How did Jesus' contemporaries distinguish between "this age" and the "age to come"?

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Well, if we're thinking about Jesus and his contemporaries and how they distinguished this age and the age to come, we assume that that's going to mean Jesus' Jewish contemporaries. And even there, we don't want to think of a monolithic Judaism, where everyone thought precisely the same thing and then, typically, set that over and against Jesus, who remarkably believed differently in every respect. There's plenty of continuity between Jesus and his contemporaries. Probably, the thing that's most important to stress is that Israel is going to be at the center of the theological vision of most of Jesus' contemporaries. And so, the restoration of Israel, the restitution of Israel, the fact that Israel, in contrast to its present situation, will be on top rather than on the bottom, that would have dominated the eschatological vision of Jesus' more Bible-believing contemporaries. I mean, there's people like the Sadducees, who might not have made much distinction at all between this age and the age to come, but your Pharisees and your Essenes and all these other groups, they would have been looking for something to change for Israel. Now, of course, ultimately you've got the resurrection, which is probably still Israel-focused, and anything that's in the Old Testament is always going to be fair game for a Bible-believing Jew to believe. So, the resurrection, the fructification and exuberant blessings on the earth, all those sort of things would be part of the package and are happily brought into the Christian faith as well.

Answer by Dr. Sean McDonough

Dr. McDonough teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.