The Psalms and Christians’ End: Life in Fellowship with God

The hope of Christians is directed to the return of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. In the Psalter [book of Psalms] this hope is not expressed literally. [One could argue with the author on this point, shewing that certain Psalms speak quite directly to this hope. For Bonhoeffer goes on to say] …Life in fellowship with the God of revelation, the final victory of God in the world, and the setting up of the messianic kingdom are objects of prayer in the psalms.

The Old Testament is not different from the New in this respect. To be sure, the psalms request fellowship with God in earthly life, but they know that this fellowship is not completed in earthly life but continues beyond it, even stands in opposition to it (Psalm 17:14f.). So life in fellowship with God is always already on the other side of death. Death is, to be sure, the irrevocable bitter end for body and soul. It is the wages of sin, and the remembrance of it is necessary (Psalms 39 and 90). On the other side of death, however, is the eternal God (Psalms 90 and 102). Therefore not death but life will triumph in the power of God (Psalms 16:19ff.; 49:15; 56:13; 73:24; 118:15 ff.). We find this life in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and we ask for it in this life and in that to come.

The psalms of the final victory of God and of his Messiah (2, 96. 97, 98, 110, 148-150) leads us in praise, thanksgiving, and petition to the end of all things, when all the world will give God the honor, when the redeemed people of God will reign with him eternally, when the powers of evil will fall and God alone will rule.

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted in Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the sixteenth section, “The End” (pp.61-62), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

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