OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

The Lord's prayer and the parousia

Andrew.  Though I’m in way over my head, and though I haven’t had a chance to read COSM (much to my chagrin) yet, I do have a question.  How does the eschatology you propose make sense of the Lord’s Prayer?  On another thread, you seemed to reject the now/not yet paradigm (or inaugurated eschalology) for the Kingdom, emphasizing heavily the ‘already’ side of things (since we are living after 70AD in a post-eschatological world).  Are we no longer to pray that God’s Kingdom would come and God’s will would be done on Earth as in heaven?  Central to my faith is my mission to advance God’s Kingdom… if you say (and I’m not sure you’re saying this, which is why I’m looking for clarification) that the Kingdom has already come (that is, Jesus and Paul’s hopes for the Kingdom were fulfilled in the parousia, the ‘coming of the Son of Man’), should we even be praying that prayer?  And, more concretely, is there any real difference between seeking to advance God’s Kingdom (inaugurated in Christ), and actively waiting for the renewal of Creation by embodying it now?

I feel like I must be misreading you, but I’m not sure how I’m misreading you.  Any comments you could make to help me out would be much appreciated.

Cheers,

-Daniel-

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Re: The Lord's prayer and the parousia

Daniel, I will admit to having, let us say, second thoughts about praying now for the kingdom to come or using the language of ‘advancing the kingdom on earth’. If the kingdom of which Jesus speaks in this prayer is the ‘kingdom’ that is given to the Son of man following the defeat of the beast that oppressed the people of God, then perhaps we should conclude that the kingdom for which Jesus taught his followers to pray has indeed come - the kingdom has been restored to Israel (cf. Acts 1:6). The prayer to escape temptation and the evil one would have in view the specific temptation - the same testing by Satan that Jesus faced in the wilderness - to leave the narrow path in the face of Jewish and pagan hostility. In other words, this is not a generic Christian prayer but one that presupposes the particular eschatological circumstances that lay ahead of the disciples. I think that the parable of the widow who pesters the unjust judge should be read in the same way - Jesus teaches those who are persecuted by the enemy to pray for vindication (Luke 18:1-7).

Where does this leave us? We are a people over whom God, and God alone, is king. So following the overthrow of Babylon the great John hears the voice of a great multitude crying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns’ (Rev. 19:6). He simply reigns. There is no ‘now and not yet’. So I’m not at all sure that it is right for us to think of the kingdom in progressive terms as advancing, as though eventually the whole world might be subsumed into this expanding kingdom. Certainly there is a mission, there is work to be done, there are people to be reached and lives to be changed, and so on. But this is possible because God has become king over his people and will never be dethroned from that position by any earthly ruler or power. The reign of God over his people, therefore, is not something for which we now long and pray, as something not yet fully achieved; it is the starting-point, the established basis on which we serve him in the larger, more expansive, comprehensive task of proclaiming and pre-empting in Christ the future renewal of creation.

Whether this makes much of a difference in practice is another matter. The exegetical question is simply, How is this language contextualized in the New Testament? We might still conclude that it is too much a part of our tradition to be hermeneutically confined in this way, though I would stress that this approach does not at all make the ‘kingdom of God’ a thing of the past. We are living under the reign of God. But the missional task needs to be restated in creational rather than kingdom terms.

Re: The Lord's prayer and the parousia

Hi Andrew,

I know it apprears I’m chasing you over the website…but I was compelled to ask you a question in response to this paragraph:

"We are a people over whom God, and God alone, is king. So following the overthrow of Babylon the great John hears the voice of a great multitude crying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns’ (Rev. 19:6). He simply reigns. There is no ‘now and not yet’. So I’m not at all sure that it is right for us to think of the kingdom in progressive terms as advancing, as though eventually the whole world might be subsumed into this expanding kingdom. Certainly there is a mission, there is work to be done, there are people to be reached and lives to be changed, and so on. But this is possible because God has become king over his people and will never be dethroned from that position by any earthly ruler or power. The reign of God over his people, therefore, is not something for which we now long and pray, as something not yet fully achieved; it is the starting-point, the established basis on which we serve him in the larger, more expansive, comprehensive task of proclaiming and pre-empting in Christ the future renewal of creation."

