Good Question: Was Jesus a failed apocalyptic prophet that the embarrassed church had to re-work into something different?

[draft: Oct 24/2012]

(This is a different question than 'Was Jesus a Failed Messiah?')


Hi Glen(sic) Miller,

I recently discovered your excellent site when I was looking up arguments to go against an atheist with, and I was and am impressed with the high level of research and time that you put into each of the hard questions you tackle. So when I came across a blog post on a forum that really bothered me, I felt that you may do the best job of refuting it.

My apologetics question is basically, "Was Jesus a Failed Eschatological Prophet?" This is not just asking about a few verses, but about the purpose of Jesus' ministry and its "apparent" unfulfillment. Numerous references by Jesus (and other New Testament writers) to a nearing of the end times have always bothered me in the back of my mind, but this blog post (which I will copy in its entirety here) really shakes my faith. It basically tries to show that the thrust of Jesus' message was that His end-times kingdom was coming very soon, and all his followers like Paul and John believed this. Then when this didn't come true, the church distanced itself from the end times, such as in the last Gospel, John, where its message focuses more on eternal life than the apocalypse. I had originally came across this post in a forum because I was bothered with Jesus' statement in Matthew 26:64 that the high priest would see Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven. Yet this post I found was much broader in its attacks on Jesus and the New Testament message.

By the way, I did search your topics list to see if you addressed this issue, and your article to a Finland reader ( was very helpful. I do not ask that you repeat your responses from that article, but only I wish that you would answer some of the other arguments mentioned in the blog post that has been bothering me, which is below (I apologize for the length of this post -- but I'm truly troubled by it):



PART SIX ==================== (see Part One for series header)


[This is a continuation of the question started in Part 5: "Is there a clear pattern of successive watering down of Jesus' prediction of the eschaton within the generation of His disciples? (Specifically under the assumption of the priority of Mark)?" Part 5 examined the data from the Synoptic gospels; this Part 6 will examine the rest of the NT documents.]



As we continue on with the other NT documents, we should be reminded that we have already cited one assessment that points out that no pattern of linear development can be demonstrated.


"A closer look at the developments and concepts in early Jewish eschatology field can prevent from following some of the inadequate and simplifying categories developed in the history of New Testament research. From the perspective of Jewish texts, not only the divide between future-orientation and present-orientation or between eschatology and apocalyptic appear rather inappropriate but also the argument that apparently conflicting eschatologies point to different groups or authors is considerably weakened in view of the fact that early Jewish compositions (such as the Enochic texts) or even more larger corpora (such as the 'sectarian' writings from Qumran or the Qumran library as a whole) can combine quite different eschatological views without any hint that they might be incompatible. ... Any concept of linear development in early Christian thought, e.g. from Jewish towards Gentile or Hellenistic concepts, from a short-term future-orientation to present-oriented or timeless concepts or from apocalyptic to non-apocalyptic viewpoints appears too uniform and simplistic and cannot be maintained in view of the variety of the material. Such concepts were too often conjectured from modern ideas of history or from dogmatic viewpoints and particular hermeneutical interests, and are better avoided in historical research." [HI:ENTSRD, 28]


Allison, who accepts/defends the 'failed apocalyptic prophet' position (similar to the blogger's) also notes that that data is ambiguous--that one can see both  'more apocalyptic' and a 'less apocalyptic' trends in the data of the NT and early church. In this passage, he describes these:


"This makes it easy to imagine that, as time moved on, there was a "momentous influx of apocalyptic ideas," and that Jesus was, in the words of my teacher W. D. Davies, "increasingly draped in an apocalyptic mantle and specifically Jewish expectations developed in the Church in a form highly enhanced from that which they had assumed in Jesus' own teaching." Does not critical study of the canonical Gospels offer the proof? Whatever one makes of the thesis that Q2 added apocalyptic materials to Q1, there is, on the postulate of Markan priority, no doubt that Matthew at least enlarged the number of sayings in which Jesus refers to the final judgment. According to John A. T. Robinson, "the Synoptists witness to a progressive apocalypticization of the message of Jesus ... as the Gospel of Matthew most forcibly illustrates." ...  All this, however, makes for a one-sided story. Early Christianity also moved in the opposite direction. Paul's Naherwartung is most intense in 1 Thessalonians, his earliest extant letter, less intense in the later Paulines and in the epistles that his circle produced (e.g., Ephesians and Titus). Again, Luke 9:27 drops "with power" from Mark 9:1 ("There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power") and thereby makes it easier to find fulfillment in something this side of the parousia, while Luke 22:69 turns the prophecy of the parousia in Mark 14:62 ('"You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven'") into a statement about Jesus' enthronement ("From now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God"). And John's Gospel, probably composed after the Synoptics, contains fewer apocalyptic materials than they and uses (kingdom of God/heaven) a scant two times. For reasons such as these, a few have inverted the conclusion of Streeter, von Dobschiitz, and the rest: apocalyptic passion declined over the decades. According to Paula Fredriksen, for instance, "the later the writing, the lower its level of commitment to an imminent Apocalypse; the earlier the writing (i.e., Mark and, before him, Paul) the higher." Bultmann even proposed that Jesus "was probably far more an eschatological prophet than is apparent from the tradition."  ... The truth is that, concerning early Christianity, plotting a one-way eschatological development traverses the facts. A graph would not display a single vector pointing in a single direction. While eschatological enthusiasm was waning in one place, it was waxing in another; there was no unilinear rise or decline." [NT:CJ, 142,143]


We concluded in earlier parts of this study that:


1.      The possible timing passages provide no evidence in favor of watering-down.

2.      The eschatological passages provide no evidence in favor of watering-down.

3.      Both sets of passages provide SOME evidence against WD (i.e., by showing the presence of all 3 types of eschat-frameworks in all 3 synoptics).



Now, the final step in this particular sub-question is to overlay the other NT writings (except the Gospel of John which has its own question below) on top of the Synoptics and see if the alleged WD trend is somehow in the non-gospels.



The problem with document dating...


[We should note, however, that if non-conservative dating is used for MR, MT, and LK, then our discussion has already spanned much of the NT literature time frame. Since we did not detect any WD in that timeframe, then whatever we find in the time-pockets INSIDE that longer timeframe (ie in the epistles, written before a late-date LK) will not be actually decisive, because they will be overridden by the later data in LK (which does NOT support WD).


In other words, if the earliest document we have (let's say a late-date MR) has the same mix of the 3 eschat-frameworks that the latest document we have (let's say a late-date LK), then it doesn't matter what any literature written BETWEEN those two endpoints teaches. They may teach apocky or realized or inaugurated eschat, but since something before them and after them teach all three, they will be easily interpreted as being 'merely an emphasis' or 'authorial selection'.


Of course, if we used early-dating for the epistles and if we assumed some of these to be earlier than a late-dated MR, then the epistles could constitute the 'earliest' strata and therefore become the baseline.


This would not necessarily be the case with a more conservative dating scheme, since there could easily be epistles later than an early-date LK.


But the dating of the documents is virtually impossible to use as a starting point, because the estimates are all over the map. Consider this summary:


"Several kinds of evidence are used to determine the chronology of NT writings. References in the Pauline Letters concerning travel plans and historical events and persons make them the most reliably datable of the writings. A few references to datable historical events and persons provide a framework for the chronology of the Gospels, but estimates in this area remain tentative. Efforts to reconstruct the historical setting of other writings are highly subjective and produce only probable ranges of dates. Recent scholarship indicates decreasing certainty and agreement in such reconstructions. Thus, Revelation and 1 Peter are dated A.D. 64-95; James and Hebrews, 55-95; and Luke-Acts, 64-90. Disagreements regarding authenticity produce dates for the pastoral Letters in the early 60s or the 90s, Ephesians and Colossians in 55-60 or 80-90, and 2 Peter and Jude in the 60s or 100-135. Those accepting the hypothesis of a ‘Q’ source for the synoptic Gospels date it ca. 50-60, while scholars accepting the priority of Mark debate whether to place it just before or just after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Matthew is dated ca. 85 by most scholars, though some still argue for the mid-60s. There is more agreement in placing John’s Gospel ca. 90-100 and the Johannine Epistles around 100, but the arguments are not conclusive. Only the Pauline Letters can be dated with a high measure of certainty, with 1 Thessalonians (and 2 Thessalonians if authentic) around 49-50, Galatians in 53-54, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Philemon in 55-56, and Romans in 56-57. If Philippians was written from an Ephesian imprisonment, as is most probable, it can be placed in 54-55; otherwise, a few years later." [Achtemeier, P. J., & Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed.) (165). San Francisco: Harper & Row.]


So, the way I will approach this--given this uncertainty--is to look at the books FIRST. If a book shows some 'mix' of the 3 frameworks, then I do not need to place it on a timeline--since it meshes in nicely with the 3 synoptics already. As such, that book would provide additional data against the WD hypothesis.


If, on the other hand, the book repudiates one or more of the frameworks, and/or teaches one framework in such a way as to preclude the other two, then we will have to address the document dating possibilities.


Notice one important aspect of this criteria: it requires a positive indication of 'rejection' of an alternative position. In other words, if a passage expounds some futurist eschatological perspective, but does NOT positively repudiate a realized or inaugurated perspective (either by explicit statement or by a statement that precludes the other positions), then it cannot count as data supporting a 'change of perspective' (ie, either watering-down or distilling-up).


This aspect is forced on us by the fact that the three eschat frameworks are all present in various passages, in various mixes already. Thus, the presence of one element cannot in itself imply the denial of the other. We might consider this some kind of "paradox"--but it is certainly present in the synoptic material we have looked at (e.g., "the time is indeed coming--in fact, is already here"!) and is present likewise throughout the Pauline material:


"In the letters Paul wrote to the church in the Greek city of Thessalonica in the early 50s of the first century, there is a considerable emphasis on the expectation of the early Christians that Jesus would return in glory. Paul himself obviously shared this expectation, though not in the same extreme fashion as the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). In Corinth, on the other hand, the same Paul knew people who believed that the conventional descriptions of the end of things were to be taken as symbols of their own spiritual experience—and to them he again emphasized his own belief that Jesus would return in the future (1 Corinthians 15:3–57). At the same time—and paradoxically, perhaps—Paul himself was not totally one-sided in the matter, for in Galatians, one of his earliest letters, he suggested that in a very real sense the fullness of God’s kingdom had come and was already at work in those who were Christians. [Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the New Testament (Completely rev. and updated.) (115). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.]


To try to illustrate the distinction I am trying to make here, consider the following statements:


1.      I believe that event X will happen in the future.

2.      I believe that event X happened in the past.

3.      I believe that event X is in the process of happening in the present.

4.      I believe that event X began in the past, is still happening now, and will finish happening in the future.

5.      I believe that event X happened in the past, is happening again now in a different form, and will yet happen again in the future, in another (heightened) form.


Examples of these might be:


1.      I believe we will be saved when the Lord returns [theol: glorification, redemption of body]

2.      I believe we were saved at the point in which we placed our trust in Jesus. [theol: justification, new birth, passing from death to life, our judgment completed already on the Cross]

3.      I believe we are being saved from the power of self-sin and from the anti-truth deceptions of the world [theol: progressive sanctification, Spirit's inner teaching ministry]

4.      I believe that Jesus was the creator and first entrant into a New Creation, that the Spirit is creating a new person inside each person who trusts Christ, and that God will make a new heavens and earth at the eschaton--all a part of a single process initiated by the triune God at the resurrection of Jesus. [theol: New Creation, renewal of all things, Creation in bondage to decay, Christ as firstborn from the dead, etc.]

5.      I believe that the end-time sufferings/persecutions fell on Christ during His life/death, that another round of end-time sufferings/persecutions are falling on the Church, and that a another--more severe--round of end-time sufferings/persecutions will fall on the children of God during the future Great Tribulation. These are not a part of an uninterrupted single process, but rather escalating versions of the same 'type' or genus. [Similar to some of the understandings of the 'anti-Christ' / eschatological antagonist  figure in Daniel: the Seleucid one (BC), the Roman one (AD), the mini-ones of 1st John, and the eschatological giant one of Thess/Revelation. All are 'types' of the same core identity/character. They do not share a 'genetic/physical origin', but all share a 'teleological/spiritual origin']



The New Testament believer affirms all five of these (with some exceptions to the details of my eschatological anti-Christ example in number 5). Yet, we do not hold that these are 'competing views' nor paradoxes nor inconsistencies. Most of these have aspects and nuances that have been discovered and explored over the centuries, as the people of God probed with delight the written revelation of God's loving and loyal and redemptive actions in history.


