The Son of Man Already “Came Back!” [Earthquakes…Signs of the Times, 7 (Mark 13)]

This is the Sixth post in a series titled: Earthquakes… Signs of the Times?  I invite you to read the rest of the series here to catch up (the first post would be extremely helpful) …

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Today’s post is going to look at the language of the “coming of the son of man.” In many popular theological systems, this is seen as a text connected to the rapture of the church. I do not want to analyze ‘rapture’ theology in this post, but simply to point out that this is a popular connection that is made. As has been alluded to throughout this study, there is a way to understand this whole chapter of Mark 13 to be attributed to past fulfillment. In other words, when Jesus speaks of a coming disaster (earthquakes, destruction, etc.), this is all about things that will happen within the generation of the disciples (see v. 30). This interpretive option comes into full shape in the work of N. T. Wright. What follows is a summary of his arguments concerning the “Son of Man” language in Mark 13.

In order to understand the language and Jesus’ usage of “Son of Man,” we must understand its usage in the Old Testament. The phrase originally occurs in Daniel chapter 7. The context of this passage contains the images of beasts who are representative of pagan nations in a literary sense. These beasts attack the “son of man” figure who is a literary representation of Israel. Many interpreters are quick to make this figure a literal human, but if we do that then we have to also make the beasts literal as well—which would be ridiculous both to us and to first century Jews. So, to put this all together, Daniel 7 tells of the foreign monsters who oppress and attack Israel (“son of man”), but after this long period of suffering, Israel is vindicated above its enemies.[1] Wright states: “The ‘son of man’ figure ‘comes’ to the Ancient of Days…from earth to heaven, vindicated after suffering.”[2]

With this reading of Daniel 7, the Jews in the first century were awaiting a return from exile and for God to visit Zion and establish his kingdom.[3] But Jesus turns this on its head because he brings the kingdom in a way that looks very different that Jewish expectation. They would have expected the vindication of Israel to take a much different form. The Temple would not be glorified, but demolished. Jerusalem would not become the epicenter of the glorious nation of reinstated Israel, but would be trampled on by pagans.[4] The enemies of God’s true Israel were not the pagans as much as the Temple system and the religiosity it represented. The language Jesus borrows from Daniel in the context of the current textual unit has to do with his ascending to God and taking his place as the true king of the true Jerusalem.[5] This is not a “second coming” passage, but one that speaks of Jesus taking on the identity of Israel whose vindication after suffering would take place only after judgment had come upon the Temple. This is why in chapter 11 (cleansing of the Temple) Jesus enacts this judgment; only to cryptically declare that it would take place within “this generation” (v. 30). Wright comments on the importance of Jesus’ vindication to his message:

Jesus had set his face, prophetically, against Jerusalem. He had staked his prophetic reputation upon the claim that the Temple would be destroyed… In the light of this, those who claimed to be his followers were bound to see the continuing existence of Herod’s Temple, and the city which housed it, as a paradox. Jesus would not be vindicated as a true prophet until it was destroyed by enemy action… But it was not only Jesus who would be vindicated when the Temple fell. The Temple represented the heart of the system from which flowed one source at least of the persecution suffered by the early Church. Its destruction would be their salvation. Mark 13 said as much.[6]

What we have attempted to do in the above section is to summarize an alternative approach to the mainstream interpretation of the coming of the “Son of Man.” To do this, we have examined the perspective of N. T. Wright. This viewpoint demonstrates that this whole chapter (Mark 13) speaks directly of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and that none of its words are left to be fulfilled. If this is true, then the question of some will be about other prophetic passages that point to a “second coming” in the canon. Do we truly await a second coming of Jesus? My answer is YES, but it happens to not be the point of this particular text. If this series has thus far been correct, it is because this reading of the “son of man” passages in the Olivet Discourse serves as the thread of the needle that ties everything together! I know that deconstructing the popular reading will make me unpopular, but perhaps it will allow me to be faithful to the very words and intentions of Jesus! Lets not forget what he says a couple verses later in verse thirty: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Hhhhmmmm….


[1]. N. T. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God, vol. 1 of Christian Origins and the Question of God(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 291-92.

 

[2]. Wright, Jesus and The Victory of God, 361.

[3]. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God, 459.

[4]. Ibid., 395.

[5]. Wright, Jesus and The Victory of God, 342.

[6]. Wright, The New Testament and The People of God, 459-60.

