Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Johannine Eschatology

There other day I was describing the Gospel of John to my students. I described it kinda like the town of Nimbin in New South Wales (Nimbin is known for its hippie culture). Everyone there is chilled, they like to talk about love, its a reflective atmosphere, and it's very different to the hustle and bustle of city like in the Synoptics. That's an intro to my summary of Johannine eschatology:

The Fourth Gospel clearly favors the realized component of Jesus’ work. John sees in Jesus the coming of God’s revelatory light, the incarnation of divine glory, and the life of heaven made manifest (John 1:3-4, 14; 3:31). The final resurrection expected at the end of the age (see John 11:24), is burgeoning in the spiritual life that Jesus imparts to followers (John 5:25; 11:25-26). Eternal life becomes intractably bound up with, almost collapsed into, the act of knowing and believing in the God who sent Jesus (John 17:3). The Johannine Jesus can even aver that “Now is the time for judgment on this world” by virtue of the presence of the judge (John 12:31; cf. 5:22, 27, 30; 8:15-16; esp. 9:39). Still, John has not forfeited all sense of the future as he refers to a future judgment and resurrection (John 5:28-29; 6:39; 40, 44, 54; 11:23-26). The demonic “prince of this world” is still yet to be fully driven out (John 12:31). The kingdom of God is something that one must yet enter into (John 3:3-5). The Fourth Evangelist also knows that Jesus is preparing a place for where his disciples and will one day return to take them there (John 14:1-3). Putting this together, in the Gospel of John an absolute distinction between this age and the coming age has become fluid so that believers can experience real blessings, even eternal life, in the here and now. The Johannine Jesus brings a “rift” between evil and good, darkness and light, belief and unbelief, future and present. John knows of the cosmic “hour” that already has come and is yet to be, an hour that brings judgment as well as life, unity as well as division, it is the hour of salvation and reprobation that exudes form Jesus’ person (John 5:25). Contra much scholarship, John is not for the abandonment of a future apocalyptic kingdom for an existential present experience, rather, “John’s sense of time – his eschatology – is shaped by his recognition that in the coming of Jesus the light has made a decisive difference between the past and present. But John also knows that the present is the scene of conflicting claims. True life is a current reality, yet so is death; some people can now see; yet others have become blind. These truths grate against each other like a dissonant sound pressing for resolution. The Gospel assumes that there is no going back, as if Jesus never came. There can only be going forward to the point where the dissonance resolves into harmony,” and for John that harmony transpires at the future judgment.[1] John offers a summons to believe in Jesus as the light, life, and judge of the present hour and so avoid condemnation “at the last day” (John 12:44-50).

[1] Craig R. Koester, The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 176.

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