The Eschatology of Now: Moltmann #1

I’m trudging my way through Theology of Hope by Jürgen Moltmann. It’s been truly eye opening but also really damn hard to wade through.
I decided to read it after having read Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright. I figured that if I was to understand anything about eschatology and hope, after reading a book dedicated to the topic of resurrection and the hope and life we are extended through it, I should begin with a book that is centred about exploring the centrality of eschatology for theology.
So what of Eschatology?
Well it would seem eschatology for Jürgen Moltmann is not the same as it is for many of us.
Eschatology is normally referred to as ‘the study of the last things’ and is for that reason understood as primarily to do with disconnected, unusual events, banished to the far off unknown future.
Moltmann contests that eschatology is, in short,
“the doctrine of the Christian hope.”[1]
This is not a futuristic, disconnected, other-worldly hope.
Eschatology is not simply a surprise Day of the Lord.
And absolutely is not some rapture nonsense.
Or a violent Armageddon in which the world is wiped out.
Or a deciphering of numbers and predicting 21st October 2011 as the end of the world.
(These last three are in fact thoroughly unbiblical.)
Moltmann contests
“Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present.”[2]
Eschatology does not have to do with the future explicitly. Eschatology has to do with moments in history from which we move into the wake of the future God is creating before us.
Eschatology follows God’s activity.
In Abraham.
In the Exodus.
In Israel.
And ultimately, in Christ.
These actions of God point us into the future, move us toward it, force us to experience it and realise its implications in the now ever around us, as we move into that future.
“Christian eschatology does not speak of the future as such. It sets out from a definite reality in history and announces the future of that reality, its future possibilities and its power over the future.”[3]
In fact as the Christian faith has only to do with Christ and what it believes God has brought about through him, in this way really, “Christian eschatology speaks of Jesus Christ and his future”[4] and as such the “Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ.”[5]
Eschatology in this sense is so affected by the events God has brought about in time, in the past that it cannot be just about the future. It is about the future opening up now!
Eschatology is not an end point. Eschatology is the beginning. It is hope awakened in the past, defining the present and moving us into the future. This is not a future we know in the fullness of every detail. It is a future we are discovering, knowing that it will be fulfilled by God in and through Jesus.
To this end eschatology is not the tacked on, awkward bit of theology we aren’t sure about. It is the beginning point for theology. It is the beginning point for theology because it is the beginning point of our knowledge of God, who has revealed Himself in past and present moments, which in turn point us into His future.
Christian eschatology makes Christians loud. It makes Christians disruptive because they have a future to proclaim rooted in the news of what happened to Jesus.
Eschatology is not megaphones and “turn or burn” messages loud.
Eschatology is not a Westboro Baptist kind of disruptive.
This is the kind of unrest that is caused when a man is raised to life after very thorough death and announces that what happened him will happen to any people who associate with him. And more than this will actually see creation rejuvenated and renewed along with us.
Eschatology is a disturbance because
“If Paul calls death the ‘last enemy’ (1 Cor. 15:26), then the opposite is also true: that the risen Christ, and with him the resurrection hope, must be declared to be the enemy of death and of a world that puts up with death. Faith takes up this contradiction and thus takes up this contradiction to the world of death. That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it… This hope makes the Christian Church a constant disturbance in human society… It makes the Church the source of continual new impulses towards the realisation of righteousness, freedom and humanity here in the light of the promised future that is to come.”[6]
Eschatology is a movement from now to then, it is not just about then.
Christianity isn’t good news if it doesn’t matter now.
Christianity isn’t good news if God gives up on here and relocates us there.
But Christianity is good news and that means we cannot be silent!
Christianity is good news because eschatology shows us the crucified-but-now-risen Christ.
Christianity is good news because eschatology is established in the promise of Christ.
Christianity is good news because eschatology manifests itself in hope in Christ.
Christianity is good news because eschatology points to the future of here renewed in Christ.
Christianity is good news because eschatology forces us to realise in part Christ’s future now.

[1] 3
[2] 3
[3] 4
[4] 4
[5] 3
[6] 7
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