[Fwd: Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)]

From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
Date: Tue Oct 07 2008 - 20:35:31 EDT

Opps, forgot to send this to the list!

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [asa] A theology question (imminent return of Christ)
Date: Wed, 08 Oct 2008 11:07:57 +1100
From: Murray Hogg <muzhogg@netspace.net.au>
To: Dehler, Bernie <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
References: <20081007.135322.-1660263.3.dfsiemensjr@juno.com> <CF9C39F99A89134C9CF9C4CCB68B8DDF18D002D0@orsmsx501.amr.corp.intel.com>

Hi Bernie,

There's a very nice discussion of this question at Glen Miller's "Christian Think Tank";


I suggest, also, that reference to commentaries on _specific_ passages relating to the return of Christ might be helpful.

You're quite right that expectations are clearly different today than back then - but don't overlook the fact that much of the NT is taken up with correcting the specific poor behavior/beliefs/attitudes of Christians. It wasn't, in other words, quite so idyllic as one might want to suppose. Indeed, Jesus' remarks about the disobedient who would call him "Lord" on the day of judgment indicate that expectation of an imminent return isn't the motivator one might think.

Personally, I'd suggest that the better interpretation of the behavior of the early church in Acts is to see the early believers motivated NOT by an expectation of Christ's immanent return BUT by the empowering inner presence of the Holy Spirit. This, at least, is the theological emphasis of Acts. It's implication is that the contemporary problem is not that we don't sense urgency at the imminent return of Christ but rather that we have a poor understanding of the person and work of the Spirit.

It might also be worth mentioning that there are a number of different eschatological approaches which would treat the passages in different ways. One approach - "inaugurated eschatology" - sees the resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Spirit being a partial fulfillment (or "inauguration", hence the title) of the eschatological promises. The idea being that Jesus' resurrection inaugurates the resurrection of all believers - even though the complete fulfillment is put off till a future date. A good theological dictionary will give you a more detailed run-down on the different approaches to the question.

And one final thought: given that the church maintained the NT texts past the obvious time of fulfillment there is an implicit argument there that the early Christians did not - perhaps - demand that Christ's promises/sayings referred to an event to occur at a very early date. Indeed, the fact that they wrote anything down at all is generally taken as indicating that they did, in fact, have at least a partial expectation that Christ's return might be somewhat delayed.

Hope it helps,
Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

Dehler, Bernie wrote:
> Hereís a question I have.
> In the NT, it is obvious that the disciples thought Jesus would return
> at any time and that the end was near. For example, thatís why in Acts
> it says the believers had everything in common- sold what they had and
> shared everything. We would too if we seriously thought Christ would
> return tomorrow, but we donít really believe it. So we keep our own
> money- our retirement and college plans for our kids. We donít believe
> in the imminent return of Christ like the first believers did, as
> evidenced by our behavior.
> /_Hereís my question: _/Was Jesus wrong when He taught about the
> immediate return? How do we explain his slowness in coming, when they
> all thought it would have happened almost 2,000 years ago? And since it
> has been so long already, whatís the big deal if Jesus waits another
> 2,000 years? I know thatís inconceivable to most evangelical
> Christians, just like if you told a Christian in 100AD that Christ still
> did not return by 2000AD.
> No need to post scripture about ďscoffers who say Christ isnít going to
> return.Ē That isnít the question. The question is how to you resolve
> the fact that Christ clearly taught, and His disciples clearly believed,
> in the imminent return, which didnít happen yet? There was no imminent
> return. If Christ returns today, it was not imminent.
> It is a genuine problem that I have and am pondering, as a believer.
> ÖBernie

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Received on Tue Oct 7 20:36:10 2008

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