I’ve been studying for a message I’m giving this Saturday morning on “Christ our Coming King” for Eastbrook‘s monthly men’s breakfast. I came across this quotation from N. T. Wright in his book Surprised by Hope, that captures so much in such a small space that I couldn’t help but share it.
What we have here, with minor variations, is a remarkably unanimous view spread throughout the early Christianity known to us. There will come a time, which might indeed come at any time, when, in the great renewal of the world that Easter itself foreshadowed, Jesus himself will be personally present and will be the agent and model of the transformation that will happen both to the whole world and also to believers. This expectation and hope, expressed so clearly in the New Testament, continues undiminished in the second and subsequent centuries. Mainstream Christians throughout the early period were not worried by the fact that the event had not happened within a generation. The idea that the problem of ‘delay’ set out in 2 Peter 3 was widespread in second-generation Christianity is a modern scholar’s myth rather than a historical reality. Nor was the idea of Jesus’s ‘appearing’ or ‘coming’ simply part of a tradition that was passed on uncritically without later generations really tuning in to what it was saying. As with the ascension, so with Jesus’s appearing: it was seen as a vital part of a full presentation of the Jesus who was and is and is to come. Without it all the church’s proclamation makes no sense. Take it away, and all sorts of things start to unravel. The early Christians saw this as clearly as anyone since, and we would do well to learn from them.
(N. T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, page 136)