More importantly--for our purposes--none of these statements 'repudiate' any of the others, either explicitly or implicitly.




Contrast these with:


1.      I believe that event X will happen in the future, because it has not even started happening yet.

2.      I believe that event X happened in the past, is over-and-done-with, and will not reoccur in any form in the future--until the very end.

3.      I believe that event X is in the process of happening in the present, and will be completely finished before the End comes.



For example:

1.      I believe that the Kingdom of God will come only in the extreme future, because it has not come yet--neither in the person of the King (Jesus), nor in the eschatological gift of the Spirit (at Pentecost, and at every subsequent new-birth events of those who place their confidence in Jesus as their redemptive agent. We have nothing of what we were promised and have hoped for (under kingdom terminology)--except for greater confidence that we will receive it in the future. Any references to K-words in the post-Cross church must refer to this extreme future reality.

2.      I believe that the Kingdom of God came in the person of the King (Jesus) and was rejected totally by His generation. God substituted the 'church' for this interim period, but will 'forcefully re-introduce' the Kingdom at the glorious return of the Lord. There is no kingdom in play now. Any references to K-words in the post-Cross church must refer to this extreme future reality.

3.      I believe that the Kingdom of God is being built NOW in the church--slowly but surely--and when it has come to a complete and perfect status, the end of time will be here. There will not be any 'upheaval' or massive cosmic 'makeover' required (under the terminology of 'kingdom'). Any references to K-words in the post-Cross church must refer to our present experience ONLY.


These statements DO repudiate one another, explicitly. And we could convert these explicit statements into implicit ones if we needed to illustrate that (e.g, "because it has not yet come" into "not experiencing it now, we hope for...") If we get these kinds of statements, then we have 'cause to pause' to consider having to date the document under study.





So we now have to turn to the other NT documents, assess what mix of the 3 eschat-frameworks are present in them, and see if any trends between them and between the 3 synoptics become apparent.


Let's start with some of the books 'most likely to be early' (perhaps earlier than a late-date MR, pre-70AD)--some of the Pauline material.



The Pauline material (earliest stuff).


This material is actually easy to cover, since scholars have long associated Paul the theologian with being the main (?) proponent of inaugurated eschatology (the already-and-not-yet position). Some scholars, historically, actually argued that he was the actual originator of the position, although this conclusion was based on their belief that Jesus was not the originator of it.


Paul is a prime example of the use of future-eschat, present-eschat, and inaugurated eschatological motifs and apocalyptic material.


One summary of his earliest writings is by Aune and it discusses the connection between main apocalyptic themes (especially dualism) and Paul's versions of those:


"There are four relatively extensive apocalyptic scenarios in the Pauline letters, three of which center on the Parousia of Jesus (1 Thess 4:13–18; 2 Thess 1:5–12; 1 Cor 15:51–57), and the so-called “Pauline apocalypse,” which centers on the coming of the eschatological antagonist (2 Thess 2:1–12). There are also a number of shorter scenarios which appear to be formulaic in character and therefore of pre-Pauline or extra-Pauline origin (1 Thess 1:9–10; 3:13; 5:23)." [NT:DictPL, s.v. "Paul and Jewish Apocalyptic", D.E. Aune]


"Temporal or Eschatological Dualism. In continuity with the temporal dualistic thought of Jewish apocalypticism, Paul also contrasted the present evil age with the coming age of salvation (Gal 1:4; Rom 8:18; 1 Cor 1:26; see Eph 5:16) and believed that he was living at the end of the ages (1 Cor 10:11). Yet Paul considerably modified the sharp distinction usually made in apocalyptic thought between these two ages. Paul understood the death and resurrection of Jesus in the past as cosmic eschatological events that separated “this age” (Rom 12:2; 1 Cor 1:20; 2:6), or “this present evil age” (Gal 1:4), from “the age to come.” This present age is dominated by rulers, demonic powers who are doomed to pass away (1 Cor 2:6–7) ---  Paul’s belief in the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah convinced him that eschatological events had begun to take place within history, and that the resurrection of Jesus was part of the traditional Jewish expectation of the resurrection of the righteous (1 Cor 15:20–23). For Paul the present is a temporary period between the death and resurrection of Christ and his return in glory in which those who believe in the gospel share in the salvific benefits of the age to come (Gal 1:4; 2 Cor 5:17). This temporary period is characterized by the eschatological gift of the Spirit of God who is experienced as present within the Christian community in general as well as within particular believers who are members of the Christian community (Rom 8:9–11; 1 Cor 6:19; 12:4–11; 1 Thess 4:8). While Paul did not explicitly use the phrase “the age to come” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Galatians 6:15, he uses the phrase “new creation,” a phrase with apocalyptic associations (Is 65:17; 66:22; Rev 21:1). Though the final consummation still lay in the future, for Christians the new age was present because the Messiah had come. --- The basic salvation-history framework of Paul’s thought incorporates within it the apocalyptic notion of the two successive ages. This is evident in Romans 5:12–21 where Paul schematizes history in terms of the two realms of Adam and Christ, which are both made part of present experience. Paul therefore made an “already”/“not yet” distinction, indicated by his use of the indicative and imperative in passages such as Galatians 5:25: “If we live [indicative] in the Spirit, let us also walk [imperative] in the Spirit.” While the flesh has been crucified with Christ (Gal 2:20; 3:24; 6:14; Rom 6:2, 6–7, 22; 8:13), the desires of the flesh still pose temptations for Christians (Gal 5:16–18; Rom 6:12–14; 8:5–8). The daily obedience of the Christian provides the continual and necessary authentication of their original act of believing in Christ until the future redemption of creation and the freedom of the children of God becomes a reality (Rom 8:19–20). [Hawthorne, G. F., Martin, R. P., & Reid, D. G. (1993). Dictionary of Paul and his letters (31–32). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]


"Psychological or Microcosmic Dualism. Assuming that the structure of Paul’s theology is in part the product of his adaptation of Jewish apocalypticism as the framework for understanding the significance of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah, that same apocalyptic framework had a profound effect on the way in which he understood the effects of salvation on individual Christians. The basic structure of Jewish apocalypticism consisted of a temporal or eschatological dualism consisting of two ages, the present era (a period of oppression by the wicked), which will be succeeded by a blissful future era. While Jewish apocalypticism had a largely future orientation, Paul’s recognition of the fact that Jesus was the Messiah who was a figure of the past as well as the present and future, led him to introduce some significant modifications. The most significant modification is the softening of the distinction between this age and the age to come with his emphasis on the hidden presence of the age to come within the present age. --- Paul exhibits a tendency to conceptualize human nature and existence as a microcosmic version of a Christianized form of apocalyptic eschatology. In other words, the apocalyptic structure of history was considered paradigmatic for understanding human nature. In effect the Christian person is situated at the center of history in the sense that in him or her the opposing powers which dominate the cosmos are engaged in a struggle. Just as Paul’s Christian form of apocalyptic thought is characterized by a historical or eschatological dualism consisting in the juxtaposition of the old and new ages, so his view of human nature reflected a similarly homologous dualistic structure. This is evident in 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NRSV): “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Here Paul uses the basic apocalyptic expectation of the renewal of creation (i.e., the inauguration of the age to come) following the destruction of the present evil age as a paradigm for the transformation experienced by the individual Christian who has moved from unbelief to belief. Thus the apocalyptic expectation of an impending cosmic change from the present evil age to the future age of salvation has become paradigmatic for the transformation of the individual believer (see Creation and New Creation). --- Since this apocalyptic transformation affects only those “in Christ,” the external world and its inhabitants remain under the sway of the old age. The new age is thus concealed in the old age. The phrase “new creation” refers to the renewal or re-creation of heaven and earth following the destruction of the old cosmos (Is 65:17; 66:22; 1 Enoch 91:16; 72:1; 2 Apoc. Bar. 32:6; 44:12; 49:3; 57:2; Bib. Ant. 3:10; 2 Pet 3:11–13; Rev 21:1)."  [NT:DictPL, s.v. "Paul and Jewish Apocalyptic", D.E. Aune]



Again, the earliest Pauline documents show this future-inside-the-present position clearly:


"In the letters Paul wrote to the church in the Greek city of Thessalonica in the early 50s of the first century, there is a considerable emphasis on the expectation of the early Christians that Jesus would return in glory. Paul himself obviously shared this expectation, though not in the same extreme fashion as the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 4:13–5:11; 2 Thessalonians 2:1–12). In Corinth, on the other hand, the same Paul knew people who believed that the conventional descriptions of the end of things were to be taken as symbols of their own spiritual experience—and to them he again emphasized his own belief that Jesus would return in the future (1 Corinthians 15:3–57). At the same time—and paradoxically, perhaps—Paul himself was not totally one-sided in the matter, for in Galatians, one of his earliest letters, he suggested that in a very real sense the fullness of God’s kingdom had come and was already at work in those who were Christians. [Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the New Testament (Completely rev. and updated.) (115). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.]



So, the overall perspective on Paul (especially the early literature) is that his writings do not water-down the eschatological teachings of Jesus, but fully manifest both the apocalyptic thrust and the 'realized eschatology' aspects of the Lord's teaching.


Salvation is spoken of as both past (occurring at the time when an individual first understands and accepts as true that Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross was a deliberate act by God to free them from the ultimate penalty of their moral failures)  and future (when the Lord Jesus returns, the cosmos is re-made, and the New Future begins). Judgment of evil is spoken of as past (Jesus bearing our own evil on Himself--being condemned in our place--a 'ransom for many') and as future (eg, the resurrection of the dead, to stand before the Final Judgment).


And we will often note the similarity of images and terms in His writings with the teachings of Jesus and the other apostles.


We can note scholarly summaries of the individual books by Paul (and/or associated with his teachings--depending on your view of the authenticity of the canonical ascriptions).




"Initially, Paul states that the Gospel is the power of God to save everyone who believes (1:16). The salvation will take place in the future, but in 8:1 Paul says that already 'now' there is no 'condemnation'  for those who are in Christ Jesus. How is this possible? Paul develops the theme of the future salvation of those in Christ from 3:21 onwards, stating that God is at present (3:26) demonstrating, giving proof that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. This proof of God's justifying power can presently be given, because, still at the right point in time (5:6), Christ died for those who were weak and impious. The wrath of God was revealed upon them (1:18), but timely, before they perished, died, Christ died 'for' them (5:6). The effect of his death is to save them from this pending peril. They are 'redeemed' (3:24). Their future salvation is elaborated upon in 5:9-10. God is the agent of the verb in the passive, he will save those who are already justified from the 'wrath'. His saving act, however, is done through Christ (5:9). Those who are already reconciled to God will be saved 'by the life' of his Son (5:10). It is the resurrected Son through whom God will save. It is however the former 'impious' who have been justified, the reconciled 'enemies' who will be saved. A close look at Rom 5:9-10 reveals that the future salvation by God through Christ the Son presupposes the well-timed death of the Son. The wider context confirms that those who believe are already justified (5:1), they already have accepted the reconciliation, already have peace with God through their resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ (5:1,11)." [HI:ENTSRD, 187f]


"Salvation is spoken of in past, present, and future terms. We have been saved—by Christ’s death on the cross and our faith in him. We are being saved—by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, changing us day by day increasingly into the likeness of Christ. We will be saved—from God’s wrath on the day of final judgment, when those who belong to Christ will experience salvation in all its fullness. Though we are already saved and experience something of God’s glory here and now, the full experience of salvation always awaits the future. This dual outlook is what gives rise to the already/not-yet tension found in Paul’s letters. --- Thus, salvation, in Paul’s letters, is not simply a matter of being forgiven or rescued from God’s wrath. It is a much more comprehensive, multifaceted concept, with past, present, and future dimensions, all dealing with the fundamental problem of sin. The goal of salvation is to free us in every way from sin and its consequences—to make us God’s pure people, reflecting the likeness of Christ and the glory of God himself, both in this life and in the life to come (8:29–30; 2 Cor 3:18)." [Mohrlang, R., & Gerald L. Borchert. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 14: Romans and Galatians (18). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.]


