reconciliation. [7]

In Protestant orthodoxy the idea of Christ converting the lost in hades was questionable.[8] Most Reformed theologians interpreted Christ’s descent into hell as a figurative expression of the incomparable sufferings of Christ’s humiliation in His humanity.[9] Peter Davids interpreted 1 Pet. 3:19 as a proclaimation of judgement by the resurrected Christ to the imprisoned spirits; and in 4:6, Peter is arguing that response to the Gospel while alive will result in salvation, and Christians have hope of immortality.[10]

Evangelical agnosticism with Kark Barth as the representative upholds universality of Christ’s atonement, but the efficacy is dependent on how one responds to the Gospel. God’s grace is more powerful than human sin; but man do not know how long God will allow sin to continue and cannot assume all will enter the Kingdom finally.[11]

Bloesch proposed a theology of divine perseverance, [12] and quoting John Wesley wrote “we are not required to determine anything regarding their final state. God himself will judge as He pleased. The love of God if rejected will condemn instead of saving us.” [13]

Man desire heaven, but there is a final judgement, (Matt. 16:27; 25:31-32; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 20:12) of one’s response to God’s grace and gift. (Gal. 6:8; Luke 12:48) Christ in His incarnation has shown man the direction of life, and the Spirit empowers believers to pursue a life following Jesus’ example.[14] Schwarz wrote that Marana tha [15] shows the first Christian community was not afraid of this judgement. The Eucharist is regarded as an eschatological meal; and “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”(Rev. 22:20) both indicate the NT confidence and longing for the end times. [16]

This writer believes that Christ’s atonement is for all, but there is no salvation apart from faith. (Gal. 3:22) One can hope for the salvation for the condemned, and if Gospel can be proclaimed to the dead then one can hope for post-mortem salvation; but this is not part of the Gospel. [17] Now is the time for decision for life or death, which is crucial as it determines one’s future, and opportunity may never return and death is irreversible.[18]

8. Message of the Kingdom of God as an Eschatological Concept

A friend, once a refugee and has obtained citizenship of other countries after escaping from her homeland, shared that what one needs is the passport to the eternal Kingdom, which at last has given her security and joy. Jesus spoke about 90 times about the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven.[19] Pannenberg wrote that meaning of present can only be known in light of the future, and God’s Kingdom is the future that is promised to believers. [20] This Kingdom is a replacement of human government with a life of communion with God and believers united by faith living in obedience to the one God.[21]

Mcgrath also wrote that parables of heaven are communal in nature, as in banquets and cities, and eternal life is not projected as individual existence, but as the redeemed community in communion with God. [22] These themes are seen in Eucharist, which is important reminder of the death and resurrection of Christ, but is also hope and assurance of what will happen: being received into the presence of God. Eucharist is a clear image of heavenly feast and joy; and believers look forward to enter into the presence of the risen Christ. [23]

Major apocalyptic passages in the Gospel (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) have the message for immediate readiness. (Mark 13:37; Matt.24:27; 25:1-13; 1 Thess. 5:2) “The hour of fulfillment has begun” means God’s Kingdom has begun with Jesus’ coming, (Mark 1:15) and is manifesting itself already here and now, but it also has a future with the final judgement in end times. (Matt. 13:30) [24]Jesus is not imparting an eschatological timetable. “Immediate readiness” is similar to the decisive character of “now”.[25] Man never know when one will die, and death will make one’s present life attitude irrecoverable, thus man are to actively participate to the demand for immediate readiness as if every moment would be their last as the coming of the end time is unexpected. God wants all to participate in the Kingdom feast which could be the reason for the delay of the fulfillment.[26]

The message of the Kingdom, the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ resurrection, the Sacraments and life in the Spirit all have an eschatological aspect and are to be understood in terms of an expected future. [27] Millennial views describe the great tribulation as evil forces waging wars against the saints and the world, but the bridegroom will return. (Matt. 25:1) [28] Evangelical theology focuses on the “already” of the eschatological Kingdom in the present age, with Jesus bringing the eschaton into world history. The “already/ not yet” interpretation of fulfillment faces challenges in its application in contemporary socio-political concerns with the present/ future reign of Christ; but ultimately it is God and not man’s actions that is the hope of the world. [29]

“The Kingdom of God” is a metaphor expressing the hope of a restoration of the Davidic Kingship; and Christian hope is illustrated in Jesus’ preaching of “the Kingdom of God” in light of his own experience of God. It is also a metaphor of salvation pertaining to the final salvific action of God’s creation.[30]

