Eschatological Horizon of the NT

Thesis: Eschatology is not an afterthought in the NT; nor simply the conclusion of revelation. It is the entire horizon of the revelation of the New Testament, and this should focus us on the eternal significance of Christ and the timeless urgency of the kingdom message and kingdom discipleship.

A. Introduction

1. Definition
Concerns final things. Refers to time at the end of the course of history with such radical changes that one can speak of an entirely new state of reality.

a. Note of “ephocal finality” is never missing.

The above survey includes all the Greek Old Testament instances of occurrence of the phrase [“latter days”]. Certain conclusions can be drawn from it, which here may be briefly set down: In the first place the phrase belongs strictly to the field of eschatology. It does not signify some indefinitely subsequent point or period or complication of events. The note of epochal finality is never missing in it. This should, however, not be confounded with the idea of chronological fixity. It is peculiar to the Old Testament that it makes this “acherith” or אַחֲרִית הַיָּמִֽים a sort of movable complex, capable of being pushed forward along the line of prophetic vision.  source

b. Emphasis on collective aspect (though not precluding individual)

c. Elastic in scope: sometimes points within eschaton, sometimes condensation of events

2. Research

a. Consistent Eschatology – Johannes Weiss (1892) and Albert Schweitzer (1901): Resisted liberalism’s tendency to view Jesus merely as “moral teacher”: Jesus an “apocalypticist with eschatological timetable (“failed”)

b. Realized Eschatology – C. H. Dodd (1961): especially parables and sayings of Jesus: Christ taught “essential presence of kingdom of God”; kingdom: “the manifest and effective assertion of divine sovereignty against all the evil of the world”: cf. John and Hebrews: rest: “apocalyptized Jesus’ message”

c. Proleptic Eschatology – J. Jeremias, O. Cullmann, W. G. Kümmel and Ladd: Jesus held a “paradoxical juxtaposition of the kingdom of God as both a present reality and future.”

d. Deemphasizing Eschatology – Increasingly, scholars view Christ more as teacher, sage, rabbi, etc., and relegate eschatological motifs to “later additions”

3. Question – What place does eschatology have in Biblical Theology? Is it a final chapter or even an afterthought? Is it an opening chapter, or some part of the whole?
Thesis: Eschatology is not a part of the whole of biblical theology, but a horizon of the whole. It is the plane on which all the events of redemptive history are fulfilled in Christ. The OT prepared for this era, and John inaugurated this era, as a herald for the king. No essentially new horizon will take its place, though it fulfillment will be furthered. This ought to inform our life and preaching.

B. Expectations

1. The Protological complex

a. Creation – Fall (Rev 20-21)
b. Flood – Salvation (2 Pet 3)
c. The Civilization – Worship (Rev 18; 19)

2. The Patriarchal complex

a. Promise – Seed – Land – Blessing (International) (Gal 4)
b. Pilgrim life vs. destruction of Sodom (2 Pet 2)

3. The Mosaic complex

a. Plagues and Exodus (Red Sea) (Rev 15)
b. Epiphany (Horeb) (Rev 11:19)
c. Blessings and Curses (Matt 25:34, 41)
d. Rebellion and Rest (Heb 4)
e. Wilderness and Inheritance (Heb 11)

4. Davidic complex

a. Wars upon Zion’s foes (Ps 46)
b. Coming of the great King (Ps 72)

5. The Prophetic Preaching

a. Judgment: the day of the LORD: Amos, Zephaniah, Ezekiel
b. Future king (cf. Isa 7:14; Jer 23:5-6)
c. Salvation: new covenant (Jer 31; Ezek 11)
d. Shaking heaven / earth (Haggai; Zechariah)

C. Realizations

1. Christ

a. John the Baptist: Luke 1:17; Luke 3
b. The Coming of Christ: Gal 4:4; Reign as King forever: Luke 1:33
c. Kingdom of God: Mark 1:15: time fulfilled: kingdom come: Luke 16:16
d. Parables: Matt 13:41, 47
e. Healing: Matt 12:29; John 9:39; note: raising dead: John 11:34-35
f. Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
g. Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ: Luke 23:42-46; Matt 28:1-5;

2. Main Apostles

a. Peter: Acts 2:17
b. James: James 5:1-7
c. Jude 17-29

3. Paul

a. Prominence: Gospel articulated in eschatological way: 1 Thess 1:9ff.
b. Features

i. Polarity
– Adam & New Adam (Rom 5:12-22; 1 Cor 15:45-47)
– Worlds (Eph 1:21)

ii. Protology
– Creation: Rom 8:22
– Principalities and powers; elements of the world: Col 2: Gal 4

4. John

a. Revelation – Depicts whole course of history from first to second coming eschatologically and symbolically

b. Gospel and Epistles – The coming of Christ means judgment in that it reveals faith and unbelief (John 3:19).
Believers possess eternal life already (1 John 3:13; John 3:36)
There is also a future aspect (14:3; 21:21-23, etc.)

D. Import

1. Proclamation
Col 1:25; Eph 3:9; Rom 16:25
Rev 11
2. Ethics
1 Peter 4:7-11
1 Cor 7:29-31
3. Worship
Heb 12:22-24
Rev 1:10
4. Sacraments
Col 2:10-15: Stauffer: “Jesus called his dying a baptism. Paul in turn called our baptism a dying.”
1 Cor 11:28-32: self-examination: voluntarily arraigning ourselves, to plead guilty and only so to approach the sacrament

E. Test-Cases

1. Matt 12:24-26
2. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17
3. 1 John 1:1-3