"8.24. in hope we have been saved. Although Paul usually speaks of salvation as eschatological, as something still awaited (see 5:9, 10; 9:27; 10:1, 9, 10, 13; 11:11, 14, 26; 13:11; 1 Thess 2:16; 5:9; Phil 2:12; 1 Cor 3:15; 5:5; 7:16; 9:22; 10:33), he now casts his expression in the past tense, using the aor. pass. esōthēmen, “we have been saved.” Thus salvation is recognized as an effect of the Christ-event, already achieved (ephapax, 6:4); but the aorist may also be gnomic, expressing a general truth (BDF §333). But he adds to it a dative of manner, “in/by hope” (BDF §198.4), thus preserving an eschatological nuance, for “salvation” is not yet fully attained. Thus Paul combines the two aspects of salvation: “we are saved,” because of what Christ Jesus has already done for humanity, but we still await the full achievement of that status. See 1 Thess 1:3: “the steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”" [Fitzmyer, J. A., S.J. (2008). Vol. 33: Romans: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Anchor Yale Bible (515). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.]


“Salvation” and its cognates are widely used in both the Greek world and the LXX to depict deliverance from a broad range of evils. The NT as a whole uses “salvation” and its cognates with much of the same broad range of meaning as the OT, whereas Paul uses the words only of spiritual deliverance. Moreover, his focus is eschatological: “salvation” is usually the deliverance from eschatological judgment that is finalized only at the last day. Characteristic, however, of Paul’s (and the NT’s) outlook is the conviction that these eschatological blessings are, to some extent, enjoyed by anyone the moment he or she trusts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. It is because of this “already” focus in Paul’s salvation-historical perspective that he can speak of Christians as “saved” in this life.  --- The moment a sinner places his or her faith in Christ, he or she is justified—the final verdict is read back into his or her present experience in a characteristic example of NT “inaugurated eschatology.”" [Moo, D. J. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans. The New International Commentary on the New Testament (66–67, 87). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.]


"The present time of verse 11 is not clock-time, but the unique moment of time which began in God’s sending his Son (Mark 1:15; Gal. 4:4–6) and which concludes at the final revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord of all. It is the eschatological moment which transforms the otherwise monotony of time into an opportunity for decision and salvation. Paul utilizes imagery common to other NT writers in verses 11–14 (the hour [v. 11], waking from slumber [v. 11], night and day [v. 12]) to admonish believers to faithfulness before the coming Day of the Lord. --- The present is a time of night and slumber, when the mind (see 12:2) is weak and inactive, and when ignorance, confusion, and wickedness prevail. But the night is nearly over (v. 12), and the day of salvation is nearer now than when we first believed (cf. Heb. 10:25; 2 Apoc. Bar. 23:7; 1 Enoch 51:2). Note the imagery. Paul does not say that people are getting better, or that the world is improving, or that humanity will find a way to overcome its problems and usher in the kingdom of God. Not even believers determine the nearness of salvation, but the nearness of salvation determines them. The present is a time of crisis not because of anything we do, but because of what God will do in the future. Even now the light of the coming age shines into the darkness of the present. With Abraham, believers see deadness in their bodies and the world around them (4:19); but because of the resurrection of Jesus and the beginnings of new life in them, they know that the deadness is not the final reality. " [Edwards, J. R. (2011). Romans. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (315). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.]


We should note here, however, that Paul does not really teach much about eschatology in Romans. His focus is on other issues he wants to cover, and the omission and/or lack of emphasis on the Eschaton is a matter of authorial intent, not of any 'lack of commitment to' or 'watering down of' an eschatological position.



Schreiner notes:


"Nonetheless, classifying Romans as a summary of Paul’s theology is unpersuasive. Central Pauline teachings are missing or only spoken of in a glancing way. For instance, nothing at all is said about the Lord’s Supper, and it is difficult to believe that this was not central to Paul’s thought since it was celebrated often in the early church (cf. 1 Cor. 11:17–34). One would also be hard pressed to derive Paul’s thinking about the church from Romans. His few comments on the church (e.g., Rom. 12:3–8) scarcely constitute an in-depth treatment of the subject, especially when we compare Romans to 1 Corinthians and Ephesians. Similarly, Paul’s eschatology is undeveloped in Romans. The imminent parousia is not given up (Rom. 13:11–14), and other statements about the resurrection appear occasionally (e.g., Rom. 8:11). Yet no detailed discussion or explanation of the resurrection occurs, such as we see in 1 Cor. 15 or 1 Thess. 4:13–5:11. Finally, a well-articulated Christology is not present in Romans. This is not to deny that one could by implication derive a high Christology from Romans (cf. Rom. 1:3–4). What is missing, though, is a compact theological exposition such as exists in Phil. 2:6–11 or Col. 1:15–20. It seems unsatisfactory, therefore, to describe Romans as a summary of Paul’s theology, since it is not a comprehensive treatment. We need to investigate why the particular contents of the letter, which contains a fuller exposition of Paul’s theology than is found in other letters, have been sent to Rome." [Schreiner, T. R. (1998). Vol. 6: Romans. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (15–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. ]


We will see this principle often in this series, as some mistakenly argue that 'lack of emphasis on' implies 'lack of commitment to' (eg, John's Gospel).



So, in spite of this lack of emphasis or comprehensive explication of Paul's views in Romans, we still note that the past/future aspects of the work of Christ are seen and are in continuity with the gospel traditions.




Excursus: Brief note on 'kingdom' terminology, especially in Paul.


Closely related to this issue of the commitment-requires-emphasis perspective, is the notion that eschatological talk (or maybe, apocalyptic talk) requires 'kingdom' images and/or terminology to be 'properly' eschatological.


Some might argue that a shift from 'kingdom' to 'eternal life' or 'kingdom' to 'Spirit-within-you' terminology implies a watering-down of apocalyptic belief.


We might agree that the presence of Kingdom-words would be a positive indicator of an apocalyptic perspective (or maybe eschatological, depending on the 'tense' of the Kingdom content in the passage), but it would a very weak argument from silence to move to the opposite conclusion (i.e, absence of K-words implied 'no interest in' or 'no commitment to' eschat/apok-ish beliefs as espoused by Jesus in the Synoptics).


This position that "the adoption/usage of non-K words for eschatological content implies anti-eschatological/apocalyptic beliefs" has a couple of problems:


One. Kingdom terminology in the Synoptics is mixed in with the other terminology of eschatology and soteriology, and there is little-to-no bifurcation of intent, emphasis, or meaning per se.


If you look at the table of eschat-apok-ish passages (Kterms.html) from the synoptics, you can see that there are 71 clear passages with these.  There are 58 in Matthew (with 35 having 'kingdom of something' in them, 60%), 35 in Mark (with only 12 having such, 34%), and 50 in Luke (with 24 such, 50%). This shows that Kingdom terminology is present in less than half of the eschat/apok-ish passages.


We can compare this with non-Kingdom terminology (e.g. life, eternal life, justification, general apocalyptic images, resurrection, and references to the more-oblique "descendent of David", glory, and year of Jubilees). Of the 71 passages, 23 of them contain these streams of terminology (32%).


This argues that a writer could use non-Kingdom terminology to refer to the same content referred to by Kingdom terminology. For example, the Rich Young Man/Ruler asks about eternal life, but in Jesus' subsequent teaching to His disciples He uses the 'kingdom' word. There can be little doubt that the two themes (ie, eternal life, kingdom entry) are tightly interconnected.


So, theoretically, Paul or Peter or the author of Hebrews could speak about kingdom-centric, apok-ish content without being required to use the kingdom-related word group (ie, basileia). [Of course, all of these authors DO use kingdom terminology, but they would not be required to do so.]


Two. Even within parallel synoptic passages, one author might simply drop the kingdom terminology--and there is no WD pattern that fits this. So, in the six passages charted in Komits.html, MT has a K-word 4 times where MR has none; MR has KoG equated with 'life' once-where MT only has 'life'; and Luke has 'for the sake of the K' where MT/MR have 'for MY sake'. There is just no way to turn K-talk into a technical 'closed group' [although context might narrow the focus down considerably, of course--'the K suffers violence, with people forcing their way into it...', for example.]


Three. But apart from usage, building any case on K-word patterns has the significant 'prior work' step of deciding whether K-term in any given passage is a futurist reference, a 'realized eschat' reference, or an 'inaugurated eschat' reference. Many, many of the Synoptic K-words can be seen as reflecting the latter two (ie, non-futurist, non-apok-ish).


L.D. Hurst (in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, s.v. "Ethics of Jesus") presents evidence that the K-words are more about the present than about the future. Here is his summary:


"Ethics and the Presence of the Kingdom. As noted above, any attempt to limit the kingdom in Jesus’ teaching to either present or future is to be rejected. Both elements are present in the Gospels—although, as we shall see, the present aspects far outweigh the future as the backdrop for Jesus’ ethical pronouncements. --- Those passages which indicate that the kingdom of God is in some sense still to come are, of course, not difficult to trace. Mark occasionally uses “the kingdom of God” to refer to that eternal life beyond the grave which is the goal of the process (9:47; 14:25). In another sense Jesus is a king who has not yet entered his royal status (10:37), whose coronation occurs only when the places on his right and his left are occupied by those to whom they have been assigned (15:17, 27). Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer contains the phrase “your kingdom come” (Lk 11:2)—although Matthew adds the gloss, “your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (6:10), which shows that for him God’s reign is active on earth so long as there are human agents to do his will. In Mark 14:25 (par. Mt 26:29 and Lk 22:18) Jesus says, “I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine until I drink it new in the kingdom of God,” while Matthew 7:21–22 and 25:34 depict the kingdom as the final reward of the righteous (for other future references, cf., e.g., Mt 16:28; Mk 10:30; Lk 18:30). --- But by far the overall tenor of Jesus’ teaching supports Dodd’s contention that for Jesus the kingdom was already substantially present. There are in fact eight possible ways to understand the kingdom in the ministry of Jesus, all of which, in various ways, illuminate Dodd’s emphasis on the presence of the kingdom." [Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 1992 (J. B. Green, S. McKnight & I. H. Marshall, Ed.) (211). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.]



Here are the eight strands he gives (with some of the references--it is too long to quote in its entirety here):


"One. The Kingdom Is Present As the Fulfillment of Prophecy. Here the primary text is Mark 1:15: “The time has come, the kingdom of God has drawn near (ēngiken), repent and believe the Gospel.” What is most significant in this passage is that the first two verbs are in the perfect (i.e., past) tense. Mark could well have used the present “the time is coming, the kingdom is drawing near.” Something appears to have happened for Jesus to speak in this way. The verb ēngiken, furthermore, while it is related to the adjective engus, “near,” must in Mark 1:15 mean “has arrived.” For the Hebrews the expressions “draw near” or “bring near” were simply idiomatic expressions for “arrive” or “put.” The former usage is well known from Lamentations 4:18 (LXX): there ēngiken ho kairos hēmōn, eplērōthēsan hai hēmerai hēmōn, parestin ho kairos hēmōn means “our end drew near, our days were numbered, for our end had come.” “Draw near” (ēngiken) and “have come” (parestin) are synonymous expressions (cf. also Ezek 7:3–12 LXX). The latter usage appears also in (e.g.) Leviticus 2:8, where to bring a sacrifice “near” to the altar means to place it upon the altar—not to drop it halfway between the altar and the Tabernacle entrance.


Two: The Kingdom Is Present As a Divine Power Breaking in upon the Kingdom of Satan and Overthrowing the Power of Satan in the World. This point is made with special clarity in Jesus’ response to the claim that he drives out demons by the authority of Beelzebul: “If I by the finger of God cast out demons, the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Lk 11:20; Mt 12:28).


Three: The Kingdom Is Present As a Small Beginning with Great Potential. In the three parables of growth (the mustard seed, the seed growing secretly, and the leaven, Mk 4:26–32; Mt 13:33; Lk 17:31), the kingdom has arrived, but in small, unexpected ways. It is like the mustard seed: One may not think much of it at the moment, but it has immense potential. It is like a little leaven which is put into the loaf and causes it to expand. It is like a seed which is put into the soil and produces its fruit. The kingdom is here. Do you find it hard to believe? Wait for the results. Do not be downhearted, nor take much notice of circumstances which appear to belie this gospel announcement. What is small now will have considerable results later.


Four: The Kingdom Is Present As an Opportunity Requiring Resolute Action. Here the parables of the pearl and of the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44–46) are especially noteworthy. In the second, as is so often the case in the parables of Jesus, we are not to ask niggling questions about the morality of the transaction.


