Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Preterist universalism

Some universalists preterize traditional prooftexts for everlasting punishment. Andrew Perriman uses this tactic. A commenter at his blog has done a nice job of responding to that reinterpretation.

Andrew - this thought-provoking post, which I appreciated reading, also makes me look again at Matthew 25:31-46, which, as you say, we have been predisposed to look at as a final, end-of-the-world judgment, not least because the language encourages such an understanding. Your post then raises some of the very issues which, I think, bring your interpretation into question.
1. Matthew 24:30-31 may be difficult to disentangle from the account of judgement within a generation, but that is exactly what the language encourages us to do. Did “all the nations of the earth” mourn, at the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70? (It might certainly have been the case that “all the tribes of the land” did). At that time, did he, the Son of Man, send his angels to gather his elect “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other”? The universal scope of the language seems very emphatic, and encourages the worldwide vision of “all peoples of the earth will mourn”.
2. In Daniel 7, we move from the account of the four beasts, and what seems to be an account of the judgement on Antiochus IV, to the son of man being given authority over “all peoples, nations, and men of every language”, with “an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” - Daniel 7:14. There are various echoes of Daniel 7 in Matthew 24:30-41 which do reinforce the view that we are looking at Daniel 7 here (eg “the four winds” - Daniel 7:2,Matthew 24:31). As you say, Jesus has reconctructed the story, and this reconstruction suggests a time beyond AD 70, in which the followers of Jesus are scattered throughout the world, to be gathered “from the four winds, form one end of the heavens to the other”. Call this what you will, it provides imperfect picture of AD 70, and the “coming of the Son of Man” in Matthew 24:30 does not seem to clearly coincide with the destruction of Jerusalem.
3. The association of judgement on the nations with Joel 3:1-3 seems telling, but in what way does Jesus’s language echo the Joel passage? It might be argued that Joel is to be read exclusively in the light of judgement on Israel’s enemies in his time, but how does the language of Joel encourage us to read the passage? It seems to me that Joel is lookingthrough some of the details of historic oppression of Israel (such as trading boys for prostitutes and selling girls for wine), to something much wider and more distant. When did God restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, as Joel describes? Not at any particular historic time before the coming of Jesus, and then through Jesus in a way that was quite unlike the periods of prosperity Judah and Jerusalem had known in the past.
Arguably, this prophecy was only fulfilled through the bringing into being of the reconstituted people of God, who enjoyed the blessing of theeschatological Spirit amongst them, but who may not have had political favour or a national or geographical home. Joel is here looking far ahead to a time beyond his immediate circumstances, and to a distant judgement, in which “all nations” means exactly that, and judgement is on behalf of a people scattered even more widely than in the ancient near eastern world.
In this sense, the language of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46 does echo Joel 3:1-3, also by pointing to a final worldwide day of reckoning for all nations yet to come.
5. Your account of Matthew 10:4042 and Matthew 25:35-40 seems unobjectionable, except that Matthew 25 now takes us beyond AD 70, which is where your interpretation of Matthew 24 wants to keep us. I don’t quite get your distinction between faith and works in judgement though -
 But the only way to account for the seeming conflict between “faith” and “works” in judgment is to tell the story historically.
I don’t see the conflict here, either in judgement in history or final judgement. Those who attended to the physical needs of the followers of Jesus proved by their actions that they were in effect followers of Jesus, even though they may not have seen their actions in that light. The passage doesn’t say, incidentally, that this group of people became Jesus’s followers by serving the needs of his followers, but they were certainlyidentified as identified as “righteous” (Matthew 25:37), which means the same thing, by these actions. The surprise to this group of people is that Jesus says they were ministering to him by ministering to his followers, and this seems to be the main point of the passage.
I also don’t see the logic of defining “apocalyptic language of “everlasting life” or “everlasting punishment”  as “social outcomes”. There may well have been social outcomes to the actions of those who gave help to Jesus’s supporters during times of distress, but the language seems emphatic: Jesus is talking about eternal consequences of actions in history, at a day of worldwide judgement, even if these consequences may have been prefigured at times of distress and judgement in history.
In Romans 1 & 2, the historical context is the Jewish and Roman world (in Romans 1 Paul has his eye on Jewish as well as Roman idolatry). The language of judgement in Romans 1 & 2 makes just as good if not better sense if it is taken to be associated with a final judgement which is coming on all people of all times. Romans 1:18-32 implies this broader sweep, as the turn from worshipping the one true God to worship of idols reaches back further into history even than Judaism and the Roman empire, and covers the whole of human history. (Turning from God to idols is what mankind has been doing from the beginning).
Romans 2:5-16 takes in the immediate context of Jew and Gentile, but the language suggests applicabilty to people of all times and places, and Paul seems to encourage such a breadth of vision, having sketched his panorama of history in Romans 1.
The problem with talking of the fulfilment of Jesus’s mission (through his disciples) as the overturning of the pagan world in history is that the pagan world is very much with us still. Its character continued  within ‘Christendom’ as well as outside it, and is certainly still with us today, when the hallmark of idolatry on the one side is matched by inhumanity and bestial savagery on the other in many nations of the world. Perhaps one could say in all nations of the world, not least here in the UK and the western world, and insofar as Islam presents a distorted view of God, in the Muslim world also.
This is why the extract from Ben Sirach shows a radical missing of the point in how history was and is fulfilled through Jesus and his followers. Sirach obviously expected a situation in history which would match and exceed the political dominance of Israel over pagan nations which had been glimpsed in its history. The dominance of Jesus and his followers was and is very different, where instead of there being the kind of conflict and national supremacy which Sirach envisages, there is the resurrection life of the church which proves its supremacy by being inextinguishable in the face of violence, persecution and death. Life overcomes death, not simply in the life to come, but in life as it is lived in the present, as it has been in history.
I agree with most of your final paragraph, Andrew, though we may be looking at different things, except for the final sentence. Jesus’s disciples have not always been vindicated in history by judgement on the nations, then or now, and the pagan world has not always been transformed, then or now, nor will it necessarily be, certainly not completely, until the return of Jesus bringing to dramatic completion the new creation.


