Angels from the realms of glory, wing your flight o’er all the earth…

Do you believe in the second coming of Jesus?

Yes, I do. I believe that the New Testament expresses the conviction, which was central to its proclamation, that Jesus would come with the clouds, or be revealed, at his parousia.

But I argue that this conviction had two historical horizons in view. The horizon for Jesus and his followers in Jerusalem and Judea was the war against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. The horizon for the apostles and the churches in the Greek-Roman world was the overthrow of the blasphemous power structures that dominated the ancient world and oppressed the people of the living God. The fall of Babylon the great—that is, Rome—would bring to an end the persecution of the churches and usher in a new age in which Christ would be confessed as Lord by the nations of the old pagan empire.

The point is that Jesus took the concept from Daniel 7, where it refers to the vindication of the persecuted righteous in Israel, and makes it available for his followers to speak about the intervention of God at a time of crisis to pass judgment, to put things right—on the one hand, to punish the enemies of his people, whether they were internal or external; on the other, to vindicate and give the kingdom to those who had remained faithful under intense opposition.