N.T. Wright and Eschatology

Though it should go without saying, great intellect does not necessarily produce orthodox theology. Such is most certainly the case however his regard to N.T. Wright and eschatology. I am specifically referring to matters of supercessionism (replacement theology) and the millennium. To be honest, it grieves me that he is not challenged more robustly on these matters, by those who call themselves theological conservatives.

N.T. Wright and His Magical Metaphors

In brief, all of the biblical descriptions of the coming Kingdom of God as a restored Jewish Kingdom, Wright claims are simply metaphors. Wright’s use of “metaphor” to justify his subversion and abrogation of the promises of God throughout the Scriptures is a clear violation of responsible hermeneutics, it is a perversion of the very definition of metaphor, and is deeply circular in its reasoning.

A metaphor by definition describes one thing by using something else that is otherwise generally different. One might say for instance, that “all the world is a stage.” One would not however conclude from the use of such a metaphor that the world was never actually the world at all and has in fact always been a stage. To do so would be to use circular reasoning, essentially reversing the metaphor itself. We do not take the stage, which is the subject of the metaphor, and impose it back onto the original object itself. Yet when Wright radically “redefines” and “subverts” (one of his most frequently used words) Jewish messianic hope, which itself is simply an extension of the covenant promises of God, this is precisely what he is doing. In fact, the covenants of God are not even metaphors at all, nor were they ever intended to be. The promised land is not a metaphor. The very specific boundaries of the promised land as defined by God Himself are not metaphors. The “throne of David” is not a metaphor. The title (Which Jesus personally applied to Himself) “The King of the Jews” is not a metaphor. Ezekiel chapters 40-48 do not comprise one enormous metaphor. To assert such is to pervert the very words of God. The same could be said of several other issues that Wright distorts through his improper use of metaphor. Consider for example Wright’s perspective concerning the actual return of Jesus.

As Jesus ascended to heaven, the Scriptures state that, “He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). But as the disciples were staring at the sky, two angels interrupted and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). It would be difficult to be more direct. In the same way that they had just watched Jesus go up into the sky and into the clouds, He is going to come back again in like manner. The angels of course were not speaking in metaphors, they were simply making a very matter of fact statement. Now hear the condescending tone and belittling words of Wright toward any who would actually believe the words of the angels. Wright speaks of:

…the never-ending speculation about future would-be ‘apocalyptic’ figures, such as the supposed ‘heavenly son of man’ who would ‘come’ – i.e. ‘return,’ downwards to earth, on a literal cloud. This monstrosity, much beloved (though for different reasons) by both fundamentalists and would-be ‘critical’ scholars, can be left behind, appropriately enough, in the center of his mythological maze…”

Thus according to Wright, those who believe that Jesus is actually going to return from heaven, believe in a “monstrosity” and are lost in a “mythological maze.” Elsewhere, Wright says, “nobody supposes that [Paul] imagined [Jesus] would make his appearance flying downward on a cloud.” Elsewhere yet again, Wright claims that after listening to Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, the disciples had:

“no reason, either in their own background or in a single thing that Jesus had said up to then at that point, for it even to occur to them that the true story of the world, or of Israel, or of Jesus himself, might include either the end of the space-time universe, or Jesus or anyone else floating down to earth on a cloud.”

And finally:

[N]o interpreter ought to imagine that the ‘Son of Man’ can be interpreted ‘literally’ as a human figure floating on a cloud. The image speaks clearly, to anyone with ears attuned to the first century, of the vindication of the true Israel over her enemies.

Thus, according to Wright, the words of the angels who said that Jesus will return in the clouds from the sky should not be taken literally. Wright interprets all of the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven” texts to refer to Jesus judgment against Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Essentially an invisible return to vindicate “true Israel” (the Church) against the fake Israel, (the actual Jewish nation). Again, to think otherwise is to embrace a “monstrosity” and a “myth.” From a Pauline Jewish perspective, Wright’s words here are mere gnosticism.

When I consider the Islamic perspective concerning the return of Jesus, he is said to return to “break the cross” and abolish the Jizyah tax (the option of subjected Christians to pay a tax and live as subjected peoples). Elsewhere within Islamic apocalyptic prophecy, the Muslim Jesus will return to kill the Dajjal, false Jewish King. In essence, according to the Islamic narrative, Jesus returns to eliminate Christianity and Judaism. Its hard to quantify how precisely perverted this is. Yet when we consider Wright’s perspective on the return of Jesus, it is quite similar. According to Wright, the various passages which speak of the son of man coming on the clouds actually refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel in 70 A.D. According to Wright:

It is from Jerusalem that the true Israel must now flee, lest they partake in her destruction. It is Jerusalem whose destruction will be the sign that the God whom Jesus has proclaimed is now indeed manifestly the king of the whole earth. According to Jesus, therefore, the real referent of Daniel 7 is the destruction of Jerusalem: the Son of Man will be vindicated but the fourth beast (Jerusalem) will be destroyed.

