The Return

Anthony Thiselton: “In spite of those who underestimate the central importance of the Return of Christ in the New Testament, the concept remains central from the earliest New Testament writings to the latest” (89). There is an issue here: moderns and postmoderns find this element of NT and early Christian belief a bit embarrassing, if not mythical, perhaps even imaginary or delusional.

Do you think God, someday, will make all things right? Or is a hope for the Return of Christ a symbol for hope that things will get better? or can get better? or that we can make things better? Do you think Christ will return — in recognizably physical ways — to this earth to rule as king?

I grew up in a movement that valued this stuff, to the point of the absurd. We were pre-tribulation rapturists, we loved writers like Hal Lindsay and Salem Kirban, and the Secret Rapture and Second Coming came to us naturally. And much of what we believed, so I think now, was not founded in solid study of the New Testament but was instead one idea building on another and the next thing we were seeing things in ways that diverged far too radically from the great Christian interpretive tradition.

Many who grew up as I did want to put this all behind us, like putting behind a childhood theology, but Thiselton’s book (Life after Death) offers cogent summaries (some of them clearly not up to date in scholarship) of biblical texts affirming a real (he isn’t quite clear here) Return of Christ.

There are a few terms here: Parousia, referring to a royal, sovereign, and vindicatory “Coming” or “Presence”; epiphaneia, a public appearance; apokalypsis, revelation and full disclosure. He also argues that apocalyptic eschatology in the NT, formerly dismissed by such scholars as RH Charles and CH Dodd, has come back into its own through Käsemann, Koch, Chris Beker, JL Martyn, and Alexandra Brown.

He doesn’t think it is clear that Paul thought Christ would return in his own lifetime but that he thought Christ might or might not; in other words, Paul can’t be read as one who clearly thought like that.

On a secret rapture of being caught up into the sky, Thiselton again is not entirely clear but it appears to me he is saying it refers to a “meeting together as one at the Parousia” (99) and therefore is close to Tom Wright and GB Caird on this one.

The rest of Thiselton’s chp sketches the rest of the NT after Paul. Jesus/Gospels clearly have a future act of God where all things are made right … and all the way through to Revelation (with no major proposals) to the view that the Return of Christ/Second Coming is the public and absolute vindication of the sovereignty of God.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Jerry

    The scriptures and creeds of Christianity affirm Christ’s return without being too specific on how or when. I think it is more than a simple “things will get better” or a realized eschatology in the church.

  • Peter

    I’m with Jerry.

  • JoeyS

    It depends on which texts we are referring to. If we’re talking about the “Coming of the Son of Man” in Matthew 24, or its counter-part “the coming of the Kingdom of God” in Luke 17 then it seems prudent to take note of what Luke 17 says next: “…is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

  • Chris

    I don’t think Eschatology itself is embarrassing. I’m embarrassed for people who have the date of His return ‘figured out’, or are convinced that it is going to happen in their lifetime.

    I think it’s pretty absurd to think someone has figured out exactly what is going to happen, what it will look like, and what all of Revelation’s metaphors really mean.

    I also think it’s embarrassing that they have an escapist attitude. An attitude that says “Get me out of here. I don’t want to be a part of this anymore.” Rather than an attitude of love for the broken ones, a love for the hurting, and a desire to make a difference.

  • http://profanefaith.com profanefaith

    Scot, Have just been studying the Olivet Discourse (particularly Mark 13) looking at commentary by R.T. France and N.T. Wright. I know this isn’t what your post is about but could you recommend 2-3 solid more academic level books about Christ’s return or end times? I grew up with pre-trib nonsense too, never went off the deep end the other way, but trying to come to grips with what the Bible actually says.

  • http://www.baysidewest.com Chuck

    Its fascinating to me that our culture this year will be talking about the end of the world more than church. I agree there was an extreme fanaticism in regards to the rapture and second coming in the 70′s and 80′s. But nonetheless, the second coming of Christ is Biblical and is the Blessed Hope of the church.
    Do I know the day or hour? Absolutely not. But the truth remains, “After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him. As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” (Acts 1:9-11 NLT)

  • Scot McKnight

    profanefaith, GR Beasley-Murray’s commentary on Mark 13, and RC Sproul’s exposition of a partial preterist view.

