The Extinction of Humanity: Karl Barth’s Eschatology


We are not guaranteed that we will die.  In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye (1 Cor 15:52), the life of every human being in the world will be supernaturally concluded by the final coming of Jesus Christ.  According to Karl Barth, this will be the final event in the space-time-continuum, after which, the universal clock will stop ticking and "time shall be no more" (Rev 10:6 KJV).  "This history, and the individual encounters in which it takes its course, has an absolute beginning and an absolute goal, an Alpha and Omega, to use the words of Revelation (Rev 1:8)"  (Karl Barth, CD IV/4) [1].

The coming of Jesus (or "parousia") will be an Extinction-event for humanity, because all human life will cease to continue beyond that last day, such that there will be no more human happenings ever again.  The eschatological "last day", mentioned throughout the bible, will literally be the last day ever, because there will be no days that follow it, in the same way that there are no days that preceded the first day of creation in the beginning (Gen 1:1).  Time will end as abruptly as it began and humanity will go the way of the dodo, and will exist only as a redemptive memory of the eternal God.  In this post, I will explore and provide commentary on Karl Barth's sobering eschatological conclusion that the coming of Jesus will be the end of the world in CD IV/3.2.

"This conclusion [i.e. the end of a person's life] may be the event of his death. But if we are to keep to the line of thought of the New Testament, we best describe it as his end. His end does not have to be the event of his death. The syllogism: All men must die, Caius is a man, therefore Caius must die, is no doubt an illuminating statement of pagan wisdom. But it is not a statement of Christian wisdom, any more than the obvious moral of the mediaeval dance of death." (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [2]

The Good and Bad News of Karl Barth's Eschatology

Good News Bad News
#1. There will be a future coming of Jesus Christ on the Last Day.

#2. There will be a Universal Resurrection of all people who had died before the coming of Jesus

#3. The will be a Final Judgment of all people with a potential Universalistic outcome

#1. The Resurrection of the body is a temporary phenomena that will not persist after the Final Judgement.

#2. After the coming of Jesus, there will be no Afterlife, no extension of time or history, and humanity will become extinct.

#3. People alive at the coming of Jesus will have their life immediately ended, without dying.

#4. The coming of Jesus will end the world as abruptly as it was started in the beginning of Creation.

The coming of Jesus (parousia) is in three-fold form

In the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2, Karl Barth explains that the coming of Jesus is in a threefold form: The first form is the incarnation of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, the second form is Jesus' continual coming "lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matt 28:20), and the final form of the coming of Christ will be at the end of the age, for the judgment and resurrection. This final form will cause the unnatural conclusion of humanity.

Barth prefers to speak of a threefold coming of Jesus, rather than a "Second Coming" of Jesus (like what is common today). He unites the first coming, the continual coming, and the final coming, as one unified coming of Jesus Christ. Barth uses this same trinitarian three-fold formulate throughout the Church Dogmatics, especially in his Doctrine of the Word of God (CD I/1). So the final form of the coming of Jesus is equivocal to the popular evangelical phrase "The Second Coming of Jesus Christ". 

"It cannot be, because it overlooks the parousia [coming] of Jesus Christ, which in its last and as yet outstanding form carries with it an alternative so far as concerns the end of the man living in it, so that his end does not have to be his death. We recall that in all its forms, and therefore in the last form too, the parousia of Jesus Christ is a new and unforeseeable divine event in face of all human experience and expectation. This is true of His resurrection and of His coming and acting in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is no less true of His final Word which brings history to its goal and end. Hence "Ye know not what hour your Lord doth come" (Matt 24:42)." (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [3] 

Life may not be ended by death

St. Augustine was deeply puzzled by the experience of Christians alive at the final coming of Jesus. It remained an open question for him. In the Institutes of Christian Religion, John Calvin thought he solved Augustine's dilemma by asserting that everyone alive at the coming of Jesus would instantaneously die and be resurrected. Karl Barth says the answer to this puzzle is that there are two forms of the end of life. Death is the first form of the end of life, but the final form of the end of life is the coming of Jesus. 

