A Discussion of The Coming of God – In the End is the Beginning by Jurgen Moltmann

Moltmann is unique among theologians in how he really does take seriously the idea of a millennium.  Pannenberg, in contrast, only briefly refers to the concept.  In Pannenberg’s conception millenarianism is an attempt to bridge two views on the resurrection – “It is clearly meant to make it possible to hold fast to the distinctive Christian hope of salvation by participation in the life that was manifested in the resurrection of Jesus Christ along with the idea of a universal raising of the dead as a prelude to the last judgment.” (STIII, 569).  Moltmann, however, has a different goal in his very lengthy examination of millenarian thought. 

III.     4.  Political Millenarianism: ‘The Redeemer Nation’

 “What has to be taken seriously is the USA’s strange millenarian mythology, because it has a genuine basis.” (169)
 For what appears to be the first time Moltmann assesses the unique American contribution to theology, and it is a focus on our popular, rather than purely academic, offerings, placing American eschatology within our political philosophy.  In doing this he is following his approach of dealing not only with academic thought, but is very interested in the hopes and fears of those living within the struggles and dreams of desperate life.  Pannenberg, in contrast, feels no need to get into such perceptions.  Moltmann is always trying to link theology up with the realities of life, constantly scanning the world around him for cues and insights which to both assess his own theology and to contribute his theology.  Pannenberg, and others, are more interested in developing the theology by itself. 
 “If America has been chosen for the salvation of all nations and humanity in general, then its policies not only can but must be measured against their promotion of the liberty of other peoples, the self-government of these peoples, and their human rights.” (174)  Moltmann is willing to accept a political theology, mostly because his own theology is so political in orientation, especially in regards to his pursuit of theology as a liberating force (esp. ET, section III.). Yet he is not willing to accept bold political theology without strong criticism “It cannot be repeated. It cannot be transferred. For it cannot be universalized.  Politically, humanity cannot afford more than ‘one America’ and the same can be said ecologically of the earth.” (177).  Thus, Moltmann must move on in the discussion.
5.  Ecclesiastical Millenarianism:  ‘The Mother and Preceptress of the Nations’

 “It is not the Holy Empire that brings salvation to the nations; it is the Holy Church”(178).  The Church is the millennium.  “It no longer participates in the struggle and sufferings of Christ, but already judges and reigns with him in his kingdom.” (179)
“Another indication of a millenarian interpretation of the church in its present existence is the reduction of eschatology to the expectations of judgment and the spiritualization of the Christian hope”.  This echoes not only in Catholic traditionalism but in contemporary Evangelical right wing politics. 
Moltmann concludes this is anti-Trinitarian as it includes one Pope and one Church within the structure (183).  He also considers this an “over-realized” eschatology: “…a triumphalist, illusory, and presumptuous ecclesiology Before the millennium there is no rule of the saints. Only in the millennium will the martyrs rule with Christ and judge the nations. Before the millennium, the church is the brotherly and sisterly, charismatic, non-violent fellowship of those who wait for the coming of the Lord and in the power of the Spirit, who is the giver of life, enter into Christ’s struggle and bear their cross in his discipleship.” (184)  Moltmann consistently assesses theology according to the struggles of the faithful and faithless, as opposed to the dominant and powerful.  This kind of millennialism tends to condemn other forms, as it places both hope and power outside the present identifiable structure (193-194). 

6.  Epochal Millenarianism: The Birth of ‘Modern Times’ Out of the Spirit of Messianic Hope
- “This is not secularized eschatology … It is realized millenarianism, for only the millenarian hope can be realized in history, since only that is a hope for a future within history.”
The faith in humanity to itself develop out of its destructive urges is now a dominant mode of thought.  Joachim of Fiore, a consistent figure in Moltmann’s eschatology, predicted the ‘age of the Spirit” and Moltmann applies this to the Enlightenment, or at least the Enlightenment’s perception of itself.  “Now human mastery of the earth will be implemented, and with it human beings will recover the likeness to God which they lost through their own guilt.”
“The kingdom of God is coming, but it will not be the result of the apocalyptic revolution brought about by God; it will come through the growth of reason and morality among human beings. It will have no effect on natural life but will take place exclusively in the life of the human being.”  (189)
Coming again back to politics Moltmann also returns to the United States, calling it the “only new political foundation stemming from the Enlightenment”.  The “American Dream” is a “first step to the realization of humanity’s dream of the modern world.  The American experiment is in fact the political and social experiement of modernity.  It has not yet succeeded, but it has not as yet failed either.” (191)  Moltmann presses his critique, however, that the American model cannot be the model for the whole world. There must be more, even as he appreciates the potential for hope such a model provides.  He appreciates the hope it gives, but not the excess it demands or the sacrifices he feels it requires from other nations. 

