Revolutionaries go to heaven or to hell

1. Last things - last questions

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Life from perfection. Eschatological hope for this world

Author:Sandler Willibald
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Traditionally, eschatology (from Greek: eschaton = the last) is the doctrine of the last things. This means death and what, according to Christian belief, comes after it. The traditional Catholic eschatological scheme makes clear what these last things are closer to.



According to this conceptual scheme, in death the soul separates from the human body and comes into the individual judgment. There are three exits from there: Heaven, Purgatory or Hell. After the end of the world, the dead are resurrected, and all people receive a new, immortal body. This brings you to a second judgment - the world judgment. Whoever went to heaven or hell after the individual judgment is confirmed in this judgment. Anyone who has been in purgatory will go to heaven after purification has now been completed.


To this last things: Death, soul and body, individual judgment and world judgment, heaven, hell and purgatory, there are many questions. Theological questions aim at the rationality of eschatological models of conception as free of contradictions (consistent) and in agreement (coherent) with our philosophical and ideological understanding of time and space, with the natural sciences and above all with the biblical foundations. The naive time concept of the traditional model - with one measured according to earthly time standards Intermediate state between death, individual judgment and world judgment was questioned. Contradictions have also been found in comparison with the Bible. Biblically like this is never of two otherworldly courts the speech.1 Such difficulties have led to a radical reform of the traditional eschatological model in the 20th century. If time as we know it is a destination of our earthly world, then people fall out of this time when they die. Doesn't one then have to assume that there is no longer any period of time between individual judgment and world judgment? Hence the idea of ​​a Resurrection in death found widespread use.2


In such final questions one can differentiate between curiosity questions and existentially relevant questions. A biblical example of a curiosity question is the disciples' question as to whether the risen Jesus, who just appeared to them, will restore the kingdom of God for Israel at this time. Jesus replied:

You are not entitled to know times and deadlines
which the father has established in his power.
But you will receive power
when the Holy Spirit comes down on you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria
and to the limits of the earth. "(Acts 1,7)3

This makes it clear: Knowledge of times and deadlines does not matter at all. It is crucial that the disciples are already endowed with the power of the Holy Spirit. And it is crucial that one always counts on the hour of the eschatological judgment, and that one takes it accordingly vigilant lives (cf. Mk 13.34-37; Mt 24.42; 25.13). Hence "a principle for the hermeneutics of eschatological statements"4 formulate with which one can distinguish which kind of eschatological questions can be answered meaningfully for us at all: namely those and only those that are decisive for how we should live here and now - in faith, hope and love - so that we can attain eternal life.


What do we have to know about “last things” in order to live properly here and now for eternity? These cannot be complicated truths that only specialist theologians understand. I would like to name five very simple principles.


1. This life is not everything.


2. All the good that we have sown in this life remains for eternity.


3. Only love counts.


4. Everything is a gift.


5. There is a court.


Whether or not death is all over makes a huge difference in how we judge the people, things, and events we deal with in our lives. This does not automatically mean that for atheists without belief in God and eternal life, immorally, "everything is allowed" (Dostoyevsky). Nor does it mean that believing Christians automatically live with a view to eternity. We all, Christian or not, tend to forget our mortality and live as if we lived forever. Like a fanatical player who forgets on a social evening that the game pieces are about to be cleared away and the feast is served. From a Christian point of view, this life is a passage. It is preparation for a new life, which is the actual “life in abundance”.5 In such a way that exactly for that reason our life here and now is of paramount importance: not that we survive at all costs, because in the end no one can do that, but rather how we live counts. Even if it doesn't matter on a social evening who wins the game, a lot depends on how we play. Our eternity depends on the “game of life” here and now.


The Second Vatican Council formulated this principle of hope impressively:

“We do not know when the earth and mankind will be completed (cf. Acts 1,7), and we also do not know the way in which the universe is to be transformed.
It is true that the shape of this world, which is deformed by sin, disappears (cf. 1 Cor 7:31 [...]) but we are taught that God has a new dwelling place and a new earth on whom righteousness dwells (cf. 2 Cor 5: 2; 2 Pet 3:13), whose bliss fulfills and surpasses every longing for peace in the hearts of men (cf. 1 Cor 2: 9; Rev 21: 4 -5).
Death will be conquered, the children of God will be raised in Christ, and what is sown in weakness and corruption will be clothed in incorruptibility (cf. 1 Cor 15:42, 53).
Love will remain like what it once did (cf. 1 Cor 13: 8; 3:14), and all creation that God created for man's sake will be freed from the bondage of impermanence (cf. Rom 8: 19-21).
We are admonished that it is of no use to man if he wins the whole world, but brings himself to ruin (cf. Lk 9.25); nevertheless the expectation of the new earth must not weaken the care for the shaping of this earth, on which the growing body of the new human family can give us a general idea of ​​the world to come, but on the contrary must encourage it. Although earthly progress can be clearly distinguished from the growth of the kingdom of Christ, it is of great importance for the kingdom of God insofar as it can contribute to a better order in human society.
That is to say, all the good results of nature and our endeavors, the goods of human dignity, fraternal communion and freedom, must be increased on earth in the spirit of the Lord and according to his commandment; then we will find it again, cleansed of every blemish, full of light and transfigurednamely, when Christ is given to the Father "an eternal, all-embracing kingdom: the kingdom of truth and life, the kingdom of holiness and grace, the kingdom of justice, love and peace."6

This is the foundation of an all-pervading Christian hope. Everything that is truly good lasts forever, and not just like it is, but rather: “full of light and transfigured”, so in one transformed - purified and consummate - manner. With this, the council points to a strong middle between the ditches of escape from the world and idolatry. A belief is justified that is true to the earth, without relativizing this by looking sideways at the transience of everything. Only what we sow here with God's help will we reap for eternity. So we can sow with unshakable confidence that the harvest will come without being frustrated by failure or the malicious destruction of our work in this world.