Now with the end of time generally, and the raising again of those already dead, His new coming will undoubtedly entail the conclusion of the temporal existence of those still living. But this conclusion will not be their death. Hence 1 Cor 15:51: "We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed." Instead of dying, Christians who are still alive will be caught up with those already dead and raised again from the dead ("together with them", 1 Thess 4:17), who will have the precedence, and they will be brought to an immediate encounter with the returning Lord and an immediate and enduring being with him ("we will always be with the Lord", 1 Thess 13f.). Materially, this is obviously the same process as Paul has in view in 1 Cor 15:51: "We shall not all (i.e., including those then alive) sleep, but we shall all (i.e. including those who sleep already but are raised from the dead and are thus alive) be changed", i.e. invest with a new, incorruptible and immortal being (1 Cor 15:53f.). (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [4]


Barth leaves us in despair for any future life beyond the last day at the end of CD III/3, however in Barth's conception of "participation" in CD IV, the door is swung open. Barth continues to assert that there is no more time after the last day, but there may be a real participation in the eternal life of God. The world will cease to exist as we know it, but there may be an indescribable future eternal life with God for us that escapes all our categories. Don't listen to the Bultmann crowd who want to demythologize away eternal life by a realized reading of the Gospel of John because we have Karl Barth's participation on our side. 

Whether we describe it as rapture or change; a direct transition to participation in the glory which comes to the creaturely world in and with the coming of Jesus Christ can be the end of the Christian instead of dying—the same transition to the same participation in the same glory which is awaited indirectly, in the passage from life through death to the resurrection, by those already dead, but in this other form by the Christians who will then be alive. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [5]

No one knows if death will come

Barth reminds us, that we are not guaranteed that we will die. The coming of Jesus means that our life may also be ended by the coming of Jesus, at any moment. It's been 2,000 years since this truth has been revealed, but it will surely happen, even if it does not happen in our lifetime. 

No one knows, of course, the hour of this final appearing of Jesus Christ. Hence no one knows whether it will come in his own life-time whether his end will come in the one form or the other, or whether death will necessarily be the form of this end. "He will come to judge the living and the dead", is confessed by the early Church at the end of the second article of the Creed (c.f. 1 Pet 4:5; 2 Tim 4:1). It thus reckons with the fact that when Jesus Christ appears in His consummating revelation and therefore to judgment, alongside the many dead who will then be raised, there will also be those who are still alive and who thus reach their end in this way. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [6]

Those already dead

To remove all doubt, Karl Barth affirms a future resurrection of all who died before the coming of Jesus. Death is not the final form of the end, because those who had died before the coming of Jesus will be resurrected, so that the Judgment may happen, and that the final form of the end will happen for all people since the beginning of time. 

The same procedure is described by the term "change" in 1 Cor 15:51-51. Those who are already dead, but raised from the dead, will share this with some who are still alive. In the Thessalonian Epistle, often thought to be his earliest, Paul was obviously assuming that he himself and others ("we who are alive", 1 Thess 4:15,17) might still be amongst those who are alive. The same assumption may be seen in the expression which he uses with reference to the same event in 2 Thess 2:1 "our gathering together unto him". (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [7]

Paul did not know if he would die

There is a great debate whether Paul knew he would die before the coming of Jesus. Many scholars have suggested that Paul initially believed the coming of Jesus would occur in his lifetime (I'm thankful that it did not.)

It is not so apparent in the later Epistles. We cannot be sure that he abandoned it. This has been assumed with reference to 2 Cor 5:1, in which he speaks of the coming dissolution of his earthly tabernacle. But does this necessarily refer to his death? Even in this passage (v. 4) we still read of his desire, not to "be unclothed, but clothed upon." And the same assumption is surely quite evident in 1 Cor 15:52 with his express balance of the statement that "we shall be changed" against the assertion that "the dead shall be raised."

To be sure, in Rom 14:8 he considers the alternatives: "For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, or die, we are the Lord's."  Similarly in Phil 1:20 it is his firm expectation and hope that Christ will be glorified in his body whether in life or in death, so that in the following verse he can even speak of his death as gain, and then go on to speak in v. 23, with this gainful death in view, of his desire to depart and be with the Lord. If his personal expectation to be amongst those who would be alive at the day of Christ's coming, and would not therefore for die but come to their end and goal some other way, did not entirely disappear in the later Paul, it did no doubt become less prominent. It could easily do so. For even in Thess. it was not a predicate of his apostleship and formed no part of his message. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [8]

Future Resurrection affirmed

The coming of Jesus, according to Barth, will be the season finale of the world. There will be a general resurrection of all people, a universal judgement, and a close of the age. 