I’m really not sure it’s quite so simple in Joel 3. Agreed, there are specific references to Israel’s enemies in history in Joel 3:1-8 and later in the prophecy (Joel 3:19), and the retribution to be meted upon them, but what is happening from verse 9 onwards, through the apocalyptic language of 12-16, and into the promise of perpetual blessing for Israel in 17-18, 20-21?
At the very least, we are way outside events which took place in post-exilic Israel in Joel 3:17-1820-21. Can this foretelling of distant history be shoe-horned into an AD 70 terminus? To do that, from Andrew’s point of view there would still be the problems of less distant history in the prophecy, with the judgment on Tyre/Sidon and Philistia at one end of the section, and Egypt and Edom at the other. Unless the book-ended parallelism and balanced pairs of Israel’s enemies have more of a literary function - to indicate final judgement on the enemies of God’s people in the distant times to which the prophecy is alluding in 17-18, 20-21.
A similar kind of issue comes up in Joel 2:28-32. The outpouring of the Spirit is obviously fulfilled in Acts 2:17-18. Andrew then takes the major theme of the Joel 2 prophecy to be the second part - Joel 2:30-32/Acts 2:14-17, the metaphoric signs which reflect the calamitous distant (to Joel) destruction of Jerusalem, with the actual giving of the Spirit merely a confirmatory anticipation of this. The other view, of course, and the one that I hold, with most other commentators I think, is that Joel 2:30-32 is the final day of reckoning, with further overtones of this in Joel 3, especially in Joel 3:12-16 and onwards, where the language echoes that of Joel 2:31.
In the light of Joel 2 and 3 as a whole, it can be argued that the historically limited interpretation of all of Joel 3 begins to unravel. There is a more distant focus to all the prophecy, anticipating a future which goes beyond anything that was fulfilled in historic national and geographic Israel. Significantly, the more distant prophecy, wherever you may want to say it begins in Joel 3, has nothing to say of events which could be compared to the AD 70 happenings.
My suggestion is that the literary structure, the parallelism of balancing pairs of judgement on Israel’s enemies, and the repetition of judgement language outside a strictly historic context (‘valley of Jehoshaphat’, 3:2/’valley of decision’, 3:14), takes us beyond historic judgement, so that even in Joel 3:1-3 we are anticipating the more distant final judgement to come. I think this interpretation makes good literary sense of the whole passage (Joel 3:1-21), and avoids contradictory prophecy if it is confined to the context of Joel’s time, or even the time of 1st century Israel.


The parable of the field is a good example of the “already - - - not yet” principle for reading the prophetic character of Jesus’s ministry, his two-stage introduction of the age to come, and the unanimous opinion of the rest of the NT concerning the resurrection of Jesus and resurrection to come, the giving of the Spirit as deposit and the full payment to come, and the message of imminent judgement and future judgement. Despite Andrew’s very focused exegesis of this parable, “already - - - not yet” provides a reading here which is more consistent with the gospels as a whole, the letters and Revelation.
Jesus’s warnings through his temple actions in Matthew 21, and in Matthew 23 and 24, of imminent judgement, and implicitly elsewhere, are not, and have not been, in dispute. What is of significance is that Jesus only occasionally associates these warnings explicitlywith imminent judgement. This is true of the parable of the field. If we are to be precise with exegesis of the passage, we will  note that it simply refers to a harvest at “the end of the age”. There is no suggestion here, within the passage, of a crisis of the covenant, or a vision of the end of the age of 2nd Temple Judaism. But that’s not to say that these things are not implied.
A better interpretation of the passage, according to its literary sense, is that we are looking at a much more universal judgement than was reflected in AD 70, which although catastrophic for Israel, and certainly fulfilling the more explicitly imminent of Jesus’s warnings in Matthew 23/24, did not spell the end of the nation, nor of Judaism.
The Son of Man sows the good seed, which is the sons of the kingdom. The context is immediately wider than Israel, and directing us to the more universal kingdom of God, which although introduced in Israel, was nevertheless to be a worldwide phenomenon. The field is thekosmos, which also suggests the wider context than Israel alone. The setting is now the sons of the kingdom as opposed to the sons of the evil one. Disbelieving Jews who were intent on murdering Jesus are also described as having the devil as their father in John 8:44, but the implication here is of a much wider situation than a murderous cabal within Israel.
The Son of Man, an ambiguous form of self-identification which Jesus seems to play on, sometimes simply meaning “man”; sometimes echoing “the son of man” in Daniel 7:13, but rarely explicitly the latter, sowed the seed not simply in Israel during the three years of Jesus’s ministry, but continued to sow seed through the church, and not simply until AD70, but beyond, to the present day.
This activity through the church was not simply a metaphorical way of speaking about someone who had died, someone whose followers tried to model their ethical life on his teaching, which you might be led to think by Andrew’s presentation.  Luke’s gospel is described in Acts 1:1 as “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven”, in other words his teaching continued into the resurrection phase, and beyond in Acts, and the letters leave us in no doubt that Jesus’s continuing presence in the church was and is a real continuation of his life, albeit in a different form.
Taking the wider context of the life and ministry of Jesus as a whole, before and after his resurrection, the parable of the field acquires a much wider significance than events limited to the AD 70 horizon.
The harvest is a harvest of judgement, the angels the same spirit beings who gather the elect “from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” in Matthew 24:31, and the gathering is the same as that inMatthew 25:32, with the same separation: wheat and weeds, sheep and goats. The constituency of the gathering in Matthew 25 as in Matthew 13 is the entire world: “All the nations will be gathered before him” -Matthew 25:32. In Matthew 13:41, the son of man as judge weeds out of his kingdom “everything that causes sin and all who do evil.”
The question we should then be asking, in view of the literary sense of the parable, is whether the parable can be applied at all to the more imminent disaster of AD 70, not whether it means final judgement. The answer must be, here as elsewhere, that it can, where the AD 70 judgement was in some ways a foretaste of final judgement to come.
We must also observe that many things in AD 70 failed to reflect the more comprehensive judgement that is described in Matthew 13. AD 70 was not a time when every cause of sin and all evil-doers were destroyed - not even within Israel. It was not a time when the full force of “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” was realised, and even Daniel 12:3, which the phrase echoes, does not limit itself to a time within Israel’s history when these things would happen. Daniel also described a widespread general resurrection in 12:2, and much else which is obscure and open to interpretation - which should also make us wary of being overly confident in interpreting every detail in Matthew 24, not to mention Revelation.
In short, the parable of the field in Matthew 13 provides a good example of how prophecy can have a more distant fulfilment in view as well as providing suggestions of more imminent events. This is also the case in Matthew 24, and the parables of Matthew 24 and 25, though in the Mathew 24 prophecy there is rather more of the imminent disaster than the distant events which it also describes. The principle is illustrated in the judgement of Babylon (which cannot be telescoped into meaning simply Rome) in Revelation, and in the Old Testament, where passages such as Isaiah 7-9 or Joel 3, already commented on by me on this site and elsewhere, provide similar illustrations of a mixing of the imminent and more distant.