Both Wright’s perspective and the Muslim perspective of the return of Jesus, “Our Blessed Hope,” are simply perverted supercessionist fantasies having no connection to actual Biblical hope whatsoever. Wright’s eschatology has quite literally reinterpreted the longing of the prophets and applied it to an event often referred to as “the first holocaust.”

Perhaps it is due to sheer intimidation, perhaps it is out of general ignorance, but for some reason, rarely is Wright called out for his fundamental distortion of the biblical testimony on these foundational and crucial matters. My appeal here, for whatever it is worth, is for all those who consider themselves to be genuine students of the Scriptures, who value humility, who value orthodoxy, to reject the admittedly “subversive” hermeneutic of N.T Wright, specifically as it pertains to the promises of God, the people of God, and the Kingdom of God.

31 Responses to N.T. Wright and Eschatology

  1. Words mean what some folk want them to mean. Norman Tebbit has been around the block, and his words are apropos: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/normantebbit/100277441/for-our-masters-in-brussels-and-westminster-words-mean-whatever-they-want-them-to-mean/

    There are times when there is subtext to scripture, but the return of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, this is not one of them.

  2. Thanks Joel. I have not read any of N.T. Wright’s works but recently a Messianic Jewish friend has become quite enamored of his writing, and I was a trifle concerned. I have shared your blog with her. Will be interested to hear her response.

  3. Troy Geddes says:

    Hello Joel,

    N.T. Wrong would be a better name…

    I highly recommend this book for anybody who wants to see how the church has committed “Identity Theft”. This is probably the best studies done on this subject of replacement theology. The major take away from this book is tied to your post. This is an in depth look at the subject and is scholarly.

    ISRAEL RONALD E. DIPROSE ISRAEL THE ORIGINS AND EFFECTS OF REPLACEMENT THEOLOGY Ronald E.Diprose Copyright © 2000 Istituto Biblico Evangelico Italiano, Rome, Italy

    Diprose, Ronald E. (2012-01-23). Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology . InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

    http://www.amazon.com/Israel-Church-Origins-Replacement-Theology/dp/0830856897/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1403654449&sr=8-1&keywords=the+history+of+replacement+theology

  4. Joel says:

    Agreed. Diprose’s book is excellent. Dalton Thomas lent it to me a few weeks back. It’s an easy read. I would also highly recommend Barry Horner’s Future Israel, as well as Dr. Michael Brown’s Our Hands are Stained With Blood, a much more popular read.

  5. Adam N. says:

    Great Article!

  6. AtHisFeet says:

    I fear many of these scholars have become so enamored with their own intellect that they have smothered the simple quality of child-like faith.

  7. Dan says:

    NT Wright is wrong when it comes to eschatology and supercessionism, though one must understand that most of European Christianity and High Church Anglicanism believe in amillenialism.

    NT Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God is an amazing work though. He thoroughly destroyed the Jesus Seminar and placed a mortal wound in the hearts of those that claimed that the NT was speaking of Spiritual Resurrection instead of bodily resurrection. Incredible apologists like Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig have used his material very successfully in academia and on the debate stage against the likes of Bart Erhman and Marcus Borg. In fact, NT Wright’s work held significant sway over the conversion of Anthony Flew from aggressive atheism to a strong deist. This may not seem like a big deal in Christian circles, but in the witnessing field, it was a monumental. It would be like Richard Dawkins becoming a believer in God (Dawkins is a poor man’s Flew as Flew was far more intelligent and his arguments were among the most widely quoted of 20th century atheists).

    Therefore, he should be taken to task for his eschatology but one should recognize other areas where his scholarship has made a huge paradigm shift in resurrection studies.

  8. Philip Brown says:

    Joel,

    Does this mean that NT Wright is a Full-Preterist? I’ve never heard of any group that denounced the future and literal return of Christ except for full-preterists.

    (Preterism means “past fulfillment”. Full-Preterists believe everything in Scripture has already been fulfilled including the return of Christ, and the new heavens and the new earth – which becomes the new covenant.)

