The coming God

Daily Reading for November 30 • The First Sunday of Advent

Almighty Father

your Son came to us in humility as our saviour

and at the last day he will come again in glory as our judge:

give us grace to turn away from darkness to the light of Christ

that we may be ready to welcome him

and to enter into his kingdom;

where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit

one God, for ever and ever.

Collect for the First Sunday in Advent, from An Anglican Prayer Book 1989 of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.

‘Peace to you,’ says Revelation 1:4, ‘from him who is, and who was, and who is to come.’ We should expect, ‘. . .and from him who will be’, since according to Greek ideas the presence of God in all three modes of time is an expression of his timelessness and simultaneous eternity: Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus will be: Zeus is eternal. The gods exist in the eternal present of Being, and everything that was, that is, and that will be, is in their eyes present. But here instead of the future of the verb to be (einai), we have the future of the verb to come (erchestai). The linear concept of time is broken through in its third term.

This has a considerable significance for the understanding of God and of time. God’s future is not that he will be as he was and is, but that he is on the move and coming toward 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 (ho erchomenos), 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.

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

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