7. Is Millenarian Eschatology Necessary?

Yes.  But there are two kinds.  Historical millenarianism, which in its various forms interprets the millennium according to the present in political or ecclesiastical forms.

“Eschatological millenarianism is an expectation of the future in the eschatological context of the end and the new creation of the world.   Historical millenarianism, as we have seen, is a religious theory used to legitimate political or ecclesiastical power,” [thus inherently disordered to Moltmann, who unlike Pannenberg is not concerned with ecclesiastic or liturgical issues] “and is exposed to acts of messianic violence and the disappointments of history.  Eschatological millenarianism, on the other hand, is a necessary picture of hope in resistance, in suffering, and in the exiles of this world” [the theme and the focus in the whole of Moltmann’s theology]. (192)
“Christian theology is not a theology of universal history.  It is a historical theology of struggle and hope.  It therefore does not teach the secular millenarianism of the present, as does the naïve modern faith in progress, maintaining that in the future everything will get better and better.  Nor does it teach that in the future everything will get worse and worse, like equally naïve modern apocalypticism.  But it does warn that in the future of this world things are going to become more and more critical.”(200)

“Without millenarian hope, the Christian ethic of resistance and the consistent discipleship of Christ lose their most powerful motivation. Without the expectation of an alternative kingdom of Christ, the community of Christ loses its character as a ‘contrast community to society.”(201)

The millennium is transition.  This is a huge concept.  “The millenarian expectation mediates between world history here, and the end of the world there. It makes the end as transition possible.” We do not endure a Big Bang of consummation, but rather “a series of events and the succession of various different phases.  The millennium is, in a hopeful and positive way, Moltmann’s cosmic purgatory in which the world turns from vicious and corrupt towards fullness and whole life, not by the power of humanities reaching upwards, but by God’s coming to us, and reaching into all of Creation.
“Christian eschatology – eschatology, that is, which is messianic, healing and saving – is millenarian eschatology.”  The millennium is a central concept for Moltmann’s the restoration of God’s fullness in and with this world and in a way sums up his whole expectation of theology. 

8.  End Times of Human History: Exterminism

Apocalyptic Eschatology
.  Jewish and Christian apocalypses “awaken the resistance of faith and the patience of hope. They spread hope in danger, because in the human and cosmic end they proclaim God’s new beginning… In the experiences and forebodings of historical and cosmic terrors they proclaim God’s future, his judgment, and his eternal kingdom.” (203)

Moltmann very much emphasizes present “historical and cosmic” terrors.  He sees a massive disconnect between the “apocalyptic mood” in current society and practical consequences which lead to change.  This is a central emphasis for Moltmann, who insists theology and practice must relate to each other. Theology leads to practice, but consequences, contexts, and necessary responses also echoes back to shape theology.  “The apocalyptic mood remains diffuse; the profound and melancholy announcements of an apocalyptic era bring about no reversal of the trends leading to exterminism.” (203).  This reality chaffs at Moltmann, who thus proceeds to discuss the relevant trends such as ‘nuclear end-time’, ‘ecological end-time’, ‘economic-end time, impoverishment of the third world’.  But exterminism is not apocalyptic eschatology.  Rather, they are signs of the crime of humanity, trying to attach theology to human actions, thus almost excusing human excess, “pushing onto God the responsibility of human beings.”

9. ‘The End of History’: Post-Historic Prophets

History involved moral choices in the face of contingent circumstances, and thus was susceptible to the fears and assertions of uncertain people.  But, we’re civilized now!  We have bureaucracy to make the decisions so there is now a trustworthy order to society. 

“The post-historic era is to become ‘the eternal return of the same thing’, thus ending the linear time of history.” (223) 
Many political philosophers and theologians would see hope in such a state.  Moltmann here departs from them and returns to Christ, thus not falling into the traps that may have caught earlier liberal theologians.  Humanity is not the answer to humanity.  “It is illogical to assume that the institutions, organizations and bureaucracies which historical people create are not themselves historical. It is illusory to maintain that the conditions which venturesome beings create in order to secure themselves against their own hazards could not be hazardous conditions.”  Exterminism will not be solved by an historical millennialism with an intellectual veneer.  “Organized crime is of course the end of individual crime, but is it the end of crime in general? Is it not rather its culmination?” (226).  Moltmann’s critiques swing many directions.

