Crises in heaven and earth The coupling of political realities with spiritual realities is a hallmark of Jewish apocalyptic. In such works the heavenly stage is reflected upon the earthly stage. Examples of this relationship are numerous: disturbances in the heavens spell disaster for the earth, the unrolling of heavenly scrolls ensures the pouring out … Continue reading Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion
"The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) The first public words issued by Jesus were prophetic in scope. They announced God's imminent regal action in history to judge and restore his people. As we might expect then, Jesus' precursor John preached an … Continue reading Revelation 11 and the whole prophetic narrative
Multiple independent layers of tradition remember Jesus as an exorcist, a healer, a raiser of the dead, a multiplier of food, and a calmer of storms. These deeds of power, more than simply displays of God-given authority, conveyed in themselves the kingdom message. They too were parables of the kingdom; or as the Fourth Evangelist … Continue reading The parable of the stilled storm
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9) For much of church history—and down to the present day—Jesus' temptation in … Continue reading “All of these I will give you”
In this post I want to examine two common images employed by the New Testament writers in their attempt to describe God's kingdom: the banquet and the harvest. These images, I believe, have been largely overlooked due to their eschatological implications. But it is these symbols that constitute the heart of Jesus' kingdom message. Banquet … Continue reading Images of the kingdom: banquet and harvest
John's universal gospel To whom did God send his son? To those of us who have been shaped by the theology of the church, the answer may seem obvious: God sent his son to the whole world. Any casual reader of the Fourth Gospel knows this. John's unexpected Messiah does not come strictly to or … Continue reading To whom did God send his son?
All of Them? John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew series attempts to peer behind the curtain of the Gospel portraits to glimpse the Jesus of history. In broad brushstrokes, Meier's restrained and measured work produces an Elijah-like eschatological prophet of the age to come. Scholars like Paula Fredriksen and Dale Allison reach similar conclusions. In his … Continue reading Which Parables go back to Jesus?
We've discussed before how Jesus' apocalyptic expectations in large part determined his teachings on violence. In light of the wrath coming upon Jerusalem (Mark 13/Luke 24, Matthew 21:1-14) and upon Greco-Roman Paganism (Matthew 25:31-36, Revelation 18, Acts 17:31, 1 Cor 2:6), Jesus considered retribution and self-defense to be acts of disbelief. God was about to … Continue reading Jesus and Violence: The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat
A growing number of theologians argue that Hell should be understood as a place of cleansing rather than as a place of damnation or annihilation. They insist that God's judgement and wrath are the mechanisms of universal reconciliation—the instruments of God's love. This view should be rejected for a few primary reasons. Purification or Destruction? … Continue reading A (Brief) Case Against Purgatorial Universalism
The Prophetic Narrative of Israel's Scriptures In my last post I argued that the Sermon on the Mount presupposes a certain apocalyptic and prophetic biblical narrative. The Sermon is not foremost a work of ethical reasoning. It is foremost a prophetic announcement of coming judgement and vindication. We can find this prophetic narrative elsewhere throughout … Continue reading Prophecy on the Mount part II