“Those who sow with tears will reap with joy.
They go, yes go, and weep and carry the seeds to sow.
They come, yes come with joy and bring their sheaves. ”(Ps 126: 5-6)

But what does the good actually consist of, which we one day “will find again, purified from every blemish, full of light and transfigured”? The council text gives a clear, biblically based answer: “Love will remain like what it once did. ”This is a piece of wisdom, so simple that it is recognized by ordinary people and easily overlooked by the clever: In the end, looking back at the hour of our death, only one thing will count in our life: love; what we have gratefully received out of love and what we have done with love. Everything else will remain behind and go the way of everything earthly.


But love presupposes that we get in touch with the things and beings of this world. Love is incarnate. It refers not only to the "beautiful soul", but also to the body, which makes this beauty shine in a congenial way. Love says: "You will not die" (Gabriel Marcel). By "you" she means more than the "idea" of the good and the beautiful that appears in the beloved. Love aims at a perfect salvation that includes a transformed body freed from mortality. Love aims at physical resurrection.


Everything is a gift: Not only my gifts and talents are given to me, but my whole being in freedom. "Thanks that you me give me ”, we may pray to God. This is what makes the second possible: “Thank you you give me ”. The mystery of God's creation and revelation is a double gift of self: being set free to be free and being a divine gift to the person who is set free in this way. In this way, relatedness and difference, closeness and distance are equally given by God - a distance that does not leave you alone and a closeness that does not take possession. So all we are is a gift. And love is the gift of all gifts.


Given in this way with divine love, we are set free to answer love with our own love. That only love counts7 applies not only to the extraordinarily lovable, but to everything that is, simply because it is - because it was created and that means: through God's double self-giving given is.8


But doesn't such a perspective suppress the bitter reality of evil and ugliness, violence and lies? On the contrary. It is the empowering gift and task of the creatures released to freedom to answer the loving self-giving with their own love. This gift and task can also be denied - not only to the divine giver, but to other people and all of creation, who through their created being reflect God's love and with whom Christ, the mediator of all creation, has identified himself. Where such refusal occurs, the highest human gift is not only weakened, but turned into its opposite: Corruptio optimi pessima - The perversion of the very best (of the very best) is the very worst.9 The deeper in a person the ability to lovingly engage with others and other things is released through a God-given grace kairos,10 the more destructive their refusal is to the refuser himself and to others: by rejecting love or, worse still, by perverting it into an abuse of love.


Hence this fourth principle, that everything is a gift, becomes an eschatological principle: in the end everything will depend on whether and to what extent we receive God's gift in every moment, in every event and in every act of our life in what we meet and - through this gifted - having given ours as well as ourselves.


The grateful knowledge that everything is a gift protects us from pride. Because:

“What do you have that you would not have received?
But when you have received it,
why do you boast that you have not received it? ”(1 Cor 4: 7).

And the grateful awareness that everything is a gift can still lift us up even in loss and failure. This is what the proverbial job testifies after losing everything in one fell swoop:

"Then Job got up, tore his robe, shaved his head,
fell to the ground, worshiped and said:
I came out naked from my mother's lap;
I return there naked.
The Lord has given, the Lord has taken;
Praise be to the name of the Lord ”(Job 1: 20-21)

One day God will confront us with the truth of our whole life - of every moment, every encounter with every person and with every piece of reality. According to biblical promise, this will happen in the eschatological encounter with the crucified and risen Christ, who came down from heaven to the depths of our world in order to unite with all creatures, especially the poorest and most despised, so that he will say one day becomes: "I was hungry and you gave me (nothing) to eat ..." (Mt 25,35,42).11 In this world judgment we will all recognize that the judgment has long since taken place: in those hidden moments of grace (biblical: kairoi) of our present lifetime, in which a certain encounter with a person or with some creature reality (not least: with ourselves) us believed - so that we, like the good Samaritan, were able and called to to give us. Whoever gives in such a kairos as he / she was given will not emerge from it poorer but richer. Because then the God-human circle of giving and receiving closes, so that God's grace goes beyond measure abovecan flow:


Give, then it will be given to you too!


A good, full, heaped, overflowing measure will be placed in your lap;


for according to the measure with which you measure, you will also be measured.

