Monday, May 14, 2012

Now, Not yet, and the shape of history

In the circles I travel in, the explanation of New Testament eschatology as 'Now but not yet' is so common as to be banal. Visually it is represented like this.
The idea is of an 'overlap of the ages'.
It's advantage is that it allows us to see God's eschaton beginning before the end of the old age.
But I'm starting to think it has serious limitations.
In the image above, the two ages never really interact, the new age never really breaks into the old (it floats of to heaven and is located there.
Also, the new age and time is seen as the same as the old, simply on a different register or plane.

So, I want to suggest a significantly more complicated picture

Where the ancients saw history as circular and eternal, we know that only God and his kingdom are eternal. History proceeds in a straight line, and not a straight line toward God's kingdom, but (initially) away from it. (the lines).
God intervenes, in actions that are both comprehensible and actual on that linear progression, yet are glimpses and real anticipations of the eschaton. (the circles)
This is true of Gods rescue of Israel from egypt, of every sabbath rest, of the return from exile, of Jesus resurrection, the coming of the Spirit, each sunday morning as we anticipate the first morning of the new creation. These interventions of God curve the linear progress of history toward the eschaton (though at no point could history be left to itself and find the eschaton)
The advantages of this picture, (I reckon), is that it allows us to see continuiy in God's activity between the old and new. it also allows us to apply similar interpretive strategies to prophecy in the Old and New Testaments, that is is, it allows us to say that some events are 'Then and not yet', rather than simply in an ever present now. This means that we can take things like the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as genuine events in the action of God, genuine interventions of the eschaton onto actual, flesh and blood history, fulfilling prophecies in the NT, and yet which still give us a lense into the future (ie, we aren't full preterists who  think there is no more eschaton to come.)



papermind said...

I really like this Mike (although you need to fix the embedding on your site).
Does it do justice to the significance of the resurrection through? It seems to make it one example among others of the eschatological inbreaking.

Mike W said...

yeah I had the same worry. Somehow need to show how the different moments are connected to each other. jesus resurrection is the sabbath/is the return from exile. And yet there does need to be that big moment at the resurrection.
I don't know how to represent the continuing significance in this picture.

Hey, are the pics not embedded, or is it just my crappy drawing that is the problem?

papermind said...

I'm getting the pic fine through the RSS feed but not on your site.
BTW. It really is a great pic...

Mike Bull said...

There is certainly an overlap between AD30 and now, but the one totally missed by evangelicals is the overlap between AD30 and AD70. Hence they are unable to make sense of the Revelation, and pretty much all the imminent predictions of the apostles. All was fulfilled in what Rev calls "the first resurrection." It was a microcosm of the second, larger one to come.

On another note, here's some thoughts on the current age (the "1000 years" of Rev 20 - note that the number is a symbol tying the administration of the Church of Christ to the 1000 years of tent worship and 1000 years of temple worship).

Mike W said...

Yep Mr Bull.
This was kicked off for me because we are about to preach through 2 Thessalonians, and it is tricky to make sense of with the 'overlap' picture.
While I'm still slightly wary of 'dominionism', I'm coming around on the preterism

Online Perfume said...

Very well explained but the image you have posted is little confusing and little hard to understand easily in one go.

Mike Bull said...

Don't be afraid of dominionism. It's simply the process of making a spectacle of the principalities and powers the way Christ did.

byron smith said...

Do the vertical and horizontal lines mean anything, or were they simply guidelines for constructing the spiral?