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Cross and Parousia - Max King

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THE CROSS

and

THE PAROUSIA OF CHRIST

The Two Dimensions of One Age-Changing Eschaton


By Max R. King
(1987)

PREFACE

The cross and the parousia of Christ are in biblical eschatology what alpha and omega are in the Greek alphabet Ė the beginning and the end. Our primary aim in this volume, as indicated by the title, is to show that Christís cross and parousia (i.e., His presence or arrival commonly call the second coming) are the two foci of one complete, indivisible eschaton (end time) that pertain to the fulfillment of all redemptive history and prophecy within the closing period ("the last days") of the Old Testament aeon (age).

The cross has been recognized generally as an eschatological event that forms the turning point between the two covenantal aeons Ė the Old and New Testaments or the Jewish and Christian ages. However, what has not received adequate attention (which in our opinion is the very root of eschatological disparity and dissension throughout the history of Christianity and of recent years in particular) is the total range of the cross-determined eschaton that unquestionably takes in the age-consummating parousia of Christ. The longstanding, traditional concept has been that the Old Covenant aeon, in all of its variegated projections of "things to come," was fully consummated within the cross/Pentecost time frame. This has been a key factor in an unbiblical dichotomizing of the one cross/parousia eschaton to the effect that the Christian age arbitrarily is inserted between these two complementary, age-changing events.

When the cross and Christís parousia are thus separated and assigned to different end-time periods, they become counteractive rather than coactive in their salvific design. The age that Christ died to establish (the Christian age) becomes the age that He must return to bring to an end. Not only does this undermine the saving efficacy of the cross, but it makes temporal what is declared to be everlasting Ė the New Covenant age (Heb. 13:20).

More problematic is the urgency, the imminency or nearness factor in New Testament expectation concerning Christís age-consummating parousia. Believers of apostolic time were exhorted to watch and to wait for Christís coming (1 Thess. 1:10;5:6) in view of the nearness of the end (1 Pet. 4:7) and the approaching day of the Lord (Heb. 10:25,37). We believe that it is neither logical nor biblical for the preparatory Old Covenant aeon (which lasted fifteen centuries) to give birth, through the cross event, to the promised New Covenant aeon ("the age to come"), only for it to become necessary for believers immediately to begin watching and waiting for that which Christ died to establish to come to an end at any moment! This kind of eschatological existence/expectation does not dovetail with the better (Heb. 8:6) and more lasting work of God through Christ Ė a new covenantal creation that fulfills His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9,21).

It might be argued by 20th century man that the New Covenant aeon already has exceeded the time frame of the preparatory Old Covenant aeon by five centuries, therefore the end may come at any moment. Even if five hundred years could mean the difference between what is temporal and what is eternal (which would be a foolish assumption), the fact remains that believers in apostolic times were the ones instructed to watch and wait for Christís age-changing parousia. If that parousia were tied to the end of the Christian age as commonly assumed, it is apparent that these saints were instructed to watch and wait for the end of that which has not yet reached maturity. They were waiting for Christ to return and conclude the age that He died to establish even before the full end of the former, preparatory age (the Jewish age) had been reached in the A.D. 70 consummation.

In light of Scripture, it does not make good sense for the post-Pentecost of pre-end-of-the-age saints to be waiting for two simultaneous age-consummating comings of Christ Ė one with reference to the consummation of the Jewish age (Mt. 24:3) and one with reference to an alleged end of the Christian age. Is it conceivable that the latter coming was a possibility before the occurrence of the A.D. 70 coming; that the end of the better and more lasting New Covenant aeon might have come even before the preparatory Old Covenant aeon was consummated? If not, then how can one account for the fact that post-Pentecost saints were instructed to watch and wait for Christís final coming after His ascension rather than after the fall of Jerusalem? Why watch and wait for two comings when one of them could not possibly have occurred until after the other one? Furthermore, if, as it is claimed, the two comings of Christ are separated by an entire age (especially by an age that represents the fulfillment of Godís eternal purpose in Christ), how could the final coming at the end of the Christian age possibly follow in close sequence Christís coming in the consummation of the Jewish age? Again we point out that it is easy for 20th century man to place an entire age between two alleged age-ending comings of Christ since two thousand years now stand between us and the end of the Jewish age, but this was not the case in apostolic time. In that time frame, even before the age to stand between two comings of Christ. How, then, could the saints of that day be watching and waiting for a soon coming of Christ to consummate what had not been in existence long enough to qualify as a short age, much less an everlasting age that had been anticipated by historical Israel for fifteen hundred years?