Jesus’ message is one of mercy and not punishment. The Abba tradition and parables in Luke 15 show God’s rule is one of indiscriminate love, delighting in reconciliation. God’s rule can become actualized only when man respond to His love and follow His model of indiscriminate love. [31] The film “Kingdom of Heaven” entails forgiveness and reconciliation. [32] The eschatological vision of the Kingdom shapes one’s life and faith; and eschatological hope in religious faith is crucial in providing the framework within which a person lives his life. Followers of Christ[33] are journeying to the heavenly city; and anticipation of the journey’s end, the hope of heaven, is an important mean in sustaining one on the journey of faith.[34]

9. Anticipation of the Heavenly City

Some people may not believe in a life hereafter. Eschatological hope may be regarded as insane speculation with an impossible hope; or it may bring security leading to passive waiting and carelessness in this world. Pannenberg wrote that man must have some knowledge of the end if one is to have understanding of the meaning of the present. No one is able to be at the end of history, but the end of history has been realized proleptically in Jesus’ resurrection, which is an element in the future Kingdom. Jesus’ resurrection reveals and constitutes the meaning of history by actualizing its future end, and Christ is the indispensible key to interpret the whole historical process. [35]

For Hart, eschatological hope envisions the boundless beauty of the infinite; and the Kingdom will be a restoration of entire cosmos. (Rom. 8; Is. 65:17) [36] Webster wrote that the divine promising of our end commands us to move actively towards the promised; and with trust in Christ discouragement and opposition are outweighed. (Rom. 8:18) [37]

Christian hope is visible in believer’s activities in the world as they follow Christ in faith, and eschatology should enable effective Christian witness.[38] Just as Christ sends His disciples into this word as ambassadors of another world, the church is an outpost of heaven in a foreign land, speaking the language of the homeland and preaching a life with Christ in eternity; (John 17:15-18) [39] though Christians understand that man’s efforts cannot bring in the Kingdom, which will come in God’s way and time. Proleptic anticipation is not the end itself otherwise man’s activities will be the climax of creative revolution. The Proleptic anticipation only points to future fulfillment.[40]

Christian eschatology is Trinitarian: Christians are empowered by the Spirit to act in anticipation of the return of the Son, when the creative purpose of the Father will be fulfilled. God’s actions are reasons for good human actions.

The church is a symbol of the future in which eschatological hope is kept alive with anticipation of the heavenly city and is the space in which Christians can pray (1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:17, 20) and act hopefully in truth; and “to wait for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwell according to His promise”. (2 Pet. 3:11-13)[41]

The Book of Revelation focuses on the eschatological Lordship of Christ and His judgement over the world. The Ἀποκάλυψις (Rev.1:1) unveils and reveals prophetic message in continuity with OT prophets’ warning. God’s judgement is the central motif (Rev. 20:11-15; 21:6-8) and these prophesy are to warn and inspire. [42] Believers should fear and trust God. Fear because God is almighty and judgement is real; and trust is the appropriate action for God’s people. [43]

In a secular self-relying culture, the church is to witness a future provided not by man but by God. The mission of the church in anticipating mankind’s destiny is to providing a positive relation between present and future, anticipating the reality of the Kingdom as related to man’s destiny; and prepare to give account of our hope if asked. (1 Pet. 3:15) Love liberated by faith and hope can provide this mortal life with eternal meaning and joy. The eschatological symbol of the new creation becomes visible with the church’s involvement in social justice, human rights and serving those in need.[44]

The church under God’s sovereignty and renewal is to find answers for Christian ethics and doctrines by sincere Biblical theology, and to conduct a life glorifying God.The Bible teaches unity in Christ, and it would be disturbing to have a divided Christendom in proclaiming the Gospel.[45] All those in Christ will share the same celestial banquet.

10. New Heavens and New Earth

The exalted Lamb will illumine the holy city, and the tabernacle of God is with man and He will dwell with them (Rev. 21:3-5)[46] and make all things new, with a transformation of the entire creation set free from its bondage to decay. (Rom. 8:21)

The term discontinuity describes the belief that the environment in heaven is completely discontinuous with the present creation. Some believe that the millennium will begin with continuity and ends with discontinuity with the rapture, Jesus’ second coming, the millennnium, final judgement and destruction in Revelation.[47] Volf wrote that Christian eschatology is continuous with the present if justice is expected in a redeemed creation; and is discontinuous if the new order represents a revolutionizing of fallen structures.[48]

