Paul outlines what appears to be a novel eschatological scenario in his first letter to the churches at Thessalonika. He writes that at the coming of Christ believers will be raised from the dead, collected into the air, and brought into the presence of the Lord (4:16-17). At the sound of the last trumpet there … Continue reading Functional eschatology at Thessalonika
The Kingdom and the kingdoms The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily … Continue reading The kingdom as divine judgement
I argued last time that the early Christians placed more significance on the exaltation of Christ to heaven than on his resurrection from the dead. Two observations pointed me in this direction. Some early confessional material managed to tell the story of Christ without an explicit reference to bodily resurrection (Philippians 2:5-6, Hebrews 1:1-4, 1 … Continue reading The significance of Christ’s resurrection in early preaching
Separation from Pagan Greeks I argued last time that Paul's doctrine of justification by faith rather than works of Law—regardless of what we think of the New Perspective on Paul—performed an essential social function: to separate communities that would inherit authority in the next age from communities that would inherit destruction at the coming of … Continue reading Justification by faith at the end of the age: another example from Galatians
As is the case in many of his letters, Paul uses his opening words to the Galatian churches to summarize his message. But for a letter so devoted to the topic of justification by faith, Paul's introductory note rings a surprisingly apocalyptic tenor. More surprising still, neither faith nor justification is mentioned. Grace to you … Continue reading Justification by faith: a seaworthy eschatological vessel
Christ's possession, judgement, and reign over the nations (τὰ ἔθνη) constituted a central eschatological hope among the early Christians. They believed God was acting to bring about the obedience of the nations. Across the empire pagan Greeks were "turning from idols to serve the living and true God and await his son from heaven" (1 … Continue reading Which nations are the nations?
The three-horizons Most traditional theologically-focused interpretive constructs identify only one eschatological horizon in the New Testament: the end of history. According to these schema, almost all eschatological data are to be situated at the end of time. Andrew Perriman's narrative-historical method of interpretation, on the other hand, identifies three temporally-distinct eschatological horizons upon which the … Continue reading Romans: theology or history?
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
Paula Fredriksen's impressive recent book, The Pagans' Apostle, prioritizes apocalyptic as the interpretive frame through which to read the letters of Paul. Her Paul is not the innovative theologian of justification by faith as says the Old Perspective. Nor is he the ethnic iconoclast, the prophet breaking down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, as say many … Continue reading Eschatological Gentiles