Five: The Kingdom Is Present As a Call to Responsibility and Labor. In the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:28–31) a man says to one son, “Go, work in the vineyard,” to which the son responds yes—but does not go. The other son is asked the same thing, and says no—but goes. “Which did the will of his father?” The appended comment from Jesus is, “Yes, and prostitutes and tax collectors are going into the kingdom ahead of you Pharisees.” Here, the willing but disobedient son of the parable is applicable to the Pharisees. Unlike them, prostitutes and tax collectors are already entering the kingdom


Six: The Kingdom Is Present As a Way of Life Which Demands Total Obedience to God and Complete Self-Sacrifice. This theme appears in Matthew 5:26–33; Mark 8:34–37 and Mark 10:17–23. In the latter passage the hearer fails to follow Jesus and Jesus’ response is, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”


Seven: The Kingdom Is Present As a Call to New Life and Service. In Jesus’ teaching the paidion sayings (Mk 10:13–16 par. Mt 19:13–15 and Lk 18:15–17; Matt 18:3), which stress the necessity of being like a child, must be taken in tandem with the servant sayings (Lk 22:26; Mk 10:43 par. Mt 20:26; see Chilton and McDonald)—the most obvious point of contact being the Greek root pais, which may mean either “child” or “servant.”


Eight: The Kingdom Is Present Not Only As a Challenge to Individuals But As a Challenge to the Nation. In Luke 12:32 we read, “Fear not, little flock; it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” We will miss the national character of this saying (as well as that of the complementary passage in Mk 6:34 where Jesus observes that “the people were like sheep without a shepherd”) if we are unfamiliar with the OT picture of the nation as a flock and the king as the shepherd. The classic text is Ezekiel 34, where the shepherds of Israel (the national leaders) are abandoning the flock. God answers, “I will be shepherd of my flock, I will make them lie down, I will seek the lost, I will bring back the strayed … and I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David” (34:15–27). It is the anointed king who is the shepherd of the flock. When Jesus addresses his disciples in this manner his language cannot but carry messianic and national overtones."


These 8 strands do not all have the same weight, of course, and some of them are open to alternative explanations, but the overall force of the data is strongly supportive of a 'realized' or 'inaugurated' eschatology.


This means, for our argument here, that any argument about the presence or absence of K-words must first delineate between future and present senses of those words (if present) or of the alternate terminology (if absent).


Now, in the case of the Pauline and other NT writings, we are not faced with a wholesale absence of K-words anyway. The 'kingdom' word shows up in almost all of the writings addressed to groups/churches (versus Philemon, 2 and 3 John), and reveals a similar mix of present and future nuances.


A quick concordance pull for 'kingdom' in the non-Synoptic NT works yields this list of 37 mentions (minus two references to earthly kingdoms), also at postSYN_Kwords.html:










John 3:3

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”





John 3:5

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.





John 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”





John 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”





John 18:36

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”





Acts 1:3

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.





Acts 1:6

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”





Acts 8:12

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.





Acts 14:22

strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.





Acts 19:8

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.





Acts 20:25

And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.





Acts 28:23

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.





Acts 28:31

proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.





Rom 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.





1 Cor 4:20

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.





1 Cor 6:9

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,





1 Cor 6:10

nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.





1 Cor 15:24

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.





1 Cor 15:50

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.





Gal 5:21

envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.





Eph 5:5

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.





Col 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,





Col 4:11

and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.





1 Thess 2:12

we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.





2 Thess 1:5

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—





2 Tim 4:1

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:





2 Tim 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.





Heb 1:8

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.





Heb 12:28

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,





James 2:5

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?





2 Pet 1:11

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.





Rev 1:6

and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.





Rev 1:9

I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.





Rev 5:10

and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”





Rev 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”





Rev 11:15

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.”





Rev 12:10

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.










There are 5 mentions in the Gospel of John (in two passages), 8 in Acts, 1 in Romans, 5 in 1st Corinthians, 1 in Galatians, 1 in Ephesians, 2 in Colossians, 1 in both 1st and 2nd Thessalonians, 2 in 2nd Timothy, 2 in Hebrews, 1 in James, 1 in 2nd Peter, and 6 in Revelation.


Of the 37, seven are clearly present-tense (ie, realized or inaugurated), 14 seem to be predominantly future (ie, futurist, apocalyptic), and 16 of them are ambiguous--they could be either present or future or both. Almost all of these occurrences look like 're-uses' of Synoptic themes, or at least are in close continuity with them. The exceptions are those references to OT/Tanakh images of a 'kingdom of priests'.


There is clearly no 'linear' watering-down here, since future-K references occur in the books considered by many to be 'latest' (eg, 2 Timothy, 2 Peter, Hebrews, ) and present-K references occur in the books consider by many to be 'earliest' (eg, 1st Thess, 1 Corinthians, Galatians). This is the opposite direction to that suggested by the hypothesis. But the reverse is also true--both future-K and present-K mentions occur ALL of the textual 'strata'.


But what about the NT books without K-words? Would this mean that they were anti-apocalyptic or were 'not committed to' futurist eschatology?


Me genoito! (by no means!)


One need merely to read through the NT books without K-words and note the multitude of references to the Parousia, the resurrection, the judgments, the two ages in contrast, the spiritual warfare, future aspects of eternal life, etc to see that the futurist perspective is clearly there (and, of course, also accompanied by the 'present'--already aspects).


We should also note here, though, that as the gospel message about Jesus the Messiah spread into more Gentile-based cultures of the Roman empire, the term 'king' would have become less 'exalted' and less communicative than in the Jewish context of a Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven. The term Lord (kyrios) would have become more evocative of the challenge the Lord represented to the emperor and all 'would be Lords and gods'. So, even though the term 'lord' is most closely associated (in the NT writings) with the term 'YHWH' of the Hebrew bible, it nonetheless became the major authority-word for the sovereignty of Jesus. Some NT letters, then, might be subsuming 'universal kingship' under the terminology of 'universal Lordship'. 


Here are the books of the NT which do not contain explicit K-words, and some of the textual data revealing a futurist perspective. (Notice that the presence of these futurist elements is NOT confined--again--to some 'earlier only' strata.). These are in canonical order (not alleged date order).


2nd Corinthians.

·         Holy Spirit as guarantee of future glorification (1.22, 5.5)

·         God of this world--Satan (4.4)

·         Outer person perishing, eternal weight of glory (4.16ff)

·         Judgment seat of Christ (5.10)

·         All died in Christ on the Cross (5.14--note the connection to the mini-Eschaton theme of Allison)

·         New Creation already here (5.17--but Romans says it is also future)

·         Spiritual warfare (chapter 10).




·         Every knee will bow to Jesus as Lord (2.10-11)

·         Crooked generation (2.15)

·         The future Day of Christ (2.16)

·         Resurrection (3.10f)

·         Citizenship in heaven, awaiting the Savior from there (3.20)

·         Transformation of our bodies (3.21)


1st Timothy

·         Believe on unto eternal life, reference to dual ages (1.17)

·         Value for the present life and the life to come (4.8)

·         Take hold of eternal life (6.2)

·         Until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ (6.14)

·         Rich in the present age (6.17)

·         Storing up treasures for the future (6.19)



·         Eternal life promised before the world began (1.2)

·         Godly lives in this present age (2.12)

·         The blessed hope (2.13)

·         Heirs to the hope of eternal life (3.7)


1st Peter

·         To an inheritance in heaven (1.4)

·         Ready to be revealed in the last time (1.5)

·         At the revelation of Jesus Christ (1.7, 1.13)

·         Born again / sower-seed image (1.23)

·         Royal priesthood (2.9)

·         In the day of visitation (2.12)

·         Powers subjected to the Lord Jesus (3.22)

·         End of all things is at hand (4.7)

·         Partakers in the glory to be revealed (5.1)

·         When the Chief Shepherd appears (5.4)

·         Called to eternal glory (5.10f)


1st John

·         Incarnation of eternal life (1.2)

·         Darkness is passing away/true light is shining (2.8)

·         World passing away (2.17)

·         It is the last hour (2.18)

·         Eternal life is the promise He made to us (2.25)

·         When He appears / at His coming (2.28)

·         Children now, not know what we will be like then (3.2)

·         We have already passed from death to life (3.14)

·         Many false prophets gone out into the world (4.1, sounds like the Synoptics)

·         antichrists, heard was coming and is NOW in the world (4.3)

·         The day of judgment (4.17)

·         Born of God already have overcome the world (5.4)

·         God already gave eternal life, in His Son (5.11)

·         You have--now--eternal life (5.13)

·         Whole world lies in the power of the evil one (5.19, sounds like Paul's 'god of this world')



·         Our common salvation (3)

·         Lord comes with His army of holy ones (14)

·         In the last times scoffers will come (18)

·         Mercy leads to eternal life (21)

·         To present yourselves blameless before the Presence (24)



Is there any pattern of WD-ing here? Again, no. All of the NT books look back at the Cross/resurrection for the beginning of the end, look at the present as an overlap of the present/corruptible and future/incorruptible, and look to the future for the complete unfolding of what is already happening in their present lives now.


The expectation of a future consummation of the present 'eschatological' power presently at work in the lives of those redeemed by the Cross and re-created by the present Spirit is pervasive through this literature--all authors, all strata.


Thus endeth the excursus





Do we need to go any further on this now?


Originally, I intended to cover all the NT books and surface all the passages that were indications that no WD-ing was going on, but I think we have already done that--accidentally.


Since we found K-words in most of the books (a positive indication of Synoptic-continuous eschat/apok-ish beliefs), and found non-K terms indicative of the same eschat/apok-ish content in all the other writings, we have actually already proven the point.


This nets out at this: there is no evidence that WD occurred in the NT documents, regardless of how one dates the documents. You can find the 'already' there, and the 'not yet' there--pervasively.


However, just to double-check this, let me cite some summary statements from scholarly assessments as a reference check (except for Romans, which we already covered above):



1 Corinthians


"1 Corinthians 15:50-57 forms part of the last line of Pauline argumentation. New images are provided, whereas no new chronological concept is given. In verse 51, Paul does not speak of a future Messianic reign, but of the basileia tou Theo (tn: kingdom of God). Paul expects the final establishment of the basileia tou Theo when Jesus returns his basileia to the Father. He uses traditional motifs and draws on the prophetic expectation from Isaiah 25 to explain how this will happen. On the basis of these texts, we can reconstruct Paul's opinion of what will happen in the course of the final events, and their chronological order: The decisive change has already happened through Jesus' death and resurrection. Jesus has taken over the basileia now. It will last until his parousia. Then he will have fought down all enemies. When the parousia takes place, there will be the resurrection of the dead, and simultaneously the final fulfilment. This will be identical with living in the presence of Jesus/God. --- Basically there is no difference between what Paul had said in 1 Thessalonians, and what he is going to say in 2 Corinthians (5), Romans (8) and Philippians (1:23; 3:20f): On the one hand, the final goal for Paul is always the being with Christ in the presence of God, although the images and the words he uses vary. Inasmuch no real 'development' in Pauline eschatological though can be detected, as e.g. Wiefel (.), Schnelle (.) and others have tried to find." [HI:ENTSRD, 220; Wolfgang & Martin Kraus]


2 Corinthians


"Paul's apocalyptic eschatology puts Christ on the centre stage of history. The shadow of Christ falls over the past, present and future. Time is no longer an abstract concept, or a set of events that fatalistically run along the predetermined lines of cause and effect. Yes, there is causality in history, but it is to be found in the Christ-event. The death and resurrection of Christ set in motion a completely new movement of time. Christ forms the arms of the divine timepiece. Actually, he is heaven's time-clock per se. He determines the nature of time, since he embodies the true content of time, as well as the ultimate destiny towards which time, as people know and experience it, is rapidly moving. He alone determines when the present era will be replaced by the eternal era of God. " [HI:ENTSRD, 229f; Stephan Joubert]


"Paul's apocalyptic eschatology in 2 Corinthians is based on his knowledge pertaining to the not yet realized, but already known future events. In view of what is known about the divine cosmic drama that will take place imminently at the parousia, the present with all its challenges and tribulations takes on a completely new meaning. At the same time, the narrative of Jesus' earthly suffering and his victory over death provides the interpretative paradigm for Paul to reinterpret Israel's religious history, which is reflected in their authoritative documents. This new meta-narrative also helps the apostle to come to terms with his own past, as well as that of believers. Paul is thus simultaneously walking backward from the future into the present and the past, and forward again from the past into the present and the future. --- The present is eschatological time; it is the existential convergence point of God's intervention through the Christ event in the (not too distant) past, and his future rule in the risen Christ. However, the present eschatological era is antithetical and ambiguous, as seen in the apostolic ministry of Paul that is fraught with constant suffering. Thus new life is already here, but it is not yet fully revealed. Salvation is a present reality, yet all must still appear before the tribunal of Christ. But the scales have been decisively turned. The overweight is now on the side of God's eternal glory! Perhaps 2 Corinthians 4:18, the apostle's programmatic statement regarding his own eschatological hope, summarizes it best: as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. "  [HI:ENTSRD, 237; Stephan Joubert]