The new heavens and new earth is first mentioned in Is. 65: 17-25.[49] It is the eternal dwelling place of God and His people where righteousness dwell, (2 Pet. 3:13; Is. 51:6) and is a place of divine kindness (Is. 54: 10) free from sin. (Rom. 8:21)[50]

Fulfillment depends on God’s faithfulness; believers are to align our wills with God’s in working out His purpose which includes the different aspects of the church mission: evangelical, social, political and ecological. [51] “We know the last day will come, but we do not know what and how it will be after this life, but true Christians will have everlasting joy, peace and salvation”.[52]

12. Conclusion

In doing Christian theology, which is application of the Bible to life, one needs to grasp conceptually the nature of God and humanity; and the significance of God’s acts relevant and credible to the Christian faith. Vanhoozer believed that cultural literacy, and not culture-affirming, is crucial for faith seeking understanding of our everyday world.[53] Eschatology when properly understood and applied is source of comfort, (1 Thess. 4:18) encouragement, (1 Cor. 15:58) and challenge to faithful service and assurance. (Matt. 25:14-30) Because believers don’t know the time for Christ’s return, Christians are to make use of opportunities faithfully; but because of certainty of Christ’s return, believers are filled with hope and courage.[54] Fate is a cosmic determinism emptying life’s purpose; but God’s providence provides hope for victory over life’s circumstances. (1 Tim. 4:10)[55]

Christianity is a religion of hope focusing on Christ’s resurrection and His triumph over death, and hope for those who believe in Him. Christian eschatology has a theme that something happened in the past has inaugurated something new which will reach its final consummation in the future.[56] The implications of Christian eschatology is proleptic anticipation of “what God has prepared for those who love him”; (1 Cor. 2:9) and with assurance of salvation one can be certain about the eternity. Christians should trust only in Jesus who is “the pioneer and perfector of our faith”. (Heb. 12:2)

Theology is not just doctrines; beliefs and practice are two aspects of the same truth. Man is motivated to act out what one believes. One is to participate in striving for a better humanity and not to escape responsibilities. [57] With ultimate hope in the creator and redeemer of all things believers are inspired to live hopefully now, not yielding to pessimism or unrealistic utopianism. The message of the eschatological future should encourage believers to take the parable of the faithful steward seriously; (Matt. 25:14-30) and also to care for what God has created with proleptic anticipation.[58]

Israel has the missionary task to be light to all nations, (Is. 42:6-7)[59] and the church is to bring the Gospel to the whole world and be the living reminder that God want all people to be in the Kingdom, irrespective of their races and backgrounds.[60] Christians are to live their life faithfully with an eschatological outlook, and to witness to non-believers regarding their hope so that all will be accepted into God’s kingdom and anticipating Christ’s glorious return.

Time for faith is always now and one is to seek the Lord while He may be found (Is. 55:6; Jer. 29:13) as “God’s Spirit will not contend with man forever.” (Gen. 6:3) Jesus said those poor in spirit, and aware that they need God’s salvation will enter God’s Kingdom.[61] One is to beware of false teachings which may be attractive. Making and adhereing to the right decision is important. The rich man in Luke 16:23-31 is a victim of his own choices, and it is almost certain that he had heard about Moses and the prophets.[62]

The heavenly city will bring history into eternity. Spirituality is about what one does according to what one believes to develop the life of faith and maintain a relationship with God. [63] Christians should be conducting lives with an eschatological outlook, not ignoring the reality of death, but also valuing this life, and believing that this world will be transformed into God’s Kingdom, not by man’s efforts but by divine providence. Task of Christians is to proclaim, celebrate and to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, (2 Pet. 3:12) and hope in faith for the future because Christ is the Victor. With renewal of heart, believers are to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God.

 

 

Bibliography

Bloesch, Donald. The Last Things. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004.

Braaten, Carl E., and Robert W. Jenson, ed. The Last Things. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002.

Davids, Peter. The First Epistle of Peter. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990.

Elwell, Walter. ed. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998.

Fee, Gordon D. The Fisrt Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

Fiddes, Paul S. The Promised End. Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Green, Joel B. The Gospel of Luke. NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.

Gunton, Colin E. ed. The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Hart, David Bentley. The Beauty of the Infinite. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003.

Hayes, Zachary. Visions of a Future. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1992.

Innes, Keith. “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity.” Evangelical Quarterly 81.2 (2009): 126-144.

McGrath, Alister. A Brief History of Heaven. Blackwell Publishers, 2003.

Moore, Russell D. The Kingdom of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004.

Sauter, Gerhard. Protestant Theology at the Crossroad. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.

Schwarz, Hans. Eschatology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000.

