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

From: David Campbell <>
Date: Wed Oct 22 2008 - 10:26:27 EDT

> 2 Peter 3

> 3First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. <

> 8But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.<

Both of these point to a good chance of the end taking a while to
arrive, not to certainty that it will come right away-more scoffers
are yet to come, don't doubt because things seem slow, God's time
isn't ours, etc.

Although the exact relationship between the present physical world and
the future is debated (destruction and replacement, transformation,
etc.), the point that we are to take good care of the things here and
now cannot be dismissed. It's especially brought out in
Thessalonians. (It may be worth noting that the fact that some of the
Thessalonians were worried about believers dying before the parousia
doesn't necessarily mean that Paul strongly suggested that it ought to
happen right away. Paul got chased out of town before he could do all
the teaching that he wanted, and I doubt that detailed eschatology was
the first priority).

As Paul's correspondence mentions death for himself as a very real
possibility, it is unlikely that "we shall not all sleep, but we shall
all be changed" is intended to express certainty by Paul that he would
be in the "not sleep" category. In context (refuting denial of the
resurrection), as well as in comparison with the fuller discussion on
the state of believers at the parousia in I and II Thessalonians,
Paul's point is that believers, whether dead or alive at the time of
the parousia, will have a similar eternal life. When the parousia
will occur is simply not what Paul is talking about. Likewise, the
antievolutionary use of the "different flesh" illustration earlier in
the chapter is invalid-Paul's point is that they're different, and how
they got that way is not in view. At least the use of "we shall not
all sleep, but we shall all be changed" as a warning in church
nurseries is conscious misuse of the passage rather than a purportedly
legitimate inference.

Because of its being cited in Jude, I Enoch has been accepted in the
Ethiopian church, which in turn is the source of the most complete
manuscripts of it.

Unlike Matthew, Luke doesn't make a big deal of the number of
generations, so seeing particular significance in it seems
suspiciously eisegetical.

"I've already mentioned the tall tales in Acts and in Paul's letters
in which a couple are struck dead for lying about giving all they had
to the church; and in Paul where he writes apparently with a straight
face about his belief that "many of you are sick/ill, and some have
fallen asleep/died," because of the inappropriate ways they were
celebrating the Lord's supper. He says this was due to Christians
being "judged" by God. "

Ironically, these purported "tall tales" do not even require
miraculous action (though Peter and Paul are portrayed as having
supernatural insight). The sudden shock, fear, and guilt of exposure,
especially for someone who believed that God might smite the
disobedient, would not be an experience recommended by a cardiologist.
 Likewise, it's hardly surprising that some people out of a fairly
large group would be ill or die, especially under first-century
conditions of publich health-the catch is seeing particular
significance in it. Whether or not the accounts seem credible really
depends on one's a priori beliefs about God's existence and what His
views on sin are. (Not that you must believe that God is out to zap
sinners to accept the accounts as true-you could also think that God
sees such sins as so dangerous that even drastic measures are
justified to get our attention.)

Dr. David Campbell
425 Scientific Collections
University of Alabama
"I think of my happy condition, surrounded by acres of clams"
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Received on Wed Oct 22 10:26:53 2008

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