Photo by Marcello Newall

For those who have not read Part One.


 The radical contrast between the Christian and the secular view of time is both profound and startling. Whereas secular time varies between a view that sees history as an unending chain of death and sin and one that has placed its hope in a tepid notion of progress, Messianic time views the world as the theatre and stage of God’s victory over evil, and every moment as the moving towards its eschatological fulfillment in the Kingdom of God. Messianic time is above all based on the death and resurrection of Christ which have radically redefined history:

The risen Jesus is our future. He beckons us forward to the goal of creation and gives all Christian activity the character of hopeful movement into the future which God has promised. Not that we ourselves can achieve that future. Resurrection makes that clear: we who ourselves end in death cannot achieve the new creation out of death. The Kingdom in its final glory lies beyond the reach of our history, in the hands of the God who interrupted our history by raising Jesus from the death. This transcendence of the Kingdom beyond our achievement must be remembered. But in Jesus God has given us the Kingdom not only as a hope for the final future but also to anticipate in the present. As the vision of God’s perfect will for his creation it is the inspiration of all Christian efforts to change the world for the better.[5]

All time is now calculated from this central event and everything must be considered in view of it. In this sense the Christian expression of time differs from the Jewish from which it originated in that it believes that the mid-point in history has already been reached.[6]
The important Jewish thinker Walter Benjamin differentiated between Messianic and ‘empty’ time: since empty time can offer no hope for the future but only the realization of the futility of an endless chain of events, it ultimately breeds despair and self-indulgence. In this sense, it should be of no surprise that so much important social progress has often originated, directly or indirectly, from a Judaeo-Christian matrix; we see this in regard to the abolition of slavery, women’s rights and equality, the elimination of racial segregation, the end of Apartheid, children’s rights and human rights.[7] As Christians it’s of great importance for us to perceive the eschatological flow of history. Where this is missed we end up assuming a cyclical pagan view of time, ‘empty time’. In this sense

The Hebrew Bible is a radical break with this way of seeing things. God is to be found in history, not just in nature. Things do change. Human life is the arena of transformation. Abraham leaves the world of the Mesopotamian city-states to begin a new way of serving God. Moses and the Israelites leave Egypt to found a new social order. They are about to build a future unlike the past. That was the revolution. Without it, we would simply not have the key the words we have come to accept as obvious, words like progress, development, advance, creativity, originality. Until Abraham and Moses, no one thought of time as a journey in which where you are tomorrow will not be where you were yesterday.[8]

In regard to animals not understanding Messianic time leaves us blind to God’s timeline. People that don’t understand that the treatment of animals in 2017 should be different from 2000 B.C. or 30 A.D. have not fully comprehended Messianic time and have an essentially non-Christian concept of time. We see this in the theology of many churches who seem to regard the world as if it were some kind of timeless Platonic eternity. In this frozen vision of history any real movement or change is at best cosmetic. In this sense Jesus lambasted the people of his day for not being aware of spiritual times and seasons:

He said to the crowd: “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘It’s going to rain,’ and it does. And when the south wind blows, you say, ‘It’s going to be hot,’ and it is. Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time?[9]

When the professing Church can no longer discern Messianic time and the moving of God’s Spirit, it ends up missing its prophetic role and becomes an obstacle to the progress of the Kingdom. Its ultimate destiny is shame and judgement, as was in the case of slavery where large sectors of the church in America decided to defend this brutal institution to the bitter end. Ultimately the test of history is severe and its verdict final.[10]
Stay tuned for Part Three coming soon! For those who would like to read the entire article: Messianic Time and Animals.
[5] R. Bauckham, The Bible in Politics (USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), p. 150.
[6] O. Cullmann, Christ and Time (London: SCM Press, 1962).
[7] Jews and Christians have made important, and often decisive, contributions to each of these movements for social change. We can remember names like Martin Luther King Jr. in regard to segregation, William Wilberforce in regard to slavery, or that the early feminist and women’s rights movements of the beginning of the 20th century were in great part an offshoot of the Christian temperance movement.
[8] J. Sacks, Future Tense (New York: Schocken Books, 2009), p. 235.
[9] Luke 12:54-­‐56.
[10] ‘Those who invoke history will certainly be heard by history and they will have to accept its verdict’, Dag Hammarskjold.

Thank you for reading and following our blog!  We welcome you to share widely with others; comments are also welcome.  Blessings in Jesus  ~Marcello

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