Vanhoozer, Kevin J. ed., Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman. Everyday Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Volf, Miroslav and William Katerberg ed. The Future of Hope. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004.

Webster, John. Confessing God. Essays in Christian Dogmatics II. t & t clark, 2005.

———. Word and Church. Essays in Christian Dogmatics. Edinburgh: t & t clark, 2001.




[1] Salvation is in Christ only. ( Acts 4:12) God is just, (Rom. 1:20; 2:14-16) and nature and human conscious is a basis for judgement for those without knowledge of Christ.

[2] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 954. - Refusal to believe prevents mortal from entering His rest ( Num. 14: 20-23; Heb. 3:18-19) gradations of future punishment is found in the Bible (Matt. 11:20-24; Luke 12:47-48; Rev. 20:12013)

[3] Universalism teaches that eventually all men will be in heaven, quoting Eph. 1:10 and Col. 1:20 – that all things brought under Christ’s authority. But Christ did not die for satan. (Heb. 2:16) Satan and the beast shall be tormented forever. ( Rev. 20:10) For 1 Cor. 15:22 that in Christ all made alive, the context is teaching eternal misery of unbelievers in hell.

[4] Annihilationism says God raise the wicked to condemn them to extinction, but Bible says those in hell will be tormented eternally (Rev. 14:10-11)

[5] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 954. – Universalism is the belief that eventually all will be saved through the grace of God and annihilationism argues for the extinction of hardened believers as opposed to their condemnation to a life of eternal torment.

Hayes, Visions of a Future , 191.

[6] Schwarz, Eschatology, 397.

[7] McGuckin, “The Book of Revelation and Orthodox Eschatology” , 123-129. - The icon of Pantocrator in church domes are not shown with the same severity as depicted in icon of Christ enthroned as priest-emperor in judgement on throne of the apocalypse. Icon of the pantocrator has sublime peace and mercifulness; and the Gospel book is open on His left knee with the last judgement of the soul with the words: “come to me all you who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give rest to your souls.” (Matt. 11:28) McGuckin wrote that this is a profoundly comforting text laid open to the worshipper facing the severity of the throne of judgement; and the ultimate theology of the awesome judgement is shown in the mystery of God’s compassion. The mercy of God rectifies and redeems the world, and purifies hearts of creatures.

[8] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 952. - The creedal faith states that Jesus descends into hell (hades). (Source from 1 Pet. 3:18-20; 4:6; hints in Rom. 10:7; Eph. 4:9) and in Rev. 1:18 Christ holds the key of hell and death. Post mortem salvation is the possibility of deliverance beyond the grave; and Roman Catholic Church has the doctrine of purgatory versus the Biblical all-sufficiency of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.

[9] Bloesch, The Last Things , 143-147. -There are different interpretations of Christ descending to the underworld. (I Pet. 3:19-20, 4:6) Aquinas taught that Christ’s descent into the underworld is not to convert unbelievers but to put them to shame for their unbelief. Some wrote that final separation of the just and unjust has not occurred as heaven and hell are still in future. Salvation is certainty for those in Christ, but the condemned are not necessarily eternally condemned, but they are not yet saved. Some are teaching about universality of opportunity for salvation, the universal providence. Bloecsh (146) wrote that the idea of Christ’s salvation penetrates the realm of the dead was implied by their teachings on the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, (Luke 16:19-31) that God can bridge the chasm between the saved and unsaved in the world beyond, (Eph. 16:26) as nothing can separate man from the love of God, not even sin and damnation. (Rom. 8:38-39) and God’s love goes out equally to all. (Matt 5:45, John 3:16) Bloesch (227) believed that it is a gap only when unrepentant sin forms a barrier to salvation, but the gates of the holy city is opened, (Is. 60:11; Rev. 21:25) and Christ has the keys to hell. (Rev. 1:18) Bloesch (147) wrote that to view the descent as opening the door to salvation for those not yet in God’s family is more in keeping with the tradition of the church. But Christian’s hope is not based on Christ’s descent into hell but His resurrection and ascension.

[10] Peter Davids, The First Epistle of Peter NICNT. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 138-141; 153-155. - Even they died before the judgement. In Jewish and Christian traditions death is linked to sin. (Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 5:12; 6:23) God’s verdict for believers in the final judgement will be life. The reception of the Gospel makes a difference, no matter what others say, just as Christ was judged guilt and put to death, but was resurrected. The same assurance of salvation is found also in Rom. 14:8 and 1 Cor. 15:51-53.

[11] Bloesch, The Last Things , 38.

