Eschatology: Christian Hope
Eschatological questions are an integral part of the Christian worldview. Christians always tend to expect things to come, in particular, the coming of Christ in glory. Lord pronounced in the early Christian community: “Come quickly, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 21:20). To eschatology all the dogmas of Christianity relate, because they set the permissible limits of thought in matters essential to the salvation of man, theosis, although in pre-beginning in this world, but in the fullness will be possible only in the age to come.
The New Testament is permeated by the belief that through the life, death, and, above all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the history of mankind there was something new. This theme of hope is dominant, even in the face of death. The New Testament brings together a range of eschatological beliefs, the most important of which are the following.
1. The Second Coming. It is expected that Jesus Christ will return, ending the history. At His “coming” or “appearance,” Christ will proclaim the “last day” and realize the justice over the world (1 Fes. 4.16). Several New Testament Scriptures indicate that this return was expected during the life of those who witnessed the resurrection (this includes the First and Second Thessalonians). Others believe that the sail will happen in the future, although it is relevant to the present (of particular importance in this regard is the Fourth Gospel).
2. Resurrection. The New Testament proclaims the reality of the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection is of great Christological significance. However, the New Testament states that the resurrection not only determines the identity and significance of Jesus, no matter how important they may be. It also announced that by his faith believer can participate in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of Christ is both the foundation, and the anticipation of the resurrection of believers.
3. God’s Kingdom. The idea of the “Kingdom of God”, especially in the preaching of Jesus, plays an important role in the New Testament expectations relating to the future. This kingdom is viewed as transforming and renewing, broke into human history to redeem it from its current state. The interpretation of this concept is complex.
One of the most fundamental developments of the total New Testament eschatological ideas was written by Augustine of Hippo, and is contained in his book, “The City of God.” This work was written in the atmosphere which could easily be described as “apocalyptic” - the destruction of the great city of Rome and the collapse of the Roman Empire. The central theme of this work %u2012 the relationship between the two “cities” – “City of God” and “the city of worldly.” The difficulties of the Christian life, especially its political aspects, are caused by dialectical tension between the two Cities (Bourke 1984).
The life of believers takes place in “the interim period,” which separates the incarnation of Christ from His last return in glory. The church should be seen as being in exile in the “City of World” (Barrett 1953). It is in the world, but still does not belong to the world. There is a serious contradiction between the present eschatological reality in which the Church is the Exile in the world, in some way forced to maintain its distinctive ethos of an unbelieving world, and the hope of a future in which the Church will be spared from the world and would finally be able to participate in the glory of God. It is clear that Augustine does not leave much room for the Donatist idea of the Church as a communion of saints. From the point of view of Augustine, Church shares the fallen nature of the world and therefore includes both pure and impure, as saints and sinners. Only at the last day this conflict will be finally removed.
Christians, in accordance with the Scriptures, say that the world is evidence of the goodness of God. God created the world by God’s Wisdom (Psalm 103, 24) as a work of art, unified and harmonious. The grace of God is poured out upon all His works. And man, contemplating the universe, is unable to express his admiration (Psalms 8, 18, 103).
But for humanity, standing on the way of life of sin, the world becomes and instrument of the wrath of God (Genesis 3.17). He who created the world for the benefit and happiness of the person, is using this world also to punish. Nature rebels against man, all sorts of disasters and catastrophes happen %u2012 from the Flood and Egyptian penalties, to curse, overtaking the unfaithful people of God (Vtor.28. 15-46).
By these two ways the world is brought to the very active participation in the history of salvation, and through obtains its true religious meaning. Thus being of the world in time is included in our eschatological vision (Barr 2005).
Christianity does not promise its world-historic victory. The Bible ends with the Apocalypse, end of the world. Apocalypse on the verge of human history suggests not Christ’s Kingdom here on earth %u2012 in life, politics, culture, human relations, %u2012 but the Kingdom of Antichrist. Christ, speaking about the signs of His Second Coming, the signs of the end of history and the end of the world, finds for the Apostles only one consolation: yes, it will be difficult, but comforted by the fact that it - the end. It is not long. When “... nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Mark 08.13), %u2012 Jesus says – “... then look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is coming” (Luke 21.28). As another sign of the end of times Christ calls a lack of faith: “The Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18.8).
Many religious ethics teach how it is necessary to act, and where it will lead in the future kingdom, in the age to come, the future life. Christianity asserts: eternal life is given to man in baptism, you must now live so as not to lose it. The sacrificial blood for a man is already spilled, all that He could do for the Christians, God has already done. He gives Himself to people. Now a Christian should live so as to not cut off from Christ, not to fall out of eternity. The meaning of many religious traditions of asceticism is to implement strict religious rules, elimination of sin, passions and preferences. As a result, man’s heart is purified so that it becomes a mystical mirror in which something important can be seen. Christians also receive grace %u2012 good gift of saving power of God %u2012 in baptism and other sacraments. Christianity does not call a man to fight for his purity %u2012 it offers a person to not to interfere with God and keep him clean. One cannot heal himself, but with God it is quite a feasible task. Therefore, the Christian evangelical ethics looks at first sight very strange. Christ did not just bring some new commandments. No, he says: “... abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (John 15). Christ, referring to the people, teaches us how to live. People sigh, it’s impossible. Christ did not find any consolation for them. He agrees: “...for man this is impossible”, but he keeps them just a minute at a loss, in despair, and then adds”, with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19-26). This is the work of God, which is found in the center of the history, people have to keep. Hence, in Christianity completely unique historical philosophy is born, that is, understanding the meaning of the history. History is not a preparation for the future. History does not have a rough sketch of what truly starts at the threshold of death or beyond the end of the world. History – is the most important thing. Namely in space history, God and man meet or ... do not meet. This implies the Christian, rather tragic view of the past destiny of human history (Bruce 1989).