  • Susan N.

    “Many who grew up as I did want to put this all behind us…”

    Yup.

    Was the late 1970′s the height of rapture-mania?

    I sang ‘The Countdown Song’ so many times that the words and melody are still stuck in my head more than three decades later. “Three and two, coming through…” Oy!

    I (still) don’t know the meaning of obscure prophecy, but I understand many more things that Jesus taught about how to live here and now. I’m working on living up to/obeying those commands. The way I see it, when and if the rapture occurs, all will be well if I take care of present responsibilities in ways that honor Christ.

  • http://www.gordonhackman.blogspot.com Gordon Hackman

    I too was raised with the Left Behind type rapture eschatology. I rejected that along time ago, but I do still believe in a literal, physical, visible second coming. I think it’s clearly taught in scripture.

    I think that the wisdom of God revealed in a literal but unpredictable second coming is that it really makes us face the fact that we cannot bring about the fullness of the kingdom through ordinary human effort. It will be a sudden interruption to the world’s business as usual when it comes. This should keep us from identifying any particular cause or political movement with the kingdom of God.

  • http://chuckroberts.blogspot.com/ Chuck Roberts

    I grew up as a pretrib rapturist. The “end times” were all anyone ever wanted to talk about, and you could barely get the pastor to preach or teach about anything else. We didn’t talk much about what our lives were to look like now; all we wanted to think about was “the great escape.” As an adult, I just tune out when people start talking about this stuff. I’ve felt for awhile now that I probably “should” go back and take another look and come to some conclusions about it all, but I really don’t want to. I think the part of me that thinks I should is because I’m not sure it’s going to happen the way I was taught as a kid, but I’m not sure either what to replace it with.

  • http://whitherthougoest.wordpress.com/ Brad Anderson

    I, too, was raised a dispensational fundamentalist. While I still believe in the actual return of Jesus Christ, I no longer look at the Kingdom as merely future – it has already come near in Jesus. The primary purpose of eschatology is to shape the present, to discipline the church’s imagination and life here and now, to keep us free from the powers (mostly of our own creation). We are to live now in the new age of Christ, while the old age passes away. This doesn’t mean we make it happen – Jesus has done that – but we witness to it.

  • Susan N.

    Brad Anderson (#10) – thank you for articulating this so eloquently. Amen — “the Kingdom has already come near in Jesus.” He recreates and redeems; we are witnesses to it. That is a good, hopeful bit of news to my ears. :-)

  • http://itunes.com/apps/stevehusting Steve Husting

    I too have been confused about the timing of Christ’s return, but not about the fact of His return. I let others focus on when He comes while I focus on getting ready for His Coming, that I may be ready for a reward.

  • Norman

    Modern Christianity has the opportunity to escape the “escapism” of our historical past excursions. We are starting to realize the nature of the literature that we read is not to be taken literally in many instances especially in Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelation in which we have developed most of our aberrant theologies from. The two most misconstrued ideas that emerge from this non Hebrew literalistic reading of scripture is young earth creationism and various end times prophecies. Along with YEC is the idea that something magical happened to the physical world when Adam and Eve were expelled from Garden life with God. This goes along with the literal reading of the flood account where again it is supposed that something mysterious and magically happened about 2500-3000 BC with a worldwide flood. However some scholars are starting to realize these are Hebrew pieces of literature that should not be taken at their literal face values as they have different objectives than we implicate toward them.

