God’s future

Daily Reading for December 11

God’s future is not that he will be as he was and is, but that he is on the move and coming towards the world. God’s Being is in his coming, not in his becoming. If it were in his becoming, then it would also be in his passing away. But as the Coming one, through his promises and his Spirit (which precede his coming and announce it) God now already sets present and past in the light of his eschatological arrival, an arrival which means the establishment of his eternal kingdom, and his indwelling in the creation renewed for that indwelling. The coming of God means the coming of a being that no longer dies and a time that no longer passes away. What comes is eternal life and eternal time. God and time are linked in such a way that God’s being in the world has to be thought eschatologically, and the future of time has to be understood theologically. . . .

Entering into God’s coming future makes possible a new human becoming: “Arise, become light, for your light is coming, and the glory of the Lord is rising upon you” (Isaiah 60:1). The proclamation of the near—the coming—the arriving kingdom of God makes human conversion to the future possible. “Be converted, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). This unity between the divine coming and human conversion is “fulfilled time” (Mark 1:15). The First Epistle of John also links human becoming with the divine coming: “It does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). The writer is talking about the Christ of the parousia. The eschatology of the coming God calls to life the history of new human becoming, which is a becoming without any passing away, a becoming into lasting being in the coming presence of God. . . .

Adventus. . . is a rendering of the Greek word parousia. In secular Greek, parousia means the coming of persons, or the happening of events, and literally means presence; but the language of the prophets and apostles has brought into the word the messianic note of hope. The expectation of the parousia is an advent hope. For in the New Testament the past presence of Christ in the flesh, or the present presence of Christ in the Spirit, is never termed parousia. The word is kept exclusively for Christ’s coming presence in glory. There are not three parousias: in the flesh, in the Spirit, and in glory, as later theological tradition said, in an attempt to put the advent hope on ice. . . . To translate parousia as “coming again” or “second coming” is wrong, because that presupposes a temporary absence. . . . With the coming of God’s glory, future time ends and eternal time begins. Without a transformation of time like this, eschatology cannot be thought. This actually already emerges from the idea of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, in which death is no more.

From The Coming of God: Christian Eschatology by Jürgen Moltmann, translated by Margaret Kohl (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996).

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