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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: October 2014

3 - The eschatological hope unrealized

from Part II - The default human story

Summary

Introduction

We found in the previous chapter that the assured conclusion to the default human story is postmortem retribution. All humans die and subsequently face judgment (9:27); those who remain in the default human story have no hope of life after death. In this chapter I address the eschatological hope of Hebrews. By “eschatological,” I refer to an enduring period of time after death when human beings participate fully in the hope they have already begun to experience in part in life. The author of Hebrews depicts his hearers as facing their own impending deaths by persecution, and so the hope of eschatological reward after death is particularly apropos. We will see in this chapter, however, that no human being prior to Jesus had experienced this hope. As I will address in the following chapters, the author of Hebrews depicts Jesus as one who participated fully in humanity and yet did not experience the assured conclusion to the human story. Jesus is the surprise character in the human story who dramatically alters the story line with the new narrative of faith concluding assuredly in eschatological life. Prior to Christ, however, even the heroes of faith from Israel’s history (Heb 11) only foreshadow, but do not realize, the eschatological hope.

This chapter is organized into two stages. First, I demonstrate that the eschatological hope for Hebrews is one of an enduring life in the heavenly homeland. Second, I show how this eschatological hope was unrealized even by the heroes of faith in Israel’s tradition. This chapter concludes our study of the default human story. This study of the unrealized eschatological hope furthers the tragic message of Heb 2:6–8: although God intended glory, honor, and dominion for humans, “we do not yet see everything in subjection to them” (2:8).

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