When was there a fulfilment of Isaiah 43:5 before the wider fulfilment of Isaiah brought about by Jesus? Isaiah 43:5 by no means describes the disappointing historic return of Israel following following the decree of Cyrus. It is therefore fair to say that Isaiah 43:5 and Matthew 8:11 are still in the process of fulfilment. This would be a reason for seeing Matthew 24:31 also as yet to be completed.
Matthew 8:12 doesn’t mention the destruction of Jerusalem, and Matthew 8:11 has a wider vision of the inclusion of the Gentiles to participate in the ‘feast’ with faithful Israel. The perspective here is the return of Jesus, not the detsruction of Jerusalem.
You assume, with no explicit evidence, that ‘the close of the age’ (Matthew 13:39) was the destruction of the temple in AD 70. This is not the only possible meaning of the phrase, and Matthew 13:39much more strongly suggests a final separation of good seed and weeds. Matthew 24 also nowhere explicitly asociates ‘the end of the age’ with the destruction of the temple.
The problem with attaching ‘end of the age’ exclusively to the destruction of the temple (something the NT never does) is that it removes the focus from where it properly belongs - the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is this event which preoccupies the gospels and the letters. End of the old, beginning of the new have their centre here, not in the destruction of the temple. The ‘end of the age’ in Matthew 8, and 24, is yet to be.
“Kingdom” language has to do with the political existence of the people of God amongst the nations: it has to do with how the people of God is ruled and its integrity safeguarded
Well, no, it doesn’t. There were political ramifications to the gospel, which was announcement that Jesus was now the world’s true king, but kingdom language has to do with the demonstration of that reign in all the works of the Spirit which accompanied the reign of Jesus: the new community of God’s people, the works of the kingdom through Jesus in the gospels, continued by the disciples in the gospels and Acts. The references which make this connection are everywhere. It’s a connection also made in Isaiah - eg 32:15, in the context of the reigning king to come.
Kingdom includes judgement, but is far from restricted to it. The protecting and safeguarding of the integrity of the people of God is something you have added. Kingdom does encompass the new creation, in that the reign of God through Jesus is demonstratedthrough the new creation - beginning in Jesus himself as a resurrected being, and extending to his followers who receive the new life of the Spirit, itself closely associated with the kingdom, eg in the teaching of the kingom by Jesus in the context of the language of Isaiah and the predicted outpouring of the Spirit in Acts 1.
Kingdom and Spirit are closely associated, and in the future the new creation is to be a physical environment  for resurrected new creation beings with bodies energised by the Spirit - 1 Corinthians 15:44. It would be absurd to disconnect the ‘new earth’ of Revelation 21 from the Spirit who energises the bodies of those who inhabit it, and the kingdom which it demonstrates in its fulfilment. In this you have misunderstood the meaning of ‘kingdom’, and have also misread 1 Corinthians 15:24-28.


Thanks Andrew. My response was rather scrappy because written in haste. However, I do think I’m onto something - not in our divergent readings of apocalyptic language, but in the relationship between the ‘small’ story of Israel which Jesus came to participate in, and the ‘larger’ story of the world, the outcome of which, as I read it, depended on the outcome of Israel’s story.
Reading Galatians, I’m struck with the way the key points in Paul’s argument, Galatians 2:20, for instance, and more strikingly Galatians 3:10-14, raise this very issue - smaller story/larger story. Everyone (apart from you) reads Galatians 2:20 as universally applicable. It expresses the heart of the gospel, as it is universally understood. However, before it becomes ‘our story’, it was part of the very particular story of Israel which Paul was experiencing.
This relationship of smaller story to larger story is even more obvious in Galatians 3:10-14, where it is arguable (as N.T.Wright argues) that the ‘curse’ only applies to Israel, and Jesus’s death, therefore, is only for Israel under the curse, to release the story of the blessings promised to Abraham for the world.
But what is the blessing promised to the world through Abraham if not that obtained by Jesus on Israel’s behalf? In other words,Galatians 2:20 becomes a reality for non-Jews trusting in Jesusas well as Jews. This is clearly where Paul is taking the argument; the Galatians were not spectators of the Jesus whose death Paul presented to them, but participators in it.
So we come back to arguments in the recently exchanged posts. I think you can see that underlying my concern about where you are taking the argument is that your overriding focus is on the ‘end of the age’ and kingdom as reflected in the judgement on Jerusalem, and destruction of the temple. The death of Jesus, as presented by you, is exclusively to facilitate believers through this judgement in history. The new age is what lies beyond.
I think there is far more focus in gospels and letters on the death of Christ in itself as the end of one era and the beginning of another, for those who participate in it. That this is not just a figurative way of speaking is seen in the emphasis given to the change in the lives of those who participate in it, which is the heart of the new age, ‘the age to come’ as Hebrews puts it. Paul’s arguments in Galatians highlight this larger argument.
It’s particularly apt that Galatians is addressed to Gentile believers, not Jews. So Paul can use the inclusive ‘we/us’ to refer to himself and Galatian believers in his summary of the gospel as the giving of Jesus “for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age” - 1:4, with no sense that Christ’s actions were for Jewish believers only, as in the historicist presentation you are making.
The same can be said in Galatians 2:20, where Paul is clearly talking about Jews, and then himself as a Jew, yet the words echo so closely Romans 6:2-11 that it would be impossible to say they did not also apply to Gentile believers, who are among those addressed by Paul in Romans.
Then looking at 2 Corinthians 5:17, the “anyone” of “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” is inclusive of Jew and Gentile, predominantly Gentile, in the Corinthian congregation. This “anyone” is a “new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” - 2 Corinthians 5:17. The means whereby this change was brought about was through the death of Christ and his new life imparted (by the Spirit) through the resurrection - 2 Corinthians 5:15.
In other words, the key transitional event is the cross, and the resurrection, which on scores of occasions is the focus of the letters, and is overwhelmingly the focus of the gospels too. That transition is not simply historical, but ontological, a change in the very being of those who participated in it through faith.
I’m sure you get my point. Where is the primary focus of the NTwritings, and was the nature of the experience they describe, in terms of personal transformation through the cross of Christ, purely for Paul, or for historic Israel, or for people of all times as they exercised the same faith in the same Christ? I think the primary focus of the former (the NT writings) was the cross, and not the cross as a means of navigating the historic perils of judgement on Jerusalem, but as a means of providing transformation for all three of the latter (Paul, historic believing Israel, and people of all times).


It would be odd for the beast and false prophet to be subject to eternal torment, while the rest - Revelation 21:8, bypassed this fate with eternal annihilation.
Death and Hades are probably more then personifications in Revelation 20:14; they seem to have become something like angelic beings who were custodians of the places referred to, accompanying the devil, the beast and the false prophet in the lake of fire and sulphur - Revelation 20:10, and sharing their torment.
Revelation 14:9:
This passage is associated with the fall of Babylon the great (14:8); it forms part of the predicted judgment on idolatrous and corrupt Rome.
I’d reverse the order in which you put things here: the fall of Rome is associated with the predicted judgement on idolatrous and corrupt Babylon!


