What happens when we die? What happens in the end times? Questions like these have been asked countless times by the Christian community and, like many other things in the Christian faith, there has not always been a clear answer. Will things play out as described in the book of Revelation? What does the promise of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ offer to us in the “end times”? I had the opportunity to consider some of these questions while sitting at the wake for one of my great aunts who had passed away suddenly from a severe stroke. Those present were certainly in a stage of mourning her loss, but there was also a strong feeling of joy and hope. This seemed to come from everyone observing all of the many young (even newborn) children who ran about the space pladying with one another, each oblivious to the reality of the room’s purpose and present state. When reading William J. La Due’s The Trinity Guide to Eschatology, I found myself drawn to the section on Jürgen Moltmann’s eschatology of hope. I believe that, like Moltmann, in the end God will save everyone, all creation and all humanity, as a fulfillment of God’s promise through the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
La Due describes Moltmann’s eschatology in that God wants to save everyone, is able to save everyone, and in fact, will save everyone. And it is through Jesus Christ’s death and ressurection, including suffering through the torrments of hell, that in the end nothing will be lost. One of the most compelling arguments that La Due discusses of Moltmann’s work is “Moltman advises us, ‘If the double outcome of justice is proclaimed, the question is then: why did God create human beings if he is going to damn most of them in the end, and why only redeem the least part of them?’”. The idea of the double outcome of justice, the believers go to heaven and the unbelievers are damned to hell, was on that I grew up with but always questions. What about those people who never came to know God in their own lifetime? Are children in a third world country who have never heard the Gospel going to spend eternity in anguish and hell fire? That does not sound like the God of love that I have come to know through Scripture, experience, and faith. Moltmann definitely pushes against this as La Due remarks, “Regarding the dispatching of some unfortunates to hell, he insists that this is not at all compatible with God in light of his faithfulness to what he has brought into being…’It is an inclusive and universal hope for the life which overcomes death. It is true not only for Christians by for everything living that wants to live and has to die.”
Some will, and have, pushed against Moltmann’s ideas, especially around the understanding of the “final judgment.” In defense of Motlmann, Nigel G. Wright writes that,
the Last or final Judgment was concieved as hope cherished by the victims of history that divine justice would triumph over injustice....