Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Kingdom Of God: When It Shall Come And How (Part 1)

AP: So when exactly will the kingdom of God arrive? Well, this is something that Jesus did not know with certainty, nor was he overly concerned or focus on the exact date. We can see this in Luke 17:20:
"Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be calculated (οὐκ . . . μετὰ παρατηρήσεως).'"
Jesus simply knows that the arrival of the kingdom of God is very close (ἤγγικεν), as shown for example in Mark 1:15:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is near."
He believed the time was so close that he sent his disciples out to proclaim its coming to all of Israel. Though he did not know the exact time, he knew it was coming and would arrive shortly. Not only that, the arrival is so imminent that if a city did not receive those disciples (as a result of the hardness of their hearts or because they lost an opportunity to be converted), they were instructed to shake the dust off of their sandals and rush to the next city:
"Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet." (Matt. 10:14)
If the kingdom were already here, even if "somehow" (a catchphrase of some commentators such as J. P. Meier), Jesus would not have acted so urgent.

I've translated the expression οὐκ . . . μετὰ παρατηρήσεως (in Luke 17:20) as "not . . . with calculations." This expression is actually difficult to translate though. But we cannot translate the phrase, this time with the verb included, "no se producirá aparatosamente" (as translated by R. Aguirre). It simply means we cannot determine the exact day, hour, or place using astronomical calculations or astrological signs. Only the Father knows the date:
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." (Mark 13:32)
And unless we attribute a larger part of the heavenly eschatological signs of the coming in Mark 13 not to Jesus but to the early church, the kingdom of God will come ostentatiously, with great signs with cataclysms, tribulations, wars, flights, etc.:
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give off its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken." (Mark 13:24-25)
In Luke 17:20, though, Jesus only means that his fellow Pharisees––even though they were very clever, despite their fondness for calculations and combinations of signs––did not realize that the decisive beginning of the kingdom was already present among them. In other words, that it was "within their reach," as this verse in Luke demonstrates:
"Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:21)
In our next post we need to deal with how these two texts (Luke 17:20–21 and Mark 13:24–25) relate to one another. And we'll also delve further into the discussion.

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