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The Biblical Eschatology

Authors
Publisher
Catholic Faculty of Theology, University of Zagreb; [email protected]
Publication Date
Keywords
  • Eshatologija
  • Posljednja Vremena
  • Dan Gospodnji
  • Posljednji Sud
  • Smrt
  • Zagrobni život
  • Uskrsnuće Tijela
  • Kraljevstvo Božje
  • život Vječni.
  • Eschatology
  • »Last Things«
  • The Day Of The Lord
  • The Last Judgment
  • Death
  • The State After Death
  • The Resurrection Of The Body
  • The Kingdom Of God
  • Eternal Life
Disciplines
  • Education
  • Religious Science

Abstract

In this paper entitled »The Biblical Eschatology« I have investigated the foundations of the biblical eschatology, i. e. the biblical doctrine relating to the end of history/world and to the »last things« (the after death life). The investigation is divided in two parts: the OT (I) and the NT eschatology. Because there is no synthesis of the eschatological doctrine in the Bible, I have investigated the single tradition and the single biblical book, and interpreted what they say about the end of the history, of the world and about the last things (death and after death life). Firstly, I have investigated the origin and the development of the eschatological idea in the Old Testament. Many scholars use the term »eschatology« in relation to the OT, only in a very general sense as an expectation of the future or as an expression of hope for the better future. This expectation of the future and this expression of the hope include a basic statement about faith in Yahweh that strives for the realisation of his promises to the fathers: the Covenant with Yahweh, promises relating the Day of the Lord, Kingdom of God.... It seems, that the eschatological idea within the Old Testament was an israelitic authentic phenomenon. It grew out of and devoloped within the OT religion. Surely, some eschatological ideas found in nonbiblical religions and mythologies must have influenced the OT eshatology, but have been radicaly re-interpreted in the Bible within the Yahwistic religious heritage found in Israel. Many scholars think that Israel's own concept of God, and the Covenant between God and his people, and a linear steered reality in the »right direction« and not cyclic, led to the rise of eschatology. The natural-cyclical thinking of the neighbour nations speculated on the »eternal rhythm« of the ages of the world in analogy to the »natural calendar year«. In the texts of the OT, we see the future that is promised and given by God. The people, by God's word, are directed to the future and to the end of their national history, and history in general. In a special way, I have analysed the prophetic texts and some psalms, which promise a total world change and a better future for the people in the kingdom of God (e.g. Is 2,1-4; 11,6-9). Understanding the present stresses within Israel, and the present experience of finality, Israel could not be satisfied with the present state because it always expected more and greater things from its God. The present state of affairs in the world must perish, because Yahweh is coming and will create everything new. The coming of Yahweh is central idea of OT eschatology (i. e. the Day of the Lord, the end of the days). Accordingly, eschatology is an essential and integral part of the Old Testament faith in God. Then, I investigate the individual eschatology, namely death, Sheol, the retribution, the ultimate victory of the good over evil, and the rusurrection of dead. The question surrounding the resurrection of the body has been discussed; a biblical-theological topic that appeared very late in the OT and was influenced by the Hellenistic and apocalyptic literature. In some of these sources (2 Macc 7,lss; Dan 12,1) the resurrection should be physical, with the soul coming from Sheol or some other intermediate place to be reunited with the body, which had been buried here on the earth. Next, I discussed the NT eschatology (II). The NT texts do not focus primarily on the question of individualized eschatology, i. e. the death of a person and the state after death; but they speak about the end of the world and the end of history. The first generation of the Christians (Paul) wait for the coming of the Last day (1 Cor 15,52), which will be preceded by eschatological plagues (Rev 15,1; 21,9). Then death, the last enemy, will be overcome (1 Cor 15,26) and the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, and final salvation will take place. According to the New Testament the eschatological time had already been inaugurated by the coming of Jesus Christ; therefore the time of the Christians is the last time. According to Paul's teaching the fullness of time has come (Gal 4,4), the old has passed and the new has come (2 Cor 5,17), the eschatological events are in some ways already present and in other ways still are yet tο be fulfilled in the future (the tension between the »already has come« - »not yet realised«). According to the synoptic Gospels (Marc, Matthew and Luke) and Logia source the end is imminent. Jesus invites his disciples to give up their homes, family, to accept his own cross; and to undergo tribulations and persecutions. The eschatological day will come suddenly, but certainly. One should be prepared for the Parousia, for the final Coming of Jesus. The oldest synoptic tradition ascribe to Jesus two different eschatological perspetives. According to the first. Jesus expected the end of the world, the coming of the Son on the clouds of heaven and the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth in the very near future. According to the second, the time of salvation has already begun in the person and ministry of Jesus and the kingdom of God is already real and present. According to the Fourth Gospel (John) the eschatological salvation is already realised in the present (realised eschatology). Those who believe in Jesus are no longer »of the world« (kosmos), even though they are still in the world. John emphasizes the radical opposition of the kosmos to God and Jesus. He uses apocalyptic-eschatological language (judgment, the coming of the Lord, eternal life) in order to announce eschatological salvation as a present reality. The paper shows the complexity of the eschatological doctrine within the Bible. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the single traditions and books of the Bible in order to understand the general view of the biblical eschatology as it is presented in this paper.

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