    Just as aberrational as YEC though is the ideas that come out of many of the millennial end times conjectures that keep so many in a tizzy. Christ coming again has been framed in so many strange scenario’s that it leaves your head swimming. Some want great wars and Christ to come back and finish up destroying what He left undone 2000 years ago. Some think the earth will evolve or be changed into Shangri-La or Heaven here on earth where all the past, present and future faithful will get to reside in an idealist Garden Paradise like it was before Adam and Eve were kicked out and the physical earth was changed. There we get to have domestic and wild animals living with us that no longer eat each other but all feast on straw. Now of course I don’t know which faithful past, present or future animals get selected for that time but perhaps God has special future animals in mind that He will create.

    Some have us waiting until the end when mass tribulations will occur and the Rapture will occur and the elect will fly away and leave physical earth and its elements to be burned up and consumed and so there goes Shangri-La up in smoke instead. Or perhaps there is a better understanding that permeates the scriptures that gets sidetracked because of all these misadventures of Christian interpretations over the years.

    Perhaps God is powerful enough to have created the universe just exactly as we see it and experience it and test it today; however it came about on His time scale and from His majesty. Perhaps God determined to accommodate humanity at the right time in earth’s history to foster an understanding about the proper relationship with Him and how to treat one another. Perhaps it started with a single man or small group of ANE people whom properly recognized that there was only one God and begin a pursuit of that God and this was kept alive by God through His providential care.

    Gen 4:26 … At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.

    However this lineage of people got off track and instead of depending fully upon God they thought for themselves a better way and begin instituting “law codes” to make sure they could manage God in an orderly way. When they did so they left the path of How God wanted His people to interact with Him. However some of these people over time recognized that this was not right and God revealed to His called prophets to proclaim that there would need to be a corrective to bring back right relationships with God and it would occur with the coming of a messiah figure. Many times judgment was brought upon this people of God and became especially acute with their exile and captivity along with the destruction of their Temple around 600BC. This was a precursor demonstration of God’s displeasure in the way they were behaving and not fulfilling their calling to spread the good news of God to the world and it was called a “judgment”. However there would be another chance and they rebuilt their Temple once again but God revealed that a Temple made with hands was not going to stand the test of time as that was not what God envisioned for His people. Instead the ideas that at the time of messiah that man would become as God intended and fully created in His Image through this coming messiah. The new Temple would be built by God in the hearts of His faithful through the coming messiah; and the second Temple’s destruction and the concluding old covenant peoples Judgment would be the sign of that finality of fulfillment.

    It happened exactly as it was foretold and through Christ the messiah; as His old Flesh representing the Law was offered up and destroyed at the cross and then through His resurrection he brought to the old people and the rest of the world the new eternal way of knowing God that would never need to be changed again (this was the return to the Paradise/Garden). It however was not complete until He came down from the mountain to give his first fruit follower’s instructions to take this message into the desert wilderness of the ANE and endure a New Exodus before the consummation of what Christ established would be declared fulfilled and completed. This is the story we find in the NT where the final judgment upon the old covenant would be the sign of Christ return in judgment upon those who again rejected Christ/God just as they did at Mt. Sinai. This occurred as Christ prophesied about their City, Temple and Priest hood and would be illustrated by what happened at the hands of the Roman general Titus in the First century as described by Josephus.

    This language in the NT that is often thought to be about the future to us was instead about the first fruit Christians and their time. The language is simply OT judgment language that appeared time after time in the Jewish history and we have taken it and run every direction we can imagine except what it historically was meant to illustrate to these that were being spoken to. Just like YEC is a false hood so is the idea’s still being promulgated about Christ somehow didn’t firmly establish His Kingdom for man and so there is something mystical yet to be done. After all sin and death are still out there in this physical world and so something else must be done. This is the great misconception that historical Christianity often falls into the trap of believing, Christ did defeat “sin and death” but not in the way that the Pharisees and literalist believe He was supposed to do. Sin death is separation from God because of the fleshly method that man instituted called law that kept the very best relationship from being established for God’s people. Christ simply put an end to that problem once and for all by becoming our High Priest and standard set above mortal man.