What could not become less prominent, let alone disappear, was his picture of the day of the Lord, which will certainly be a day of the general resurrection of those who had already died and thus reached their end by dying, but also a day when those who are still alive will reach their end in a very different way, Jesus Christ appearing as Judge of both the quick and the dead, in order that, in correspondence with His own death and resurrection, "he might be Lord both of the dead and the living" (Rom 14:9). (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [9]

The Ineluctable end of human and therefore Christian experience

Karl Barth's eschatology is the darkest affirmation of a future coming of Jesus I've ever encountered. The future coming of Jesus is affirmed, like an astronomer that identifies a giant meteor on a collision course with earth. I have hope that through Barth's conception of "participation" in God's eternal life, that we may form a theology of hope. But in Barth's eschatology as it lies before us, I do not recognize any hope in his theology. It is a dark cloud at the end of the world. Barth believes that the extinction of humanity is still an event in which we may have hope and anticipate hopefully. I appreciate Barth's desire to find a finality to all things, but I am not satisfied with Barth's pessimistic hope. 

If the triumph of hope is to be clear and understandable in face of this most bitter of all limits, namely, the ineluctable end of human and therefore Christian experience, then it is not merely advisable but quite indispensable to realise that the end which is before all of us can come with death but may also come directly with the coming of Jesus Christ, with His coming again in the final form of His parousia as Judge of the quick and the dead, with the end of all time and things and men in Him, yet also in Him with their true beginning in reconstitution, with their investiture with eternal life, with the rapture or change in which it will be made manifest that the will of God for His creation and for each individual is actually done in Him. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [10]

The New Testament doesn't make Death the iron rule

After 2,000 years, it is difficult to believe that coming of Jesus will occur before our death. Occasionally in dispensationalist churches,  Christians may be found with a firm conviction that the coming of Jesus would happen in their lifetime. 

Now it may well be, and the New Testament takes this into account, that any one of us may reach his end by dying. It is rather a dubious circumstance, however, that the Christian world has long since come to think of death, and therefore of the moral and the mediaeval dance of death, as the normal case, or even as the iron rule, for the end of human existence. According to the New Testament death has not such monopoly in principle. It is limited by that other form, which is also a form of the end, but of the end which as such will be a new beginning bordered by no further end, since in it a term is set and a veto opposed not only to the existence of all the men then living but also to their death with its threat to them as to their predecessors, the lordship of death over them as over all creation of every age and place being broken. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [11]

Death is only one form of the end

Human life may be ended in two ways: the normative form is death, and the second form is the coming of Jesus at the end of the age. Death has been an inescapable human experience, until the resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred. For the Christian, death is not the final form of the end of life. Not everyone will die, because the coming of Jesus will happen while people are still alive. According to Karl Barth, those people who are still alive at the coming of Jesus, will experience an immediate end of life. Everyone who had died before the coming of Jesus, will be physically resurrected for the Final Judgment, and afterwards will again have their life immediately ended by the coming of Jesus as well. Death will be defeated by the Universal Resurrection at the coming of Jesus, so Death will not be the final end of life for anyone because the coming of Jesus will be the end of life for everyone without exception.

It is advisable and even indispensable to realize that dying is in face only one form of the end, confronted in free superiority by the very different form of departing to be with Christ, because only on this basis and in this association can we really see the meaning of death as the end which overtakes us. If death is the more obvious and apprehensible and relevant form of the end, we must set alongside it the fact that the coming of Jesus Christ Himself, the occurrence of His consummating revelation, may bring and be the same end, namely, the end which is also the goal and therewith the beginning without end, the resurrection of the flesh, eternal life in eternal light. The end can also come in the form of death. In this form it did in fact come for Paul and for all our Christian predecessors. In this form—though we cannot really know—it may well come for us. But the end in this form is lit up as seen in association with and on the basis of the alternative of that very different form. (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [12]

The coming of Jesus is the true and final form of the end. 