    Philip

  9. Daud says:

    Satan’s a decent theologian don’t you know full of wisdom and beauty too
    his IQ must be immense. He disenfranchised man in the garden of Eden in 50 words or less but add to all that some pride and you now have the father of lies. So intelligence alone is no gaurantor of truth.
    I hold my head in my hands and cringe when the name of mr wright is trotted out in Church as a respected christian thinker. We have become so suckered into the culture of academia little realizing that university’s are shot through with the miasma of humanism, Academia produces this same pride because knowledge puffs up but love builds up. knowing stuff and gaining degrees or even a phd does is not pre-cedent over knowing Jesus personally and revelation through the Holy spirit produces humility. I work with a young lady fresh out of a “good”university she calls herself a christian but confesses that Jesus is not the only way homosexuality is OK within a faithful relationship and we don’t have to take seriously the book of genesis. She looked at me agog today as if I had just killed a holy cow when I said I did not believe in evolution.She has a degree in theology. would I be alone in thinking that people like this are self deceived?

  10. Joel says:

    Daud,

    I actually agree with Dan’s comments above. Wright has made some genuinely positive contributions in some fields of biblical study. But as I said above, beyond all other things, his supercessionism and eschatology in general is simply horrendous.

    Philip,

    No, he affirms the literal future resurrection. Though he certainly shares many perspectives with full-preterists. He believes that the fourth beast of Daniel 7 was referring to the apostate Jerusalem/Israel of the 1st century. He denies a literal return of Jesus.

  11. Vernon says:

    This was a good read Joel. The Lord bless you for your diligence and commitment to truth.

  12. Dan says:

    Thanks Joel. I agree wholeheartedly about his eschatology. I actually have studied his eschatology closely and have talked to Gary Habermas about NT Wright’s view. Here is the deal:

    First, he equates non-amillenial views to dispensationalism. I saw him talk about the short comings of dispensationalism at length. He said that there are many amazing American apologists and thinkers, but then turned around and said their eschatology is messed up due to dispensationalism. He was asked about historical premillenialism and said it was legitimate, but rare.

    Second, NT Wright is an Anglo-Catholic. This helps explain why he is amillenial. Basically, the Catholic and Anglo-Catholics buy into Augustine’s amil eschatology. They also tend to be the subject of attack since most dispensationalists are looking for the Pope to be the anti-Christ or at least the anti-Christ will come from Europe.

    Third, Christians have to be very careful about being anti-intellectual. We should be engaging academia while being orthodox just like Paul in Greece. I disagree that we should attack someone because they appeal to the academy. NT Wright is a scholar and is one of the few who proclaim the death and resurrection of Christ on a University setting. I work as an apologist on campuses and the spiritual attacks one gets is outrageous. Part of the reason this has happened is because Christians have retreated from the University. We can disagree with those like NT Wright on specific issues, but he is a brother in Christ in the Lion’s Den every day. How many folks do that for a living? One reason I love Joel is that he is that type of guy…most are internet warriors and talkers ready to rip someone down.

    Fourth, he denies his eschatology is replacement theology (though it is). He believes when the Bible says “There are those of you here that will see Christ come into his kingdom” he is talking about Pentecost where Christ went to His Kingdom in Heaven. He does not believe Jesus is going to set up an Earthly Kingdom. Here, he needs to be taken to task because he is wrong. I do not believe he has evil motivations, he is just simply wrong. Someone needs to try to reach him and correct him. It can be done as my pastor held to this type of conviction. I confronted him with Joel’s book and he changed his view (he was a Mennonite).

  13. Joel says:

    Well said Dan,

    I also have a difficult time with his polemical style. His eloquence somehow allows him to use language that I would be excoriated for using when describing those he disagrees with. “Monstrosity” and such. He juxtaposes for instance those who take a metaphorical view of the promises of God with those who embrace “crass literalism.” Obviously this gets my hackles up. We’re talking about basic credal Christianity and calling it a monstrosity. I have also just finished writing a historical survey of Christian hatred of Jews. Its difficult to read Wright’s supercessionist arguments cast again in polemical language and not hear the screams and cries of millions of God’s covenant people echoing down through history. I use strong language myself here, (“perverted” etc.) for this reason much more than anything else.

    Blessings

  14. Steve says:

    It seems to me when you deny a literal return of Jesus, you are walking on thin ice, no matter what else you say. Last I read the Spirit reveals to us the truth, and if we don’t have the Spirit the Bible becomes a closed book- it becomes and says whatever we want it to. There are many hard sayings in the Bible, but the big picture is pretty easy. I only made it through the 9th grade, but thank God I understand and hold to all the major doctrines as well as PHDs, and Joel, and a lot of you other guys that are educated. This is a God thing, for sure! Looking forward to the book Joel! 🙂 Keep up the good work.

