Progress in Eternity

Sec. IV.

The history of this world, which is completed in the conflict of good and evil, and permits to man in every one of its moments to decide upon his temporal and eternal destiny, has indeed then passed away for ever. But as creatures as such never cease to be finite and conditioned, and therefore time and space in the world to come, although pervaded by eternity and infinity, are still not annihilated; as, further, heaven and hell conceal an infinite number of beings, who, as well in respect of their individuality as of the grades of their condition of glory or punishment, are distinct, and stand in a fellowship with one another most abundant in relations; as, finally, their relation towards God admits of an endless deepening and an infinitely manifold modification and progress,—there is therefore, without doubt, a continually progressive series of events, as well in the region of love as in that of wrath. Between the two regions, indeed, there is a gulf: a crossing over thither or hither is expressly excluded by Scripture. But all spirits, those of men as of angels, move in that principle which has, in their free determination, become the sphere of their life.

Every glance into the blissful future which the Holy Scripture vouchsafes to us, shows that it is very far from being a sameness without distinction—that it is no inactive quietude. And as no life revolves in a circle without growing in intensity and substance, so also the life of the future state is not to be conceived of without progress. We may assume, without contradicting Scripture, a progression of the blissful spirits in knowledge and glory.1 The unfathomable depth of the divine nature,

1 Most of the ancients answer, to the question ;—Wherein consists the activity of the blessed ?—Surely always only in praising God. Thus e.g. Augustine on Ps. lxxxv. (Lat. lxxxvi.): "What will be our business in the other world? what our activity? Sayest thou that rest excludes all activity? Then Bhall we sit there and be torpid, and do nothing? If our love grow cold, our actions will grow cold also. How then will that love, when in the presence of God it shall have attained that satisfaction which it craved

the unattainable height of the divine glory, render it possible. The " many mansions" of John xiv. 2 render it probable; and what the Apocalypse says (xxii. 2), not of the Jerusalem of the millennium,1 but of the Jerusalem of the new and glorified earth, is a significant hint of the reality of this probable progress. "In the midst of the street of it," says the seer there, "and on either side of the river, stood the tree of life, which bare twelve (twelve manner of) fruits, yielding her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the heathens."

Contrary to the tenor of the words, Hengstenberg, in his Exposition of the Revelation, understands this Oepairelav Tw» iOvS>v of the effect which was produced in this world by the heavenly Jerusalem upon the heathens. Qepaireia is indeed not necessarily healing of the sick; it means here what it may literally mean (comp. with Ezek. xlvii. 12, the use of K?"!*? and niKS"i in the Proverbs), strengthening, increase of power, perfecting of health, convalescence of those who have recovered.8 There is nothing really to the contrary, since the idea of per

here below with sighing,—how will it inflame Ub, enlighten us, change us! What, therefore, shall we do there, brother? The psalm tells us, Blessed are they who dwell in Thine house. Wherefore? They praise Thee there for ever and ever. This will be our employment—Praise of God." Bat there are also in the literature of the ancient synagogue, as of the ancient church, suggestions of a progress in the future state, e.g. the talmudic apophthegm, based on Ps. lxxxiv. 7, D^jQ $b WTOO Qnf? D'o3n H'o^n ton D^jQ vb\ ntn, i.e. The wise strive restlessly forwards, as in this world, so in the world to come (b. Beracholh 64a; Moid Katan 29a); in conformity wherewith Irenffius says (ii. 28, 3), hia ftip (TM h Tai; ypatfptu; £rrr6Vfit»uv) iiri^voftt» Kata %&.ot» 0eov, ima it ti»Xxii'aerai 0s£/, Juc/ d fio>o» '%» ru alun ri »vn', dh'hd xai i» fifohom, lva dtl ftip 6 &to; Oioaaxt, a*dpu-o; ii oid iram&; ftaviapy irapd ©loD. Of such a promoveri, crescere, ascendere of the righteous, Irenseus speaks frequently, partly with an appeal to apostolic tradition. It has been sought of late to found the same conviction on 1 Cor. xiii. 18 (e.g. by Siebenhaar in the work, de fide et spe in seterna etiam vita mansuris, 1839), but contrary to the meaning of the apostle (2 Cor. v. 7; Rom. viii. 24), although in a certain sense an eternal faith and hope of the blessed is certainly to be assumed.

1 This is the view of v. Hofmann, and also of Karsten, which xxi. 1 decidedly opposes.

1 Thus H. W. Rinck, Vom Zustand nach dem Tode (1861), p. 324. The expression "health" must not exactly presuppose sickness, but indicates the perfect state of mature growth into the image of God,—the completed and harmonious penetration of the organism by the glory of God.

fection in the intermediate state does not exclude enhancement (comp. Heb. xii. 23 with xi. 40; Apoc. vi. 9-11; 1 Cor. xv. 23-28); so it will not exclude it, moreover, after the new creation of heaven and earth. If there be, as undeniably there is, a multiplicity of degrees of the glory of the future state, there is no reason why there should not, moreover, be exaltation from the one degree to the other, since the highest good which is the possession of all the blessed—fellowship with God—allows of continually deeper and deeper sounding, a continually richer giving and receiving, a continually and increasingly glorious disclosure of itself. Therefore it is observed by von Gerlach upon that passage of the Apocalypse referred to, with a full apprehension of its meaning, "There shall also be there one more unceasing creation—a reception of God's gifts of grace— as of the tree of life in Eden, and no unbending sameness, but an eternal becoming and growing."

The seer can even say, "every month," for the blissful world of spirits indeed is not compounded of an irrecoverable past, a passing present, and a dim future; but, on the other hand, it is anything but a numb quietude and a uniform absence of events: it is a lapse of alwve< ; Twv alwvwv filled and pervaded by eternity. Time is therefore, after its manner, glorified, as are the bodies of the blessed. .The eternal source whence it proceeded is broken through by it, and overflows it. The blessed strike the root of their life in the eternal life of God. In the lapse of aeons this is a present which is always alike to them. There is no past which they should wish back, and no future which should make the present painful to them. Their present is God. To be deprived of this present, and still to subsist without God—this in itself alone is a torment of hell for the condemned.

• • ' • • •

Our plan, as we sketched it in the Prolegomena, is now accomplished. We have traced the history of the soul from its eternal antecedents up to its eternal ultimate destiny. It is a system that now stands before us, not a system built up of scientific categories, but constructed in conformity with the ways of God with the soul of man—ways which proceed from eternity, and return to eternity,—a completed circle, whose living centre is the Name which is above every name.

That which from eternity was in the presence of God as an ideal in the mirror of His wisdom, we now behold in self-living eternal fulfilment and completion. The idea of humanity, in its process of realization, disturbed by sin but renovated anew and guided to victory by redemption, is now perfected eternal reality. Enfranchised in God through Christ, man is henceforth absolutely exalted above evil; and his body is not merely, as it was in its primitive origin, immortal in design, but immortal in nature. The spirits of the redeemed are now, in conformity with their destination, in blessed actuality the image of God the Triune; and their souls the image of the divine doxa; and their bodies the image of the body of the glory of the God-man. The spirit of man lives and moves in God's triune love; the soul of man reflects in incessant delightful vision the loving triumph of the divine doxa; and the body of man, whose spiritual and microcosmic typical meaning is now no longer a concealed mystery but a revealed marvel, shines, as pervaded with the loving light of the spirit and the soul, in the loveliest beauty. But everything that redeeming love repelled to selfinduration is for ever absorbed into the wrathful aspects of the doxa, and there leads a life self-consuming, and, as it were, non-existent.