Christ Our Hope

Christ Our Hope: An Introduction to Eschatology

Paul O’Callaghan
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Christ Our Hope
    Book Description:

    Christ Our Hope is a masterful reflection on Christian eschatology, in a textbook of twelve accessible chapters.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-1904-2
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Principal Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Part One. The Dynamic of Hope
    • 1 The Christian Virtue of Hope and the Epistemological Underpinnings of Christian Eschatology
      (pp. 3-36)

      Christianity, like Judaism, is the religion of God’s promise. God, in creating the world and saving humanity, did not leave everything neatly and accurately arranged from the outset. His creating action marks the beginning of time. And time opens space for further progress: space for God, who continues to act, to create, to save, to provide, to perfect, to renew, to re-create; and space for humans, who are offered again and again the opportunity of freely responding to God’s gifts. The incompleteness of the present moment belongs to the very essence of Christian revelation. The letter to the Hebrews reminds...

  6. Part Two. The Object of Christian Hope
    • [Part Two. Introduction]
      (pp. 37-38)

      The Apostles’ Creed openly proclaims that Jesus Christ “will return to judge the living and the dead.”¹ And the Nicea-Constantinople Creed says more or less the same thing: “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”² Vatican II’s constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum, speaks likewise of the “the glorious manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”³ Pope Paul VI’s Creed of the People of God says: “he ascended into heaven and will come again, in glory, to judge the living and the dead.”⁴ Finally, in the Catechism of...

    • 2 Parousia: The Future Coming of the Lord Jesus in Glory
      (pp. 39-73)

      The future coming of Jesus Christ in glory is generally called the Parousia (a Greek term derived from the verb pareimi, “to be present”).² The term Parousia is to be found in many books of the New Testament that refer explicitly to the future coming of Christ at the end of time.³ In Greek and Roman literature Parousia often refers to the solemn entrance of a king or emperor into a province or city, as a conqueror proclaiming victory, or as a quasi-divine savior-figure inaugurating a new age.⁴ The term epiphaneia, used for example in Matthew’s Gospel to designate the...

    • 3 The Resurrection of the Dead
      (pp. 74-114)

      Belief in the resurrection of the dead by the power of God is deeply rooted in the Old Testament and is central to Christian faith.³ Tertullian went so far as to say that “the hope of Christians is the resurrection of the dead.”⁴ And this is so for the simple reason that the final resurrection of humanity is the ultimate fruit of the resurrection of Christ (which is the basis of our hope), and of his glorious Parousia (the definitive manifestation of our hope). Indeed it may be said that the prime and immediate effect of the coming of Jesus...

    • 4 The New Heavens and the New Earth
      (pp. 115-129)

      In direct continuity with the doctrine of final resurrection, the return of the risen Lord Jesus Christ in glory (what is called the Parousia) will involve not only the universal resurrection and judgment of humans, but also the destruction, purification, and renewal of the material cosmos, what Scripture calls the new creation (Mt 19:28; Rom 8:18–25; Gal 6:15). Doubtless, humans are destined to govern the world as God’s images or envoys (Gn 1:26–28).³ But it is no less true that humans belong to the world in the fullest possible sense on account of their corporal condition. In other...

    • 5 Final Judgment
      (pp. 130-148)

      Christian faith openly proclaims that when Jesus comes in glory at the end of time, not only will the dead rise up by the power of God in the likeness of the risen Christ, not only will the cosmos be renewed, but the whole of humanity will be judged by the Lord of heaven and earth. The Symbols of the faith are virtually unanimous in proclaiming final judgment as the primary motive of Christ’s glorious coming: he “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”³ Pope Benedict’s encyclical Spe salvi pays special attention to the doctrine...

    • 6 Heaven: Eternal Life in the Glory of Christ
      (pp. 149-188)

      The outcome of final judgment is unequivocal: eternal life or eternal perdition. The promise made by God through his Son is equally clear: those who follow and believe in him receive the promise of eternal communion with the Trinity; those who do not believe will forfeit the divine promise. And the very cause of Christianity holds or falls on the hope provided by this promise.

      In the Christian lexicon, several equivalent terms may be used to designate the same reality of the afterlife.⁴ Perhaps the most popular term is simply “heaven” (Greek, ouranos), which indicates intuitively the transcendence and divinity...

    • 7 Hell: The Perpetual Retribution of the Sinner
      (pp. 189-222)

      The possibility of perpetual condemnation of the unrepentant sinner is a nonnegotiable element of the doctrinal patrimony of Christian faith. This does not mean of course that Christians “believe” as such in hell. Much less are they obliged to believe that some specific individuals have actually been condemned, or that a certain percentage of believers have forfeited, or will have to forfeit, eternal life forever. Rather they believe in a God who has created humans in such a way that they are capable of freely losing the reward of communion with the Trinity promised to those who are faithful, if...

  7. Part Three. The Stimulus of Hope in the World
    • 8 The Living Presence of the Parousia
      (pp. 225-250)

      As we saw earlier on, the moment when the Parousia takes place will depend, to some degree, on humans’ correspondence (or lack of it) to God’s gifts and inspiration.³ In Matthew 23:39 we read: “For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” This does not mean, “When the Messiah comes, his people will bless him,” but rather the opposite, “When his people bless him, the Messiah will come.”⁴ This declaration is confirmed by Jesus’ admonition: “When the Son of man comes, will he find...

  8. Part Four. Honing and Purifying Christian Hope
    • 9 Death, the End of the Human Pilgrimage
      (pp. 253-285)

      Death will come eventually, and it will come for everybody. Seneca confirms this common conviction and declares that there is nothing more certain than death.⁵ Yet death, as it presents itself to humans, constitutes a profound enigma. We do not know what it is meant to achieve, other than keeping a limit on world population and ensuring that generations follow on from one another, thus avoiding the cultural stagnation of the world. We are certain that it often involves suffering, pain, and, perhaps more than anything else, an acute sense of loss. Its pervading presence seems to spread a cloud...

    • 10 Purgatory: The Purification of the Elect
      (pp. 286-308)

      “Purgatory” designates that state of definitive purification, after death, for those who have died in friendship with God but are stained by the remains of sin. “All who die in God’s grace and friendship,” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”³ It is commonly held that the doctrine of purgatory is one of the most “human” of Christian doctrines, in that it gives expression (1) to the holiness of God that...

    • 11 The Implications of an “Intermediate Eschatology”
      (pp. 309-326)

      For an extended period of time, it is fair to say, Catholic eschatology paid more attention to the “last things” of the individual: death, personal judgment, heaven or hell, beatific vision, personal purification, and so on.² It is not of course that other critical elements were excluded. As we have seen throughout the preceding chapters, the individual aspects of Christian eschatology would be meaningless were they not understood in an interpersonal context. Death, for example, involves separation from others. Judgment is centered on our actions with respect to other people. The agent and standard of these actions is Another, Jesus...

  9. Part Five. The Power and Light of Hope
    • 12 The Central Role of Christian Eschatology in Theology
      (pp. 329-338)

      The Greek word eschaton originally meant “end,” maybe even “dregs,” in the most abject sense of the term, equivalent perhaps in Greek to peras. Under the saving power of Christ and the impulse of hope, Christianity radically transformed the term’s meaning into “goal” (closer to the Greek telos), that is, ultimate purpose, target, summit, or plenitude. So the fact that the study of Christian eschatology has traditionally been situated as the last of the dogmas does not mean that it should be considered simply as an end of the line, where Christian reflection, exhausted, says its last word and peters...

  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 339-340)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 341-348)
  12. Index of Names
    (pp. 349-358)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 359-360)