Karl Barth is not our friend. Although he affirms that Death is not the end, Barth still affirms that the end is coming for us all. The final coming of Jesus is the true and final form of end of life for all people. Barth teaches that the Resurrection is a temporary phenomena that occurs at the coming of Jesus for the purpose of the Final Judgment, but after this event, life will end forever for all. So there is no need to fear death, because Jesus is coming! 

In its character as the end of human and even Christian existence it is confirmed but also relativized by the fact that in that other form its end is so clearly shown to be a beginning. Seen in this light, can death as the first form of the end be anything more than a provisional substitute or mask of the true end, or indicate otherwise than in a glass darkly (1 Cor 13:12) the original of this true end which comes with the coming again of Jesus Christ? In other words, even if the end is still before us in the form of our dying, can we look or move towards it otherwise than in hope? (Karl Barth, CD IV/3.2) [13]

A Critical Conclusion

Karl Barth's eschatology remains a great mystery and source of confusion, so my goal in this analysis is to explain Karl Barth in his own words for his maturest sections at the end of the Church Dogmatics IV/3.2. Overall, Karl Barth provides us illuminating information about Eschatology, but in the great light of it, there are still variations and shadows of turning that I cannot support that would requires a separate post to describe.

My brief criticism of Barth's eschatology may be summarized in the following points: 

#1. Ending Time at the coming of Jesus means the dissolution of the incarnation, and therefore the abolition of the Passion of Jesus. 

#2. In the Substitutionary Atonement schema (c.f. Anselm), the extinction of Jesus' humanity would annual his propitiatory and expiatory work on the cross. 

#3. A retrospective Final Judgment, that limits judgments to a positive or negative determination upon past events, presents a theodicy problem, where wrongs are not made right. Is God really good if God does nothing about sin? 

#4. Afterlife has been supported by the Church Fathers and Church Tradition since the beginning of the Church. Rejection of all forms of Afterlife (allegedly as paganism), is an extreme rejecting all the Church Fathers and Tradition that Barth stands upon. 

#5. Barth's eschatological end of the world, affirms a Bultmann-ian Realized Eschatology that reduces the Gospel to a message that helps us have the best life now, because there is no future life after the coming of Jesus. There's no future hope for humanity beyond the last day, only a prosperity message (prosperity gospel?), that helps us make the most of our insignificant short lives in this cursed world. 



[^Header Image] By William Clift 1775–1849 -, Public Domain, Link
[^1] Barth, Karl. The Christian Life: Church Dogmatics IV, 4: Lecture Fragments. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Pub., 1981. 10. Print.
[^2] Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics, The Doctrine of Reconciliation, Vol IV/3.2. Vol. 29. London: T & T Clark, 2010. 237-9. Print. Study Edition. [733-4]
[^3] Ibid.
[^4] Ibid.
[^5] Ibid.
[^6] Ibid.
[^7] Ibid.
[^8] Ibid.
[^9] Ibid.
[^10] Ibid.
[^11] Ibid.
[^12] Ibid.
[^13] Ibid.

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  1. Thanks for the thorough analysis! Barth’s theology is definitely hopeless:(

  2. I find the presentation of Barth in these final segments of IV.3 to be quite hopeful. I think what you are missing is that for Barth, the continuation of temporality would be another form of Hell, especially if it involved endless days. He seems to expect a genuine transformation of this time into redeeming participation in the life of the Trinity. This is Platonic language. Rather than copy and paste my interpretation of the same section, I will offer this link and invite your comments.!/2016/12/church-dogmatics-iv31.html

    • I mentioned briefly “participation” as a possible line of hope, where we may participate in the eternal life of God, even if time comes to an end. I’d need to explore that thought more. This link is very long, I had a hard time finding the part youre referring to. Barth had some interesting comments about “boredom” and equating that with hell is keen.

