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Because I have dealt in great detail with the numerous errors of a Schweitzerian approach to Pauline (and Jesus’) eschatology in my Jesus, Paul, and the End of the World, I don’t need to reiterate all that here. All that needs to be said is that Paul believed in the possible imminence of Christ’s return within his lifetime, but he did not affirm that ‘the last hour’ was already necessarily knocking on the door. Paul was not a date setter and he had no specific period of time in mind before the end. It could come sooner, it could come later.
Since the Christ event of death and resurrection, the eschatological age had already been inaugurated, that meant ‘the time has been shortened’ (as he puts it in 1 Cor. 7), or ‘salvation is nearer now than when we first believed’ (Rom. 13.11). In both cases Paul is talking about what the previous eschatological event has done to things. It has accelerated things, so that Christ could return sooner than many expect. Phil. 4.5 read in context involves an allusion to the Psalms, and the subject is the spatial not temporal nearness of the Lord— he is near to those who approach him with earnest prayer. Or again 1 Cor. 10.11 tells us that the ends of the ages have already come upon Paul and others. He is not referring to an end that is merely coming soon. And notice the use of the word ends plural. The goals, the telos, the aims of all the ages are already coming to pass through the Christ event. The form of this world is already passing away. None of these comments are about what is about to happen.
Paul - Thess
When Paul chooses to actually talk about the second coming in 1 Thess. 4-5, what he...
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