Andrew, when has this NOT been true for God’s people?  See, e.g., Psalm 47, 93, 95, 97, 99, etc.

You conclude: "We are living under the reign of God. But the missional task needs to be restated in creational rather than kingdom terms."

God is the everlasting king - we have always lived under his sovereign reign, from creation to re-creation (cf. Ps.24:1-2; 29:10; 96:10-13).  The mission is therefore BOTH creational and kingdom-oriented because all creation is the domain of the Almighty’s reign (i.e., kingdom), and one day, this rebellious world will acknowledge fully the sovereignty of the Lord Sabaoth and of His Christ, when every knee shall bow and every tongue confess, above the earth, on the earth, and under the earth that all praise and honor and glory belong to God and to the Lamb who sits on the throne (cf. Rev.5:13). 

The coming of the kingdom of God

It’s interesting that Psalm 47 includes the line ‘He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet’ (3). Jesus proclaimed the imminence of the kingdom of God (‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand’: Mark 1:15) at a time when Israel itself was subdued under the feet of another nation, in fact of a superpower - a time when the high priests could say, ‘We have no king but Caesar’ (John 19:15). Throughout this whole process God remains king over the whole earth. But it is the actual historical state of affairs that I think is addressed by the language of a coming kingdom (and by the motif of the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven) in the New Testament.

The other difference between the Old and the New Testament is that the manner of God’s reign over his people has changed. It is no longer supremely represented by the figure of the successful warrior king riding in triumph into Jerusalem but by the drama of an outlawed prophet of dubious parentage entering the city on a pack animal to face humilition, rejection and death. It is no longer dependent on a dynasty of all too fallible rulers but is enacted through an anointed one who was obedient to the point of death and who was raised, vindicated, seated at the right hand of God.

So I would say that Jesus and the apostles spoke about a coming reign of God over his people that would displace the reign of current earthly and satanic powers, and that the parousia motif represents the fulfilment of this displacement. To understand this we need to look at the future from the perspective of a small essentially Jewish sect that was about to move out of the frying pan of a nation under foreign rule, torn apart by factionalism, facing war, into the fire of pagan loathing and hostility. What would they have wanted to talk about? What would have mattered to them? They would surely have wanted to know that this would not go on forever, that God would sooner or later put an end to this precarious existence, overthrow the powers that opposed them, vindicate their faith, not just ideally but really, not just in heaven but also on earth.

But when the fire of pagan opposition has been put out, we must ask what this people is here for. I am beginning to think that this question cannot be properly answered in kingdom categories, but that is something that needs to be unpacked separately.

Re: The Lord's prayer and the parousia

"When has God not been king over all the earth Psalm 47, 93, 95, 97 etc."

This paraphrase of kingjames1’s comment draws attention to a kingdom in process of coming, and being expressed historically in various specific ways - and being in some ways an imperfect metaphor. God never seems to have directly intended Israel to be a kingdom, and when David reigned as an imperfect king, that kingdom became an imperfect metaphor of the kingdom to be restored after Israel lost it. All the time, Israel was defining kingdom in terms of the kingdoms of the world around her - a definition which Jesus had to reject and redefine immediately before his public ministry began - in the wilderness temptations.

This redefinition confused those not immediately in Jesus’s circle, and offended those like John the Baptists and his followers who had ushered Jesus onto the public stage - Matthew 11:1-6.

Jesus’s response to the messengers from John is very revealing. The answer he gave to their questions defined himself in terms of Isaiah’s vision of the kingdom - eg Isaiah 35:5-6/Isaiah 61:, Isaiah being the prophet of the kingdom - eg Isaiah 11, 32, 33, 52, 55 etc. Jesus then reflected this vision in his public ministry, identifying the activity of the Spirit through his ministry directly with the kingdom of God - Matthew 12:28.

