And now, today's part 2, continuing our review of Tom Wright's, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church on this third Sunday of Eastertide.
Previous posts on Wright's book include:
Part 1: Setting the Scene
1-2. Introduction, Confusion about the Afterlife in the World and Church
3. Early Christian Hope in Its Historical Setting
4. The Strange Story of Easter
Part 2: God's Future Plan
5-6. The Cosmic Future and The Nature of the World's Hope
7. Jesus, Heaven, and New Creation
Chapter 8: "When He Appears"
I was very appreciative of this chapter because it has helped me understand Wright's position on the second coming much better. First, that in fact Wright does believe in the second coming. His understanding of the New Testament on this subject is quite interesting.
First, he doesn't believe that Jesus ever predicted his return. But he doesn't believe this in the sense that the parables about absent landords and kings aren't historical. Nor does he take predictions such as Mark 13 and others that engage Daniel 7 are unhistorical. Rather, they were about the first coming of Jesus and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.
But the rest of the New Testament rightly then speaks of Jesus' return once and for all which is yet to come. Very interesting! I'm not convinced, but it is ingenius.
Wright then goes on to discuss what the parousia is for Paul. He mentions two meanings in the background literature: 1) mysterious presence of a god and 2) royal presence. He insists the word does not mean arrival but presence, ironically contradicted by his later comments about a king arriving at a city and being escorted into a town.
Yes, Wright believes that Christ will again be physically present on earth after the general resurrection. He does not, however, take the image of Christ coming on the clouds with the angels literally. He notes the parallels in Colossians of parousia with the word to "appear." He thinks language of clouds and descending is a metaphorical tapestry of 1) Moses coming down from the mountain, 2) Daniel 7, and 3) the visit of an emperor to a colony.
I buy allusions to the second two. I'm unconvinced of the first, where it seems to me Wright is once again smarter than Paul. And once again I would charge Wright with demythologizing Paul in his exegesis rather than in his application.