Holy Communion – 5

2.2 The Eschatological aspect of Sacrament

1. Jesus, is the eschatos – the one who is the ‘end of the age,’ the final Word of God to humans, who has already come, is present, and yet to come

In Christ, the eschaton broke into the present and yet the final Word of judgement and present redemptive action of the Word are ‘held apart’ to leave room for repentance and faith. So Mark 2:1-12, where an interval of time occurs between the word of forgiveness and the healing of the body. This is what Torrance calls an ‘eschatological reserve’ between the Word of the Kingdom and its power.[1]

The Church is redeemed, not in Word only, but in power, and yet it waits for the redemption of the body. The sacrament functions to preserve this unity between Word and power while maintaining the eschatological tension. The word of forgiveness is proclaimed, yet the healing of the body (resurrection) is delayed. As we shall see, this means that all healing is provisional, and a miraculous healing may be understood itself as a kind of sacrament of the resurrection.

2. There is a ‘presence in absence,’ associated with the sacrament

Paul says, ‘from now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way’ (2 Cor 5:16). In the words of the institution that Paul received for the Lord’s Supper he says, ‘Do this in remembrance of me … For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’ (1 Cor 11:24, 26). The ‘until he comes’ portrays for us the provisional nature of the sacramental life of the Church. With the ascension, Christ withdraws from one form of presence to enter into a new form of presence, attested in the sacraments of Baptism and the Supper, among other forms.

The sacraments point to their own disappearance as interim events sustaining the life of the Church between Pentecost and resurrection. ‘The really significant event in Baptism is a hidden event; it recedes from sight in the ascension of Christ and waits to be revealed full at the last day.’[2]

[1] See Torrance, Conflict, 159.

[2] See Torrance, Conflict, 167.

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