“Give, then it will be given to you too!
A good, full, heaped, overflowing measure
they will lay you in your lap;
because according to the measure with which you measure,
will be measured to you too. ”(Lk 6:38)

This overflowing fruitfulness of our divinely happy actions, which is largely hidden from us during our lives, we will recognize in the Last Judgment. We will look into the eyes of unknown people who have been lifted up by it; and we will see previously unnoticed things and events in the world that have shone brighter as a result. So we will ask the Lord and judge of the world, who has identified himself with every person and every part of reality, "When did we see you and receive you as a stranger ...?" (Mt 25:38) The joy of this unexpected fruitfulness, in the loving connection with people, things and events in the world will be our reward, as the parable of the talents promises: "Come, take part in the joyous festival of your Lord!" (Mt 25:21, 23)


But whoever refused to gratefully accept and give an answer to what was given in one of the many grace kairoi of the past life has thereby cut himself off from God, the world and from himself and made himself fruitless. We will see how we have thereby hurt people, damaged parts of creation and thereby crucified Christ, the mediator of all creation, anew.12 We will see how by our refusal - where we are out of love would have to act can - God's love was obscured at one point in creation. Something beautiful is ignored, a smile is unrequited, a request is unheard of, a tear remains undried.13


This is the way it is Last Judgment the eschatological confrontation with the truth of one's own life, mediated by the person of Jesus Christ, the mediator of all creation (Col 1: 16-17), who identified himself with every human being and with all creation: “What you one of my least brothers and Sister (did not) have done that, you (did not) do to me. ”Through the encounter of those who identify with everyone, the Last Judgment becomes an encounter event with every person and every part of creation with which we directly or even indirectly during our life - through the effects of our good or bad doing or inaction - had to do, namely an encounter with all in Christ. This “In Christ” is the center and foundation, the beginning and the end of the whole judgment process. At the beginning there is the now undisguised experience of an incomprehensible love, which has affirmed us from creation and which wants to save, complete, and receive us into heavenly glory.But this is more than an individual experience, it encompasses everything: all creation transformed into Christ and this from the beginning. So my whole wholesome and hopeless life story is taken into the intimacy of being loved by God: every successful and every unsuccessful encounter with every person and with every part of creation, where I am indebted as a wrongdoer and where I myself have become a victim; and all of this not only directly, but also in every indirect effect, however distant. Everything is rolled up again, recapitulated,14 and purified, transformed, opened to reconciliation in the light of God's all-pervading love. The intensity of God's love and the extent of the all-inclusive reach out to the whole of creation mutually increase: The more God's love glows through us, the more intense our pain becomes about every failure of our love that we have caused during our life: that is, where we love could and denied this God-given opportunity to harm people, creation and ourselves.


So we must consider purgatory as a fire of the Love repentance imagine that becomes more ardent as we let ourselves be caught up in God's transforming love. Such a fire is more violent than any externally inflicted agony. And it does not serve to punish and torment us, but to make us capable of heaven. The Gospel of John expresses this precisely:

"[...] God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world,
but so that the world may be saved through him "(Jn 3:17)

But that does not mean that Christ is not a judge.

"To judge, [he] came into this world:
so that the blind may see and the sighted may become blind ”(Jn 9:39).

But the goal is not judgment, condemnation, condemnation, but salvation. The real goal of Jesus' work - in Israel 2000 years ago, mediated by the Holy Spirit in the time of the Church and as eschatological judge of the world at the end of time - is salvation and redemption. This corresponds to the core of his public work: the revelation and devotion of divine love. This releases and forces you to decide: for or against the God who reveals himself. The latter means Selfcourt in which refusal of love is combined with loss of freedom ("freedom to bondage") to stubbornness,15 so that Jesus' loving and saving action only releases the possibility of increased refusal or obduration:

"I came into this world to judge,
in order to the blind see and the seeing become blind ”(again Jn 9:39).

So is salvation in the service of judgment, so that Jesus is primarily a judge and not a savior? It would be so if Jesus did not answer the stubborn stubbornness of people, through which they are freely indebted, with an even more radicalized affection - in an increasingly disempowered way, identifying with the defenseless of the world - on a cross-path of critical solidarity, which amounts to his death on the cross .16 Thanks to Christ's redemption through the cross - as the end point of Jesus' kenotic descent into the abysses of the fallen world, which for us can only be sensed asymptotically - the moment of saving love prevails in the dramatic mutual intensification of love and judgment. Even the self-judgment of people provoked by Jesus' acts of love is not God's last word, but is broken up again and again through his indestructible fidelity with which he goes after the lost sheep and gives life for them (Jn 10:11). God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim 2: 4), and Jesus' gift of himself for us sinners up to the cross represents the divine power of this will. In such a way that this salvation and redemption is never other than Freedomhappens: in a process of an inner change towards love that we freely allow, combined with a growing insight into the sometimes cruel truth of our life, which we in turn can only endure through the experience of Christ's limitless affirmation of ourselves. If we can no longer believe in ourselves, he does believe in us. If we want to condemn ourselves for not bearing the truth of our guilt that we encounter in him, he lifts us up. Such is his judgment.


