The kingdom of God and history are connected by Pannenberg so that the coming of the kingdom is both the end and the completion of history. End and completion are not to be separated from each other as different occurrences, but the goal of creation in the consummation of creation is both the end of history and its completion in that the goal is thus attained in history and simultaneously the fulfillment of history.
Pannenberg returns to his philosophical argument that the total meaning of a thing, the identity of a person or of history, is still incomplete and is present as an anticipation of an as yet incomplete reality. The ontological priority of the future makes sense only when the binding of existence is the infinite God. The end of temporal existence is then the transition from time to eternity, but this transition is not to be understood as the antithesis of eternity over against time, but there is a synthesis in which eternity is understood as “authentic duration and therefore as the source, epitome, and basis of time” (III, 595). The priority of the future is then grounded in the nature of eternity and not distinct from it, making the consummation of the world in the future of God the location of finite history’s duration and not other than it.
The coming of the Kingdom of God is then to be understood as the coming of eternity into time. Pannenberg returns to the argument developed from Plotinus earlier, which enabled our existence in time to be related to the eternity of God and not in contrast to it. Barth likewise developed a similar idea when he said that the continuity of our life’s course is to be viewed “not only as grounded in eternity but as being the presence of eternity in our lives, so that what we are given in our human existence is not real duration but only the longing for it” (III, 597). The totality of existence is then sensed in the movement of temporality, which grasps it through recollection and expectation.
At work in all living creatures is a desire for a totality of life that they do not yet fully possess and this can only be possessed in the life of God. In the movement of time we can only seek and anticipate the totality of life in the form of the future that will integrate the many moments of life into a unity. This happens through participation in the eternity of God, which comes when the individuals and human community share in the proper relationship to God, namely as they share in the self-distinction from God of the Son and the unity brought through the Spirit. The eschatological future, the consummation of creation through the entrance of eternity into time, is the basis for the lasting essence of each creature that finds manifestation already in the allotted duration of its life and will yet achieve full manifestation in the eschatological future.
In regards to an individual’s identity Pannenberg says that “all of us are still on the way to becoming ourselves, and yet all of us are in some sense already the persons we shall be in light of our eschatological future” (III, 603). In our very present there is the presence of the eschatological future, faith comes in response to this reality in the form of the acceptance of the message of the in-breaking Kingdom of God and the opening of oneself up to its claim and work in one’s life. In the human experience of duration a wholeness is found as one’s life is understood to take place in reference to the eternity of God. While the identity of an individual and creation itself rests in the future, within God, nothing of the duration is lost as all history is part of God’s eternal present. The transition of from time to eternity is experienced as judgment, salvation, and transfiguration upon one’s death, yet only at the end of the ages will “those who sleep in Christ receive in common by the Spirit of God the being-for-self of the totality of their existence that is preserved in God and thus live with all others before God” (III, 607).
At the conclusion of the eschatology Pannenberg describes how the coming of the eternal God, the immanent Trinity, to the world brings with it the emergence of the eschatological future which in the end is the self-declaration of the lordship of God in divine love. Thus, from the act of creation God has been reconciling the world to himself in anticipation of creation’s future presence in the life of the God who is love.