Sunday, December 13, 2009

Salvation as eschatology: mixing redemption, Advent, eschatology, Irenaus

The Bible text is Jude 24, 25

And now to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating—to our one God, our only Savior, through Jesus Christ, our Master, be glory, majesty, strength, and rule before all time, and now, and to the end of all time. Yes.

Which generated the following reflection: a move between salvation, Advent, eschatology and Irenaeus. Complete with wedding vows. Perhaps not your standard evangelical gospel presentation. But surely Biblical, and perhaps thoughtfully, evocatively, transformative So often we define ourselves by looking back; back to birth or our parents, back to a life experience, back to a mistake, sin, failure, that we’ve made.

So often we define other people by looking back; assess them based on how they used to be. They behaved like that then, so that’s obviously how they’ll behave now. That was the church then, so it should be like that now.

So different from Jude 24, 25. “Stand tall” because of looking forward, the future, “the end of all time.”

Which actually makes this a great Advent text. Advent is about preparing for the coming of Jesus. Coming in his birth. Coming in his return. And this text invites us to look forward to that return; ”to him who can keep you on your feet, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating.”

So that’s an immediate challenge for how I see myself. And how I see others. Am I Steve Taylor based on my past, my last 41 years? Or am I Steve Taylor facing my future in God? Who I might be? Who I might become? The best of what I could be.

Which, if we think about it, actually offers us quite a different understanding of Christian redemption. In this Jude 24, 25 benediction, we’re not so much saved from something, from our past.

Rather we are saved to. To standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating.

So this bless you helps me make sense of the work of Christian thinker from the 2nd century AD, a church leader from France, man named Irenaeus. He summed up Christian redemption, and this verse by using the word “Recapitulation”: that salvation is us becoming perfect in Christ.”

Capitulate is to surrender. And so we are being re-surrendered as humans into the perfect life lived by Christ.

For Irenaeus, since the dawn of time, God has been talking to humans; through the prophets, through creation, through Bible. This talking to humans is most perfectly seen in life of Jesus. So for Irenaeus, every single year that Jesus lived was important, part of God’s talking. That being a baby and a toddler, that having a parent, feeling teenage hormones, starting first job, – every year of Jesus life – is God talking, showing us human life is being drawn into Christ. Jesus (the new Adam), living life, Christ-like, so unlike the first Adam. That’s recapitulation – human life – becoming perfect in the coming of Christ.

A recapitulation made complete at the second coming of Christ. At the end of time, as the Jude 24, 25 benediction, says, I will stand before God. As I surrender, as I will be recapitulated, given back to God not as Steve the toddler, Steve the hormonal teenager, Steve the worker but as s Steve-in-Christ, my life absorbed into Christ the toddler, Christ the teenager, Christ the worker.

So no wonder I get to: stand tall in God’s bright presence, fresh and celebrating—[because of our] only Savior, through Jesus Christ.

Open to anyone, who will simply surrender.

And then reflecting on Saturday morning, this text began to connect with the life experiences of a bride getting married. The second coming as a wedding is very common Bible image. A banquet. Jesus as a groom, us as a bride.

Which brings to mind all the work done to a bride to get her ready. There’s on the day – with the hair and the dress. There’s the lead up – the marriage counselling, planning, praying of friends. There’s from the beginning – guidance of parents and others, how to relate, how to forgive, how to love unconditionally.

All that work done. In preparation.

For that moment when the music starts, bride walks down the aisle, veil is lifted. Nothing as beautiful, no-one “standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating” as bride on their wedding day.

Sure, there’s the outward appearance. Attention to hair and makeup.

But there’s always an inner glow isn’t there. That radiance that comes from someone who knows they’re loved. Deeply. Unconditionally. Passionately. And in response willing to surrender. To say I do, to a shared life of intimacy and communication.

That’s what’s on offer: salvation looking forward to a wedding with Jesus: us, standing tall in his bright presence, fresh and celebrating.”

Posted by steve at 09:29 PM


  1. Great to see Irenaeus added to the salvation mix. In the West we’re over-indebted to Augustine. We cant forget him – the horrors of the 20th century show the realities of evil (and if we do omit Augustine we end up with the bland mush of Matthew Fox). But students I teach generaly appreciate it when Irenaeus is added to the mix: ‘world as incubator of goodness’ it can be called it as we try to re-read the Garden of Eden story in that way. If this created world is meant to help mak us the way God wants, then the ‘Fall’ becomes a failure to rise rather than a ‘fall’ and salvation takes on a new and richer and more ‘world-connected’ meaning.

    Comment by Bob Robinson — December 14, 2009 @ 11:55 am

  2. thanks bob. can anyone tell me why Ireanaues is considered “eastern” ie not “western”; when he was located in France? I’d always assumed the east/west thing was geographic.

    don’t get me started on the “fall’: it’s not a Biblical word – and the fascination with 1 chapter of the Bible!


    Comment by steve — December 14, 2009 @ 12:30 pm

  3. I found “Metavista”‘s (Robinson and Greene’s) framing of Genesis 1-11 as a “fall narrative” helpful: fall is the garden; fall is the cain/abel story; fall is the babel story – and so sin is multi-faceted notion that includes personal actions, gender conflict, familial anger, structural pride …


    Comment by steve — December 14, 2009 @ 12:45 pm

  4. Irenaeus is supposedly from Smyrna. Don’t know how much East that East is.

    Comment by Ingrid — December 14, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

  5. I stand by my post. I said he came from France – based on I don’t consider France “east” in terms of the growth of the church in history.


    Comment by steve — December 14, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

  6. Irenaeus was born in Smyrna, but was a bishop in France…

    He is Eastern probably because the Eastern church holds to him tighter than the Western church…If it ‘ain’t’ Augustine than it’s just not theology…

    I’d be nice for the Western church to wake up to how Greek it really is!

    Comment by Mark — December 15, 2009 @ 3:54 am

  7. Thanks Mark. Appreciate the clarification.


    Comment by steve — December 16, 2009 @ 11:13 am

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