This drama of love and judgment (which alone enables redemption in freedom) is already evident in the work of Jesus with his apostles:

“When he [Jesus] finished speaking, he said to Simon:
Go out where it is deep and cast your nets to catch!
5 Simon answered him:
Master, we worked all night and caught nothing.
But at your word I will cast the nets.
6 They did, and they caught a great deal of fish;
but their nets threatened to tear.
7 And they gave a sign to their companions in the other boat,
they should come and help them.
They came and filled both boats so that they almost sank.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' feet and said:
Get away from me; because I am a sinful person, Lord!
9 Because terror had seized him and all his companions
about the catch of the fish that they had made;
10 likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who worked with Simon.
Then Jesus said to Simon:
Do not be afraid! From now on you will catch people.
11 And they pulled the boats ashore, left everything and followed him. ”(Lk 5,4-11)

The miraculous catch of fish gives the apostles a glimpse of God's glory right in the middle of this world. What's nicer for fishermen than a great catch? Nevertheless, the disciples are not (only) happy, but (at the same time) shaken. In the shining divine light they see the shadows of their own life in an unbearable way.17 So Peter asked Jesus to leave him. But Jesus does not let him and the other apostles fall, but lifts them up. This righting up is part of his judgment, which inevitably comes as self-judgment, where God's glory shines in beauty and truthfulness.


Analogous to this episode at the beginning of Jesus' path with his apostles, we have to imagine the eschatological judgment: Just as Jesus did not come to his disciples with a judgment sermon, but let them see God's overflowing glory, so it will be in the Last Judgment. And yet happens Court: as Self-judgment by those who cannot stand the light that exposes even the most hidden shadows of their own life.18 This shows that the correction in the understanding of judgment from the dreaded judgment of the world judge to a mere self-judgment, as it is advocated in recent popular theology, is still insufficient to really overcome the fear of the Last Judgment. The thought that God does not throw anyone into hell on his own initiative, but that only those who want it come to hell - and who should want that? - does not really defuse the problem of the court. When people are confronted with the dark truth of their being, self-condemnation is the real danger. That Christ does not judge us does not help us here. It takes him who active judges: by having erectsas he did with the apostles.


But this straightening as raising is by no means harmless. It is not cheap consolation, no closing eyes and waving through. So if we want to escape the intolerable dark truth of our life, he confronts us with it. So he is savior and judge in one, by representing truth and love at the same time - in a drama that intensifies both together. This is a fire of judgment, the burning of which we can hardly overestimate, and only such a judgment can transform people so that they become heavenly: that they are God - in his love and Truth - able to endure, and in such a way that the victims of history can endure their perpetrators if they are to be able to share eternal life with them. Reconciliation and forgiveness not with clenched teeth, but in shadowless joy: This is only possible if the transformation of sinners, the perpetrators towards love and truthfulness is far more radical than we can imagine.


So there is a judgment and there must be a judgment if heaven is really to be heaven instead of not mutating into hell in the face of the eternal fellowship of incompletely redeemed victims and perpetrators.19 This fifth eschatological-practical principle, as we have enumerated, is mostly neglected in today's large churches. It must be re-enacted, and that correct: as a judgment which - far from all retaliatory punitive justice - does not mean a contradiction to divine love, but is its inner consequence. Because divine love transforms us inwardly and because with this increased love we recognize the truth of our life - in the encounter with those people and things in the world that we have hurt through unkindness - that is why the greater love means the harder judgment.


It is far from turning back the wheel in the Christian proclamation and returning to the earlier sermons in hell. It is not about hell - with its specific irreversibility of being cut off from God - but about judgment and purgatory, with the aim of a complete transformation towards salvation. I share the view of Hans Urs von Balthasar and Karl Rahner that we can, and must, hope for everyone.20 But at what price? It is the price of Jesus' gift of himself on the cross. And it is at the same time the price of a radical transformation, of an unimaginably painful "dying of sin" (cf. Rom 6: 6-12), which every person has to make up for in the Last Judgment and the associated purgatory, if not already in this Has completed life. Because Christ died for us, not so that we would no longer have to die, but:

“One died for everyone, so everyone died.
But he died for everyone, so that the living no longer live for themselves,
but for him who died and was raised for them. "(2 Cor 5: 14-15)

As far as God's love and judgment are concerned, the Christian proclamation of the major churches has undergone a radical change in the past century. Our ancestors were more familiar with the existence of a dish than we were. To a large extent, however, a punishing God and Jesus Christ were proclaimed as the strict judge of the world. The fear of hell and God has been stoked so that people do what is right and refrain from doing what is evil.


A turning point occurred here in the last third of the twentieth century: Since then, Christians in the major churches have primarily been given a loving and forgiving God: no longer a God who demanded an atonement for the forgiveness of sins, but the unconditionally forgiving merciful Father from the parable of the prodigal son.


“He is now with God”: The religious conviction that the dead go to God has remained, but with a completely different meaning. Going to God used to be a cause for concern. Catholics had soul masses read because going to God meant judgment. Anyone who says or hears today that a deceased person is with God usually understands this exclusively as consolation: They will have it better there and be with their loved ones.


