The Inside Column 14/07

Posted in: The Inside Column- Jul 15, 2019 No Comments

Good morning and welcome to St Barnabas Stoke – if you are visiting today we hope you encounter God’s goodness and love for you as you join us in worshiping Him, please feel free to stick around afterwards for a coffee and a chat.

Farewell to the Rapture – N.T. Wright

Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later–1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 What on earth (or in heaven) did Paul mean? Jesus himself, as I have argued in various books, never predicted such an event. The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth. The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth. The Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming are nevertheless vital Christian doctrines, and I don’t deny that I believe some future event will result in the personal presence of Jesus within God’s new creation.

The New Testament, building on ancient biblical prophecy, envisages that the creator God will remake heaven and earth entirely, affirming the goodness of the old Creation but overcoming its mortality and corruptibility (e.g., Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17, 66:22). When that happens, Jesus will appear within the resulting new world (e.g., Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2). Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless.

First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah. The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence. Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory. This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution. Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province. The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city. Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.

Food for thought…

Phil

 

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