    The physical earth is 4.5 billion years old and archaic humanity as we now know ourselves came into the critical mass around 50-70,000 years ago. Many forms of trying to know God sprung up among humankind as we spread across the globe raging from Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Indian, Chinese, Aztec, Inca and Iroquois approaches to appease God. However the correct idea and purity of God took root and flourished with His help among a small nomadic people from the ANE and it was firmly established in the purest sense from the time of the Cross and the Parousia of Christ around 30-70AD. The eternal Kingdom without physical observation is here and in place and it calls for right living which can be boiled down to these two scriptures.

    Mat 22:37-40 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

    1Co 13:13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    The existence of physical earth will continue is some form or fashion for no telling how many millenniums until universal decay will make it uninhabitable for humanity. The ancients though didn’t deal with this scientific issue that we are aware of but they dealt with the relational issue with God and each other that is paramount for the type of lives that God deemed necessary for his faith seeking people. If we focus our lives upon the transformation that faith in Christ the messiah established for us then we have taken hold of exactly what God intended for the first faithful people as illustrated by the Adam character in His Garden story. We however have been placed back in the Garden through Christ and that is the bottom line for the narrative story of the Bible. The extraneous ideas are often conjecture based upon not knowing and properly applying the ancient literature in its contextual environment.

  • JohnM

    Things will someday be made right or else it makes no sense even to talk of symbols. Things are going to get better apart from God someday making things right? No, I don’t believe that. Made right through (not by) the Church? Plausible. Still amounts to God making things right. I expect Christ’s return but whatever the details, when things are finally made right it will be the end of theories, and we won’t be giving the credit to ourselves.

  • Norman

    JohnM #14

    Christ did make things right. He did away with the old ways and implemented the new way. All has been set right. Is life eternal for the faithful not enough of setting things right? If not, then what else does Christ need to accomplish from a redeemptive standpoint that would make things better?

    Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins …
    5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com/ Matt

    I just started reading Polkinghore’s The God of Hope and the End of the World and I’m really enjoying the interdisciplinary way that he approaches the subject. His goal is to “present the motivations for Christian eschatological hope and to show that this hope is one that is intelligible and defensible in the twenty-first century” (xviii).

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com/ Matt

    profanefaith #5

    N. T. Wright’s Surprised By Hope is a must read on eschatology/the second coming.

  • Andrew

    As a closet annihilationist, I’ve been thinking about this very topic, and about the interplay between this topic and our view of hell. Technically the two are independent issues — the return of Christ and the nature of hell — but I found that as I searched the Scriptures regarding hell, as weak as the arguments for eternal conscious torment were, the arguments for an imminent, wrathful, and very real return of Christ were just as strong as the other arguments had been weak. (Rom 1:18, Col 3:6, Mt 3:7, etc. come to mind.) Have others made this shift, of deemphasizing eternal conscious torment while recapturing an appropriate fear at the prospect of a coming judgment in our lifetime?

  • JohnM

    Norman #15 – If all has been set right we should be satisfied with things as they are and not hope for anything to change. Yes the faithful have life eternal but what about the rest of the world (human and otherwise)apart from the faithful? Left to stew in the consequences of sin world without end? Are even the faithful altogether what they should be?

  • http://awaitingawhiterobe.wordpress.com MikeB

    Do you think Christ will return — in recognizably physical ways — to this earth to rule as king?

    yes. like other posters, I see this concept being taught in several passages. Matt 24 seems to outline a basic idea of what that will look like. And Acts 1 (mentioned above) clearly states he will come back just as He left. And Paul (1 Cor 11) says to celebrate the Lord’s Supper until He returns.

    I am generally pre-mill but I don’t get wrapped up with perfecting my eschatological charts of when things are going to happen. Nor does pre-mill require us to adopt a “escapism” or abandon “good works” here and now to others around us. Not saying the latter does not happen, just that is should not. Not if we are actually reading the entire NT and see that Jesus expects the servants to be doing what He asked which is “love one another”.

    MikeB

  • Norman

    JohnM @19

    Yes redemption from sin and the offer of an abundant life and eternal life should be satisfactory for those who seek God. Especially since it was lost beforehand.

