The lordship of God that has been a theme throughout the entire systematic and it takes center stage in his eschatology. God’s lordship over the world is something that is thought of to the believer as present, based on God’ identity as Creator, but lordship remains contestable until it is comes completely in the eschaton.
From the beginning of the church’s theological development the relationship of the Kingdom of God to eschatology has been nearly ignored. In 1892 Weiss brought the priority of eschatology back to the forefront by forcefully arguing that in the proclamation of Jesus the Kingdom of God was not a moral or political order, but God’s kingdom that comes with cooperation on our part. Eschatology, in as much as it centers on the determinative reality for Jesus, is the center piece of Christian theology. As Pannenberg states, “on the path of their history in time objects and people exist only in anticipation of that which they will be in the light of their final future, the advent of God” (III, 531).
The truth of the revelation of God in Christ remains dependent on the actual in-breaking of the future of God’s kingdom, while it is declared and celebrated on the premise of its proleptic arrival in the history of Jesus. The arrival of the Kingdom is the basis that the message of Jesus cannot do without and so the content of Christian truth which is properly eschatological depends on the future of God’s own coming to consummate his divine rule of creation.
As Jewish eschatology developed it proved to be more profound than other options because it considered the eternal destiny of individual existence in light of the question of the destiny of all humanity. This unique development proved to be important and heightened in the Christian faith and for Pannenberg demonstrates the “superiority of biblical eschatology to secularized forms of hope of the consummation of society as the epitome of our human destiny” (III, 549). The fellowship of the believer with Jesus as the destiny of humanity makes it more than a finite political agreement and simple divine promise because it rests on an event of fulfillment in the life of Jesus that has already taken place. In that the event of Jesus has yet come to define reality completely, promise remains an important but modified category.
The Spirit serves to link this future reality to the present of the individual and it is the connection to the new life in Christ through the Spirit that assures one of their salvation. In the subjective present of believers the Spirit has an “inner element of the eschatological consummation itself, namely, as a proleptic manifestation of the Spirit who in the eschatological future will transform believers for participation in the glory of God” (III, 553). The Spirit is then understood as an end-time gift and as such eschatology is the pneumatological economic work of the Spirit through the Father and the Son. As finite creatures individual human beings are not immortal and it is only through participation in humanity’s destiny, which is bound to the death and resurrection of Jesus, that they can inherit eternal life. Here in the midst of the development of his eschatology, that has been a theme developed in every section of the book, Pannenberg gives the Spirit his own role and definitive purpose distinct from that of the Father and the Son.