Handing Over the Kingdom

I was reading an article the other day by Richard Muller entitled: “Christ in the Eschaton: Calvin and Moltmann on the Duration of the Munus Regium (the last post made me think of this). The focus of the article is on how we should understand Jesus’ handing over the kingdom to the Father, based most specifically on 1 Cor. 15:24-28. Moltmann’s worry, it seems, is that a certain interpretation of this would make the incarnation superfluous. In his The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, Moltmann writes,

The eternal Son of God so to speak retreats into the Trinity, and the man Jesus enters the host of the redeemed, or conversely, the whole of redeemed existence enters into the divine relationship of the unio personalis, i.e., into immediacy with God. The manhood of Christ which was crucified for the redemption of sinners no longer has a place in existence which has been redeemed and placed in immediacy with God” (258-9, see Muller, 31).

The problem, Muller argues, is that Calvin is clear elsewhere that this passage does not conflict with passages arguing for an eternal reign of Christ. There is some kind of distinction, in other words, in the consummation of all things, where Christ’s reign shifts but does not deteriorate. Calvin seems to use the terms “mediately” and “immediately” to talk about this – that God presently rules mediately through Christ’s humanity but will, following judgment, rule “immediately.”

I’ll stop with Muller’s argument here and open up some discussion. What does Christ hand over? What do we think about Christ’s kingship being eternal? Should we understand Christ’s kingship with his office as priest and prophet to be oriented by sinful humanity, and therefore oriented towards pre-judgment redemption history, or is this office truly eschatological in the most robust sense? In this sense, what about the office of priest and prophet, are these eternal as well? Edwards says yes, but believes that the eternal enactment of the munus triplex is now done with the Father, as opposed to being done as his vicegerent.

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2 thoughts on “Handing Over the Kingdom

  1. Eschatological prognostications are the traditional baliwick of uneducated and crazy persons; so why don’t I weigh in?

    The End, as described particularly in Revelation, is notoriously surreal and hard to nail down. But roughly, I’d say that it is rather Old Testament. Revelation has been correctly read as an attempt to assimilate all the prophesy of the Bible, into a single (albeit surreal) narrative. Projected as a prophesy of our future. As such, it contains huge elements of the Old Testament.

    Specifically, I’d say it reads like a partial return of the Old Testament God; who does not stress “faith” or spirituality or even forgiveness, as much as Jesus. Who instead tells us we are to be judged by “works,” by what “we have said” and what we have “done.”

    What we see in the End, I suggest (with many of your quotes above) looks rather more like God, than like Jesus; Jesus has indeed retreated back behind the God to whom he after all, always deferred.

    Even the text itself is not clearly about Jesus; he is almost never mentioned, until the very, very end of the text. Other figures play a much more prominent role. And of those dozens of figures, even the “lamb” is not even certainly him. Jesus is mentioned primarily, only at the very end of this book; in a postscript. The place in texts where pious scribal amendments are most likely; probably by the gradual incorporation of maginalia and commentary into the script itself.

    Most sigificantly, the Godlike figures we do see in Revelation, are indeed rather more like the OT God, than Jesus. We see the return, beyond the forgiving Jesus, of a slightly more “judge”mental God. Of course; this is the “Last Judgement” after all.

    Overall, I think the above commentaries are good; indeed, the second and better vision, the second coming of Jesus/God, involves a slight return to the Old Testament vision, and to God himself. Though to be sure the more forgiving Jesus is always in the background.

    As for our humanity? Do we lose that when Jesus steps back? In Revelations, we seem about as human as we ever were; and being judged for it. Though indeed the major change would seem to be that the whole earth is now somehow, made better; we are living in a kingdom of God on earth it seems. We are humans … but in an era in which nearly all flesh and material things (in the kingdom) have been even more fully redeemed, approved.

    And by the way, in this End, the redemption of the material earth, and even our flesh, has progressed to the point, there is no temple (Rev.21.22); no need for a special place for God, when God is all around us now, in everything.

    In part, the defeat of evil, the beginning of a fuller Kingdom of God on this material earth, could be read as a metaphor. For many things. For the moment say when a Christian civilization and technology brings material prosperity for all. And/or for the moment, in other words, when you suddenly see good – God – even in the material world around you.

    In part, our own material prosperity today might be said to have partially accomplished the old promises; the material earth, prosperity today, is already better than it once was. Today we have extraordinary powers, thanks to science and technology, too. This is why some modern Jewish theologies suggest that “making the world a better place” by our own works, has a major part in achieving God’s purpose, and “End.”

    The increasing prosperity of modern life, many suggest, goes a significant distance to realizing the better world promised; and plays a significant role in realizing the old promises. Though to be sure, much still remains to be done, before the full kingdom is realized.

    In achieving that future though, I would suggest that it is as much our “works” as our faith, that achieves all that. The OT stressed “works” a great deal'; it was only the NT that stressed “faith” (and there, primarily Paul). While the End involves a partial return after all, of the old God.

  2. Basically, here’s the roughly Hegelian framework in which I read the Bible. I read the history of Christianity, as the transition from 1) Old Testament, to 2) New, to 3) Second Coming theology. As being essentially a Hegelian dialectic, of Thesis, AntiThesis, and Synthesis.

    OT = thesis or main idea. NT = anti-thesis, or critique/extension. Second Coming = Synthesis or reintegration of the previous two.

    The Second Coming, I view – from evidence in Revelation – as being the attempt to combine the OT and NT. To synthesize OT materialism and God the Father, with the extreme faith and spirituality of Jesus the Son (or of Paul).

    It looks a little strange at first to be sure. But after the gospels end, we were left far more with Jesus, than with God. The result, was a bit extreme;the Trinity almost disappeared, to leave Jesus supreme. But Revelation attempts to correct this. With at least partial return of God hizzelf, in the Second Coming.

    In the End, in my own Second Coming theology, Jesus is still there. And indeed may take a very prominent place in world affairs. But theologically, he reassimilates back somewhat. The self-sacrificing Jesus of immense forgiveness, becomes a “king,” and a bit tougher. Even participating in “Judgement.” God himself shows up on earth it seems. And he in a less forgiving mood. Judgement Day is a time to send some people to Hell, after all.

    (By the way, why do I use the Bible, and modern philosophy, and skip the theories of the fathers of the Catholic Church? It is because I don’t believe the Church.)

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