That is also correct, but the condition of a radical inner change is mostly ignored. Without it, a person cannot endure heaven - as being deeply penetrated by God's love. Without such a change the heaven of an eternal togetherness with the (more or less) loved ones would degenerate into that hell of which Jean Paul Sartre aptly said: "Hell, that's the others".21


There is a dish! And not in spite of the love of God but because which God's love is so great that it can save everyone. Saving is not against one's will, but as a process of freedom, as a freely performed process of an inner change, in which we “guided by love, testify to the truth and in everything we grow towards him [Christ]” (Ephesians 4:15). The fact that there is a court is not primarily a threatening news, but a good news. Because it says that even those who have not achieved this growth in important areas during their life can still achieve their goal thanks to Christ's salvation, albeit in a way that is difficult for us to imagine. This is difficult to imagine theologically because one does not fall into the myth of an otherworldly Post-story may expire after death.22 Death is the end of the pilgrimage, according to an ecclesiastical teaching that Karl Rahner unmistakably recalled in his early theology of death.23 What was not done in this life cannot be made up after death. But how can the contradicting lines of love and hate, of being a sheep and being a goat (in the metaphor of the Last Judgment Speech, Mt 25: 39-46), which in most human life stories remained unbalanced until death, come together? Bring the denominator? That doesn't happen by itself. It must be the work of a divine judge. But how should we imagine the use of this eschatological judge? Between the theological trenches of a judge who breaks the stick over the deceased sinners without their intervention and a self-judgment in which everyone decides for himself whether he / she wants to go to heaven or to hell, so that a judge is no longer necessary,24 A narrow, strong middle path opens up to the idea of ​​Jesus as a judge, who identified himself with every human being and with every creature, became them both in their perpetrator and also in their victim, and thus takes up the knotted threads of the existence of salvation and disaster and can reassemble - in a judgment that deeply involves the judge in this judicial process - so that everything bad can be reevaluated in the light of the successful good, until finally everything that has not been balanced around the center of Christ has become a thoroughly healing figure: perfect reconciled and capable of heaven.


In this way, a universal hope of salvation can be combined with our irreversible responsibility for salvation in this life. There is a judgment, and that is also a warning, because it says that we will be confronted again with all that we have lacked in our possible love in this life - as Paul describes it:

“Everyone's work will be revealed;
for the day will make it visible because it reveals itself with fire.
And what the work of each one is like, the fire will test.
If the work that he has built stands up, he will receive a reward.
If it burns down, he will have to bear the loss.
But he himself will be saved, but just as through fire.

Don't you know that you are God's temple and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Whoever destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him.
For God's temple is holy, and it is you. "(1 Cor 3: 13-16)

The Last Judgment is described here as a burning down, which, however, does not serve the purpose of destruction, but of salvation. The person who has built his life partly with the wrong material on unsustainable ground is torn apart, smashed25, but with the redeeming goal, from God, with Jesus Christ as the center and cornerstone26 To be reassembled: Transformation and recapitulation from scratch.27


Three arguments can be given why it is better to carry out this process of radical transformation towards God's love already during this life, as far as God gives us the opportunity to do so:


1. When we are confronted as perpetrators with our victims in the Last Judgment - in a growing love that glows through us from Christ - then we become more and more one Have a wish: to return and do well what we have owed, as far as we can somehow. But that will no longer be possible in the Last Judgment. There will be no going back to earthly life. But here and now we still have opportunities to work for reparations. The unconverted person will fear this possibility, the person changed by the love of Christ will long for it out of the power of his love repentance. Active reconciliation is not a must for him, but a may where God gives him the opportunity to do so.28


2. Whoever engages more deeply in God's love in this life - which is always only possible to the extent of the grace that God gives to it, a grace that one can ask for - will sooner or later also become the purifying one Fire experience this love: like Peter, who asked Jesus: "Get away from me, I am a sinful person"29. This earthly purgatory of repentance is softened in comparison to the judgment on the other side. If it gets too tough, I can sort of get up and have a coffee. The conditions of our earthly being in body, time and space dampen the intensity of an encounter with the truth of our life:

"Now we look in a mirror and see only puzzling outlines,
but then we look face to face.
Now my recognition is piecemeal
but then I will see through and through
just as I have been recognized through and through.
"(1 Cor 13:12)

This "knowing through and through" is not just beautiful. As long as we are still in the process of change, it is difficult to endure.


3. The first two reasons warn us. In a way, they are threats. The third reason is tempting, it is good news: the two paths that we have in front of us again and again in life - life and death, blessing and curse (Deut. 30:19; Ps 1), are like summer and winter paths on a mountain hike to an alpine hut. The winter path is flatter and near the bottom of the valley, making it easier to walk, even when there is snow in winter. But it is less beautiful and also longer. And finally you have to make up the required amount. The summer path starts steeply, but it is sunnier, with better views and overall more beautiful. Whoever “chases after love” (1 Cor 14: 1) in his life certainly does not have a more comfortable life. Unnecessary worries are eliminated, but in compassion for people and all of creation one shares the suffering of Christ. But: Because you look for God in everything and don't exclude it, you are closer to God, even if you often don't feel it. People who consistently choose the “summer path” are closer to divine love, beauty and truth. Even if this is sometimes difficult to bear, you will not want to swap with the winter path that runs in the shade - not even if the lower path does not automatically lead to hell, but - in death - a steep path that is not closer to us well-known ascent takes place: "like through fire"30. As in life, this way out cannot be taken without the grace of God, but - entirely by the grace of God - does he have to be gone to achieve the heavenly goal.