"From the above, the interrelatedness of the three eras becomes obvious. The past is depicted in terms of its relation, and its inferiority, to the present; and the nature of the future that will be experienced is determined by one's response to the gospel in the present. Furthermore we should note that, of the three eras, the one in the centre - the 'fullness of time' - is the focal point. In this sense, Christ is indeed 'die Mitte der Zeit (Cullmann 1962, 117ff.; TN: "the middle of time"). There can be no doubt about the fact that this era receives the most attention in Galatians, not only in terms of the amount of time that Paul devotes to it in the letter, but also in the sense that the basic argument that he uses to convince the Galatians is based on what happened 'in the fullness of time'; i.e. the radical change brought about by Christ's coming, and the dreadful possibility that the Galatians might lose all of this by defecting to the 'gospel' of the opponents. --- Can we now infer from the above that the future is in fact unimportant to Paul? To my mind, this would be a wrong conclusion, because it would be based on a wrong point of departure. If we merely consider the number of references to the future in this letter, we may think that we have proven our case; but, in fact, we will have missed the point. Theologically, the nature of the 'fullness of time' implies that something still has to happen in the future. I have referred above to the 'dark side' of the 'fullness of time', i.e. the overlapping of the ages or the bi-focal vision that is characteristic of the 'fullness of time'. This situation creates a theological tension, more precisely an eschatological tension, which makes one long for the future --for the day that this tension will be resolved. When we merely count the number of references to the future, we are thus on the wrong track. We should rather take note of the eschatological tension which is manifested in various ways throughout the letter, but most conspicuously in the contrast between flesh and Spirit. If we grasp the importance of this tension, the few references to the future will assume their rightful place in terms of the theology of the letter. They are brief reminders of the era when the eschatological tension will be resolved; they are theologically part and parcel of what has already happened and what happens 'in the fullness of time'. Not only do they reflect the eschatological tension which characterises living 'in the fullness of time', they also reflect the yearning for the future when this tension will be resolved. One of these references, in particular, will accordingly assume prime place in this regard, namely Galatians 5:5: For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. This is so, not only because this concise statement is such a remarkable summary of some of the most important central ideas in the letter, but also because it looks forward with such confidence to the day when the tension will be resolved - a confidence which only makes sense to those who grasp what has already occurred 'in the fullness of time', and who therefore can actually live in hope 'in the fullness of time'." [HI:ENTSRD, 252, 253; Francois Tolmie]




"The letter to the Ephesians clearly speaks about an eschatological day of fulfilment. When the times have reached their fulfilment, all things in heaven and on earth will be brought together under one head, namely Christ (cf. 1:10). This will be the day of redemption for which believers have been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God (4:30, cf. 1:13). On this day Christ will present the church to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle (5:27); God's wrath will, however, come on those who are disobedient (5:6). The hostile 'powers' will be defeated and will no longer act against believers (Arnold 1989, 157). -- The eschatology of the letter to the Ephesians can only be understood in the light of its message about the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is both first instalment and guarantee of the salvation of the age to come (Lincoln 1990, 40). The Holy Spirit is actively making the future a present reality. Believers need not fear the cosmic 'powers', because they have been raised up with Christ, and have been seated with him in the heavenly places (2:5-6). Although they have been seated with Christ, believers are admonished to be strong in the Lord and his mighty power, and to put on the full armour of God (6:10-18). Despite the prominent dimension of a realized eschatology, there is still a battle to be won." [HI:ENTSRD,265,266; Petrus J Grabe]



Not much here--it is mostly a thank-you letter, and doesn't even have basic doctrine of salvation in it. We shouldn't expect much eschatological content either, even though there is some:


"Occasion of Writing. At the most basic level, Philippians was written as a thank-you letter for the gift that the Philippians had sent Paul (1:5; 4:18). At a deeper level, it was written to convey Paul’s personal pursuit of knowing the crucified and risen Christ in his (Paul’s) present crisis and to encourage the same aspiration and pursuit among the Philippians, especially as the means to promote church unity. --- The book of Philippians is not concerned with soteriological issues, such as redemption and justification—issues that are covered in Paul’s other writings, especially Romans and Galatians. Rather, the focus is on spiritual maturity, as Paul’s opening prayer indicates (1:9–11). He himself was occupied with his pursuit of Christlikeness (1:20–21; 3:7–14), and he urged the Philippians to pursue Christ also (3:15)." [Hoehner, H. W., Comfort, P. W., & Davids, P. H. (2008). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol. 16: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, Philemon. (144). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.]


"As just noted, Philippians, thematically speaking, revolves around the Christ Poem of 2:6–11. This poem traces the journey of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as he chose not to cling to his equality with God but to empty himself, to take the form of a servant through incarnation, and to live in human form in humble obedience to God the Father—an obedience that led him to death, even death as a criminal on a cross. But the journey did not end there. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead, exalted to the highest place in the universe, and given the highest name in the universe—the name that every tongue in the universe should confess, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. --- This divine journey into humanity to experience the suffering of servanthood with a view to attaining the coming glory has become the paradigm of all spiritual aspirations and pursuits. Paul fashioned his life accordingly, the evidence of which emerges throughout this epistle (1:20–26; 2:16–18; 3:3–16; 4:11–13). The two other co-workers in this epistle, Timothy and Epaphroditus, were also models of this (2:19–22, 25–30). And Paul urged this as the preeminent pattern to be emulated by all those desiring spiritual maturity (1:9–11, 27–29; 2:1–5, 12–15; 3:15–21). --- While other themes appear in this epistle, they are but spokes around the hub of the Christ Poem. Themes such as Christian unity (1:27; 2:1–4; 4:2–3), spiritual joy (1:4, 18, 25, 28; 2:2; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10), being ready for the Lord’s return (1:6, 10–11; 2:16; 3:14, 21), and giving to others in need (1:23–26; 4:10, 15–19) are the fruits of pursuing Christ and knowing him experientially. Unity comes from self-sacrifice (as Christ did in becoming man and dying on the cross), spiritual joy is the result of knowing Christ now and seeing him in his return (as Christ experienced joy when he returned to the Father), and giving to others is directly linked to Christ giving himself over to death so that all who believe in him may have eternal life." [Hoehner, H. W., Comfort, P. W., & Davids, P. H. (2008). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol. 16: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, Philemon. (147–148). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.]



This epistle has one of the strongest statements of 'realized eschatology', but likewise reveals pieces of 'futurist' eschatology too. So, the statements in the Anchor Bible Commentary:


"What has been articulated in other Pauline Epistles as hope, which is to be fulfilled at the end of time, is represented in Col as an already present reality. In NT research, this phenomenon is called “realized eschatology” and it is differentiated from the so-called “futuristic eschatology.” This conceptualization has not been an especially happy choice, because both “eschatologies” seemingly and paradoxically do not exclude one another. Next to “realized eschatology,” we also find “futuristic eschatology” in Col, especially in 3:4. We encounter this juxtaposition not only in the NT, but also in the literature of Qumran. --- The fact that a traditional usage of “resurrection” of necessity decreases in the rest of Col the prominent significance of corporality that we have in the letters of Paul is not convincing. After all, Paul can also speak about an already accomplished “having died” before the “corporal” death, in his uncontested letters (for example, Rom 6:8, 11), without diminishing the significance of corporal death (cf. 1 Cor 15:26). Why does such an application of “death,” as in Romans 6, not also contradict the evaluation of the human being as a somatic reality and a unity which cannot be sundered. --- We ask, moreover, why the corporal resurrection (or even the judgment) is not explicitly mentioned in Col. But why should this occur? We need to observe the location of the declarations about the future “revelation in glory” here as well. These declarations do not occur in basic explanations about the “last things,” but they rather fulfill a function within the paraenesis. The call is to a new way of life in 3:11ff., with reference to the “new status” that had been granted. There is then an additional statement simply to the effect that this new, still hidden, “status” will someday be revealed. The demand that also the how of the revelation would need to be explained in this connection, namely through the corporal resurrection and judgment, is an arbitrary assertion of the exegetes. --- It seems to us that it is not possible to establish a difference between the eschatology of Col and that of the uncontested letters of Paul that would provide a firm basis for a decision as to the Deutero-Pauline authorship of Col." [Barth, M., Blanke, H., & Beck, A. B. (2008). Vol. 34A: Colossians: A new translation with introduction and commentary. Anchor Yale Bible (458). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.]


Or from JDG Dunn


"There is a clear note of realized eschatology in 2:11–12 and 3:1, as compared with Rom. 6:4–5 and 8:11, though a note of future expectation is also maintained at other points (see on 1:5, 24, 27–28; 3:4, 6, 10, 24–25)." [Dunn, J. D. G. (1996). The Epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon: A commentary on the Greek text. New International Greek Testament Commentary (36). Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: William B. Eerdmans Publishing; Paternoster Press.]


1 Thess


"In 1 Thessalonians, there are no systematic reflections on or attempts to order past events in a pattern, as found, for example, in Luke 1:3 (cf. Ac 1:1-3) or in texts like 4 Ezra 3:4-27 (cf. De Villiers 1981). In some seminal cases, however, historical events are integrated in an eschatological framework. The two references to the death and resurrection of Jesus, for example, are explicitly linked with and fundamentally determine the future. The Thessalonians are now waiting for Jesus to come from heaven as the one whom God raised from the dead. The resurrected Jesus is also the one who rescues 'from the coming wrath' (1 Thess 1:10). It is the resurrection of Jesus that forms the basis for future expectations of the resurrection of the dead (Wolter 2005, 185-186)." [HI:ENTSRD, 303, Pieter G R de Villiers]


"For Paul, the present is also characterized by both divine and human actions that speak of the inauguration of the end. The present is a time in which God acts salvifically. God (and Jesus) clears the way for a further visit by Paul to the Thessalonians to continue his ministry (1 Thess 3:11). God empowers believers to a moral lifestyle in the present that determines their future (1 Thess 3:13; 4:1, 8; 5:23). God gives the Holy Spirit for them to do so (1 Thess 4:8). Paul thus speaks of the present first and foremost as a time in which God is acting to restore humanity to a meaningful relationship with God. " [HI:ENTSRD, 304f, Pieter G R de Villiers]


2 Thess


"Paul's perspective on the past and present is determined by his eschatological outlook. In general he allocates little space to discussions about past events. Little is thus said in 2 Thessalonians about historical events known from Hebrew Scriptures and even about the earthly life, death and resurrection of Jesus (cf. e.g., in contrast, 1 Thess 4:14 and 5:10). The letter focuses almost entirely on past events after his ministry in Thessalonica. Though these events are in terms of the narrative world in the letter, set in the past, they form, for Paul, part of the end time. They reflect the eschatological dispensation of salvation that God inaugurated in Jesus and which the Thessalonian believers came to share since their conversion. ---  The present is further characterized as the end time through the bestowal of divine blessings to them as a believing community. Their present relationship with God is characterized as loving and caring. It is a time of divine gifts of love, grace, consolation and hope (2 Thess 2:13-16). God gives these eschatological blessings to reassure them that they are 'at the center of God's saving purpose' (Malherbe 2000, 438). --- The present should, however, be seen in terms of the future consummation. The believers are being given divine consolation which is eternal (aionian) and which is paired with hope (2 Thess 2:16). God thus is involved in the present in a loving, faithful and powerful way with an eye on the future. God also strengthens the believers and protects them from the eschatological evildoer (2 Thess 1:11; 2:7, 13; 3:3)." [HI:ENTSRD, 335; Pieter de Villiers]


The Pastorals


"The understanding of the 'kingdom' (basileia) in the Pastoral Epistles differs from the synoptic gospels in two respects: The Pastoral Epistles speak of the kingdom of Christ and they consider it as future Kingdom. Both records are once again in the final chapter of the second Letter to Timothy. The kingdom coincides with the 'appearance' of Christ at the judgment of the living and the dead (2 Tim 4:1). Similarly at the end of the letter (the fictitious) Paul speaks about his salvation into the 'heavenly kingdom' (4:18). The statements of the correspondent about himself close with numerous personal convictions about his faith and with confidence in view of his farewell (cf. Rom 14:7-9). His confidence in the parousia of Christ and his salvation into the heavenly kingdom of the Lord are the last points in his self-reflection and at the same time they serve to highlight the intended motivation of the author's message. Thus basileia is the closest connection with the presence of Christ, and at least this aspect can be recovered in the gospels (e.g. Lk 11:20)." [HI:ENTSRD, 399, Bernhard Mutschler]