10. Is Apocalyptic Eschatology Necessary? 

Yes.  But not secular apocalyptic interpretations.  “The modern apocalyptic interpretations of human end-times are secularizations of biblical apocalyptic, and now have in common with it only catastrophe, no longer the hope.”  If apocalypse is to be theologically valid in Moltmann’s approach, it has got to have hope, real living hope that is more than just a continuation of the present in a circular fashion but one which drives towards the fulfillment of all of God’s possibilities.

“Apocalypticism belongs to eschatology, not to history. And yet eschatology begins with apocalypticism:  there is no beginning of a new world without the end of this old one, there is no rebirth of the cosmos without ‘the birth pangs of the End-Time”. (227)

Apocalypticism takes seriously both the realities of a world caught in chaos, and the promises of a God who called his creation good.  It accepts this fallen world and embraces the world God seeks.  It is the clash of these two, seemingly unyielding forces which the apocalypse addresses. Those without faith see only the power of the destruction and are filled with fear.  Those with Christ, however, have hope.  “The reason for the apocalyptic hope is in the downfall of the world is pure faith in God’s faithfulness. It is not optimism.  God will remain faithful to his creative resolve even if the world he has created founders on its own wickedness. God’s will for life is greater than his will for judgment. God’s Yes outweighs God’s No.  ‘God is faithful, for he cannot deny himself’ (II Tim. 2:13). Consequently believers discern in God’s No a hidden Yes, and sense in judgment his coming grace, and see in the end of this world the beginning of the new world God will create.” (229) In the end is the beginning.  This concept, for Moltmann, extends very deeply in his eschatology, and is key for understanding his views on judgment. 
“Apocaplyticism preserves the Christian doctrine of hope from facile optimism and from false prophets who say ‘peace, peace, peace, when there is no peace’ (Jer. 8:11).  Things are, and will become, genuinely bad.  God is genuinely good.  In the friction of these realities Moltmann finds his theology.

11. The Restoration of All Things

Here we go.  This is where Moltmann becomes fun and exciting. 

The Last Judgment – “In this great reckoning there are only two verdicts:  eternal life and eternal death.” (235).  “Because psychologically it has done so much to poison the idea of God [and thus inconsistent with a theology of hope in God], it is high time to discover the gospel [good news] of God’s judgment and to awaken joy in God’s coming righteousness and justice.” {235).  How do we approach this, however, without somehow dismissing the realities of oppressors and the oppressed?  There must be, according to some, a double outcome… some to Hell others to Heaven.  Pannenberg here emphasizes anthropology, as he tends to do, and the decisions of sin.  Moltmann does not. 

“Behind this question is the question is the question about God.  Does God, as their creator, go with all his created beings into life, death and resurrection – or does God as judge stand over against those he has created, detached, and uninvolved, to pardon or condemn?” “Does theology not involve the Christian faith in inward contradictions if what is expected of the great Judgment is something different from what God has revealed in Israel’s history and the history of Jesus Christ” (236)  Moltmann is pointing out the possibility of inward contradictions, but inward contradictions are not his primary emphases.  He is much more interested in how theology intersects with his perception of our lived reality.  Does two-outcome judgment or universalism better reflect Moltmann’s attempts to place hope always in the front of our theological view?

