Reimagining God’s Future
In chapter 7 of Paul, N. T. Wright reviews the way that St. Paul puts forth a fresh new way of looking at God – reimagining God’s activity in the future.
The writer explains Paul’s task in teaching the Christian hope, to puzzled converts, was to educate their imagination, to lift their eyebrow beyond the small horizons of their previous worldviews. He notes that given the state of Israel (chosen people) and world, God should put things in the right perspective in the future.
By reimagining the Jewish doctrine of eschatology (one future for God’s world) around the Messiah and the Spirit, he takes a glimpse not just of God’s future for the world, but God’s own future as well. He puts forth a claim that was made against the world of paganism.
N. T. Wright explains explicitly, God of Israel is capable and committed to act in the future, defeating the pagan idols and their devotees, and thereby give rise to a new creation.
He reviews the concept of exile from two different angles; a blessing if Israel keeps the commandment, then a curse if Israel does not – then exile. He believes oppression of Israel by pagan nations and the disobedience to God’s covenant mark the beginning of the exile. Exile did not start when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem but instead started when Torah arrived in Israel. He emphasizes that Israel is cursed and exiled because of breaking the Torah. Pagan nations do not receive the blessing of Abraham, and the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles and the Christian Jews might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
He believes that humanity should rely on God, who led the Israelites through the Red Sea and the wilderness, will scatter his enemies and rescue Israel in the future. The first-century Jewish expectation of the future, is that, God will come to speak to his own, he will become king in a new way.
N. T. Wright stresses that what has already happened in the Messiah and what is still to happen at the ultimate is justification – the body of Christ. He redefines eschatology around the Messiah and the Spirit as functioned on the principle that the Jewish vision at the end, will be fulfilled in the Messiah and yet to be fulfilled by the Spirit. On the last day, receive homage from creation and hand over the kingdom to the Father, so God will be all in all.
He believes the Messiah’s resurrection is the agency of the Father and the Messiah’s future activity and the Spirit’s work are redefined as what Israel expects of God to do for all his people, at the end of time.
His redefinition of eschatology, was the resurrection, messiahship and God’s kingdom which will result from future judgement. He states the new Exodus has been launched through the work of Jesus, the Messiah as the Paschal Lamb.
God’s people walk through the waters which means they will be delivered from slavery into freedom. Though the Torah cannot give life it promised, God has done it – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Suffering brings out resilience in Christians, without despair but see the hidden work of the Spirit, enables them to re-embody the Messiah.
N.T. Wright reiterates Paul’s reimagined eschatology was put to work in his announcing the gospel and bringing God’s wise ordering to the churches, a result of his preaching. He concludes by looking at the final fulfillments at the day of Christ, when at the coming judgement the Spirit would do all for Jesus’ people what God had done for Jesus himself, that is, would raise them from the dead.