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  • http://www.jmsmith.org James-Michael Smith

    I’d also recommend checking out R.T. France’s take on the Olivet Discourse in his NICNT commentary on Matthew.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Agreed… I haven’t read much of France, but Wright refers to him quite a bit.

  • Conrad

    Ok so I got a couple of questions… do you have any scriptural backing for your assertion that the Jews are “the Son of Man” and not a literal person when Jesus called Himself the Son of Man???

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Israel is Called “God’s Son” aka “son of man” language in the Exodus and at several other points throughout the OT. Then, Jesus is called “God’s son” or Son of Man because he is the perfect embodiment of Israel who will begin a “new Israel” aka Church…

      • Conrad

        ok now ive got more problems… how does “God’s Son” mean the same thing as “son of man”? son of man implies a descendant of Adam… and I am not familiar with any of those passages, do you have references?

        the Church is also not the “new Israel”…

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          The best defense/answer of your original question is below with Glen’s comment.

          As far as your question about “son of man” being the community of Israel, I simply wanted to bring up that God often refers to the community of Israel in the singular as “his son”. I wrote really quickly so may not have made sense.

          Here is one passage to illustrate this:
          22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ ” Exodus 4.22-23

          Notice how the community is referred to as a single person. In the Daniel passage the same is true: a single person (son of man) is representative of the whole community. Israel is the ‘son of man’ and the various beasts are various nations. This is clear by the literary, historical, and canonical context.

          As far as church not being the new or rather the ‘renewed’ israel… you must not like covenant theology much :-) That is a paradigmatic difference between us. If you don’t have a construct for that, we may simply end up talking past each other.

          Blessings…

          • Conrad

            hmmmm ok you got me on this one, I will have to think about this for a while…

            convenantal theology meaning what precisely?

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Covenant theology… where to start? Basically, God has been faithful to his covenant to Abraham (Gen. 12) to bless the whole world by his action expressed in the faithfulness of Jesus. Israel as a nation failed to live up to their end of the covenantal calling to be a blessing to the “whole world” and so Jesus becomes the faithful representation of Israel. Jesus becomes everything that Israel had failed to be, except he extends this covenant to all who would believe (sometimes called the ‘new covenant’). So, Jesus’ mission focuses on gathering a faithful remnant of the old Israel, to give birth to the ‘renewed’ Israel (the church). That is why, for instance, the disciples surround Jesus. 12 disciples = 12 tribes of Israel reconstituted. That is a very scattered start to what I mean by covenant theology. Much more to it than that :-)

            As far as the other half of this conversation, I can’t recommend “Surprised by Hope” by NT Wright enough! Best popular book I have read by far! It will transform your love for God in profound ways and challenge you to be part of transforming the world for Jesus…

            http://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Hope-Rethinking-Resurrection-Mission/dp/0061551821/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272608536&sr=8-1

          • Conrad

            ohhh… you mean Replacement theology? I understand the important of covenants in the Kingdom, but the theology you just expounded actually goes against that…

            where did you get that it was the people of Israel themselves that were supposed to bless the world and not Jesus? were they supposed to somehow redeem the world? I think not, where does it say that they were supposed, God didn’t tell them to bless the world, God himself was the one that promised that… and like everything in the old testament foretells of the coming of Christ all the way back to Genesis 3 and even back to Genesis 1 (I would recommend Dr. James Kennedy’s book on the real meaning of the zodiac), and within Israel all the Feasts that were given while they were still in the wilderness! speak of the coming of Jesus, and all of the Patriarchs longed for it.

            And I thought Paul already dealt with this argument in Romans 11? He makes it very clear that God is not done with Israel, seen even in recent decades with his radical deliverance of them from their enemies.

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Conrad, here’s a start in ur first point:

            …all nations on earth will be blessed through you. Gen 12.3b

            Only have an iPhone at the moment so that is where I’d start my response. I’ll add more when at a computer :-)

            Sent from my iPhone

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    I’ll this much for you; you have, with the aid of NT Wright, gone beyond the conventional interpretation of the scripture :) I’ll comment a bit later on the post…….

  • Glenn

    Conrad,

    It’s interesting that the Daniel passage itself gives an explicit interpretation of the Son of Man vision. Part of it says:

    But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High.

    The vision said the Son of Man would be given authority, glory and power; the interpretation later in the same passage explains that these are given to the holy people of the Most High.

  • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

    Very interesting Kurt. I always wondered about that last bit that you quoted from Jesus. Your ideas fit much better with my experience of listening to God and it really brings out the human-ness of Jesus. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up a return of the physical manifestation of Jesus, but what you are saying here makes a lot of sense.

    It’s nice to know that there are other places in scripture where there is ambiguity between refering to an individual and refering to a group of people. I find that the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Noahic geneologies, and the like, make a lot more sense when that ambiguity is allowed for -so sometimes the reference to Adam might mean an individual, some times it might mean a group of people.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Maria,

      Great thoughts and thanks for the encouragement! I want to make clear that I believe in the 2nd coming of Jesus in a physical manifestation… I just dont think that is found in this particular passage. It is evident in Paul, Peter, and other places in the NT. But Christ will not return after some kind of tribulation and an antiChrist, he will return once… to resurrect believers to an eternal yet physical human body, restore shalom / justice to the whole creation, and judge all evil once and for all! When Jesus comes back it will be good news for the cosmos, not its destruction!

      I also like your comments on Adam. Say more…

      • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

        When I was meditating on the story of Cain and Able and why God like Able’s offering and not Cain’s that there was something in Cain’s heart, some reason why he would want to murder his brother. (Brother’s don’t usually just go killing each other merely for status with God. And besides God warned Cain, so it seemed like there was an opportunity for Cain to regain status if that was the issue.)

        In Genesis 4, the story makes it very clear that Cain represented the agriculturalist therefore he brings grain. Able represents the nomad therefore he brings fat. I was told that the favor of God was because of types of offerings, but that didn’t make sense since there were both types of offerings recorded in the OT.

        I was familiar with history enough to know that during times of drought nomadic peoples have a tendancy to attack farming people and take their grain. A nomad’s mentality is focused on the present. They move to where the food is now. An agriculturalist is focused on the future; will they have enough grain to make it through next winter and still have enough to plant to provide for them through the following season, etc.

        A nomad’s faith is focused on what is the next step God is leading them. The farmer replaces his need for faith in his next meal with the careful planning of crops and storage, irrigation, slaves, and the like. If a nomad came and took a farmer’s crops then he would have a crisis of faith. Would he depend on God for his next meal, even though what he had planned to eat was taken/destroyed or would he take control and eliminate the potential threat to his survival? Cain chose to eliminate the threat.

        I reasoned that in the English language a person could be designated individually by their sir name. Or using the sir name could designate the whole family. So that the story of Cain and Able could constitute both a story of individuals or that of tribes simultaneously.

        It also occurred to me that linguistically proto language probably didn’t make a distinction between singular and plural. In English, there are words that are the same singular and plural. This is true for other languages. These words in English are those of animals. The names of animals would be some of the first words for our hunter/gather ancestors.

        Chinese doesn’t do plurals the same way we do. They add on quantity amounts to indicate whether there is more than one of some thing. So they kept the original integrity of the name and grammer of the language when they moved to plural.

        The story of Adam and Eve spans an enormous evolutionary time period. Before the fall, Adam and Eve wear no clothes. They are as innocent as fellow animal creatures. Evolutionary speaking they are probably not too far removed from their ape ancestors. After the fall, they are cursed in tilling the ground; they have moved to agriculture. You see nearly civilized human beings. The story of Cain offering grain follows right away, reinforcing the agriculture transition. And following the story of Cain, Adam and Eve have Seth. Evolutionary speaking, mankind probably exists at least 50,000 years from a no-clothes-nearly-innocent stage, to tilling the ground to grow crops. It doesn’t make sense for one individual to span all that time -even if we could believe that an individual could live as old as Methusala. It makes more sense for Adam to represent a particular sub-specie of homo, with maybe occasionally digressing to pick out significant individual story within that group.

        Geneologies could then be viewed as the progression of tribal groups with maybe the numbers representing generations.

        Many primitive tribes don’t have words for specific time segments. So the idea that ‘day’ in Genesis 1 would mean 24hrs would not have made sense to the orginal tellers of the story of Adam and Eve. The idea of ‘years’ might not have either. But probably generations would have. If you took twenty years per generation then there are approximately 31,120 years between the begining of Adam (tribe) and the birth of Noah (tribe)’s sons. That is much closer to the evolutionary time frame that such events would have covered.

        Noah’s sons are considered to be the founding fathers of people groups. Specifically look at how it speaks of Canaan. Canaan is thought of as an individual, later as location associated with particular people group.