  15. Greg says:

    This evening I was working on my session notes for the upcoming Las Vegas Prophetic Conference in August. I wrote:

    “We will bear a stigma for declaring the end time prophecies. We will be labeled kooks and nuts by those outside the Church, and liberal intellectuals within will ridicule us for insisting on the literal fulfillment of all the prophets have spoken concerning the end of this age and the Day of the Lord.”

  16. Joel says:

    Yup.

  17. good4u says:

    Annnd…may I add humbly, Greg, that those within the Church will not believe us, if at all, until it is maybe too late. Or in the case of my Bible teacher-Elder who sees talk on news about an Islamic Caliphate being formed like a super-terrorist state in the Mideast.

    I guess the nightly cable news shows hold more truth that the Word of God? You just gotta wonder…

    Blessings!

  18. Dan says:

    A final word about NT Wright…interestingly, his scholarly work has opened the door to examining Jesus through Jewish eyes. This is true of Richard Bauckham as well (not as well known but equally important as a scholar). Part of the reason Messianic Jews love NT Wright is because he helped defeat the Second Quest for the Historical Jesus. This quest started in the 1960’s and matured in the 1980’s with the JEsus Seminar. Basically, the second quest tried to paint Jesus as a sage or a hippie (reflected the worldview of the scholars that created this fictional Jesus). By turning the focus to the Jewishness of Jesus, a revolution has occurred in NT studies. Interestingly, this impacts my good friend Joel. Instead of reading the NT as a Greek tragedy, scholars are reading the NT as a Jewish movement…a true second temple movement. This is part of the reason we are seeing fresh eyes visiting eschatology like Joel and many others. NT Wright has maintained the old school eschatology from the Anglo Catholic school of thought, but his contributions to NT will ultimately undermine his position. When one reads the Bible from a Jewish perspective, you can’t get amillenialism/idealism. You just can’t. Ironically, his total view of scripture will cut the throat of his eschatology.

  19. Joel says:

    The irony Dan is that liberal scholars have been doing this for eons. In fact, it is almost exclusively the liberals who rightly see Jesus as an one immersed in the world of second Temple apocalyptic Judaism. They simply do not believe any of it.

    I should add that Wright’s radical ideas are not only his. There are other well respected scholars within evangelicalism who also see the “motif” of the son of man as something entirely other than a reference to the traditional return of Jesus in the clouds. I just went after Wright, because he is the most seemingly celebrated. He’s a also a big boy and could care less about what I think, I’m sure.

  20. Dan says:

    Agreed. Also, to make it clear, I totally agree with your take on him. I was moreso reacting to some comments. Look me up when you are in town!

  21. Michael McCullough says:

    I may have to buy one of Wright’s works to see what is wrong, though I’ll put it at the back of my reading list. I confess that I’ve never heard of him before today.

    I’m looking forward to your next book. THAT is something I’m looking forward to reading.

  22. Alan K says:

    Just a quick comment. To understand Wright’s bad eschatology one must understand his ax-grinding against American capitalism in general and his aversion to American conservative Christianity specifically. He refuses to be corrected on his skewed view of identifying premillennialism with left-behind theology. He is arrogant and ignorant in his analysis of dispensational theology and premillennialism. It is a blind spot for him because of his hatred for it. (Dan, I am saying this as an academic and not as a non-academic).

  23. giles says:

    Im supposed to be studying theology (though have not been able to bring myself to it for a few months now). I remember one topic i wrote an assignment on, I referenced a book by John Hagee. I was told on the feedback not to use such books, but only keep to the academics, such as NT Wright.
    I asked what makes the distinction, but got no real answer.

    It seems to me that academic circles, simply put, are a bunch of people with a string of letters behind their names, and if you want to have some letters behind your name as well, you need to read their books. Then maybe they’ll give you one of those letters.

  24. Jay Ross says:

    A number of years ago, the “Christian” Bookstore I regularly frequented had quite a number of books on eschatology. At least a shelf or two but now, the number of books on the self on this topic are difficult to spot because there are so few. Perhaps the market has moved to Ebooks where self publishing is prolific and encouraged.

    Back then, I would devour books, but quickly realised that I needed to be able to quickly evaluate the books on the shelf and decide whether or not they were actually worth buying to read.

