Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright is one of the best books I’ve read in the last five years. Wright, a gifted historian, theologian and bishop of Durham, draws his readers back to a more authentic and historic Christian theology of the Resurrection and our future Hope. Included in this book is a discussion of the highly charged term eschatology and the proper (indeed, central) place of the “so-called second coming of Jesus.” Wright’s chapters on eschatology depend on careful and historical readings of St. Paul and I won’t give the details here but following are a couple of points that illustrate the bishop’s conclusions.
“Note, though, something else of great significance about the while Christian theology of resurrection, ascension, second coming and hope. This theology was born out of a confrontation with the political authorities, out of a conviction that Jesus was already the true Lord of the world who would one day be manifested as such. The rapture theology aviods this confrontation because it suggests that Christians will miraculously be removed form this wicked world. Perhaps that is why such theology if often Gnostic in its tendency toward a private dualistic spirituality and toward a political laissez-faire quietism. And perhaps that is partly why such a theology, with its dreams of Armageddon, has quietly supported the political status quo in a way that Paul would never have done” (133-134).
“In [Christ’s second] appearing we find neither a dualist rejection of the present world nor simply his arrival like a spaceman into the present world but rather the transformation of the present world, and ourselves within it, so that it will be put to rights and we with it. Death and decay will be overcome and God will be all in all” (142-143).