    I would say we have a calling as God’s covenant people to encourage others to know Christ so they too can enjoy what God intended for all mankind to share in.

    Your second issue is a philosophical one that seeks an answer that no one has an answer for except God alone. Job asked the same questions and the answer that God gave is not going to satisfy most unless it is framed within the redemptive covenant people of God. However since the old earth is what it is and humanity as well then I will expect something better once I enter a post mortem eternal life with God, Jesus and the faithful. Is that not sufficient?

    Do you have some kind of better answer for all those that have preceded us or will follow us? Do you think God just screwed things up then with the way the world is now, has been and is going to be? What would you do differently if you were God? Christ said the Poor we will always have: what do you think of his pessimism?

  • PaulE

    Patience in affliction as hope in the Lord’s coming is a tradition that runs thick through the NT (Rom. 8:18, James 5:7, 1 Peter 1:3-7, 2 Thes. 1:5-7). Similarly, encouragement to righteous living is often tied to the Lord’s coming (Rom. 13:11-12, Phil. 1:10, 1 John 3:2-3). And in several places it’s clear that part of the Christian life is simply to wait (Gal. 5:5, 1 Thes. 1:9-10, Jude 21) – for righteousness, salvation, mercy.

    There is undoubtedly much that goes beyond the written word and does not find a grounding in a solid study of the Scriptures. But when so much seems pinned on a moment – our being found unashamed, our vindication as righteous, and our salvation and purpose in waiting – too much seems quickly unraveled if you pull away this one string.

  • Norman

    MikeB#20

    What if the NT scriptures were talking about their time frame and in their generation as Christ stated would happen and not insert ourselves and our later times into their discussion. What if you found out that this was OT type judgment language that was being fulfilled in their Day? Would that keep us from having to explain to our atheist detractors that Christ and the apostles really didn’t mean their generation but perhaps sometime way in the future?

    Perhaps there is a way to keep the atheist and liberal scholars from discrediting Christ because He didn’t keep his promises of a return that they were looking for. Perhaps we simply don’t always understand Hebrew eschatological langue well enough to keep from making wrong assumptions like they do.

    PaulE#22

    Of course the first believers were being told to persevere because of the Jewish and Roman persecution that was manifesting itself. Can we appropriate those same hopes today? Yes and no; yes in regards to our trials but not in the sense of the first century fulfillment of Christ prophecies of judgment and retribution that he called for as relief to the first century church that was being spoken to directly. Notice how specific the language is toward relief for those that these persecutions were occurring against, it’s not talking directly to us in regard to their promise of relief from the Jewish persecution.

    2Th 1:4-10 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for YOUR STEADFASTNESS AND FAITH IN ALL YOUR PERSECUTIONS AND IN THE AFFLICTIONS THAT YOU ARE ENDURING. (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed GOD CONSIDERS IT JUST TO REPAY WITH AFFLICTION THOSE WHO AFFLICT YOU, (7) and to GRANT RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE AFFLICTED AS WELL AS TO US, WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when HE COMES ON THAT DAY TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, BECAUSE OUR TESTIMONY TO YOU WAS BELIEVED.

  • Fred NZ

    Times and Seasons by Ron McKenzie is a must read for those who want to leave behind the old stuff, yet take the scriptures seriously.
    http://www.amazon.com/Times-Seasons-Ron-McKenzie/dp/0473204193/

  • http://www.seekingfaithfulnessblog.blogspot.com Holly

    I am so happy to throw off the fear and despair and hopelessness which accompanies Left Behind mentality.

    Today I am reading the last two chapters of Wright’s Simply Jesus.

    **shiver**

    Hope! A physical return – and that being seen as a GOOD thing! The reuniting of Heaven and Earth – all things set right -

    That’s some good stuff! :)

    I remember an interview where someone asked Tom Wright about what he thought it would be like when Christ returned, or how it would happen (or something along those lines….) He paused, smiled, and replied with his lovely accent:

    “I…..don’t know! But I suspect that it will be the sort of thing where we will say, ‘Of course! That’s how!’”