Following his resurrection, Jesus spoke for 40 days to his disiciples about the kingdom of God. What was he saying to them? Andrew might argue that he was preparing the disciples for tribulation and the transfer of the kingdom in AD 70 etc. But two features of Acts 1 stand out: one is the focus on the Holy Spirit; the other is language which echoes Isaiah: eg ‘witnesses’; ‘ends of the earth’.

Taking the Isaiah language of Acts 1 into account, it seems reasonable to assume that when Jesus answers the disciples’ question about restoring the kingdom to Israel by speaking of what we now know as Pentecost, his identification of Kingdom with Spirit is exactly what he intended, and what the disciples would already have understood from his 40 days intensive teaching course.

This is also the thrust of Peter’s Pentecost sermon: identifying the pouring out of the Spirit with Jesus’s exaltation to God’s right hand as king (lord) and messiah - contradistinguishing him from David to make the point. The climax of the speech is the invocation of the messianic/kingly psalm 110.

I have no doubt that AD 70 was a fufilment of prophecy which features much more widely in the NT, gospels especially, than has previously been given due credence or attention. Like Andrew, I see echoes or forewarnings of AD 70 in the Lord’s prayer.

But for me, if the focus on the coming of the kingdom goes where it needs to go - which is Pentecost, then we are in a position to see in what sense Jesus ‘reigns’ now. He ‘reigns in life’ - Romans 5:17. It is a reign over sin and death, more than a temporal, earthly reign expressed in the way earthly kingdoms hold power. In this way it defeated the kingdoms of the earth, because they are part of the sin/death dispensation - especially in their abuse of power, and as God used them to bring judgement on Israel through Israel’s sinful disobedience.

In other words, it is only by understanding the role of the Spirit as the bringer of life that we can understand how Jesus brought, and intends to bring, the kingdom. Having said this, it should be obvious that the full expression of this kingdom has yet to come - sin and death still being very obvious realities in this world, and in our own lives insofar as non-resurrection bodies still reflect an old creation marred by sin. But a simple formula captures it: wherever the Spirit is, there is the kingdom. This is the means whereby we overcome sin and death, and the means whereby the kingdoms of this world are defeated - one might say subverted.

To pick up on a statement towards the end of Andrew’s comment - this is what makes the difference in practice when we talk of the kingdom having already come. But it almost automatically presupposes that there is plenty of kingdom yet to come - just as there is plenty of the Spirit to come - what we have being only a downpayment: the deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.

Seen through these lenses, the teaching of gospels and epistles can be related to AD 70, but would have an on-going relevance in that Jesus was also giving instructions about lives that should characterise Spirit-people.

 

Re: The Lord's prayer and the parousia

Thank you to both andrew and peter for your thoughtful responses.  I suppose the thoughts you have articulated provide a clearer formulations of the assumptions I bear when I pray for God’s Kingdom to be advanced through my life.  God’s Kingdom can be manifested in me and through me because God already reigns.  This is how I understood your last post peter.  The ‘down payment’ not only guarantees the future full payment, but also the means by which the full payment is to be made.  If the Kingdom of God is how the world really is (in principle) then Gandhi’s "be the change you want to see" is how the Kingdom comes (in fact).  So in all my talk of advancing the Kingdom, I guess I never thought I was actually advancing (although I may have allowed myself a few linguistic imprecisions) the Kingdom… rather I thought I was manifesting the Kingdom, which has already come.  I’m not convinced this clearer formulation makes that much of a difference in actual practice, but it is good to have in mind.  So thanks for the clarification.

Long story short, I agree with the both o’ ya.  It’s just that when I say ‘already/not-yet’, I am simply referring to ‘what is’ vs. ‘what is manifested’.  And God’s Reign is not yet manifested.  I think we can agree on that.  All this to say, I might still pray the Lord’s prayer (if it isn’t too great of a reinterpretation to think ‘your Kingdom be manifested’ while I pray ‘your Kingdom come’)…  :-)

Cheers!

-Daniel-

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