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          wow… you say some quite profound things here! Thanks!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

            My pleasure. You’re welcome.

      • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

        I’m curious to know which gospel passages you consider to point towards a second coming?

  • http://wabd.wordpress.com wabd

    Peace and blessings to all,

    There are over 190 usage of the term “son of man” in the Bible. It is used to identify the nation of Israel as we see in Ex 4:22-23, it is used to identify a prophet as we see in Ezek 38:1-2, it is used to identify yet to be Israelite as can be seen in Jer 49:18.

    Now that we have established the multiple usage of the phrase “son of man” let’s view the use of the term “Son of man:”

    Kurt wrote: “In order to understand the language and Jesus’ usage of “Son of Man,” we must understand its usage in the Old Testament. The phrase originally occurs in Daniel chapter 7.”

    (Dan 7:13) I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.

    The verse above is talking about Jesus.

    Dan 8:17 So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.

    The verse above is talking about the prophet Daniel.

    And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

    Mat 9:6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

    Rev 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

    (Mar 13:26) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

    All the above is talking about Jesus.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Notice though that in the context of the “clouds” it is exclusive to Daniel 7 and Mark 13. That is the literary connection that Jesus is obviously referring to. Sure, the phrase is being used elsewhere (meaning basically human being), but this specific connection is difficult to avoid. Even dispensational scholars would admit that.

      Also, notice how Jesus makes the connection to the ‘son of man’ (representative Israel) which connects him with identifying himself as the embodiment of Israel. So, Jesus who represented Israel became the suffering one who died at the hands of the rulers of the day (like the Daniel vision) then was raised back to life and then was ascended to the throne of the ancient of days. This is a passage about Jesus’ vindication after suffering… this is all about him being exalted to the right hand of God as the worlds true and final Lord! He is reigning now!

  • Daniel

    Unfortunately Kurt, the claim that the term “Son of Man” is a reference to Israel, and not Jesus, is a theory which quickly falls apart once we take a look at just a few of the places where Christ Himself uses this term. I have listed only a sample of them here (and I have intentionally excluded any verses which could be viewed as “eschatological” to avoid them being discounted for such a reason…)

    I challenge you to find even one which could be used to describe the nation of Israel, and not Jesus….

    Matthew 9:5-7
    “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” And the man got up and went home.”

    Matthew 12:40
    “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the
    Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

    Matthew 20:25
    “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

    Matthew 26:1,2
    “When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, “As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

    Matthew 26:45,46
    Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

    Mark 8:31
    He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

    Mark 9:9-13
    As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

    And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

    Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

    Luke 9:25,26What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

    Luke 19:9,10
    Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

    John 3:12-15
    I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.

    John 5:24-27
    “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.(!!!)

    John 6:27
    Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.

    John 6:52-54
    Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

    Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

    John 12:23-36
    Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

    “Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!”

    Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.

    Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.

    The crowd spoke up, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ will remain forever, so how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this ‘Son of Man‘?”

    Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.” When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them….

    If the “mainstream interpretation” is off on this one, then Jesus must have been confused too…

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      “the claim that the term “Son of Man” is a reference to Israel, and not Jesus, is a theory which quickly falls apart once we take a look at just a few of the places where Christ Himself uses this term”

      Daniel… You are missing some BIG pieces of the puzzle my friend.

      First, I am NOT saying that Jesus isn’t the “Son of Man.” That would be ridiculous. So, what am I saying?

      In this particular passage, it is clear (all major theologians would agree on this point, not simply those I agree with :-) ) that Jesus is claiming here that he embodies the eschatological “son of man” from Daniel 7. In Daniel 7, this figure is representative of Israel as a whole. So… one man represents the whole community (great atonement image here!). In the same way, Jesus is the perfect embodiment of everything Israel failed to be. Not only does Jesus become the ‘new Israel’ but he also is the ‘new Temple.’ Of course the status of both of these things he will also gift to the whole believing community, but they are first and foremost about him. So, when Jesus uses the language of “Son of Man” about himself, he is identifying himself to his hearers as the Daniel 7 one who will suffer but will eventually be fully vindicated and enthroned with the Ancient of Days. The coming on the clouds language as it is used in Daniel is about the son of man ascending to the throne of the ancient of Days, not about a descent down to earth in some kind of rapture.