    I love that response – love the hopeful anticipation, love the thought that it will all make sense but will still surprise us. God doesn’t usually act like we think He will, does He? His birth, the conclusion of His ministry years…even though people “knew” from scriptures that these things were foretold, they just couldn’t “see” it when it was in front of them. Maybe if we are looking with the right set of glasses, we will see better? I don’t know…either. :) But I’m hopeful!

  • http://matthartke.wordpress.com/ Matt

    I’ve always loved this quote from Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God. I think it does a wonderful job of correcting a lopsided interest in the end times, while also giving a firm foundation for a future hope in Christ’s coming.

    “Ever since Albert Schweitzer, most scholars have done their best to come to terms with an ‘eschatological’ perspective. That has meant very different things to different people, but at the heart of it lies the recognition that Christianity was born into a world where people were expecting something to happen. Because it was assumed by many scholars that nothing much had happened in the world of space-time events–because, in other words, it was taken for granted that the bodily resurrection did not happen–all the weight was put at another point, the imminent ‘second coming’. In fact, though the early Christians did indeed hope for a great future event, which might, they thought, happen at any time, they rested the weight of their theology on the event which, they firmly believed, had already happened. It was because of the bodily resurrection that the second coming meant what it did. In this respect, early Christian theology works in the way that a bicycle does: the rear wheel (the past event) supports the rider’s weight, the front wheel (the future hope) points in the direction of travel. To ride on the back wheel alone is difficult. To ride on the front wheel alone is downright impossible.” (RSG, p. 582)

  • E.G.

    profanefaith:

    I ain’t Reformed, but I am leaning amillenial. So, completely biased, Riddlebarger’s “A Case for Amillennialism” is a great book.

    It outlines the various views and gives strengths and weaknesses of each. As you can tell from the title of the book, the author lands on one particular position. But it’s well-reasoned and the coverage of the other views is quite thorough as well.

  • JohnM

    Norman #21 – Don’t know what happened to my last attempted post, so if you end up seeing one that sounds similar…

    Anyway, but for your saying you expect something better post mortem, you almost make it sound like this life, this world, with it’s conditions is all we, even we the redeemed, have or will have. We are redeemed, yet we sin. We have abundant life, yet we suffer. We are not taught that these things are satifactory but that they come to an end for us.

    There is no philosophical question other than why God allowed us (not Him) to break things. There may be no answer that would satisfy everyone, certainly not everyone who holds what I suspect is your view of God’s sovereign will, but I’m not interested in discussing that here, and I’m not troubled by the question. I know who fixes things.

    In Romans 8 Paul speaks of a hope that is not yet realized and he indicated the entire creation has a share in that hope. In 1Corinthians 5 he also speaks of a resurrection and a fulfillment that we don’t yet see. Except of course for the clever contemporary Greek scholars who are smarter than everyone else who has ever translated the New Testament into English. Maybe they can explain how it means something entirely different than what their inept predicessors made it sound like it means :)

  • Norman

    JohnM,

    If you follow Paul carefully in Romans 5-8 you realize that he has been presenting the problem of the old covenant of Israel tied into Adam and the Law. Paul draws the conclusion that Christ is the New Last Adam and that Law is set aside and has been replaced by the Spirit. By tying the law given to Adam and the original breaking of the law Paul begins Israel’s journey in Genesis. Adam’s problem with law was Israel’s problem. Adam is emblematic of Israel and not humanity as a whole because Adam was in covenant with the Law and the pagan world was not. Gentiles were never under covenant law with God.

    Rom 7:9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.

    Therefore when Paul concludes in Romans 8 that the Creation has been groaning in bondage and has been set free he’s not talking about our physical world but the covenant world of God’s people who were in need of redemption from their original fallen Garden status. The creation in bondage was old covenant Israel under the bondage of the Law that begins with Adam. That is why Paul in these four chapters keeps contrasting the problem of trying to keep the law versus the Spirit led life as illustrated here in Rom 8 in which Christianity was breaking through and becoming established yet sometimes holding on to vestiges of the Law, like circumcision.