      • Here is the portion of the blog to which I referred.
        First, Barth discusses the subject of hope. One can become a witness of Jesus Christ with the community because Christians can move toward the future in confident, patient, and cheerful expectation of the return of Christ to consummate the revelation of the will of God in Christ. Jesus Christ causes the Christian to become a human being who may stride towards his or her future hope in Christ. The prophetic action of Jesus Christ, while complete in itself, is moving towards its fulfillment. Christ speaks in his resurrection and in the enlightening power of the Holy Spirit. However, Christ has not yet uttered the final word. The Christian is still on the way into a future that seems to be open and unwritten page, an impenetrable sea of mist. To what extent can God address the grace of God to Christians tomorrow, as it was yesterday and today? What the Christian expects is light, good, and salvation. Christian hope is a positive expectation of the future. Yet, the Already is a form of the one coming of Jesus Christ in his prophetic action, as is the Not Yet of redemption. The Christian hopes in the One in whom he or she believes and loves. Jesus Christ is the subject of Christian hope.
        Barth offers yet another reflection that involves time and death. Christ came in his earthly existence, he came in his resurrection, he continues to come in the power of the Holy Spirit, but he will come in his final form. That which is before the Christian contains his or her end as a human being. At some future hour, there awaits the one event upon which all people can count. Death is not the end for all human beings, for those alive at the final coming of Christ will find transformation into life with God. They can count upon the conclusion of their temporal existence and therefore of their function as witnesses of Jesus Christ. Paul thought the final coming of Christ could be during his lifetime, but this thought was not central to his apostleship or the core of his message. Rather, a picture of the day of the Lord remained at the heart of his message. The end of human existence as determined by temporality is sure, even as its end in God means a true beginning. Given the amount of time since the resurrection, the Christian world has normalized death. The New Testament rejects this normalization. The end that will come in one form or the other might well seriously compromise, threaten, or darken the Christian’s expectation of the future. The end means thus far, and no further. You have had your time. No more time remains. You have had your changes, possibilities, and powers of varying degree and nature. They are no more. This was your life as a witness of Jesus Christ. This was what you made of it, according to the measure of your faith and love, in acceptance of the task laid upon you. You cannot alter, improve, or rectify anything. You must now encounter your Lord, come before His judgment, and pass through the fire. We have reached the most painful of all the limits of Christian existence. Our Christian ministry of witness will be only the fragment of the Gospel to which God has commissioned us to attest. What is the significance of the few years we have and the puny efforts we have made? Our work is little more than a small beginning. Our work is over. We are too late to do more about it. Yet, the hope of the Christian does not end with the personal end that humanity faces, but with the revelation of Jesus Christ. Christ is the One in whom the Christian trusts and loves, and who will pronounce a good, right, and saving halt, telling the Christian that he or she has done enough, God expects no more, the measure of this individual life is full, and the time of service is finished. Coming from Christ, such an end can only be a welcome and gracious event. In the end, the fragment that the individual sees will become a ripe fruit of His atoning work, as a perfect manifestation of the will of God fulfilled in Him, bearing witness to God and conforming to the image of the Son of God. God will judge will strict justice, but the justice of divine grace. This judgment is the future of his or her end. Christians move toward this end in hope. Whatever it brings me can only be the fulfillment of the promise in the preceding light of which, even though I am a pilgrim on the earliest stages of the path, I may already believe, and witness, and cry, and live either well or badly in His service so long as God has given me time.

        • Thanks for sharing it George. You have a much more positive view of it. Good to focus on fulfillment. The terminus bothers me, and prevents me from seeing the good in Barth’s end times.

  3. Wow. Interesting.

    Not sure what to make of this. Seems to me that you’d have to do some serious hermeneutical gymnastics to arrive where he does. I feel like I’m missing something. Is this the same Barth who, when asked “Will I see my loved ones in heaven?” is purported to have said: “Not only your loved ones!” I mean, the term “heaven” certainly requires some nuance, but sheesh. Perhaps the quote is apocryphal.

    What does “salvation” ultimately mean to Barth within his eschatological narrative?

    • Mike,

      Barth affirms that there will be a universal resurrection, and that there would be a positive outcome, and potential universal outcome to that judgment. But that judgment will be a conclusion like a season finale, that resolves all the plot lines in a story. So he may say, we will see all each other together again, but it will be the last time we see everyone again. Like a bad ending to the TV Series LOST.