The alternative interpretation of Joel is that the army of locusts, described in Joel 1:1-20 - 2:1-11, is just that - a plague of locusts devastating the land and its economy. It is this view, as far as I can see, which is favoured by commentators. Andrew’s interpretation depends on the less favoured view - of the locusts as an actual army, which supports the narrative of destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in AD 70, and which Andrew is promoting as an interpretation of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.
The devastation caused/threatened by the plague prompts Joel’s public challenges and call to prayer - Joel 1:2-20. The national call invokes the military metaphor in the face of an invasion comparable to a military invasion in Joel 2:1-11, but it’s clear that the army is a metaphor for a locust invasion - Joel 2:47. The only place where an actual army might be indicated is Joel 2:20, but in 2:25 this army is once again described as comprising locusts - actual, not metaphorical.
So the first question about Andrew’s interpretation must be: how does he substantiate his view that Joel 1 - 2:27 describes an actual invading army in history? If it was an actual invading army, which army was it?
The difficulty which I see with Andrew’s interpretation of the rest of Joel (Joel 2:28-32 - Joel 3:1-21) is that there are no historic events with which it can be connected before the coming of Jesus, and, in part, possibly even before his return (or second coming).
There is no evidence that the Spirit was poured out “on all flesh” before Peter said it had been with the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. The ‘spirit of prophecy’ is a technical intertestamental term, but it does not mean exclusively or even largely the ability to predict future events, as biblical prophecy is also commonly and wrongly defined. So the declaration of the “mighty works of God” in Acts 2 does not mean a proclamation of what God was about to do. Far more likely is that it means declaration of what God had just done, as the Spirit outpoured was proof of the ascension and reign of Jesus as king in the present.
This brings us to Joel 3:1-21. Again, in my opinion (I invite correction), there is a problem with locating the “valley of Jehoshaphat” and the “valley of decision” with any historical event in Joel’s time, or subsequently. 
The “valley of Jehoshaphat” looks backwards to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC, an event with which Tyre and Sidon and Philistia were complicit (Joel 3:4). In Joel’s prophecy, the temple has been rebuilt, so that we are at a time following the return from exile and rebuilding of the temple in 515 BC. It’s possible that the oracle is taken from an earlier period, but its position in Joel seems to relate it to a judgement yet to come. The Sabeans (Joel 3:8) were a historic people, and their enslavement of the children of Israel’s former enemies, as divine retribution for Tyre and Sidon and Philistia selling Israel’s children to the Greeks as slaves after 586 BC, provides some historical colour to the larger events described.
The “valley of decision”, with which “the valley of Jehoshaphat” is clearly associated, paints a picture of many more people than are associated with any particular invading army in historic Israel. Egypt and Edom (Joel 3:19) function as typical enemies of Israel, rather than being associated with any particular historic act in Joel’s time or beyond.
There is a problem, then, with identifying Joel’s language from 2:28 onwards with any specific historic occurrences (excluding some historical detail with which the prophecies are coloured), until Pentecost provided actual fulfilment of Joel 2:28-29, and the mixture of AD 70 and final judgement prophesied in Matthew 24  pointed to a fulfilment (not a narrative reconstruction) of Joel 2:30-32.
My personal conclusion, which I cannot find echoed in other commentators I have read, but for which I can find no other explanation, is that Joel is using some imagery from Israel’s history to fill out a picture which finds its unexpected fulfilment through Jesus. This fulfilment is first through the church from the outpouring of the Spirit onwards, as the place of the restoration of the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem - Joel 3:17-1820-21, which otherwise find no historic fulfilment at all. The second fulfilment is through final judgement, which will involve literally “all nations” being brought into “the valley of Jehoshaphat” and “the valley of decision”, a place of judgement for all peoples, especially those who have opposed God’s people, on a scale which is anticipated by, but far exceeds judgements which have occurred in history.
It’s interesting that imagery from Joel is adopted in Revelation, eg the harvest and sickle, the winepress and vats - Joel 3:13/Revelation14:17-20. At least one interpretation of this is that the author of Revelation saw the events of Joel 3 having a far distant future fulfilment, but this of course is by no means necessarily how OT apocalyptic imagery is generally used in Revelation.
Andrew concedes that there are various ways in which the Spirit functions in Acts, but is adamant in saying “but that is not what Pentecost is about”. I think the building blocks on which Andrew  interprets Peter’s Pentecost sermon, in which warning of imminent historic judgement (interpreted asAD 70) dictates the function of the Spirit as being for prophetic warning, are flawed in the light of an inadequate interpretation of Joel.


Andrew - thank you for your response. I’ve made what I think is a careful case for saying that Joel is not simply looking at an event or events in history in Joel 3:1-16, and certainly not the rest of Joel 3. It simply doesn’t fit with everything he says to assert that the events described have already happened - even allowing for apocalyptic hyperbole.
As you say, Peter doesn’t refer to the preceding part of Joel (1 & 2), the locust army, so that does not necessarily come into the discussion. Nevertheless, it does have a bearing on the connection between the historical situations with which Peter may or may not have been drawing a parallel.
Interestingly, locusts come up again in Revelation 9:1-11. The connections with Joel are very suggestive.The locusts here are certainly not literal locusts. Attempts to locate these locusts in historical events, eg as representing barbarian armies, have been largely unsuccessful. They more probably represent spiritual forces behind historic occurrences.
Our disagreement is, first, over what Peter meant in his reference to Joel in Acts 2, which also bears upon what precisely Jesus meant in Matthew 24. My perspective is that just as Joel was looking at judgement in history as well as through history to a greater judgement to come, so Peter may have something of AD 70 in his sights, but evenAD 70 was only a precursor of judgement to come. To fit Joel 3 into fulfilled historical events is, to my mind, to do violence to the language Joel is using.
Spirit of prophecy’ is a term taken from intertestamental literature, and only occurs once in the NT (“The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” - Revelation :19:10) so I’m not sure what significance you are attaching to the term. I’m mentioning it because Max Turner (The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts/Power from on High) has staked his reputation on proving a link between the term and the Spirit at Pentecost. It seemed interesting to pause over it.
I don’t think biblical prophecy is simply prediction of future events. For sure, prediction is included in the word, and fulfilment of prediction is a test of a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:22. But that is far from being the sole function of a prophet.
Prediction is sometimes conditional on the response of the recipients. Jonah’s prophetic warnings to Nineveh led to the prophecy being unfulfilled - and as YHWH never told Jonah that this would happen, Jonah could be accused of being a false prophet, by your definition.
When the seventy elders prophesy in Numbers 11:25, it is highly unlikely that they were predicting future events. Likewise the two who were not in the tent. Likewise when Moses says: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them” - Numbers 11:29. Likewise Saul when the Sprit of the Lord came on him - 1 Samuel 10:5-12.
The OT word is naba - to speak forth. The primary meaning ofprophesy, then, is to ‘speak forth’ or ‘speak out’ God’s words. This was the primary role of the prophets - not to predict the future, but to call people back to the covenant by speaking out the words God gave them. The same meaning of ‘prophet/prophesy’ carries over into the New Testament - prophēteuō, to speak forth/speak out (the words of God).
I’m saying this ‘blind’, as I can’t remember how the issue came up. But it’s worth talking about. A ‘prophet’ in the OT was not simply one who predicted the future, but a respected man of God. Abraham and Samuel were prophets. Jesus is called a prophet by the woman at Samaria because he exercises powers of insight into her life, not because he foretells the future.
Also, I wasn’t allegorising Egypt and Edom in Joel 3. They were ‘types’ of Israel’s enemies in history, in the sense that they had been enemies, and were to continue to be enemies. They do, however, take the frame of the prophecy away from a specific event or events in Joel’s time, which could be said to have been fulfilled and thus ‘prove’ Joel was a prophet by accurate prediction. In fact, by your definition of a prophet, Joel was probably a false prophet, in the sense that the events he predicted, including the future prosperity of Judah and Jerusalem, never happened as he literally, historically predicted them.  

Post Script to the above - I think I’ve got it. Andrew is using the (intertestamental) term ‘spirit of prophecy’ because he wants the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost to have primarily a ‘prophetic as predictive’ function - to predict AD 70.
But, to the best of my knowledge, this is not how the term ‘spirit of prophecy’ is used intertestamentally, and it is certainly not how Max Turner sees it, in seeing an equivalence of ‘spirit of prophecy’ with the giving of the Spirit at Pentecost - he having investigated the issue more carefully than most.
In any case, the biblical meaning of prophet/prophecy/prophesy is not exclusively or even primarily to do with prediction, as I hope I have shown. But it is helpful to understand why this definition is so important to Andrew, bearing as it does on Acts and Matthew 24 - and literalistic fulfilment of OT prophecy in history. Oddly, and Andrew isn’t going to like the association, the limitation of ‘prophecy’ to pediction in the bible is also a characteristic of preterism.


Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

i. ‘tribulation and distress’. The two terms are used in Deuteronomy 28:535557 to describe the effects of military invasion. Why shouldn’t Paul be thinking along similar lines?
Yes, he could be. Depends how much weight can be attached to the use of the phrase in context. Were there parallels between invasions of Rome and invasions of Israel?
ii. Revelation 6:17 and OT imagery - you don’t allow for the possibility (and likelihood) of OTimagery being used in a different context (ie not historical Jerusalem)
iii. Isaiah 2:12 - If you interpret the section 2:6-22 literally, you also have to interpret the preceding section (2:1-5) literally. It doesn’t work. Isaiah’s vision stretches beyond historical, national Israel - though she was certainly included in the metaphorical sweep of his prophecy
iv. Ezekiel 30:3 - "a day of doom for the nations (plural - not just Egypt)"
iv. Joel 3:14 - context: "all nations" - 3:2; "the nations" - 3:9; "all you nations" - 3:11(a); "nations" - 3:12; "all the nations" - 3:11(b); "multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision"- 3:14.
Are you still saying this is not universal judgement? If not, to which historically fulfilled event does this refer?
v. Obadiah 15 - "all nations"; verse 16 - "all the nations". When did this event occur in history - when all the nations were judged and defeated, and Israel liberated?
vi. 1 Thessalonians 5:3 - I don’t think the Jews were saying pax et securitas when they were being slaughtered across Israel as well as in Jerusalem in their thousands.
Everything changed with the coming of Jesus - yes, as far as the NT describes it, it did. This is strikingly presented in the ‘realised eschatology’ of John’s gospel. As fas as Jesus’s disciples were concerned, the end had come with Jesus (not with the destruction of the temple).
All that had been associated with ‘the end of the age’ as far as Judaism was conerned, was fulfilled in Jesus: return of YHWH to the temple, resurrection of the dead, outpoured Spirit, defeat of the powers behind Israel’s enemies, restoration of the Davidic monarchy, forgiveness of sins, light to the world.
The ‘end’ was strikingly the end of the old creation (in Jesus), and the beginning of the new (in Jesus). As far as his followers made him their Lord, the new creation had also begun in Jesus’s followers. "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
How did this come about? The death of Jesus was the end of the old creation (in him); the resurrection of Jesus was the beginning of the new (likewise). That’s why both death and resurrection of Jesus have direct, intimate and life-changing relevance for every believer in Jesus - in Guildford as well as The Hague. Take that away, and you are left with - nothing.
Your reading of OT prophetic texts is linguistically very detailed; but in the process, I think you overlook a great deal - driven by a need, it seems, to read the texts in a literal, historical manner.
If Jesus was "the end" - which I think is quite clear from very many angles - we may also need to ask: why so much history between then and now? Answer: I don’t know! Except that, in the terms described, he was the end, and the judgement which he will one day bring to a climactic conclusion, actually already started with his (first) coming. Life has already come to those who believe in him (John 5:25); "Now is the judgement of this world; now shall the ruler of this world be cast out;" - John 12:31. When was that? The death of Jesus on the cross, I think.

Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

There seems to be ample evidence to suggest that the kind of separation (and elimination) which you summarise, John, is the position of Jesus and the NT, eg Matthew 25:11-1329-3031-46Revelation 21:7-8. I expect you are familiar with all these verses - though Andrew has a different interpretation of the meaning of Jesus.
And in that sense, as I understand you, the microcosm will become the macrocosm, in the recreated earth.
However, it should be noted that Jesus’s sternest warnings were against those who had the greatest knowledge of the scriptures, and were regarded (and certainly regarded themselves) as the greatest examples of piety, and as fulfilling the requirements of God’s covenant. It should also be noted that the people Jesus welcomed and had table fellowship with were regarded as the off-scourings of society, and the kind of people who least reflected the purposes of God in the covenant community.
Also that Jesus commended a member of a community regarded as racially impure and offensive to God - for doing what those who regarded themselves as racially pure and pleasing to God failed to do.
Also that the majority of OT saints were notoriously inconsistent in their lives, and none of them would have been able to assent to doctrines which are often regarded as the bare acceptable minimum for escaping hell and getting into heaven today.
Which leads me to draw the conclusion that our responses to God are extremely important, that we are judged on the basis of how we have responded to the light we have, not the light we don’t have, and that anyone who has learned the bare minimum about Jesus but dies rejecting him is in severe trouble.
But in the end, a message which does preach eternal separation in one form or another is going to be offensive in our egalitarian, inclusive, politically correct, equal opportunities western culture - where the greatest virtue is tolerance, and we will tolerate anything except intolerance.

Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

I was about to say something very complimentary about your exegesis of the seven seals in Revelation - in COSM chapter 8. It’s brilliant. It would certainly have had meaning for believers going through the events in Israel during the Jewish wars. But is that the only context in which the verses are intended to be read? I don’t think so; any more than Matthew 24 is intended to be read solely in the context of the destruction of the temple in AD 70 (though of course that is there). I certainly don’t think that Revelation 6:17 can be shoehorned into such a reading.
To extend the discussion into Revelation 11 - there we have the temple; the trampling of the outer court by the Gentiles for 42 months corresponds uncannily with the siege of Jerusalem; but then further details are introduced which lead us in a different direction. The inner court and holy place are protected. The two witnesses are not literal figures - and as so often with Revelation, instead of being provided with one definitive meaning, we are encouraged to find meaning in symbols which take us beyond the literal and historical. I can’t believe we are being limited to 1st century events here, or anywhere in Revelation - but I would expect the book had huge relevance for 1st century believers going through the events leading up to AD70 (assuming it was written before AD 70, as I do).
Now to your other points.
I also don’t see any problem in Isaiah prophesying the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in Isaiah 2; of course that would be its obvious and primary meaning. But just as, in 2:1-5, the fulfilment of the prophecy could hardly be limited to the establishment of a literal 2nd temple, and seeks a fulfilment in a horizon beyond that, and beyond national, geographical Israel, so too 2:6-22, and 10:22 especially, seeks a fulfilment which goes beyond the Babylonian invasion - even allowing for metaphorical hyperbole. I think if you disallow this, we are reading different bibles.
Ezekiel 30:3 - yes, very good. I was a little too hasty in moving from the concordance to the keyboard without examining the context carefully enough. Well done.
Joel - as with other OT prophecies, it seems likely that we are peering through different horizons - to a restoration which did not occur in national, geographic Israel’s history, and through a judgement which draws in elements of Israel’s national history, but which looks beyond them all.
Obadiah - the immediate, historical context of the prophecy was the enmity between Israel and Edom (though the precise historical period is uncertain). However, after verse 15, the prophecy moves into a more general warning of judgement on the nations who oppose God and his people - into which category Israel herself, as a nation, was to fall. I didn’t find the phrase ‘round about’ Israel in verse 16, but it doesn’t really matter, since from Israel’s point of view, most of the nations of the world were ‘round about’ her. The ‘deliverance’ which comes from Mount Zion is echoed in Isaiah 59:20,21, as quoted in Romans 11:26b, where the referent is Jesus in his (first) coming - the act where he turned “godlessness away from Jacob” and took away their sins was, of course, the cross.
To be honest, Andrew, the somewhat contemptuous way in which you speak of the death and resurrection of Jesus, (“the story of Jesus that you want to confine to his death and resurrection”) is a worrying reflection on the course you have embarked on. In these exchanges, you ignore the central issue of the uniqueness of Jesus, which I developed briefly from 1 Corinthians 15, and the equally central issue of Jesus as embodying in himself the end of the old creation and the beginning of the new - in which his followers also participate. The significance of this, and the (first) coming of Jesus has a huge effect on our understanding of “the day of the Lord” - which I have developed, and you seem to have ignored.
If I were to sum up, it would be that “the day of the Lord”, from a NT perspective, began with the (first) coming of Jesus - because judgement and mercy were two sides of the same coming, operating simultaneously through his ministry. But the “day of the Lord” - which you locate in the 1st century in judgements on Jerusalem and Rome - has content (already referred to) which was not fulfilled in that event, or in Jesus’s life on earth, and awaits fulfilment. So perhaps we can agree to differ. I still think you haven’t really looked carefully at the points I have been making about OT prophecy and “day of the Lord”.
Maybe we could extend each other these courtesies: I find a great deal of your incredibly painstaking and detailed exegesis to be hugely impressive, and I don’t want to be forced into a corner of dismissing it simply because it doesn’t take me to where it takes you. Perhaps sometime, in turn, you could look rather more carefully at the defence of evangelical theology which I am inadequately presenting (and it’s really a defence of mainstream theology of all hues), and not be so quick to dismiss it - sometimes using exaggerated rhetoric, and sometimes crude caricature. I’m not convinced that you really understand what you are dismissing.

Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

i. Revelation 5-8 (the seven seals):
"What are your reasons for thinking that a passage which you admit would have been interpreted by its readers with reference to the Jewish war had further levels of application beyond that historical context?"
The primary reason is that the passage is nowhere explicitly linked to the Jewish war! So it might have had particular relevance to the church as it experienced those events. But it also has relevance to any situation where war, economic disturbance, death through war, famine and plague, the martyrs waiting for vindication, earthquakes and meteorological phenomena, are seen as God’s judgments. Also, I still see 6:17 as having some sort of apocalyptic end of time significance - just as it is likely to have in Isaiah 2:19-21 (which it resembles closely, and which we have already discussed).
By the way, for your interpretation of this passage, and Revelation generally, you need a date for Revelation before AD 70, which is why you need to have read Kenneth Gentry’s ‘Before Jerusalem Fell’ - which is a comprehensive review of the dating of the book (popularly held to have been written c. AD 90).
If you are referring me to Matthew 24 in your question - I have gone over this at length (great length) in previous posts. It would be attractive if Matthew 24 could be given a simple and exclusive connection with the destruction of the temple, but it just doesn’t work, I don’t think. Parts of it refer clearly to AD 70 and the 1st century; other parts don’t.
ii. The two witnesses - I assume from the final sentence of your comment that you allow the passage could refer to different contexts - not just the early church (if it could refer to the church in Jerusalem or Rome, it could just as easily refer to the church at other times). We could discuss the symbolism of the three and half years here - which sometimes suggests the completion of Jesus’s ministry (itself three and a half years) throughout time, through the church. I think the passage would have had relevance to the early church, before during and after AD 70 - and the church under persecution at any time.
"I can’t believe we are being limited to 1st century events, or anywhere in Revelation…"
Why can’t you believe that? That’s a very subjective basis for exegesis.
It’s not subjective - and above are some fleeting suggestions as to why I said what I said. I’ll provide more, if you like.
iii. Isaiah 2:12 - my view, as described, is different from your view, but apparently not very different. There are many other places in Isaiah where "the day" or "a day" reaches beyond biblical history to a far distant and as yet unfulfilled day of judgment. I think your qualification bridges the gap between us; even if "day of the Lord" always referred to "a historically circumscribed act of divine judgment or deliverance", if it also "draws on a deeper expectation of a final judgment and renewal of creation" then we’re not really in dispute.
iv Obadiah 15ff. Sorry Andrew, I disagree, but I will grant that there is a mixture of the imminent and the distant. For instance, Obadiah 17 echoes word for word Joel 2:32, where Joel is clearly speaking of far distant times (fulfilled at Pentecost and beyond). Likewise there is, to my mind, an echo of Isaiah 59:19, as quoted in Romans 11:26. There is plenty of eschatological loading here, as there is in verses 15, 16, and 18.
v. " I have looked very carefully at every passage you have cited from the Old Testament as evidence that ‘day of Lord’ refers to something other than an act of divine judgment or deliverance within history, and I have found nothing that supports your argument."
But you have already contradicted this above! I think you could look more carefully. Apart from these few passages mentioned, there are also many other places in the OT where a final judgment is suggested as a "day" (which cannot be anything other than a "day of the Lord").
When we get into the NT however, we are overwhelmed with evidence for a "day" or "day of the Lord" being the final day of judgment. It would be odd to think this had nothing whatsoever to do with the use of the same phrase in the OT. But we don’t need to speculate. The evidence is there; somewhat shadowy maybe in the OT; clear as daylight in the NT. You haven’t really proved anything by looking at the passages I have quoted - except, admittedly, placing Ezekiel 30:3 in a more strictly historical context. You haven’t really proved anything to do with "day of wrath" in Romans - although the parallels with Deuteronomy are interesting.

Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

i. Revelation
I still think we need to take much more seriously the interpretive context provided by Revelation itself, which consists, I would say, broadly of: i) the actual historical situation in which the letter was written, the immediate fears and hopes of the early church, which would have undoubtedly centred on the fate of Israel and the power of Rome
I agree with this - and I still come to different conclusions from you, whilst allowing that Revelation had immediate relevance to 1st century Christians (provided it was written before AD 70!).
However, many people, including myself, think that Revelation 18 goes far beyond judgement on Rome, and see it as a judgement on world system which Rome only represents.
You are actually doing no more than restating the traditional (comprehensive/thoroughgoing) preterist arguments for interpreting Revelation - albeit in a much more interesting fashion - which have been around for a long time now, and which have been given plenty of opportunity for consideration. On balance, they have never caught on.
ii. Revelation 6:17 - but the irresponsibility in your approach is to take OT prophecy and see it as continuing without modification into the NT without taking account of how the coming of Jesus had brought discontinuity into key aspects of the OT narrative concerning Israel. (I’ve described this more fully earlier in the thread - can’t keep repeating myself!)
iii. Yes I do take seriously Jesus’s statement that "this generation will not pass away till all these things take place" (Matt. 24:34). It does not lead me to the same conclusion as you, that only the destruction of the temple is in view in Matthew 24 - and I have already commented at great length on this elsewhere.
iv. The two witnesses - I think if you feel justifiied in taking the significance of the witnesses to be towards Israel and Rome, then their significance can extend to other contexts as well. The meaning of the three & a half years is is significant here (ie the rest of the church age).
v. Obadiah Yes, the immediate significance of the prophecy is towards historical Edom and the nations which took advantage of Israel following the Babylonian invasion. But, as I have pointed out, and you seem to have missed, Obadiah 17 repeats Joel 2:32exactly (or vice versa), and Peter quotes the Joel passage (actually up to Joel 2:32a to be precise, but Joel 2:32b is part of it) in Acts 2:17-21. So the sense of Obadiah 17/Joel 2:32 is not confined to those earlier events, and does look forward to events beyond Acts 2. It is entirely justifiable to take some of the sense of Obadiah (the opposition of the nations to God and the people of God) and apply it to later contexts. This is what Peter was doing in quoting Joel 2.
vi. Isaiah 2 - commented on already in a previous post.
vii. Do you want to go through all the uses of "day of the Lord"/"day of Jesus Christ" etc in the NT? There is plenty of evidence that this phrase does refer to the final judgement - an event which takes place at the same time as the parousia of Christ - as traditionally understood.
Tom Wright proves nothing by saying of 2 Thessalonians 2:2 "if news that the ‘day of the Lord’ had already come could be sent by letter in the ancient world, they are clearly not thinking about the end of history as we know it." Wright is simply assuming that all believers at that time would be well versed in "the day of the Lord" in every other respect. I think this is an erroneous assumption. The parallels with today’s popular misconceptions (pre-tribulation rapture etc) are striking.