    Of course Paul spoke of a hope that was not yet realized because these Christians were looking to Christ for deliverance from their Jewish persecutors. Not only would relief come but judgment upon the old covenant of Law would be declared through the fulfillment of Christ prophecies upon Jerusalem, the Temple, Priesthood and animal sacrifices as a method of relating to God. The Jews knew and understood quite well what the destruction of their City and Temple meant covenantally (it was illustrated for them loud and clear around 600BC when their first temple was destroyed because of their unfaithfulness). It meant that God was through with them as His people as He established a new Temple in the hearts of the chosen faithful Jew and Gentile. Not only that but it rendered them impotent in their being able to further persecute the new church of Christ as they were in survival mode themselves.

    Rom 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, (7) and NOT ALL ARE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM BECAUSE THEY ARE HIS OFFSPRING, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” (8) THIS MEANS THAT IT IS NOT THE CHILDREN OF THE FLESH WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD, BUT THE CHILDREN OF THE PROMISE ARE COUNTED AS OFFSPRING.

    JohnM, all these statements you see looking toward the future are not endless times in the future but are about to occur in their lifetimes. You are appropriating language that is contemporary to the first century and trying to apply it past its prophetic fulfillment and if you break context like you are doing then yes you can make these issues fit into any time frame of history you would want. However you shouldn’t be doing so if you want to be accurate to their original contextual meaning and application. Again this gets back to my original post in which people take these letters out of context and do all sorts of damage to them by ignoring their contextual period of application. That is why every kind of misapplication that we can imagine continues to crop up in Christianity because we fail to do our due diligence by remaining in the contextual framework.

    I can validate my premise by simply pointing to the myriad of various theories Christians have come up with over the centuries regarding eschatology. Hardly anyone agrees with each other because most are trying to dissect literature from a futurist paradigm when it has already been fulfilled. There is no one who has a futurist model of eschatology that you can hang your hat on because none of them mesh with what actually occurred in the first century as the writings envisioned.

    I’m not saying it’s easy and in fact that is what the problem is. Most people just do not expend enough time on these issues to become competent in discussing them even on a rudimentary basis. Hebrew OT and NT literature is simply not something that a person over the centuries was born innately with the ability to decipher without extensive training. That is why todays preachers can lead their flocks all over Kingdom come regarding eschatology. People simply don’t know enough to avoid them.

    However if they stick to the Basics of Christ crucified and our redemption through Him they can generally stay out of trouble.

  • http://patheos Annie

    Long ago, probably decades ago, I remember Tony Campolo saying that he wasn’t on the planning committee, he was on the welcoming committee. Me too.

  • JohnM

    Norman, I’m not unaware of preterism though I’m not familiar in detail. I will say your explanation is worth reading if only to understand what some other Christians think. I would also say “The creation in bondage was old covenant Israel” is a novel interpretation except I’m sure it is not. It does strike me as hammering the text into a desired shape as much as Left Behind type fantasies do.
    I see more problems created than solved by supposing full preterism. For one thing persecution didn’t end with the destruction of the temple and in fact continues down to the present day. If the hope not yet realized was deliverance from Jewish persecutors and nothing else it was ultimatley a hollow deliverance.

  • Graham I

    If the great hope of the NT is the hope of a real and physical resurrection, how-be-it in a new physicality, then it seems to me we will need a new kingdom to be resurrected into. A new kingdom under Jesus’ rulership that maybe has some really cool new physicalities!