Objections – Against Universalism: “Why should I believe, and bother to lead a good and righteous life, if I and everyone else are going to be redeemed in any case? 
Against double outcome:  “Why did God create human beings if he is going to damn most of them in the end, and will only redeem the least part of them? Can God hate what he himself has created without hating himself?”  (239)
Moltmann argues both universal salvation and a double outcome of judgment are both well attested biblically.  “So the decision for the one or the other cannot be made on the ground of 'scripture'”  Then there's this curious continuation:  “If one presupposes that scripture does not contradict itself, because the word of God to which it testifies is inerrant, one can then try to resolve the contradiction in the sense of one side or the other.” (241)  Moltmann is a theological politician, shaping his arguments to greet those he most expects to disagree with him.  While in other books he plays up his historical-critical bona fides, here he becomes an innerantist so as to win support from the conservative side. Or so it seems.  In my estimation he over-emphasizes the verses supporting universalism and under-emphasizes the weight of judgment.  Pannenberg seems to take Scripture more fully in this respect.  Moltmann wants to address Scripture, but does not want Scripture to be his guidance, so he tries to neutralize its testimony.
  “The preponderance of God's grace over his anger, which is experienced in faith, means that Judgment and the reconciliation of the universe are not antitheses.” (243)  Moltmann puts his full intellectual powers to bear on proving this is so and does it by resorting to a different approach than most universalists.  Most appeal to God's mercy or his affection.  What God would condemn people to Hell as a punishment?  Moltmann, however, appeals to a solid Reformed perspective on the sovereignty of God.  “God decides for a person and for his or her salvation, for otherwise there is no assurance of salvation at all.” (245, cf. 109) “It is not my faith that creates salvation for me; salvation creates for me faith.  If salvation and damnation were the results of human faith or unfaith, God would be dispensable... If, even where eternity is at stake everyone were to forge their own happiness and dig their own graves, human beings would be their own God.” He continues with his key question:  “what, and how much, does God do for the salvation of human beings, and what, and how much, must humans do?” This, however, puts humans on the same plane as God.  Which we are clearly not.  We are not the God of God to tell him how and who he will save. 
So where does this leave us in terms of the judgment, which Moltmann does affirm? Page 250 contains his startling answer:  “...it is the righteousness and justice of the God of Abraham, the Father of Jesus Christ, who creates justice, puts things to rights, and justifies.  This means that the eschatological Last Judgment is not a prototype for the courts of kingdoms or empires.  This judgment has to do with God and his creative justice, and is quite different form the forms our earthly justice takes. What we call the Last Judgment is nothing other than the universal revelation of Jesus Christ, and the consummation of his redemptive work.” He continues boldly, “No expiatory penal code will be applied in the court of the crucified Christ. No punishments of eternal death will be imposed. The final spread of the divine righteousness that creates justice serves the eternal kingdom of God, no the final restoration of a divine world order that has been infringed.  Judgment at the end is not an end at all; it is the beginning.  Its goal is the restoration of all things for the building up of God's eternal Kingdom.” (250-251) 

But what about Hell?  Most universalists deny Hell.  Moltmann doesn't.  Hell is real. Very real.  “The Christian doctrine about the restoration of all things denies neither damnation nor hell.  On the contrary: it assumes that in his suffering and dying Christ suffered the true and total hell of Godforsakeness for the reconciliation of the world, and experienced for us the true and total damnation of sin.  It is precisely here that the divine reason for the reconciliation of the universe is to be found.” (251)
Hell exists.  Christ broke it down in his descent into Hell.  So that none can be captured by it.  Pannenberg says this means the reach of Christ's sacrifice extends to all, none are outside God's offer. 
“What is Christ going to do with ‘the keys of hell’?  ‘Christ hath burst the gates of hell,” says Charles Wesley in his Easter hymn.  So all its gates are open.  Hell is no longer inescapable, and in hell no one must ‘abandon hope’, as Dante told the damned they must do… If there were still any lost in hell, it would be a tragedy for Christ, who came ‘to seek that which is lost.’ So we shall not be afraid of hell, nor, certainly, shall we threaten anyone else with hell.” (In the End, 148)
Moltmann says the salvation of Christ extends to all, all are included.  “In the divine Judgment all sinners, the wicked and the violent, the murderers and the children of Satan, the Devil and the fallen angels will be liberated and saved from their deadly perdition through transformation into their true, created being, because God remains true to himself, and does not give up what he has once created and affirmed or allow it to be lost.”(255)

Eschatology does have two sides:  “God's judgment, which puts things to rights, and God's kingdom, which awakens new life.”  Thus, hope remains total, for all, in all.  Even those who reject it. 

Universalism, because God is really that sovereign and irresistible.  Which is a beautiful idea.  But does it reflect God's revelation or Moltmann's own desires? 