Re: Obadiah and Joel

Well, I think the problem is that I started the thread by tentatively looking at the meaning of "Day of the Lord"/"Day of wrath" etc and you seemed to take it as an affront that I was suggesting it might refer to final judgment - which is still my position.
As far as Obadiah is concerned, having established that there is an eschatological significance to part of the prophecy, (which you seemed to be denying) the difference between us comes back to the precise nature of eschatology.
I think the sticking point of the discussion is that you want to defend, ultimately, the idea that most, if not all, the time, whenever the bible talks about judgment, it is doing so within on-going history, especially history up to (and possibly ending with) the 1st century, and not beyond. You can argue that position - but it is part of an edifice which introduces many other alterations to the biblical story as it is commonly understood - some of which take us, to my mind, a long way from mainline Christian belief of any variety (which you might feel quite happy about).
Some of the passages under consideration here have more of a bearing on this wider agenda than others. My main contention is that Jesus brought a previously unheard of understanding of the way judgment operates, because it split the "end of the age" (itself always understood as an "end" within on-going history, of course) between "now" (this evil age invaded by "the powers of the age to come") and the future (a final ending of this evil age, to be replaced entirely by the age to come). That happens at the final judgment.
In Judaism, the thought was that that "day" would be one of Israel’s triumph. Actually, the prophets themselves warned that the picture would not be quite so simple. Instead of a "day" producing Israel’s concept of what that day would look like, and its corresponding "age to come", Jesus introduced an "age" which would sit alongside the "evil age", until a final judgment day in which the "evil age" would be ended, and only the "age to come", which he inaugurated previously, would continue, and be more fully expressed.
My contention also is that the NT provides an interpretation of some aspects of OTprophecy which falls into line with a final judgment of a kind which was unheard of in the Jewish version of judgment on the nations (all of them!) and "the end". To my mind (though not to yours, because of your broader agenda) Acts 2:17-21 is an outstanding example of NT discontinuity with a certain strand of OT thought, and the provision of a new horizon of understanding which Jesus had opened up - not least, dear Andrew, in his death and resurrection, because the resurrection was, in the immediate, for him alone, and not for all Israel (or at least all righteous Israel) as suggested in OT prophecy. Hence a split between "now" and "yet to come".
In your version of things, there was a more fully realised ending of one age and beginning of the future age at the time of a particularly interpreted judgment on Jerusalem and Rome in the 1st century. I don’t see that (the intrepretation, I mean), and I don’t think you can enlist "the day of the Lord" in its revised meaning to fit into that scenario. I argue that you can’t do it (completely) in the OT, and you can’t do it in the NT. In the process, I am not disputing your assertion, which is commonly recognised, that there are "days of the Lord" as well as "days of God’s wrath" occurring in history. I would just add that very often, if not always, these "days" of "wrath"/"the Lord" have in view the final "day of judgment".