      This idea of one person representing the whole community is not that hard to find. We even see it in reverse in the Exodus story that I quoted above and will quote again here:

      22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the LORD says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’ ” Exodus 4.22-23

      Notice how the community is referred to as a single person. In the Daniel passage the same is true: a single person (son of man) is representative of the whole community. Israel is the ‘son of man’ and the beasts are the various nations. This is clear by the literary, historical, and canonical context. Jesus uses Daniel as his hebraic backdrop to now identify himself as the true Israelite who is establishing a new Israel around himself. Think of the 12 disciples and the way they represent the 12 tribes.

      So, Jesus who represented Israel became the suffering one who died at the hands of the rulers of the day (like the Daniel vision of the ‘son of man’ who suffers) then was raised back to life and then was ascended to the throne of the ancient of days. This is a passage about Jesus’ vindication after suffering… this is all about him being exalted to the right hand of God as the worlds true and final Lord! He is reigning now! And the destruction of the Temple was a prophetic sign that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be. He is: the king of the new/renewed Israel (church) and the rightful king of the whole cosmos. He is: the one who was vindicated after a time of suffering through his prophetic announcement coming to pass and through the judgment of God that came upon the old nation of Israel who failed to live up to her calling. In 70AD, they did see the son of man coming to the throne of the ancient of days… but this was not in a literal riding of a cloud (symbol for power and authority) to earth, but his ascension to the right had of God in heaven as the world’s true Lord. (ps – less you misread me, I am not claiming that the ascension into heaven happened in 70, but that Jesus final vindication as king was sealed by the fulfillment of his words against now pagan national Israel).

      • Daniel

        Okay, so I hear you (and agree) on everything you said in that last paragraph…

        But how do you come to the conclusion that all of this must preclude a literal return? (or do you?) It seems that what you have developed is some sort of interpretive device which allows “Son of Man” to usually just mean “Jesus” (as in most contexts), but in certain eschatological scenarios, “Son of Man” is given this special Daniel 7 interpretation, which allows it to not be read in the same straight forward manner that we would in other cases (like when Jesus says “the Son of Man will be crucified”, for example…)

        But what further confuses me, is that on the one hand, you say that the prophecies in places like Mark 13 have been completely fulfilled, but then you also say that you believe that we are still awaiting a second coming of Jesus… (?)

        So… You believe in a second coming of Christ, but just in one that would be preceded by things like earthquakes and rampant apostasy (another “sign of the times”)…? So, Jesus is going to return, but not gather the true Israel, His Bride…? (since you seem to be very opposed to any concept of a “rapture”…)

        What exactly does Christ’s return then look like, from your perspective? Does Jesus come back after we’ve more or less smoothed out all the problems here on Earth? Because at this point, I really can’t make sense out of what kind of picture you are trying to paint (and that goes for Mr. Wright as well…)

        • Daniel

          Oops, I meant, “just NOT in one that would be preceded by things like earthquakes…?” (4th paragraph)

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          Don’t have lots of time to go into this all right now. But, as far as second coming…

          I believe Jesus will return to earth and ‘gather’ his bride in the renewed cosmos. At this time, Jesus will judge the wicked, resurrect believers to eternal life, and establish his eternal reign on the earth. Jesus will come back, but this is on his time table. Everything we do now is a mere reflection of what he intends heaven and earth to be like when they become ‘one.’

          “Does Jesus come back after we’ve more or less smoothed out all the problems here on Earth?”

          What you described here is called postmillenialism and I do not hold to this. We are to do the work of the kingdom as a signpost of what Christ will do when he returns. Our work points to him! But, lets be clear, our work does not lead to his return. We may or may not (and i’d say, probably not) “smooth” everything out, but when Jesus comes back it will be completely a final act of Grace. All wrongs will be made right, all evil undone… all because of him!

          PS – For Wright’s view, here is a short ‘rapture’ article…

          http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_BR_Farewell_Rapture.htm

          Well, gotta run!!!! sorry to not answer more fully :-)

        • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

          O yeah… one last thing: READ “SURPRISED BY HOPE!” I said this before and I will say it again I am sure… ha!

          http://www.amazon.com/Surprised-Hope-Rethinking-Resurrection-Mission/dp/0061551821/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1272925106&sr=8-1

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      Resetting the italics here. . .a “feature” of WordPress!