[12] Bloesch, The Last Things , 240. - Bloesch’s theory is based on the belief that God continues to pursue fallen mankind, even man in his freedom resists God’s love, or even beyond the barrier of death. God always directs both people of sin and people of faith to the cross and Christ resurrection. God’s grace triumphs over sin and when one believes, it is the Spirit that moves one to do so. (1 Cor. 15:10; Phil. 2: 12-13) The source of Christian wisdom is not the Bible as it stands by itself but the unity of the Scriptural word and the illumination of the Spirit, bringing God’s written word to life in a divine-human encounter.

Bloesch, The Last Things ,38. - Other views of Humanity’s final destiny Restrictivism see the grace and salvation of God restricted to the community of faith. Inclusivism see whole humanity included in plan of salvation, but not all respond to God’s saving initiative in a positive way so not all come to salvation. Universalists believe God’s grace encompass whole of human creation so all will be restored to salvific relation with God. Pannenberg (9) wrote that universal reconciliation entails acceptance not only of sinners but of evil. Judgement will be applied to all (2 Cor. 5:10) but those united to Christ by faith will be saved. Annihilationism believe that God does not force His grace upon anyone, some reject the gospel and thus fall into damnation with the exclusion from the Kingdom. Double-predestination upholds that some are predestined to salvation, and some predestined to damnation. This position is denying that God’s love is universal, though God’s sovereignty is preserved.Radical existentialism (of which Rudolf Bultamnn is a believer) is a clear deviation from Christian tradition in which hope lies in personal freedom that can be realized in this life through decision and obedience.

[13] Bloesch, The Last Things , 233.

Bloesch, The Last Things , 235. - Calvin’s comment on Col. 1:14: “by Jesus’ sacrificial death all the sins of the world have been expiated, and what God has determined concerning them is beyond our knowing; but it is no less godly and humane to wish and hope the best for them”

Bloesch wrote that God’s love is a holy love signifying judgement and chastisement. It is a danger to say that all are forgiven and end in heaven. (228)

[14] Posttribulationism pays attention to the realistic demand and cost of Christian life; and is mindful of divine resources to live in hardship.

[15] “Our Lord, come!” - 1 Cor. 16:22

[16] Schwarz, Eschatology, 390-391-Martin Luther did not perceive the final judgement as a day of wrath, but as a day of the glory of God. Luther believed that believers in Christ are not condemned, (John 3:18) thus true believers, being justified by God’s grace through faith are not afraid of the final judgement. Man have already pronounced upon ourselves God’s judgement. The judgement of the work of one who builds on the foundation of Christ in this life will have eternal life. (1 Cor. 3:11-13 )( Schwarz 393)

[17] The Good News is that those believe in Jesus have eternal life and have passed from death to life (John 5:24) but “those do not believe are condemned already” (John 3:18) John is emphasizing on the “now” as the anticipatory moment of the end. Other disciples and Paul are also saying similarly. (Luke 11:20; Matt. 12:28; Rom. 6; 2 Cor. 6:2)

[18] Schwarz, Eschatology, 381.

Bloesch, The Last Things , 42. Bloesch wrote that God’s grace is for all and wills no one to perish, but repentance and turn toward Him. (Rom. 11:32; Ezek. 18: 23; Pet. 3:9) Christ’s salvific work includes all for God’s act of forgiveness, but the benefits of this forgiveness are blocked by those with hardened heart.

[19] Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 230. – Occurrence in whole Bible:122 times.

[20] Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 236. - quoting Pannenberg.

[21] Pannenberg, The Task of Christian Eschatology”, 9.

[22] McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven , 165. - Jesus compares Kingdom of God to a feast, (Luke 14:15-24; 15:11-24) and McGrath wrote that this points to abundance of food satisfying human hunger. Man is created for fellowship with God and unless this relationship is established, it is empty. Feasting also point to invitation, and is about being accepted and welcomed by someone of importance. Feasting is celebration and rejoicing.

[23] Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 236-38. - The covenant relationship with God entails fellowship (koinonia) of the Spirit with the believing community anticipating the communion in the Kingdom; and with the participation of the Eucharist, believers are reminded of the celestial banquet to be enjoyed with Christ’s presence. The future is already present in church, and the Eucharist is a foretaste of the end of all things, with the believer binding to God and all believers. The Eucharist is a vision of the divine rule promised as the final renewal of creation. Signs of this renewal are seen when God’s grace is manifested in man’s work for love, justice and peace. In Eucharist the church gives thanks for these signs, celebrates and anticipates Christ’s return and coming of the Kingdom. (1 Cor. 11:26; Matt. 26:29)

[24] Bloesch, The Last Things , 15. - There are different views of the coming of the Kingdom: Preterists see all the promises of Christ fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Some embraced a realized eschatology (Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer) that the Kingdom is already manifested in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and in sending of the Spirit. The Kingdom has come and believers this age is to live in the freedom that the Spirit brings. Jesus is already victor over the power of death, sin, and hell, but this truth need to be proclaimed to all nations, so that its implication for daily life can be realized.