IV.  Cosmic Eschatology
Intro:  “Christian Eschatology must be broadened out into cosmic eschatology, for otherwise it becomes a Gnostic doctrine of redemption, and is bound to teach, no longer the redemption of the world but a redemption from the world, no longer the redemption of the body but a deliverance of the soul from the body.” (259)  Moltmann is particularly interested in the physicality of God’s work, insisting theology can never be removed from holistic understanding.  This physicality constantly grounds Moltmann’s work, literally and figuratively.  “Human life is participation in nature.” (260) This means theology must confront both time and space in eschatology.  “What I should like to do is to work out the tangents, or points of access, for the dialogue with scientific theories, and hope that I may be successful where the concept of time and the concept of space are concerned.” (261) 
   1 Cor 15:51-57:    Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed,  in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:  ""Death has been swallowed up in victory."  "Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?"  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ

1. The Future of Creation – Sabbath and Shekinah

The beginning of Creation was always meant to be a process, with the hope of a future consummation symbolized by the 7th day Sabbath.  It is a system created originally to be open to the future. Time is projected towards the future which will encompass time within an ‘eternal creation’.  “…the hope grounded on the experience of liberation is not directed to the ‘restoration’ of the original creation. What it looks for is creation’s final consummation.” (264) It is indeed a spiral, and was created as such even prior to sin entering the picture.  “The end is much more than the beginning.” (264)
What’s the difference?  “It is the different presence of the Creator in the community of those he has created.”(265)  “The weekly sabbath, with the sabbath year, is God’s homeless Shekinah in the time of exile from Jerusalem, and in the far country of this world, estranged from God.  The eschatological Shekinah is the perfected sabbath in the spaces of the world.  Sabbath and Shekinah are related to each other as promise and fulfillment, beginning and completion.” (266). The work of Christ and Spirit, then restore not the original Creation but the original path to consummation towards which the original Creation was directed and will be fulfilled in the future promises of God’s full re-enveloping of time and space.   

2.  The Annihilation of the World or its Consummation?

Bouncing off the thoughts of Johann Tobias Beck, Moltmann develops his idea of Eschatological Ecology, rejecting the annihilation of the world.    1 Cor 15:28 - “When  all  things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put  all  things  in  subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.”
  “If God is ‘all in all’, then the fellowship in God and fellowship in the world are no longer something separate or antithetical.  There is then no spiritual knowing of God and enjoyment of him which is not sensory and bodily as well, and no sensory and bodily contemplation and enjoyment of the world with is not also a contemplation and ‘incorporation of God’.” (278)  This concept draws upon the idea of mutual perichoresis, in which God and humanity interpenetrate each other.  God does not absorb humanity within himself.  Rather The unity and the difference of the various diverse forms are preserved.   Space, which is the self-limitation of God, becomes imbued with the fullness of his presence so that all things are within God and God is within all things.  This includes not only humanity but all of Creation, for all of Creation groans towards this fulfillment and completion. 

3.  The End Time in the Eternity of God

So what then is eternity?  In 1 Cor 15:5-52 Paul says, “We will not  all  die, but we will  all  be changed,  in  a moment,  in  the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.”  In a moment, in an atom as the original Greek notes, becomes Moltmann’s “atom of eternity”.   From this Moltmann develops his concept of eternity within time.  The fullness of time is in this moment.  This is “the completion of history and creation, its perfecting into the kingdom of glory in which God himself ‘indwells’ his creation.  If God himself appears in his creation, then his eternity appears in the time of creation, and his omnipresence in creation’s space. Consequently, ‘time shall be no more’; it will be gathered up, fulfilled, and transformed through the eternity of the new creation.” (280) This is not the same as an end of time.  Rather, God emerges within time and folds time upon itself.  Time is the seed in which eternity blossoms. 

“Eternity and time are not the two necessary sides of the same reality. The unity of eternity and time is not to be found in the eternal present; it lies in God’s creative Word.” (281)  He asks a key question, “Was the world created with time or was time created with the world?” Physics discusses this issue within the concept of the Big Bang.  Prior to the Bang, there was no time as the very laws of Physics were of such an entirely different nature as to be inconceivable.  Time was created with space.  Thus agreeing with Moltmann’s contention these are not two different realities but rather two different forms of the same reality.  “In the Christian understanding of God, God’s eternity is something other than the mere negation of temporality – if it is the fullness of creative life – then it is possible to conceive an opening for time in eternity.” (281)  How is this possible in theology terms (I’ll not bother worrying about the scientific)?  1. Self-determination in terms of God’s creative resolve.  “God resolved to be Creator of a world different from his Being, with a time different from his eternity.” (281)  2. The self-restriction of God in which God made a place for his creation by withdrawing his presence from this primordial space.  Space and Time become a balloon of sorts, inflated within the context of God’s eternity.  At this point in the book my brain began to hurt.

