NewRev 21:5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” TNIV
If Jurgen Moltmann has a favorite verse in the Bible, Revelation 21:5 may well be it. As the title of one of his more recent books proclaim, Moltmann believes that our story “ends” with a “beginning”. However, it would be a mistake to assume that he believes that history is heading towards a return of all creation to its original state. On the contrary, Moltmann believes that this “new creation”, this “new heaven(s) and new earth”, this “future of God” is qualitatively new. He argues that:
“The future is God’s new creation. It is not a return of primordial day, nor is it a prolongation of the past. Past history and the new future which is prophetically promised no longer belong within the same temporal continuum. They are contrasted as ‘old’ and ‘new’. They become two separate times which are different in quality. Their unity is to be found solely in the faithfulness of God, who lets the old become obsolete and creates what is new.”
AfterlifeSo, what will the experience of the afterlife in this “future of God” be like? How will we experience it? In Moltmann’s view, all things, even human beings are made “new”. Christ’s resurrection serves as a “firstfruits” of this truth, and it is a truth that Moltmann cherishes. He writes:
“If Christ is to bring everything again, then nothing can be lost to him, not even that which we cannot hold on to here. What we have loved, what we miss, will return again in his future, for the resurrection is stronger than death. Everything which is divided by death will be found again in the resurrection. I find this hope to be very comforting, for it makes us ready to let go what we cannot hold on to, and gives us the strength to live with the pain of separation and forsakenness. The separation from the people we love and the forsakenness which love experiences are not the end, for they are not the last of all.”
For Moltmann, this is not just true in the personal sense or even solely in the sense of being true for human beings. In his view, this is true “cosmically”.
Not only does Moltmann believe that all things are “made new”, he further contends that these temporal things become eternal. This is achieved by God becoming “all in all”, which Moltmann conceives of as a sort of future panenthiesm. In essence, he believes that God will infuse all of creation with his presence. This is to be conceived as a future, universal indwelling, and is not to be confused with the pantheistic notion of God being absorbed into all creation. Thus permeated by God, the temporal becomes eternal.
ConclusionIn the end, I’ve really only scratched the surface of Moltmann’s eschatology. Being that his entire theological construct is rooted in his eschatology, there is no subject for him that is not eschatological. In all honesty, I have really only whetted even my own appetite to dig deeper into this rich and fertile soil. There are certainly areas of his thought here that make me uncomfortable, and that really challenge my thinking; i.e. his universalism (nuanced, though it may be), and his ambiguity about the physical manifestation of Christ in his return, just to name a few. However, given the choice between hope and despair, I choose hope. If you ask me which I see revealed in Scripture, my answer is “hope”. When I look at Jesus, I see hope overflowing from his every word and action. When I see the darkness in the world, I hope with Jurgen Moltmann for the God who “makes all things new”.
References1. Grenz, Stanley J., and Roger E. Olson. 20th-Century Theology: God and the World in a Transitional Age. InterVarsity Press, 1993.
2. Jenkins, Jerry B., and Tim F. LaHaye. Left Behind Boxed Set 1. Tyndale House Publishers, 2003.
3. Moltmann, Jurgen. Experiences of God. Fortress Press, 2007.
4. ———. Theology of Hope: On the Ground and the Implications of a Christian Eschatology. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.
5. ———. The Way of Jesus Christ: Christology in Messianic Dimensions. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.
6. ———. God for a Secular Society: The Public Relevance of Theology. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1999.
7. ———. In the End--The Beginning: The Life of Hope. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 2004.
8. ———. Experiences in Theology. SCM Press, 2000.
9. ———. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1993.
10. Moltmann, Jürgen. God in Creation: A New Theology of Creation and the Spirit of God. Fortress Press, 1993.
11. “Trinity Institute: Jurgen Moltmann (1st Presentation), http://www.trinitywallstreet.org/calendar/index.php?event_id=40242