When the Old Testament background for the New Testamentís eschatological message is taken into consideration, it is apparent that the gospelís futurism concerning the last things tied to Christís parousia cannot exegetically be extended beyond the consummation of the Jewish age. This clearly is set forth by Christ in His Olivet Discourse, as recorded by Matthew (ch.24), Mark (ch.13), Luke (chs. 17,21), and, in a parallel but more extensive apocalyptic fashion, by John in his Revelation of Jesus Christ. In this clearly delineated framework of consummation, all of the eschatological sayings in New Testament Scripture were references, not to some far, distant end-time period of the New Covenant aeon, but to the cross-determined end of the Old Covenant age. This is in perfect agreement with the imminent or nearness expectations that are so pronounced in the latter period of the apostolic writings (Rom. 13:11,12; 16:20; I Cor. 7:29-31; 10:11; Phil. 4:5; Heb. 10:25,35-37; I Pet. 4:7; James 5:8; I Jn. 2:18; Rev. 1:1-3; 22:10).

It should not be thought a strange thing that the New Testament was written in the final period or "the last days" (Joel 2; Acts 2; Heb. 1:1,2) of the old aeon, because in the wisdom of God, Israelís history was the framework for the mission and message of Christ in terms of the restoration of all things spoken by the prophets. The transforming restoration of historical Israel was the central theme of prophecy, and consequently the concentration of the cross-determined eschaton. From this viewpoint, the only legitimate preaching of the gospelís end time, which takes in the full range of eschatology in New Testament Scripture, is the preaching of Christ as the fulfillment of Israelís salvation-history. This is demonstrated again and again in apostolic preaching. It is impressively clear that the apostlesí cross-centered, age-changing message stands in sharp contrast to modern day eschatological preaching that is focused on a piece of real estate in Palestine (per Dispensational Premillennialism), or some impending catastrophic destruction of the earth and the human race (per Amillennialism).

It will be shown in this volume, with the full support of Scripture, that every facet of New Testament eschatology is applicable exclusively to the final period of the Old Testament aeon. It is an age-changing eschatology that has the function of bringing forth the promised "age to come" within the same framework of time and events that achieves the consummation of the old aeon. Critical error is made when the Old Testament aeon is conceived as being consummated at the cross rather than through the cross, and the New Covenant aeon is understood as coming to completion in the cross/Pentecost period rather than the more extended cross/parousia time frame.

The common practice of making the cross a point of distinction between "this age" in the Gospels and "this age" in post-Pentecost writing (thus two different ages) is manifestly untenable. On both sides of the cross, the expression "this age" refers to the old aeon until its parousia-of-Christ consummation. Likewise, "the age to come" in both pre- and post-cross time refers to the coming of the Christian age. From this perspective, "the last days" that constitute the time frame for New Testament eschatology and the impartation of the eschatological Spirit, call attention, not to the Christian age or to some closing period of this endless age, but to the final period of the Old Testament aeon that extended from the cross to the parousia of Christ. Hence, New Testament eschatology is in reality Old Testament eschatology (i.e., promise and prophecy) in process of fulfillment during the transition from the old to the new aeon. This consummated change answers to the coming of that which is "perfect" (I Cor. 13:10).

When, therefore, the cross and Christís parousia are retained within the same eschaton, they have a complementary rather than a counteractive age-changing function that brings to completion Godís eternal purpose as set forth within the framework of "the two covenants" (Gal. 4:21-31). From this perspective, Christís parousia (which means presence or arrival) is tied, not to an outward, physical, earthly appearance of some sort, but to the consummated coming or arrival of the New Covenant aeon in the end of the old aeon. His presence, therefore, is a covenantal presence in terms of the new and everlasting covenant, which is explanatory of Paulís solitary aim to "win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:8,9).

During the transition period peculiar to Paulís day, he had in view the consummated covenantal change or conformity to the image of Christ in writing, "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" (Gal. 5:5). For him, Christís arrival or presence was bound up in the arrival of the New Covenant aeon. This unquestionably was the focal point of the gospelís futurism, beyond which one can not carry New Testament eschatology without undermining both the completion and the permanency of the New Covenant aeon. There is no place for eschatology in that which brings man into the full, face to face presence of Christ.

We believe that within the Six Parts of this volume, more than adequate proof is given for a biblical, singular, indivisible, cross/parousia-of-Christ eschaton relative to a cross-determined change from the old to the new covenantal aeon. In Part One, attention is given to the Problem of Time that exists for the interpreter who, for whatever reason, fails to remain within the gospelís clearly delimitated futurism for the one and only cross/parousia-of-Christ eschaton. The predominance of end-time nearness in the New Testament is inescapable. This is demonstrated by the incessant efforts of scholarship to account for the eschatological consciousness of the early church, when, in the minds of most interpreters, the end still has not been reached.

Over the years a number of scholars have concluded that the end-time expectations of the early church proved to be a delusion, and that it was not long before the church began to make adjustments to the failure of Christís parousia and the end of the world to take place. Some believed that such adjustments can be detected in the later writings of Paul, particularly in the pastoral letters, where concern for the growth, organization and worship of the church is seen as a shift in interest from Christís parousia to continued historical existence. However, when the closing period of the Old Testament aeon is seen as the framework for the eschatological outlook of the early church, the emphasis placed on the upbuilding of the church was essentially tied to its coming to maturity or perfection at the parousia of Christ. Christís disciples understood that they were the last generation of the old aeon, but on the other hand they were conscious of the fact that even though they were in the world, they were not of the world (Jno. 17); that in Christ they were the people of the coming new aeon. From this perspective, the early church never faced any eschatological disappointment, for the age-ending parousia of Christ did not fail to take place within the time frame of that generation.

Over the years other scholars have questioned the authenticity of many sayings of Christ concerning the nearness of the end, believing that such sayings were attributed to Him by the early church. This approach to the problem of time has been revived recently by many prominent mainline scholars, as for example, the Jesus Seminar launched in 1985 composed of more than 100 scholars, of whom nearly half meet twice a year (the most recent meeting in South Bend, Indiana, Oct. 86) to assess and vote on what should be considered the authentic sayings of Jesus. There is currently a widespread movement toward surrendering as unauthentic the eschatological sayings of Jesus that, in the end-time mentality of the interpreter, would mean that Jesus was mistaken in believing that the end was near.

We shall examine these and other mainline time solutions proposed by different scholars in their efforts to account for an assumed non-fulfillment, failure, delay or postponement of the end time taught and expected by Christ and the early church. It will be seen that the problem lies in what has been assumed, rather than in what the Scriptures actually teach.

In Part Two, an overview is given of Dispensational Premillennialism, which accounts for an alleged delay in Christís parousia, particularly the coming of the kingdom of God, by the employment of a postponement hermeneutic. Under this arbitrarily chosen method of interpretation, the crucifixion of Christ represents Israelís rejection of a bona fide offer of the Davidic kingdom (in a literal, earthly form correspondent to the Old Covenant economy), resulting in the setting up of a temporal church age Ė the so-called mystery age. In the conclusion of this age, Christ returns to establish an earthly kingdom that allegedly fulfills Godís promises to Israel Ė at least for a literal thousand years.

One of the merits of premillenarians is their equation of the gospelís futurism with the fulfillment of "the hope of Israel," a future that clearly is extended beyond the cross/Pentecost time frame. Their error from our viewpoint, however, is the failure to see the full outreach of the cross-determined eschaton that accomplished, without delay, the complete fulfillment of Israelís promised future according to the terms of the promised New Covenant Ė a fulfillment that was tied to the consummated arrival of the new aeon coincident with Christís arrival or parousia.

Part Three deals with the meaning of The Millennium. A study of this highly controversial subject serves to highlight some of the major differences between two extreme interpretative systems (premillenarianism versus amillenarianism) in contrast to what we believe to be the biblical framework of time and history for this particular end-time episode in Revelation 20.

In Part Four, attention is called to some of the distinctive eschatological concepts inherent in amillennialism, particularly the dichotomizing principle of interpretation in contrast to the postponement hermeneutic of premillennialism. A fundamental error committed by non-millenarians is that of dividing the one cross-determined eschaton into two distinct, separate end times Ė one at the end of the old aeon, and one at an alleged conclusion of the Christian age. Consequently, any scripture pointing to a post-Pentecost futurism is labeled for a second eschaton at an alleged end of the Christian age. It will be seen that what must be assumed here, namely, the complete fulfillment of the hope of Israel in the cross/Pentecost time frame, will not stand up under Paulís treatment of Israelís promised future in post-Pentecost. This future of Israel can not be collapsed in a restricted cross/Pentecost time frame, neither can it be deferred, in the theology of non-millenarians, until the end of the Christian age. Where, then, is it fulfilled?

Part Five is divided into two sections dealing with The Resurrection of the Dead. In Section One, the imminency of the resurrection in post-Pentecost time is shown to be anchored in the decisive resurrection of Christ, the firstfruits (I Cor. 15:23), or the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18). Just as the term "firstfruits" denotes two interrelated stages in the completion of a harvest, we find a parallel situation with respect to resurrection in the cross/parousia-of-Christ eschaton. The first resurrection, involving the perfection of the end-time saints (through their dying and rising with Christ), formed what we call the bridge community for the passage of Old Testament saints from sin-death to their consummated New Covenant inheritance in Christ at His parousia. The design of the perfection of the firstfruits (the pre-end-of-the-age believers) was not the exclusion, but the age-consumating inclusion of the faithful dead of the former dispensation.