In heaven there is aenonic time, on earth there is transitory time.  “Aeonic time can be thought of as a time corresponding to the eternity of God:  a time without beginning and end, without before and after.” (282)  This is a cyclical form of time, never-ending, symmetrical. This form of time encompasses the irreversible trend of earthly time.  Earthly time is “therefore the time of promise.” (283)  “Earthly creation exists within the context of passing time, but this earthly time, for its part belongs within the context of the aeonic time of ‘the invisible world’, continually touching it and being touched by it.” (283) Thus we experience the movement and trends of irreversible time within the context of circular time, the latter felt now only in fleeting moments in which we experience the wholeness and fullness of God’s creative presence. 

“In confrontation with eternity there is only one time:  the present.  As ‘an atom of eternity’, the fulfilled moment drops out of the sequence of time, interrupts time’s flow, abolishes the distinction of the times in past and future, is an ecstasy that translates out of this temporal life into the life that is eternal.  Eternity in time is a category, not of the extensive life, but of the intensive life.  The presence of eternity comes about in the wholly and entirely lived moment through undivided presence in the presence. If I am wholly there – if I give myself wholly – if I expose myself wholly – if I am able to linger wholly – then I experience present eternity.  It is the experience of ‘the fullness of time’ in the wholeness of the lived life: all time becomes present. In the midst of historical time this is, indeed, only a momentary, a moment-like experience of eternity, but an experience of eternity it is.” (291)  He continues with an insight into our religious interest: “Eternal life has nothing to do with timelessness and death, but is full-filled life. Because in historical time we experience fulfilled life only in the form of moment-like eternity, we develop a hunger for a wholly and completely unclouded fullness of life, and therefore for the life that is eternal.  Out of this experience of present eternity arises the longing for an eternal present in which we can say to the moment, like Goethe’s Faust: ‘O tarry a while, thou art so fair’.” (291) 

Or as C.S. Lewis put it, “The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.” (The Weight of Glory, 45).

“Eternal life already begins here and now in the midst of the life that is transitory, and makes of earthly life a prelude to itself.”

But with the eschatological moments there is an inbreaking of God’s fullness within this world, corresponding to but not equivalent to the beginning of creation.  “The end of time is the converse of time’s beginning.  Just as the primordial moment sprigs from God’s creative resolve and from the divine self-restriction on which God determined in that resolve, so the eschatological moment will spring up from the resolve to redeem and the ‘derestriction’ of God determined upon in that.” (294)  Using the balloon analogy again, God does not deflate the balloon, but instead eternity enters in upon it, filling it with the same reality as was previously outside of it.  The ‘atom of eternity’ is where God’s fullness enters into what was once separate and ‘outside’ of God’s being. It is this atom that is the “pearl of great price” (Mt. 13:34ff.) 

“The temporal creation will then become an eternal creation, because all created beings will participate in God’s eternity. The spatial creation will then become an omnipresent creation, because all created beings will participate in God’s omnipresence.” (294) Genesis 1:2 becomes an eschatological verse in Moltmann’s approach. 

This ful-filling of Creation is the victory of God over all that would seek to deflate or destroy his intentions for a Cosmos that is Becoming.  The moment will extend to all moments, filling all with life and joy.  Earthly time transitions into aeonic time.  Forward, irreversible time become cyclical, as the cosmos interpenetrates the Divine, and the Divine interpenetrates the cosmos.  Eternity is the perichoresis of God and his Creation.  “The preferred images for eternal life are therefore dance and music, as ways of describing what is as yet hardly imaginable in this impaired life.”

