Eschatology


Within the mainline Jewish writings of this period, covering a wide range of styles, genres, political persuasions and theological perspectives, there is virtually no evidence that Jews were expecting the end of the space-time universe. There is abundant evidence that they knew a good metaphor when they saw one, and used cosmic imagery to bring out the full theological significance of cataclysmic socio-political events. There is almost nothing to suggest that they followed the Stoics into the belief that the world itself would come to an end; and there is almost everything to suggest that they did not.

If we imagine the majority of first-century Jews, and early Christians, as people who were confidently expecting the space-time universe to come to a full stop, and who were disappointed, we at once create a distance between them and ourselves far greater than that of mere chronology.

When Christ warned in his parables and in the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21) about approaching doom, he was not announcing the end of the world as we know it. He was anticipating the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple, which occurred in A.D. 70.

This is what early Christian eschatology was all about: not the expectation of the literal end of the space-time universe but the sense that world history was reaching, or indeed had reached, its single intended climax.?”   N.T. Wright