"Ellingworth (2000, 76) is probably correct when saying that 'no NT writ­ing preserves a better balance than Hebrews between the past, present, and future aspects of God's work in Christ' - especially with the author's statement that Jesus Christ is the same: 'yesterday, today and forever' (13:8). The linear-temporal axis of Hebrews' eschatological graph encom­passes two sides, namely eschatology of faith and eschatology of hope. The eschatology of faith connects closer with both the past and with the status quo of a realized eschatology, but does not exclude the future en­tirely (cf., for instance, Heb 10:38, 11:20, and also the train of thought in Heb 11: Iff.: 'Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see'). It is impossible to please God without faith, because any­one who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (11:6). The characters in Hebrews 11:1-12 were still living by faith when they died (11:13). They were commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised (11:40). The leaders' faith ought to be imitated (13:7). Hebrews' eschatology of faith is based on Jesus' appointment as God's Son, on his governance and judgement as a just King. -- The eschatology of hope is connected closer to the future and is teleo-logical, apocalyptic, and futuristically directed." [HI:ENTSRD, 434, 435f; Gert J Steyn]




"How Apocalyptic is James's Eschatology? In the above discussion, I have pointed to the use of a certain eschatological language that is evident within the Letter of James. James looks forward to a future where there will be reward and punishment. He speaks of a reward of 'the crown of life' for those who endure trial (1:12); the poor who love God are promised to become 'heirs of the kingdom' (2:5); those who humble themselves are promised to be exalted (4:10). James also envisages that 'the coming of the Lord' (5:7) in reference to Jesus 'is near' (5:8); while God is presented as the 'Judge (who) is standing at the doors!' (4:12 and 5:9); and finally that punishment awaits the rich because they have oppressed the poor (5:1-7). Despite these eschatological references, one does note that this language is in fact very reserved from an eschatological apocalyptic perspective. --- In much of the intertestamental apocalyptic literature, the descriptions of suffering are very graphic, harsh and painful. In the Letter of James the sufferings do not resemble these extreme persecutions that God's people had to endure. Instead, the sufferings are more along the lines of daily trials of one's faith. -- The present where the eschatological age has already commenced is a flowering of the past." [HI:ENTSRD, 467f; Patrick J Hartin]


1 Peter


"The author of 1 Peter presupposes two dispensations: a present dispensa­tion that spans the era that has been inaugurated by the first coming of Christ, and that has as ad quern the return of Christ; and a future dispensa­tion which does not seem to have an end (.). --- The eschatology of 1 Peter is governed by the image in 1:3 of the re-begetting father, the statement that the Father has re-begotten (.) the addressees into a living hope (.) through the resurrection (.) of Jesus Christ from the dead (1:3). This image sets the tone for the eschatology of 'already and not yet'. The salvific status of the addressees is a present reality (the already element); it is, however, in need of complete fulfilment (the not yet element). --- The most unambiguous indication that the eschatology of 1 Peter repre­sents a present reality anticipating complete fulfilment in the future is the heir-imagery (.), which is an expansion of the father-image. A person who is an heir obviously has this status already in the present. The inheritance itself, however, lies somewhere in the future. The heir can have absolute certainty that he/she will receive this inheritance. --- The 'not yet' of the eschatology becomes evident from the fact that an 'uncovering', a revealing is still needed (.). The glory of Christ is a present reality, but 'covered' - in need of being 'uncovered', revealed (5:1). When this revealing happens they will ' win the crown of glory' (5:4), and will be glad and shout for joy (4:13). The genuineness of their faith will only become evident (1:7) when Jesus Christ returns. At this very point in time grace will also be brought (1:13). " [HI:ENTSRD, 489f; Fika J van Rensburg]


2 Peter

A summary of the contents shows that eschatology is present in both/all forms:


"Peter is firm to resist both groups by positive teaching. Just as the first letter emphasized the example of the Lord Jesus, this one underlines the facts of Jesus’ life (1:16–18), the Christian faith as the way of truth (2:2) and the certainty of Jesus’ return (3:10). In the light of this it is important for Christians to grow (1:5–8; 3:18) and to be preparing for his return (3:11–14). Evil desires are a snare (1:4; 2:10, 18; 3:5); by contrast the Christian is to be zealous for God’s purposes (1:5, 10, 15; 3:14 all use variants of the root word for ‘zeal’). We look for a new heaven and a new earth in which evil desires will be replaced by God’s righteousness (3:13). In 3:1 Peter expresses his aim as being to stimulate wholesome thinking and he does this by summarizing the pattern of Christian growth in 1:5–8. His words in 1:10–11 give us the keynote of the letter. It is Christ-centred thinking, leading to God-directed living, which reassures us of our calling by God, and enables us to maintain an unbroken relationship with him. That spurs us towards the ultimate goal of the welcome into Christ’s kingdom at his return." [New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.]



Jude is a little too specialized and short to really reach any conclusions about. He wanted to write about soteriology (v3), but he felt compelled to warn against false teachers. This is, nonetheless, set in an eschatological context.


 "V 3 suggests that he had intended to write a more formal statement on doctrine and Christian living (more like 1 Peter?). Instead, the appearance and spread of false teaching had led him to respond by writing a warning of the consequences of following those who propagate heretical ideas and a call to hold fast to the apostolic faith." [New Bible commentary: 21st century edition. 1994 (D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer & G. J. Wenham, Ed.) (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.]



"Jude had desired to write on the subject of the church’s teaching (“the salvation we share,” v. 3). But he found it necessary to warn his readers concerning innovators who were smuggling false teaching into the churches. Quite likely, these teachers had an itinerant ministry in imitation of the apostles. Both Paul (cf. Gal, Col) and John (cf. 1 and 2 John) faced the problem of false teachers who promoted a different gospel and erroneous instruction. --- Jude’s purpose is to give a strong denunciation of the errorists. He evidently hopes that by his concise but vigorous exposure of them, the church will see the danger of their error and be alert to the coming judgment on it. Jude also wants to reassure the church by showing that the fact that such scoffers would come was part of the content of apostolic prophecy. In his last paragraphs, he calls the Christians to exercise their faith within the received common instruction. He also praises God as the one who is able to keep both the church and individuals from falling. Christians may have confidence that the God who began a good work of salvation within them (Philippians 1:6) will keep them (v. 1) and finally bring them safely into his glorious presence (v. 24)." [Blum, E. A. (1981). Jude. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 12: Hebrews Through Revelation (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (384). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]


The Letters of John


"We have seen that classic motifs of the expectation of the end of time or eschatology occur in John's letters. In this process, events are referred to which are traditionally considered to be happenings in the future, such as the parousia (return) of Christ (1 Joh 2:28f.) alongside the appearance of an apocalyptic adversary (1 Joh 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 Joh 7). Moreover, the 'day of judgement' (1 Joh 4:17), the destruction or victory over the world, the 'hope' or the final consummation of the believers with the seeing of God and the likening to God (1 Joh 3:1-6) are discussed. Alongside this clear expectation of the future are, however, statements which describe the apocalyptic events as having already occurred. The passage from death to life has been completed (1 Joh 3:14; 5:12); the victory over evil and the whole world has been achieved (1 Joh 2:13; 1 Joh 5:4); life in light is cur­rently taking place (1 Joh 1:7). --- The author of the letters of John is clearly talking about the expectations of a future end of time, yet simultaneously these events are being pro­claimed as at least partially having already occurred in the present time. However, not simply in such a way that the expectations for the future -adopting G. Kleins dictum - would have been 'historicized' and thus ul­timately dismantled in a present-time implementation. Despite and amidst the present-time statements, the futuristic expectations of the author re­main constant. Thus the Epistles of John demonstrate, on the one hand, a clear futuristic eschatology and, on the other, an equally clear realized or present-time eschatology." [HI:ENTSRD, 529f; Ruben Zimmermann]


Apocalypse of John [HI:ENTSRD, 551f; Jan A du Rand].

I cannot really touch this book much, because of the difficulties involved in interpreting it (from my perspective), so I will just cite one view of it. Below are the (possibly) 'already' passages in one column and the (possibly) 'not yet' passages in another. One can see that this intense book contains both/all strains of eschatology--under most mainstream interpretations.


The "Already, in time" Perspective

The "Not Yet, in Future" Perspective

1:3 The words of this prophecy

1: References to future

1:7 Adventus Christus

1:9-18 communication with heavenly figure

1:19 Hellenistic prophetic formula

2:7 Paradise in future

2: 1ff. Letters of prophetic messages

2:11 Spiritual second death

2:10 Earthly suffering

2:17   Apocalyptic metaphor of hidden manna

2:22 Judgement on earth

2:26-28 Authority over nations at the end

2:25 Perseverance in history

3:4,5 Spiritual body in white garments;

3:3 Adventus Christus

3:12 Heavenly reward at the end

3:10 Judgement on earth

3:12b New heaven and new earth

3:11 Perseverance in history

3:21 Heavenly remuneration

4:11 God as creator of this earth

4:1-11 Heavenly vision of God as creator

5:12 Lamb stained (Golgotha)

5:1-14 Heavenly vision of God as saviour

6:1-17 Seals of judgement on earth (8:1-2)

6:10-11 Martyrs given white garments -spiritual body

6:10 Judgement on earth

7:9-17 Vision of heavenly multitude

6:11 Until full number on earth

8:3 Prayers of saints at heavenly altar

7:1-8 Sealing on earth

11:1 Measuring of temple

8:6-9:21 Trumpets judgment on earth

11:13 An earthquake

10:1-11 Little scroll of prophecy

11:16-19 Elders in heavenly worship

11:1-12 Witnesses on earth

11:19 Heavenly temple opened

12:5-6 Messianic mother gives birth

12:1 Messianic mother's origin

12:11 Death of the Lamb

12:3 Red dragon in heaven

12:14-17 War on earth

12:4 War in heaven

13:1-10 Beast from sea

12:7-10 War in heaven

13:11-18 Beast from earth

14:1-5 Vision of 144000

14:14-20 Harvest judgement

14:6 Messages of three heavenly angels

15:7-16:17 Bowls judgement

14:14-20 Harvest as apocalyptic judgement

17:1 Prostitute Rome judged

15:2-4 Conquerors song of Moses

18:9-21 Lamentations: kings, merchants, shipmasters

15:5-6 Seven angels in heaven

19:9-10 The angel and John

16:18-21 An earthquake

22:6.8-11 Prophetic message

18:1 Communication of heavenly angel

22:7 Adventus Christus

18:21-24 Angel with symbolic stone

22:12-21 Adventus Christus

19:1-5   Heavenly  multitude's hallelujah chorus


19:6-8 Heavenly announcement of mar­riage of Lamb


19:11-16 Heavenly vision: Christ on white horse


19:17-21 communication by angel - judgment on beasts


20:1-6 Satan bound for 1000 years


20:7-10 Defeat of Satan


20:11-15 Final judgement announcement in heaven


21:1-22:5 New heaven and earth: New Jerusalem


22:7.12-21 Adventus Christus


Well, that should be enough data to show that all 3 eschat-frameworks are pervasive throughout the NT documents (especially in 'the generation of the disciples') and that no pattern of 'watering down' or 'distilling up' can be demonstrated to have occurred. The Opposite perspective, however, does seem to be clear: the early church held all three frameworks closely and rejoiced in the fullness, completeness, and sufficiency of God's redemptive work in/through/for the Lord Jesus.


To complete this review, we need only to take a quick look at the Gospel of John.




Is the 'eternal life' talk of John's gospel evidence of a 'giving up' on Jesus' prediction?


One can find statements similar to this in scholarship, in which John's belief in the parousia or futurist eschatology is said to be 'de-emphasized' or 'moved to the background'--even though all such statements explicitly admit that the futurist beliefs are nonetheless present.