All of this must be seen and said about the truth of an eschatological judgment. Priests and bishops, teachers of religion, theologians and, last but not least, every Christian as a member of the general priesthood must remind themselves and others of this truth anew. Whoever knows about this and does not warn against it, will have to answer for it at the Last Judgment in the face of Jesus and in the face of people who have not been warned. This is part of the Last Judgment scenario: those who knew the truth of judgment will be asked by others exposed to the fire of repentance: “Why have you never pointed out to us that we? the expected. If we had known, then we would have set different priorities in our lives. ”This is how the Christian evangelizers, and ultimately every Christian who knows the truth of judgment, is the guardian word to the prophet Ezekiel:

“Son of man, I have given you to watch over the house of Israel.
If you hear a word from my mouth, you have to warn them about me.
When I say to someone guilty: You have to die!
and if you don't warn him and don't talk,
to dissuade the guilty from his guilty path,
so that he stays alive
then that guilty one will die because of his sin;
but I reclaim his blood from your hand.
But you, when you warn a guilty party
and he does not turn from his guilt and his guilty way,
then he will die because of his sin;
but you saved your life.
And when a righteous man gives up his righteous life and does wrong
and if I bring him down, he will die.
Because you didn't warn him, he will die for his sin
and his righteous deeds which he has done will no longer be thought of.
But I reclaim his blood from your hand.
But you, if you warn a righteous man to sin
and this one does not sin
then he will stay alive because he was warned
but you have saved your life. "(Ez 3,17-21)

Thanks to the redemption through Jesus Christ, this text may be modified in its application to Christian preachers: “You must die” refers neither to the earthly nor to the eternal death of hell, but to the deaths of repentance in the twofold encounter with love God (which encroaches upon us transforming us from Christ) and the truth of our own life (in the encounter with the wounded in history, of whom we are guilty).


So there is a court. And inseparable from this there is the purgatory, the purgatory, the purification path of increasing repentance in love in the double encounter with the God of love and the truth of our life. Only through this judging because onJudging transformation of ourselves, all the good things and experiences of our life and our world - transformed by ourselves - can be regained for eternity.

"Then we will find her again,
cleaned of every flaw, full of light and transfigured "31

- not only our works, but all the people (our “loved ones” and “less loved ones”) and things in this world, including ourselves. The great vision of hope from the Second Vatican Council cannot be redeemed cheaper.


We can hope for everyone, including ourselves, - and not because of our natural ability to change for the better. For “the day of the Lord is great and full of terror. Who can endure him? ”(Joel 2:11) - not although, but because God is the purest love. We cannot hope for every human being with regard to our changeable nature, but rather with regard to Jesus Christ, who through his life and death laid the foundation for comprehensive identification, representation and reconciliation with all people: with the perpetrators before the victims and the victims before the perpetrators.32


We can hope for even the most abused victims in the world, including those slaughtered in the Holocaust and in the genocides of our history, where people through no fault of their own, solely because of their belonging to a people or group, were collectively gassed or shot and buried . How can there ever be justice when such blatant injustice goes unpunished? But what atonement should be possible here at all? In the name of justice - in order to escape a last, cruel cynicism of the accepted injustice - are even atheists compelled to postulate God, freedom and immortality - just so that there is a hell for the perpetrators of the Holocaust?33 And even if there is this hell: what is the sacrifice of these man-made hells really helped when they see their tormentors tormented for all eternity?


This infernalism, which scorns the modern consolation image of the dear God and of universal reconciliation, and which now appears from an unexpected side - not among traditionalists and evangelicals, but from the side of political theology, from something justified in memory of the victims of the Story - like to get rid of. But can the positive counter-image of a universal reconciliation between victims and perpetrators persist without renewed cynicism if this universal reconciliation amounts to the Holocaust victims forgiving their perpetrators have toin order to be able to come to heavenly glory yourself? How can one avoid the unintentionally cynical consequence that those who cruelly inflicted earthly death on their innocent victims now also drive them to eternal death because they cannot forgive their cruel perpetrators and are therefore denied heavenly glory?


Such unwanted cynicism, which imposes on the most abused victims of all things a superhuman willingness to forgive and reconcile, can be avoided if one imagines the process of eschatological reconciliation with that unsurpassable harshness of a love judgment, as described in the third chapter. There is a resentment of the victims that seems offensive to us:

"How long do you hesitate, Lord, holy and true, to judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?" (Rev 6:10)

But it would viable process thwart human reconciliation if such resentment is moralized with a general taboo. It is not only from trauma therapy that we know that traumatized victims have to come into internal contact with their perpetrators again, and that anger, hatred and bitterness that break out in such a process must not be suppressed, but must be tolerated in tolerable proportions and thus allowed process are.34 In the end, the tears will be dried up (Rev 7:17) - also the tears of anger and hatred over a willfully destroyed own life. But on the way there, resentment must also have its place. This realism is to be credited to the biblical curse psalms, which give space to the wrath of the disenfranchised.


