Nicki Minaj, Jay Sean and N.T Wright

When I was a little boy, I was told that I was going to be “Left Behind” and that the Anti-Christ was going to come back and murder me. This inspired in me a true love for good eschatology (study of the End Times or Jesus Second Coming). When in doubt, I turn to N.T Wright, one of the most important 21st Century Theologians. Here is an article that he wrote that I absolutely love:

Little did Paul know how his colorful metaphors for Jesus’ second coming would be misunderstood two millennia later.

The American obsession with the second coming of Jesus — especially with distorted interpretations of it — continues unabated.  Seen from my side of the Atlantic, the phenomenal success of the Left Behind books appears puzzling, even bizarre[1].  Few in the U.K. hold the belief on which the popular series of novels is based: that there will be a literal “rapture” in which believers will be snatched up to heaven, leaving empty cars crashing on freeways and kids coming home from school only to find that their parents have been taken to be with Jesus while they have been “left behind.”  This pseudo-theological version of Home Alone has reportedly frightened many children into some kind of (distorted) faith.

This dramatic end-time scenario is based (wrongly, as we shall see) on Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, where he writes: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of an archangel and the trumpet of God.  The dead in Christ will rise first; then we, who are left alive, will be snatched up with them on clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

What on earth (or in heaven) did Paul mean?

It is Paul who should be credited with creating this scenario.  Jesus himself, as I have argued in various books, never predicted such an event[2].  The gospel passages about “the Son of Man coming on the clouds” (Mark 13:26, 14:62, for example) are about Jesus’ vindication, his “coming” to heaven from earth.  The parables about a returning king or master (for example, Luke 19:11-27) were originally about God returning to Jerusalem, not about Jesus returning to earth.  This, Jesus seemed to believe, was an event within space-time history, not one that would end it forever.

The Ascension of Jesus and the Second Coming are nevertheless vital Christian doctrines[3], and I don’t deny that I believe some future event will result in the personal presence of Jesus within God’s new creation.  This is taught throughout the New Testament outside the Gospels.  But this event won’t in any way resemble the Left Behind account.  Understanding what will happen requires a far more sophisticated cosmology than the one in which “heaven” is somewhere up there in our universe, rather than in a different dimension, a different space-time, altogether.

The New Testament, building on ancient biblical prophecy, envisages that the creator God will remake heaven and earth entirely, affirming the goodness of the old Creation but overcoming its mortality and corruptibility (e.g., Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21:1; Isaiah 65:17, 66:22).  When that happens, Jesus will appear within the resulting new world (e.g., Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2).

Paul’s description of Jesus’ reappearance in 1 Thessalonians 4 is a brightly colored version of what he says in two other passages, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and Philippians 3:20-21: At Jesus’ “coming” or “appearing,” those who are still alive will be “changed” or “transformed” so that their mortal bodies will become incorruptible, deathless.  This is all that Paul intends to say in Thessalonians, but here he borrows imagery—from biblical and political sources—to enhance his message.  Little did he know how his rich metaphors would be misunderstood two millennia later.

First, Paul echoes the story of Moses coming down the mountain with the Torah.  The trumpet sounds, a loud voice is heard, and after a long wait Moses comes to see what’s been going on in his absence.

Second, he echoes Daniel 7, in which “the people of the saints of the Most High” (that is, the “one like a son of man”) are vindicated over their pagan enemy by being raised up to sit with God in glory.  This metaphor, applied to Jesus in the Gospels, is now applied to Christians who are suffering persecution.

Third, Paul conjures up images of an emperor visiting a colony or province.  The citizens go out to meet him in open country and then escort him into the city.  Paul’s image of the people “meeting the Lord in the air” should be read with the assumption that the people will immediately turn around and lead the Lord back to the newly remade world.

Paul’s mixed metaphors of trumpets blowing and the living being snatched into heaven to meet the Lord are not to be understood as literal truth, as the Left Behind series suggests, but as a vivid and biblically allusive description of the great transformation of the present world of which he speaks elsewhere.

Paul’s misunderstood metaphors present a challenge for us: How can we reuse biblical imagery, including Paul’s, so as to clarify the truth, not distort it?  And how can we do so, as he did, in such a way as to subvert the political imagery of the dominant and dehumanizing empires of our world?  We might begin by asking, What view of the world is sustained, even legitimized, by the Left Behind ideology?  How might it be confronted and subverted by genuinely biblical thinking?  For a start, is not the Left Behind mentality in thrall to a dualistic view of reality that allows people to pollute God’s world on the grounds that it’s all going to be destroyed soon?  Wouldn’t this be overturned if we recaptured Paul’s wholistic vision of God’s whole creation?


So in honor of this enjoy the Jay Sean and Nicki Minaj video (It Ain’t The End):


3 thoughts on “Nicki Minaj, Jay Sean and N.T Wright

  1. Lance Gutteridge says:

    Not a fan of this particular article. I simply can’t dismiss things in the Bible that make me uncomfortable, by saying well here it’s fine but there where it forces me to wrestle with reality that may force actual radical FAITH the world calls nuts… That’s stylized language. The author does dig in and do the work. Seems brilliant to me in fact. But sometimes we have to say WOW that’s RADICAL and not make the Word line up with culture, rather live in our influencable culture so that it begins to line up with the Word. Can you tell I’m an old guy, loving listening to The new young shining stars in the Church? Be bold guys and gals! God gave YOU this time! Spread His GLORY! ENJOY HIS GRACE!

  2. Seth says:

    While I don’t believe the “Left Behind” series will be how it all plays out, the Bible is clear their will be a visible return of Jesus. Luke 21: 27,28 “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straigten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Matthew 24:30 “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” 1 John 2:28 “And now, Litte Children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.” Acts 1:11 “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Revelation 19:11 “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.”

    These verses of course speak of the return of Christ. Jesus can return at any time, but I believe it will be either part way through the tribulation or post-trib, although I want it to be pre-trib.:) And when he returns what do we want him to find us doing? For those who have rejected Christ and have instead become friends of the enemy it will be a horrible day, because every knee will bow that Jesus is Lord. 1 John ” By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother” (esv online). And those believers who are living a lifestyle not pleasing to God it will be shameful. But to those who have loved his appearing their will be a Crown of righteousness awaiting, ” Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (esv online). It is likely whether Christian or non-Christian that we’ll be stunned by the holiness of God. Lets remember the Bible does teach that Jesus will return so we need to be ready, unless of course we meet him first at our death, but as N.T. Wright said the Left Behind Series may be a bit off. All in all, Biblical prophecy is confusing, but what we can take from it is Jesus will return suddenly and it can be at any time. We must find our trust and security in Jesus today so that we love his appearing instead of facing his righteous wrath if we’re still in our sins. 1 Thessalonians 1:7,-10 “When the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” We must be ready because Jesus will return and it will be swift and we must put our trust in Jesus who paid the price for our sins.

  3. Mollye says:

    I just finished reading Surprised By Hope. So GOOD!

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