In Section Two, we deal with the bodily or somatic aspect of the resurrection, showing that I Cor. 15 can not be isolated from Rom. 6-8 in Paulís understanding of bodily death and resurrection. There is a futuristic dimension of the resurrection defended by Paul in I Cor. 15. A verse by verse exegesis of all 58 verses of I Cor. 15 is made (consisting of seven chapters or sub-divisions), showing that I Cor. 15 is not peripheral but central to Paulís treatment of the resurrection, of which Christ is the firstfruits or the firstborn one. It will be seen that an assumed spiritual resurrection in Romans 6-8 versus an assumed physical resurrection in I Cor. 15 is foreign to the thinking of Paul.

Finally, in Part Six, some concluding observations are made on the everlasting nature of the New Covenant creation, and from this perspective we champion the abiding relevancy of realized eschatology. The commonly voiced objection that if every facet of eschatology in New Testament Scripture has been realized, and if all the prophecies and promises of God have been fulfilled, then we are left in a hopeless, limbo state of existence. This betrays a woeful lack of understanding and acceptance of the fullness and completeness of the never-ending life we have in Christ in terms of the everlasting New Covenant. As creaturely, finite beings, we always shall have needs that must be met continually by the providential care and power of God, including continued life beyond oneís biological mode of being. This is not denied. That which we do oppose, and which we believe is a distortion of biblical eschatology, and therefore of the true meaning of life, is the lifting of the gospelís end-time futurism out of its covenantal framework and giving it a carnal meaning and application (e.g., the destruction of earth and humanity) that serves only to overshadow that which is central and abiding relative to Godís redemptive work through Christ.

The feeling that the eschatological existence or consciousness of the early church must be duplicated in every generation of believers; that every generation from the cross onward must also, in order to have hope, be waiting for the coming of that which is perfect, is an unconscious denial of Godís completed work in Christ. Praise be to God that the period of time from the cross to the full end of the Jewish age Ė the time for the eschatological workings of the imparted Spirit Ė can not and need not be duplicated in our day. We are not and can not be the latter day (i.e., the pre-end-of-the-age) saints. Neither can we be, as were they, the firstfruits that were brought to maturity or perfection within the period of covenantal transition. Unlike them, we do not stand between the ages, participating in the once-and-for-all transition. Rather, in view of a first century realized eschatology, we are privileged to be partakers of the fullness of the promised life of God through Christ. The only firstfruits taken from among men of the last generation of the old aeon have been redeemed (Rev. 14:4). Babylon has fallen (v.8). The battle of Armageddon is past history. May we, therefore, cease to continually look for an end time that does not fall within the range of biblical eschatology and instead, with joy and optimism, arise to the challenge of now "having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" (v.6), for "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" (Isa. 9:7).

Max R. King

Warren, Ohio

July 1987

What do YOU think ?

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Date: 10 Jun 2006
Time: 22:15:05

Comments0:

Where and when do you worship? Do you partake in the Lord's supper? Do you contribute as prospered
on the first day of each week? What is meant by the phrase; "Mercy is the most important thing?"
If there is to be no marrying after the judgement,
how do you account for marriage today?
Humbly submitted;
Earl Wilburn
ebetwil@earthlink.net


Date: 27 Oct 2009
Time: 14:00:26

Your Comments:

Is this site still viable?

A couple comments. I understand the bible to teach that physical death was the enemy of mankind from the beginning and that eternal death was made manifest through the revelations of both old and new testaments. What this means to me is physical death did not bring on eternal damnation, only the judgment at the parousia would do that, nevertheless, jesus died physically to destroy death and open up spiritual life to all who call on his name. Therefore as paul says, the earthy man was first and then the spiritual. We bear the image of the earthy so that we can bear the image of the heavenly man. this means that physical death was the issue up until Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the gospel and by his conquering of death via his rasied body, he is able to bring many sons and daughter to God ... in the Spirit.

Finally, concerning what people say about the 'raptue' in the first century. Why not? Did'nt Peter and the others start the rumor that the disciple whom Jesus loved would not taste of death since he would abide 'until I come'? Why start a rumor unless there was good reason to believe that those alive in the first century, at the second coming would indeed be changed?

Thanks

Dan
 


Date: 15 Feb 2011
Time: 07:57:57

Your Comments:

Where is the order form for Max Kings book on the parousia?