Our idea of ​​a court made out of love repentance that has been set free does justice to this concern.35 There is nothing harder that a victim can wish his perpetrator than that he, with a conscience refined out of love, is confronted with the destructive truth of his former actions. In contrast to a merely avenging criminal court, God does not simply force this fire of repentance on the perpetrators from outside, but advertises that they freely engage in this purification process. If they did not do this, they would only be able to perpetuate an unredeemed condition through a final rejection of God's offer of salvation. And that would definitely be hell. So there is a resentment where the victims wish their perpetrators the divine judgment on the neck and not send them to hell, but want to protect them from it.36 And this is entirely in the interests of your own healing. Because the fact that the perpetrators roast unreconciled in hell can at best convey bitter satisfaction to their victims, but no healing and no justice.37


From this perspective, it follows that those victims who still unreconciled and want justice to the necks of the perpetrators can only hope that the perpetrators Not to choose hell, but to embark on this most painful process of inner purification. That this is the path on which the perpetrators are internally transformed, so that reconciliation and salvation become possible for them, initially remains outside the interest of victims in need of retaliation. But this is exactly what this process leads to, which they themselves want for the perpetrators who are guilty of them. And so the victims are changed in the course of the change of the perpetrator himself. It is a process of judgment that is at the same time a process of mutual reconciliation, mediated by Jesus Christ, who, as Savior in identification with every victim in history, was enabled to play this role of mediator and reconciler. The victims are also free to get involved in this process - a process which in fact does not allow them to achieve eternal salvation. But this decision is made easy for them. For it is precisely this process that confronts their tormentors with the truth of the calamity they are responsible for as far as possible.


Are the tortured, even unreconciled victims in the course of this process - with a constant eye on the painful inner transformation of their perpetrators - also enabled themselves to be reconciled? We cannot simply claim that, let alone demand it, but we can certainly hope for it - with a hope that has a strong foundation in the Christian mystery of redemption.


Hope for every human being and fear for oneself: With this old ecclesiastical principle, which we find exaggerated in existentialist terms in Sören Kierkegaard,38 Hans Urs von Balthasar described a tense middle ground between negligent optimism of salvation and fear of hell, right on the verge of paradox.39 So that this principle of hope for all and fear for oneself does not promote fear of judgment up to and including self-condemnation, one should modify this principle as follows: If we look only at ourselves, at our sins and at our weak strength for good, we could for just fear us - as well as for others. But when we look to Christ and the cross, which reveals how far Jesus went to save even the most lost sinner, then we can hope for ourselves as well as for everyone else.


This confidence in view of the crucified, however, does not exclude a fear for ourselves. Because the cross is not an automatism of redemption, but the key to the fact that Jesus, who was deeply involved with every human being - victim or perpetrator - the prison of our sinful-original sinful isolation (from God, from fellow human beings, the world and ourselves) can break out again and again. But this means that we, who have already committed ourselves to God and the good, are put into a new decision-making situation, where we can override our earlier sinful no with a deeper and more comprehensive yes. salvation is always at the same time liberation to actively participate in Jesus' act of redemption. This kairos40 (i.e. this salvation situation) I can use my released freedom, but I can also miss it. Everything now depends on the fact that in this precarious situation I let myself be carried by the grace of God that opened this kairos to me. This results in an indissoluble tension between God's power of salvation and his own free responsibility for salvation. Paul expressed this tense connection precisely in apparently contradicting statements:

“Therefore, my beloved, [...]: Work your salvation with fear and trembling!
13 For it is God who brings about the will and the accomplishment in you
for his pleasure. "(Phil 2: 12-13)

The two verses seem to be mutually exclusive: If God our wanting and accomplishing acts, why should one still be afraid then? Answer: Because God our Willing and accomplishing work. That means it does not overwhelm our will and accomplishment, but sets it free so that it is now up to us whether we cooperate with this work of God. And this work of God consists in the incarnation and the self-empowerment of Jesus up to the cross, as Paul emphasizes in the immediately preceding text:

He was equal to God but didn't hold on to being equal to God
but he emptied himself and became like a slave and like men.
His life was that of a man;
he humbled himself and was obedient until death, until death on the cross.
That is why God exalted him above all
and gave him the name that is greater than all names ... "

This descent, this kenosis or self-empowerment "until death on the cross" serves to set the sinful fixated people free to a new freedom to live with God as a recognized center:

“... so that everyone in heaven, on earth and under earth
bow their knees before the name of Jesus every mouth
and every mouth confesses:
Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father ”(Phil 2: 10-11)

On this basis of salvation history, people can be redeemed by being set free to carry out the offer of redemption: in the respective kairos during this time when that basic decision is being made that will be confirmed at the Last Judgment.41

Therefore, my beloved, [...]:
Work your salvation with fear and trembling!
13 For it is God who works the will and the accomplishment in you
for his pleasure. "(Phil 2: 12-13)

This is the biblical rationale for the principle: Hope for every human being and fear for oneself.