    As such I developed a number of proof texts to search for within the respective books as my guide.

    One such proof text guide was Genesis 15:16. If the book author equated this verse with the Exodus from Egypt the Book went back onto the shelf. If the book author did not link the verse with the return of some of Abraham’s descendants to the land, which came true in 1948, I would also put the book down.

    Another proof text concerned God’s promise of the “earth/land” to Abraham’s descendants. If the author focused on the land as described in Genesis 15:17ff as being what God meant, then I would put the book back on the shelf.

    If the author spoke of Jesus ruling an earthly kingdom during this present age, then I understood that they did not understand what had been written in the Hebrew Text of Psalm 45:17 and again would put the book down.

    The author’s views on the parables of the Mina and the Talents was another proof test for me along with the Judgement of the Nations, the sheep and the Goats.

    Sadly, the scholarship of the authors had to be beyond reproach, from my perspective, before I would even consider buying a book on End Times prophecy.

    With that being said, I too cannot put my views up there and say, “Listen to me, I have a full comprehension of how things will pan out during the end times.” as I also have flaws in my understanding of end times prophecy.

    What I will say is that in every book on this subject matter, they will probably contain a gem of wisdom here or there that should be taken onboard and considered. It is my view that what holds us back in our understanding of prophecy, is the tradition that is held onto and acts like a millstone as it holds us back from running too far ahead of the pack in our understanding. Sadly the millstone is gaining more weight than it is losing at present.

    Jesus did tell us that Israel will attempt to build a third temple but that they would fall short in their attempt and be ridiculed because they failed to accomplish their goal. The fact that other people will rise up and stop them is immaterial to the parable that Jesus told, but their attempt to do so, will be added to the charges against Israel and used by the nations of the world as justification in the imminent rebellion against God.

    Also in the gospel accounts is a time stamp for when the end of this present age will occur but the traditions of our scholarship does not allow us to unpack this one verse parable out from the surrounding verses so that its message can be revealed for everyone to understand.

    Does not the bible tell us that the first fruits of Jesus’ Kingdom reign will be all of Israel, when they accept God’s terms for their redemption in our near future.

    Now, concerning the Anti-christ, speaking great things against God and His Son and man’s salvation; he is present at this very time and manifested through the people who inhabit the dominion associated with him. Shortly his ability to act will be impeded for a time but his servants will continue the oppression of the saints and the people of the earth until he is able to return once more to continue speaking out against God.

    Sadly many people, except the diehards, have “moved on” and their interest in this aspect of their belief system is fading from their view as being important or relevant for them to have a working relationship with God, be it, the God that they worship.

    Having so many views and understanding of what God is about is weakening the present “western” perspective as to what is important within a person’s life. This sadly is reflected in the health of the “church” within our society. Perhaps a willowing is occurring at this present time.

    Shalom

    Jay Ross

  25. Doug Hanley says:

    Check out this article about Apostasy Rising
    4 Denominations this week
    PCUSA, Methodist, UCC and 1 other

    http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/watchman-on-the-wall/44465-apostasy-rising-4-denominations-in-less-than-a-week-defy-god-s-word

  26. Dan says:

    Alan…I completely agree. In fact, when one looks at someone’s worldview, we can often see how their theology is devised. Like many European’s, he is a socialist. He is virulently anti-gun (second amendment). He is also anti-Israel and a fierce critic of the USA’s involvement in the Middle East (though the UK helped build their empire by subjugating the Middle East and leaving it a mess). Therefore, I totally agree with you. My points are restricted to the long view of his positive contributions which may have gotten overlooked or lost due to his negative points. I appreciate your post because you were sticking to facts. In fact, I totally agreed with Joel’s points. That being said, there has been no more effective apologist for “Bodily Resurrection” than NT Wright in a century.

  27. Johannes says:

    Hi Joel,

    From where did you quote these passages? Would be interested to know.

    Peace,

    Johannes

  28. Joel says:

    N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Volume 2, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1997), 517
    N.T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), 463
    N.T. Wright, JERUSALEM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

  29. Johannes says:

    Thanks Joel!

  30. Kendall says:

    I was wondering how you responded to this quote from NT Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope” regarding the second coming?

