Confessing Christ Bloggers
Mar 31

Written by: gfackre
3/31/2009 6:51 PM


Life Everlasting...

The last of the four great creedal affirmations. But what about “hell”? You left off earlier promising to deal with it And now you are going on to everlasting life instead of facing into “hell and damnation.” One more example of how “hell” has dropped out of the vocabulary of the mainline Christians today?

No, but a different way of approaching it. To get some glimmer of what “everlasting death” is, we must first fix our gaze on “everlasting life.” While whatever we claim to see is through a mirror dimly/glass darkly, surely the former must be the absence of the latter. So our fourth stained glass window is the place we shall both begin and conclude. Conclude the Grand Narrative, but also begin to glimpse what its alternative might be.

For this section, I shall adapt some of what I’ve already written in the chapter “The Life Everlasting: Et vitam aeternam” in a book edited by Roger Van Harn, Exploring and Proclaiming the Apostles Creed (Eerdmans, 2004), a collection of essays and sermons on each sentence of the Apostles Creed. And what a great book it is on the themes we have been discussing , plus the other creedal affirmations, with authors Colin Gunton, Marguerite Shuster, Philip Butin, Frances Young, Richard Norris, Jr., Robert Wilken, Cornelius Plantinga, Leslie Hoppe, David Ford, Scott Hoezee Thomas Long. George Hunsinger, Richard Burridge, Daniel Migliore, Ralph C. Wood, Lois Malcolm, Fleming Rutledge, James Kay, Scott Black Johnston, Richard Hays, William M Shand III , Susan Wood, William C. Turner, Walter R. Bouman, Richard Lischer, Steven Paulson, Cynthia Rigby and Craig C. Hill. I urge those following this blog to also read that work.

The ancient creeds—Nicene and Apostles—are really dramas in three acts—creation reconciliation, redemption, the acts being the sequential missions of the three Persons as the “economic Trinity,” albeit as immanent Trinity all are involved in every act as this is the drama of the one triune God. With biblical specificity in mind, the theatre metaphor can be transposed to that of literature and conceived as a narrative with 7 chapters. I have tried to do this in the various volumes of The Christian Story series as creation, fall, covenant, Christ, church, salvation consummation. Whatever the genre we are now at the end of the final act or chapter, the finis that fulfills the divine telos. Using the language of the Apostles Creed, we have to do with the bold Christian affirmation of “everlasting life.”

The portrayal in Scripture —yes through a glass darkly—of this final state is rich and varied. Sometimes it is described in cosmic terms as “a new heaven and a new earth.”(Rev.21:1) At other times it is visualized politically and socially as the Kingdom of God come to earth (Matt 6:10). And yet other times, the focus is on persons and their fulfillment. And in every case it is clear that the alienations that mark our fallen world of Now are overcome with a reconciliation of all the broken and separation parties to God’s purposes. Thus what God finally wills and achieves is the very reflection of who God is: an everlasting life together that mirrors the eternal Life Together.

At the very center of Things to Come is the Person through whom the triune God will make such possible. The assembly of Christians at the second World Council of Churches in 1954 declared such with special power.

He will come [not only as] Judge [but as] King to bring all things to their consummation. Then we shall see him as He is and know Him as we are known. Together with the whole creation we wait for this with eager hope, knowing that God is faithful and even now He holds all things in His hand. (“A Message from the Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, “The Evanston Report: The Second Assembly of the World Council of Churches, 1954
(London: SCM Press,1955),1.

To the varied dimensions of that consummation Hope we shall presently turn. But before that I want to examine some biblical texts that use the term, as an entry point.

Copyright ©2009 Gabriel Fackre

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