Luther’s Jenseitige Eschatology

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Jenseitig!   Unlike the theologically-impoverished English language, German has a fine word to describe "the life hereafter" alias "the life after death."

Jenseitig — "on the other side of"; or "hereafter in the next life."   And that, notwithstanding the paucity of German compared to Dutch and English books thereon in modern theological literature after Kant and the Aufklärung or so-called ‘Enlightenment.’

Indeed, even the great Protestant Reformer Martin Luther is sometimes wrongly regarded as an advocate of soul-sleep, and occasionally even of postmortal annihilationism — just like conditional immortalists such as the Anabaptists, the Seventh-day Adventists, and the so-called Jehovah’s witnesses.   Yet a careful study of his writings teaches exactly the opposite — viz., Luther’s keen awareness of ongoing human conciousness also between death and resurrection —  and beyond, unto all eternity.

To Luther, the dying Christ in Luke 23:43 did not at all mean, nor say, to the penitent thief on his cross: "I tell you today, you shall only after the resurrection of the body at the very end of World History be with Me in Paradise!"   Instead, to Luther and to the Church Universal of all ages, Christ here meant what He actually said, viz.: "I tell you — today you shall be with Me in Paradise!"   For, as Luther remarks: "Here Heaven and Paradise are one!"1

Indeed, apparently mindful of the poor man (Lazarus) right after his death going to "the bosom of Abraham" in Luke 16:22-31, Luther further remarks: "Abraham, after death, lives with God; serves Him; and also rules with Him….   How the soul ‘rests’ [cf. Revelation 6:9-11 & 14:13 & 20:4-6], we are not to know.   It is certain, however, that it lives!"2

In fact, on Revelation 6:10, Luther even states that the postmortal "souls of the martyrs also work" — and even "with their crying."3   See too Genesis 4:10’s "the voice of your [dead] brother keeps on crying out"; and Matthew 10:28’s "Fear Him Who is able to keep on destroying both soul and body in Hell!"   Indeed, Luther ends his Preface to the Revelation of Saint John with the statement: "In chapter 21, the final comfort is depicted.   The holy city…is led as a bride to the eternal marriage.   Christ alone is Lord; and all the godless are damned and go, with the Devil, into Hell."4

 Philippians 1:21-23 makes it quite clear that for the Christian, even now "to live is Christ, and to die is gain."   For "to depart and to be with Christ…is far better!"  

As Luther observes,5 the Christian is "to turn his back on this transient life, and keep his gaze fixed on the future life…that…will endure forever….   The citizenship…and the home of Christians is…in Heaven….   Whoever does not direct and prepare his heart for yonder imperishable life…does not understand what Baptism, Gospel, Christ [and] faith, mean….  

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"Another existence and life…begins here in faith — but yonder is made perfect in sight (First Corinthians 25:53)…where there is…only eternal and imperishable life….   Only security and joy….   As soon as the child is baptized…he is from that hour dedicated unto eternal life — so that henceforth throughout his life he is only a pilgrim…in this World, prepared and ready to leave this temporal life [and] always hoping and looking for yonder enduring life!"

Also the statement in First Peter 3:18 that Christ was quickened or brought back to life ‘according to the Spirit’ – Luther regards6 as designating the Spirit-ual life to which the zooopoieetheis alias ‘the having been quickened again’ belongs, and as parallel to First Corinthians 15:44-45.   "Hence Peter says that He is quickened according to the Spirit….   He has entered into a Spirit-ual…life which comprehends the whole life that Christ now has in soul and body."  

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