  • http://cheriegate.org William Cheriegate

    Well said, actually just about everything NTWright has said is so good. For those of you who are very visual … picture this: the end of the Old Covenant was around AD 70 with the Fall of the Temple. The beginning of the New Covenant was with the life of Jesus. Between these huge events (AD 30-70) was the “end of the age”. Tribulation et al.

  • http://mystic444.wordpress.com mystic444

    Glenn pointed out above that in Daniel 7, verse 13 says A (singular) son of man came before the Ancient of Days; but in verse 27 that single son of man becomes plural: “the people of the saints of the Most High”. So Daniel himself shows us that the ‘one’ is ‘many’.

    Parallels in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 12:12 talks about the body being one, yet having many members. “So also is Christ”. Jesus, as the head of the body, is preeminently ‘the Christ’; yet the whole body is one and is ‘the Christ’.

    In Galatians 3:16, Paul affirmed that the seed of Abraham was singular, which was Christ. But in verse 29 he maintains that all those who through faith belong to Christ, are the seed of Abraham. Singular seed, yet plural.

    Is this not the truth that is presented in Hebrews 2:5ff, where the Psalmist is quoted about man, or the son of man, being made for a little while lower than the angels, yet he is crowned with glory and honor. Jesus Christ is preeminently the son of man who fits that description; yet verse 10 says he is the ‘captain’ who brings ‘many sons’ to that glory with which the son of man is crowned.

    Who is the true (or ‘new’) Israel? Romans 2:26-29 answers that: “So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from me but from God.” Thus, the true Israelite is whoever has been grafted into that good olive tree of Romans 11 – “even us whom He has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles” (Romans 9:24).

  • Conrad

    Kurt, I think you missed my point, your premise is that God instructed Abraham to do something then Israel failed to do it… which is not at all what actually happened in Gen 12…
    Gen 12:2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
    Gen 12:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

    This is God making promises and declaring things that He is going to do through Abraham. Not God giving instructions to Abraham, which seems to be the foundation of your covenant theology, which gives grounds for God replacing Israel with the church based on Israel breaking their covenant with God, except this actually God making a covenant, and God does not break covenant…

    • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

      Conrad,
      In the passage you just quoted God does give instructions to Abraham.

      All covenants are two sided.

      Covenants with God mean that God is going to keep his side whether or not we keep our side, or maybe I should say how well we keep our side. That is what Paul emphasizes in Romans -that God is faithful even if we are not.

      Becoming a Christian is making a covenant with God.

      • Conrad

        yes Maria there was an instruction to Abraham, but it had nothing to do with the topic we were conversing about, and Abraham fulfilled his part of the covenant by moving to a new land, so again the issue of Israel supposedly “failing” in their “mission” comes up again…

        • http://thoughtloose.blogspot.com Maria Kirby

          Obeying God is not a one time event. After Abraham follows God’s instruction to move to Canaan, God tells him to explicitly “walk before him [God] and be blameless” as he renews his covenant with Abraham and giving him new instructions of circumcision.

          Failing to obey God is failing in the mission God gives you. Israel breaks their covenant with God over, and over again. God sends prophets to warn Israel and bring them back into obedience, but Israel fails to follow God. The result is that they forfeit the inheritance God covenants with them, and are displaced to Assyria and Babylon.

          But God is still able to work out his purposes and is faithful in spite of their/our failings. God brings a remnant back to the land he has promised them. But the Jews idea of obeying God is warped, they still don’t follow God with their hearts, but with rules. So Kurt is pointing out how Jesus is displacing a covenant of rules with a covenant of the heart, and in the process destroying the center and main symbol of the Jew’s rules: the temple and its sacrificial law.

          After Jesus comes, the distinction between Israel and Gentile believers becomes much more fuzzy because the Gentiles are grafted into Israel, and those Jews who don’t follow Christ are cut off. God is continuing his covenant to bless the world through the offspring of Abraham, as we who obey Christ with our hearts embody Christ to the world.

          • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

            Maria…. EXCELLENT!

          • Conrad

            Maria could you please go back and read the original context of this conversation because you have totally missed the point.

            Kurt you still haven’t addressed the problem of projecting the promise of God on to the duty of Abraham which is the opposite of the text… which is what the premise of Jesus having to step in and fulfill that and “reconstitute” Israel is based on.

    • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

      Conrad… I am not sure what you are after here: a definition of covenant theology especially as it relates to Abraham or if you want to discuss my interpretation of this passage?