Re: Day of the Lord - Day of Wrath: Judgement in history or fina

Day of the Lord – Final judgment
The discussion of the OT references to ‘day of the Lord’ observed that there were ‘day(s) of wrath’ and ‘days of the Lord’ which came in history, and suggestions in these prophecies of a ‘day’ which was beyond them all. The threads of this interweaving of ‘day(s)’ in history, and ‘a day’ which will be the culmination of history can be seen in the particular verses we looked at – excluding Ezekiel 30:3.
For Jews, the final ‘day’ was anticipated as the ‘end of the age’, when ‘this evil age’ would be ended, and Israel vindicated by the defeat of her oppressors, the return ofYHWH to a restored temple, the resurrection of the righteous dead, the outpouring of the Spirit, and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy, ruling over a restored Israel, brought about by a warrior king.
In Andrew’s eschatological scheme, the ‘day’ came about through judgments on Israel, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in AD 70, and in judgment on Rome, at an unspecified date. There is a judgment to come in a far distant horizon, when there will be new heavens and new earth. But for now, all of the predictions using the term ‘day of the Lord’ refer to days in history.
The AD 70 judgment in particular is said to have fulfilled Jesus’s prophecy in Matthew 24 and its synoptic parallels – and also verses elsewhere suggesting an imminent climaxing of the kingdom of God – expressing YHWH’s triumph over Jew and Gentile oppressors of Israel, now reconstituted around Jesus and formed into the church.
We have glanced at a few references to ‘day of wrath’ and ‘day of the Lord’, and have come to an unusual and uneasy ‘agreement in disagreement’: at least, we agree that most references in the OT to ‘day of the Lord’ are to judgments in history. But we also agreed that there was a deeper sense
“that act of judgment or salvation, however, is sometimes, but not always and not necessarily, depicted in terms that draw on a deeper expectation or ultimate hope of a final judgment and renewal of the whole of creation.”
We believe that there is a final judgment, and that this is sometimes perceived through prophecies predicting judgment in history – though Andrew says this is never described as the ‘day of the Lord’
We seemed unable to agree about the verses in particular which reflected this far distant judgment in the OT – or at least, the way in which they reflected this belief.
From its own perspective, the OT would tend to reflect a belief in final judgment as an event in history –since Israel anticipated a ‘this-worldly’ restoration, marked by certain key events already mentioned. From the perspective of the NT, a this-worldly judgment is replaced by a judgment which ushers in a new heaven and new earth.
Andrew introduces an additional dimension, however, with the suggestion that a judgment on Israel and Rome fulfilled a narrative, which he calls the ‘son of man narrative’, based on Daniel 7, in which the renewed people of God were guaranteed survival in the midst of the nations. This eschatological proposal forms something like a hinge, on which biblical history swings.The hinge now draws into itself references to ‘day of the Lord’. Expectations which have traditionally been located in the future, beyond a future final judgment, are now brought forward. According to this interpretation, we are already in the palingenesia (Matthew 19:20). The effect of this eschatological proposal is to reverse the tendency of eschatology to provide a forward and future expectation for the people of God, and to encourage them to find a this-worldly accommodation and focus on the basis of eschatology already fulfilled.
The first question about this eschatological proposal is to ask, in terms of the immediate enquiry, what is the referent of ‘day of the Lord’ in the NT?
A second question might be to look at the issue of past/future fulfilments of eschatology, and ask whether there might not be further ways of interpreting eschatology, which avoid the one extreme of ‘having already been fulfilled’ (represented by Andrew’s interpretation) and the other extreme of ‘not yet fulfilled’ which is typified in contemporary ‘prophetic calendar’ approaches. However, this must form the subject of another thread.
NT and ‘the day of the Lord’
In the NT, we looked at some verses over which there was dispute – eg Romans 2:5Revelation 6:17. Did ‘day of wrath’ in these verses refer to judgment in history, or final judgment?
Acts 2:20 ‘the great and terrible day of the Lord’ – already the subject of some discussion in its OT context, and the parallel of Joel 2:32b in Obadiah 17
‘The day of God’s wrath’ – Romans 2:5 – already the subject of some discussion, and in the light of the (limited) use of the phrase in the OT, and some exegetical cross-referencing between Romans 2 and Deuteronomy 32, suggested to be a reference to God’s activity in history.
On the other hand, Romans 2:16 – ‘In the day when God will judge the secrets of men’s hearts’ suggests that the phrase may well be a reference to a greater final judgment, in which the judging of ‘the secrets of men’s hearts’ would find a more obvious location.
1 Corinthians 1:8 – ‘That you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’. The only obvious event to which ‘day of our Lord Jesus Christ could refer here would be to an as yet unrealized judgment – beyond the immediate history of 1st century Corinth. This view is strengthened by an accumulation of evidence that ‘day of the Lord’ in the NT is actually referring to events which have not yet been realized.
1 Corinthians 3:13 – ‘His work will be shown for what it is, for the Day will bring it to light’
1 Corinthians 5:5 ‘so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord’
2 Corinthians 1:14 ‘that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus’
Ephesians 4:30 ‘the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’
Philippians 1:6 ‘he who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus’
Philippians 1:10 ‘pure and blameless until the day of Christ’
Philippians 2:16 ‘in order that I may boast on the day of Christ’
In some places, Paul seems to anticipate that the ‘day of the Lord’ is imminent,and will happen in his lifetime, before his death, and that a parousia will occur in which he personally will be involved, in some way. Were these events fulfilled in the AD 70 judgement on Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple being a parousia of the son of man, according to Matthew 24?
Yet in one of the very places where this imminent expectation is clearly expressed, Paul is already having to address the issue of those who have died before ‘the day of the Lord’ – (1 Thessalonians 5:2). So although he can say “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” – 1 Thessalonians 4:17, the context allows for the possibility that even Paul himself might meet the same fate as those who died before that event. The possibility disposes of the need to reframe the ‘rapture’ description in entirely metaphoric, apocalyptic terms, and make it refer to a more imminent historic event.
Further verses confirm the developing pattern that ‘day of the Lord’ in the NT refers to an as yet unfulfilled event, the final event of history, and not judgment within history.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 ‘for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night’
1 Thessalonians 5:4 ‘you are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief’
Taken with 2 Peter 3:10, it is very difficult to see ‘day of the Lord’ here, as well as the Matthew 24:43 ‘thief’, to be anything other than referring to the same event, and not something which could be identified with an AD 70 fulfilment.
2 Thessalonians 1:10 ‘on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed’
2 Thessalonians 2:2 ‘not to be alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us saying that the day of the Lord has already come’
2 Thessalonians 2:3 ‘for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs’
Nobody has been able to identify with any great certainty to which rebellion this refers; was it the Jewish rebellion against the Romans? Did ‘the man of lawlessness’ have a Jewish identity (arising out of that rebellion), or a Roman identity – leading to desecration of the temple? Some aspects of the prophecy seem to associate themselves with ‘the beast’ of Revelation 13 – who uttered blasphemous words, made war against the saints, was given authority over all the nations, was worshipped by all inhabitants of the earth. Was this 1st century, or yet to be fulfilled?
2 Timothy 1:12 ‘he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day’
2 Timothy 1:18 ‘may the Lord grant that he find mercy from the Lord on that day’
2 Timothy 4:8 ‘Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing’
Since the context here is of Paul’s imminent death, it seems appropriate to think of crowns being awarded on the day when all rewards are distributed, the final day of judgment.
Hebrews 10:25 – let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’ (Context of general judgment)
1 Peter 2:12 ‘glorify God on the day of visitation’
2 Peter 1:19 ‘until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts’
How could this ‘day’ be anything other than the completion of history at the day of judgment?
2 Peter 2:9 ‘to hold the righteous for the day of judgment’
2 Peter 3:7 ‘by the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men’
2 Peter 3:10 ‘but the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night’
2 Peter 3:12 ‘as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming’
2 Peter 3:12-13 ‘That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.But in keeping with his promise we are looking for forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’
1 John 4:17 ‘Love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment’
Jude 1:6 ‘bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day’
Revelation 6:17 ‘for the great day of his wrath has come’
Revelation 16:14 ‘to gather them for battle on the great day of God almighty’ (the kings of the whole world)
It seems to me that the accumulated weight of evidence supports the view that theNT modifies the pattern of the OT – and that all the references in the NT to ‘day of the Lord’ (including ‘day of wrath’, and simply ‘day’) are to final judgment. This modification entirely fits within the development of eschatology which Jesus brought in his own person, changing key aspects of Jewish expectations. A rough outline of how Jesus modified Jewish expectations can be found athttp://www.opensourcetheology.net/node/1454 (Light the blue touch-paper and retire – or await referral to the relevant sections and pages of ‘The Coming of the Son of Man’ – in which, of course, the bare references to verses are wrapped up in an all-encompassing eschatological interpretation).



  1. Just for the record, I'm not a universalist. The argument against the traditional view of hell is not an argument for universalism. I'm also not a preterist. I simply take the narrative-historical premise of the New Perspective seriously.

  2. Andrew Perriman said...

    "Just for the record, I'm not a universalist. The argument against the traditional view of hell is not an argument for universalism."

    It's a preliminary step.

    "I'm also not a preterist. I simply take the narrative-historical premise of the New Perspective seriously."

    Which is the functional equivalent of preterizing the traditional prooftexts for everlasting punishment.

  3. Steve, it may be a preliminary step for some people but it's not for me. I drive a short distance along a road that states that the New Testament does not teach a doctrine of eternal punishment in hell. I come to a T-junction. If I turn left, the road goes in the direction of universalism. If I turn right, which I do, the road goes in the direction of a narrative about a covenant people that must trust God in the midst of the crises of history with the final hope of participating in a new heavens and new earth.

    As for your second point, the New Perspective road crosses the Preterist road at a certain point, but these roads come from quite different places and are going in quite different directions.

    So I repeat, I am not a universalist and I am not a Preterist. I believe that God judges and restores his new creation people in the course of history; I believe that he delivers them from their enemies; I believe that in the Biblical story at least, he "judges" nations and cultures. I believe that Jesus' resurrection was, among other things, a concrete sign of ultimate renewal. I believe that there will be a final judgment of all the dead. I believe—in the words of Revelation—that those whose names are not written in the book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, which is a second death. I believe in a new heavens and new earth, devoid of evil and death, where the creator will make his dwelling in the midst of humanity.