Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The End of the Exile

Now that Tom Wright has brought the concept of the exile to the mainstream conversation, there are some questions to be asked. That the "end of exile" is an important piece of salvation in Christ I take for granted. I recommend either Wright's The New Testament and the People of God or Brant Pitre's Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile for starters.

The basic thrust is this: the end of the Babylonian (and in Pitre's arguement the Assyrian) exile is necessary for the Messianic "new age" to arrive. That is to say, one of the major promises made to Israel/Judah in the latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc.) is the return of these groups to "the land". Recently, while reading David Klingenhoffer's Why the Jews Rejected Jesus, I noticed that this reason for rejection came up often. It is, however, not a problem much dealt with in Christian theology: we tend to look at "return from exile" passages as
Rapture passages.

The problem arises, of course, because the return of either group, did not happen within Jesus' lifetime or Paul's. In fact, Paul, in his missionary journeys, seems to hedge more towards the one Abrahamic family of Jew and Gentile, even to leaving the synangogues (and the Jews therefore) when they responded in disbelief. However, this is balanced with his statements in Romans 9-11, where he speaks of the bringing in of the Gentiles (then followed by the Jews? depends on who you ask) as the "salvation of all Israel".

I think that Jesus, though, does talk about this. Compare Matthew 24:31 with Deuteronomy 30:1-5. The destruction of Jerusalem is tied directly to the return from exile; paradoxical, yet fitting as Jesus has cast Jerusalem into the role of Babylon and Assyria. However, it does still leave the question of how will God return the exiles, especially since "land" and "temple" have been redefined by the Messiah's appearance.

I'm beginning to think that "angels" as Matthew 24 has it is not the best translation. Better to go with "messangers"--Jesus sends out the messengers to gather the exiles unto himself; Paul speaks of the heralding of Christians bringing about the salvation of "all Israel". The exile has begun to end with Jesus; his people bring it to a definitive conclusion by their faithful work through his Spirit. Certainly gives a different look to evangelism.

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