John’s Gospel as Eschathon

The word Eschatology often invokes fear as it is often associated with the mystic symbolism of John’s apocalyptic visions of the end of the world in the Book of Revelations.

However I would like to suggest a more, well thought-of insight on eschatology that is – not merely looking at it as the doctrine of last things, or the end times, but also as the rebirth of creation as instituted by Jesus and continued by his disciples, a historical phenomenon, based on N.S. Fujita’s observation on the Gospel of John’s distinctive:

“One of the distinctive messages of John’s Gospel presents Jesus as the true life-giver; he is “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (4:14), and “the bread of life” (6:35-51). Just as a branch, vitally connected with the vine, can live and bear fruit, people can live a true life if they abide in this life-source (15:1-6). Consequently, the “eternal life” in John is not primarily a matter for the future (beyond the end of this world), but is a crucial question of the here and now, since God has already achieved salvation through Jesus. This is clearly stated in 3:18, “He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already in the name of the only Son of God” (notice the tense). Likewise in 16:33: “I have overcome the world.” And we read in 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.”

The decisive act of God’s salvation, according to John, has already been actualized (although the second coming of Jesus is mentioned a few times). Such a theological assertion forms a characteristic contrast to Mark’s expectation of the apocalyptic Son of Man; one underlines “already,” while the other “not yet.” Scholars have coined the term “realized eschatology” to express the Johanine view of eschatological salvation. To be sure, the “already” by no means points simply to the past of Jesus’ life-death-resurrection, but is vitally related to the life of Christians. As long as they abide in Christ, the “already” is a present reality. Therefore, for John, faith does not mean a belief in certain doctrines but a living and trustful communion with God through Christ. In this very sense, the Johanine teaching of eternal life corresponds to the Synoptic kingdom of God. 1
With that being said perhaps it is better for us Christians to look at our faith, our church, our entire Christianity as eschatology, as the German theologian Jurgen Moltmann once said in his seminal Theology of Hope:

“From first to last, and not merely in epilogue, Christianity is eschatology, is hope, forward looking and forward moving, and therefore also revolutionizing and transforming the present. The eschatological is not one element of Christianity, but it is the medium of Christian faith as such, the key in which everything in it is set, the glow that suffues everything here in the dawn of an expected new day. For the Christian faith lives from the raising of the crucified Christ, and strains after the promises of the universal future of Christ. Eschatology is the passionate suffering and passionate longing kindled by the Messiah. 2
1 Fujita, N.S. – Introducing the Bible p.144-145
2 Moltmann, Jurgen - Theology of Hope: p.16.

No comments: