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This post is continued from the previous one here. Here are the last three in this two-part posting. You will find a full exposition of these ideas, chapter by chapter, in my book Paul and Jesus.
4) Already but Not Yet. Paul operated with strongly apocalyptic perspective that influenced all he said or did. He was quite sure that he and his followers would live to see the return of Christ from heaven. Life in the world would go on, but not for long. Everything was soon to be transformed. At the same time there was a sense in which everything continued as it was. As Paul tried to work out the practical ethical and social implications of these ideas he pressed hard against the realities of time and history. Paul states emphatically that the “appointed time has grown very short,” and he advised his followers not to marry, begin a new business, or worry if they were slaves, since everything in the world was about to be turned upside down and all social relations were terminal. Right up until the end of his life he expected to live to see the great event—what he called the “Arrival” (Greek parousia)—the visible appearance of the heavenly Christ in the clouds of heaven to usher in the events of the final Judgment. He tried to inspire his followers to live as ifthe new spiritual transformation had already arrived, all the time knowing that its full realization was not yet. The tensions between life in the world with its inarguable realities of sex and marriage, birth and death, and ethnic and social identities, were difficult to negotiate as ifthey no longer were operative. It was one thing to say that in Christ all such demarcations had passed, but it was quite another to try...
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"Tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive." C.S. Lewis