An instructive parallel to the sheep and goats judgment

The judgment of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 is a good test case for how New Testament eschatology works. It is usually read as an account of a final universal judgment, on the assumption that we are still waiting for the Son of Man to come on the clouds of heaven at the end of history.

It is a traditional perspective, deeply embedded in the iconography of Christendom. The judgment scene that forms the third part of the stunning Redemption Triptych (1455-59) by Vrancke van der Stockt, for example, has Christ seated above the clouds of heaven with a couple of angels. In the arch that frames him are scenes drawn from this passage.

Why the Lord’s Prayer should be banned in cinemas

The Church of England has been rather taken aback by the refusal of leading cinemas in the UK to screen a video of people, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, reciting the Lord’s Prayer in the run-up to Christmas. The short film, which I find rather moving in its hurried way, is part of a campaign to encourage your average man-or-woman-in-the-cinema to pray.

Do the disciples pray to the Lord Jesus in Acts?

In a comment on an old post looking at a review by Larry Hurtado of Dunn’s Did the First Christians Worship Jesus, Marc Taylor maintains that “Dunn’s assertion that certain prayer words are not used in reference to the Lord Jesus is without merit.” He lists four passages in Acts and a handful from Paul and James in support of his claim. The debate is an interesting one. Here I want briefly to review the Acts texts and propose a different model to account for the data.

20 reasons for thinking that “Babylon the great” is Rome not Jerusalem

The New Testament is a thoroughly apocalyptic set of documents. I made the point to my friend JR Rozko last night as we walked through Soho that our current narrative theologies place a great deal of emphasis on the story of Israel that culminates in Jesus, but the New Testament has much more to say about the continuation of the story after Jesus. Evangelical narrative theologies are constructed in such a way that they do not rock the theological boat too much. I think that is just inconsistent.

The question, however, is: How far into the future does the projected New Testament narrative reach? There is some willingness to concede that Jesus predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70. Not many people would agree with me, however, that as the followers of Jesus took their message out into the Greek-Roman world, divine judgment on Rome and the confession of Jesus as Lord by the nations of the empire came into view as a second eschatological horizon.

Kingdom and mission. What’s changed since Schweitzer? Not much

Bruce Chilton starts his book Pure Kingdom: Jesus’ Vision of God by noting that at the end of the nineteenth century Albert Schweitzer had come to the realisation that the “kingdom of God” was basically “eschatological”. He had seen the connection between Jesus’ teaching and the literature of early Judaism and had concluded that Jesus must have been talking about the “violent end of the world”—a “cataclysm on a cosmic scale”.

This eschatological interpretation, grounded in a Jewish worldview, was very different from the two prevailing theological understandings of the kingdom of God: on the one hand, that the “kingdom of God” was a reference to an individual’s life after death”; on the other, that it was a “movement of social improvement on earth”.

Lead us not into temptation

What does Jesus mean when he teaches his disciples to pray “lead us not into temptation”? In a brief appendix (“Jesus’ Prayer and the War of Worlds”) to his book Pure Kingdom: Jesus’ Vision of God Bruce Chilton aims to define a middle ground between two misunderstandings of the petition. On the one side, there is the popular devotional view, according to which “temptation” means “enticement”: we are to ask God to “keep us from wicked impulses”. On the other side, there is the “scholarly view” that Jesus taught his disciples to pray that they would escape the apocalyptic “testing” or “trial” that would come upon them at the end of the world, which was just around the corner.

Tom Wright on religion and politics: the beginning and end of theocracy

The National Secular Society has taken Tom Wright to task for advocating a “cruciform theocracy” that would overcome the prevailing separation of religion and politics in the West. A more detailed summary of Wright’s talk at St Paul’s Cathedral in London a week ago can be found on the Christian Today website, from which I have gleaned the main bullet points of his argument…

Evangelical views of the resurrection

As an addendum to the previous post contrasting two accounts of resurrection here’s a set of diagrams illustrating three ways of thinking about the relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and subsequent resurrections. The first is the conventional modern evangelical view that can’t see beyond the salvation or damnation of the lost. The second is a revised evangelical view that has assimilated something of the Jewish-narrative shape of biblical thought. Then, thirdly, there’s what I see as a more consistent reconstruction of the Jewish-apocalyptic narrative of the New Testament.

Two ways of thinking about resurrection

I have to say, I have enjoyed my conversation with Carl Mosser about theosis as an account of what it ultimately means to be redeemed. I still don’t really get it. That may have something to do with language—an “allergic reaction” on my part to the “deification terminology”—but it clearly has a lot to do, too, with different understandings of New Testament eschatology.

In a comment, Carl briefly set out the eschatological frame for an understanding of redemption that might be restated in terms of theosis or deification.

What happens at the end of Revelation?

A comment by Chris Jones in response to something I said about the difference between the coming of the kingdom and the (supposed) redemption of the cosmos has had me looking at the sequence of events at the end of Revelation again.

My view hitherto was that after judgment on Rome we have a thousand year period when Christ reigns with the martyrs, followed by a final judgment of all the dead, and the appearance of a new heaven and new earth. John then has two visions of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, descending from heaven to be at the centre of this new creation (Rev. 21:2-4, 21:9-22:5).


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