For example:


"In the Gospel of John, the emphasis is on the new life which can be experienced now through belief in Jesus (John 5:24). The references to the future consummation are there, but are not numerous. The tenor of the gospel is the relationship which believers can enjoy with Christ and, through him, with God (John 14:23). Similarly, in the letter to the Ephesians, the hope for the future consummation, while present (e.g., Eph. 1:10), has moved to the periphery in favor of the present relationship of believers with the exalted Christ (1:23; 2:6). In Hebrews, the heavenly world is the focus of salvation and the orientation of believers. Christ has gone into the heavens, behind the veil, and is there as a sure anchor of hope for those who follow him (Heb. 6:19–20). The hope for a future establishment of the reign of God on earth has not entirely disappeared (12:26–27), but has receded into the background." [Walls, Jerry L. (2007-12-03). The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford Handbooks) (p. 44). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. ]


"In the Gospel of John, the phrase “kingdom of God” almost completely disappears and is replaced by the phrase “eternal life” (whose eschatological character is evident from Dan. 12:2, however). Whatever hope there may be for the future (and there are occasional promises, e.g., 5:25–29), the focus is on the first coming as the critical moment when the eschatological decision is taken (5:24). Throughout the Gospel, there are twin emphases on realized eschatology and a lack of concern for the kind of cosmic redemption we find in Revelation. Now claims to see God are regarded as claims to see Jesus. In John 1:14, we read of the tabernacling of the divine word in history not as an event in the future but as an event in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The incarnation takes place in an environment where the “world knew him not” (John 1:10). The preoccupation is on the life of a group of disciples whose task is to overcome an alien world which hates them as it hated their master (15:18–25). Those who love Jesus and keep his commandments are those to whom the incarnate Son of God comes and with whom the Father and the Son make their abode (John 14:21–23). The presence of the eschatological glory among the disciples who love him has about it a vertical dimension, in which the coming Son of man is not primarily a figure who appears as a reproach to the nations. The disciples now look forward to a time when they will be with Jesus and behold his glory (John 17:24; cf. 14:2)." [Walls, Jerry L. (2007-12-03). The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (Oxford Handbooks) (p. 39). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition. ]


But, as we have noted, 'emphasis on X' does not imply 'disbelief of Y' -- when X and Y are not mutually exclusive... The same standard we rejected above ( 'lack of emphasis on' implies 'lack of commitment to') is present throughout the literature. For example:


·         Romans does not cover ecclesiology, eschatology, the Lord's Supper, or even Christology.

·         The Pastorals do not have a developed soteriology or even Christology.

·         Hebrews does not have a developed ecclesiology.

·         1st and 2nd Thessalonians do not display a developed Christology.

·         Philippians has little-to-no soteriology or anthropology.

·         Jude wanted to have soteriology, but had to become a warning/exhortation.

·         James has no Christology or ecclesiology.



Similarly, the GoJ is focused--explicitly--on obeying the Lord's directive to 'preach the gospel to all nations'. The gospel's stated intent is that readers will come to accept Jesus as the savior sent from God, and that by trusting that gift of love, receive the gift of eternal life.


There is no ecclesiology, no explanation of the Last Supper, and no hamartiology.


The emphasis IS on establishing a present relationship with the living, incarnate Lord/Lamb of God, but this is an obvious first-step to 'arriving at a future kingdom' ANYWAY!


But to the point here--all of the 3 eschat-frameworks are present in John, and the emphasis on eternal life is not discontinuous with the Synoptics at all. Life (eternal) and the KoG are intertwined and near-synonymous (depending upon the K-word's nuance, of course).


Allison--who holds to the 'failed apocalyptic prophet' model in [NT:CJ] shows how these two terms are synonymous in the synoptics, the GoJ, other literature of the period, and the later rabbinic writings:


"The Synoptics sometimes associate the kingdom of God with "eternal life" or, more simply, "life". A glance at the synonymous parallelism in Mark 9:43-47 reveals that "to enter life"  [vv. 43,45]) is, for Mark's Jesus, the rough equivalent of "to enter the kingdom of God"  [v. 47]...


"Mark 10:17—25 holds the same lesson. After a rich man asks what he must do in order to gain eternal life and then fails to comply with the answer, Jesus mourns that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one with great possessions to enter the kingdom. So to enter the kingdom is to have eternal life, and to fail to enter the kingdom is to lose eternal life (cf. Mark 10:30; Matt 19:17). Similarly, in the account of the last judgment in Matt 25:31-46, the happy future of the just is, in v. 34, to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, whereas, in v. 46, it is to enter eternal life. ---


"The alternation between "kingdom" and "life" also shows itself when one places Mark 9:47 beside its Matthean equivalent... On the theory of Markan priority, Matthew replaced Mark's 'to enter the kingdom' with 'to enter into eternal life'. --


"The intersection of meaning between kingdom and eschatological life, also apparent in the Gospel of Thomas, helps account for one of the leading features of the Fourth Gospel. According to John 20:31, the Gospel's very purpose is that people find zoe in Jesus' name, and zoe  is John's favorite comprehensive term for salvation (35X; contrast Matt: 7X; Mark: 4X; Luke: 5x). So life (eternal) in John, like the kingdom of God in the Synoptics, sums up the telos of Jesus' advent. ---


"John was familiar with sayings about the kingdom of God. He presum­ably also knew the tradition that the kingdom of God was the central theme of Jesus' preaching (cf. Mark 1:14-15; Matt 10:7-8 // Luke 10:9 [Q]). If so, then the Fourth Evangelist deliberately displaced the kingdom of God with life (eternal). Put otherwise, he did systematically what Matthew did once: he turned "kingdom of God" into "(eternal) life." So when John's Jesus, in 3:3—16, unfolds the meaning of his own statements about "the kingdom of God" (vv. 3,5), it does not startle us that his subject becomes "eternal life" (vv. 15—16). Nor is one surprised that what is true of the kingdom in the Synoptics is true of "(eternal) life" in the Fourth Gospel: it is both a promise for the future as well as a present reality (5:24, 29; 6:40; 11:25); it is like a possession (3:15, 16; 5:40; 6:47; 10:10); it is a gift of God (5:21; 6:27, 33, 63; 10:28); it is something that one can "see" (3:36); and it is the antithesis of eschatological death (3:16, 36; 5:24). ---


"How does this bear on one's understanding of the kingdom of God in the Jesus tradition? Life (eternal) / hayim olam, was a standard Jewish expression for the future lot of the righteous, for the state that the redeemed will enjoy after death or in the eschatological future. So if, in parts of the Jesus tradition, the kingdom of God is the near synonym of life (eternal), is this not cause, on at least some occasions, for identifying the kingdom less with God's rule than with the result of that rule, with the future state that the redeemed will enjoy?


"Another reason for this identification is that the interchange between the kingdom of God and life (eternal) in the sayings attributed to Jesus has its counterpart in rabbinic phrases that refer to the Utopian future God's rule will bring: ("the life of the world to come") and ("the world to come") are practically synonymous. For example, in 'Abot R. Nat. B22, the phrase "he has laid up merit for himself to enjoy in the world to come" comes shortly before "he has laid up merit for him­self to enjoy in the life of the world to come". Here "the life of the world to come" substitutes for "the world to come." Again, while any number of rabbinic texts speak of inheriting the world to come, others speak, with identical import, of inheriting the life of the world to come e.g., Tank. Buber Shelah 28; b. Sotah 7b; Num. Rab. 9:17); and if "to enter the world to come" is a common rabbinic expression, the synonymous "to enter the life of the world to come" also occurs (e.g., m. B. Mesi'a 2:11; t. Sank. 12:11; b. Git. 57b; Gen. Rab. 9:8). Perhaps most telling of all, the unqualified "to live" is sometimes an abbreviation for "to live (in the world to come)" (e.g., t. Sank. 13:2; 'A£>or R. Nat. A 36; Gen. Rab. 14:3). In short, "the world to come" is a way of referring to eschatological life. " [NT:CJ, 186-189]



I think I would have to 'quibble' with his terminology here (about Matthew and John 'replacing' K-words with zoe-words), because we have already noticed (in our discussion above) that the data is ambivalent about the 'direction':


"Even within parallel synoptic passages, one author might simply drop the kingdom terminology--and there is no WD pattern that fits this. So, in the six passages charted in Komits.html, MT has a K-word 4 times where MR has none; MR has KoG equated with 'life' once-where MT only has 'life'; and Luke has 'for the sake of the K' where MT/MR have 'for MY sake'. There is just no way to turn K-talk into a technical 'closed group' [although context might narrow the focus down considerably, of course--'the K suffers violence, with people forcing their way into it...', for example.]"



And--just as there is no contradiction between the kingdom of God and eternal life, so too there is no contradiction between resurrection and eternal life:


"Josephus’s description of the eschatology of the ESSENES (J.W. 2.154-56) has been influential in attributing to the Qumranites a strong belief in judgment after death and immortality of the soul. These ideas were quite widespread among the Jews living in the Greco-Roman diaspora, esp. in Egypt (see, e.g., the Wisdom of Solomon), and evidence of hope for eternal life has been detected in the major sectarian writings, such as the Rule of the Community, the Damascus Document, and the Hodayot (1QHa). However, the publication of the integrality of the Dead Sea Scrolls has shown that the belief in bodily resurrection was also represented at Qumran, not only in the “classical” Enochic and Danielic texts but also in other documents of probably nonsectarian origin, such as the Pseudo-Ezekiel (4Q385-88; 391) and the so-called Messianic Apocalypse (4Q521). This contradiction is only apparent because resurrection and eternal life are but two sides of the same coin for an apocalyptic group such as the Community of the Renewed Covenant at Qumran.  [NIDB, s.v. "Eschatology in Early Judaism", Pierluigi Piovanelli]




But many commentators note the presence of both realized, inaugurated, and futurist eschatologies in the Gospel of John, and sometimes chalk it up to 'paradox'. Of course, we have seen this throughout the NT literature so far, so this should neither surprise us, nor appear as an anomaly, nor appear as a 'correction' to the Synoptic tradition!


Compare various commentators on GoJ:


"The notion of a general resurrection of the dead on the last day, at which time all would be judged for their deeds, became a prominent theme in Jewish apocalypticism as it developed in the 3rd and 2nd cent. B.C.E. We find these ideas in the NT, especially in the Pauline epistles (e.g., 1 Thess 1:9-10; 4:13-5:11 ; 1 Cor 15:12-58 ). The Gospel of John also contains the Jewish expectation of a general resurrection and judgment on the last day that will mean rewards for the righteous and punishment for the wicked. The Johannine Jesus echoes Dan 12:2 as he proclaims that “the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and will come out—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (5:28). Jesus speaks of “raising up” on the last day (6:39-40, 44, 54), and Martha indicates her knowledge of a resurrection on the last day (11:24). The notion of a judgment based on good and evil deeds is found also in 3:20-21. ---  Alongside these traditional references to resurrection and judgment on the last day are paradoxical statements that suggest the collapse of this future expectation into the present reality of salvation. Before his declaration in 5:28, Jesus claims that “the hour is coming, and is now here” (5:25; see also 4:23). Similarly, when Martha speaks of the future resurrection of the dead, Jesus replies in the present, “I am the resurrection” (11:25). More puzzling still is that the judgment spoken of in chap. 3 seemingly has already occurred. “And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil” (3:19). This last reference suggests that the movement of the eschatological last day into the present coincides with Jesus’ presence in the world. With Jesus’ coming into the world, the day of judgment has moved from future anticipation to present reality (12:31)." [NIBD, s.v. "John , Gospel of", Colleen M. Conway]



"If we use spatial terminology, we may characterize the general biblical view of salvation as “horizontal,” for while God acts from above, He acts in and through the sequence of history. From the time of creation God has guided the world and men inexorably forward to a climax, a climax which is often seen in terms of divine intervention in the linear course of history. Thus, salvation lies either in history or as a climax to history. Opposed to this is a “vertical” view which sees two worlds coexistent, one heavenly, one earthly; and the earthly world is but a shadow of the heavenly. Earthly existence is fallen existence, and history is a prolongation of the meaningless. Salvation is made possible through escape to the heavenly world, and this can occur only when someone or something comes down from the heavenly world to set men free from earthly existence. Obviously these are simplified pictures of the two views, but we shall have to ask toward which view of history and salvation the Fourth Gospel inclines. --- In many ways this Gospel betrays a vertical approach to salvation. The Son of Man has come down from heaven (3:13), the Word has become flesh (1:14), with the purpose of offering salvation to men. The culmination of his career is when he is lifted up toward heaven in death and resurrection to draw all men to himself (12:32). There is a constant contrast in John between two worlds: one above, the other below (3:3, 31, 8:23); a sphere that belongs to Spirit, and a sphere that belongs to flesh (3:6, 6:63). Jesus brings the life of the other world, “eternal life,” to the men of this world; and death has no power over this life (11:25). His gifts are “real” gifts, that is, heavenly gifts: the real water of life, as contrasted with ordinary water (4:10–14); the real bread of life, as contrasted with perishable bread (6:27); he is the real light that has come into the world (3:19). These characteristics betraying an atemporal and vertical approach to salvation have constituted one of Bultmann’s main arguments for advancing the hypothesis of Gnostic influence on John. --- But there is also much of the horizontal approach to salvation in John. The Prologue, which describes the descent of the Word into human flesh, does not ignore salvation history which begins with creation. If the coming of Jesus represents the era of the dominance of Spirit over flesh, so that all men worship God in Spirit, Jewish history has been the preparation for this climactic era (4:21–23). The whole of the Scriptures which record salvation history points to Jesus (5:39). The “hour” of which we hear so much in John (2:4, 8:20, 12:23, etc.), the hour of Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, is the culminating hour in the long history of God’s dealing with men. Jewish customs, feasts, and religious institutions find their fulfillment in Jesus.---Thus, the Johannine view of salvation is both vertical and horizontal. The vertical aspect expresses the uniqueness of the divine intervention in Jesus; the horizontal aspect establishes a relationship between this intervention and salvation history." [Brown, R. E. (2008). Vol. 29: The Gospel according to John (I–XII): Introduction, translation, and notes. Anchor Yale Bible (cxv–cxvi). New Haven; London: Yale University Press.]