3. The End of Space in the Presence of God

In contemporary physics Space and Time are the same.  So, Moltmann, in some ways, covers much the same ground.  “I should like to use a perichoretic concept of space as a way of apprehending the experience of space as I have described it – space as mutual in-existence… The perichoretic space concept of reciprocal in-existence corresponds on the creaturely level to the concept of the eternal inner-trinitarian indwellings of the divine persons.” (301)

4. The Cosmic Temple: The Heavenly Jerusalem

Moltmann gets to Revelation.  God comes to us.  “Here we have a counter-image of hope for those who resist Rome’s theo-political claim to universal rule, an image which is nevertheless fed by the splendor of Babylon and Rome. The tower of Babel was the attempt of godless human beings to storm heaven.  The city of God, in contrast, comes down from heaven to earth, and out of grace fulfills the wish of human beings for God’s presence.” (312)
The City is bigger than its walls.  “Unless John was just working with symbolic figures, the discrepancy must be meant to express the immeasurable degree to which the cosmic new creation of the world exceeds the magnitude of the Jewish and Christian people of God. The Christian community is not one particular religious community among others.  It is a small, resisting and steadfast witness to the coming reshaping of the whole present world system, like the Jewish Community too.” (314)  The Heavenly Jerusalem is an expression of God’s universal hospitality which encompasses all things. Here holiness and glory will be manifested in fullness.  But it will not be a rule of suppression or subjugation.  Instead the holiness and the glory will be reflected in the true becoming of all other things, instead of being suppressed Creation will be fully enlivened, instead of being subjugated, it and all who are in it, will discover eternal freedom.  All of creation will find its happiness.  “The presence of divine life becomes the inexhaustible source of creaturely life, which thereby becomes the life that is eternal.” (319)

V.  Glory:  Divine Eschatology
Moltmann asks about the meaning for God himself of his glorification by human beings and all his creatures. 
Four theses have been proposed:

  1. Self-glorification of God – “all glorification of God through others is God’s self-glorification in others”.  With this, however, “there is no divine eschatology, for there cannot anything which God could still wish, hope or seek for himself.” (326)
  2. Self-realization of God – “The God is that God should be in everything and that everything should be in God.”  God arrives at himself at the end.  The stages of God’s “becoming” however, make a divine eschatology inconceivable. (330)
  3. “God can be glorified through interaction between God and the world, God and human beings, or between the Trinitarian divine Persons.” (330)  Only the Trinitarian interaction provides a complete answer. “This Trinitarian interpretation of the process of God’s glorification in the history of Christ’s self-surrender, raising and presence in the Spirit, must clearly be understood not exclusively but inclusively. The fellowship between Christ and God in the process of mutual glorification is so wide open that the community of Christ’s people can find a place in it ‘…that they also may be in us.’” (334) Indeed the whole world can find a place in this glorification. The more the merrier.  God’s glorification is a party.  Or rather…
  4. A Feast of Eternal Joy

“The glory of God is the feast of eternal joy, and the Gospels therefore continually compare it with a wedding feast…” (336) God’s glory is in the redemption of the whole cosmos which will sing and dance and celebrate through eternity with and in God.  We all rejoice together, with one another.  God is delighted, glorified, in the laughter of his perfected universe.”

Comments and Contrasts

Reading Moltmann is itself an eschatological experience.  Suffering in the midst of reading, with the constant hope there will be a grand end.  And so there is.  His last few pages are magnificent. 

Moltmann always has context and questions in mind that form the foundation of his “contributions”. He is not developing a systematic approach that begins with isolated points of departure such as the nature of God.  He begins with pressing issues and then works backwards to discover how the character and revelation of God related to the very real contexts we find ourselves in.  Moltmann is not asking, “who is God?”, instead just as his own experiences in WWII prompted his theology, so too do continued experiences prompt his particular emphases. 

Some Distinctions with Wolfhart Pannenberg:
-- Pannenberg is writing a systematic theology.  He does not hardly at all addressing practical issues related to our lived lives but instead is seeking coherence within his theological project.  Pannenberg begins with a conception of God. He seeks to draw theology as it connects with liturgy and ecclesial life (see ST III, 612).  Moltmann, on the other hand, seems to always begin in his POW camp, and takes his questions about death and suffering to reach back into theology, with issues of church life seemingly irrelevant as he is more interested in broader life and suffering. 

-- Pannenberg is more concerned about “our” perspective, humans on the way, approaching eschatology with anthropological interest.  We approach God, who is our judge.  Moltmann seems to dwell very little on anthropology and instead sees God coming to us, Christ is the Way, and none are judged. 

-- Moltmann is much more apocalyptic and worries about a real and present danger of total annihilation.  Pannenberg writes, “Apocalyptic ideas of a destruction of our earthly environment by the misuse of technology are more compelling [than a natural cosmological end], yet they do not involved the end of the universe or even of our earth, even though there may perhaps be catastrophic developments for us.  In phenomena that threaten the survival of the race we may perhaps see signs of the end…” (ST III, 590).  Moltmann dwells extensively on these as being significantly more serious. 

