Easter’s Proleptic Hope

Easter is moving to a higher spot on my “Most Favorite Theologically Significant Holidays” list. As I’ve learned more about the church calendar, the liturgical year, I’ve moved away from Advent and Christmas as the high points, towards Easter and Christ’s resurrection as the pinnacle piece of my faith. This move makes sense when we realize the Bible tells the story of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in all four gospels but the birth story of Jesus in only Matthew and Luke. Keepers of the lectionary and liturgical chronological practices tell us the Resurrection of Christ that one “Sunday” is the reason we worship and feast each Sunday now.  Every Sunday is a mini Easter, keeping us ever in the weekly rhythm of celebrating the power of God in conquering death and the continual reign of the Risen Christ.

In seminary I learned a myriad of complicated and new words. The one word that changed my faith the most, that directs my days still today, is PROLEPSIS. Say it with me. “Pro- lep- sis”

Theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg is most commonly associated with harolding the theological construct of prolepsis. Pannenberg speaks of prolepsis as a way that God reveals Godself and God’s intentions for the world.

Pannenberg’s view on reality was “‘an eschatologically oriented ontology’ that is, a view of reality that is based on a future-oriented history.”[1]

He put forth that all that will ever be revealed about God in the future has already been revealed through the past historical event of Christ’s conquering of death through the resurrection.

Pannenberg explained the significance of the Christ event as central to God’s indirect revelation because the history of Jesus “is the anticipation of the future of God wherein God is fully revealed”.[2] The resurrection of Jesus Christ reveals God’s intentions for knowing, saving, redeeming, and having relationship with all of humanity.

The prolepsis event gives followers of Christ the assurance that we can know what will be because of what has happened in the past. I believe God will eventually rescue all creation out of destruction and death and bring all of creation to a restored fullness and wholeness. Small evidences of this redeeming work happen every day as God works through willing Christian believers committed to carrying out God’s redemptive work on earth until the final consummation of the kingdom comes.

As we sit in the silence of this Holy Saturday, the waiting moments before the resurrection hope is born anew in our hearts through worship, community, meditation, and family gatherings tomorrow, we  have HOPE. A proleptic hope means we can trust God for the future because of what we know God did in the past.  THE FUTURE WILL BE WHAT WE FIND IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION- the meaningful future is in the past.

God’s most defining reveal was in the resurrection of Christ. When God brought Christ back from the dead, God said, “NO! Everything will not end in destruction, violence, suffering and death. Even death will not have the final word. I AM about renewal, rebuilding, reconciliation, and rebirth and MY purposes will finally and forever reign.”

So, may we be working with God in these purposes and celebrating the victory of Christ’s great sacrificial love over the darkness.

Happy Easter.

[1] Don H Olive, Wolfhart Pannenberg in Makers of the Modern Theological Mind series ed. Bob E. Patterson, (Waco: Word Books, 1973), 100.

[2] Ibid.

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