From this double statement, the average earlier proclamation has only adopted the first part and the average present-day proclamation only the second part. In order to regain the right balance, we must be guided by the preaching of Jesus in the Gospels. Here has the Gladmessage takes precedence over the ThreatenEmbassy. This is an important difference between Jesus' proclamation of the kingdom of God to John the Baptist and also the texts in the Old Testament that Jesus cited. While the Baptist warned of the ax that is already at the root,42 Jesus proclaimed the approaching kingdom of God, which does not presuppose repentance and faith, but enables it.43 And in his announcement of a “year of grace from the Lord” he omitted the “day of retribution by our God” from the Isaiah text quoted.44


But wherever Jesus' offer of salvation reached the people and they notoriously rejected their chance of grace (the Kairos), Jesus threatened severe consequences.Jesus did not simply leave out the words of judgment, but focused them on the context of a denied opportunity for grace. Thus the final phase of Jesus' preaching is entirely underlaid with parables of judgment.45


The change from a punishing to a loving God in the proclamation of the 20th century was accompanied by a change in the concept of eschatological judgment. If one used to imagine a punishing God who judges people, it was now assumed that God wants all people to be saved anyway. Should it come to an eternal calamity for man, then only because man chooses hell himself. God would then be the one who ultimately answers the incessant reluctance of a person against his offers of grace with the terrible word: "Your Will be done ”.46


The modern turn from criminal judgment to self-judgment is just as evident as the turn from primarily punishing to loving God. However, here too, the truth of the judgment must be taken into account. If one imagines this process of growing love with which man looks at the bitter truth of his guilty life, one must ask oneself how a person can still endure it. Shouldn't it then be at least like Peter in the Gospel, who after the actually happy God experience of a wonderful catch of fish says to Jesus: "Get away from me, I am a sinner!" (Lk 5: 8)?47


In the last book of the Old Testament, it says of the Last Judgment:

“But who can stand the day he comes?
Who can stand when they appear?
Because he is like the fire of the smelter and like the lye of the walker. He sits down to melt and purify the silver:
He cleanses the sons of Levi, he purifies them like gold and silver. ”(Mal 3: 3–3)

It is his love that permeates us like the fire in the furnace and like the lye in the washing trough;48 with the aim that everything is burned away, which is resistance to God, the good and the truth. God's heavenly love for an unreconciled person is like chasing a voltage of 100,000 volts through a wire that has even greater electrical resistance in it. It would burn up. If, on the other hand, all resistance to God, good and truth has been overcome, the heavenly glory between man and God, man and fellow man, man and world can unfold in a new creation that owes nothing to the power of death.


But as long as there is still "resistance", God's love is difficult to bear. So the modern confidence in a mere self-judgment turns into its opposite. Would be the last judgment just Self-judgment, it would be feared that not only the worst sinner, but everyone Man, I myself once backed away from the divine love that wants to transform me and preferred to choose an unchanged eternity for me. But that would be hell.


Therefore it is good news and not threatening news that the Last Judgment not only Self judgment is. If we exclaim, like Peter once did, “Get away from me, I am a sinner”, Christ, like Peter once, will not let us down either. We can be confident that God will carefully apply the “high current” of his love - just as we can just bear it. But still, the following applies: Nobody can avoid radical cleansing. This is not a divine rigorism, but lies in the nature of things: Heaven can only be heaven for those people who have previously become heavenly.


A list of Christian theology and preaching in modern times is its pronounced anthropocentricity. In contrast to this, the Bible does not only focus on the salvation of people but of all creation. Think of God's speech to the angry Jonah, with which the biblical book of the same name ends:

"You feel sorry for a castor tree,
that you didn't work for and that you didn't raise.
It was there overnight, it died overnight.
Shouldn't I have pity on Nineveh, the great city,
where more than a hundred and twenty thousand people live
who cannot distinguish between right and left
and also so many cattle?"(Jonah 4: 10-11).

Or in the New Testament the mission statement at the end of the Gospel of Mark:

“Go out into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel of all creation! "(Mk 16:15)

The eschatology and Christian belief in the hereafter from modern times to the present are also largely restricted to the salvation of human beings. Apparently quite naturally our belief in the hereafter concentrates on the hope of “going to heaven” after death. Humans die, leave the world behind and find their salvation in God and - connected to God - with those around them who preceded or followed them. But what about the world that is left behind? This will go under at some point. But no worry! At the same time as the physical resurrection, God will create a new world in perfect beauty and free from the hostage of death. This is the eschatological notion that is still widespread today.


Certainly: the hope of resurrection and of a new creation is an advantage of Christian faith over purely spiritual conceptions of the afterlife, such as are characteristic of Gnosis and Platonism. But the question remains: will the old creation become the new creation transformed or through the new creation replaced? If the second is true, then strictly speaking there is no hope for this world. It will go under completely, and something more completely new will take its place. Only people retain their identity through death and judgment, as is ensured by the Christian doctrine of the immortality of the soul (which cannot be given up for this reason). People will be in heavenly perfection the same not just be the same.


This narrowing of eschatological ideas of salvation to humans remained largely unchanged by the changes in eschatological ideas in modern theology. As already mentioned at the beginning, since the 20th century eschatology has largely abandoned the naive notion of time of earlier models of the hereafter and the notion of a Resurrection in death approximated. If one does not differentiate this (basically very demanding) model of thought theologically very precisely, it amounts to the popular idea that the deceased are already physically resurrected living in a new creation, while we continue to eke out our existence in this doomed world.49 But that is only possible if the dead resurrected in one other A world that is numerically different from ours. The idea that the old creation is transformed into the new creation and "redeemed" in this way appears to be even more incompatible with this (deceptively simplified) idea of ​​a resurrection in death than with the traditional eschatological model of transformation the lost world is still conceivable in a new creation, but - as an event only after the end of the world and the second judgment - is postponed to the “never-day”. For a living Christian spirituality, an eschatological hope of creation could at best work through happy inconsistency.