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Basic Christian Doctrines X: Eschatology - A Final Hope for Humanity.

Updated: Jan 11


Final Hope means all things in Creation arriving at a turning point where there is no pain and suffering within a reality of eternal bliss and fulfillment. The purpose of this paper is to look at the modern theological approach to the Doctrine of the Last Things. It will conclude with my own interpretation on the matter of the End Times.


The Kingdom as Pure Energy and Perfection


German Lutheran Theologians Wolfhart Pannenberg (1928-2014) and Jurgen Moltmann (1926-), to name a few, have criticized an eschatology that has a future existence being assimilated by an eternal assault force from above.


To Pannenberg, theology must accept Jesus' messages of the Kingdom of God as a starting point for both Christology and Salvation and that the Kingdom of God is impending. The Kingdom of God is the eschatological future which only God has created. This eschatological future is a pure energy which has the power to determine the destiny of everything that exists. In this way, God is the future both our present and of all ages past.


For Jurgen Moltmann, Pannenberg's Kingdom lacks Transcendence or Perfection. However, the future can be a model of Perfection if it brings the present into a new and improved reality. If the present instantaneously becomes future, without a dramatic change in the very foundation of human existence, then the power of evil is expanded along with the good. The problem is that this new state is no better that the last.


Moltmann emphasizes that the purpose of the Kingdom of God, in Perfection, is to use its power to assault all the conditions of evil, within the boundaries of reality, and to lead it forward through a creative transformation of human existence. He also believes that it is possible to project a perfect future of history as opposed to a future history. A better future of history can be hoped for, on the basis of the power emanating from the perfected future of history, opening up new prospects and possibilities.

Contemporary Theology


In the Bible, Apocalyptic Eschatology looks beyond the salvation of Israel to a final future of the world, when the whole of creation is guided into the redemption of the last days. The danger of the traditional eschatology is that it can leave the real world and enter a fantasy world beyond space and time. However, humanity is not satisfied to stand still within the confines of the infinite. It is human nature that pushes us forward to a new life and to seek freedom in God. The essence of God is pure freedom-the only being free to be on its own.


The freedom that humanity seeks is derived from beyond itself, from a source of freedom that is in the very Being of Creation itself. The Salvation that humanity seeks, Paradise, Heaven and Eternal life, is not a place of rest. It is the final ecstasy of life, an indispensable transit into a new reality.


Contemporary theology is trying to overcome a false dichotomizing of eschatology into this worldly and other worldly hopes. Hope can be described as an expectant looking toward the future for what is new. This can be understood by use of a language that Lutheran Theologian and Existentialist Philosopher Paul Tillich (1886-1965) called "The negation of the negative". This means that the negatives in human experience is neutralized.


The goal of the Doctrine of the Last Things is to have as a starting point for eschatology, like the prophets, a place in the struggles of the people. In a real sense, a tangible hope in neutralizing the negatives in there lives. From this, it may be possible to increase hope and envelop the whole of reality in a universal eschatology. And it is through the eschatological events of Jesus, as German Lutheran Theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) asserts it, "that God sets an end to the old world". This event does not begin with a cosmic cataclysm, but as a happening within history, beginning with the appearance of Jesus Christ and is present in the world in perpetuity.

Liberation Theology


Liberation theology deals with Eschatology by analyzing present worldly conditions. It is only after that, do they outline the Biblical truths in Eschatology. Philosopher and Roman Catholic Theologian Gustavo Gutierrez (1928-) defines theology as a critical reflection on the human condition. The truth emerges in the language that reflects the communities rendezvous in the liberating transformation of the world. For Gutierrez, and many others, Liberation theology has a place in the struggles of the people.


With Liberation theology, the image of the kingdom of God represents Hope for both personal and social fulfillment. The promised Kingdom points toward a situation in which the sick are healed, where peace will reign and where love will forge harmony for the good of all. In such a liberating condition, we can find clues to what God is doing in the world. The Kingdom of God begins Now. The Biblical promise of Salvation becomes alive as it speaks to the people in there genuine struggles for purpose in life, not to mention the problem of survival.

The Final Hope Will Come When

Christ Returns In Glory


Final Hope means all things in Creation arriving at the turning point where there is no pain and suffering within the reality of Eternal Bliss and Fulfillment. After Jesus' final earthly appearance, humanity entered into God's inner being. I believe, it is at that this very point that God is realized as the Creator of the universe in a more intimate and relational way. We are truly 'Home with the Father' and we will finally understand the ultimate meaning of the whole work of Creation. When the Last Things have concluded, the Kingdom of God is fulfilled and there is a definitive awareness that God's plan is to gather all things into Christ.


When this happens and we are all gathered into the Devine, we witness Jesus, not as our judge, but rather the bearer of a New Life and Salvation. It is humanity which will judge itself by either accepting or rejecting God's Love and Mercy. Thus, we receive our eternal reward according to both our Faith and our Works. In order to implement Salvation, the two are inseparable.


The Church has a Mission from Jesus Christ to spread the Good News of His Father's Salvation to all the world. It is Christ's Spirit that guides the Church in this Mission. It is Christ, as the Church, who awaits the fulfillment of the Kingdom and His final return in brilliance. Because of this eschatological reality, Jesus is not a past event, but is ever present, always preaching and always teaching us His Message of Eternal Life.


End

Originally entitled Modern Eschatology

A Final Hope For Humanity was submitted to Dr. William Close as a Master of Theological Studies course requirement 511v-Basic Christian Doctrines St. Stephen's Theological College University of Alberta

Published on November 25th, 1996

{Revised September 28th, 2023}


© Dr. Charles Warner 2023





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