The Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman*, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.
“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”
“O Sinner”, the Eschatological Hope replied,” Do not fall into despair. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that you O Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescued His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life.”
“Rejoice and sing praise to Life, O Sinner,” said the Eschatological Hope, ” You and the true Church of God ought to rejoice with this new song: ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”
“For the death of Life was the death of death.” the Eschatological Hope affirmed, “Rejoice O you who are in Life. Rejoice. Death has no dominion over you. It’s lordship ended at the death and resurrection of Christ, your true and everlasting Lord and God.”
*Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1882, 1887) tran. Walter Kaufmann (1974) New York: Vintage, 1974 p. 181-82)
Peace and salvation, Yahweh is King (Isa. 52:7-8). This was and is a victorious proclamation that Yahweh’s kingdom has come on earth as it is in heaven. The God of Israel has return to His people. Here comes the inauguration of the eschatological era. It is the dawn of the new creation. The time of restoration of the fallen world has come. “Behold, your God”, proclaims those who herald this evangelion to God’s people who are anxiously waiting to hear the good news. Waiting to hear that the time of God’s dominion on earth as it is in heaven has come.
Where this evangelion is proclaimed, there there is an explosive joy among God’s people. This explosive joy is rooted in Christ Jesus. He is not only the bringer of the evangelion but also the evangelion itself. He is the bringer of God’s kingdom in heaven to earth and He is the everlasting King in that joyous divine rule that will wipe away God’s people tears, bring end to morning, suffering, pain and death. He is also the true fountain of the living infinitely and imperishable joy itself.
The Church is called to heralding this evangelion. She is sent to herald God’s redemptive drama. She is sent to behold Christ Jesus as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the fallen world and as the Lion of Judah, who has triumphed over darkness.
The Church is the last Eve. She is kept pure. She is without stain or wrinkle. For Her last Adam is keeping Her holy and blameless. Her mission, heralding and living in this divine romance, is a reaction. Just like laughter, it is not an action.
This mission is a reaction towards an overwhelming and compelling divine love. She is overwhelmed and compelled to be like Him, and to act like Him. She is overwhelmed and compelled to be holy, loving, patient and kind. She overwhelmed and compelled to protect the weak, to persevere in the darkness, to rejoice in truth, to welcome the outcasts, to heal the wounded and to bring hope in despair. The divine love compels Her to rekindle heaven on earth.
The problem of pain and suffering is without doubt the most troubling paradox for Christians. How could a loving, maximally powerful and caring God allow his children to go through extreme and seemly meaningless pain and suffering? In times of suffering many Christians do, and correctly so I may add, find it difficult to imagine that God cares about their struggles. God appears to be as cold as ice itself and far from them as east is to the west. At those moments they rightly identify with Ivan Karamazov’s cry: “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept”, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fictional novel, The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky 2007, 257)
Early Christians underwent various trials and persecutions. Many paid their faithfulness with their own blood. What was it that made them stand tall and proud through such hard times? What was it that made them triumphantly walk into the valley of death without doubting the sovereignty of their loving God? As I explored their writings, I discovered one of their reasons. Their eschatological hope was what keep them going. It was their hope for the future glory at the second advent of their Lord and God. Their understanding of this future glory brought them hope. They considered all their present suffering not worthy compared to the joy and glory prepared for them (Rom. 8:18). Continue reading
Is there hope for Christians who have passed away? Will they participate in the eschatological hope, the parousia of the second advent of King Jesus? How ought the living Christians live their lives as they awaited the returning of their Lord and God? These were roughly the questions Paul attempted to address in his first epistle to the Church in Thessalonica (4:13-5:11). In the previous articles I went through different interpretations and the current debate surrounding Paul’s message, as I attempt to explore Paul’s answers to these questions:
The shed blood of Christ Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” wrote the author the first epistle of John (1 John 2:2 NIV). This article presents a universality and particularity of atonement and showed that Martin Luther, John Calvin and Jacob Arminius held a similar understanding of the nature and extent of atonement.
I have studied and reflected 1 John 2:2 for the last 5 months. I have come to a conclusion that Christ shed his blood for all, post-Christ’s death and resurrection, without exception. This is the universality of the atoning work of Christ Jesus. The story, nonetheless, does not end here. The shed blood of Christ is, however, not extended to all without exception but to all without distinction. This is the particularity of the atoning work of Christ Jesus.
The shed blood of Christ extends or is applied particularly to believers, the elected or the called, whom in God’s proper time are also given the gift of regeneration that spring forth faith to receive it (Acts 13:48). Through the shedding of His blood, Christ’s righteousness is thus given to all without distinction. Christ’s righteousness is given to whomever believe (Rom. 3:22) in the person and work of Christ Jesus. Continue reading
The idea that death has no last say for Christians because Christ Jesus will return to restore what is lost and renew what is perishing is sweet to the soul. This idea is what Christians in Thessalonica are called to encourage each other with. It is what Paul concludes with in 1 Thessalonians 4:18 and 5:11. This idea is unarguably the aim of general theme of 1 Thessalonian 4-5 (Weima 1995: 192). Thessalonians are called to encourage each other with eschatological hope that is not only theirs, those who are living, but also of their dead comrades.
It appears that the church in Thessalonica knew the times and the seasons that marked the return of their Lord and King (5:1 cf. Lk 21:34-36). It would be unexpected time, like that of a thief in the night. While the rest of the world believe that all is well, the King will return and all who did not pledge alliance with Him would be caught like a pregnant woman in labor pain without any escape route (5:2-4). Continue reading
What is the fate of Christians who died before the second advent of Christ Jesus? Will they participate in the parousia of their Lord and King? Paul of Tarsus addressed such questions in his first letter to the Thessalonians. He commended Christians in Thessalonica not to be distressed about their fellow comrades who died in Christ Jesus before the return of their King. Unlike those who died without Christ, those without hope (v. 13), the dead in Christ have the eschatological hope. The dead in Christ will indubitably not miss the future magnificent parousia, the glorious coming of their Sovereign Lord and King, because He will descend “with a loud command”, “with the voice of archangel” and “with the trumpet call of God”.
The dead in Christ will be resurrected to meet their Lord prior to the one living (v. 15). Together they will meet their King and be with Him forever (verse 17). A wonderful word-tree (fig.), by Jacob W. Elias, carefully captured the flow of Paul discourse in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17.
Fig. 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 word-tree (Elias 1995: 173) Continue reading