      • Well, having been a fan of LOST, but watching it on DVD rather than when it first came out, I must say that I liked the end, where people who were alienated meet in a church and find reconciliation. But then, I admit to be in minority in that judgment. In any case, again, I think what Barth is after is to drive home the point that if temporality is all we have, then our end would be hell-like. Our participation in divine life is the only basis for hope. Since we are already elected in Christ before the foundation of the world, we have every reason to hope! One thing your post made me think about, though, was that Barth seems to look forward to a realistic transformation of our temporal reality into participation in divine life. This is very close to the way Pannenberg approaches the end as well. I think another way to think of this is the dialectical nature between the temporal and the eternal. Temporality is as despairing as existentialism tends to describe it, but God invites humanity into the beauty of participation in divine life. I guess what I am thinking is that focusing upon these three pages can result in what you call the extinction of humanity, but I think when you step back and reflect upon the entire section of the Subject of Hope, we get a different picture. I would also contend that in this subsection on hope, we find the basis in Barth for the re-focusing on eschatology and hope that we find in Moltmann and Pannenberg. These two theologians, contrary to the letters of Barth to them, the re-thinking of theology from the standpoint of eschatology in a far more consistent way than Barth dared to do.

        • George, Thank again for your comments. I agree with your description of unending time as hell. I would be happier with Barth if he further explained how a person has participation in the eternal life of God. Barth does describe this in CD IV, but I need to revisit those sections now that I’ve read this part of CD IV/3.2. I’m comfortable believing that eternal life will be a complete new and different sort of life, that is indescribable, and also saying that time ends and gives way to participation in eternal life. I think CD III/2’s Ending Time is still a dark cloud over Barth’s eschatology, that I haven’t broken away from. I have a greater appreciation for Pannenberg after reading the Dogmatics, because he does provide future eschatology and a hopeful theology that even moltmann doesnt provide at times. I hope to read Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology next for an uplift. I think you’re right about Barth’s letters to Moltmann and Pannenberg too. I didn’t understand that until recently.

        • Thanks George. Helpful comment. I would not consider an extinction event to be “salvation” in any way. That is simply not what the word means. Good to know that there is (potentially) more going on within the narrative Barth works from.

          I too liked the ending to Lost – at least the scene that you point to.

  4. Wyatt, I again want to thank you for highlighting these pages. As is often with your posts on Barth, you have noticed things I missed. Usually, I find myself largely agreeing with you. This time, I respectfully offer that Barth is not as despairing as you write here. But then, as always, I am open to correction. I did keep wrestling with his actual vision of the end of temporality. If we take these 3 pages, we must conclude that he expects a real end of this universe! In that case, the end of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology is a pretty good way of looking at what that end would be like.

    • I agree George. I think it’s healthy to disagree with our Theological heros. Even if I depart from Barth on this one part of his eschatology, there’s no need to throw away the baby with the bath water. The Dogmatics remain to be an evolutionary peak in protestant theology. Thanks for the kind words.

  5. In III.2 or 47.5, the discussion of ending time in my opinion leads us away from “extinction.” If we can think of extinction at all, it only means that the things on which humanity relies, which includes temporality, must end in order for us to be free for eternal life with God. The dialectic that Barth holds between time and eternity forbids him from arriving at a sense of the resolution of that dialectic. This is why I like the way Pannenberg and his “realistic eschatology” moves us toward the final victory of life and fullness rather than emptiness and death. I will say that in III.2, Barth is carrying on a debate with Heidegger and his view of the self-constitution of time that must end in with the victory of death and emptiness. Your considerations also remind me of the incompleteness of CD. If you read carefully the section to which you refer, Barth is even willing to consider such a realistic view of the end that when Christ comes in his third form some human beings will not to go through the path of death to reach eternal life with God. My point, as many of us who like Barth would attest, is that the Volume V is something that we can only speculate about. That volume would have focused on hope and the Holy Spirit, which I think would have clarified the matters to which you address concern. Robert W. Jenson wrote a brief description of the major themes of Barth’s theology and I notice that he views hope beyond death as important in Barth.;view=1up;seq=7 This is a freely available text. There are many places where I have trouble with Barth. I actually think on the matter of death and eternal life he makes a very good point. At the same time, I will admit that for me, it is enough to know that if Barth is right, that God raised Jesus from the dead, then therefore, any hope we have of eternal life is in participation of his resurrected life. I suppose that is enough for me. I really do need more specificity than that.

