The Two-Edged Intrusion Byron G. Curtis

The following is a revised version of an article posted by Byron G. Curtis on the Biblical Theology Discussion email list. [Article #2603, 11/09/2000]

In reply to [JKJ]'s question about intrusion ethics [Message 2593], [MH] writes [Message 2594]:

Subject: Re: A Debate Between Kline and Bahnsen on the Intrusion Ethics

I had to read @ intrusion for my OT history course under Phil Long at CTS.  Unhappily, I never had opportunity to research and write a critique.  One of my major gut instincts is that it takes everything said about the Law in the NT and ignores it.  When do you *
ever* read that the OT law was an intrusion of God's eschatological wrath?  On the contrary, over and over you hear that the Law is about love--love of one's neighbor.

I think you're not representing the Intrusion view with sufficient clarity and completeness in your reply above, [MH].  The intrusion is two-edged and also two-aged. It is also a hermeneutical concept more than an exegetical one. That is, it is best seen through its interpretive power in combining the exegesis of many particular texts into a much larger coherent whole.

--The Double Edged Intrusion --

Edge #1:  Descriptive

For the Canaanites, the Mosaic revelation is largely an intrusion of divine wrath.  It is something like the demons' experience in the gospels:  "What do you want with us, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the time?" (Matthew 8.29).  And so the Canaanites must be driven out of the Land of Yahweh's holiness, or put to the sword.

Canaanite culture must perish at that time because, as God says to Abraham in Genesis 15.16, "the cup of their iniquity [will then be] full."  Thus the swords of Joshua and the Israelite army are agents of a kind of final judgment "before the time."

Why should this command pertain solely to Canaanites in Palestine, when there no doubt have been and continue to be other equally wicked civilizations in the world?  The matter pertains to the destiny of Israel, a people who have become the "Wandering People of God," and who need to become a settled "Nation under God."

Accordingly, a "Holy Land" (as Zech 2.12 calls it) has been prepared for the Holy People.  Abraham travels in faith to that land, and not to another;  Israel returns to that land under Moses and Joshua.  The holiness of that Land cannot endure the corrupt Canaanites;  the land itself with its forces of nature "fights" against them--with hornets, hailstones and floods. And so, Leviticus 18.25 reports, "The Land vomited out its inhabitants."

It is this coalescence of Israel's theological need for land at this stage of redemptive fulfillment, and the Canaanites' theologically-mandated forfeiture of land, that creates the *Holy Land* for Israel.  Thus the Land of Israel, and Jerusalem, its eventual capital city, become the preview of the final blessedness of the time when "the meek shall [fully, at last!] inherit the earth" (Matthew 5.5).  That's the time portrayed in Revelation 21-22 by the renewed heaven-and-earth and the New Jerusalem, when there will be "no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away" (Rev 21.4).

But notice, too:  if the OT Israelites do not keep the covenant mediated through Moses in the Promised Land, the Land itself will "vomit them out," as Leviticus 18.28 so forcefully warns.

Edge #2:  Descriptive

For many Canaanites, the arrival of covenanted Israel can mean only flight, or the terror of death. But for other Canaanites--the Gibeonites, the Jebusites, and still others like Rahab of Jericho--it is an intrusion of mercy "before the time"--that is, before the time of the NT's "Gospel to the Gentiles."

OT Palestine is to be a kind of "island of mercy," where Israel and the nations can alike be blessed in the mercies of the Covenant's Lord, Yahweh, the God of Israel.  Thus Ruth the Moabite woman enters in, despite the fact that Deuteronomy's law mandated that "no Moabite shall enter the assembly of the Lord, not even to the tenth generation."  Uriah the Hittite is probably another for the list.  The pagan nations that serve David and Solomon also bring tribute to Yahweh.  Some, like Naaman the Syrian, become Yahweh's believers and saints.

Two Edges and the Two Ages:  Hermeneutical

This Israelite "island of mercy," however, is not truly an island:  it is the intrusion of the final kingdom--in part--into the "present evil age," the age dominated by darkness and sin.  And so the future blessings of salvation already operate freely in that ancient era:  redemption, forgiveness, renewed obedience, love for God and neighbor, the communal life of virtue in tribes and villages, all are present in some degree.  Even though these blessings are only purchased for them (and for us) by Jesus Christ in his life and death and resurrection, they already belong to the Old Testament covenant community.  That, too, is an "intrusion" of final mercy into "the present evil age."

But the vengeance of God is also at work in OT Israel.  It condemns sin and sometimes executes unrepentant sinners;  fights Holy War battles against God's enemies, such as the Amalekites (OT Israel's Nazi neighbors); constructs Yahwistic Empire, as under David and Solomon.

Thus the so-called "island" is really part of the total future reality when God's ancient, good, but fallen creation shall be restored and the children of God at last revealed in resurrected glory (Rom 8). It's no island;  it is a great continent, it is the mainland.

The theological structure of the two Testaments makes it clear that ancient Israel's blessings flow from the Cross of Christ, and not otherwise.  After all, "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin." And yet Moses and David and the rest of the OT saints did indeed experience the grace of God in the midst of their own mortal lives.  That, too, is Intrusion--the presence of the future "before the time."

The eschatological prayer in Psalm 106.1-6 presupposes this general view of the matter, and Hebrews 11 confirms it, in its NT perspective.  Ps 87 also speaks of the reality of mercy--even to the pagans--arising from the "fountains" that represent the mercy of Christ in the midst of Zion. Zechariah 9.7, in context through 9.17, where the Philistine upstart becomes "like a clan chief in Judah" and thus "belongs to God," and many other passages operate similarly.

In Christ's first coming, a new age begins.  Jesus announces the nearness of God's Kingdom, and invites all manner of folk to enter into it through repentance and faith.  Paul addresses the Corinthian church as part of the people "upon whom the fulfillment of the ages has arrived" (1 Cor 10.11). Paul makes clear that this "arrival" nonetheless takes place in the midst of "the present evil age" (Gal 1.4), and that this "present age" still persists until the return of Christ (1 Cor 15.20-28), when death shall at last be totally destroyed.

Although Jesus Christ's first coming is *determinative* and *definitive* for the destiny of the world, his first coming itself is a kind of "intrusion," a partial presence of final redemption.  John the Baptist, imprisoned, seems to expect miraculous deliverance from the Roman-Herodian oppression;  he is told instead of how the poor now hear the gospel, and how the blind now see (Matt 11.2-6).

These observations make clear, then, that "intrusion theology" is essentially eschatological in orientation, and not some temporary aberration.  If OT Israel's experiences of God's mercy and justice were real (and they were), then that reality is a true foretaste of what Jesus Christ himself did when he at last arrived in the first century AD.  Further, what Jesus Christ did in his First Advent, "intrusively" establishes in principle what he shall fulfill at his Second Advent.

We all know that the present realization of redemption, the "already," is "not yet" the full possession of the inheritance (Eph 1.12-14) assured to us in the Gospel.  "Intrusion theology" is primarily a more explicit mode of the general Vossian/Eschatological approach to the Bible that we all love so well.

So, to return to your main point about love:  Love, says Paul, is the goal. That "goal" is itself an eschatological term ("telos"). "The goal of this commandment" --and of all God's commandments and ministrations, including Intrusion theology--is love, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and a sincere faith" (1 Tim 1.5, interpretively expanded).



Byron G. Curtis is an assistant professor of biblical studies at Geneva College. Much thanksgiving for his permission to reprint this article.