    “These two historical moves, about the ‘son of man’ sayings and about the parables of the returning master or king, have left me open to the attack, particularly from American readers, that I have thereby given up believing in the second coming. This is absurd, as the present chapter will make clear. The fact that Jesus didn’t teach it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. (Similarly, the fact that I have written books about Jesus without mentioning it doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in it; when a football commentator goes through a whole game without mentioning baseball, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t believe it exists or that he doesn’t rate it highly as a sport.)… if the texts that speak of ‘the son of man coming on the clouds’ refer to A.D. 70, as I have argued that (in part) they do, this doesn’t mean that A.D. 70 was the ‘second coming’ because the ‘son of man’ texts aren’t ‘second coming’ texts at all, despite their frequent misreading that way. They are about Jesus’ vindication. And Jesus’ vindication—in his resurrection, ascension, and judgment on Jerusalem—requires a still fuller event for everything to be complete. Let me say it emphatically for the sake of those who are confused on the point (and to the amusement, no doubt, of those who are not): the second coming has not yet occurred.” – N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p. 126 (the whole chapter is about the second coming)

  31. Joel says:

    (This comment has been edited)

    Kendall,

    Thanks for your comment. A few folks sent me the link to the conversation that you all are enjoying on Matthew’s Facebook page. As I said to Matthew in an e-mail I sent him yesterday, with five kids, three jobs and virtually no time, I generally do not have time or the energy to interact with folks deeply on the internet. But to your question, I hope the following is helpful.

    First, Wright makes precisely the same protest concerning supercessionism. He denies it vigorously, calling any who would say he is a supercessionist names such as “stupid” or “absurd,” etc. He resorts to bullying. (I would hope that the younger generation of thinking Christians who are desiring to live out a more humble faith would not stand with bullying as a theological tactic.) But in Wright’s denials, he is simply being flat out dishonest and many far more qualified individuals beside myself have called him on this. Anyone who reads his multitude of other comments on the subject of God’s dissolution of the Jewish people can see that he is a supercessionist.

    The same is absolutely true with regard to the issue of the return of Jesus. He plays both sides. This is typical Wright in fact. He usually plays three and a half sides, all while mocking those little minded American conservatives who hold to a more traditional perspective. So for example, you quote him in Surprised by Hope denying that he rejects a literal future return of Jesus, but in just the same chapter, (only a few paragraphs prior) he says the following:

    We still speak in our culture about the sun rising and setting even though we know that in fact it is we, on our planet, who are moving in relation to the sun rather than the other way around. In the same way, the early Christians often spoke of Jesus coming, or returning; indeed, at least in John’s gospel, Jesus himself speaks in that way. But the larger picture they use suggests that if we are to understand them properly, that language, common and even creedal though it is, may not be the most helpful way today of getting at the truth it affirms.

    This is typical Wright. He’s the prince of doublespeak and dissimulation. One one hand he protests and laments any who would “misunderstand” him by claiming that he doesn’t actually believe in the literal “return” of Jesus, all the while denying and even mocking precisely that. He compares (the operative phrase is, “In the same way…”) the idea that Jesus will literally return, to our wrong use of the expression that the sun rises or sets. It is only perceived so from our perspective, but it isn’t really so. He even admits that Jesus’ own words and the creeds express it, though wrongly. For those who take Jesus’ words literally, they believe a “monstrosity.” And yet I am the one who is challenged…

    Wright speaks out both sides of his mouth vaguely about our future hope in terms such as, “a bright mist” and is praised and idolized for it. The chapter concludes with Wright finally getting around to his vaguely defined vision of the return of Jesus:

    the point of stressing “appearing” here is that, though in one sense it will seem to us that he is “coming,” he will in fact be “appearing” right where he presently is—not a long way away within our own space-time world but in his own world, God’s world, the world we call heaven. (emphasis mine)

    According to Wright, Jesus never actually “returns.” It only “appears” to us as such. In truth, Jesus simply reveals His presence to us from right where He has been all along. Heaven and earth merge.

    The bottom line is Wright believes in the return of Jesus like Muslims believe that Jesus is the Messiah. (In a nebulous and profoundly unbiblical way). I repeat that I am saddened by the fact that more conservatives do not call Wright out for his nonsensical views on these matters. What is so “misty” about the words of the angel:

    And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into fnthe sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

    Imagine that you go on a missions trip to minister to and proclaim the Gospel among the poor of the earth and imagine yourself trying to explain Wright’s position to them.

    Finally, I will simply say that it is both sad and ironic that Wright is far more abusive in his language than I even encroach upon being in my article here, and yet he is adored for his rhetoric and polemics, while I am accused of all sort of character deficiencies for simply posting his own comments, (quite in context I would add).

    I hope this was helpful.

    Many Blessings,
    Joel

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