    • George,

      Thanks for sharing the ebook! I was looking for some respectable and scholarly opinion on Barths’ Ending Time. I was going to read T.F. Torrance’s Space, Time and Resurrection. I think you’ve nailed it by saying that CD V isn’t complete, the end never came as Barth planned. I also appreciate your sobriety and willing to accept the truth. I’m open to be corrected here, and what I want is to share this information, to get more discussion on this topic. So you’re always a helpful resource! I hope to get into Pannenberg’s eschatology next year. I was planning to read his ST.


  6. Wyatt,
    I agree with about 95% of your post here, good stuff. But I don’t agree with one key conclusion that you and Barth make and I think there lies the turn between an eschatology of extinction and one of hope. You state it right at the beginning

    According to Karl Barth, this will be the final event in the space-time-continuum, after which, the universal clock will stop ticking and “time shall be no more” (Rev 10:6 KJV).

    There is an assumption here that there is a universal clock that is shared between God’s domain (Heaven) and creation. You are getting there in that yes, time began at creation. Creation was the first moment that the temporal dimension existed and you could separate events in the timeline. And yes, the last day is the end of of that dimension. This ‘time’ will be wrapped up and completed in the same way that the Earth and the rest of creation is completed on that day. But I wonder if you, and Barth, are extending the domain of that clock too far. If you strictly limit that clock to only this Cosmos then the end of that clock has the same relevance to my outcome as the end of this physical creation. The concept of the new Heavens and the new Earth spoken of in Revelation 21 is of a new physical creation with presumably a new clock (or something different substituting for the temporal dimension).

    I think the extinction of mankind with the extinction of the clock is only a problem if the clock spoken of is shared between God’s domain and man’s. Only if it is shared, then the same clock would be the clock for the new creation.

    • Grunner,

      Great thoughts and thank you for joining in and trying to solve this difficult and disturbing problem. I disagree with Barth. I personally believe that there will be a future life for humanity that has no end, but the nature of that life will be indescribably different from the world as we know it.

      Barth would respond to you that God is the creator of Heaven and Earth, and so Heaven and all the angels are part of God’s creation too, and “the angels long to look into these things” (1 Peter 1:12). Therefore, all things that are created, have a beginning, and will have a corresponding end on the last day. So in Barth’s schema, there will be a future New Heavens and New Earth, and in fact, the New Heaven and New Earth are already here but they are “hidden in God” (Col 3:3) until the final judgement, when they will be fully revealed. So there will be a New Heaven and New Earth, but those too will pass away (almost as quickly as they were revealed) at the end of time.


      • Why does the end of time have to mean the passing away? I don’t have such a high view of time. I’m only 2 volumes through CD and I had the same thoughts on the section on man’s time and God’s time. Yes, because I’m currently a creature bound to time, I can’t conceive of an existence without it. And yes, the New Heaven and New Earth are now and are now hidden. But how else would you describe something that is extra temporal intersecting our temporal reference frame? The destruction of this creation’s clock is only relevant in this creation. It isn’t relevant to other, I want to say creations but that may be too strong of a word, I want to call them domains. I don’t know what Heaven’s clock is, but it doesn’t share the one that is for this creation. So the end of this clock at the end of time does not impact Heaven’s clock nor the one in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

        P.s. The angels are created, but do they share the domain of our clock? They seem to not be completely bound be our laws of physics, does that imply that they exist in a different set outside of ours?

  7. Try reading a little bit about Karl Barths Theological assertions in daily life, that may be clarifying. E.g. responding to a woman, that asked, whether she would see her loved ones in heaven – “not only your loved ones, be sure of that”. Or his emphasis on that you should never be content with life in the sense that you say it could end now, he’s very affirmative of life. Barth does not throw away salvation nor reduce it to a nice and clarifying little epilogue, I am rather sure about that, despite having read of CDs only excerpts.

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