Eschatology, shaping events & motifs, kingdom and the 'double perspective' theory
(I have created a separate forum topic for this comment, since, in addition to responding to a comment by Lloyd, it raises some fresh issues, and develops a conversation with Andrew over the significance of the AD 70 events in a narrative understanding of theology.)
Lloyd provides us with fascinating subjects of speculation - but I have to ask what the central and shaping motifs of the biblical narrative are, especially as provided by and fulfilled in the NT narrative, and what effect this has on our interpretation of words like ‘kingdom’, and events associated with ‘the last days’.
In the objects of interest provided by Lloyd, and in Andrew’s recasting of the biblical narrative, the role of Israel, and its perfect representative, the true Israelite Jesus, seem to make the problems of sin and death, so emphatically taken up by Paul in Romans, somewhat peripheral. Likewise the gift of the Spirit, as a decisive event at Pentecost, and as a continuing phenomenon in Acts, seems not have a central, formative role.
Eschatology then should begin with the person of Jesus himself, his life, ministry, the cross, resurrection, ascension and outpoured Spirit. These were the events which gripped the apostles in their preaching as in their letters. And possible as it is that the destruction of Jerusalem was a parousia in judgement, it is difficult to see any believer in any age rejoicing over this catastrophe, with the incredible slaughter which proceeded from it, or seeing it as the fulfilment of any ‘blessed hope’. The believers who had fled from Jerusalem might have felt some sense of relief at having secured their own personal safety, and there might have been some relief at the subsequent diminution of the Jewish role in their own persecution, but this was rapidly being overtaken by the rise of persecution from a Roman source - reaching particular climaxes under Nero, Domitian and Diocletian, and never far from the surface at any time.
It is for these reasons that Matthew provides the possibility of a double perspective in his use of the word parousia in 24:3 - a word not used in the direct answer to the disciples’ questions in Mark 13 and Luke 21, but suggestive of an event more distant than AD 70 elsewhere in the NT (eg 1 Thessalonians 4:15). The ‘double perspective’ framework fits so well with the main emphases of the NT narrative itself, and its spokespersons, that it is difficult to dismiss. It also fits well with Revelation - which so closely parallels the synoptic apocalypses. This is the kind of framework which mainstream faith communities have tended to hold over the centuries, and we should be cautious in discounting their voice.
I don’t know how Lloyd works out in detail his version of the different applications of ‘kingdom’, but I would hope he has noted the close affinity between ‘kingdom’ and Spirit’ in the pages of the NT, and also how this accords with Isaiah’s vision of kingdom and Spirit, how Jesus seems to have adopted this Isaianic vision for himself and his own ministry, as reflected in Luke 4:18-21, Luke 7:21-23 (Matthew 11:4-6), and how these verses stand as paradigms of his ministry generally. This version of ‘kingdom’ fulfilled at Pentecost the teaching of Jesus alluded to in Acts 1:1-8 (again, full of echoes of Isaianic language), and continues to be a paradigm for viewing the kingdom today - in the full range of expressions of the Holy Spirit through the people of God (which includes social justice).
That John the Baptist and his followers had failed to see the essence of this vision and expression of kingdom and Spirit, and Israel’s failure as a whole to see it, speaks poignantly into our own debates and discussions. Jesus simply did not come to fulfil OT expectations in the way that had been expected, even by those closest to him, even up to the final moments before the cross - Mark 14:47-49. And here we are today, still divided over what it meant (and means) for Jesus to bring the kingdom. What it definitely did not mean (and does not mean) was for one nation to rise up and become the predominant nation over all the others, in the way that nations had repeatedly done, and Israel had tried to do, over the millennia.
The phenomenon of apostate Judaism in events leading up to the destruction of the temple in AD 70, and the parallels between the synoptic apocalypses and Revelation (John’s apocalypse) seem to me worthy of exploration. It also appears to me that Jerusalem, Rome and the entire subsequent world system are each encapsulated in the final catastrophic events of Revelation - and we should hesitate to pronounce any final definitive interpretation; the events have the potential for multiple application. Likewise ‘the man of lawlessness’ in 2 Thessalonians - who, I have also felt, could be identified within Judaism - fails to secure definite identification.
Anyway, Lloyd strikes me as one whose theological bags are well packed, but I, for one, am always willing to consider new angles on old issues, though I may struggle not to let words like ‘rabbits’ and ‘hats’ come too readily to mind in my strange interior world of mixed metaphors.