Some see the Kingdom predominately spiritual and the accent is on eternal life and not the end of world history. Rudolf Bultmann took the existential approach. The Kingdom is not established in history, but its reality helps shape the individual’s life. The end of the world is the end to inauthentic existence in repentance and faith. Some scholars combine existential approach with a futuristic eschatology.

Bloesch, The Last Things ,109-113. - Millennial eschatology envisions an apocalyptic intervention of Christ into earthly history to establish a millennial Kingdom before the eternal Kingdom. Among them are post-millennial, amillennial and pre-millennial views. Dispensationalism, pretribulationism and posttribulationism are subdivision of premillemmialism.

Ecclesiastical eschatology identifies the Kingdom with the visible church on earth between the first and second coming of Christ. Amillennial view is found to a degree in Augustine and Eastern Orthodox.

Progressive eschatology envisions the Kingdom as humanity organised according to God’s will, resulting in change in social order. Jurgen Moltmann stands in this tradition, seeing eschatological hope as “humanizing of man”, “then socializing of humanity” and “peace for all creation”. Hayes (134) wrote that there is danger if this dialectic is translated into political terms bringing revolutions with upheaval of the present. Hayes wrote that if future is divine then it cannot be identified with a future brought about by political revolution; and that Moltmann seemed to take the Kingdom metaphor with direct political relevance. With Biblical tradition, the transcendence of God is the source of final power to overcome the tragedy of historical existence.

There is the tension between the present Kingdom and its full realization in future.

[25] Schwarz, Eschatology, 384.

[26] Hayes, Visions of a Future , 45- 46.

Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 230.

[27] Schwarz, Eschatology, 371. - The Lord’s Prayer, as part of the Early Church’s communion liturgy, and participated only by the baptised—in “hallowed be your name” and “your kingdom come” man in a world of affliction and conflict looked forward to the revelation of God’s glory. Schwarze wrote that petitions for bread and forgiveness witness longing for the eschaton; and the church, when remembering who taught them this prayer, prayed amid failure but with confidence, saying “our father” and is certain of God’s faithfulness.

Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 241. - The promise of the Kingdom empowers those called to serve God in the present. The eschatological chapters in Matt.24-25 warn people not to neglect God’s service in this world. Believers are to help the poor and the sick. They are reminded of the cost of discipleship; but also the joy amidst miseries and trials which are made possible by God’s promise of the now and not yet Kingdom of God

[28] Schwarz, Eschatology, 397. Even the church will disappear; and disclosure of the new world is described with the term heaven; and hell is the term denoting exclusion from heaven.

[29] Moore, The Kingdom of Christ , 66.

[30] Hayes, Visions of a Future, 45-46.

[31] Fergusson, “Eschatology”, 230. - also Jesus’ teachings in Matt. 5:43-48

Hayes, Visions of a Future, 50. - And as such, the Kingdom metaphor loses the national and political overtones of the prophets.

[32] Clive Marsh, Theology Goes to the Movies, (New York: Routledge, 207). - In the film the Kingdom is depicted individually and socially in relation both to the present and the future and in the spiritual and political dimensions.

[33] Or followers of the Way (Acts 9:2; 24:14)

[34] McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven , 174. - quoting John Stott.

[35] Hayes, Visions of a Future , 138-139. - Pannenberg’s view on ontological implications of an eschatological view of the future.

[36] Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite , 398-400. - Christ as the eschatological light interrupted history at Easter, inverting the myth of ontological violence. The Kingdom comes with a verdict against man’s claims to power, self- sufficiency and sovereignty

John Webster, Confessing God , 200. - Hope sees human history as history of fellowship between the Triune God and His creatures. Man is redeemed and liberated from bondage to sin through Jesus’ atoning death (Eph. 1:8) and is set free moving towards perfection enabled by the work of the Spirit for the ultimate glorification of God. Christians understand this historical condition in the economy of God’s grace.