"Frey defines the “core problem” (Kernproblem; Frey, 418; cf. 429) of Johannine eschatology as the abrupt juxtaposition of present and future utterances, seen most sharply in John 5:24–29. The present eschatology is expressed most strongly in John 5:24, formulated in the words μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν ζωήν, “has made the transition from death to life,” which cannot be questioned or limited by such sayings as John 4:23; 5:25. The difficulty of interpreting the saying in John 14:3 with reference to πάλιν ἔρχεσθαι, “to come again,” is to know whether the coming of Jesus in John 14:3, 18, 28 relates to the resurrection of Jesus, or to the parousia of Jesus, or in light of vv 14, 16–17, 26 to the coming of the Paraclete, in which latter case μονὴν ποιεῖν, “to make [our] dwelling,” of v 23 would be adapted and spiritualized, so that the “Father’s house” (v 2) represents the “temple” of the community." [Beasley-Murray, G. R. (2002). Vol. 36: John. Word Biblical Commentary (cxli). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.}



"Eschatology. As in all New Testament books, eschatology is not just the doctrine of last things—that is, the end of human history; it is also the belief that the last days have already begun and that every aspect of the life of the believer is part of that reality. For John, it is the medium of thought through which every doctrine discussed here is presented. It is common among critical scholars to say that John has replaced the final eschatology of the synoptic Gospels with a realized eschatology centering on the present blessings of the believers. In his thematic arrangement, the Olivet discourse has seemingly been replaced by John’s farewell discourse (13:31–17:26), and the return of Christ with the coming of the Paraclete (the Holy Spirit; cf. 14:16–17). Yet this is not really true. John clearly has an interest in the event of the Parousia (Jesus’ second coming) and the coming of eternity (5:25, 28–30; 6:39–40; 14:2–4; 21:22). Thus, it is best to see in John’s emphasis on present blessings an inaugurated eschatology that also views the present blessings as anticipating the final realization of God’s promises at the return of Christ." [Osborne, G., & Philip W. Comfort. (2007). Cornerstone biblical commentary, Vol 13: John and 1, 2, and 3 John (16). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.]



"Historically, however, it seems difficult to believe that the Fourth Evangelist had not at least heard of the existence of the Synoptics and read some portions of them. But whether or not the author of the Fourth Gospel knew these other Gospels, clearly he did not make extensive use of them in composing his own narrative. Apart from the feeding of the five thousand, the anointing, and the passion narrative, John does not share any larger blocks of material with the Synoptic Gospels. --- Thus, unlike the Synoptics, John has no birth narrative, no Sermon on the Mount or Lord’s Prayer, no accounts of Jesus’ transfiguration or the Lord’s Supper, no narrative parables, no demon exorcisms, and no eschatological discourse. Clearly, John has written his own book. This, however, does not make his a sectarian work apart from the mainstream of apostolic Christianity (Wenham 1997). Rather, John frequently transposes elements of the Gospel tradition into a different key (Köstenberger 2002a: 148–49). The Synoptic teaching on the kingdom of God corresponds to the Johannine theme of eternal life; narrative parables are replaced by extended discourses on the symbolism of Jesus’ signs. Moreover, all four Gospels present Jesus as the Son of Man and as the Messiah fulfilling OT predictions and typology. Thus, the differences between the Synoptics and John should not be exaggerated." [Köstenberger, A. J. (2004). John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (17–18). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.]



The Gospel of John does focus on life eternal, of course, since that is its authorial purpose. Anybody who has read the GoJ several times can find many parallels between its descriptions of eternal life and the multi-faceted depictions by Paul of the life of the Spirit.


But even the Johanine use of zoe is still continuous with the Synoptic usage, even if it is 'unpacked' a bit more by the more detailed expositions by our Lord in the gospel. The entry on Eternal Life in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, draws attention to the commonalities and the additional details (pardon the long quote):


"The Synoptic Gospels.  Zōē occurs sixteen times in the Synoptic Gospels. Except for Luke 12:15 and 16:25 (where it refers to life in general), it always means the future life that will be given by God. It is a life that will be entered or inherited at the end of the present age (Mt 19:16–17, 29 par.). Thus it stands in chronological contrast to the present life. For example, the one who leaves all to follow Jesus will not “fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come eternal life,” Mk 10:30 NIV). It is a life that is to be entered through the narrow gate (Mt 7:14). In fact this life is so important that disciples of Jesus must deal radically with sin in their hearts in order to avoid missing it and being cast into the hell of fire (Mt 18:8–9).


The Fourth Gospel. Zōē occurs thirty-six times in the Gospel of John. In eleven of these occurrences it is the object of the verb “to have” (echō) and is used in the context of a promise, invitation or statement about those who believe in Jesus (Jn 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24, 40; 6:40, 47, 53, 54; 10:10; 20:31). By reading these eleven passages together, one comes to see that in the Fourth Gospel life or eternal life is not limited to a future age but can be realized in the present by the one who believes in Jesus. John can still speak of life as future (Jn 5:28–29; 6:27; 12:25), but it is also something that one may possess in the present (Jn 5:24).


Life in the Fourth Gospel vis á vis the Synoptics. Much has been made of the difference between the eschatology of the Synoptic Gospels and of the Fourth Gospel. It is asserted that the Synoptic Gospels contain a strictly futuristic eschatology. The life spoken of is something awarded at the end of the age for present activity. On the other hand, the Fourth Gospel contains the notion of an eternal life which is a present reality to the one who believes in Jesus. Hence Jesus in the Fourth Gospel says, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has (present tense) eternal life and he does not come into judgment but has passed (perfect tense) out of death into eternal life” (Jn 5:24). The Synoptic eschatology is in keeping with Jewish beliefs current in early Judaism (e.g., T. Levi 17–18; 1 Enoch 91:12–17; Pss. Sol. 17:21–46). Johannine eschatology builds on that found in the Synoptics by asserting that the future hope is now present. A study of the use of the word life is used to illustrate this view (cf. Bultmann).


To deny the differences between the use of (eternal) life in the Synoptics and in John is impossible. Yet to assert that the eschatology of John is more advanced and exclusive of Synoptic eschatology is not a necessary conclusion based on the evidence.


First, it is plain that John has a futuristic eschatological viewpoint. In John 5:28 and 6:54 the resurrection is future. Bultmann recognized the difficulty of these verses in John and ascribed them to a redaction of the Fourth Gospel which attempted to bring it in line with the more traditional eschatology found in the Synoptics. But if John 5:28 and 6:54 are attributed to the Fourth Evangelist, it must be asserted that he was able to conceive of a futuristic and a realized eschatology as not mutually exclusive.

Second, C. H. Dodd (although his point may have been overstated) has shown that in fact the Synoptic Gospels contain a realized eschatology. Dodd asserts that Jesus “used parables (which are found in the Synoptic Gospels) to enforce and illustrate the idea that the kingdom of God had come upon people there and then. The inconceivable had happened: history had become the vehicle of the eternal; the absolute was clothed in flesh and blood” (Dodd, 197).

Third, to assert that the Jewish view of “life” was future is too broad a conclusion to draw from the large bank of data available in the extant writings of early Judaism. First-century Judaism had no single eschatology, a fact now widely recognized among scholars of early Judaism and Christian origins.


The Nature of Eternal Life. It would appear then that the eternal life spoken of in the Synoptics vis á vis John is a single entity with more than one facet rather than a pair of mutually exclusive concepts."


Because of the dual nature of eternal life, on the one hand a future life but on the other hand (in the Fourth Gospel) a present experience, the issue of theological development has arisen. Is John an advance over Synoptic eschatology? Is John’s understanding of eternal life a form of Platonism where life is not measured in time but is rather an ideal realm of existence parallel to earthly life? To read the Fourth Gospel platonically seems to be a misunderstanding of John. Eternal life can be experienced in the present, but it also has a future dimension as outlined above. It seems best to describe eternal life as a relationship with God. In this way there is no necessary contradiction between the Synoptics and the Gospel of John. One can begin to know God now, but will only know him fully in the eschaton." [Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 1992 (J. B. Green, S. McKnight & I. H. Marshall, Ed.) (471). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.; D. H. Johnson]



So, we would basically have to conclude that John neither abandoned a future expectation of the Lord's return, nor that he 'substituted' eternal life for this future expectation, as a means of 'covering up for' an alleged failed prediction taught by Jesus and (mistakenly) believed by most of the early church.


The data is just otherwise: no support for the hypothesis and some/much data against it.



Do the epistles presuppose that the early (apostolic?) church thought that Jesus really predicted the end within their lifetimes?


Okay, let's look at this for a ... WHOA! -- WAIT a minute! Something is not right with this question...


This looks like the opposite position from the one we just answered.


When I compare the original statement:


"There is a clear pattern of a successive watering down of Jesus’ prediction of the eschaton within the generation of his disciples, starting with Mark (widely believed among NT scholars to be the first gospel written), and continuing through the rest of the synoptic gospels. By the time we get to John, the last gospel written, the eschatological "kingdom of God" talk is dropped (except for one passage, and it no longer has clear eschatological connotations), along with the end-time predictions, and is replaced with "eternal life" talk."


With the next sentence from the blogger's post:


"Further, the epistles presuppose that the early church thought Jesus really predicted the end within their lifetimes."


At first glance, it looks like an inconsistency in the 'timing' (or at least, 'genres'?).


A: The period 'with the generation of his disciples' would reach from 30-100AD. In this period--according to the hypothesis--there would be the 'watering down' pattern.


B: But, the epistles are written during an overlapping period (40-150AD?) and--according to the hypothesis--there would be NO 'watering down'. The expectation of a return-before-we-die would be pervasive and explicit in the epistles.


Looking at this again, we can see how one might eliminate the apparent inconsistency: by restricting the first statement to the 4 gospels (which would be a natural reading of his/her wording). The epistles--which are a different genre--would therefore be excluded from the 'watering down' accusation.


This would, of course, create a very schizoid perspective on the communications of the early church. All the internal communications within the early church (epistles) held one view of the future, and all the foundational documents (the gospels) held a contradictory view of that same future?!


But if the church leaders (who wrote the gospels) changed their view (ie, the WD view) during the period, it would certainly be expected that (at least some of) the other church leaders (who wrote the epistles) would likewise reflect this overall change of beliefs. If Luke (the evangelist) -- a chronicler and close associate of Paul--supposedly 'displayed' a watering-down in the gospel, it is odd in the extreme that Paul (the epistle writer) did not display anything of the sort. If John (the evangelist) supposedly 'displayed' a watering-down in the gospel, it is likewise very odd that John (the epistle writer) displayed almost the opposite.




But apart from this schizoid understanding of history, the data in both the gospels and the epistles already show this view to be inadequate.


We have already seen that

(a) the expectation of immanency in the NT documents did not have a precise timing element;

(b) there was no watering-down in the Synoptic gospels;

(c) there was no watering-down in the rest of the NT literature; and

(d) all three eschatological frameworks appear in all of the NT literature.


None of the NT authors reduced the 'future to the 'present'--without remainder (even in the most 'realized' of eschatological passages). And none of the NT authors removed the 'future from the present' --without residue (even in the most 'futurist' of eschatological passages).


The problem is just not there. The textual data shows that all three eschatological frameworks were held through this period, and that they were all interconnected. They were all 'bound to' the work of God in Christ in His life, death, resurrection, and enthronement-ascension. The future intercepted our cosmic and anthropological world in the events of the Cross and Resurrection. It intercepts our personal world in our encounter/acceptance of Jesus in the present. It will emerge in all-transforming completeness in the eschaton.




Okay, on now to the post-NT literature of the church... in Part 7.



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