We emphasize that we do not share the pessimistic (gloomy) view of the end of human history. After all, the divine revelation of the ultimate fate of humanity not only contains ominous warnings which have fallen away from God to mankind, but also, of course, good news.
It preaches to remove all the curses of the new heaven and the new earth where there will be no more death, nor crying, nor pain.
It contains the promise of a perfect adoption of man to God, the unattainable in the earth's history as the knowledge of God, when people will see God face to face, God is in everything, and the time will be gone (Beasley-Murray 1974).
Developing the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, Paul returned to the idea of the abolition of the death and the final victory of Christ over it:
“I tell you a mystery: we do not all die, but everything has changed. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed ... So when this corruptible shall have put on the imperishable, and this mortal shall have put on immortality ... then that is written will come true: “Death is swallowed up in victory”, "Death! where is thy sting? Hell! where is thy victory? “... Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Cor 15, 51-57).
In this text, Apostle Paul says nothing about whether all people will participate in the final transformation and change beast or just some of them. On the one hand, Paul presents this event as a universal, embracing all mankind and the universe. On the other hand, saying, “we”, he meant first of all Christians living hope of the resurrection of the dead and the final victory of Christ. Eschatological kingdom of God %u2012 a kingdom of the saved. But whether everybody will enter the kingdom?
The answer to this question lies in the Apocalypse, which draws a picture of the new heaven and the new earth, which was when the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more (Rev. 21.1). Here eschatological state transformed creature represented as a new Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, this celestial city is the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, nor crying, nor pain will be gone, things have passed away (Revelation 21, 2-4). Rescued people will enter this heavenly city will... and will not enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life (Rev. 21,24,27). Of those who are left out of the heavenly city, the Apocalypse says: But the lot of timid, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars is in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. This is the second death (Rev. 21.8). Thus, the New Jerusalem %u2012 the Kingdom of the saved, but not all people will go into it: Blessed are those who do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life and enter the city by gates. But outside are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie” (Rev 22,14-15).
So, on the one hand, the Scriptures teach that there will be some recovery of all (Acts s, 21), when God will be all in all (1 Cor 15.28). On the other hand, it is clear that, along with the Kingdom of the saved, Scripture refers to those who will not enter the Kingdom to remain outside it. The same understanding of the eschatological Christ's victory over death, hell is observed in the most of the Fathers of the Eastern Church, including at Maximus.
What will be the eschatological kingdom of God for those who have been awarded to enter it? And what will be a source of pleasure for the people of Paradise? According to the teachings of the Church Fathers, the main and only source of happiness in heaven will be God Himself. Gregory of Nyssa writes: “Since the nature of God is the source of all good, then it follows that in Him are all freed from evil, that God, as the Apostle says, was all in all (1 Cor 15, 28) ... Because in this world life is conducted by us at our varied and diverse, there are a lot of the things we are involved in, such as time, air, space, food, drink, clothing, sun, light, and more, serving the needs of life, and nothing out of it God. Expected bliss does not need anything of it: all this in place of all will be to us God's nature, paying Itself any commensurate with needs of a life ... God for worthy is a place and shelter, and clothing, and food, and drink, and light, and wealth, and the kingdom... Who happens to be all, He is in all” (Coakley et al. 2003).
Heavenly bliss, says Isaac of Syria, is the communion of man to God's love, which is the “tree of life” and the “bread of heaven”, that is God Himself: “Paradise is the love of God in which %u2012 enjoying all the bliss. There blessed Paul satiate supernatural food and when he tasted of the tree of life, and cried, saying, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2, 9). From this tree Adam was removed by diabolical advice. The tree of life is the love of God, from which Adam broke away... Until you will gain love, doing our - in the land of thorns ... And when will gain love, then let us eat the bread of heaven ... Heavenly same bread is Christ came down from heaven and gives life to the world (Jn 6, ss) ... So, living in love reaps life from God in this world ...is smelling the air of resurrection. This air will enjoy the resurrection of the righteous” (Holy Transfiguration Monastery 2011).
Life of the world is a “permanent and ineffable peace of God.” This life “has no end or change”. Bodily activity there is replaced by mental activity, which is the “look and delectable unscattered vision.” The mind of man in the kingdom of heaven is busy by contemplating the beauty of God in a constant state of amazement.
Kingdom of Heaven, which righteous people will obtain after the general resurrection, is, by Gregory the Theologian, first the kingdom of the light, where people are getting rid of the vicissitudes of life on earth will rejoice, “as small lights around the great Light.” This is the kingdom, “where are the houses of all the and having fun singing the song continued, where the voice of joy and the voice of partying, where perfect and pure inspiration of Deity, which we now accept only in riddles and shadows” (Azkoul 1995). In this realm, there is a final reunion with God, communion with the Divine light, recovery, and the deification of totality of the human being.