-- Pannenberg writes, “In Christian eschatological expectation the reconciliation of individuals and society is the basis of the concept of the kingdom of God and finds particular expression in the linking of the end-time consummation of God’s reign to the resurrection of the dead.  Already in treatment of individual eschatology in the previous section we have viewed this link as an expression of the relation between our individual destiny and our common destiny… there can be no fulfillment of human society or of the race as a species without some participation of all the members. Otherwise individuals would be no more than a transitory means to an end, i.e., life for states and societies. But what is society, what is the race, if not the totality of all the individual members?” (ST III, 585) 

Moltmann, however, “Persons are not individuals; they are beings in community, and they live in community with one another, in the community of generations, and within the community of creation.” (In the End, 114)  Later he writes that God’s “judgment is always a social judgment.  The accused do not stand solitary and alone before their judge, as they do in human criminal courts, and in solitary torments of conscience.  The victims stand there together with the perpetrators, and the perpetrators with the victims, Cain with Abel, Israel with the Nations, the rich with the poor, the violent with the helpless, the martyrs with their murderers.” (In the End, 144).

Pannenberg, “The realism of the biblical traditions linked the full actualizing of Gods’ righteous will, and therefore of the kingdom of God, not only to the condition of an ending of the rule of some over others but also and above all to the overcoming of the power of sin in the conduct of individuals in relation to their fellows.” (ST III, 584). Moltmann does not deal with individual sin, but only with “the rule of some over others.”

-- These lead to their entirely opposite conclusions about Judgment. Whereas Pannenberg starts with anthropology and takes seriously the individuals choice towards or away from God, in my estimation better assessing Scripture.  Pannenberg and Moltmann both would agree with this statement: “Christ assigns condemnation to none.  He himself is pure salvation.”  However, from here they diverge:  “Those who stand with him stand in the place of deliverance and salvation.  Condemnation does not come from him.  It is found only where people remain aloof from him and is due to their remaining on their own.  The word of Christ as the offer of salvation will then make clear that the lost drew the line themselves and separated themselves from salvation.” (ST III, 614).  Moltmann, of course, feels that if any are so separated, then God really is not God. 


  1. “Without millenarian hope, the Christian ethic of resistance and the consistent discipleship of Christ lose their most powerful motivation.”  Does Moltmann’s understanding of universalism lead to this motivation or does it water it down as all, the murdered and the murderers, the oppressed and the oppressors, will find themselves within the community of Christ’s eternity?  What is the goal and justification of present discipleship?
  1. Did Moltmann successfully defend against the charges opposing Universalism: “Why should I believe, and bother to lead a good and righteous life, if I and everyone else are going to be redeemed in any case?”?    Did Moltmann successfully support his argument against double outcome:  “Why did God create human beings if he is going to damn most of them in the end, and will only redeem the least part of them? Can God hate what he himself has created without hating himself?”?
  1. There does not appear to be a consideration of personal evil. He only deals with structural evils. What is evil for Moltmann? 
  1. Pannenberg writes, “The work of the Spirit is at all events fundamental for the eschatological salvation event of the resurrection of the dead” (ST III, 623).  He later says, “Pneumatology and eschatology belong together because the eschatological consummation itself is ascribed to the Spirit, who as an end-time gift already governs the historical present of believers.” (ST III, 553)  His chapter on eschatology devotes specific sections to the work of the Spirit in judgment, transfiguration and the justification of God.  Surprisingly, Moltmann does not devote any space to a specific discussion of the Spirit.  What is the role of the Holy Spirit in Moltmann’s eschatology especially in regards to the issues discussed in The Coming of God? 

            Besides The Coming of God there are other important texts that deal with Moltmann’s eschatology. Here are some supplementary texts, as well as a couple of other references I used.
    -Bauckham, Richard, ed.  God Will Be All in All.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2001.
    -Moltmann, Jürgen.  In the End – The Beginning.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2004.
       --- The Future of Creation.  Philadelphia:  Fortress Press, 1979. 
    -Müller-Fahrenholz, Geiko. The Kingdom and the Power. Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2001.
    -Pannenberg, Wolfhart.  Systematic Theology, v. III.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1998.
    -Grenz, Stanley.  Reason for Hope: the Systematic Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg,  2nd ed. 
         Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 2005.



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