In this series, we read Scripture together with Blumhardt (1842–1919), a little-known but massively influential theologian who inspired Barth, Bonhoeffer, and Moltmann. Readings follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The Blumhardt Bible Study is delivered free every week with the Plough Weekly.
May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col 1:11-20, NRSV)
So this is Jesus! Here we sense something of the greatness of Jesus as a human being. He was before all things, and all things were made through him. In this Jesus, this Lord, this man, this image of the invisible God, God himself looks upon heaven and earth. If we meditate on these things we will sense the extraordinary power of them, and it is no wonder that there are not many who believe it.
If we consider who Jesus is and what will happen through him, both on earth and throughout the universe, our response must be to give thanks (Col. 1:12). This is why God has touched and transformed us. We should be his people, able to look on creation and say of it: "This all belongs to God and must come under his rule. All this must become like Jesus."
Of course not everyone will recognize at one stroke who Jesus is. Millions of people live like animals without realizing the true purpose of life. They have no sense of relationship to the creation; it remains a mystery to them, despite all the advances of science. “Darkness” in this Bible passage involves not knowing who one is or how to come to terms with oneself, with heaven and earth, with everything one sees and feels, and with what one’s inner being senses (Col. 1:13). How great this darkness is in the world today!
The fact that human beings are never satisfied with things as they are shows that we have an inborn inkling of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People want something different. They don't know what they lack, but they are unsatisfied. They can only be at peace when they experience who their Lord is – Jesus, the Lord of creation – and realize that they are children of their Father in heaven. As long as any of us feels that we are separated from God’s life in the world – divided from heaven, from earth, from that which is under the earth – we shall be unhappy.
Such dissatisfaction is at root something good; only it is saddening that people generally don’t understand its ultimate cause. It is very difficult to persuade someone that what he or she lacks is Jesus, the one who rose from the dead. People don't believe it, and so they remain depressed and slaves to their fate, ruled by the daily events of life. Then they can never find happiness and peace.
We Are Created for Joy
Yet we are all called to be rulers in creation (Gen. 1:26-28). We are called to serve God in Christ. This is our chief vocation. We are here for God's purpose – in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. We are called to carry the message of the Father in heaven into all lands. (Matt. 28; Col. 1:23). Sin degrades us, so we cannot take pleasure in it or allow it any power over us (Col. 1:14). We must not become accustomed to death, sin, or suffering, seeking to bear them stoically or fatalistically. In fact, we do bear them – but only because we know that they will have an end. We are not created for sorrow but for joy! (John 15:11)
This is how Jesus spoke when he became flesh and lived among us. How else could he have endured except through the call, "All things shall be changed; behold I make all things new!" (Rev. 21:5) Because of this promise, we can endure. Even in minor things, we can comfort ourselves with the thought, "All things will be changed."
Then we will no longer be concerned with ourselves, because the great thing for us is the eternal comfort in Jesus Christ, who rose from the dead, who is the firstborn also of the dead, and who has precedence among the dead (Col. 1:17-18). He reconciles the heavens; he is the ruler over all and the light for those in heaven and on earth and under the earth. That is our comfort. For this we work, for this we fight, and for this we need the resurrected Christ.
Of course, not everyone can grasp this. Nor is it necessary that everyone should. I am not one of those who think that the whole world must be converted. In the long run, the millions will simply have to be transferred to the rule of God through Jesus Christ. They must go into the Kingdom even though they yell and howl. Why? Because God has “delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13)
I will fight to my last breath, to my last drop of blood, for the moment when the whole heavens, the whole earth, and the whole underworld come into the hands of my Jesus (Col. 1:20). This, to me, is what resurrection means. If I have to give up hope for any human being, any country, or any universe, then Jesus is not risen for me. Then the burden of death and travail has not been lifted after all; then Jesus is not the light of the world (John 8:12).
Otherwise we human beings would not be able to bear our afflictions. If I give up hope in any sphere, I immediately have to struggle against depression. Of course it costs a struggle to hold fast to the Risen One, to keep a grasp of this light of redemption. After all, none of us is isolated from the rest of the world – people often suffer without knowing the cause, or at other times are unaccountably happy. In body, mind, soul, and spirit we are related to the suffering of the whole world. Even though we walk in the light of resurrection, we see and feel the darkness in the world, and it hurts (John 16:20).
Hell is Real – But It’s Not Forever
There are, of course, more than enough hells in the world – I’ve been in some of them myself already – but they will have an end! There is more than enough death – but it will have an end (1 Cor. 15:20-28). There is also sin, but it will have an end too. I can bear the knowledge that these things exist because I know that righteousness includes both reward and punishment, both grace and judgment. In the present age, this must be so. But the time will come when all darkness will have an end.
This is what it means to be "partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Col. 1:12) I have told many depressed folk who came to me, "Until you believe that Jesus makes all things new, you will never get out of your depression!"
Until you believe that hell, death, and sin must end; until you believe that all people belong to God, and that we have to fight for all people if we believe in Jesus Christ; until we bring the love of God into heaven and under the earth and to all humankind; until then, we believers will have to struggle against depression. But if we cannot rejoice in our faith, how can we invite others to try to find faith themselves? (Phil. 4:4-5)
Cast Off Your Chains
Thus travail lies upon our shoulders, and so we must hold to the Lord in constancy and put the whole of heaven and earth beneath him (Rom. 8). God has created us human beings to be dissatisfied with small things. We must learn to think cosmically! Cast off your chains, if you can believe this, and think cosmically. We Christians have become so small-hearted in criticizing the world and ourselves. Please throw off this pious hatred, which has slaughtered thousands and millions. The so-called believers must be deposed from their rule; whatever they call themselves, their crown must fall! (Luke 1:51-52). These folk, who judge and condemn all things, have no part in Jesus, the Risen One (James 4:11). Jesus' gospel must come into the world. The gospel of hell, the gospel of Satan, the gospel of lies must be trodden down, so that at last Jesus, the Resurrected One, can come to all creation, so that no more false prophets can make the way to the Father in heaven difficult for anyone.
My friends, that is Jesus! Jesus who lives in spite of death. And I would like to call to all the dead, Arise! You need not fear! Jesus lives, and you also shall live! (Rom. 6:8)
From Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: Ihr Menschen seid Gottes!: 1896 – 1900, (Zurich: Rotapfel Verlag, 1928), no. 39, trans. Jörg Barth and Renate Barth, © 2013 The Plough Publishing House.
What does Jesus’ resurrection mean to you? Can you believe that all hells will have an end? Share your thoughts.