I am thinking about the life of those who were unable to live and were not permitted to live: the beloved child who died at birth, the little boy run over when he was four, the 16-year-old friend torn to pieces at your side by the bomb which left you unscathed – and the countless people raped, murdered or ‘liquidated’.
The idea that for these people their death is ‘the finish’ would plunge this whole world into absolute absurdity, for if their life had no meaning, has ours? The modern notion about a ‘natural death’ may be appropriate for the life-insured denizens of the affluent society, who can afford death in old age; but most people in the Third World die a premature, violent and by no means affirmed death, like the millions of young people in my generation who died in the Second World War. The idea that death is ‘the eternalization of life as it has been lived’ doesn’t at all take in the people who were not able to live or were not permitted to do so. So mustn’t we think the thought of an ongoing history of God’s with lives that have been broken off and destroyed in this way, if we are to be able to affirm life in this world in spite of its destructions, and love life in spite of all its cruelties, and protect it against these cruelties and acts of inhumanity?
Later Moltmann concludes:
I think this, not for selfish reasons, neither for the sake of a personal completion, nor for the sake of a moral purification or refining. I think it for the sake of the justice which I believe is God’s own concern and his first option.
Again, why does Moltmann affirm an afterlife? Because the understanding of the justice from God he has accepted as definitive from the Hebrew Bible pretty much obliges him to say that wrongs cannot go unrighted, that victims will be vindicated, and that death is not the end of God’s dealings with us. Our histories with God will continue. Otherwise, the lives of millions of people today and more millions throughout history would be rendered meaningless and absurd.
Moltmann affirms an afterlife and the universal salvation of all people as a consequence of his embracing/accepting a redemptive, creative, justice-creating understanding of the righteousness of God.
Let’s close this post with his words on the Final Judgment as found in his eschatology The Coming of God:
This judgment has to do with God and his creative justice, and is quite different from the forms our earthly justice takes. What we call the Last Judgment is nothing other than the universal revelation of Jesus Christ, and the consummation of his redemptive work. No expiatory penal code will be applied in the court of the crucified Christ. No punishments of eternal death will be imposed. The final spread of the divine righteousness that creates justice serves the eternal kingdom of God, not the final restoration of a divine world order that has been infringed. Judgment at the end is not an end at all; it is the beginning.