      A couple of thoughts on the Abraham stuff. God called Abraham out of all that was familiar to establish a family. God is indeed faithful to his side of the covenant, and that is exactly my point! Israel however was not faithful. They were led astray by idolatry and eventually were led into exile as a result. But God still chose to be faithful to the covenant that through Abrhams seed the whole world would be blessed. This was accomplished in Jesus the Messiah. Through him the whole world, not just national Israel is now blessed with the opportunity to be in relationship to the creator. Jesus is the son of man who took on the vocation as being the faithful Israel, and began the work of establishing a ‘new’ Israel. This by the way is not what you indite me with: ‘REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY’ but is rather is the combination of all who were during the time of Jesus to answer the call to repent for not living up to their calling to be “a city on a hill” or “light of the world,” and eventually all gentile that would join in the blessings of the true Israel. God has one people in his story… never two. Replacement theology and true covenant theology are opposed to each other. BUT, this doesn’t mean that God now has two peoples that are chosen: Church and Israel. That is a mistake as well.

      Read this post in relation to your questions about my so-called replacement theology. It may help you make sense out of stuff and where I am coming from on this post:
      http://groansfromwithin.com/2009/06/09/does-god-have-two-peoples-in-his-story/

      Finally, James Kennedy was a good man/preacher but was certainly not a scholar. I encourage you to find some updated sources :-) Here’s a great one for starters: http://ntwrightpage.com

      Blessings!

  • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

    For anyone who is interested in understanding my views better, here are two talks by NT Wright that may at least give you a start :-)

    Talk 1: Jesus and the People of God: Whence and Whither Historical Jesus Studies and the Life of the Church

    http://espace.wheaton.edu/media/wetn/BITH/mp3/100416WrightPM.mp3

    Talk 2: Paul and the People of God: Whence and Whither Pauline Studies and the Life of the Church

    http://wetn.stratumvideo.com/TheoCon10Media/mp3/100417Wright.mp3

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      trying again to reset the italics

      Reading over the comments here I think you guys may have gotten so caught up in disagreeing that you forgot what you are disagreeing about. . .I just did a quick read-thru of Mark 13 and even with my fully-preterist point of view, I cannot see Jesus’ using the term “Son of Man” here or anywhere else to refer to anyone other than him. It is not that Israel is (or ever was) embodied in the phrase “Son of Man.” It’s not clear to me what the O.T. writers/readers thought they meant when they used the term, but it’s abundantly clear that when Jesus used it he meant himself.

      This does not obviate the contention that, even though Jesus taught he’s coming back and I believe it this passage is not talking about Jesus’ eventual return, but rather the end of the “age” of the temple and the ascendancy of Israel. In some ways, Paul’s contention of “neither Jew nor Greek” may even have required the destruction of the temple for the “dividing wall” (see this inscription) between Jew and Gentile to fully come down. But please understand, that those of us who believe Mark 13 is not about the end of the world ARE NOT DENYING THAT JESUS WILL RETURN IN BODILY FORM, just that this passage is not about that.

      • http://groansfromwithin.com Kurt Willems

        I agree that things got pretty far off topic. Thanks for your thoughts here :-)

        As far as the “son of man” is Israel thing, I think it got launched with the following quote from the post:

        “The context of this passage contains the images of beasts who are representative of pagan nations in a literary sense. These beasts attack the “son of man” figure who is a literary representation of Israel. Many interpreters are quick to make this figure a literal human, but if we do that then we have to also make the beasts literal as well—which would be ridiculous both to us and to first century Jews. So, to put this all together, Daniel 7 tells of the foreign monsters who oppress and attack Israel (“son of man”), but after this long period of suffering, Israel is vindicated above its enemies.[1] Wright states: “The ‘son of man’ figure ‘comes’ to the Ancient of Days…from earth to heaven, vindicated after suffering.”[2]“

        And this one:

        “This is not a “second coming” passage, but one that speaks of Jesus taking on the identity of Israel whose vindication after suffering would take place only after judgment had come upon the Temple.”

        Thanks again!

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    OK links aren’t working right, and I’ll never get these (*&^% italics to reset!

    But you really should see this inscription which is a known physical artifact from the wall between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the Jews in Herod’s temple:

    http://www.bible-history.com/archaeology/israel/temple-warning.html

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Oh, and am I the only one for whom, despite all of Kurt’s excellent questions, couldn’t help looking at that “rapture” cartoon and noticing that Christian cartoonists still draw impossibly hot babes front & center?

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