I am reading Scot McKnight’s book A New Vision for Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context, and I’m very impressed so far with his decisive and really quite radical argument about Jesus and the kingdom. The book was published in 1999, and, frankly, I wonder whether he has revised his views in a backwards direction to any degree since then. This statement in the “preliminary sketch” stood out:
In his vision of human history, Jesus saw no further than A.D. 70, and to this date he attached visions of the final salvation, the final judgment, and the consummation of the kingdom of God in all its glory. (12)
That actually goes a bit too far for my liking. I would say that in his vision of the future Jesus barely looked beyond AD 70, and that he attached to this event visions of a salvation, judgment and consummation that were “final” for national Israel. But I disagree that “history took another course”—that Jesus, like the Hebrew prophets, “saw the next event as the end event and predicted events accordingly”.
Surely, the fact that Jesus reconstituted a new people of God around himself indicates that he expected “Israel” to survive the impending crisis—and indeed to come to “reign” in the coming ages. There is no final judgment of the nations or of the world as such in Jesus’ teaching, only a judgment on Israel. We have to wait for Paul to transfer the eschatological conceptuality to a second horizon of judgment on the Greek-Roman pagan world, and even then we are still mostly dealing with limited historical outcomes. I am curious to see how Scot will develop the argument.
Looking for an answer to this question I have skipped ahead to chapter 4 on “The Kingdom Yet to Come”, which begins with a couple of good quotes from J.P. Meier and Ben Meyer (121):
“Jesus did understand the central symbol of the kingdom of God in terms of the definitive coming of God in the near future to bring the present state of things to an end and to establish his full and unimpeded rule over the world in general and Israel in particular.” (J.P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, 1991-, vol. 2, 349)
Jesus’ scheme of the future was single and simple: crisis events (his own death, the persecution of his followers and martyrdom for some of them, the suffering of Israel, the attack on Jerusalem, the ruin of the temple) followed by resolution events (the day of the Son of Man, the resurrection of the dead, the pilgrimage of the nations, the enthronement of the disciples, etc.). (B.F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus, 1979, 204-205)
Both these statements emphasize the singularity of Jesus’ focus, but they also seem to point to continuing political existence after the eschaton. Where are you going with this, Scot?
"There is no final judgment of the nations or of the world as such in Jesus’ teaching..."
How about Matt. 25:32
"We read that before Christ "shall be gathered all nations."
All that have ever lived shall one day give an account of themselves at the bar of Christ. All must obey the summons of the great King, and come forward to receive their sentence. Those who would not come to worship Christ on earth, will find they must come to His great assize, when He returns to judge the world.
All that are judged will be divided into two great classes. There will no longer be any distinction between kings and subjects, or masters and servants, or dissenters and churchmen. There will be no mention of ranks and denominations, for the former things will have passed away. Grace, or no grace, conversion or no conversion, faith or no faith, will be the only distinctions at the last day.All that are found in Christ will be placed among the sheep at His right hand. All that are not found in Christ will be placed among the goats on His left. Well says Sherlock, "Our seperations will avail us nothing, unless we take care to be found in the number of Christ's sheep, when He comes to judgment."
The last judment will be a judgment according to evidence. The works of men are the witnesses which will be brought forward, and above all their works of charity. The question to be ascertained will not merely be what we said, but what we did,--not merely what we professed but what we practised. Our works unquestionably will not justify us. We are justified by faith without the deeds of the law. But the truth of our faith will be tested by our lives. Faith which has no works is dead, being alone. (James ii. 11.)
"the last judgment will bring joy to all true believers. They will hear those precious words, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom. .....[it] will bring confusion on all unconverted people. They will hear those awful words, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." ...They would not hear Christ, when He said, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest," and now they must hear Him say, "Depart, into everlasting fire." They would not carry his cross, and so thay can have no place in His kingdom......
Let us close these verses with serious self-inquiry. Let us ask ourselves on whicxh side of Christ we are likely to be at the last day. Shall we be on the right hand, or shall we be on the left? Happy is he who never rests till he can give a satisfactory answer to this question." -John Charles Ryle
Don, does God love me unconditionally?
Don, I believe there will be a final judgment, but the question is whether this is what Jesus is speaking about in Matthew 25:32. Language, context, and the substance of the passage all suggest that Jesus has in mind a particular, historical judgment of the nations, in which the criterion of judgment will not be faith or grace or conversion but how they responded to his disciples in their need and suffering. The point is that the New Testament addresses both immediate historical circumstances and final circumstances.
And, Andrew, Jesus seperates the righteous from the wicked, and He then says to the people on His right, "‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world."
I look forward to that day. For I am one of His sheep, from a different fold, as our Lord said: "And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd." John 10:16
God's love for those who come to Him, who come to Christ, surely is an everlasting love. Yet, His love can swell, and He can also be grieved with His children.
I would say His love that has mercy on a rebel sinner, is an eternal love.
Those who reject Christ, and spurn God, are shown a benevolent love for the lord.
Jesus said, "The Father blesses the just and unjust. He is good to His enemies. yet, His wrath is also being stored up for His enemies.
It's even deeper than this. But that is the simplicty of it.
So I guess the real question is, "Do we love Christ? Do we love God?
Andrew, this book is why I have followed some of your thinking. Largely I agree with what I wrote but have adjusted stuff here and there. I'm more theological in my approach as I was trying to work out a historicizing view of Jesus vis a vis Judaism in Jesus' world.
I see Jesus' eschatology concerned with 70AD. I wouldn't say now that he didn't see beyond 70AD but that his concerns were with Israel and Jerusalem and Rome and that, if Israel didn't repent, it was going to experience the wrath of God in the face of the Roman military.
Thanks for the clarification, Scot. It’s a great book. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but I really like the coherence and focus of the argument. I’m sorry I didn’t come across it when I was working on The Coming of the Son of Man. I’ll try and write a more general response to it shortly.
I read Scot's book a couple years ago, around the same time I was reading The Coming of the Son of Man and found that they complemented each other quite well and gave me a lot to wrestle with. Interested to hear what you think about the rest of the book.
Hmm. Now I am being drawn to pick up your book, Andrew, as well as Scot's, since the good recommendation in the comment above. Oh how are reading lists ever-grow. :)