  • Norman

    JohnM, it was hardly a hollow rescue for what is called the First fruits church of Christ. Our sufferings and trials are not directly tied to prophetic fulfillment as theirs were in establishing the church. There is no promise that we will not suffer persecutions or the events of our physical environment but God has always been with His faithful ones before during and after the Messiah. (See Hebrews 11)

    But during what scholars call the New Exodus period of the churches establishment there was prophecies concerning their protection and deliverance even while suffering some as martyrs. I’ll list again 2 Thes 1 to illustrate that the coming of Christ in the first century was to bring relief from those who were afflicting these in the first fruits church. This coming with promised relief would surely have rang hollow to these believers Paul was writing to if Christ did not show up in judgment as was expected just as God did in similar language in the OT at times. This coming was further confirmation that Christ was who He said He was. Paul is hardly expecting Christ to put off their relief until they were all dead. In fact He did not abandon them and showed up in Judgment upon the City and the apostate Jews just as He stated in His Olivet discourse. People may dispute it was a Parousia (coming) but according to OT definitions and occurrences it was indeed.

    2Th 1:4-10 Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for YOUR STEADFASTNESS AND FAITH IN ALL YOUR PERSECUTIONS AND IN THE AFFLICTIONS THAT YOU ARE ENDURING. (5) This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– (6) since indeed GOD CONSIDERS IT JUST TO REPAY WITH AFFLICTION THOSE WHO AFFLICT YOU, (7) and to GRANT RELIEF TO YOU WHO ARE AFFLICTED AS WELL AS TO US, WHEN THE LORD JESUS IS REVEALED FROM HEAVEN with his mighty angels (8) in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (9) They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (10) when HE COMES ON THAT DAY TO BE GLORIFIED IN HIS SAINTS, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, BECAUSE OUR TESTIMONY TO YOU WAS BELIEVED.

    Now concerning whether the creation motif is used to describe the first fruits church notice Paul’s language concerning those in Christ as a new Creation. The old creation was those in bondage under the first Adam while the new creation were those in Christ. The same word is used in Romans 8 describing the new contrasted to the old mode of life.

    2Co 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

    Rom 8:19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

    The first century commentary called the Barnabas Epistle which was highly valued by the early church for about two centuries also agrees with Paul that Christ affected a new creation at that time.

    Barnabas 6:11 Since then HE MADE US NEW by the remission of sins he made us another type, that we should have the soul of children, AS THOUGH HE WERE CREATING US AFRESH.
    12 For IT IS CONCERNING US THAT THE SCRIPTURE SAYS THAT HE SAYS TO THE SON, “LET US MAKE MAN AFTER OUR IMAGE AND LIKENESS, and let them rule the beasts of the earth, and the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea.” And the Lord said, when he saw our fair creation, “Increase and multiply and fill the earth”; THESE THINGS WERE SPOKEN TO THE SON.
    13 Again I will show you how he speaks to us. IN THE LAST DAYS HE MADE A SECOND CREATION; and the Lord says, “See, I MAKE THE LAST THINGS AS THE FIRST.” To this then the Prophet referred when he proclaimed, “Enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, and rule over it.”
    14 SEE THEN, WE HAVE BEEN CREATED AFRESH, as he says again in another Prophet, “See,” saith the Lord, “I will take out from them” (that is those whom the Spirit of the Lord foresaw) “the hearts of stone and I will put in hearts of flesh.” Because he himself was going to be manifest in the flesh and to dwell among us.
    15 For, my brethren, the habitation of our hearts is a shrine holy to the Lord.

    Full Preterism is just like any other hermeneutic in that it will depend upon what past influence is brought to the table along with it. However it does lend itself to helping one clarify the language and in fact almost everyone uses aspects of full Preterism otherwise they would be such literalist that they would still believe in a flat earth and geocentric world and would have very little prophecies fulfilled (kind of like the YEC and Dispensationalist). The hermeneutic principles were established by Milton Terry about a century ago and is a called the historical-grammatical method.

  • Jon Hallewell

    Scot, I’d love to see you interact with Andrew Perrimans thoughts on this in “the coming of the son of man” and “re:mission” – which I believe you wrote a commendation for the back cover. I’m reading him alongside your “king Jesus gospel” with his intense telling of “according to the scriptures.”

  • Richard

    @ 35

    Yes please. And let’s see if we can get Wright and Bauckham on that panel while we’re at it


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X