Bloesch, The Last Things , 247. - Bloesch quoting Karl Barth wrote that hope is the conquest of death and inspires us to apply God’s promise and gifts to our lives here and now. In response to Kierkegaard “earthly hope should be put to death” Bloesch (251) wrote that man should not give up human betterment in this world.

[37] John Webster, Confessing God , 211.

Bloesch, The Last Things , 246. - Hope enables Christians to go forward based on God’s promise. Christian hope sometimes entails giving up earthly hopes for heavenly promise: “in hope he believes against hope”. (Rom. 4:18; 8:24-25) Hope means placing our confidence in God alone and in hope we are saved. (Rom. 8:24-25)

David Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 238. - quoting Hendrikus Berkhof --Christian Faith 1986/540-The Kingdom points to a new quality of existence and Biblical images provide believers a direction for hopes and energies here on earth. With the principle of exclusion, eternal life is without sin, disease, catastrophe or death; and with the principle of extrapolation believers are to praise and thank God, seek unity in a society without fear, hatred and discrimination.

The powers of darkness are not yet destroyed but continued to be defeated through the Spirit. The Messianic Kingdom inaugurated by Christ is hidden in the visible church, history will reach an apocalyptic climax with final battle between light and darkness and devil will be thrown into lake of fire. (Rev. 20:10-15; Is. 27:1; Ps. 74: 1-15; Phil. 2:9-11)

[38] Anticipation is not just a spiritual reality but is embodied in everyday life. Christian faith is not a Sunday morning affair, but lives of the congregation are to have an impact on the local community.

[39] John Webster, Confessing God , 195.

David Fergusson, “Eschatology,” 228.

McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven , 178.

[40] Schwarz, Eschatology, 381.

[41] John Webster, Word and Church , 284.

[42] McGuckin, “The Book of Revelation and Orthodox Eschatology” ,114. - Believers in anticipation of future resurrection are to orient the practice of hope upon the eschatos (Christ), rather than the eschata (the events at the end)

[43] Fiddes, The Promised End , 149-153. - the parables of waiting (Luke 12: 35-40, the watchful servants and unexpected thief) illustrate the attitude of expectant waiting and Jesus warned that one whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48)

[44] John Webster, Word and Church , 263— The new creature in Christ bestowed by the Spirit is eschatological with a distinct teleology. The church now lies between the first and second advent of Jesus, and this space, postmodern or otherwise, determines the church and its theology

Schwarz, Eschatology, 370-371.- Ultimate hope in the Lordship of Christ and the coming Kingdom cannot be divorced from with our historical hope for freedom, justice, equality and peace” - from “A Common Account of Hope” statement on hope approved and adopted by the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches in Bangalore in August 1978

[45] Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad, xi. - Today ecumenical councils and unions are conducted. Unity is built on different gifts nourishing the body of Christ.

McGuckin, “The Book of Revelation and Orthodox Eschatology” , 134. - The church’s eschatological sensibility is “maranatha, come Lord! The Lord is coming”.

[46] Fiddes, The Promised End , 287. - The dwelling, skhnh, (Rev. 21:3 – meaning dwelling place, tent) of God recalls the divine presence of the tabernacle, מִשְׁכָּנִי֙ (miškänî - Lev. 26:11; Ezek. 37:27, meaning dwelling place, tabernacle; “shekinah” in rabbinic text) “The Word become flesh and dwell among us” (skhnow in John 1:14) indicates that the dwelling of God in the new creation is not of a different kind of presence from the “shekinah” in OT.

[47] Innes, “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity,” 128, 137. - Theologians have different views on future of the present world: destruction, transformation, and suffering. Polkinghorne suggested a combination of continuity and discontinuity.

Fergusson, “Eschatology”, 229.

Hayes, Visions of a Future, 31. - Apocalypse is a form of literature in which revelation from a heavenly realm is imparted to a human being; disclosing the coming end of the world and the nature of the supernatural world. The vision is a sudden irruption of God into the flow of world history with a radical discontinuity between the present and the future age; the evil is defeated with God’s complete victory, and there will be judgement and vindication

Innes, “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity,” 139. - Different views of eschatological interpretation are due to different interpretations of the Biblical texts. Readers are to be aware of dangers of speculations on things God left hidden. Scriptures are for our guidance and should be studied and taken to heart. Polkinghorne observed that systemic theologians tend to see the recreated universe coincide with end of human history; and scientist-theologians see the new creation as the natural end of the universe. But one is to note that fulfillment of God’s rule will be brought about by God, not by man, nor by natural processes alone, which is emphasiszed both by Moltmann and Pannenberg. And the new creation will be “the unrealized promise of the first creation finally achieved” (Innes 143 quoting Bauckham and Hart, Hope against Hope, 149

McGuckin, “The Book of Revelation and Orthodox Eschatology” ,129. - The concept of the linear drive of history has the destiny of the world summated as an event within sequence of world history, but the concept of eschatology has the telos that rectifies and redeems.

