Eschatology - The Last Things

Eschatology: the four last things: heaven, hell, death and judgment.

The usual human reaction to eschatology is to put humanity at the centre but the central subjects of eschatology are:

We are considering the last great cosmic act of God in the return of Christ for the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment.

The 20th Century shift from the centrality to the marginality of death, from the church yard to the cemetery. If there is no Resurrection of the human, life is meaningless (1 Corinthians 15); earthly life is incomplete and only afterwards will we achieve the full knowledge of God rather than "through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12.), fulfilling our human, incomplete but serviceable eschatological perception.

The four last things anticipate a transformed post resurrection life, the final state of the redeemed. The sceptic attack based on logical positivism; the principle of verification is not verifiable.

Hebrews 11:1; the concept of promise entailing faith which is not the same as credulity: the Incarnation, Word and Sacrament are full of promise; trust defines Christianity; deliverance will not be in the form which we apprehend. Promise is not hypothetical, it is a definite speech act: promise make the word match the world (performative speech acts).

Sacraments are assurance (cf BCP 2nd Post Communion Prayer); Calvin: "... there is no sacrament without an antecedent promise". From the time of Abraham we are a religion of promise. Covenant and Eucharist: Mark 14:24; Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:19-22. Appropriating the promise is a venture of faith not an academic exercise. The promises of God in the Bible are our starting point for contemplating life after death. Paul’s centrality in the theology of eschatology; his people are in waiting; to wait is to expect, to be ready.

To believe that we are immediately joined to Christ after death or to think that there is a period of waiting until the end of time are both Biblical: Philippians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 15:52. The debate about purgatory inconclusive: Luke 23:43; Philippians 1:23 versus 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; 1 Corinthians 22:23. Paul's central teaching is that Christ's and our resurrection will be bound together (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Daniel 7:13-15; 1 Corinthians 15:23-27; 15:51-54; Philippians 1:20-21):

Jesus speaks in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and Luke 21, of the end of the Jewish world and Christ's coming. After Chapter 3 Acts, concerned with church expansion, is silent. Hebrews speaks of the Second Coming of Christ, the hapax (once-for-all). John combines realised and future eschatology (John 4:23; 5:25; 5:28-29).

The most comprehensive text is 1 Corinthians 15 which corresponds to: Romans 4:16-25; 2 Corinthians 1:9; 5:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, representing our resurrection as pure gift, not  referring to latent human capacity (cf Plato). cf Romans 8.11: in a sovereign creative act God raised Christ and will in the future raise those who share in Christ's death and resurrection:

The Gospels describe the recognisable identity of Jesus, the  continuity and difference; Luke 14; John 20; Matthew 28; Mark 16:1-8. The capacity of the Creator to transform.

1 Corinthians 15:

There is a profound problem of time in thinking about eschatology: once upon a time there was no time; God created the universe with time not in time (Augustine); God has a timeless status; God and a view of earthly simultaneity; God is temporal and eternal.

Love is permanent in God but wrath is temporary. Problems of hell: separation from God; not necessarily permanent; predestination and universalism; the wicked may rise again to be punished; the nature of choice without hell; the necessity of the consequences of evil acts and moral hazard. Gehenna never defined; no NT text mentions duration cf Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 16:10-31; Paul speaks of death but not hell; John. There is no Biblical evidence for hell and yet the territory of the consequences of evil unmapped. The opposite of wrath is indifference.

Judgment should be anticipated with joy as vindication and truth. Compare 2 Corinthians 5:10; Psalms 96:10-13; ; God reveals himself to put all things right, faith vindicated in full sight (Romans 8:1); justification as a pre dating of salvation; all will  be judged (Romans 2:5-11 but justice is for the oppressed and not necessarily retributive but restorative.

Glory as God's presence and God's self; we do not find God in heaven but heaven in God; the Book of Revelation and the sovereignty of God; The New Jerusalem 21.1-22.5. In the post resurrection state:

Partly taken from:

Gooder, Paula: Heaven, SPCK 1011

Thiselton, Anthony: The Last Things: A New Approach, SPCK 2012

KC X/12