[48] Volf and Katerberg ed., The Future of Hope ,224.

[49] Also in Is. 66: 22-23

[50] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 1547.

Hayes, Visions of a Future , 203. - New Heavens and a new earth is renewal on a cosmic scale. Terms such as reconciliation, justice, love, truth, fullness of life are Biblical language for a hoped-for future, are also what human longed for in a world hostile to man’s efforts

[51] Innes, “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity”, 137. - vision of new Jerusalem in Rev. 21-22 and Ezekiel 40-48.

Schwarz, Eschatology, 404. - Christ is the Saviour and Creator. (John 1) The new world comprises new heavens and a new earth, and salvation in eschaton pertains to the whole creation. Consummation of the world is completion of time and perfection of our limiting forms of space, time and matter. The risen Lord is not limited by time, space and matter. Perfection of the forms also means elimination of sin and death as Christ is beyond the possibility of sinning and dying. In the new universe there will be no exploitation and injustice that man have brought onto nature.

[52] Bloesch, The Last Things ,78. - quoting Martin Luther

Bloesch, The Last Things, 77. - quoting G.L. Ladd that the renewal of the earth though breaking into history will be beyond history as the redeemed order will transcend both historical experience and realistic imagination, with a negation of the earth there will be new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1; Is. 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13) and God will be the light. (Rev.22:5) The eschaton will be the absolute future; quoting D.L. Moody: that one is not to watch and wait for the millennium, but for the coming of the Lord; and quoting Stanley Grenz: that God will make His dwelling with us in the glorious recreated cosmos where believers will experience full communion with the believing community, and God our creator and redeemer. The Kingdom is not built on earth by man’s efforts but Christians in this world are to herald its coming and to witness their faith with the spiritual gifts from God.

Bloesch, The Last Things , 113. - The Biblical language used in area of eschatology for most is symbolic and poetic. Now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). The glory of God cannot be contained in human imagination; (1 Cor. 2:9) and Christians are to wait in faith and carry on daily task with a hope not in the millennium, but in the eternity inaugurated by Jesus’ advent at the end of history.

[53] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman, ed., Everyday Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 18.- Cultural literacy, or the reading and writing of culture are required. Reading culture involves critical engagement, and writing culture is being an active participant. As with weather reports they report and predict. Cultural enviroment, hermeneutics and response of the church are involved in theological thinking for faithful Christian living.

[54] Elwell, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, 717.

[55] Bloesch, The Last Things, 252.

[56] McGrath, A Brief History of Heaven , 162.

[57] Schwarz, Eschatology, 404. - While living in this world it is important to address to the ever-changing social structure and ideas of this world; technological expansion and materialism have their undesirable effects; and Christians are to be aware of the limitation and sinful nature of mankind; but god is the source of all wisdom and all good things. Ultimate perfection and lasting hope can only be brought about by the gracious god; but Christians are to be serious about their mission in this world in witnessing the Christian message and making a difference in their society.

Erickson, Millard, A Basic Guide to Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 50.

[58] Innes, “Towards an Ecological Eschatology: Continuity and Discontinuity,” 128, 130. - Christian hope true to Scripture facilitates an ethical earth care or ecological stewardship. Some think for eschatology, the ultimate future depends on God’s action; and a Christian hope regarding fulfillment of God’s Kingdom is dependent on human faithfulness when emphasizing humanity as steward of creation may obscure the work of Christ. Ecological, social, political, economic and human relationships are pivotal issues in postmodern life. Authentic Christian hope depends on a balance between the concept of continuity and discontinuity with regard to eschatology.

[59] For traditional Dispensationalism, Israel is not replaced by the church.

[60] Schwarz, Eschatology, 374,

Sauter, Protestant Theology at the Crossroad , 17.

[61] Matt.5:3; and illustrating it with the humility and unquestioning faith of children. (Matt. 18:3)

[62]Joel B. Green, The Gospel of Luke, NICNT. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 608.

[63] John Webster, Confessing God, 214. - The moral dimension of Christian hope depends on one’s seriousness in reading themselves in light of the Gospel, and the worshipful forms of discipline and training in Christianness; though above all, formation in hope and discernment for appropriate acts are works of the Spirit and prayer is the first and last act.

 

 

 
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